Christmas video 22: 10 year old girl Kaylee Rodgers sings brilliant version of Hallelujah

Christmas video 22: 10 year old girl Kaylee Rodgers sings brilliant version of Hallelujah

A 10-year-old girl from Northern Ireland has gone viral after a video of her singing a variation on Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ for her school choir performance was posted on Facebook.

Kaylee Rodgers, from Donaghadee, County Down, has autism and ADHD, and began singing as a way to build her confidence.

The video of her singing the Killard House school choir’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ has attracted more than 200,000 views from people around the world.

It was originally posted by parent Nichola Martin, who was proud of her son Blake who also took part in the choir.

Kaylee told ITV that she was excited just to be singing, but that it was also “amazing” that the video had received so much attention.  She said:

“I just loved doing it.”

Colin Millar, head teacher at Killard House, said:

“For a child who came in P4 and would really talk, couldn’t really read out in class, to stand and perform in front of an audience is amazing.  It takes a lot of effort on Kaylee’s part.”

The alternative lyrics sung by Kaylee were written by contemporary Christian rock band Cloverton, who are based in Kansas.  Their version was posted on YouTube in 2014

A Makaton Nativity Play

born-this-nightRebecca Thompson created a wonderful Christmas resource a couple of years ago that is designed with Makaton symbols as part of it.  She is Mum of Jacob, a young boy with Downs Syndrome, and a Primary School teacher.  She’s now brought out a second Christmas resource.

The resource, called Born This Night, includes seven delightful songs, a simple humorous rhyming script and adaptable parts to suit small or larger casts.  The songbook is easy to use and contains everything you need to stage an enjoyable and memorable performance.


The Gold Star Inn tells the traditional Nativity story with the help of a donkey who likes to hum! It includes the ten fabulous new songs and two scripts, one for younger children and a longer script suitable for older children. Both stories can be adapted to suit the needs and abilities of groups of children and have proved popular with pupils and teachers in mainstream and special school.

It includes a professionally recorded CD with full performance tracks to listen to the lyrics and backing tracks for the children to sing along to when they have learnt them.  Price with licence for use in school £30.

Alternatively, parents and carers can buy the book and CD to learn and sing the festive songs at home (no licence required).  Priced at £20.

For more information about the plays or to order your copy visit Jacob’s Ladder Productions.

Assembly: Pentecost

Assembly: Pentecost

This morning I did an assembly at our local SEN arts college on the theme of Pentecost and ideas:


Where do good ideas come from?


Willis Carrier, the inventor of air conditioning, claims to have thought of the concept as he waited for a train on a foggy night in 1902. It suddenly came to him that there was a relationship between temperature, humidity and the dewpoint (the point at which moist air becomes saturated and forms dew). Out of this moment of inspiration he developed the air conditioner.


Archimedes, the Greek mathematician and inventor, is said to have discovered his famous principle of buoyancy while having a bath. In a moment of inspiration he realized that there was a correlation between his body in the bath and the water that surrounded it.


JK Rowling couldn’t tell you where her ideas for Harry Potter came from. She has no idea how her imagination worked so successfully to create such a popular series of novels.


Ideas pop up at the most unusual times, often when they are least expected and from a source that’s impossible to identify. Some people talk of the power of the imagination, others of inspiration, literally ‘breathing in’ ideas.


Psychologists refer to the banks of memories we all acquire and the way these gradually interlock to produce an apparently new piece of understanding.


However, no one can clearly identify the source of good ideas.


This Sunday, Christians celebrate the festival of Pentecost. It’s the time when they remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to the first Christian believers. It was a dramatic event.


Read Acts 2:1-4

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.


Gale force winds were involved, and flickering flames of fire. Most remarkable of all was the fact that as a result ordinary men and women began to do extraordinary things, such as speak in languages they’d never learned, share their money and personal possessions with one another and bring healing to those in the community who were ill.


Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is God’s presence inside us, that which distinguishes us from all other animals, our creative spark, if you like.


The Bible narrative shows that the Spirit has always been at work, from the creation, through the history of the Israelite nation to the events of the life of Jesus and the early church.


In the Bible the Holy Spirit is often portrayed by means of symbols: these include wind, flames, breath and the form of a dove. Usually when the Holy Spirit appears it’s to enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things. That would be part of the answer a Christian believer would give to my original question: Where do good ideas come from?


Christians believe that God shows himself to us in three ways: God the Father and Creator, Jesus who is God in human form and, finally, the Holy Spirit, the power of God active in the life of every human being.


What came as a shock to the early Church was the fact that the Holy Spirit was so utterly unpredictable: a deafening noise, a fire that didn’t burn and a compulsion to speak out loud in words that they’d never been taught. They were overwhelmed by the experience. It defied all their expectations. It didn’t conform to anything they’d ever met before. And this experience was the driving force that resulted in the creation of a religious movement that spread throughout the Roman Empire and exists worldwide today.


Do you ever get moments of inspiration? Maybe it’s an idea for a story or a piece of artwork. Maybe it’s the solution to a problem that’s been puzzling you for ages. It could be a wild and wacky idea for a project or a vision of what might happen in an ideal world. Both Jews and Christians believe that it’s the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes us human.


The Spirit is right there in the Creation story, powering all that comes into being. Jews and Christians believe the Spirit is the driving force that encourages us to explore and learn in every aspect of life: sport, art, science, education, relationships, whatever we’re involved in. The Spirit is the source of our inspiration.


