Category Archives: Charity

Top 10 Tips for the Primary to Secondary School Transition

The move to secondary school is a challenging and emotional time for both parents and children. Fear not – this useful guide from the National Teen Trust should help make the transition as painless as possible!


  • Be prepared (like a boy (or girl) scout!) – It’s so important. Get all the uniform, books, shoes, trainers, socks and stationery out of the way as early as you can. You don’t want any last minute stress the week your children start secondary school!
  • Start to have conversations about the differences between primary and secondary school. You’ll have done the tour so you can reassure your child that they’ve seen the layout and that lots of people will be there to help them settle in.
  • Talk about how many children will be there in comparison to their primary education years. Often, your child will be going from a network of 30, 60 or 90 peers to around 200. This can be a positive… think how many new friends this means.
  • If your child has struggled to fit in at primary school, it’s likely that there will be a similar peer who is also facing these odds! For example, is your child a tomboy who has struggled to strike a friendship with the girls at primary school? Transitioning to secondary school may be the key, as there are likely to be girls with similar hobbies and interests.
  • In the first week, establish a routine as quickly as you can – where your child is going to hang their blazer, put their locker key, bus pass, do their homework, etc.
  • Be prepared – again – for the change! Suddenly your son or daughter transitions from a child into a more independent being. They may want to walk to/from school, get the bus or pop into town after school with new friends. Think carefully about what parental controls you will implement for this new stage.
  • New friends, new environments to hang out and have sleepovers at. How is this going to make you feel? Think about how you will approach this, whether you will meet the new friend’s parents first or is it sufficient to have a phone/text conversation?
  • Do your research. Establish if your child is better getting the school bus or the local bus or parent taxi. You can always change this as the terms pass by. First thing in the morning, your son or daughter may prefer the local, public bus to a bus full of excited school children!


  • Make friends with other parents who are going to your tween’s new school. You may find that you lose a support network when your child’s friend’s move to different schools and this can be challenging.
  • As you can see, it’s not just about the effect this transition has on your tween, but also the effect that this may bear on you and the rest of your family. Be prepared for unsettling times as you all start to adjust to this new chapter in your family life. And remember, stay positive!

images     You may find your child’s move to secondary school a challenge in the first instance. However, the key is to be prepared and to stay positive. The National Teen Trust has been set up to create a support network for parents during these tween and teenage years.

If you’re struggling with parenting life, join the National Teen Trust Facebook group. The organisation also runs flexible programmes in St Albans that allow parents to come together and explore teen challenges, allowing you to develop practical parental approaches and skills.

Guest post written by Wendy Powell.



A Mother’s Story : Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week 5-11th October 2015

            I have a son, Theo, who is a funny, grumpy, cheeky and – though I say it myself – good-looking teenager. He also has cerebral palsy. When he was born, he weighed 900 grammes, he needed a ventilator to keep him breathing, he was profoundly deaf and had significant brain damage causing quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy. In addition, his lungs were so weak, he suffered four near-fatal collapses in his first three years of life, requiring him to go back on a ventilator each time and finally to have major reconstructive surgery on his wind-pipe. In total, he spent nearly half of that first three years in intensive care. All in all, not what you’d call a great start in life.

                                                                        Theo & Catherine

      Like many, though by no means all children with cerebral palsy, Theo was born premature: put simply, the more premature you are, the more likely it is that you will have cerebral palsy. Theo was born at 26 weeks gestation – that’s approximately 5.5 months after he was conceived. But since babies are now being kept alive from 23 weeks, far from the number of children with some form of CP decreasing, if anything, that number is going to increase with time.

When you’re told your child has a disability, no one comes to tell you about all the different therapies available and the different educational options – or to advise you which to pursue: it’s up to you as a parent to find out.

I don’t think I’d ever even met someone with cerebral palsy. It was pretty much the limit of my knowledge that SCOPE is the national charity for cerebral palsy, so that’s where I started. It was SCOPE who told me about Conductive Education and Scope who told me that the only place offering it as a full educational programme in Central London was The London Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy, then called the Hornsey Trust.

I signed up for a first session with a conductor at the centre soon after Theo was first discharged from hospital – about 6 months after he was born. I remember the conductor lying my tiny motionless baby on a mat on a wooden plinth and saying to him “I lift my right arm up, up, up.” Theo looked at her but made no response. “I push my left leg down down down.” No response. “I lift up my head and look at my Mummy.” Nothing. “Right”, said the conductor, “then we’ll just have to do it together”. And as she repeated each instruction, she began to move his limbs and head, so that he experienced the sensation of movement and the sense of control over that movement.

I went back, week after week, for that individual session. I got to know all the songs, all the chants, the order of all the bodily movements. Gradually, very very slowly, something began to happen: Theo started to initiate some movement. At first it was tiny: the flicker of a muscle. Then it was a slight rise of an arm. Then a tiny bend of a leg. Eventually, a struggling, triumphant attempt at a roll.

