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Jack sends springtime greetings from the USA

gh ed ti iti et on h

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Contents Information Exchange celebrates the journey that we all make along the 'journey of understanding' about the special babies, children, young people and adults who share our lives. It exists as a Forum and support for all who have, along with sensory needs, other complex ones.

Information Exchange is compiled with help from many corners of the world - ideas written and spoken, ideas seen and experiences shared. It is fully independent and the Editorial Team work hard on a voluntary basis to bring out the magazine - three times a year. There are also unseen supporters of the magazine who help in many ways. Information Exchange has a buzz that is fostered when readers get together through the magazine itself. The basic remit of the magazine is the exchange of information in an accessible and unbiased way. There is a delight in newly found discoveries, sensory trinkets, soothing aromas, new ideas, books, technology, issues to discuss and Rag Bag ideas to share. Information Exchange is for everyone - family members,

Contents Editors page The Spring wood is coming Gardens from Australia Jungle animal massage VITAL Thinking about thinking Confident Parenting Communication: A Basic Part of Active Learning Active Learning in a school Down Under A special baby in America Rag Bag to Make Rag Bag to Buy The Roald Dahl umbrella Games – from Flo Sensory poetry in a box Ice Sculptures – chilly art Bits and pieces Specialist Developmental Programme Subscription form

3 4 5-9 10 11 12-14 15 16-18 19 20 21-22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29-30 31

News from the Editorial Board

parents, carers, educators, therapists or anyone who needs to find out more or gain confidence from others by reading, challenging and discussing. In this inclusive way, everyone is learning and growing together through the medium of the magazine.


Welcome to Les Staves who is taking on the role of co-editor with Flo, welcome on board! He is seen here posing on top of a gate in the middle of very snowy Yorkshire.

We have requests to reprint articles that have appeared in Information Exchange from time to time. Please note that such requests are passed on to the original authors for their decision on publication. Price - £6.00 per individual copy Advertising Rates Back Cover Full Page Half Page Quarter Page

And welcome also to Rachel Beirne who joins the Editorial board this year. Rachel works with preschoolers in Surrey with the physical and sensory support service, supporting the whole family as well as the child. She has worked in mainstream, independent and special settings and has lots of multi sensory experience to bring to the magazine (have a look at ragbag in this edition). Best of all, she has a puppy, also keeps chickens and loves wandering down the garden to get fresh eggs in the morning!

£350.00 £250.00 £150.00 £75.00

Disclaimer The views expressed in Information Exchange are those of individual authors and so do not necessarily represent the views of the Editorial Team. Also, neither the individual contributors nor the team can be held responsible for any consequences resulting from the purchase or use of equipment, toys, techniques or ideas featured or advertised in the magazine.


And we say 'good bye' to Sally Slater, who has been so helpful and worked so hard for the magazine. She will still keep in touch and we wish her well in new projects in her busy life. The rest of the Editorial Board stays on and after seven years stint, they deserve resounding thanks!

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Editorial Editorial

The Information Exchange Editorial Team Flo Longhorn:

Dear readers around the world, Welcome to the 80th edition of Information Exchange! We have an international flavour this Spring with articles from Australia, New Zealand and America. Welcome to Les Staves who has joined me as a co editor and he has some thought provoking articles in this issue. Les holds a strong interest in maths and the world of special learners, as well as being a keen cyclist, photographer and loves the outside world of nature. Please let all your friends know about Information Exchange, our subscription list has been shrinking with the recession hitting everyone's pockets, so do promote us to keep the magazine going! Happy Springtime to everyone. Flo Longhorn

Managing Editor, Consultant in Special Education Les Staves: Co-editor, Special Education Consultant Catherine de Haas: Parent and Speech and Language Therapist Sara Langley: Subscriptions Secretary Kay Evans: Teacher and regular reader of IE Sue Granger: A volunteer who lives in Oxford Rachel Beirne: Physical and sensory support service, Surrey Additional advice and support from Sally Silverman our roving reporter Kate Sullivan, Bronwen Campbell and Naomi Rosenberg: Support teachers for the Sensory Impaired Service in Bristol Evelyn Varma who lives in Somerset: Editing and Word Processing And you – the reader, send your ideas and articles to the Editor! Subscriptions All enquiries to: Sara Langley, Subscriptions, Information Exchange, 1A Potters Cross, Wootton, Bedfordshire MK43 9JG Tel and Fax: 07964 225568 Email:

Editorial and Administration Address Flo Longhorn: Managing Editor 1A Potters Cross, Wootton, Bedfordshire MK43 9JG OR 24 Fazantenlaan, Bredene-Am-Zee, B8450 Belgium Tel/Fax: 0845 127 5281 Email:

Looking for new readers Please tell all your friends, other professionals about the magazine. If you would like some copies or flyers to hand out, please let us know and we can do this with grateful thanks! Copies can be viewed online at

Message from Sara Langley the subscription secretary I can now be contacted by mobile phone. Telephone 07964 225568

Website and look for

”Information Exchange page”

Go to

Issue 80 Spring 2010


The Spring wood is coming Research shows us that stories are not just fun. Retelling the narrative of events is a process that helps children develop memory, understand cause effect and consequence. It opens them up to imagination about what could have been, what if ? and why? Even the everyday has its story. Lets not neglect the power of simply re living the pleasure of our senses and the sense of sharing with others and what better time than the spring.

In the carpet of the woods Round behind the beechwood trunk the squirrel shy is watching. Beneath the arms of the ancient beech A new swathe of blue mist Will sway a sea of blue and green. Whilst all the snow and ice of January was freezing our souls Just beneath the ground the very first little inklings of spring the green shoots of white snowdrops were sleeping. A green shoot in soil A sign of your fate Hello little inkling of spring at the gate. They may already have shown their dancing heads by now. Soon the daffodils and then the glorious bluebell woods will be back.