Christians believe that God wanted his believers never to be alone again, so he sent the Holy Spirit to live with each of his followers. The followers of Jesus needed to be re-energized; they needed to know that they were not alone in their walk through life. They wanted help, guidance and assurance so that they could cope with whatever life threw at them.


Our lives are not guaranteed to be easy. We will all face loss, rejection and sadness at times. However, we are not alone in our journey, whether you believe in a God or a higher being, or simply draw from your own inner strength, you will be able to cope with whatever life throws at you. We are surrounded by family, friends and teachers, and these people are all available to encourage us to persevere and succeed in life. There is no point hiding away in an upper room.


Just as the reaction to the Holy Spirit was mixed 2,000 years ago, with people choosing to interpret the events differently, people today can come to their own conclusions as to what really happened and how it could affect us now. What source of inspiration do you have to help you through your life?


The Spirit is in you and is in me because we’re part of the human race. This is what the Bible means when it says that God created us in his image. Some Christians believe that it’s because of the presence of God in each of us that we’re alive at all. (The Bible uses the same word for Spirit and for breath.)


When we take leaps of imagination, and show new levels of creativity or invention, it’s as if we’re acting a little like God. All of us.


But the Pentecost festival is about Christians believing that even more is possible. Pentecost shows God taking to new levels the creativity, imagination and action of those who believe in Jesus Christ.


Time for reflection

The word ‘inspiration’ means ‘to breathe in’. That’s why the image of the Holy Spirit as the breath of God is so helpful. In times when we need a little extra, it’s as easy as breathing in.


Maybe sometimes our prayers need fewer words and more being silent and allowing God’s breath to breathe into us.



Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of your creative Holy Spirit to each of us. When we are searching for inspiration in any aspect of our life, may we take a deep breath and turn to you. Amen.

23 Ways To Communicate With A Non-Verbal Child


The key to working with children and young people often centres on communication.  But how do you do this with non-verbal (or mainly non-verbal) children and young people.

Parents of children and adults with special needs contributed their best tips to Scope leading to these 23 ways to communicate.  This is a really useful read for those of us living with or working with non-verbal (or mainly non-verbal) children.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

2. Level it up

Playing and talking are easier if you can see each other. Sit so you are at the same level.

3. Talk about it

Eddy can’t speak and also has limited understanding but it is important to keep talking to him about what’s going on.

4. Eye contact

I put stickers on my forehead as a target for my son to look at.  This reminds him to look at people’s faces, so people feel more like he is engaging with them.

8. Find other means of expression

Give your child an opportunity to express themselves. Dance, music, drawing, painting, messing with textures, banging drums, shaking maracas – and join in too. Don’t be afraid to lay down with them on the carpet and see the world from their point of view.

9. It’s not obvious

Therapist often ask you to keep eye contact with them.  We (Aspies – people with Aspergers syndrome) often avoid eye contact because it helps us to focus on what someone is saying.  I find it hard to process verbal information and think about signals from someone’s face at the same time.

11. Create social stories

I have been creating my own social stories using pictures of my son and clip art pictures. You can find images of most things through Microsoft Office and easily type up your own personalised stories.

12. Make ‘flash cards’

Take photos of a non verbal person’s favorite toys, family members, objects eg cup, biscuit etc. Choose the most motivating items to begin with. Print and laminate them postcard size. Giving a choice of no more than three cards at a time, encourage them to choose by pointing or touching. May also be helpful to put the relevant sign on the back of photo as a reference for others

19. Communication passports

A communication passport is a one page document that the child has with him or her all of the time. It gives the people they meet basic information about how they communicate and what support they need. You can find out more about communication passports at

22. Personal portfolio

Cerebra provides a free service to help parents create a personal portfolio for their child aged 16 and under. A personal portfolio is a user-friendly booklet about your child to introduce them to others. It is especially helpful when your child has communication difficulties. Very useful for teachers & professionals.

23. Intensive Interaction

I have two children on the spectrum, aged 7 & 5. Intensive Interaction helped me stay sane and unlocked the barriers so I could communicate with them.





Sally Phillips on parenting a child with additional needs in church

Sally PhillipsRuth Jackson from Childrenswork Magazine has done a great interview with actress Sally Philips on parenting a child with additional needs in church.  Sally and her husband have three sons and Olly, their eldest (aged 11) has Down’s syndrome.

RJ: Not every church has the necessary resources and manpower to serve children with special educational needs (SEN). Do you have any advice for churches and children’s workers?

SP: Good will is a good start but it’s often not enough. Generally, children’s workers are not prepared enough and the activities not differentiated enough so that kids with SEN can access them. There’s also a lack of volunteers. In school, Olly has one-to-one support. In church, he doesn’t, even though he still needs it. In school, his lessons are adapted, in church, he has to do the same as the others. If you prepare the lesson with multi-sensory options, all of the children will benefit, as there are many typically developing kids who prefer different ways of learning.

Incidentally, more traditional forms of church are much easier for SEN adults to access than ‘as the Spirit leads’ churches. The ritual and physicalisation of worship and prayer, the prayer book that they can follow, the same pattern every week, the weekly Eucharist etc are very helpful for people whose primary mode of communication may not be verbal.

Sally goes on to give some really helpful practical ideas that churches can use to be more inclusive to children with additional needs – it’s well worth taking the time to read this.