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Being Intelligent Does Not Guarantee Success



When I was a  young child, I was always taught that in order to be successful in school, work and in life in general, I needed to be intelligent. High I.Q. according to my first teachers, equals a high grade. However, as I went through high school to graduate school and now as an educator, I discovered that having a high I.Q. does not guarantee that individuals will succeed. Intelligent students do not always get the highest marks/ grades, and the not-so-smart ones do not always get the average or lowest grades.

Life events and well-being immediately come into people’s minds when asked why this is the case. In addition to these, Angela Duckworth proposed that success depends on another important factor: Grit, defined as the ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’. Watch her TED talk below:


To read Angela Duckworth’s seminal research on Grit, click HERE


I’m a Liebster Award Nominee!

Thank you ever so much to dillydallygirl for nominating me! I must say that I always read her blog and you guys should check it out, too!



Here’s the mechanics for this:

1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.
Thanks, Dillydallygirl! 

2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked, and create 11 questions for your nominees. Scroll further down.

3.  Nominate 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. Scroll further down.

4.  Display the Liebster Award logo.



1. I am a psychology-nut. Having studied psychology for quite a long time, I always analyse my experences. Always!

2. My dream is to promote Autism Awareness to eliminate the stigma surrounding the condition.

3. I always want to win. Be it the first to get ready or a serious debate, I want to win.

4. I miss being a student. Despite working in education for quite some time now, I still miss being on the other side of the classroom.

5. I love to read, but only non-fiction books. I have only started reading fiction and I find it very hard to get into. It takes me about two weeks to finish a fiction book, whereas it only takes me less than a week to finish a non-fiction one.

6. I am an avid guitar collector. When I was in university, I would skip meals just to buy a guitar!

7. I love The Secret. It helped me reduce my stress levels and it helped me to develop a positive outlook in life.

8. I don’t drink alcohol, but I drink a LOT of coffee.

9. I like being alone most of the time. It gives me time to think and reflect on my day.

10. I am a big fan of the Big Bang Theory. I know almost every line, as I’ve watched every single episode at least 5 times.

11. I want to be a dad soon!


11 Questions from DillyDallyGirl:

1. Link an entry from your blog you’re most proud of.

I am most proud of my article about the parents of individuals with Autism because I feel like these people are not getting enough respect and recognition. Having written this piece, I feel that I have contributed to raising Autism Awareness, whilst giving parents the recognition that they so, so deserve.


2. What’s the wildest thing you’ve done in your life?

Probably when I had an open discussion with my high school’s principal and owner because my friend got expelled. I thought my friend’s expulsion was unfair, so I challenged her in front of other children in our school assembly. I got told off big time, but it was totally worth it!


3. Name 3 dream destinations. Are you close to traveling to these destinations anytime soon?

Spain, Korea and Japan. I’m not quite sure which one I want to go to first, but it all depends on my partner.


4. If you could go on an all-expense paid month-long trip, where would you go and why?

I’d go to the USA and the Philippines, just to speak to people about Autism. I’d love to learn more about the best practices and also what needs to be researched.


5. You’re on a road trip for 10 hours. Your playlist will most likely contain what genre of music / which artists?

John Mayer. Just John Mayer. His songs are so deep, eyt I feel like I can relate to every lyric.


6. Have you ever been to the Philippines? Would you consider visiting this side of SE Asia, and if yes, where would you want to go? For the Filipino bloggers I nominated, what other places in the country would you want to visit?

The next time I’m in the Philippines, I will definitely go to Davao and Cebu. I’ve heard so many things about these places.


7. Name 3 items you’ve recently crossed off of your bucket list.

  • Have a postgraduate degree
  • Acquire a Joe Satriani Ibanez guitar
  • Work in a museum!


8. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Playing computer games and reading.


9. What’s your favorite pick-me-upper place? (Could be a playground, a coffee shop, or just anywhere that makes you feel happy and brings you peace)

Any basketball court. Playing the sport reminds me of my childhood and rekindles my competitive fire.


10. What’s the cheapest bargain you ever scored?

My Ibanez JS1000BTB guitar. Not telling you how much I got it for!;)


11. If any of my entries have caught your attention, care to let me know which one?

Your post about quarter life



  1.  How would you define yourself?
  2. Who is the most important person in your life?
  3. What made you happy today?
  4. What goes through your head when you wake up in the morning?
  5. Are we lucky to be living in this time? How so?
  6. If asked to give three wishes (one for yourself; one for your family; one for the world), what would yours be?
  7. Why do you blog?
  8. Is 2013 shaping up to be what you’ve expected?
  9. What would you like to know about Autism?
  10. How can people’s awareness of Autism be increased?
  11. What is the best article you have read on my blog?




Why is this song in my head and how do I get rid of it?!

carly rae jespen

Whether it’s Carly Rae Jespen’s Call Me Maybe, Nickelback’s How You Remind Me, or Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger, we all had a song or two that has been stuck in our heads for a while and we don’t quite know why. Such an experience is called ‘Earworm’, a term which is a direct translation of the German word ‘Ohrwurm’.It  has been found  that around 90% of the population have had such an experience at least once a week. Earworms have been found to last between a few minutes to a couple of hours (Beaman & Williams, 2010). Although it is a common experience, around 15% of people claimed that Earworms are ‘disturbing’ and ‘unpleasant’ (Liikkanen, 2008).


