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February 2021 | Issue 30
Supporting staff and students to achieve their full potential
(Est. 1968)

Dear CENMAC Community,

As we start February and fast approach the half term, I’m sure many are pleased to be putting January behind us. Technology is beginning to get into the homes of those who need it, but we still hear of many families who are either sharing resources or have a lack of data for connecting into lessons. Links for accessing free data and computers:
Illustration of a laptop

Children are at an advantage when they have the technology at home to access online resources. As we return to school and students play catch up with learning, let us ensure every child within a family has the digital resources to continue learning within their home.  

Here is a link to charities helping to receive and donate laptops  

February also brings us Children’s Mental Health Week and Safer Internet day, both so important as we move forward in supporting children through their experiences of the last year and face the challenges that online learning brings us. Keep an eye on our weekly blogs and website for information and resources to support both these areas.  

Have a lovely half-term when it arrives.

Kathryn Stowell
Head of CENMAC


What can technology be used for in the home?

Graphic of a smart house
Technology in the home has developed at lightning speed over the last few years and is set to change even further over the next decade. 

Smart Homes using the ‘Internet of Things’ to connect everyday household items to the internet are becoming increasingly popular, and it is already possible to use technology in so many ways around the home. 

(Image ©

  • Telecare systems use sensors placed around the home to remotely monitor the safety of users. Alerts can be sent to a 24/7 monitoring centre, carer or family member if there’s a problem. Telecare sensors can tell you, for example, when someone hasn’t moved for some time, has got out of bed and hasn’t got back in again or has left the gas on or their bath running. 

  • Personal alarms allow people to call for assistance if they have an accident or a fall at home.  

  • GPS trackers: a wearable tracker that includes an alert button, fall detector and two-way radio. The wearer can call for assistance or can be located if they have a fall or they travel outside of a preset ‘safe zone’. 

  • Memory aids come in many different forms. Some remind you what day of the week it is or when to take your medication; others can play you a personalised voice message when you pass by a sensor.  

  • Telehealth provides remote access to some health care services for people with long-term health conditions.  

  • Home safety and security devices include gadgets such as smart doorbells and home security systems

  • Technology for keeping in touch, such as specialist phones that are easier to use for an older person or someone with memory problems, as well as apps to help you communicate. 

  • Smart fridge-freezers which allow you to see the contents of your fridge from anywhere (and do all sorts of other fancy things) – handy for spontaneous supermarket trips when you can’t remember what’s left in the fridge! 

Home ecosystems with everything you need  

When we connect our devices together, they make life easier in amazing ways. Like motion sensors that turn on landing lights at night. Or heating that turns off automatically if someone opens a window. 

There are many smart home solutions that can be used to help manage simple and routine tasks around the home.  

Hive | Apple Home 
Images © Hive and Apple

Image of a mobile phone with smart attachments  Smart devices for the home
IKEA Smart Home System | Google Nest
Images © IKEA and Google

 smart light bulb  

Image © Amazon

Illustrations of two people with Alexa and a laptopUsing voice control to perform a series of linked actions

For those of you already living in the future and using AI such as Alexa or Siri to assist you in the home, there are ways to get even more from your devices by setting up lists of linked tasks to create a routine (on Alexa) or shortcuts (on Siri). These allow you to say one key phrase which will then trigger Alexa or Siri into performing a sequence of tasks. For example, you may say “Alexa, it’s morning” which then triggers Alexa to turn on the lights, give you a weather report, and read you your calendar. Or you may tell Siri “I’m going home” which could bring up any traffic reports and navigation services, load up a playlist for the journey and turn on the heating at home. 

Download: Brief instructions for how to set up an Alexa routine and Siri shortcuts 

Illustration of two women at a screen

Teaching Assistant Award | February 2021

In our work supporting students with assistive technology, we meet some amazing teaching assistants who we would like to acknowledge. The extra work and the skills of these individuals have a huge impact on their students' learning.


Congratulations to Phyllis Whitehead, February 2021 Teaching Assistant Award

Phyllis Whitehead of Furzdown Primary

'My favourite part of my job as a TA is getting to work so closely with a child and therefore getting to learn so much about the child I work one-to-one with. Though it can be challenging, most of the time there's a lot of fun to be had in the role. It's very rewarding to hear that my input is helping the child and enabling them to work to the best of their potential with some extra support. 

Thanks for naming me TA of the month!'


Portrait of a woman with long brown curly hair
Welcome to Abeer Essa to our Team

have been working as a Speech Therapist for the past 10+ years in a variety of settings. I support children with different diagnoses to communicate effectively using various methods, including signing, communication boards and low or high-tech devices. 

I also have a keen interest in Specific Learning Difficulties and I am a qualified Specialist Practitioner in Dyslexia, working towards becoming a specialist assessor.  

Technology has been a fundamental part of my journey throughout therapy, and I am an advocate of utilising technology to develop children’s communication and learning skills.  

I am excited to be part of the CENMAC team and looking forward to combining the skills and knowledge I have gained in speech therapy, dyslexia and technology to ensure pupils are receiving the best support, helping them to reach their full potential. 

Blue graphic with text cenmac online training


February - March 2021

DocsPlus: Wednesday 10 February 2021   |   Eventbrite | DocsPlus 
Clicker Writer: Wednesday 24 February 2021   |   Eventbrite | Clicker Writer 
Microsoft Accessibility: Thursday 11 March 2021   |   Eventbrite | Clicker Writer


CENMAC Recommends ...                                                                                         
Follow Sarah Ezekiel on Twitter


Twitter banner with a portrait of a woman with curly hair

Loving life despite MND/ALS. Eyegaze artist, @MND_NWLondonBranch Co-Chair & @LifelitesOrg Patron. Stunt double in Sarah's Story.

  • Rainforest Coding – a new updated version is available now, with students learning to use Scratch coding techniques in a series of fun games and adventures. If a student supported by CENMAC wishes to trial the use of the software, do ask your CENMAC link for a login code. 

  • Free Text to Speech Online with Natural Voices ( for students (and adults) who prefer listening to reading, this website is a must - simply drop your text into the box and pick from one of the voices to read it aloud to you. This differs from many text to speech services, as there are more human-like voices to choose from. 

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