Saturday, December 17, 2016

App that transforms lives

I came across a post on Facebook this morning about an app called TippyTalk. It's a simple app, designed by a father to assist his daughter with communication development. His daughter is on the  autism spectrum and so she finds it challenging to communicate verbally with people. Her dad found a way to create an app that converts pictorial choices to texts, which enable communication.

If you have Facebook, click here for this link to the video.

The app can be found on all smart devices. Search for TippyTalk in your app purchasing application for more information.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Journal article published

I have just received word that my journal article, co-written with the amazing Carol Mitchell and Dr Mary van der Riet, has been published by BMC.

Click here to view. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why just being with your child is just what they need

"Presence, he argues, helps build the child’s confidence by way of indicating he is worthy of the observer’s thoughts and attention — its absence, on the other hand, divorces in the child the journey from the destination by instilling a sense that the activity itself is worthless unless it’s a means to obtaining praise."


This is a really good read for teachers and parents, grandparents! Would love to know your comments.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Are children not playing enough?

This article resonates with me as the increase of learning difficulties is so apparent in the work I do. There are so many reasons for these increases, but this is one of them: the decline of play amongst preschoolers.

Being a mom has also opened my eyes to see the value in play for play's sake (not just for learning), and it makes me question the type of education my child will benefit from most when the time comes for her to go to school. There is more and more about "unschooling" these days and whilst I am not one to advocate one way or the other, there certainly is value in letting children learn through play and play to learn...

I would love to hear your thoughts on the article.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

IEB accommodation assessments

In order to apply for an IEB exam concession (see previous post here), an IEB assessment has to be done. This is both time consuming and expensive for parents, but is a necessary step in the current application process.

My IEB assessment package spans two mornings. The process includes an intake with the child's parents, the assessment and then a second morning of assessing the next day. The reason it takes so long is because there is a long list of assessments to get through for the IEB application.

Below are some FAQ that might help you in deciding where and when to do an IEB assessment.

How do I know if my child needs a concession?
Your child's teacher will most likely identify the need for a concession, based on his/her exam results and classroom performance. Teacher's usually identify students who would benefit from a concession and then approach parents to consider an IEB accommodation application.

Who qualifies for a concession?
Students with learning barriers are best suited for concessions. A concession is not aimed to push students ahead of others, but rather to make the playing fields level.

When should I send my son for an IEB assessment?
Students can apply for concessions at any time in high school, before October of their grade 11 year. Late applications cost more as there is a penalty fee applied by the IEB. A paper trail is important in this process, so any educational assessments done in primary school add to the application.

Will my daughter get a concession if I do the assessment?
Not necessarily. The IEB conduct an independent review of each application in order to either grant or deny concessions.

How much does it cost?
Every psychologist charges their own rates. My current rate is R5000.

What does the assessment include?
My package includes an intake, 2 mornings of assessment, any collateral collection, school observation (if required), any additional testing required, feedback and hand-over of information to the school.

How long does it take to find out if my son got the concession?
The time frame is variable but can take a long time. This is why earlier applications are advised (before grade 11 is advised).

What do I need to do as a parent?
If you think your child might be a candidate for a concession, I would advise you make an appointment to meet with his/her teacher to discuss this. If the school is in agreement, book an appointment with an educational psychologist who does IEB accommodation testing in your area.

What happens after the assessment?
Once the assessment is complete, the psychologist will submit the report to the school, who then submit the IEB application in full. The school then gets feedback as to whether or not your child receieved the accommodation. Thereafter, it is implemented at school in preparation for matric. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

IEB accommodations

Most South African private schools belong to the IEB. The IEB - or independent examinations board - is an agency that conducts assessments for schools and adult education institutions. Matric students in IEB high schools write exams that are set by the IEB. Therefore, it is the IEB that determines any matric concessions for students needing accommodations.

A concession is an allowance granted to students with specific learning needs. The need for a concession is identified by way of an educational assessment. Matric concessions vary depending on the needs of the student and the resources of the school. The IEB currently offer a wide range of concessions for students who qualify for them. These include:

Additional Time
An additional five, ten or fifteen minutes per hour of examination is granted to learners.