Although there isn’t a definitive theory which can explain why how songs get stuck in our heads, there have been a few suggestions:

  1. Exposure: Some have proposed that songs/tunes are more memorable than others because we’ve listened to them a lot of times. However, a research by Victoria Williamson and her colleagues (Williamson et al., 2011) found that listening to a song is not a necessary pre-requisite for a song ‘worm-into’ our brains. Their findings suggest that being exposed to a stimuli which are (sometimes vaguely) related to a song can induce an Earworm. For instance, reading a number plate with the letters CMM can lead to remembering Call Me Maybe.
  2. Memories: Being in the same place where you’ve heard a song can be enough to trigger an experience.
  3. Mood: Williamson et al.’s findings also suggest that being in the same mood as you were when you first heard a song can also trigger Earworms.
  4. Boredom: The same study have also found that in some cases, Earworms begun when people were bored or in a ‘low-attention state’.



Now that we know the possible reasons why an Earworm manifests, we must know of any strategies of stopping it. In a research conducted by Hyman et al. (2012), participants were asked to listen to a variety of songs, from those of the Beatles to current ones like Lady Gaga’s. They then completed a number of different puzzles, with varying difficulties. After these, they were asked to report whether there are any songs that are playing on their heads (and did so again after 24 hours). They found that puzzles which are too easy and too difficult induced the most number of Earworms. The researchers suggested that:

  1. Earworms are manifestations of Zeigarnik Effect, i.e. we only cease to remember things/tasks when they are completed. In other words, a tune lingers in our heads because only a certain part (and not the whole of it) plays in our head. Hence, if we want it to stop, we need to consciously ‘play’ the whole of it.
  2. Also, after we’ve listened to a piece of music, we need to perform an activity that will keep our minds and/or bodies occupied. However, we need to consciously avoid tasks that are too easy or too difficult for us.





Beaman CP, & Williams TI (2010). Earworms (‘stuck song syndrome’): Towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts.British Journal of Psychology, 101(4), 637-653.

Hyman, I., Burland, N., Duskin, H., Cook, M., Roy, C., McGrath, J., and Roundhill, R. (2012). Going Gaga: Investigating, Creating, and Manipulating the Song Stuck in My Head. Applied Cognitive Psychology DOI:10.1002/acp.2897

Liikkanen L.A. (2008) Music in everymind: Commonality of involuntary musical imagery. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition. Sapporo, Japan.

Williamson, V., Jilka, S., Fry, J., Finkel, S., Mullensiefen, D., and Stewart, L. (2011). How do “earworms” start? Classifying the everyday circumstances of Involuntary Musical ImageryPsychology of Music DOI: 10.1177/0305735611418553

School Shootings: Prevalence, Causes and Possible Prevention Strategies based on Empirical Evidence


The world witnessed another tragedy on 14 December 2012, when 21 year-old Adam Peter Lanza shot and killed 20 preschoolers and six staff (pictured above) at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, before killing himself. School shootings such as this and the others before it shook society’s belief that schools are a safe place for children. As a result, most people would want to find out why these events occur and what can be done to eliminate or at least reduce the risk of it happening again. Many journalists and Social Networking Site users have come up with various theories on the subject. However, a lot of their insights are based on intuition, not scientific findings. So what do published academic research papers on school shootings actually tell us?


Despite the enormous media attention given to school shootings over the years, research has found that such incidents are extremely rare. One study estimated that the probability of a school shooting to occur is 1 in a million (Wike & Fraser, 2009).



One of the most popular claims that the media often throw at us is the causal link between excessive time spent playing violent video games and school shooting.. The studies that have been conducted to test this theory however, have yielded mixed results. Studies such as those of Anderson and Murphy (2003) and Carnagey and Anderson (2006) supported the said hypothesis. However, Ferguson et al. (2008) and Unsworth et al. (2007) found no link between playing violent video games and acts of aggression. Barnett, Coulson and Foreman (2008), on the other hand found that playing violent video games actually reduces aggression- a complete opposite of what most of the media reporters claim.

Another problem about the research on violent video games and aggression is the methodologies used in each study. Most experiments involve asking volunteers to play a selected video game for a period of time, and then observing the same people performing tasks in stressful (and aggression-provoking) situations such as white-noise bursts during a competitive activity (Ferguson, 2008). Since studies are bound by ethical issues, real-world acts of violence cannot be tested. As a result, the generalisability of their findings are dubious at best. Nevertheless, a meta-review by Ferguson (2008) claimed that there is no evidence to suggest that playing violent video games would lead to aggression, or school shooting.


