Santa draws winning raffle tickets

Santa and his helpers draw the winning raffle tickets

Santa and his helpers draw the winning raffle tickets

None other than Father Christmas and some of his helpers pulled out our winning Christmas Raffle tickets this year!

On 21st December Santa drew the thirteen winning tickets with the top prize winner receiving £5000.  The runners-up won £1500, £500 and ten £100 Love to Shop vouchers.

The lucky winners have been notified.

Cerebra is a national charity for children with neurological conditions, helping them and their families through a combination of direct, ongoing support and funding vital research. The charity receives no government funding, relying entirely on the support of the public.

The raffle draw is an easy way to support the charity, with the chance of winning a great prize. If you would like tickets for the Summer 2016 Raffle contact us on 01267 242554 or [email protected]


CIC Test Their Surf Access Vehicle (SAV)

The team test out the Surf Access Vehicle (SAV)

The team test out the Surf Access Vehicle (SAV)

The CIC team recently tested their new surfing products at Poppit Sands in Pembrokeshire.

The team has developed a Tandem Surf Board and a Surf Access Vehicle (SAV) for use by surfers who could not use conventional surfing equipment so easily. In collaboration with Tonic Surf Therapy and Walkin’ on Water Surf School, the CIC team developed the SAV to help transport people from the car park across rugged terrain (sand dunes and rocks) down to the water’s edge to plunge straight into the sea. Once in around 50cm of water it is much easier to transfer onto a surfboard.

The unique design of the SAV was developed with a UWTSD graduate Automotive Designer Ben Hammonds. It features a reclining back so that a surfboard can fit onto the device and to made transfers easier as the surfer can slide straight off the back.

Many thanks to Shon Devey (Tonic Surf Therapy) and Kwame Salam (Walkin’ on Water Surf School) for their help in the development and to Tina Marie Evans for thoroughly testing the equipment!

You can see a video of the team testing out the equipment below:

New sensory toy tubs in our free lending library

The Sensory Sensitive Kit

The Sensory Sensitive Kit

We have made some changes to the sensory tubs that are available from our free lending library.

Up until now we have offered 8 different type of tubs – each with a collection of toys. We have decided to change the choice of tubs we offer to allow us to offer more of each type of tub and allow us to replace old and tired parts from the existing tubs.

The tubs that are being replaced are the Original Sensory Tubs; the Tactile Kit; the Sounds Kit; the Music in Box; the Visual Sensory Tub and the Mirror Diffraction Tubs.  If you were on the waiting list for any of these, you should already have been contacted to see what you would like instead.

The ‘Relaxation Sensory Tubs’ and the ‘Fidget Kits’ and ‘UV Fun Tubs’ will remain but there will now be 3 of each available for loan.

The new tubs we are offering are:

  • 3 x ‘Sensory Seeking Kits’ – items in these kits are brightly coloured, include hard textures, encourage activity and include percussion instruments and vibrating items
  • 3 x ‘Sensory Sensitive Kits’ – items in these kits are soft textured, include quiet sounds and low lighting and include items with slow moving oils, gels and glitter inside
  • There will also be one “Lucky Dip” Sensory Bag, which will contain a variety of sensory items but the contents will vary depending on what is available, these are likely to be percussion, visual and tactile items.

We hope you will like our new choice of toys, and that the waiting times will be reduced for you.

You can see the full range of items available to borrow here.

Jan, The Librarian

Creativity and Children with Additional Needs

Parent Support Consultant Gill Gleeson takes a look at how to encourage creativity in children with additional needs.

Much thought goes into how to help children with additional needs develop life-skills and confidence, make the most of their education, access opportunities and attain as much capacity for independence, enjoyment and satisfaction as possible.  But what about helping them to adapt and respond creatively to changes around them in the future and even build and discover new things that inspire and make a difference to themselves?

What is creativity?

“Entrepreneurs don’t see barriers – they see around them – and think of different ways to do things” (Deborah Meaden 2015, speaking at the British Library).  What she is speaking of is creativity in her own field of business.  Creativity is often thought of in terms of artistic activities, but it is actually relevant to any type of activity.

Parents and carers of children with learning disabilities involving IQ below about 70 have sometimes been led to think that their children will not be very creative.  However, creativity and IQ are different.  Further, playfulness and spontaneity are associated with creativity but are not the whole of it. So it cannot be assumed that a tendency not to play or react in the same way as most (for example, with autistic features) is an indication that that creativity cannot occur.

