Sheilagh Blyth publishes resources on TES as EnableMeMethod and focuses on using her expertise to create resources that support teachers in developing children's handwriting.
Tell us about your background
I am a children’s occupational therapist. I started working 15 years ago in a hospital and then in communities and was later asked to go into schools as part of my role to help children who have a developmental delay. In 2008 I set myself up as an independent occupational therapist, that’s when the EnableMeMethod started, which is about enabling the child and those who are helping the child to succeed.
I look at things from a health perspective. Often, from what I have seen, it is actually finding the reasons why a child may have a difficulty that unlocks the key for all of their learning.
How does your day job feed into creating resources?
I work across age groups, from young children all the way up to 19-year-olds, but I do specialise in primary. I focus on children aged between 7 and 11 who have handwriting difficulties. At that age it’s useless asking a child to be repetitive and to write handwriting letters over and over again; it has to have a meaning. My resources have a developmental process to improve handwriting, starting with how to hold a pencil and ending with how to construct a story.
What makes you different?
Usually occupational therapists go into the school, assess the child, see them once a term (if they’re lucky), make a recommendation and then hand back over to the school. I’ve worked for the last five and a half years in a school every week working with children and helping to differentiate the curriculum. My experience means I know how to use real-life situations and how to adapt things to work in the school environment. I am aware that some of the suggestions that OTs make just aren’t feasible in the classroom.
Where do you start when you're making resources?
It comes down to what captures the child’s attention and what’s being taught in the national curriculum.
I was just working with a boy whose class were studying Mary Rose, so we focused on that topic, and I had another girl for whom I created a Florence Nightingale package. It just adds a little more interest to it. If it has that educational link, the teacher will also be able to see how it can be applied within their classroom setting.
If there are aspiring resources authors out there who work in education, but aren't teachers, what advice would you give them?
I think everyone, whether they’re a teacher, an occupational therapist or a speech and language therapist, has got to know what their skills base is and what they can offer. My passion is handwriting so I concentrate on that, but I also make sure it’s useful to educators. That means it’s got to be relevant, it’s got to have a learning quality, but it’s also got to be of interest to the child. It should also ideally save time for those buying it.
The challenge can be how much of a perfectionist are you and how much time you can dedicate to it. However, I wouldn’t put anything out there that I wouldn’t use myself.