Can you see the snake old gnarled branch The fox is creeping round the tree. Do you hear the bee. These are great places to take your kids. Great places for senses and imagination. Great places for collecting things to remember the visit by. (Not the flowers sadly) but the magic twigs, the stones and leaves. Great places to weave stories. Take and make pictures. Remembering the journey is a story Remembering the den. Remembering the earthy smell The picnic and imagining the hedgehog watching till you’ve gone

A host of golden faces nodding in the breeze the sun who brought them out for us has left behind the freezing winter that chilled our bones Written by Les Staves


Issue 80 Spring 2010

Gardens from Australia

Engaging people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) in the process of designing their garden space (Part 2) Mandy Williams and Erinn Miller This is the second article in a series of three. This article describes the recording forms developed for documenting people’s responses to the sensory elements in a garden they visited repeatedly over a three month period. The adults participating have severe and multiple disabilities including complex communication needs. Their responses were collated and used by staff to guide the design of a garden space at their day service. The garden now contains the sensory elements and activities that the group had demonstrated they enjoyed and has ensured a client - environment activity match. The recording form we developed was based on the Sensory Mapping Data Collection Form developed by The Sensory Trust (UK). The Sensory Mapping Data Collection Form records what a garden or open space offers to the senses. We also collected information about feelings experiences evoked. Completion of the form became the responsibility of the support staff of each participant. The form could only be completed by support staff who knew • how the person communicated their likes/dislikes • the person’s existing sensory preferences, skills and interests and could support them to explore and extend these to another environment, over a period of time. It should be noted that a number of other data collection steps took place, for example, a separate physical access audit

Thanks to Mandy and Erinn for these excellent articles!

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Gardens from Australia Our version of a Sensory Mapping Data Collection Form

Page 1 documents how the person communicates his/her likes/dislikes.


Issue 80 Spring 2010

Gardens from Australia

Page 2 documents environment and activity specific responses. Multiple copies of this page were supplied to support staff.

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Gardens from Australia Responses where logged in relation to a map of the garden/open space that we explored over the 3 month period. (Refer to Fig 3.) Support staff had a copy of the map with them when completing the modified Sensory Mapping Data Collection form and could mark features of interest to a specific individual. They could also document their observations at each numbered point which had specific features.

Map of site


Issue 80 Spring 2010

Gardens from Australia To gain an understanding of the sensory richness and the feelings that specific features in the garden evoked, we used the following procedure. Each response to a sensory experience e.g. visual, tactile, auditory, smell or movement was written onto a Post It note and adhered to a large version of the map. This provided a clear picture of the sensory richness of the environment and what type of sensory experiences predominated. We used this information to guide our design of the centre based garden space to ensure a match between the sensory experiences the future garden would offer and those preferred by the users. The map also sited areas that evoked positive and negative experiences. These were also considered in the new design. Erinn Miller Manager, Communication and Participation Milparinka and Mandy Williams AccOT Communication Resource Centre – a service of Scope (Vic) Ltd Contact:

References: • Sensory Mapping Data Collection Form Sensory Trust – • Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2009 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Note: This article was first published in ECAPPS November 2008

New from Sensabout! SENSES

Another multi-sensory fun learning experience from Sensabout. Pack contains a DVD with 60 photos, 7 original songs, book containing ideas for actions and props, and suggested targets if needed. See our website for details or ring Sally Slater on 07711 374927

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Jungle animal massage Andrea Muir, who teaches at Five Acre Wood School where she has a student group who are working at Key stage 4, sent in this fun massage story. She is passionate about making curriculum activities accessible, age appropriate and fun!

Jungle ants Fingertips walking fast and light from one hand, up an arm, across the back of the shoulders or over the head, then down the other arm and hand.

Thanks Andrea!

Jungle animal massage You will need tropical smelling creams such as coconut or pineapple

Today we are going for a walk through the jungle, what animals do you think we shall see?

Tiger Claw hands, scratch students back or down arms.

Snake Massage on arms up and round forearms, keeping contact throughout with a slithering action make a hisssssssssssssing sound.

Gorilla Clap one of your hands against the student's hand in time with an 'oooooooooooooo-' noise.


Antelope Use firm fingers taps to gallop on the student's arms/legs as if the antelope is running away.

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VITAL What does VITAL stand for?

What has VITAL South-West been doing? • Ist meeting at West of England School, Exeter in

Visual Impairment Touches All Learning

When was it set up and why? Set up in 1989 in response to concerns regarding the introduction of the National Curriculum There was also a recognition that staff working in schools and services with this group of children could feel somewhat isolated and welcomed the peer support and networking opportunities which VITAL could give.

Who was it set up by? A network of professionals working with children with complex needs and visual impairment. The core organisers came from Tapton Mount School in Sheffield and Rushton Hall RNIB school .

What are the aims and objectives of VITAL now? • To identify areas of common interest • Share good and interesting practice • Seek advice on challenges and problems • Take part in training and professional development • Identify areas of interest to establish practical projects for which funding will be sought. (e.g. visual impairment and autism) • Peer support and networking

Who is VITAL for? VITAL is facilitated by the Royal National Institute for the Blind: It is comprised of teaching and associated professionals working in schools, services, early years and health settings. The South West Group is also open to teachers and others supporting children with hearing and complex additional needs and those working with deafblind (MSI) children. Parents and carers are also included.

Is there a subscription fee to join VITAL? There is no subscription fee to become involved with VITAL. There is no charge to join in on-line forum or to access information and articles from the VITAL website. There is no fee to attend the regional meetings although there is to the national conventions.

July 2008. All specialist settings in South West had been invited to send a representative. Main content was to share experiences of other VITAL groups and get to known each other + discuss priorities for the group. • 2nd Meeting r.e. Sharing Good Practice r.e. Transition was arranged at Claremont Secondary (Redland Green). Deborah Rutherford, Transitions Co-ordinator, Sara Trower and Kate Sullivan also attended. • 3rd Meeting: VITAL Convention Sept. 2009. Title: Challenges, Champions and Children – developing expertise in complex needs and visual impairment. • 4th meeting Jan 22nd Taunton : Vision Assessment of children with Complex Needs. Sara Trower and Sally Silverman attending.

