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Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Academy Fire Selsey – A Loss

THE SELSEY ACADEMY FIRE – Moving forward.  

academy fire

The Selsey Academy Fire

The 21st August 2016 was a sad day for Selsey.  The Selsey Academy fire will go down in the history of the town.

It will be remembered in a similar way to the tornado that ripped through roofs in January 1998.  After the tornado the stoical folks of Selsey pulled together.  Yesterday, some 18 years later, the ‘Selsey Spirit’ rose  again.  Social media helped mobilise the ‘troops’ who organised themselves efficiently to supply food and drink to the firefighters. The smoke has cleared. The reality has begun to bite.  Selsey has lost a focal point of the community.

Similar to Bereavement

The feelings that arise are similar to those of bereavement. Nobody has died yet a sense of loss hangs in the air.

There is initial shock. Statements are heard like ‘This can’t be true’, (Denial).  Quite quickly awareness widens to acknowledgement.  The Academy was destroyed by fire. It will leave a gap in the community. As the reality sets in, some people will express anger.  Already and without concrete evidence there have been claims that the fire must have been started by an arson attack.  When people feel helpless, the blame game is played. To play the blame game a  ‘scapegoat’ is needed.   You will hear questions like – Were the firefighters quick enough? and Were there sprinklers fitted in the building?

Each of these comments are normal when individuals feel powerless. The objective of the blame game is to feel less powerless.  Try not to buy into it. It divides us and delays the process of moving forward.  After this comes a sense of sadness for what was lost. Finally, acceptance will be reached and we will be able to move forward as a community.

The town is going through a process of disbelief, anger, blaming and sadness. All of this is normal and takes time until we reach acceptance

Possible effects on pupils

For students the process is more difficult. They need to adapt to the loss of their school. There is  likely to be a period of anxiety about the future and about where they will go to school. They will also worry about their friendships.

Parents may notice a quietness in their children or an increase in teenage moodiness. They need time to adjust. This is big news to them. Their cognitive systems need time to process this knowledge. Children who have experienced a change in family situation in the last 12 months may feel the uncertainty more. Take time to listen to your child’s concerns and respond with the actual knowledge you have.

At present the precise arrangements for the children’s schooling is not clear, it can’t be as yet.  It’s crucial that the children are supported at this time.

Parents can help by reassuring their child that clear plans are being made for their education. It may take a while to fine tune the details but what is certain is that a practical solution is being developed.

It is an unpleasant situation but if handled sensitively, your child will have developed important coping strategies and an ability to manage unexpected change. This lesson will be as important as any formal teaching of emotional intelligence.


Witten by Christine Tizzard Psychology

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Back to School Tips for Children with Autism

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Autism matters – Back to school tips

Autism can cause stress to parents. The return to school after the Summer holidays is difficult for most.  Many pupils experience varying amounts of anxiety as do their parents. Children with autism often find change unmanageable. The return to school is no exception.

These simple tips shared with parents over many years really do help ease autism symptoms.

1. Re-establish a connection with school

Try to set up a meeting with staff where you can build on and develop the existing relationship. Your relationship with the school team is crucial to your child’s wellbeing.

See if you are able to visit school with your child before the official start day.  The purpose is to learn about new things. These might be locker combinations, the timetable, the dining hall, etc.  New ‘things’ and ‘places’ are usually overwhelming to a child with autism.

Buy uniform early and wash many times. Many children with a diagnosis of autism are very sensitive to new fabrics and prefer the feel of worn fabric. Reducing sensory overload reduces the likelihood of meltdowns.

Once you have the ‘knowledge’, you can practice new skills at home with your child. Social stories are a really useful tool.

2.  Start the switch from holiday routine to school routine early

Write the date of the new school term on your child’s calendar, (a visual aid really helps adjustment).  Practice the journey in the car, on the bus or train.   This includes finding a regular parking spot and even an alternative for the days when you are unable to park in the usual place. Make a chart for these patterns/activities and involve your child in the making of the chart. These tips may seem annoying but it is worth it. Once a routine is established and becomes familiar, the stress will reduce.  Attention to the finer details makes for a smoother transition back to school.   The trick is to make the new routine familiar.   This will lessen the possibility of meltdowns on the first day of term.

It is important to allow roughly 10 days to get your child into the school day ‘wake up’ routine.  On the first day of preparation, set the alarm clock for a little earlier in the morning. Get your child into uniform and to eat breakfast. It’s fine for him or her to go back to bed afterwards.   Over several days move the wake up time gradually closer to ‘school morning wake up time’.   A positive reward like a glass of fresh orange juice or his/her favourite cereal will help during this practice period.

3. Help your child’s friendships

Many children with autism have very restricted interests.   Despite this, they are likely to have an interest that is shared by some of the other children.   Do your homework.   Make sure that you send your child into school equipped with something that will draw the interest of other children. If this seems too difficult, it’s worth asking your child’s form teacher for help. Work at maintaining these relationships.

4. Stay upbeat when living with autism

Living with autism often feels overwhelming. It is very easy to dwell on past events and worry about ‘another’ school year. The beginning of term is an adjustment for everyone in the house, especially caregivers. Remaining positive really helps. Spoil yourself a little!

5. Acknowledge reality might not be as rehearsed

Remember that sometimes even rehearsed events don’t go to plan. Talk to your child about this possibility. Develop a strategy with your child which may be used at such times. Share this strategy with your child’s teacher or support worker.  This will provide a sense of base to your child when he or she feels most unsafe.