An amanuensis is a person who reads to and scribes for the learner. The entire examination session must be recorded and a copy of the recording submitted with the answer booklet. A separate venue is required for this accommodation. 

When the learner has been educated using Braille, examination papers can be offered in Braille. 

A learner may use a computer to present his/her answers in a typed form. Access to a printer is essential. A separate venue is required for this accommodation.

Enlarged Print 
Enlarged print can be requested to make an examination paper more accessible to a learner. 

A handwriting accommodation means that a sticker is placed on each of a learner's answer books. This indicates to the marker that untidy writing must be accommodated. 

Medication/food intake 
Learners may require an opportunity to take medication during an examination and/or have access to food and beverages used to maintain sugar levels and treat low blood sugars. Rest breaks should also be applied for in conjunction with this accommodation. A separate venue is usually required when this accommodation is granted. 

Practical assistant
A practical assistant accommodates a learner's specific needs to ensure he/she is able to complete an examination. For example, a child in a wheelchair may require a practical assistant during a practical examination and a colour blind candidate may require a practical assistant in Geography Paper II. The appropriate assistance must be provided without the practical assistant engaging in conversation with the candidate. A separate venue is required for this accommodation. 

The function of a prompter is to refocus a learner who is easily distracted. This may be done using a verbal or physical cue. A separate venue is required for this accommodation. The prompter may not interfere with the learner's answers to the examination. 

A reader reads all text in an examination paper to a learner. The learner may request sections of text to be re-read. A separate venue is required for this accommodation. The entire examination session must be recorded and a copy of the recording submitted with the answer booklet. 

Rest breaks
A rest break is a period of time when the learner is not required to be at his/her desk but must remain in the examination venue. Rest break time does not count as extra writing time. The rest break time used will be added to the examination session. A separate venue is required for this accommodation.

A scribe writes verbatim what the learner dictates. A separate venue is required for this accommodation. The entire examination session must be recorded and a copy of the recording submitted with the answer booklet.

Separate Venue 
A separate venue is a quiet environment away from the main examination centre. The use of a separate venue is either to assist an individual learner or to prevent possible disturbance to others.

Specific Equipment 
The IEB must be notified of any specific equipment required. In circumstances where the use of specific equipment may distract others a separate venue may be requested.

A spelling accommodation is awarded when there is a significant discrepancy between the chronological age and spelling age of the learner and the learner's ability to express thoughts adequately is thus compromised. A spelling sticker is placed on each of a learner's answer books. The marker must ignore the spelling as long as what is written is phonetically correct. Please note that in the languages in Paper I where textual editing is examined and spelling is part of the content knowledge required at Grade 12 level spelling will count.

The IEB will consider unique cases which have not been included above.

For more information about educational assessments for these concessions, please contact me on 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Welcome Aylamae!

After a whirlwind 4 weeks, I am delighted to announce the safe arrival of our little girl: Aylamae Sofia Hutton. She was born on February 26th, 3 weeks prior to her due date. She is a tiny treasure, but doing well and she has already added much joy to our little family.

Aylamae (pronounced Aye-la-may), in her 3 short weeks of life, has caused me to think about what it means to be a parent. Not only that, but it has challenged me to become in tune with Natalie-the-mom, not only Natalie-the-psychologist. However, I have stumbled across an article on parenting and mental health issues off the raisedgood blog. It is an interesting read, particularly for parents interested in mental health issues.

I am challenged, as a parent, to consider how I stimulate Aylamae in her early years. As a psychologist, I am also enlightened and interested in the impact of stimulation on children that I work with. Would it help a child with ADHD to simply their lives, for example? I have one client who is above average intelligence but displaying inattention daily. It is unclear as to whether or not this is due to over stimulation, under stimulation or an attention deficit. However, it is negatively impacting the child's social and academic performance. The child's mother has removed a lot of items that result in over-stimulation: the iPad, the Xbox and so on. The child is being stimulated in the academic context. However, it is not helping.  Would an overhaul in lifestyle help a child like this? It might be worth considering.

Here is the article. I'd love to hear your thoughts.