Emotions, Learning, and the Brain

Emotions, Learning, and the Brain:     Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience


Mary Helen  Immordino-Yang.

Hardback,  £25.50.  Published by Norton.   978 0 393 70981 0


Starting with a forward and acknowledgements seemed a little wearisome but it did give a satisfying insight into the thoroughness of the author’s career and research into the contents of this slightly daunting book for the likes of me, an interested non-academic.  What pleasure there was in reading that along with a lengthy string of mentors, researchers, co-workers and teachers, plus her own teaching career; she was also helped by friends and family, (non-neuroscientists) in reading and discussing the ‘essays’ amidst non-academic settings such as ‘accompanied by energetic children and delicious food’.

This and the sheer energy and consideration obvious in the first few pages encouraged this reader to reach the actual ‘Introduction: Why Emotions are Integral to Learning’.  And by the second page I was determined to read the whole book.  With a brief classroom example and a note on scientific advances, it seems the we cannot learn without involving emotional connections within the brain…… you have to be interested!     Not really a mind-blowing sentence from me but explained clearly by Mary-Helen in a way that ticked the “need to know more” boxes.

Yes, its American, and no harm in that for the UK or any world reader.  No complaint about huge depth of research except maybe all the initially looks to be USA……nope, havent checked it out yet so I may be wrong.  There seems a huge amount of bibliographical references so it has been a huge project to complete and be the most up to date

I intend to finish and review this title for ‘Graph Review’ section but it may take a while so I throw it to you as one to consider for yourselves.



Coping with Crisis: A Graph Review

Coping with crisis:   Learning lessons from accidents in the early years

by          Bernadine Laverty & Catherine Reay


A Graph Review : good consistent level of information and style:  50-56


coping-with-crisisFeatherstone (Bloomsbury) publication,  2016        paperback   £18.99

9781472917287       177pp,

Includes diagrams, many useful links and index.

The coverage is defined as for ‘all staff working with children in settings registered on the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register’.     The focus is on real accidents and situations and looks at what went wrong to try to eliminate its causes. Their is also considerable information and advice on the regulations on safety and reporting of accidents.

Basic development of babies and young children are listed.  Descriptions of real accidents are given throughout the different subject areas and consequences. Each Followed by a ‘Back to the team’ checklist that offers needs and actions under the headings of: Plan, Do, Check, Act.     Different ‘accidents’ have differing suggestions for each heading as basic examples.  If these are used as initial safety checklists then additional action points could be included to cover such as details required by contractors, information/ notices for staff, parents and so on.   The importance of assessing and providing safe environments should be a continual part of all staff training as well as a key person. Safety is a priority but so is reflection after difficult events.

The thoroughness and concern of the authors speaks volumes as they highlight each example of accident with additional known children who have suffered.  They also point out that gathering full statistics was not feasible at the time as reporting level was a variable regulation in parts, e.g. Visitors.  Ideal for small units and individuals as well as growing or bigger ‘units’.  The age and range covers childcare, nursery, reception class but not apparently much older. The child’s abilities and reactions my change in age but the thinking behind the checklists is still relevant as they move up in Primary years. Indeed the range of  ‘crisis-management’  expands rapidly as children move into years five and six upwards. This book may still be a good starting point as reference for new staff with its attitude to reflective practice and use of guidelines while attendance to more medical courses will add the extra dimensions required.

A short section of ‘Key points’ is available as well as ‘On Reflection’ which covers areas to be considered after any accident.  One area that seems to consistently appear is on parental information given on such as the ‘inquisitiveness’ or  physical ability, allergies and so on that should be noted and known by all staff.  This is where the checklists provided can give a solid start to the thinking process required to improve any failings in equipment or procedures, including training.

The book covers many aspects on accidents: with equipment, scolds and burns, trapped fingers, choking, falls, infections, and others, even near-misses.     This review may make it seem the book itself highlights all the dangers and is just depressing and off-putting.   Well, partially, but in the real world accidents do happen no matter where children are and this book may well be the first to highlight the rules and regulations of safety and reporting of accidents in Early Years settings.