For more information on autism in school, see the National Autistic Society.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist. To find out about autism assessments and psychological support through Christine Tizzard Psychology, see our Treetops Autism page.


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Exam Results not good? How to move forward without stress


CALM method

Exam results not good?   Use the CALM approach to success.

Symptoms of stress emerge when we feel out of control – when the plan or road map suddenly does not work as expected.

When we do not have a Plan B, most of us feel LOST.  To get back in control and kick the stress, we need a good strategy that won’t fail.  A failure to achieve anticipated grades is one of these occasions.  Right now you may feel lost and without hope.

It may feel like your future has just flushed down the pan.   This is complete rubbish. It is an unpleasant feeling that you are registering.  It is not a FACT.  We are all liable to go into emotional reasoning rather than cognitive thought at times.  The truth is emotional reasoning can sometimes be really painful and lead to depression.

Right now, you need a cognitive factual strategy to feel in control again. I use the acronym of CALM with my clients. It is not rocket science but it works.

Try this simple four point plan to get back in control and feel better fast.

  Chill out

  Act Later

  Look at ALL options

  Move forward from a power position


Chill Out

When you find out that your grades were not what you wanted, try to stay calm. Emotions usually become far too heated. There is anger and then tears. Your tears and your parent’s tears.  Remember, you are NOT your exam grades.

Try to chill out, do some exercise, rest, take a trip. Do something nice. Be calm. Don’t binge on alcohol or other substances, they only cloud thinking and invite depression.

Remember you may be upset but how real is that distress? How much is really your pain? The chances are that you have picked up on other people’s expectations of you; teachers and parents – both who have an interest in your results. Part of that interest is altruistic but some may really be more about them. If you get good grades, then they feel a great teacher or a proud parent with brilliant genes. The truth is what happens now is about YOU and YOU alone. Look after you, not other people’s egos.

Act Later

Acting on impulse while stressed is a pretty sure-fire recipe that any decisions made will be all wrong. Sit with it. You can endure the distress; it will be temporary. It will pass.

Look at all the options

After you have had a period of calm. Possible courses of action will come to mind naturally. Far more easily than if you have tried to force the issue. The brain will be in a better position to construct a Solution Focussed Plan after a period of rest.

Look at your options:

a) Is it a retake or a resit?  How do you find out if this may be possible?

b) Is it a change of course?  If so, what might be possible? Who do you need to speak to, email, telephone? Construct a simple flow chart and make that call.

c) Take positive action rather than dwelling on passive inaction.

d) Move forward.  Now move confidently forward knowing that the plan is sustainable and achievable.

Remember the saying – ‘Good sailors don’t try to change the weather they simply adjust their sails’.

Benefits of failing

Being able to adjust to situations that were not planned can be a powerful lesson in developing coping strategies. Life rarely goes to plan. We need to be able to adapt and develop the ability to change direction when needed.  This is how a robust character is formed.

Extreme cases

It is stressful to fail one’s exams but it is not traumatic. There is a huge difference. Trauma does not offer a second chance but this set back is simply that. Life can and will go on. Dreams can still be achieved.  When trauma strikes nothing will ever be the same.  This is a bump in the road not a sink-hole.

It is important to note that the media have a vested interested in reporting sad stories. It sells. Most people who do not achieve expected grades do not self-harm or commit suicide, contrary to what is reported by the press.  Those that do harm themselves  usually already have a serious depression or other mental health disorder. However, media and social media focus on these stories without the necessary understanding of underlying issues.

Need more help?

If you can’t get rid of these negative feelings and most people will (once they have a new plan) you should: –

Talk to someone whose judgement you trust. He/she will give your perspective on the issue. If there is nobody you feel able to speak to try speaking to a counsellor or a youth service.

The important thing is to talk about your fears. Don’t bottle them up.

If you feel suicidal or have thoughts about harm you MUST speak to your GP.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard  Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist and Chartered Scientist.



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Autism: Recipe for avoiding holiday hell

Autism: Avoiding holiday hell is something all parents want to do. When your child has a diagnosis of autism, holiday hell can come easily.

This is true whether it’s a pod in Padstow, a gite in Gironde or even staying at home.

The fact is children with autism find change overwhelming.  Totally so.  Feeling overwhelmed leads to meltdowns. Meltdowns lead to parental hell.  Some of the pressure of holiday hell can be avoided through using Social Stories.TM

This is a specialist technique developed in the nineties by Carol Gray.

The use of Social StoriesTM is a very specialised way of writing with or without illustrations to explain something that will happen in the future to a child.  These can be easily written by parents.   Writing a story should not be seen as a quick fix, but prepared carefully, a story can lessen a child’s sense of feeling overwhelmed.


For instance, a family plans a holiday to Cornwall. A story written several weeks before the trip begins can provide a secure base and a snippet of the future.  This is soothing to your child.  The story should include your child as it’s central character.  The central character could even be your child’s current role model.

The story should describe the holiday place and what the accommodation will look like. If it seems a bit boring to you, chances are, it will contain sufficient detail to calm your child. (Spending time together on google earth is also a smart tip). The story should include a plan of the activities the family will do, the fun it’ll be and include your child’s desired behaviour.

Done well in advance of the holiday, it will allow your child to develop a mental map of the future. This will remove a large degree of sudden sensory information that often leads to overload.

Remember the three P’s –  Preparation prevents panic!

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Adult, Adolescent and Child Psychologist and Chartered Scientist.



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