VIITAL Website and on-line Forum: Free Access learning/complexneeds/vital Go to Regional Focus Groups on Left Hand Column + Click on South West Group or browse on what over groups are up to. Discussion forum: anyone can read the discussions but to reply or start your own thread you need to register with RNIB website (easy process). Go to to register. The website has a range of very useful articles from a range of practitioners . The articles include topics such as:• Wheelchair Mobility • Role of the Peripatetic Teacher • Sensory Integration • Objects of Reference • Becoming a sensitive communication partner • AAC Alternative and Augmentative Communication Well worth browsing through and sharing this information with others. Prepared for Sensory Exchange Google Group and Information Exchange 13.1.2010 Sally Silverman Vision Support Teacher and Roving Reporter X

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Thinking about thinking We tend to suppose that thinking involves using words, perhaps this is because whenever we discuss our thoughts, we use words to express their meanings. However we all know that there is a lot of feeling, evaluating and reacting, which goes on before we get to put our thoughts into those words. It fascinates me to think about how children learn to think; they obviously do so before they can talk or even before they understand what is said to them. You only have to look into typical babies eyes to see its mind is racing - making sense of you - reacting to all it sees hears and touches, or to the effects of its movement and position. As adults, perhaps because we are hide bound by our ideas about verbal thinking, it takes a leap of imagination for us to realise that children’s understanding of the world grows through their memories of actions and movement – indeed their actions are their thoughts and their expressions. Schema Literature about early childhood learning describes the beginnings of thinking as springing from the child’s memory of sensory interactions, and reflex responses - repeating remembering and developing increasingly intentional actions. Psychologists have noticed patterns that children repeat, and combine to become more complex actions – they call these patterns ‘schema’ . • Because the children remember these actions psychologists suggest that the actions are actually ‘ideas’ - non verbal memories of experience. • So when children are using these actions- to experiment or affect things they are in effect ‘thinking’ through action. • As they observe the effects of their actions they modify their ideas. They refine and combine – remember and develop expectations, through continuous exploratory activity. – Play. • If their expectations are not matched – they are alerted - very interested – or upset – This is the learning zone.


Spontaneous play For the typical child play is a spontaneous activity, satisfying what seems to be an active will to learn. It is exhibited in the ceaseless curiosity, exploration, manipulation and practice that is part and parcel of the development of body skills, and in developing ideas Before they are able to explore and play children must develop – sensory skills, – attention and perceptual awareness, – manipulation and movement skills Their activities must develop from reflex responses to intentional actions – At first, children’s play is solitary manipulation and movement, as time progresses they usually develop towards more social dimensions. – Initially social play entails playing alongside others, without mixing, – Later it involves becoming engaged in associative and cooperative play with others, through which the rules of coexistence are experienced. This gives children the chance to develop social competence and supports the development of communication and thinking skills . . Staff working with very special pupils will often need to support their pupils to develop spontaneous activity in ways that are not necessary for more typically developing children. Staff may also need to maintain such approaches with age appropriate changes throughout the school life of some pupils.

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Adrian enjoys feeling inside the singing bowl experiencing its roundness and its ability to contain. He is becoming interested in putting things into containers.

Thinking about thinking Balancing support and independence The art of teaching includes balancing direct support and modelling with promoting independent learning. The works of Jan Van Dijk and Barbara Miles are important to help us understand support – Whilst the works and ideas of Lilli Nielsen are inspirational to us in developing independence and active learning. Though we now almost take her ideas for granted the principle of the ‘little room’ and the resonance board were notions of simple genius that have enabled us to motivate independent active learning for many profoundly disabled children. When observing such pupils in these active environments we can often see them beginning to experiment with movement and develop schema – chipping away at their enormous physical and sensory barriers to learning. As they learn to control and repeat patterns of an arm movement today they are contributing to the possibility of pointing, counting mark making or even writing in the future. Patterns for learning One of Lilli Nielsen’s important premises for us was that we should always look towards what typical children do in order to help us see relevant learning for our very special pupils and there are many fascinating books written for early years practitioners about schema, these hold a wealth of information for anyone interested in how special pupils may develop. Important authors to look for include Chris Athey, Cathy Nutbrown and Tina Bruce . These important educators have all documented how typical children extend the early useful actions which they develop as babies, from reflexes or fundamental interests, to become patterns of exploration. Athey illustrates how from the early roots of a small number of major schema: • vertical and horizontal movements • circular movements • enveloping or containing. Children develop interest in following activities which can be seen not only in typical children’s mark making but also permeate through their play and speech. – Dynamic vertical - up and down movements – Dynamic horizontal – back and forth and side to side, – Dynamic Circular - interest in round movement and rotation – Going over and under – Going round a boundary – Enveloping and containing space – Going through a boundary

These in turn extend to exploring ideas such as height, width, space, rotation rolling, position, covering, hiding, finding, fitting, etc. The list extends rapidly as actions and ideas combine and are experimented with. Some extensions and variations on the list above might include: – Connecting – joining and putting together, toys trains etc. Using strings ropes etc to tie things together. Making tracks and routes. Drawing connecting lines. – These help children to understand connectivity, sequences etc. – Dabbing - First in food play, later in drawings. Initial haphazard and random representations develop into more ordered activity and become more accurate. – Enclosing - At its earliest this may include putting the thumb into the mouth. Placing and fitting things in enclosed spaces, including themselves . Filling and emptying and becomes related to estimating size and volume. Collecting items relates to categorisation and making sets. – Enveloping children may wrap things or themselves. Hide or put things in boxes with covers.. They may enjoy going underwater or seeing others. Enveloping explores concepts of object permanence, constancy and conservation. – Moving and transporting - Children may move objects or collections of objects from one place to another, experiencing progressive changes of quantity, conservation, space direction and position, experiencing language of position and change

Hayley moved from random dabbing to sequential mark making over a period of a year, now her marks are arranged in lines and are taking on more controlled forms.

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Thinking about thinking Look for it Armed with awareness about these processes watch your special children’s responses or play. You may see particular movements or actions that they like or are interested in. Ask yourself can you provide environments or resources that capitalise on what they do or encourage or challenge them, or move them to another use or level.. Children of various ages or disabilities may be developing at vastly different levels but aspects of the schema may manifest in different ways and for different reasons. They will be observable right across the ability range from children developing movement at reflex levels to those developing higher cognitive skills. For example interest in horizontal schema may include:– A young pupil with profound physical difficulties learning to combine horizontal visual tracking and reaching in an environment like Lillis little room or a Be active box. – Whilst another pupil may be learning to arrange rows of objects, or make sequential marks. – Or a pupil on the autistic spectrum may have developed a repetitive obsession with making linear arrangements – that needs to be connected to other activities such as collecting, or transforming or grouping or exchanging.

