Home Improvement Tips

Whether you are planning to put your home on the market or make it more comfortable to live in, there is a lot to be gained from making home improvements.

Improvements in your home could involve:

- Repairs of already existing structures,

- Remodeling certain parts of the home to give them a facelift,

- Making additions to your home to improve quality of life,

- Home improvement projects in order to make a house more energy efficient or environment-friendly.

To decide on a home improvement project can seem pretty daunting. But armed with a few handy home improvement tips, you could be well on your way to the ideal home of your dreams. Most of these tips are easy to follow and will make deciding on home improvement projects a breeze for you.

- Before deciding on a home improvement project, you have to decide exactly why you think your home needs it, how much you should be spending on it, and what is the result you would be satisfied with.

- The first home improvements you should consider are repair moves. Attend to any ceiling repair problems, the plumbing job you have been putting off or that attic insulation that has become necessary. This holds true whether you are planning to live in the home yourself, put it on rent, or put the home on sale.

- Remodeling your kitchen or bathroom is a smart home improvement move if you are planning to put your home on sale. This increases the value of the home immediately, and if researched properly, can be done with very little investment.

- Home improvement projects that involve remodeling need to be well thought out, so that they do not look out of place in the house. They are usually done to improve lighting, provide more space or glamorize the home. Remodeling a home can also mean an improvement in the atmosphere. For instance, if a kitchen wall is broken down to create an open kitchen, it immediately makes the home more friendly and sociable.

- Making additions to a home like adding a deck, a pool, or an outdoor storage area are usually the result of what the family needs, but could also be excellent selling points if the home goes up for sale some day. Additions to the home should be considered as home improvement projects if there is extra outdoor space which by itself does not improve the value of the home. A good tip for an improvement in the exterior spaces of the home is also to consider the neighborhood and only make changes and additions that would blend in.

- Helping a home improve its energy efficiency is also a great idea for a householder, because not only does it cut down on the electricity and gas bills, it is a great thing to do for the environment. Improvement in the insulation of the home can be a long-term blessing. Investing on a home so that it at least partially harvests solar energy could be another way of improving the home for posterity.

It is obvious that home improvement projects should not be carried out on a whim. It is essential to evaluate why a specific home improvement project is required, and what would be gained from the investment. While home improvements that involve repair increase the comfort in the home and its longevity and are therefore essential, all other sorts of home improvement need to be carefully evaluated before embarking on them.

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Special Education in Ireland’s Secondary Schools

This article is an introduction to special education in Irish secondary schools. The past then years have witnessed a sea change in special education provision in Ireland. The Department of Education and Science has issued numerous directives and guidelines in relation to policy, provision, structure and supports. Since 1998 there have been ten pieces of legislation passed through the Dail that relate, one way or another to children and special education needs The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has been established along with the Special Education Support Service (SESS). Both these organisations oversee and coordinate all special education initiatives nationwide. Ireland’s primary schools have pioneered these new directives. Special education provision at primary level is developing at a rapid pace and great strides are being made. The next horizon for improvement is secondary school.

Ireland’s secondary schools are driven by an exam-oriented curriculum. Subject area specialists teach all of the curricular content. The supports available to children with special needs are not extensive or as tested as those at primary level. In what follows we will look at the needs and entitlements of children entering secondary school who have identified special education needs and those who are entering and later discovered to have a special education need.

My child has been receiving extra help in primary school. What should I look for in a secondary school?

You should look for a school with a special education teacher in place on a full-time basis to support all children with special needs in the school. It is important to also be sure the school has a commitment to supporting and educating children with special needs. The school should have on its staff teachers who have had some training in how to differentiate their methodology and curriculum for children with special needs. There should be an accepting attitude on the part of all staff. Remember, your child is entitled to enter fully into the life of the school and avail of all it has to offer. How do you find out these things? Talk to the school principal and ask questions about the topics listed above. Remember, your child may be eligible for special consideration at the time of Junior Cert and Leaving Cert but this will have to be determined about a year before these exams will be taken.

What is s/he entitled to?

A child who has been receiving special education resources or support in primary school is eligible for continued support at secondary level so long as they continue to have a special education need. It is possible that a primary school child, after receiving several years of support, could no longer be deemed to have a special education need but this is the exception not the rule.

Your child will be entitled to the same general provision he or she received in primary school. Typically this takes the form of specialist teaching from a Learning Support or Special Education Resource teacher (both are now often being referred to simply as Special Education teachers. This support is to be determined based on need with the number of hours of support being determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) drawn up in the last year of primary school. In addition to the IEP there should have been a Transition Plan completed during the last year of primary school The Transition Plan will devise the structure of transition to secondary school and may alter the IEP for a short period of time. If this happens there should be a team meeting in about six months or less to write the secondary school IEP. In general students in secondary school are eligible for the same supports as in primary school. This may include a Special Needs Assistant (SNA).