So what is happening in creativity? Scientists are attempting to understand the process, operating within many parts of the brain at once (for example, Bob and Louchakova, 2015, also Boccia M. et al 2015).  In work to identify how and where it operates in the brain, some elements of the “circuit” involved are being identified.  It appears that very creative people can form and find associations between different things / ideas more easily and meaningfully, but can also be emotionally delicate which may get in the way of using them productively.  This provides some clues, as does listening to people known to be creative, who go through a process of mulling things over, looking for new angles / methods and experiencing inspiration about them from somewhere unconscious – sometimes called a “Eureka” effect.  Parts of the process have been seen happening in the brain using scanners (Andreasen, 2011).

Making use of a new idea (or movement, design, sound etc.) means taking it up as something that can be built on.  Expectations of children, for example in multiple-choice questions at school, tend towards the idea that there is only one real answer to a problem.  Children who see diverse possibilities will sometimes find it hard to pick the right one, as might those who have a condition that makes it harder for them to see the logic of what the school is looking for.  Taking up those other possibilities, and seeing where they go, might be one creative approach.

Bringing creativity through to producing results also involves wider skills, such as collaboration with others who think /move /construct /paint etc. differently but can think together; evaluating and exploring the answers (critical thinking); and asking questions about creative ideas, such as “does it work”, or “does it get to the goal”.  The inventor Thomas Edison famously said “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”.  This combination is still being studied (Oleynick V.C. et al 2014).

There are children who are very good at thinking outside the box, but not so good at thinking inside it.  Because creativity involves moving outside the box, it may not fit in with others’ wishes (such as a teacher concentrating on a set curriculum, or a parent who does not want food wasted on making models).  So the creative person also needs some understanding of the box.

There is believed to be a dynamic between invention, connection / discovery and solution / critical thinking, and one between an imaginative approach to questions, knowledge / skill, motivation, and energy / persistence (Iowa State University, 2015).  Probably the more knowledge and/or skill a person has in what they are trying to be creative with, the easier it is for interest and inventiveness to be sparked.

Nurturing creativity

How can children learn creativity and have the confidence to use it?  As in anything, some will naturally find this easier than others. Educational approaches might be able to foster an exploratory approach to problems.  A non-threatening, non-controlling social environment is also believed to help.  Other suggestions include others explaining or showing how they create or combine ideas themselves, and encouraging the creative thinking even if it does not succeed in what the student was trying to do (Iowa State University, 2015).

The author J.R.R. Tolkien, in his essay “On fairy-stories” gave an example of making up a story about a “green sun”. Obviously, the sun and the colour green are separate in reality. Creativity can begin by putting them together , then go on to weave a magical world in which the reader is led into a temporary but absorbing “secondary belief” (Tolkien 1974).  This process is an example of “synectics”, a way of generating and developing something new.  Related to it is the process of association, again leading to new combinations, not only when using words but also in doing anything creatively.

Gable (2015) describes ways to introduce children to these processes. She stresses the importance of having their ideas listened to, and again exploring alternative solutions.  Conditions that favour creativity include:  a chance to make choices from a variety of possibilities, for example about what to draw, what to use, how to do things.; the decisions people make as they paint, sculpt, write and think are at the core of the creative process; an environment that encourages and helps them to problem-solve; time for play and make-believe; some freedom, within limits of rules; and experience of different ways of being and thinking.  Whatever satisfies someone is more likely to be related to something they have a talent for, i.e. will be able to take further.  For example, if they enjoy the feel of clay they are more likely to want to experiment with making things out of it.

“Brainstorming” techniques seek to trigger creativity by free association of ideas, either completely freely or related to a particular subject, trying to make the mind wander and capturing what it finds.  Gable suggests encouraging children to tackle problems as a group.  Those with communication difficulties might find this easier one-to-one, or using a different medium such as art or toys.

Gable also lists barriers to creativity, some of which are surprising. For example, rewards and external motivation can lessen the key feature of enthusiasm for the creative process.  So can being compared with others, or being given too much in the way of adult direction or restrictions.  She describes the stages and processes that children go through as they develop in art; there are stages when they are easily discouraged and can be very critical of their own efforts.  They may need to be shown different examples of, say, art expressing the same idea, to illustrate that, again, there is not “one right answer”.  The adult’s response is a careful process so that on the one hand, the child is helped to find ways of developing and changing their creation but on the other hand, to feel positive about what they have already done.