And positively to offer systems to pre-empt accidents as far as possible and to minimise failings in all areas.  Being prepared is what it is all about because we all know that in the best of circumstances accidents still happen1

for books and prices:   www.BooksEducation.co.uk     

subject:  education

Dyspraxia: Dr Amanda Kirby; Graph Review

Dyspraxia,   Developmental Co-ordination Disorder

by    Dr Amanda Kirby                                            A Graph Review

bodies graph

Souvenir Press   978 028563512 8.         paperback.         £12.99

8th reprint, dated 2009.

218 pp, including glossary, index and directory of resources.                         Plus numerous, gently humerous, but accurate line illustrations.

dyspraxia-a-kirbyThe notes on the back cover highlight this book as ‘a parent’s guide from pre-school to adulthood‘.

In the introduction the author confirms the aim towards explaining to parents, aiding their understanding and potentially how to help the development of their children with the varying degrees of poor co-ordination.  She is also well aware that teachers need to understand and have  a working knowledge of handling children with this difficulty even if not specifically diagnosed.  This book will certainly give both information and help to teachers.

Amanda Kirby is a former GP and Medical Director of the Dyscovery Centre, internationally recognised and published widely as well as having lectured to over 20,000 teachers.  And first -hand knowledge with a son with dyspraxia.  (Looking on web shows Dyscovery Centre as a unit of the University of South Wales, UK).   Clearly written, helping to understand and offering many helpful tips on the various difficulties through childhood to adulthood, for families living with levels of these assorted disorder.

‘Dyspraxia’ also points out that adults may well have degrees of dyspraxia without having been diagnosed but are coping with its associated difficulties.

The book begins with a brief explanation and description of dyspraxia and potential effects within a family.  Frequent samples are included throughout to give realistic views of problems and observations from within sufferers and family members. From pre-school right through schooldays and into adulthood she offers examples of difficulties and tips for the ‘helper’ and individual with the condition.

The chapters move along in sequences of age, appropriate development and difficulties.  Check-lists help pinpoint areas, followed by tips, suggestions,that will help development or maybe use alternative abilities if appropriate. These checklists are usefully labelled for circumstances and parents and teachers. And a chapter for ‘play’ and some helpful ideas, shows its importance for children.  For teachers, the settings are usually in classroom or suggested educational settings and look to be covering more options, some of which are similar to the ‘parenting’ hints.  The parent should be able integrate any of these ‘additional’ ideas into the family routine where appropriate.

Subjects covered in addition to the primary and secondary school ages are such as ‘Bullying’, ‘Helping the Distractable Child’, self-esteem, growing-up and ‘adulthood.  Lastly she has comment chapters on causes (not really sure), when should diagnosis be approached and lastly ‘differential diagnosis.’  Which includes such as ‘semantic pragmatic disorder.

All in all this book is an extremely useful book for explaining and encouraging both those with the varying degrees of co-ordination disorder and their parents, family and teachers.  As with many issues the various activities that improve (in this case, co-ordination) can be most effective if exercised at earliest appropriate age but should be tried even if the need is only recognised later.  Other techniques may be adoptable and successful, whilst understanding and support from within family and school could well have much beneficial effects.

Parents may well be aware of problems early and should find this book helpful from the earliest ages to help reduce potential problems later.

I would recommend this to teachers, especially in the counselling areas as well as parents and those with elements of Dyspraxia.

For a wide range of titles on S. E. N. visit:   BooksEducation website

subject:  education

Promoting Fundamental British Values, A Graph Review

Promoting fundamental British values in the early years 

A Graph Review.  55 to 65, sensible and concise for Early Years requirements

By Marianne Sargent

fund-brit-val-coverPublisher:  Practical Pre-School Press

A4 paperback.   £19.99.    978 190928095 3.           Colour illus.,  text boxes

(Available post free from: Books Education website )

This is not in the regions of my usual reviewing but having attended a conference for a wide range of Nursery/Early Years practitioners I was made aware of the need and practical usefulness of this title as it seems to be the first at this level.  In fact students and NQTs that I spoke with were quite fulsome in their praise for many other titles from this publisher.  The main appreciation was for their concise explanation and often practical suggestions on activities.  It was pointed out that lecturers often considered their lack of depth a failing as a text-book (I assume for essays etc and as a reference) but few complaints as a practical ‘assistant’ to student’s work placing some.  On the hand I do know that various titles are recommended as student texts.