How do I go about making sure they get that?

Generally speaking your child’s Individual Education Plan is the map which documents exactly what services your child will receive, when he or she will receive them and from whom. The IEP is your best protection against a child not receiving the services they need. IEP’s will eventually become legally binding documents on all parties and a school must provide the services outlined in the IEP. An IEP cannot be changed or implemented without your consent. Remember that upon entering secondary school a Transition Plan may be in place that slightly alters the previous IEP. This will have to be reviewed within a short span of time to be sure the child receives appropriate support services. Don’t be afraid to talk to the school principal because he or she is ultimately responsible to see to it that children receive the services they are entitled to receive.

What are my options if we run into difficulties?

Should problems arise you should first speak to the Year Head and address your concerns. The Special Needs Organiser (SENO) assigned to the school should be alerted as well as the appropriate special education teacher(s). A team meeting, of which you are entitled to be a member, can be convened within a reasonable time frame and your concerns will be discussed. If this meeting does not satisfy you or not result in the child receiving the services you may contact the National Council for Special Education for further information and support.

It is important to take things one step at a time. Speak to your child’s special education teacher first and be clear about your concerns. Be assertive and not aggressive. Remember, generally speaking everyone is doing the best they can. Do have your child’s IEP in front of you when you are speaking to the teacher or other staff member. Be aware of your rights to appeal as outlined in the NCSE and SESS websites. Don’t rush to judgement, try and work things out amicably before you make threats to appeal. The next most important port of call will be the Special Needs Organiser assigned to the school.

Hidden Disabilities

Not all children who have special education needs come to the attention of parents or educators in primary school. The human brain is an organ that tries to meet the demands placed upon it at any given time. As anyone who has gone to school knows, the demands of the curriculum get greater and greater each year of schooling. In secondary school the curriculum subjects become incredibly complex each year. The fact that a student is being educated by many different teachers each year further complicates matters. There are students who have had no difficulty suggestive of a special education need at primary school who suddenly seem to have a lot of difficulties in secondary school. Unfortunately they are often perceived as “lazy” or “unmotivated” and sometimes as “difficult” students.

If these labels stick and no thought or concern raised about a possible learning difficulty being present the student can become trapped in a cycle of failure and rejection by teachers. The result could be early school leaving, behaviour difficulties to hide the learning problem, lowered self-esteem, loss of self-confidence and trouble at home. It is important to recognise that some students, no matter how well they performed in primary school, may have a special education need that doesn’t appear until secondary school.

What are the warning signs?

It is not possible to list the many warning signs of a hidden disability but generally speaking one should be considered any time a student with a previously successfully record in primary school begins to exhibit difficulties in secondary school. There are a variety of causes to school failure at second level but a hidden disability can often be reasonably suspected when one or more of the following difficulties become noticeable:

oMemory problems
oOrganisational difficulties
oRefusal to go to school
oProblems with written language expression
oDifficulty organising thoughts into speech
oInability to recall facts from yesterday’s lesson even if they seemed retained the night before
oUnusual spelling problems
oUnusual difficulty with more advanced mathematical problems
oPronounced difficulty in foreign language class
oBehavioural difficulties not present in primary school
oMood swings or sudden mood changes that last several hours
oReluctance to engage with parents about school difficulties

Although a partial list it is a good guide for parents and teachers to thoughtfully consider the presence of a hidden learning disability.

I think my child may have a problem. Where do I go from here?

First speak with your child’s teachers. Ask for the facts: what does teacher think the problem might be? How often is this occurring? When? Is it serious? Present your own perception to the teacher(s) clearly and succinctly. If you have done some Internet homework on your own be clear about it and raise it as a query needing to be resolved. Try and get some samples from homework you have seen and ask for some samples of the child’s work in class if it is appropriate to do so. Speak to the Year Head and ask him or her to get some information about your concerns from all teachers. See if you can spot a pattern that validates your concern.

If you become more concerned then you have a right to ask for an assessment. Sometimes the special education teacher, with your permission, can perform some individually administered tests to discover if the child is seriously behind in reading or math achievement age. It is possible to discover if there are significant written language deficits in some cases. If this assessment leads to more significant concerns then you should request a psychological assessment. These can be provided free by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) but be mindful that a lengthy waiting list may be in place.

The most important thing is to be persistent and to talk to the right people. Begin with teachers, speak to Year Head, go to Principal if necessary and don’t forget the Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO). If an assessment is carried out there will be a team meeting to discuss the results and to begin the process of writing an IEP.

In the case of a diagnosis, where do we go from here?