A slightly more structured approach that has been suggested is to teach skills like divergent thinking, visual thinking and considering different points of view in a similar way to other subjects at school, and specifically encouraging children to experiment and innovate (Azzam K.M. 2009).

Providing more practical ideas would have made this article too long, but for those who would like to explore further, sources of ideas including the parents’ blog; courses are also available, for example the Earlyarts Power of Play course. For more on actions that can enhance creativity, see Techniques for Creative Teaching, by Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.


Andreasen N. C., (2011), A Journey into Chaos: Creativity and the Unconscious. In: Brain, Mind and Consciousness: An International, Interdisciplinary Perspective (A.R. Singh and S.A. Singh eds.), MSM, 9(1), p42-53.

Azzam A.M. 2009 September, Why creativity now?  A conversation with Sir Ken Robinson.  Educational Leadership 67(1): 22-26.

Bob P. and Louchakova O. 2015, Dissociative states in dreams and brain chaos: implications for creative awareness.  Frontiers in Psychology 2015;6:1353.

Bocchia M. et al 2015, Where do bright ideas occur in our brain?  Meta-analytic evidence from neuroimaging studies of domain-specific creativity. Frontiers in Psychology 2015; 6:1195.

British Library:  Innovation and Enterprise Team 20 November 2015, Top business tips from our panel with Deborah Meaden.

Gable S. et al 2015, Creativity in Young Children, Curators of the University of Missouri.

Iowa State University, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching 2015, Elements of creativity.

Oleynick V.C. et al 2014, The scientific study of inspiration in the creative process: challenges and opportunities.  Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2014; 8: 436.

Tolkien J.R.R. 1974, Tree and leaf. London, Unwin Books.

A young girl’s Ice Skating wish is granted

The CIC Sleigh will allow Enna Thea to go skating with her friends

The CIC Sleigh will allow Enna Thea to go skating with her friends

The team at the Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) are about to grant a young girl who has Cerebral Palsy her very own Christmas ice skating wish.

Eight year-old Enna Thea Kul-Want from London has Athetoid Cerebral Palsy so has not been able to skate because she can’t wear conventional skates.

But this Christmas, thanks to the team at the Swansea-based Cerebra Innovation Centre, Enna Thea will be able to ice skate with her family and friends for the very first time.

The product was designed after Enna Thea’s mum, Catherine, contacted the CIC team after her daughter had been invited to an ice skating party at the Broadgate Ice Rink in London’s Exchange Square.

Catherine didn’t want her daughter to miss out on the celebration so after discussing ideas with Dr Ross Head from the University’s Cerebra Innovation Centre, the team set about designing and creating an original product styled on Santa’s sleigh that would allow Catherine to skate behind and push Enna Thea along on the inside.

The sturdy stylish design has been manufactured from birch ply with a metallic red weather proof lacquer coating. It is fitted with polypropylene skating blades which have been machined with the same radius on the blade as regular skates allowing the sleigh to skate in a straight line, but also making it steerable. The product is finished with a beautiful jewel encrusted, royal blue velvet, fit for a young princess that will allow Enna Thea to direct her mum and “skate” wherever she wants.

Dr Ross Head of the Cerebra Innovation Centre, based at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David said:  “We are so lucky to be able to do this as a job. I hope that Enna Thea really enjoys her skating party and many more hours of skating afterwards. Our job is to design and make beautiful products to help kids with neurological conditions, which brings an amazing sense of satisfaction for us. Our design skills are challenged but put to good use in making products that make children’s and family’s lives easier, and give them the same opportunities as other kids.”

Catherine Yass had already been in contact with Dr Ross Head regarding a different product and knew that the team’s designs are always beautifully designed as well as being extremely functional.

“I had written to Ross to thank him for his work on a different product and as a ‘by the way’ comment, asked him whether he had any solutions to ice skating.  He came straight back saying that he’d love to help us and has designed us the most amazing present.  We are over the moon – the sled is absolutely beautiful.  Enna Thea finds it all incredibly exciting,” says Catherine.

Catherine and Enna Thea tested out the sleigh on Sunday December 13th at Broadgate Ice Rink, Exchange Square, London. EC2A 2BQ.