The other series and themes seem to cover all aspects of Early Years care and education, especially  focussing on Government and Ofsted requirements.

Enough of an overview, this title may seem a little long-winded but it is what is needed for today and has the easily followed text and layouts established in other recent titles.  There seems to be one other title recently available.

Written because of the importance of the Common Inspection Framework (Ofsted, 2015a) regarding safeguarding and actively promoting British values this book summarises the background reasons, outlines legal responsibilities of early years providers and explains the implications for safeguarding, child protection and curriculum delivery.

The contents explains the different headings of requirements and progresses. With many activity ideas, suggestions of techniques in helping the children progress both in points of text and chart form. There are numerous, brief, case studies throughout. Most importantly, perhaps, are three pages noting what Ofsted look for when visiting this subject area and a ‘Fulfilling the Prevent Duty’ checklist for nursery to run through.   Plus, of course a page and more of additional usable resources for each key heading and a list of References.  Various colour plates and the A4 page layouts design makes for ease of view and reading, dispelling any heavy ‘textbook’ feel.

Headings in contents list:

Introduction / The Prevent duty / Defining fundamental British values and the EYFS / For society but also for the Individual / Democracy / Rule of law / Individual liberty / Mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs / The Prevent duty and your Ofsted inspection / Fulfilling the Prevent duty checklist / Resources / References

It is a useful handbook giving the reasons, requirements for Ofsted and how to approach and attain them in a reasonable, understandable and concise fashion. I do feel rather sad that an ‘official’ system is required but such is our society that developing a mutual understanding of society, culture and gender from an early age is no bad thing; indeed vital in our British multicultural islands.

By the same author and publisher: a companion title full of ideas and help in planning relevant activities that support the ‘learning’ requirements:

active-brit-values-cover Actively promoting British values in the EYFS ( Due Sept 2016, price £9.99) This is a practical planning resource that looks at core British values and shows how they can be actively promoted in the setting and meet the requirements of the new Common Inspection Framework.

It includes up to 16 fully planned activities, four for each value, key questions, discussion points and links to the curriculum, and a checklist and example observation document.  These build up the suggestions and ideas in the previous title so would make life easier for the nursery/school day.

Activities include: Giant jigsaw; Catch the dragon s tail; Taking ownership; Safe passage; Rule of law; On the road; Scribbling feelings; Dilemma!; Beanbag catch; Individual liberty; We’ve all got talent!; A problem shared; Provoking a reaction; Woodland creations; Mutual respect and tolerance; Story wall; Symbolic art; Same difference; Where in the world?

Books available via Books Education with free postage and  Norfolk Childrens Centre,  plus other booksellers.

subject: education

Charlie and the Dream, Graph Review

charlie and the Dream Charlie and the Dream.                      

charlie and dream graph 50 56A Graph Review.

50 to 56 though 9-12 age range children will probably say more.


By Paul W Robinson

978191017662 7           Paperback £12.50        Published by Shieldcrest

New writers come from all directions, with or without experience of their subject and audience but often with abundant enthusiasm for their subject. Paul Robinson shows both depth of experience and enthusiasm in all his subjects within a well constructed and satisfying crime collection using the basis of ‘new’ Holmes and Watson characters.  Paul Robinson has put together short stories that follow a developing relationship between two youngsters in a format of crime- fiction for what I would assume to be a top primary/middle school age reader.