Observations that help us identify patterns or see reasons and direction of activity, are of great help to us both as means of planning and helping us identify pupils progress. The descriptions in the lists above are brief, those of you who are interested may wish to find out more from the books listed but I will be writing more in future issues. Meanwhile if you tune in to thinking about learning in this way the children’s activities are bound to fascinate you. If you make observations that are of interest and can stimulate teaching ideas or if you have ideas or pictures that we can publish let us have them for future issues A summary of the ideas of van Dijk – Miles and Nielsen can be found at therapy/theoretical.htm Van Dijk’s Learning Theory for Learners who are Deaf/Blind (From “Overview of the van Dijk Curricular Approach,” available through NCDB website tID=7 Barbara Miles 47 Lilli Nielsen .htm one/ Athey, C (1990) Extending Thought in Young Children: A Parent-Teacher Partnership. Paul Chapman, London (second edition out April 2006)

Ed is finding an alternative expression for his usual ‘rocking’ – he enjoys rolling the bamboo log back and forth. He is finding out he can affect and control movement as well as experiencing the properties of curved surfaces. Enjoying rhythm he sings along with the regular action of his activity. – The repetitive sounds reflect the repetition of the rolling. This was later extended when the teaching assistant joined in his play and they took turns rolling the bamboo to each other.


Nutbrown, C (1999) Threads of Thinking (second edition). Paul Chapman, London * Bruce, T (2005) Early Childhood Education (third edition). Hodder Arnold, London

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Les Staves, co-editor

Confident Parenting

Confident Parenting A Facilitator’s Handbook and DVD A facilitator’s guide to the successful delivery of parental workshops to support behaviour management of children and young people with a range of special educational needs. Quotes from Rob Long - Chartered Educational Psychologist "For all of us who work, or plan to work with parents, this resource is essential. Annette and Chris have turned their many years of hands on experience into a resource that will benefit so many of us who aspire to support families with children who have additional needs." The chapters include: An introduction to Confident Parenting Groups Issues for facilitators to consider before getting started Preparation for running Confident Parenting groups Structure and content of the group sessions Understanding the relationships between parents emotional and behavioural responses to disability The facilitators role in encouraging parental readiness for change The facilitators role in encouraging new thoughts for parents The facilitators role in encouraging new behaviours for parents Child factors that facilitators should consider Facilitators understanding of the key factors to effective communication with children with learning difficulties Other skills that facilitators can help parents to develop The importance of working together in order to maintain confident parenting Facilitators advice to parents on going out in public with their children Final Thoughts There is also an appendices with various tools: Example of leaflet advertising Leaflet advertising group pro-forma Information for teaching staff Weekly Rating Scale - Management Weekly Rating Scale - Management and Confidence Weekly Rating Scale - Communication Example of Prompts for Parents "10 Top Tips" handout "Communication" handout "Praise" handout "Giving Direction" handout "Consistency" handout "Distraction" handout Example of attendance certificate Attendance certificate proforma More information will be available on our website over the next week including some video introduction to our DVD also. You can order the publication direct from myself at school just give me a call with your details etc. This publication is available in November 2009 at the cost of £95.00. If you would like to reserve a copy of this publication please call Hadrian School on 0191 273 4440, or e mail our admin team at Booking forms are available on our website, and a hard copy on request.

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Communication: A Basic Part of Active Learning By Lilli Nielsen, PhD Kolding, Denmark

It would also be reasonable to consider why so many learners with dysfunction are unable to talk or even to babble.

The development of the Active Learning Approach began in 1968 when I became an itinerant teacher for Vision Impaired students.

Although many of these learners seem to understand quite a lot of what the mediators are saying, they are still unable to make language like utterances. For some reason, the level of understanding the spoken language is not related reasonably to the level of using spoken language or any other kind of communication.

Several of the learners I met during this time had multiple impairments e.g. Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, hearing loss, intellectual impairment etc. Although none of those severely disabled students had any verbal language, they had many other ways of communicating.

Is it possible then to find some differences in the conditions for developing language in nonhandicapped learners and in learners with dysfunction? This could perhaps explain the lacking development of language in some learners.

I decided to try to interpret what it was that the students wanted to say, in the hope that I might sometimes interpret them correctly. In the beginning I think that nearly 50% of my interpretations were correct. However, gradually this percentage grew to about 80%.

Communication at the earliest level

When I discovered the activity the student was actually asking for, then I was able to arrange the environment so that he/she could learn. Thus, the first step in the development of Active Learning had been taken. This not only cleared the way for further communication to take place between the learner and me, but also for communication between the learner and his/her parents as well as other mediators. Comments on Communication Communication is a reciprocal relationship between two parties ie learner/mediator, learner/object, or learner/environment. Reciprocity is an extremely important aspect in the development of communication between two or more parties Communication greatly influences the social, cognitive and emotional development of the learner. To establish the optimal opportunity for a learner to express him/herself, and to receive a reply, I think that it would be reasonable to assess the learner’s development.


Communication starts immediately after birth. Development of the ability to communicate depends on the learner getting a meaningful reply to his/her signals. The newborn learner has various means of communication e.g. crying, making gry-gry sounds, or by performing gross motor activities. Usually it is easy for the mediator to interpret this communication and to fulfill the child’s needs. The learner then communicates his/her satisfaction by smiling, smacking lips or in some other way. By this communicative reciprocity, the learner learns that it is useful to inform. Having got meaningful replies to communicative activities, the learner will begin to “ask” for attention by crying, wailing or smiling, depending on how far away the adult is. Soon the learner will be able to use more and more of his/her body to express what he/she wants to communicate. ( e.g. to reach for an object or for the mediator.) To express “no”, the learner will turn his/her head away, or wave his/her hand and later shake his/her head. To express “yes”, the learner will smile, move his/her body like a worm and later nod.

