Autism Awareness Week and World Autism Day April 2015

March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

Next week (the first week in April) is World Autism Awareness Week and Thursday 2nd is Autism Awareness Day. Supporters everywhere are busy preparing for some fun and challenging events that will hopefully raise awareness and more support for individuals and families dealing with autism on a daily basis.

As always, the UK’s National Autistic Society has events taking place up and down the country and, if you want to find out, you can check in on their website to see what is happening near you.

Just another charity awareness thingy, you might be thinking! But awareness weeks are important for two reasons. Firstly, those who are affected by disabilities, in this case autism spectrum disorders, often feel misunderstood and isolated. A time dedicated to informing and making others aware of what autism actually is and how it impacts the one in every one hundred believed to be affected by it helps to educate others and so reduce this feeling of isolation. Parents who struggle with children who have low-functioning autism are heroes and deserve to be understood and supported. Those who have high functioning autism and asperger’s syndrome often deal with life and relationships differently – they and their families/partners have specific and ongoing needs. Secondly, research into causes, possible preventions and therapies/treatment methods are always ongoing.  It is vital that this work is supported and funded so that those affected by autism spectrum disorders are best helped and supported.

“The things that make me different are the things that make me!” said A A Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh! Autism Awareness Week and Day is a great chance to find out about one condition that is a part of what makes many millions uniquely who there are the world over.

Author of Autism: A Parent’s Guide and Asperger’s Syndrome: The Essential Guide, Need2Know Books






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Flexible working and self-employment mean less work stress

February 5, 2015 in Health

An unbelievable 39 per cent of work-related illnesses in 2013-2014 were caused by work stress, depression or anxiety. Therefore the term work/life balance takes on a new significance.

Flexible working hours are now a right rather than company policy.  Recent changes in legislation in the UK have enabled employees to ask to adjust their schedules according to their needs. This is great news for parents of school-age children who need to be able to work from home part-time and who can avoid commuting and the horrors of rush hour traffic and trains.

Self-employed people also have the ability to have a better work-life balance because they can choose the hours they work and either have an office at home or in a local serviced office or workspace.

The Instant Group’s Head of HR, Helen Taylor, suggests two things to ease work stress.  ‘I would recommend practising good time management and ensuring you take time away from work to rest and re-energise.’

Read more on cutting down work stress in Stress – The Essential Guide and Self-Employment – The Essential Guide. Both by Frances Ive.

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Stress – what you can do

October 8, 2014 in Health

Frances Ive

Everyone seems to be stressed these days and there are plenty of reasons why.  Jobs are hard to come by, and even if you’re employed there is plenty of uncertainty around. Everyone is trying to do more and more and if you’re running a family and working it’s likely you are run ragged.  Sometimes you feel stressed and then something even worse happens such as bereavement or illness, and then it becomes even worse.

It’s absolutely clear that you can’t go through life avoiding stress or you wouldn’t be able to live. So what can you do to help yourself?  It’s interesting that we often make our own lives more difficult through our habits, beliefs, idiosyncrasies and fixed ideas, which get in the way when you have a crisis to deal with. So the best time to help yourself is when things are going slightly better – forearmed is forewarned.

For instance you might be a perfectionist and can’t let things rest until they are just right.  At times of crisis some things may have to be left and it doesn’t help to beat yourself up about them.  Do you put off today what can be done tomorrow?  Procrastination often leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed without anything major going wrong. Then when you have a serious problem you have far too much to deal with.

We take so many of our beliefs and habits from our parents, and have a strong sense of what we must do.  But sometimes this doesn’t serve you well so think about why you feel that you have to do certain things and whether they are getting in your way or causing you more stress.  Being honest with yourself is important, because if you are in denial about any situation you are not enabling yourself to deal with it.

For many reasons a lot of people feel that they simply cannot say no.  If you take on too much even when things are very difficult for you, there’s no doubt you will be more stressed.  No-one should take offence when you say you can’t do something, and if they do perhaps it’s their problem.  Similarly you may find that you’re always going out of your way to help people. At a time of crisis, why not let someone else do things for you?