By this time, we’d joined a weekly Parent and Child session with two or three other babies at Hornsey. For a couple of hours on a Tuesday morning, our children would go through a lying, crawling, walking and sitting programme and we as parents would learn how best to handle them. “I keep my feet flat, flat, flat. I keep my back straight and I keep my head in the middle” we would all chant, willing them to demonstrate. That was when I learnt quite how determined Theo really is – and how much competition motivates him.

From there Theo moved to a part-time place in the nursery and then finally a full time place. Over the years at LCCCP, I watched him grow stronger and more able by the day. But if I’ve given the impression conductive education is JUST a physical programme, I’ve way undersold it. Throughout all the years there, Theo was always incredibly keen to go to school and keen to learn and I can’t help thinking this is because what conductive education taught him, right from those earliest times, is that, despite a very significant disability, he could LEARN. For children like Theo, learning that you CAN control your body is key to them learning other things – and that’s why conductive education weaves so seemlessly into the National Curriculum. By dint of the extraordinarily close individual attention the London Centre gives children and the huge amount of positive feedback, they do maximise their functional independence. But they ALSO fulfil their academic potential and develop a real love of learning. And for all those reasons, I shall be eternally grateful to the highly expert and dedicated team who educated my son there.

Theo is not going to run a marathon; he’s never even going to walk independently, but the progress he HAS made is extraordinary given his starting point in life. He’s just completed his first work experience at Tesco; he’s on the school council; he goes biking and swimming twice a week; he goes to music school on a Saturday and sings in a choir; he loves water rides and theme parks; he can read, he has computer skills which far outstrip mine, he’s continent, he can feed himself; and – most significant for a child who was once thought unlikely to use much speech – he talks non-stop and has developed a fine line in asking awkward questions.

Each Summer, he goes on a two-week mainstream summer camp and is totally relaxed about not knowing anyone before he goes, including the people who have volunteered to be his personal carers. When he came back this year, he had at least four new best friends. I thought you might like to hear what the camp leaders wrote about him: “ Theo took part in every aspect of camp life: he cooked, built fires, collected water and always joined in campfire songs. He kept us laughing through the rainy days and was amazingly confident with staff and children alike . He’d often remind us just how much fun we were having by shouting “We’re having a giggle.”” I don’t really think you’d find many able-bodied 14 year olds with such confidence, let alone someone with Theo’s disabilities. Thanks to conductive education, what you now see with Theo is what you get: a happy, confident, capable child.

There are children with cerebral palsy who can and should be in mainstream education. But Theo is not one of them. Children like him, with their plethora of specific difficulties, really need the unique education that The London Centre offers: without it, they simply will never reach their potential. With it, the sky is the limit.

Catharine Seddon

Hertfordshire Mum Does Her Part to Build Awareness for World Autism Awareness Week


I’m Caney and in March 2009 my daughter, Virginia, was diagnosed with the invisible lifelong condition of Autism… though she began to regress developmentally the year before diagnosis and when my life forever changed.  As a result, I began my research. One of the most difficult things through the process, however, was the lack of awareness and understanding of the complexity and variation of the Autistic spectrum. As a therapeutic response, I began making notes on my Facebook page…which eventually evolved into my blog of two years, now: It’s a blog focusing on our lives with our severely autistic child and all of the challenges, and joys, we face as a famIly.

Unfortunately, over the last few months I took a break from writing due to my own health. Early last summer I herniated a disk while pregnant with Ginny’s now youngest sister. The complications that sprung from that demanded I rest for months and also left me requiring a wheelchair or walker for most of the summer. In the end, Amber was born two months premature and although that relieved the pressure on my spine, our family was then faced with the pressures brought on by caring for a baby of her gestation.Yes, our December baby had arrived in October… five months later we are all stronger than ever and Amber has proven to be a little trooper just like her big sisters.

As I had taken such a long break from promoting Autism Awareness, I figured I wanted to do as much as I could for Autism Awareness Week, so I will be wearing my purple and pink all week long…the brighter the better! I’m taking part in Onesie Wednesday and hosting a fundraising coffee morning in my onesie after completing the school run in said onesie; and come September I will be taking part in a sponsored trek of the Jurassic Coast and I’ve started training for my 23 mile trek on a daily basis. Because of last summer’s spinal injury I’ve had to take things easy and work on strengthening my back. I get up at 5:30am every morning,  nurse Amber and then fit in a workout before getting my other girls ready for school. I’ll also then do another  half hour evening exercise once the girls are in bed. In the weeks leading-up to my challenge, I will take weekend treks, gradually working up the hours to best prepare for that big weekend.

Thankfully, now that my health has improved, I’ve not only decided to begin blogging again, but to focus on promoting and raising money for Autism awareness. The National Autistic Society is a charity whose resources I found invaluable when Ginny was first diagnosed.

