Part 2: A Social Work Student’s Story

So… you’ve been waiting 24hours and FINALLY IT IS HERE, the second part to this fascinating entry based on the experiences of a social work student.

I saw Ada on several further occasions when there was no further repetition of these events. On one occasion, Ada fetched a box from the kitchen to show me some documentation and, once finished with, placed it at the side of a cupboard in the front room. It struck me at the time that this might relate to how things ‘moved’ or went missing, providing an alternative explanation for what she’d said. Together, we addressed the needs identified on the support plan to reduce her isolation. She disclosed information relating to her relationship with her ex-husband relating to domestic abuse. This gave me information to consider in relation to Bowen’s (1966) Family Systems Theory, where each member of the family are influential in affecting every other member of the family in ways that can be longstanding. Her interactions with her children could replicate the interaction with her husband and her sense of resentment, which she disclosed to me.

On another occasion, as I sat and asked how things had been, Ada said ‘no-one believes me’. I asked what they didn’t believe and she told me that the previous Saturday, she had seen hundreds of witches flying around among the trees opposite her window. (She has a large picture window, which she spends a lot of her time looking out of). She told me that she’d seen more that morning before I arrived and that no-one believed her and she thought that she was going mad. I was aware that she had macular degeneration and had to have injections into her eye to try and control it. As a family member has a similar treatment, I suggested that what she was seeing was related to this. She replied that she thought it was a result of her stroke. We discussed it openly, considering whether it might be a combination of the two and Ada seemed to become calmer, though she said that she thought she was going mad. We arranged an introductory visit to a lunch club and I left.

When most of the actions on the support plan had been completed, I visited Ada to find her quite distressed. As I entered, I saw her seated in a chair, with her arm raised, swatting at something. She said that her daughter was being a problem and again she swatted at something. I thought it might be a fly, but it seemed a strange movement. I asked why she thought her daughter was being a problem and she said that she was flying around the room all the time and if she managed to get hold of her, she was going to ‘squidge’ her. She then swatted at something again. I asked if she could see her daughter now and Ada said yes, swatting again. I acknowledged that she was seeing her, but said that I couldn’t, saying that I believed that she was seeing her. I had taken an Attendance Allowance claim form to complete and she was focused while we were doing that. Once we finished, I pointed out to Ada that she hadn’t been bothered while we were doing it, and that maybe she needed to be more busy to reduce her distress as she would be focused on other things.

Reflecting afterwards, I thought about the relationship with her daughter that might be influential in Ada’s hallucinations. Lawler (2014) talks about the development of identity being related to the ‘space between people’ more than individual factors. I considered how Ada’s background might have been instrumental on the formation of her identity and how the stroke might have significantly affected them. Ada was aware that what she was seeing was unusual and thought herself mad, but that didn’t mean that she could stop herself. I thought about this in relation to Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) Ecological Systems Theory, how her upbringing and the cultural time that she had been raised in would affect her interpretation of what was happening now. She is a lady who has worked all her life which, using Bronfenbrenner, might predict that she would find it difficult being isolated and alone. Her relationship with her ex-husband might predict the difficulties she has now being positive about other people, affecting her trust in others and preventing her from taking the first step to build friendships. I decided that taking Ada to visit a lunch club with another person who was going to start would be beneficial with both.

I arranged to take Ada and another person I was working with to the local lunch club and, although both were a little wary, they did communicate in a positive way with each other. Unfortunately, the event had been cancelled without notifying me and I had to return them home. When I walked Ada to her door, she hugged me and thanked me for taking her out. I wasn’t sure what reaction to do, thinking immediately of boundaries, but as it was outside and in full view, did nothing.

Reflecting on it afterwards, I considered whether Ada is getting too dependent on me, and what I should do about it. I have had minimal contact with others involved with her, so feel that my perceptions are likely to be influenced by her perceptions. I have spoken to her son and the manager of the project and I’m aware that other agencies are involved. I have been told that she’s receiving treatment from a psychiatrist for psychosis but, when I asked her about this, she said she wasn’t.

The issue now relates to how I disconnect from her. The support plan is virtually complete and her 3 month review is about due, at which point Ada’s case could be closed or allowed to continue for up to a further 3 months.