It’s not easy to change yourself without some serious work on yourself, and that’s where counselling can really help.  Understanding why you do things is a great start to trying to stop them. Do you do things because you’re still trying to please your parents, even if they’re not even here any more?

It’s helpful to build into your life times for relaxation, exercise and a healthy lifestyle with a good diet. When you face difficult times you find that you have more resources to deal with everything.

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Self-Employment – The Essential Guide

October 8, 2014 in Work & Business

A 7 per cent rise in self-employment has been one of the reasons why unemployment figures have gone down, according to figures published recently.

I conducted several interviews for Self-Employment – The Essential Guide, and when asked what they liked about self-employment all of the interviewees said ‘freedom’. Freedom encompasses making your own choices, not having a boss breathing down your neck, freedom to pick up the kids from school or take a day off when you choose, or alternatively to work on weekends and not on weekdays. Above all freedom to decide for yourself.

The five  main advantages of being self-employed:

  • Freedom to make your own decisions and work when you choose (depending on your industry).
  • Good quality of life and ability to run work around a family or other commitments.
  • Highly productive without colleagues to chat to, office politics and meetings to go to.
  • No commuting.
  • You can have as many different careers as is feasible, or you can work part-time as an employee and be self-employed for the rest of the time.

There are huge benefits to being self-employed, but it should be recognised that it is extremely tough, particularly in an economic crisis like we are in now.  Everything is down to you – there’s no HR manager, no financial director, no legal team, no accountant or book-keeper, no marketing and sales director, no IT expert. They are all you – unless of course you team up with others in the business who have these expertise, or you do well enough to employ the above.

You have to be the right sort of person who can cope with the ups and downs and the insecurity that comes from not always knowing where the next pay cheque is coming from.  When everything seems hopeless you have to pick yourself up and above all you have to sell, sell, sell. It’s no good saying that you’re not someone who can sell yourself – forget self-employment.’

Qualities needed to be self-employed:

  • Motivation and self-discipline
  • Realism and honesty towards yourself.
  • An ability to manage finances and assertiveness to ensure being paid on time.
  • Versatility, multi-tasking and ability to handle everything.
  • Entrepreneurial skills, risk-taking and visionary.

In the 1980s people in their droves started to work for themselves by choice, whereas  many people in this current environment feel it is the only route open to them.   Many people who started in the 1980s or 90s felt they had the skills and knowledge to do it on their own, and that they didn’t need to work for other people.

Frances Ive has been self-employed since 1983 as a journalist, copywriter, PR consultant and author. She runs and writes the website Healthy Soul, Three years ago she qualified as a teacher of English as a foreign language and now has five careers, but still has to keep plugging away at getting work. 

Autism Awareness Day: April 2nd 2014

April 2, 2014 in Education, Health, Parents

April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day this year.

According to the National Autistic Society around 700,000 people in the UK are affected by this lifelong developmental disability. It is a disorder that varies considerably in severity. Some people are able to lead fairly ordinary lives while others are severely affected and need lifelong support or care.

People who have autism are usually diagnosed as children. A form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome may not be diagnosed until adulthood though.

The invaluable support and information that families, parents and those who have autism need often comes from charities that work to raise awareness   of this condition, champion the rights of those with autism or provide specialist, support, education or advice.



Alpro urged to rethink production plans for the sake of children with nut allergies.

January 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

Families with nut allergic children are urging soya processor Alpro to keep nuts out of their milk production plant.

 Alpo’s plan to introduce production of their almond and hazel nut milks into the factory which currently produces all of their soya products has huge implications for allergic children who rely on their products for calcium. The impact for the NHS, which will be forced to prescribe junior milks, is likely to cost more than £250 per child per month. Nurseries, schools, and hospitals will also be forced to reconsider use of Alpro soya products because a nut allergy warning on the label prohibits them from using it.