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Communication: A Basic Part of Active Learning Thus the development of various movements in the learner becomes crucial if communication is to progress and become meaningful. Also, the development of mouth movements becomes vital if the learner is to be able to babble and to vocalize. Usually the mediator has a need to give information to the learner (e.g. to tell the learner about his/her joy and love for the learner) and this happens through language, physical contact and by making eye contact. This need to make contact with the learner results in the mediator varying his/her ways to pass on information and this, in return, stimulates the learner who then becomes motivated to use his/her ability to reply. He/she waves his/her arms about, looks intensely at the mediator, smiles, listens and vocalizes. Thus the learner experiences that replying to the mediator’s signals leads to new and interesting initiatives from the mediator and communication becomes exciting and something from which the learner can expect variation and challenges. Under normal circumstances, the learner’s readiness for varying communication will develop in line with his motor, sensory, perceptual, cognitive, social and emotional development. That is, that the learner will gradually become able to babble, pronounce words and comprehend that words symbolize certain objects, persons, and events. He will also learn that language can be used to express expectations, feelings and needs. Gradually he will comprehend that words can be performed in written form too. He will then be ready to learn to write letters, words and to later read. Development of the ability to babble in learners without dysfunctions Already while in the womb, the learner begins to suck his fingers and so he learns some mouth motor activity. This experience is useful for him as it later enables him to suck on a nipple or a bottle. When he is 4 – 5 months old, this sucking repertoire will include objects and so he learns to form his mouth in different ways to gain information from these actions. Gradually this results in a more advanced manipulation of objects than just being able to suck them. More advanced mouth motor abilities lead to experimentation with the voice and to a kind of babbling. The learner’s repertoire will increase with

hissing and smacking sounds as well as with sputtering spit and mashed potatoes – patterns of behaviour which all further develop his ability to move the mouth. To be able to develop babbling to a level which could be called advanced babbling, the learner must continue to use his vocal chords in such a way that, depending on the position of the mouth, tongue and lips, his voice will give a variety of results and this, in turn, will develop his mouth motor abilities. The better the mouth motor co-ordination, the more varied the use of the vocal chords becomes. Simultaneously, the learner will also develop integration of the perceptual modalities. Visual experiences will motivate him to use his hands in the midline position and this promotes hand to mouth exploration as well as object to mouth exploration. While he is listening to the mediator’s voice, he is also observing the mediator’s mouth movements and this will inspire him to imitate these mouth movements without simultaneously using his voice. When the learner experiments with babbling, he is coordinating his voice with the performance of various mouth movements. Having mouthed toys and objects for some time, his mouth motor abilities will have now developed to a level whereby new mouth movements can be used without having hands and objects in his mouth. Having exercised babbling, he can now imitate language like sounds. Gradually, when the learner’s motor ability has developed to a higher level, he will be able to play in new ways. Banging games can have a great influence on the development of language because by playing these games, the learner can produce a variety of sounds which he can compare e.g. he can compare the sounds from his voice with the sounds he produces while playing. Playing with language like sounds then begins to take on the character of being sequential in the same way that other games develop by creating sequences. By means of sequential games, the learner experiences that some sequences give a better result than others. The learner has the same experiences when he tries to make a sequence of language like sounds. Some sequences give a better result than others because the understanding or reaction from the mediator is faster or the recognition and joy from the mediator is

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Communication: A Basic Part of Active Learning more pleasant and spontaneous. Maybe the learner can hear that what he just said sounded like what the mediator sometimes says. Development of the ability to babble in learners with dysfunctions Learners with dysfunctions have probably also been sucking their hands while still in the womb, and have continued to do so during the first weeks of life. Many of these learners do not bring their hands to the midline of their body. They become motor passive. Their hands just lie to each side of the head. This is often the situation for children who are blind, and those who suffer from cerebral palsy, as well as for those who are slow learners. This lack of movement results in a lack of interest in looking at various positions of their hands, and consequently the ability to reach for seen objects does not develop at a normal developmental level. The ability to grasp objects and bring them to the mouth is delayed and so is the development of mouth movements. It is well known that many blind learners, because of poorly developed mouth motor conditions, are unable to bite and chew, and many are even unable to bite a banana. They are often fed with blended food or have been tube fed for varying lengths of time. Many learners with dysfunctions have difficulties with swallowing. Learners who are blind are often reluctant to use their voice. If you ask parents whether their learner has ever babbled, the answer will often be that the learner had babbled during the first month of life after which she/he stopped. If the learner was neither deaf nor hearing impaired, why did the babbling stop? Some learners continue to babble for years at the first infant level. Even if they understand more and more of what is said to them and, they do not try to imitate any language like sounds. Just listening to other people talk is not enough to develop language.


Why is it then that this development stops? Is it because the learner does not develop his mouth motor ability to the extent that the sounds of his voice become so varied as to challenge her/him to use his voice to experiment with babbling sounds? Without sufficient mouth motor development, the learner misses the experience of using his voice to give a variety of results. Without such experiences, the learner might only use his vocal chords in one way. This can become stereotyped or perhaps the vocal chords may even disappear or become forgotten. Without sufficient stimuli, provocation or challenge, there will be no exploration and therefore poor or slow development or perhaps no development at all. Of course, there can be a physiological reason for the lack of development of mouth motor abilities. However it is important to always provide opportunities for mouth motor development. In some instances it is also possible to reestablish such development. Missing perceptual experiences lead to a lack of intermodal perception and to a lack of the development of mouth motor activity. Important parts in the chain of development, that should lead to the development of the ability to talk, are lost long before it is possible to assess whether the learner’s abilities are affected in such a way that achievement of unspoken language is impossible. The question now is whether it is possible to achieve missing links in a non spoken learner who is five or ten year of age, or even older.

Books written by Lilli in English or further information on them, can be obtained from Christian Reker at

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Active Learning in a school Down Under written by Trisha Borg thanks from Flo!!