If you are a practising social worker, a social work student on placement or even if you’ve just got something to say about welfare- let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

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Part 1: A Social Work Student’s Story

Happy May Bank Holiday everyone!

As promised we have a special entry for you today from a social work student. Following the popularity of Rebecca Joy Novell’s entry on the welfare system a few weeks ago, this is yet another brief and fascinating insight into the day-to-day experiences of a social work student on placement.

This is an absolute must-read, not just for those of you in social work, but also for anyone who is interested in welfare, social justice and community.

(names changed to protect anonymity)

I was working in a voluntary organisation for older people, within the Housing Support Team, offering support to people with various issues related to housing in the community, which included moving house, accessing services, reducing isolation amongst others. My role involved an initial assessment to identify needs and development of a support plan to address those needs.

I was allocated a case that had been referred to the organisation by a family member. There was basic information on the IT system about the person and a reason for the referral – in this case concerns about social isolation in particular. The information included reference that the lady concerned was German, but that she spoke English. There was no information about the level of the English. As there was no direction on the case notes to contact the referrer in the first instance, I assumed that the lady would be able to understand English. I based this on my own learning of a foreign language and being able to understand more that I could speak. However, it was possible that the lady only spoke very basic English and that her children had translated for her. I decided that contacting the number given to make an appointment would enable me to assess whether I would need an interpreter for the assessment.

When I rang, Ada was able to engage with me appropriately and clearly understood what I was saying. She retained quite a strong German accent and was easily able to make herself understood in English. I arranged a time to visit.

Ada lived in a sheltered housing project and I was surprised that she had been referred, as the project provided community activities for their residents. When I visited, Ada wasn’t present. I was surprised initially, but then concerned in case she had fallen. I rang the referrer (daughter – Jane) to see if they were aware of any reason Ada wasn’t at home. Jane said she didn’t know where Ada was, but we then had a prolonged discussion about her mother (I hadn’t managed to speak to her previously). She gave me quite a lot of background information and included that Ada was a difficult woman to get along with and could be quite ‘nasty’. Jane said that she’d been like that all her life and regularly fell out with her children (they’d fallen out at the time she’d made the referral), taking turns when each one would be the ‘golden’ child. She warned me that her mother would probably be nice initially and then would start calling me names to others and potentially telling people that I was taking things.

I rearranged another appointment with Ada – she’d double-booked a GP appointment. I reflected on what the daughter had said and whether I should consider asking someone to accompany me to protect myself from accusations of theft. I decided against it on three grounds – the first being that it would be quite oppressive to have two people visit, secondly, I consider myself to have a non-judgemental attitude and able to engage with a variety of people and finally the daughter had said that it would take a few visits before Ada ‘took against me’.

The visit started well with no problems and we confirmed basic information, talking about how long she’d lived in the accommodation and where she’d lived previously. We then moved on to talk about family. Ada told me that she had three children and then told me that one of her daughters belonged to a ‘witch club’. I was a little surprised. I said ‘Oh’. Her body language and demeanour hadn’t changed and my impression was that she believed what she was saying. She went on to tell me that her daughter (Jane) made things appear and disappear and that she had made writing appear on the wall, pointing to the upper part of the wall facing her. There was nothing there that I could see. Again I said ‘Oh’ while my mind was racing trying to consider what my reaction should be. I was aware that there was a belief system that involved people considering themselves as witches and I didn’t know if the daughter subscribed to this. I was conscious that I didn’t want to say anything to Ada that provided ‘ammunition’ in her relationship with her daughter. I was also aware of my own wariness of things that seemed inexplicable. She then went on to tell me that she’d had a severe stroke with an extended recuperation and rehabilitation period. She blamed the daughter for not finding her quickly when she’d had the stroke. This alerted me to the likelihood that her perceptions were influenced by the damage to her brain from the stroke – she was quite proud of the fact that the doctors had told her that half of her brain had been damaged. She then went on to say some other unusual things – that she was being investigated because she’d paid a high fuel bill, that her daughter entered her room and took things, etc. While these things seemed unlikely, they weren’t necessarily untrue and I had no evidence either way. I decided to end the assessment at this point as I felt that her reality was becoming increasingly distorted.