To find out more information about the Cerebra Innovation Centre, or to approach the team with an idea for new equipment, please contact [email protected] or 01792 483688.

As you can see from the smile on her face, Enna Thea loved the sleigh!

Consultations – December 2015

Consultations are your chance to give big organisations like the NHS and other government bodies your opinions on things that matter to you to. This is our monthly round-up of open consultations that might be of interest to our members.

Researchers at Royal Holloway College, University of London
are looking for first-time fathers of infants aged 3-36 months, for a study about fathers’ experience during labour and birth.

Draft guidance for police in handling people in mental health crisis
Comments are invited by 1 January 2016.  Details:  (College of Policing).

News – December 2015

A stack of newspapersOur monthly roundup of news and legislation relevant to families who have children with neurological conditions.

New guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on Children’s attachment: attachment in children and young people who are adopted from care, in care or at high risk of going into care, [NG26] (Applies up to age 18).


2015 No. 1823 (W. 265), The Visits to Children in Detention (Wales) Regulations 2015
From 6 April 2016, the regulations relate to visits by local authorities.

2015 No. 370, The Victim Charter (Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015
Sets out requirements for the support of victims of crime, from 13 November 2015.

2015 No. 406 (C. 51), The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Commencement No. 10 and Saving Provision) Order 2015
The Act is a major piece of legislation.  From 5 January 2016, brings into force sections of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”).  It includes, where a child is in secure accommodation, the previous 1995 Act will continue to apply if a decision about detaining them is taken before 1 February 2016.  Provisions about named persons for children and children’s plans start to come into effect from 5 January 2016.  Section 96, relating to assessment of wellbeing, is planned to be completely in force by 5 January 2014, and other sections on kinship care and adoption by 1 April 2016.

Resources – December 2015

ResourcesWhere can I get a free PC?
Where to find free or low-cost computers. (Neil Hawkins)

Tax-free childcare:  ten things parents should know
Tax-Free Childcare will be available to around 2 million households to help with the cost of childcare, enabling more parents to go out to work, if they want to, to provide greater security for their families. Here’s the top ten things to know about the scheme. (HM Treasury and others)

Spending Review:  what it means for families with disabled children
Summary based on the Chancellor’s recent announcements. (Derek Sinclair, Contact a Family)

An agency providing nanny services by the hour for 8-16 year olds, including special needs.

Guides for children and young people

Youth Mental Health
An information hub offering young people advice and help on mental health problems including depression, anxiety and stress,  (NHS Choices).

Get your rights
Everything you need to get the most out of the NHS,  (Council for Disabled Children and National Children’s Bureau).

All about information, advice and support services
A website for young people up to the age of 25,  (Council for Disabled Children and National Children’s Bureau).

Young Person’s Guide to Personal Budgets in England
(Together for Short Lives).

Staying safe online
Top ten tips.  Leaflet designed for young people who may be about to go online with a new computer, tablet etc.,  (National Police Chiefs’ Council).

Guides for parents and carers

Babies In Mind
A free online course about ways in which parents and caregivers can influence the mind of a child from conception to infancy,  (University of Warwick).

Autism and Thanksgiving
How to cope with feasting and hubbub.  An article about the USA Thanksgiving celebrations that adapts to other situations of “holiday excitement”,  (Autism Speaks).

Upfront guide to caring
Online tool to help new carers to find the information and support they need,  (Carers UK).

How to teach a person with ASD how to cook
Article by Maureen Bennie, (Autism Awareness Centre).

Guide for parents who are formula feeding, and Building a happy baby
Two leaflets, (UNICEF).

Cerebra Gets into the Christmas Spirit in Carmarthen

Merry-Christmas-5On Friday 18th December, Cerebra will be getting into the festive spirit with a Christmas spectacular at Merlin’s Walk, Carmarthen.

For the first time ever, we have put together a choir of Cerebra staff who have been putting in hours of practice to perfect everyone’s favourite carols. They will be performing on the day to help shoppers get in the festive spirit.

There will be mince pies and mulled wine available as well as a number of fun activities including a lucky dip with some fantastic prizes for children.

We are also very privileged to be able to welcome Santa himself – who will be there on the day helping us raise money for children with brain related conditions.

Everyone is welcome to join in with the festivities so come along and help us to celebrate the festive season and raise money and awareness for a great cause.