As soon as our students arrive in the classroom, they are assisted from their wheelchairs and do not return to them until it is time to go home. This is one of the small but significant aspects I love about teaching at Narbethong Special School, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Since its establishment, the student population at Narbethong has changed significantly. It currently provides educational programs for students who have both a severe vision impairment and intellectual impairment often in association with a physical impairment and / or hearing impairment. Narbethong has enthusiastically embraced and implemented the FIELA curriculum that is based on Dr Lilli Nielsen’s Active Learning methodology. Dr Nielsen is a highly respected Danish educator and author who has written many books and publications on her methodology. Her work has also featured in earlier editions of this Information Exchange. Many readers will be aware Active Learning is a developmental approach to developing functional skills in students with vision impairment and additional impairments. It is based on the premise that all children learn through play for the first three years of their lives and should not be trained in, or taught, specific skills during this stage of their development. As the majority of students at Narbethong are at development levels from 0-36 months, they learn naturally, meaningfully and sequentially through play based activities. At Narbethong, Active Learning is a hands-off approach to teaching. The role of the teacher is to identify and establish developmentally appropriate

play environments for individual students that engage both interest and curiosity resulting in meaningful activity. Learning is subsequently achieved rather than ‘teaching’ students coactively and encouraging dependency through learned helpfulness. A quiet play environment to ensure maximum sensory integration from the student’s play activities is an essential component of our classrooms. Active Learning programs at Narbethong are supported by a trans disciplinary team comprising occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech language pathologists and nurses all of whom are committed to the methodology and are often prepared to adapt their practice to fit within an Active Learning framework. After my recent visit to New York during which time I had the opportunity to visit some special schools in District 75, I felt it would be fitting to provide a brief snap shot of some aspects of a small school Down Under Information Exchange does an exceptional job at reporting from all corners of the globe and I would like to thank Flo Longhorn for this opportunity. Information on Active Leaning is available at while further information on Narbethong can be accessed at

Well done to the shining stars at Narbethong school – look at their smiling faces!

Issue 80 Spring 2010


A special baby in America Spotlight on America – Jack is the star on the front and back of the magazine for this issue From Flo Longhorn ~ 'I have a very dear friend Linda Lyman; she has been my friend for many years. We met when I was a head teacher working at Tufts University in Boston Massachusetts, at the Eliot Pearson Laboratory School. Linda is a reporter for the local newspaper in Pittsburgh where she lives with her husband Ray. Linda recently became a grand mother for the first time and she became the nana of a very special baby named Jack. William and Katie, his parents, were soon to find out that he would tread a very different path to the one they had planned. Jack is really making strides as I write this, and is much loved by everyone. Linda wrote the following for her newspaper, Penn Franklin News, who kindly gave `Information Exchange' permission to re-print it here.

never have more than limited vision at best. That, too, can be handled. But his smooth brain prognosis has been devastating. Depending on the underlying genetic cause, he may be facing impaired mental development, seizures and a shortened life. While I have been mourning the many things Nana will probably never get to do with her much anticipated first grandchild, Will and Katie are taking things one day at a time, rejoicing in their first born son. When he told me of the diagnosis and we asked how he was doing, Will just said, “We’re lucky to have him and he’s lucky to have us.” While I wept and railed against fate, they settled in to enjoy every moment with their child. After all, no child comes with a guarantee. I am learning from my son to look to the memories I can make with my grandson, to enjoy each cuddle, to relish each messy diaper, to even rejoice that the has his days and nights mixed up. To know he is not Jack, the handicapped child. He is not Jack, who may live just a few short years. He is “just Jack.” And he is the most beautiful baby ever born. Just ask Nana. Linda Lyman

'In my opinion… Sometimes our children can surprise us with their wisdom. Take as an example, my oldest son William. Married in October 2007, he and his wife Katie joyfully anticipated the birth of their first child this October. In July, their doctor found disturbing evidence of potential problems with the little boy they had already named Jack. Each visit, each test, each sonogram, brought conflicting expectations. Was he okay or not? They did move his delivery to Johns Hopkins, because he was considered a highrisk baby. Then, on October 16, Jack was born. Weighing in at 5 lbs 3 oz, all nineteen inches of him were beautifully formed. However, a battery of tests showed that, while perfect on the outside, little Jack has many, many problems on the inside. A heart malformation could be fixed if needed. So far, his little heart is working well. Retinas “like Swiss cheese” and a malformed optic nerve mean he may


And a postscript written in an email to me in January 2010: 'Jack now loves books that make sounds, like a book with stuffed animal heads that moo or squeak or cluck when you squeeze them. I like to hold his hand over the head and help him squeeze while saying 'a cow says moo'. That's how a nana reads to him! And, despite what the docs say about him vision, he always laughs when the red light on my camera comes on, as I get ready to take his picture. I had a wonderful time with him over Christmas, and had the wonderful experience of having him recognize me for the first time! Not being able to see, he feels peoples faces and, that morning, when he touched my cheek, he smiled ~a sure sign of recognition with Jack.' Here is what I have struggled to learn over the past eighteen months (and still must remind myself of constantly)

Focus on what you have, not what was supposed to be!

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Rag Bag To Make Spring is in the air! Spring umbrellas!

Easter items found in the cheap pound stretcher shops!

Why not create a Spring umbrella to enchant everyone for Easter and the signs of new life. All you will need: • A sturdy umbrella • A tennis ball to super glue to the spike at the end if necessary • A selection of Easter novelties • Easter eggs • Pipe cleaners or ribbon

Making the umbrella safe

Easy to do~ Use strong glue, pipe cleaners or ribbons to attach the small objects to the umbrella. Your group can help with the selection and artwork involved at any level. Then Find some Easter stories to read or create some Easter cookery with hardboiled eggs or find out about baby animals………..

Flo's dog taking a liking to the new umbrella!

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Rag Bag To Make Be Active Box on a Shoe String

Lots of ideas from Rachel Beirne – a new member of the editorial board! Photo lollipop Often our special children find change or a new environment a challenge. One of the things to help children settle in an unfamiliar environment is having familiar faces around. I found a way of doing this which could constantly be added to as to make photo lollipops!! You can use anything to make them, straws, lollipop sticks, chopsticks. Also each person could be mounted on a different coloured card on a different shape! The family grows to include parents, siblings, favourite people, pets.... The list goes on!

Scented beanbags

You will need: • Empty cardboard box • Pillow, shiny paper to cover inside (this could be anything your child likes) • String and sellotape • Objects to hang down These boxes are a home-made version of the Be Active Box. They are great for visual stimulation and can be constantly updated according to your child’s likes.

Home made snow globes The only limit to what you can make with these is your own imagination! You will need the following items: • Several clean baby food/jam jars with lids • Wax paper, glitter, or sequins for snow • Small plastic toys or figurines • Silicone for sealing showers or bathtubs • Mineral oil or water (Mineral oil will actually allow the snow to "fall") Start by glueing the figurine to the lid with the silicone. This will need to dry over night or as directed by the tube of silicone.