My reflection afterwards was interesting. From Ada’s perspective, she had shared some information with me that she was aware other people didn’t believe. She was patently distressed by what she believed she saw and that people didn’t believe her. She was also distressed because she couldn’t understand why her daughter didn’t know that she’d had a stroke and helped her. From my previous degree, I had some significant knowledge about the potential effects of stroke on workings of the brain and understanding, realising that this might be playing a significant role in the lady’s perceptions. Alternatively, I considered whether I had been subjected to ‘grooming’ by Jane, so that I was more disbelieving of what her mother said about her. It was possible that she entered the room when the lady wasn’t there, possible that she took things – unlikely, but possible. I had no evidence to support either side and decided that I must take an anti-discriminatory approach until I had further information.

Don’t worry- this is not the end! Part 2 follows tomorrow morning at 10am so keep an eye for it.

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Foundations of reading- the final extract

We’re all happy its Friday but we’re also SO GUTTED that today is the last day of extracts from Carol Hayesnew book.


We’ve saved the best for last so enjoy!


When you are reading critically it is important to distinguish whether what the writer is saying is fact or opinion. Sometimes this is hard to ascertain but consider the following and try to decide whether it is fact or opinion.

LLC 1 extract 260216

This is more difficult and could fall into both camps, as it depends upon your definition of the word ‘good’in this context. If you are saying that Letters and Sounds  receive Government support as a ‘good’ way to teach reading, this may well be fact. However if you are saying that most teachers consider it to be good for their children, this is opinion.

LLC 2 extract 260216

You can see from this that critical reading requires a different approach to that of reading a novel or a magazine. You need to actively engage with the text in a sustained manner, to learn from it rather than simply be entertained by it.

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Receptive Language and Listening

Happy mid-week to all you of you! We have your third free extract from Carol Hayes‘ book ‘Language, Literacy and Communication‘.

In this lovely snippet, the text discusses the mechanics of the hearing process. Enjoy and please email with feedback!


Do we acquire language through the eye or the ear? 

When you listen to someone speaking, you are not only taking in information from your hearing and auditory processing, but you are also watching them, their physical gestures and mouth movements. Without this capacity to combine the visual sense with the auditory, you would be limiting your ability to understand the information from the receptive language. This combining of information across the senses is called ‘intermodal perception’ or ‘intermodal co-ordination’. One example of this is your ability to understand who is speaking when you hear spoken language.

Most humans are much slower than a computer at numerical calculation or recalling numbers or facts, but humans far surpass computers at language related tasks. Pinker (1994) suggested that the ear, as miraculous as it is, acts like an ‘information bottleneck’ constricting the hearing process. In the 1940s engineers attempted to produce a reading machine for blind and partially sighted people, but discovered that merely isolating the phonemes in words and then sticking them back together again in an infinite number of ways to form words, was completely useless. As real speech is understandable at between 10-50 phonemes a second, this showed that it was not possible for you to ‘read’ speech in this way, at approximately three phonemes a second, (approximately the same speed as a ship’s radio officer ‘reading’ Morse code).  To illustrate this, when we hear the tick of a clock we hear each individual sound, if this were speeded up to 20-30 ticks per second it would sound to the human ear, as a continuous sound, as the spaces between the ticks would be indistinguishable from each other.

Speech is a river of breath bent into hisses and hums by the soft flesh of the mouth and throat.                                                          

– (Pinker, 1994, p 163)

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Learning difficulties- free extract number 2

Enjoy the second extract from Carol Hayes’ book ‘Language, Literacy & Communication‘.


Case Study


Lewis was six years of age and the youngest of three boys. Two of them learned to read quickly and apparently effortlessly, but Lewis could not understand what all these shapes on the page really meant. In school the teacher was found him ‘hard work’ as he had become the class ‘clown’, distracting other children, noisy and inattentive. Lewis spent most of the day on his own with a craft or drawing activity (which was the only thing that he appeared to be good at). The other children were surged ahead, but as he found reading so difficult most of the traditional school subjects began to leave him behind. Colouring and craft kept him occupied, but really what Lewis wanted was to be able to read.

At night Lewis sneaked a torch into his bedroom and when his mother put out the light he would get out a book, and under the covers would surreptitiously try to make sense of the words in front of him. Often he ended up crying himself to sleep, having found the task just too difficult.

