Aim high and believe

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Her parents, Vanessa and Paul, were told to terminate the pregnancy, “She won’t be able to walk or talk”.

But the professionals were wrong. Alice walks, talks and embraces life to the full. As a toddler, she was frequently described as a ‘busy lady’ and was never one for sitting quietly in a corner, always curious to explore her environment and learn new things.

Born with Trisomy 21 or Down’s Syndrome, professionals in health and education had low expectations as to what Alice would achieve in her lifetime. Alice’s parents, however, refused to accept such a pessimistic outcome for their daughter and embarked on a journey to help her realise her true potential.

Learning how to think

In 2014, they took Alice to the Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem where the family worked with a team of professional Feuerstein Mediators to teach Alice how to analyse situations, to problem solve and to communicate her solutions justifying her answers using concrete evidence – they literally taught Alice how to think, how to learn.

The family’s experience in Israel not only changed Alice but also changed her parents and their understanding of Alice’s learning potential, equipping them with techniques and strategies to help their daughter. Delighted with the progress made at the Institute, Alice’s parents returned to the UK with a new understanding of her true potential and renewed hope for the future.

Breakthrough Learning for the 21st century

Realising the importance of developing every child’s cognition, Vanessa and her friend, Marie trained as Feuerstein Mediators and co-founded the charity, Breakthrough Learning. Their aim - to support parents, teachers and therapists throughout the UK who want to see the next generation develop the learning and thinking skills they will need to succeed in the rapidly changing 21st century.

Alice is well-versed in the approach and already uses high-levels of language and thinking skills at the age of 8 years old. And, like many 8-year-old girls, her parents encourage her to experience many different activities in addition to her academic studies, including: arts and crafts; Brownies; dance and telling stories - there is nothing that she will not have a go at. Her ability to control her thinking has helped her to be more confident and independent in her learning and has certainly had a positive impact on her literacy and numeracy.

The right tool for the job – Write Size pencils

Following the Feuerstein principles about enabling environments, Vanessa has been careful to choose the right equipment for Alice, including the pencils she chose to support her writing skills. From the moment Alice first used the Write Size pencils, she loved them as they felt comfortable in her hand. Her writing was much clearer, and she was able to use the correct pencil pressure. Vanessa contacted Write Size and told them about the success her daughter was having with the pencils and, naturally their conversation came around to Breakthrough Learning. Impressed with the charity’s vision, Write Size kindly donated pencils for an intervention study run by Breakthrough Learning from April 2018 in collaboration with Reading and Kingston Universities, to study the effect of using Mediated Learning to develop the cognition of children with Down’s Syndrome. Write Size also provided the charity with a wonderful fundraising opportunity to resell the pencils to parents and schools.

Thank you Write Size, your pencils really are the right tool for the job!

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Richard Boud