The National Autistic Society or NAS is the leading UK charity for people with Autistic spectrum conditions. They provide information, support and services for families, campaign for a better world for people with autism, and support the 700,000 people in the United Kingdom with autism to help them live the life they choose. However, all of this work relies on support so if you can please help me raise as much as possible for this charity then please do. You can learn more, here: Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure.  Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Here’s Caney’s Facebook Event page, too: bean.html?m=1

Fight Muscular Dystrophy with the Muscle Help Foundation’s #powerof657 Campaign

by Michael McGrath, CEO and Founder of the Muscle Help Foundation

Muscle Help Foundation launches innovative #powerof657 campaign to deliver 657 ‘Muscle Dream’ experiences – one for each muscle in the human body!                              

  I’m Michael McGrath, CEO and founder of The Muscle Help Foundation (MHF), the specialist family charity that delivers life-changing, highly personalised experiences for children and young people in the UK with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and allied neuromuscular conditions, I’m delighted to announce that we have just launched our #powerof657 campaign to broaden our charity’s reach and raise awareness of our work. This initiative was made possible through a grant of nearly £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund (BLF).


To give you some background, I was myself diagnosed with MD at the age of 18, so I know exactly what our young beneficiaries are experiencing on a daily basis and our charity offers them hope, strength and support. Together with my wife Sue and a small team including some amazing volunteers, I am the driving force behind MHF. I am proud to say that I was also the first disabled person in the world to have successfully led expeditions to both the North (April 2002) and South Poles (January 2004).

What is the #powerof657?


The title refers to the charity’s aim to deliver a total of 657 transformational experiences or ‘Muscle Dreams’. 657 represents the approximate number of muscles in the human body and also reinforces the project’s key aim to reach more people across the country, by demonstrating the powerful effect that Muscle Dreams have on those with MD and their families.

The #powerof657 campaign will run throughout 2015 and has three main purposes: 1) Reach more families, beneficiaries and partner organisations 2) Empower those with whom the charity engages and connects and 3) Inspire more young people with MD across the UK, helping them to realise their potential.

How can people get involved in the #powerof657?

#powerof657 campaign empowers the donor, from an online donation of £6.57 to creating your own fundraising event. The choices are endless! One key example is the ‘6:57 Meal Challenge’ which involves cooking a meal (omelets don’t count!) in 6mins and 57secs; once the food hits the plate, guests donate £6.57 (if they enjoyed your omelets)! Alternatively, friends can sponsor you to undertake the ‘657 Running Challenge’ is a 5km run of London’s 657 bus route from Woodford to Waltham Forest. For those who are social media savvy, how about posting an early morning ‘657 Selfie’ pic at 6:57am! You and your friends can donate here.


The campaign is also expected to attract new fundraising opportunities and donations in support of MHF’s work. The charity is already experiencing a backlog of Muscle Dream applications and is in desperate need of additional funding, not only to help clear the current waiting list, but also to help deliver new nominations.

For our beneficiaries, it’s not just about the experience but also about those connections with mums and d#powerof657 provides a unique platform, a shared purpose in enabling more beneficiaries and their families to hear about our work, but it’s my hope that it will also give people a sense of causal engagement and immediacy in wanting to support, as time for many of our beneficiaries is so incredibly precious.

We have delivered 188 Muscle Dreams with 469 until our target is reached! That’s the #powerof657 – it focuses the mind, shows the journey ahead, and invites the opportunity to support.

Some experiences can take years before they are realised; when they are, they can be utterly transformational; they change lives and give hope. Confidence and self-esteem are improved and life-long friendships are made. Whether learning survival skills with Ray Mears, interviewing movie icon Al Pacino or hanging out with the England football team, we are meticulous in making sure that every detail is taken care of, including putting in place specific activities for those family members and carers in attendance.

The #powerof657 campaign has been designed to live and breathe beyond 2015. It’s my hope that people will want to support MHF’s journey in delivering 657 Muscle Dreams; that’s the goal, that’s the #powerof657. We also hope that the momentum created will lead to spin-off activity beyond the first year of implementation.

 For more information on the #powerof657 campaign: To engage with the campaign on social media, use the hashtag: #powerof657. Donate here to the #powerof657 campaign.


About The Muscle Help Foundation, Muscle Dreams and Muscle Warriors

The Muscle Help Foundation (MHF) was co-founded by Michael McGrath (aka Chief Muscle Warrior); Michael is the CEO of the charity.

Muscular Dystrophy is the single biggest genetic killer of children in our world today. With some 70,000 UK sufferers being robbed of their mobility, independence and finally, for those with the most severe form, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or DMD, their lives, it is a cruel and unforgiving disease. 

Muscle Dreams are transformational experiences designed to give children and young people in the UK whose lives are afflicted by the muscle-wasting disease, Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and allied neuromuscular conditions the opportunity to live a dream or fulfill a cherished ambition.

Muscle Warriors are those who for example use the power of sport to engage, inspire and raise money for the MHF. They use their muscles to fire-walk, do triathlons, climb mountains or simply walk! Herein lies the robust link between muscles, movement and the power of for example sport.





Official hashtag: #STRONGERTOGETHER







Official hashtag: #QuantJePuis