 Around one million nut-allergic children in the UK rely on Alpro products, as do children with dairy allergies. The dairy products are very safe, nutritious, easy to find and relatively cheap.  They are calcium fortified, which is vital for allergic children – and Alpro has 100% share of the junior soya milk market.  Alpro’s follow on milk for toddlers, Junior 1+, it is the only non-dairy product on the market with an appropriate nutritional profile for that age group. If these children cannot have Junior 1+ they will have to go back onto extremely expensive amino acid infant formula costing the NHS over £250 per month per child.

 Alpro products are widely used in schools, and through out the food service industry and give nut or dairy allergic children the chance to socialise normally at mealtimes or when eating. Once they carry a nut warning, no allergic family – and no institution dealing with allergic children or adults – will use them because ‘may contain’ warnings are so unspecific that, as a matter of principle, nut allergic families and those catering for them do not use products with ‘may contain’ warnings. 

Parents maintain that Alpro have not consulted them or any child nutrition experts and they have already printed new packaging with the ‘may contain’ warnings even though the new production regime is not due to start for over a year. Anxious parents have set up a Facebook campaign, AlproSOS The Food Matters site has more information for parents:


Did Alcohol Ruin Your Christmas?

December 30, 2013 in Emotional, Health, Interests, Men, Parents, Women

Christmas can be a time of great joy, an excellent chance to spend time with friends and family. But it can also be a complete and utter minefield if there is alcoholism to cope with. With so much booze and partying through the whole season, the opportunity for heavy drinking is at an all-time high, and therefore so is the potential for crushing destruction through abusive or unacceptable behaviour.

How many family Christmases are ruined by someone else’s drinking? How many of us know that underlying sense of fear when faced with erratic or unpredictable behaviour? Rows over lunch, failing to turn up, broken promises and shattered dreams all lie in tatters as the spirits of Christmas are consumed in vast amounts, overriding everything else, to the detriment of all around the drinker. It’s at Christmas that situations like this will often come to a head.

It’s not all bad newAlcoholism the Family Guide - a book by Sam Harrington-Lowes though. It’s often said that in order to recover, an alcoholic has to receive the ‘gift of desperation’ – or hit ‘rock bottom’ in order to accept that they need help, that they want to change. Christmas, with its excess and resultant ill health, and the remorse that comes with spoiling everyone’s fun, often presents that opportunity, and following the festive season, more alcoholics reach out for help than at any other time of year.

How would you know if you were an alcoholic? What’s the difference between a heavy drinker and someone with the illness of alcoholism? AA offers a pretty good benchmark if you’re not sure; ‘Is it costing you more than money?’ If your drinking is costing you your friendships, affecting your work, your health, your family… any of these things and more… if it’s costing you more than money, then there’s a good chance you should take a long hard look.

Alcoholism is a family disease, inasmuch as it affects everyone it touches. Partners are drawn into crazy, unhappy behaviour, children – at best upset and disappointed, at worst subject to serious abuse – are deeply affected. Friends and family alike will all find themselves touched by this illness. There is help for both those with the drinking issue, and those around them, but you need to know where to look. If any of the above sounds familiar, from whatever standpoint, there is Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon for the friends and relatives of alcoholics, or Alateen for older children affected by a parent’s drinking, but you could also do worse than to have a look at my book, which addresses the issues faced as a family, from all sides. However you cope with it, changed behaviour can make a huge difference. And who knows, maybe the Christmas story next year will be a very different tale…

Starting a dissertation…or not?

October 3, 2013 in Education, Students

It’s that time of year again. A new term, a new academic year. For some it is also time to start thinking about the dissertation.

A quick trawl on Twitter reveals an interesting array of people. Those who:

  •  Intended to start thinking about a topic/title today, but who have found something far more interesting to do.
  • Seem to be paralysed by fear at the mere thought of it.
  • Are generally stressing about actually doing it.
  • Don’t seem to think they need to worry about it yet, even though all their peers are.
  • Are feeling nervous, daunted, scared, dismissive…

I can eBook cover for Writing a Dissertationmpathise. I really can. But if you are in this situation, it is better to start tackling it now. I know that sounds obvious. If you don’t believe me look at Twitter yourself, just do a search for #dissertation. Those that have started working towards the dissertation are feeling:

  • Like they can have a reward.
  • Generally positive.
  • Productive.
  • Optimistic.
  • Eager.