If your child is found to have a special education need an IEP should be written. This is, as stated previously, a road map to your child’s education plan. It should be reviewed annually but can be reviewed more frequently if it is decided to do so. The special education team, often referred to as a multidisciplinary team, will be responsible for writing the IEP. You are a member of that team. Your child is also entitled to be a member of the team and it is particularly important for secondary school students to participate in this stage of planning. This gives them a sense of ownership and control over their educational life.

Be sure that the plan covers all the areas of concern that have been discovered in the assessment process. Plans for children with social and behavioural difficulties that address only academic issues are useless and doomed to fail. Special education planning is a thoughtful and time-consuming process when it is done correctly. Don’t feel rushed into accepting a plan you don’t think will work. Take it away and ask if you can return in a week to revise it with the team. This may not make you the most popular parent in the school but it is responsible parenting.

Possible Panels:

Autism/Asperger’s in Secondary School

There are large numbers of children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder that are having considerable difficulty finding a secondary school to enrol them. The problem revolves around the lack of supports at second level and the lack of teacher training in this speciality area. Unfortunately there is little that can be done if a school refuses to enrol a child on the autistic spectrum. What is needed is the development of resource support. By that I mean resource rooms where these children can get services by a specialist teacher. Availability to the teachers of advanced training. Availability of print and video resources teachers can access to learn more about the spectrum. Along with this there should be a whole-school commitment to inclusion for children on the spectrum so they are not isolated from same-age peers.

The education of children on the spectrum is not that difficult once educators get the knowledge about how to do it and have the proper attitude towards these children and their families. Of course they present us with challenges but the good news is that once we get it reasonably right for them we begin to improve the education of all children. There are considerable challenges in the future to our secondary schools in education these children and it is time to get it right. Those schools which stubbornly refuse to enrol children on the spectrum are in the stone age of education. There is a clear choice for secondary schools in relation to these children: be in the forefront of change and development or be left behind forever. Parents will not forgive or forget. It’s time to get it right once and for all.

ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects about 5% of all children and adults. Unlike other special education conditions, children and adolescents with ADHD are frequently blamed for having the condition, perceived as hostile or unmotivated, lazy or cheeky. When ADHD goes untreated it becomes a serious condition affecting self-esteem, motivation, behaviour, self-confidence and relationships with adults and peers. ADHD is a high-stakes condition and it needs to be recognised that students who have it didn’t choose to be the way they are.

ADHD is a condition that is caused by brain chemistry and activity. It is a neurobiological condition. People with ADHD often have difficulty paying attention and concentrating, especially on things that require sustained attention and concentration. The can have problems controlling their emotions and impulses, can rush to finish things or have considerable difficulty waiting their turn. They often ask questions without thinking them through and sometimes make unfortunate comments in front of others.

ADHD is a life-long condition. One never grows out of it but the symptom picture changes over time. Often the impulsivity and high level of activity, if they were initially present, disappear in the teen years. The learning problems associated with ADHD do not go away easily and it is vitally important for them to be addressed in school. As in the case of children on the autistic spectrum, once educators and schools get it correct for children with ADHD they have improved the educational provision of all children.

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Organise Conferences With Ease Using Event Management Software