The first story introduces the main character and following intros to the additional friends in the detection stories. As that is what the stories are.  Charlie(Charlotte) is deaf and makes friends with another girl (Jo),  also deaf, which leads to the first ‘adventure’.  The characters live in the real world and the stories follow events around their school and home life.  Use and description of lip-reading and sign language (BSL) plus the variety of children in an inclusive school situation help set this book apart from the norm.    There are five stories over 281 pages enabling the reader to take them in stages if preferred, however they all link together in a satisfying conclusion.

Every genre has its niche and maybe here is quite a small one and a world away from the current main streams of fantasy worlds.  However the book is successful in its series of short detective stories for young readers.  Quite a departure from the likes of Rowling, Walliams or Horowitz, though aimed at a slightly different age range.  Each story is a realistic crime and involves Charlie, Jo and the police.  The involvement of two as ‘detectives’  being the key additional elements. The element of deduction holds up very well in true Holmesian tradition.  Teamwork and ingenuity  bring the book to a satisfying conclusion. It seems to me a good addition to the realms of Holmes and Watson for 9 to 12 age range readers and no bar to older.

The author has worked with special needs children, especially deaf children for some forty years and now puts his experience into good practice for these stories to produce a wide range of real-world characters and experiences.  As we have had a plethora of adult detectives and crime fighters with suggested special needs in their characters it is quite refreshing to have these areas positively identified and dealt with realistically within fiction for and about children.  The children’s individual characteristics are usefully used and explanations are where required for readers and importantly are encompassed naturally within the stories.

Published by a small publisher, Shieldcrest,  in conjunction with the author.  A follow-up novel is promised.

Available via Amazon or to order through booksellers.

For a superb explanation of autism see the book Uniquely Human by Barry Prizant,, a previous Graph Review.

subject: education

Uniquely Human, by Dr Barry Prizant

Uniquely Human.                                     A Graph Review.   70 points averagegraph Rev., average 70

Barry Prizant with Tom Fields-Meyer

Souvenir Press.                                       Hardback.        £20.

Pub. March 2016.          978  028564333 8

human picIn this book we have a most readable and clear understanding of autism and the difficulties different levels of autistic conditions may present.  However the great quality of this book is the focus on the child and understanding the situational behaviour.  For behaviour, physical or verbal is communication and by recognising and understanding this there can be way forwards in helping the developmental processes to their full potential.   Barry Prizant uses his forty years of working in and researching on the subject to examine case studies throughout the book on the differing situations and problems of his students, whether in family, work or educational situations.  From the observations given he unravels the problem and offers/explains an appropriate solution.  Usually the answers lie in understanding the motivation in the autistic person in the situation and using the positives within them to channel their development.

The authors lead us through the world of people that have different to average wiring (as it were) in their brains.  Here we have the average population noted as Neurotypical and those covered in this book as autistic, noted as non- Neurotypical.   Seemingly today 1 in 50 might be considered on the autistic spectrum, not that long ago thought of as 1 in 100 and prior to that 1 in 1000.   ( We are talking synapse connections here, within different parts of the brain)

Travelling through the book is a bit like putting the lights on more brightly and seeing people so much more clearly.   Chapters cover:  ‘Why?’; ‘Listen’;  ‘Enthusiasms’;  ‘Social Understanding’; ‘The Real Experts’;  among numerous others.  Throughout, the emphasis is on understanding the person within the autism and also, to a great extent, listening to the parents as they will most frequently have an understanding of the difficulties and needs too.  Helping to understand the chaos they may see in their world, offering strategies to cope with those things that come more naturally to others and helping to maintain a sense of security within that world rather than a sense of fear; all this in a book of a lifetime’s work.

There are many resources listed; publications by and for professionals and parents.  Also websites listed in the book, some produced by people with autism and sites of organisations.  A good start, though many are American they would be of interest here in the UK; although not in the book there now large numbers of sites and organisations based in the UK which are easily found.