Which camp would you rather fall into?

The dissertation should be a chance for you to research something you enjoy learning about, it shouldn’t be a thing to dread. The problem is that it is wholly unknown concept to most people. You are probably tackling it for the first time and you’re having thoughts like: “Where I do start?” or “How on earth do I know what topic I want to cover?”.

What to do?

  1. Find a quiet area without too many distractions (turn off your phone).
  2. Think about what you have enjoyed on your course so far, what you haven’t, what topics you’ve achieved good mark for.
  3. Think about whether you want to do a theoretical or practical dissertation.
  4. Think about what you enjoy doing in your spare time. Yes, really. Is this a suitable area for academic research?
  5. Think about your career plans. Is there a dissertation topic that might help your long-term goals?
  6. Think practically. Where will you be living while you research the dissertation, will you have access to what you need, library, data, etc.?

Now you should start to have a rough idea of subject/area you would like to research and write about, even if it’s still fuzzy around the edges.The next stage is narrowing down subject and choosing the title…

For more indepth tips about how to start your dissertation and how to choose your title check out ‘Writing a Dissetation: The Essential Guide’



CV howlers to watch out for

September 23, 2013 in Education, Men, Parents, Students, Women, Work & Business

There are five basic errors that people make when compiling their CVs, according to new research from the National Careers Service.

The government’s careers advisory body says the top five CV pitfalls to avoid include:

1. Typing errors, and poor spelling and grammar

2. Listing duties instead of achievements

3. Not tailoring your CV to the job you are applying for

4. Having a CV that is visually unappealing and difficult to read

5. A CV that is too long or too short

It seems obvious, but as your CV is often the first thing an employer sees, you have to make sure it is accurate and includes all your details and experience. Keep it to a maximum of two pages, printed on white or cream paper, with no fancy fonts, and double check that your contact details, company names, and dates of employment, education and experience are correct – and that they are true.

Tailor your CV for each job you apply for, making sure it clearly shows how you have the experience they are looking for, as well as matching the key words mentioned in the job specification, and don’t forget to check with your referees that they are happy to give you a reference.

For more tips about polishing your CV to perfection, check out ‘Applying For A Job: The Essential Guide’.

New term for preschoolers too

September 2, 2013 in Education, Parents, Uncategorized


September is new start time for pupils and students. But it’s also a time for new and important beginnings for under-five’s too.

For most preschool age children, beginning preschool or nursery education is not the first time they will have experienced time away from Mum or Dad. But getting used to a longer session or day in a new setting can still be a challenge. Children can settle more easily when a few simple tried and tested tips are followed. Here are a few:


  • Your child should have a few trial sessions, staying part of the day/session, with you staying too at first.
  • Make sure staff have all the essential information they need about your child.
  • Ask if your child can take a familiar favourite toy/cuddly toy with him/her if you think this will help.
  • If your child has a friend attending the same preschool/nursery then make staff aware of this existing friendship.
  • ‘Talk up’ the preschool activities you know your child especially enjoys eg water play, playing instruments etc.
  • Don’t show anxiety yourself at leaving your child somewhere new – he/she will pick up on this and become anxious too.
  • Always ask your child what they did that day and admire and display any models or art work they may bring home!
  • Encourage new friendships by getting to know some other parents and their children.
  • Speak to your child’s keyworker regularly for updates on your child’s settling- in progress and voice concerns if you have any.
  • Always aim to be on time to collect your child.
  • Remember all children are different and settle at different rates into new routines.  Be sensitive to your child’s individual needs and allow them time to get used to this new stage in their lives at their own pace.

Need 2 Know’s ‘Preschool Choices: A parent’s guide’ describes how young children develop through their early years and how the right developmentally enhancing experiences and activities can influence that development. It also offers information, tips and ideas for choosing suitable preschool activities and early years education options.