Organising a conference can be a daunting and time consuming exercise. Whether it’s a small one day event for 20 delegates or a huge three day event in Earls Court, the general process and common problems are the same.So what are the stages of planning a conference?Booking a venue
Sending invites to a targeted list of prospect delegates
Organising and booking all the resources, such as catering, collateral printing, promotional items, A&V etc
Dealing with presenters and guest speakers
Taking registrations
Taking payment
Sending reminder emails to delegates
Printing badges
Organising staff on the day
Managing the budget throughoutThis is an extremely basic and simplified list to indicate the general check list event managers must consider. This process can start from 6 months before an event or even as long as 12-18 months before for really large, national events. Managing all these steps can be extremely complicated and it can be very easy for event managers to make major mistakes.To avoid costly errors, and to ensure conferences are organised in an efficient manner, many event professionals are looking to employ the use of an event management software solution. These solutions have the tools and capabilities to manage and track activities throughout the whole of the event and conference planning process, as well as the activities carried out as part of the event follow up (such as post event surveys and the creation of reports for intelligent analysis).Taking the above steps in planning an event, here is how an event software solution can help:1. Booking a venueControl to an event manager is key; whether it’s a meeting/conference room in your own office or a larger external venue, event software can help by ensuring the allocation has been made and that payment has been taken. For more complex conferences which require multiple rooms across multiple days, event solutions include a comprehensive planning, resource and scheduling venue software tool. A highly configurable and fully customisable function sheet and a multiple calendar feature which will give you the ability to manage your resources and venue from one central and flexible application. This helps to simplify the normally complex process of booking and managing the venue.2. Sending invites to a targeted list of prospectsThe event manager may know the exact number and names of the delegates they are targeting or in some cases they might have been told to invite a certain demographic (based on relationship, job title, location etc). Managing the selection of delegates to invite is made easy with event software, since it is able to be integrated their CRM package. Meaning that all corporate records and data can be accessed easily and records automatically updated, so others looking at that record will know that the contact have been invited and whether or not they have registered and paid.Event software also comes with sophisticated email marketing tools. Event managers are able to easily build and filter a selection of targeted delegates from their CRM and put these into a custom-made, HTML email which can be sent out. From the event management software platform, event managers will be able to track opens, clicks and other recipient activity.3. Resource managementEvent software will come with a Resource Management Module which is where event managers can track and control all the resources needed to manage an event. External suppliers can be given access to this module so that they can keep track themselves, rather than dealing with the event manager directly. For example, caterers can be given access so they can easily see current, up-to-date information on delegate numbers and any specific dietary requirements. Giving them direct access to this module in the event software means that event managers can deal with one less person and one less phonecall! Mistakes are also reduced since a layer of communication has been removed.Resource modules also contain multiple and powerful calendars enabling conference managers to manage numerous resources on these various calendars; this is all accessible from one central location ensuring all updates/amendments/additions are recorded in real time. From the information collated through this Resource Module, event mangers can run bespoke reports providing details such as the number of pods available, number of brochures etc. Event managers will no longer have to juggle multiple spreadsheets across multiple calendars which will ensure fewer errors.4. Dealing with presenters and guest speakersEvent software can also manage this process. Emails can be scheduled automatically to remind guest speakers about the event and to request certain information such as a bio for the marketing collateral and presentation slides for delegates. Speakers can also be given direct access to the Resource Management Module, where they can manage and update their own profile, and upload materials and other items. Again, this takes away the involvement of the event manager, freeing them up to work on more strategic activities.5. Taking registrationsA convenient way to take registrations is online. This suits both delegates and event managers. It is a fast, effective method and is increasingly becoming the standard method of event registration. But there are good and bad ways of taking registrations online. Ideally event managers should want to direct prospect delegates to their own website, where a specially created page, with the branding of the company and the event have been included. Taking registrations on your own website plays an important part in increasing delegate sign up rates – delegates will be more trusting and more likely to sign up if it’s on the same site, whereas taking them to an external site may cause trust issues. It’s also important to be able to amend the information requested at the point of registration. Some events will just require a name, telephone number and email address, whereas others may require more detailed information. Event software can easily handle these changes.6. Taking paymentHaving a registration and payment process that is easy, straightforward and efficient is vitally important if event managers want to ensure a high level of delegate attendance. Event software gives event managers the ability to take payments online, via a secure web portal – giving delegates an easy, trustworthy method of payment. Since the event management software can be integrated with the back end finance application, payment can be easily accepted, records updated and receipts sent out automatically, without any intervention from the event manager or accounts payable staff. If payment isn’t taken online, the event software can automatically sent out invoices to the delegate. For an even smoother payment transaction event solutions will include connectors allowing seamless integration with your internal finance system.7. Sending reminders to delegatesThe email marketing tool included in the event software can have emails created which can scheduled to automatically be sent to all delegates. These can be reminder emails, or emails with updates or event amendments. They can be created in advance and then forgotten about as the event software will manage the rest.8. Printing badgesThe production of delegate name badges is a small part of hosting a conference, but is one that can be extremely time consuming for event managers and can cause real issues on the day of the conference if any mistakes have been made. Event software packages will come with easy to use, effective badge production tools. Not only will the creation of custom badges be easier, but the section of delegate names will be done automatically since the event software will be integrated with the CRM – so it’ll know exactly what names and details to print.9. Organising staff on the dayThe effective Resource Management Module enables all staff to be accurately managed – it will be easy for event managers to delegate activities to individuals and log it in this Resource Module. Staff can access this module anytime and from any location (via the Internet) so they will always be aware of what their responsibilities are and where they need to be.10. Managing the budget throughoutEvent software is an excellent tool for managing finances and budget. All costs can be taken via the integration with the finance system. These can then be easily tracked and monitored, with alerts to warn the event manager if there are any issues or if costs are rising fast. Reports can be instantly created, with a click of a button – useful for event update meetings and if event managers need to compile any statistics for senior management.So we can see how event software can revolutionise the stages of planning a conference. Without event management software, a lot of these tasks would be manually created, tracked and organised via huge spreadsheets. There would be high chances of errors and mistakes and the whole process would be time consuming, stressful and ineffective for the conference manager and those associated with the event.

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