For a sensory sensation that is again easily transportable, I have previously made and used scented beanbags. After getting to know your child and their sensory preferences, you should know which scents they enjoy. These can then be added to beanbags which can be home made using a filling which the child also enjoys touching to make a little portable soother for them. Again, their favourite colour can be used in the material, favourite texture inside as the filling and a calming scent such as lavender to soothe the blues away! Also as an additional comforter, a tactile blanket is a very cheap and easy way to give a sensory experience which can be taken everywhere. You will need: • For blanket: an old blanket, pillowcase, t-shirt (anything like this will do), lots of pieces of different textured material, for example ribbon, lace, corduroy, denim, cotton, wool, satin, Velcro, felt and needle and thread • For beanbags: Needle and thread, small squares of material, rice, beans, pasta, cotton wool for filling, chosen scent and needle and thread • A bit of time! 22

Next, fill the jars with your chosen snow material. I chose sequins because I liked how they looked. Fill a deep bowl with water. Gently fill your jar- making sure to keep the sequins, glitter, etc. at the bottom. Now, gently submerge the jar - lid up - into the bowl. Then, put the lid under the water and make sure there are no air bubbles trapped under it. Twist it onto the jar. Remove jar with lid attached and turn jar upside down. Dry jar and lid completely. Be careful to not move the lid as this will cause water to escape. Take your tube of silicone and squeeze a good amount around the lip of the lid as you turn it around. You will want to make a good seal on the lip of the lid so that there are no air pockets. Again, the silicone will need to dry over night. Be careful to not wiggle the lid because this will cause pressure on the water and will cause it to weaken the silicone and create a leak. When the silicone is dry, your snowglobe is basically finished. You can decorate the jar and lid further with glass paint markers or paint. Have fun!

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Rag Bag To Buy Clothes rails from Argos stores or catalogue This idea about the use of clothes rails from ARGOS was sent to information Exchange via Kate Sullivan – thanks!

The simple clothes rail can be used to suspend articles for easy reaching, touching or simple tracking with interested eyes. It could be suspended over a table or for use by a wheel chair user. Themes could change each day or remain constant.

Scholl Fresh Step Crackling Ice Gel – multisensory magic The most amazing sensation on the skin – it feels like the explosion you get inside your mouth when you taste 'space dust'. Snap, crackle, but also coldness and sharp crunchy sounds and strong scent. It is amazing! Only £4-76 on (health and beauty section) Or £9 at

~ And a footnote from Flo ~ A word of wisdom from Albert Epstein: 'I never teach my students: I endeavour to place them in an environment in which they can learn'

Issue 80 Spring 2010


The Roald Dahl umbrella Readers will remember seeing the amazing story of Shirley Bassey seen in umbrellas sent in by Ysgol Erw'r Delyn School, Penarth Wales (issue 78). Whist there, I also took photos of another umbrella story entitled ' Boy, story of a childhood' written by Roald Dahl and here you can see it with close ups of some of the props used.

Thank you to the staff at school for sharing this literate idea!!


Issue 80 Spring 2010

Parachute games – from Flo ... And some more parachute games for readers and parachutists to enjoy! Don't forget how these games encourage a team spirit and foster cooperation and sharing. It is also an opportunity for exercising arms and shoulders and upper part of the body. Most of all – have fun! Fruit salad For this parachute game you will need symbols for different fruits and best of all, a bowl of real fruits, Gather around the chute and all lift the chute together, as high as it will go. As it begins to float down, the leader calls out the name of a fruit. The players, who have that fruit, have to move under the parachute to find another space. After a while, the leader calls 'fruit salad' and everyone runs around under the parachute to create chaos! Vegetable soup Change the game by using veggies and when 'veggie soup' is called, everyone makes soup! Treasure Hunt Hide a gaily-wrapped treasure under the parachute. Hold the chute and make waves at knee height. Gradually raise the chute. The leader calls out a name and they have to go under to retrieve the treasure. Under cover Lay the parachute on the floor. Find ways of wrapping bodies or hiding them under the chute. Use a torch to find the hidden bodies. United colours Lay the parachute on the floor. Allocate a colour to players and they hunt to find their colours and place the objects on the coloured strip of the chute. The winner is the one with the biggest pile. Jaws Everyone sits n the floor in a circle holding onto the parachute. Legs are stretched out beneath the chute. Start to shake the chute gently to create ripples in the sea. The leader tells the story of how everyone went to the seaside, played on the beach, and cooled their feet in the waves of the sea (move legs under the chute). A shark is chosen. The shark goes under the rippling waves of the sea to catch a fish. A victim is grabbed by the feet and dragged under the sea. Lots of screaming from the victim as they disappear. Drumming up a storm Everyone holds the parachute about waist height. The leader calls out the weather forecast from calm and gentle weather to a raging storm. The parachute reflects the changing forecasts. Drums and cymbals at the raging storm is a terrific effect!

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Sensory poetry in a box Following closely behind my daughter and fresh coffee, the third love in my life is the humble shoebox. It is free, sturdy, can be decorated in any way imaginable, is easily opened by little hands and most importantly it is the perfect size for containing just one lesson. A few years ago, after attending Flo Longhorn’s course on sensory Literacy for very special learners, I was inspired to marry together sensory poetry with my love for all things contained in shoeboxes. The result? A sensory poetry library – a cupboard filled with dozens of poems, all neatly labeled and stacked- a lesson ready in an instant. Think Inside The Box A favourite of the pupils, and one that fits really well into the Christmas / snowy season is Winter Time by Robert Louis Stevenson. I found the poem on a children’s poetry website and cut out a few verses so that it was a length suitable for the ability of the pupils.