Critical questions

Lewis’ experiences are in line with many children that have dyslexia, now consider the following questions:

  • How do you think this made Lewis feel?
  • What effect do you think this had on his social / emotional development?
  • How could this have influenced his life choices and experiences?
  • What do you think would have helped Lewis and his family at the time?
  • How could the teacher have made Lewis’ experience in the classroom more stimulating and challenging?

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Technology for Teachers

Being a second year trainee teacher from the University of Worcester has given Taylor, our education blogger, an unparalleled insight into the latest methods of teaching.

In this wonderful and timely blog entry Taylor discusses which 3 Apps she has been introduced to on her course and how they can be incorporated into the classroom.

Welcome to the Technology Age!

Whether you regard yourself as ‘tech-savvy’ or not, there is no denying that we are experiencing the technology movement, and living in the technology age. We are surrounded by TVs, computers, phones and tablets, and so are most children, so it would be a shame to neglect such devices in the classroom and stick to a textbook way of teaching rather than exploring the many uses that technology can offer us as professionals.

I have been in many schools either on work experience or placement, and I have observed the range of technological devices dispersed throughout the school, so the worst case scenario I could think of would be for them to not be used! In this post I am going to share with you some of my favourite apps that I was introduced to in my Computing module, what they do, and how I think they can engage pupils. The three apps I am going to discuss are available on the AppStore on Apple devices, and I have used them on my iPad.

Book creator is an app that pretty much does what it says on the tin. It allows children to create their own stories, and be as creative as they wish. The interface is very user-friendly, and there are tutorials to help new users of the app. Children are able to change the colour of the background, input text with a font of their choice, and even add photos and videos to bring the book to life! I think that this app has so much potential within the classroom, and the opportunities for assessment are not only computing-based, but heavily focused around literacy and a child’s understanding of whatever task you set them.

Inspiration is an interactive mind-mapping app. The interface is again, very friendly, and the children can select from a range of templates and then input their own information. I feel that this app would be very useful for collating information and ideas quickly as the children do not have to spend a long period of time drawing the mind-map and the extensions coming off it – this is easily achieved by a click of a button. It is useful across curriculums as the templates are for different subjects, and the designs are catered for different topics within that subject.

Showbie is a slightly different app in that it is a quick and efficient way for teachers to collect any work created on a device like an iPad or computer digitally. This is particularly useful if you teach at an eco-school where unnecessarily printing is frowned upon, and for assessment purposes, this app is great at minimising pointless bits of paper that stay on a pile on your desk for weeks before being moved to the recycle bin. You can set up your classes or groups, and by the click of a button the children can upload the work that they have done into the folder – it’s as simple as that!

Our book ‘Digital Literacy for Primary Teachers‘ by Moira Savage is a fantastic text goes into more detail about the importance of being digitally literate.


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Observing Children: Free Extract Numéro-Deux

So today I have another snippet of Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’ book. For those of you that haven’t seen yesterday’s post, we will be giving you some exclusive extracts throughout the week just to share with you why this text has received an ample amount of great feedback.

In this chapter Gill discusses four main perceptions of children: children as victims, children as incomplete adults, children as a threat, children as redemptive. These perceptions can be problematic to practitioners.

This next extract discusses the first perception (children as victims) and shows how the text encourages the reader to be interactive and responsive with the text through the use of activities.


Similarly attitudes to children working have also changed, so within the framework of the law, there is now a ‘protectionist discourse’ (James, James and Prout 1998) that regards the employment of young children as intrinsically problematic. Cunningham suggests that this has had a problematic impact:

So fixated are we on giving our children a long and happy childhood that we downplay their abilities and their resilience. To think of children as potential victims in need of protection is a very modern outlook, and it probably does no-one a service.  (Cunningham 2006:245) 

My tendency to view children in this way was vividly illustrated when I was visiting South Africa some years ago.  I saw a young girl, at most six years old, carrying a baby (approximately 9-12 months) on her back, purposefully making her way along and across a busy road.  She did this carefully and competently. The baby on her back had his arms curled around her; he looked chubby and alert.  The image has always stayed in my mind, as it was a sight that did not fit with my view of children’s competence and the level of responsibility that they should be afforded.


Do you agree with Cunningham’s view, stated above, that it is unhelpful to see children as potential victims? Compile a list of the possible advantages and disadvantages.

For more on the book, click here. Please contact us if you have any queries, and keep an eye out for tomorrow’s extract.

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