This book is actually exciting to read as often what may have been unknown or mis-understood becomes blindingly obvious. Probably not easy to follow the paths of all those involved with or helping in autism but a great insight into the subject and a perspective on developmental psychology.   My thanks to Barry  Prizant, Tom Fields-Meyer and all others who are mentioned and the people involved the SCERTS model for their enlightened and enlightening approach to autism.

I could pull out lots of gems of information that would stand alone but there are so many that my typing would seem endless and still be a poor substitute for reading the book. The book is bursting with examples, case studies, to show difficulties faced and, dare I say it, seemingly simple solutions that help understand the world of autism.   Simple that is, after forty years of  learning to understand the worlds of autism.  In fact it would also help in the so-called Neurotypical world.

The reviews on the cover give such praise of the book and Barry Prizant’s methods that they alone should encourage anyone involved in any aspect of teaching, developmental psychology, or the understanding of human life, to read Uniquely Human.  Not only will you understand a little more about autism you will likely learn something about yourself.

This book is available online from specialist bookseller:   BooksEducation

subject:  education

Donvan and Zucker: In a Different Key, A Graph Review

A Graph Review                            55 to high points of 65


In a different key:      The story of autism

John Donvan and Caren Zucker

different key cover

RRP £25.00

Published by Allen Lane,

hardback, £25.00.   978 184614566 7

Available through BooksEducation website: http://www.bookseducation.co.uk/

This large book covers the history of the understanding of autism spectrum (including aspergers).  Intertwined with the life story of the  ‘first’ person to be diagnosed as autistic, Donald Triplett, (born 1933)and his story through to his eighty second year.

Considering the wealth of information in this book of 550 pages, it reads quite easily, retaining interest and pace throughout.  Additional to a useful index and bibliography are fifty pages of notes and a useful ‘autism timeline’.   Some b&w photographs are also included.

Highly USA orientated, no surprise with Donald Triplett the pivot but with key figures in the research and discussions around the world making their relevant appearances.  Donald’s story has been surprisingly positive and illustrates just how a committed family and even community can create continuing growing and learning conditions.  A comment by the authors is that they would like the story of Donald to become a film.  The success of Donald and the wealth of personal, family and community involvement could certainly create a storyline of a lifetime or some shorter, definitive period that would fit with a film.

The journalistic reporting of the facts, progressing through the years as ideas, understanding and methodology of dealing with this most complicated of syndrome changed, eventually for the better stands up well.  The noted Wakefield scare that mmr vaccination was a cause is dealt with.

There is no real faulting of the content as history and the story of Donald, maybe an overload of detail for a newcomer to the subject.  But then if you want thorough background information on a complicated subject you will read every single word; you have to start somewhere.  The overall positiveness of the progress Donald has made throughout his life is encouraging and brightens the future..

There are degrees of this diagnosis, as with any, but parents should understand that each individual often has a capacity to learn and grow into their potential. Today, with the ability to have earlier intervention and the current techniques, established and developing, such potential can be achieved.

Gary Masibov does not appear in the index although working in this field for much of his life, nor do Barry Prizant or Emily Rubin, maybe they represent current educational aspects that could not fit into the book. So much more might be added but the authors maintain a good line of story and history to keep the book manageable.   Steve Silberman gets a sentence mention but not for his brilliant book ‘Neurotribes’.

human pic

RRP £20.

Barry Prizant’s ‘Uniquely Human’ is now published and is another title that deserves mention.  ( for future review)      If you read these two plus ‘In a different key’  you will have a wide coverage, I darent  say understanding, but moving in that direction, of the world of autism.  Follow that with reading some of Temple Grandin‘s output, Haddin’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog that Barked in the Night’. and maybe ‘The Reason I Jump’ and you will get a little closer.  Several other books written by people with autism, like those of Temple Grandin, or the recently published ‘The Nine Degrees of Autism’, help to illustrate their particular variation of brain pattern, of personality.  Every child, every adult with autism is different to another, degree may vary from small to great; but aren’t we all just that  bit different to our neighbour, our parents, our siblings?

The titles mentioned here are available from BooksEducation website:  http://www.bookseducation.co.uk/

subject: education