Winter Time -Robert Louis StevensonLate Lies the wintry sun a-bed Glo Ball A frosty, fiery sleepy head; Pretend to sleep Blinks but an hour or two; and then, A blood-red orange sets again. Oranges, hand cream Close by the jolly fire I sit, light candle To warm my frozen bones a bit; hot water bottle Or with a reindeer-sled explore The colder countries round the door. Baby powder When to go out, my nurse doth wrap Me in a comforter and a cap, hat, scarf, mirror The cold wind burns my face and blows ice pack Its frosty pepper up my nose jar of pepper In Box: Glow ball, candle, lighter, hot water bottle, baby powder, cloth, woolly hat, pepper To Prepare: Orange, ice pack, hot water bottle

I printed out the poem and scribbled down a few sensory activities next to each line that I thought would help to solidify the children’s understanding of the essence of the poem. When I am reading the poem in the lesson, I ensure that I say every line to each pupil (this could mean that each line is read eight times) and that each pupil has the opportunity to have the sensory experience. For more able or verbal pupils, I try to incorporate choices and requesting by asking questions such as “do you want snow (baby powder) on your hands or your feet?” or “do you want to taste or smell the pepper?” With every poem, I like to play a game and sing a song that relates to the theme of the poem. Some wintertime games that I play are; • The Snowman: A pupils sits on a chair in the middle of room. Two people waft the fabric over their head saying (from quiet to loud): “the snowman is coming, the snowman is coming, he’s coming, he’s coming, he’s coming for… (name of child as fabric falls on their head) • Wind, Rain and Snow: say the following rhyme while using sensory props: “ (name of child) is in the garden, blow wind blow (use fan). Drip drop rain drop (water spray) and down comes the snow! (baby powder)


Activities! Have pupils make their own winter box: • Decorate outside with white paint, glitter, stickers etc Collect and make wintry things: • Cinamon / nutmeg sacks • Gingerbread men • Pinecones painted white, rolled in glitter (snow) • Snowflakes (paper, cotton wool) • Jingle Bells Our thanks to a poetic teacher, Emily Fitch at Phoenix school, London

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Ice sculptures – chilly art This art project is based on observations of an art lesson with a group of very special students, at Kingsley High in Harrow.

Then • Place the containers on a tray • Pour different colours into the containers • Carry carefully to the refrigerator • Freeze

Thanks to the amazing art teacher Urzula for allowing me to observe the sculpture lesson from which I draw inspiration

Take the tray and go to collect the frozen containers.

Ice and water art A sensory discussion about ice, water and cold. • Put on the cold fan to feel cold gusts of chilly air. • Look and explore ice cubes. • Taste frozen lollies. • Feel very cold water pour over fingertips. • Open the window feel the cold air • Put a cold icy pictures projected on the interactive white board.

At the next session,

Bring them back to the art table to create ice sculptures of amazing shapes and heights. The ice shapes should pop out of the containers after a few minutes in the warm room. Now build an ice sculpture, feel the slippery materials, have a taste of the materials too. Make sure the process is filmed or photographed as this art just drips away…..

Touch and explore a box of cold colours place the collection of objects in the freezer before exploring: • Tin foil • Silver material • A silver bauble • A shimmer of tinsel • Blue see-through cellophane to observe a cold room • A squirt of imitation snow • White snowflake cake doyleys – a look and touch A visit to a refrigerator • Open the door feel the cold • Feel the cold puff on faces • Touch the cold items inside the freezer • Scrape the ice inside

Making ice sculptures You will need: • A variety of plastic junk pots of different sizes and shapes • A variety of fruit juices of different colours and tastes • Food colourings and flavourings such as mint flavour with green colour or brown colour with rum flavour Inspiration – Flo Longhorn

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Bits and pieces

Remember the excellent PowerPoint story about Christmas Touch, seen in the last issue of Information exchange'? I did not know where it had come from.

A very handy hint from Pauline out there in Wales – hello Pauline!

Now I do! It was sent to me by Belinda Brigham who has a wonderful sharing website devoted to such excellent resources.

If you want to encourage lip and mouth movements or a good sniff-then try using a lip salve used for chapped or dry lips. They come in a range of flavours that go on the lips and allow for a smell too.

The web site is

Pop a smear on the end of a nose! I will certainly be buzzing up there to keep up to all the smashing resources, make sure you do too! Thanks for sharing Belinda!


They are particularly relevant to children who perhaps are tube fed -they have the opportunity to bring back the sense of smell and taste without a problem. The lip salve will also encourage the flow of saliva if a child has a dry mouth. But always check before doing this with the medics.

Issue 80 Spring 2010

Specialist Developmental Programme Sommerville School, Auckland, New Zealand Sent in by Alan Mckay, the proud headteacher The Developmental Programme was set up to provide elements of learning complementary to, and supportive of the classroom programmes. The approach is student centred and linked with play and sensory experiences. The environment is quiet and relatively unstructured where students happily participate in experiential and sensory activities and where the specialist teacher is able to observe and assess. This can then be reported back to the teachers for consequential teaching and learning activities.

There are two settings, one inside and the other outside. The inside setting is a mini classroom with easel painting, seated activities, pretend play and dressing up, play dough and art activities. The outside setting features water play, a finger painting table, a sand tray, a woodwork bench and a science table containing natural resources such as shells, pumice, driftwood, pinecones and leaves.

The programme is based on the strands of Te Wh채riki (the curriculum for early childhood education) as these allow for a wide foundation of experience and activity to be built upon and links to the New Zealand Curriculum Key Competencies. There are activities and experiences which foster and encourage exploration. There are a range of strategies for communication available for all

Issue 80 Spring 2010


Specialist Developmental Programme students with visual indicators for each activity enabling them to indicate a choice of activity.

Shining stars!

The developmental area is used for a wide range of teaching and learning activities and experiences relating to the developmental needs of the students mainly in the junior and multi-disabled classrooms.

They may work as individuals, one on one with the specialist teacher, or in pairs working cooperatively at an activity, or in small groups. The non-threatening and high sensory aspect of the programme is a huge asset for children’s learning. They love coming to the developmental room and they learn as they play.

What is a sensory curriculum for special learners?

Views from a group of motivated teachers on a Sensology Workshop with Richard Hirstwood and Flo Longhorn

'A sensory curriculum enables them to learn about themselves, other people and places' 'It takes the world to the learner'

'It delivers a differentiated curriculum for special learners'

'-Using a person centred approach to access the environment'

'-A fun learning environment that stimulates all the senses, enhances learning, maximises potential and allows individuals to blossom, succeed and enrich their lives"


Issue 80 Spring 2010

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Issue 80 Spring 2010


A very happy joyous smile sent by Jack

– all the way from America

International Edition

Information Exchange - Spring 2010  

Information Exchange magazine - Issue 80 - Spring 2012

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