Some have argued that the perpetrators in school shootings turned into such through victimization. Indeed, the two killers in the Columbine High School shooting were believed to have been bullied by their peers (Peterson, 1999). Contrary to the violent video game hypothesis, this claim has been supported by research findings. In an investigation of 15 case studies, Leary et al. (2003) found that rejection and victimization were present in the majority of the cases they reviewed. Some of the killers have explicitly explained that their actions were their response to the way others have treated them in the past.. In addition to this, the US’ Safe School Initiative report, which looked at 37 school shootings between 1974-2000, have found that 75% of the shooters have experienced peer-rejection, victimization and/ or bullying prior to their attack.


Retrospective analysis have found that school shooters often lack problem solving and conflict resolution skills (O’Toole, 2000). In addition, they lack empathy and they struggle to manage their anger (O’Toole, 2000). It could be possible that these individuals’ lack of necessary social and emotional coping strategies lead them into a spiral of being victimized, being depressed and in turn, put them in a state of permanent anger. Such anger could build up over time, which may lead to their ideation of murder.


Gun control has been a subject of debate for many years in the United States, largely because of the school shooting incidents. The argument of people who are in favour of the ban is simple: If you don’t have access to a gun, it is impossible or at least harder to shoot people. Wike and Fraser (2009) found (unsurprisingly) that all school shooters have easy access to guns. (NOTE TO OBAMA: I think it’s time to ban guns in your country)


Catalano et al. (2004) found that schools that focus on improving students’ attachment and emotional investment to their schools have fewer incidents of aggression (physical, verbal and substance abuse, and violence). In addition, school size also has an effect. A study by Wilson (2004) found that the larger the school, the harder it is to nurture students’ attachment to it.


Some of you may be asking why there is no set risk-profile developed to spot potential school shooters. One reason is due to the rarity of these events. It is rather difficult to develop a reliable and generalisable risk-profile based on a small number of cases. In addition, a report by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) explained that profiling would lead to errors since a lot of students have the characteristics presented by school shooters.


Wike and Fraser (2009, p.167-168) have suggested six possible strategies to reduce the likelihood of school shootings:

  1. Strengthening school attachment: through extracurricular activities that promote students’ sense of belonging and reduce alienation and hostile behaviours.
  2. Reduce Social Aggression: through bullying prevention programmes and social skills training.
  3. Breakng down Codes of Silence: Schools should provide ways in which students can voice their concerns and disclose their problems anonymously.
  4. Establish resources for troubled and rejected students: Schools, families and communities should work together to develop strategies and gather resources to help troubled students. Mental health services should work alongside schools in order to help those who are depressed or have suicide ideation.
  5. Increase School Security: The prescence of a policeman or a security officer may deter students to act out their violent/ aggressive intentions. It can also increase the feelings of safety of the students and the staff.
  6. Improve communications within schools and between schools and agencies: Schools and relevant authorities should improve their ways of communication in order to help the school easily warn authorities about suspicious behaviours and/ or threats.

NB: Please contact me if you need copies of any research mentioned in this article. Click on the ‘Get in touch with me’ button on the top right-hand corner of this page.

Practical Tips to Make your Classroom Autism-Friendly


A few weeks ago, I wrote a list of  typical characteristics exhibited by students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In this post, I will provide a list of interventions and strategies to help teachers make their classroom Autism-friendly. As with all of my other articles, I must remind my dear readers that students with Autism are very different from each other, hence some of these strategies may not apply to all of them. My advice is to ‘personalize’ each of these strategies based on your students’ personalities, skill-set, social and academic abilities. It is also helpful to keep a written record of the interventions you have put in place and their effectiveness (or lack thereof). This will help you plan future interventions, and will also serve as evidence for annual reviews and/ or school inspections.


  • Define classroom rules as early as possible. Boundaries should be clear and concise. Make sure that all rules are fair to everyone in the classroom and that are any ‘special’ arrangements made for students with ASD are explained to mainstream students. Click here for a useful explanation of fairness.
  • Reinforce rules with pictures and words that are clearly visible to the students.
  • Establish a reward system. Rewards could be visible for everyone, or only to individual students.


(See also: Useful tips for teachers meeting students with ASD for the first time)



Students with Autism need to sit away from distractions as most of them find it difficult to ‘tune-out’ sensory stimulations.
school circletime

  • Keep them away from the classroom doors as they may be distracted by people coming in and out of the class (more than your average student).
  • Keep them away from windows – passers-by are distracting enough for others.
  • If you are in a mainstream school, especially primary school, your classroom may be full of colourful posters and displays which could be very distracting to students with ASD. Make sure you place students with ASD in a seat where they are not in front of any colourful displays.
  • Make sure that they sit next to a good role model. Being seated next to a student who is hyperactive, talkative or just generally unpredictable can be very unsettling to students with ASD.
  • Establish a permanent space or spot for your students with ASD would sit everytime your class have Circle time and Carpet time. This aids predictability.


  • Most people with Autism prefer visual representations, especially of timetables. It is useful to have individual Visual timetables for students with ASD. It helps them organize their day and it helps them predict what will happen next. Physically putting pictures on visual timetables at the start of every school day helps students prepare themselves for the day ahead. Below are a few examples of how visual timetables could look like (taken from  asdteacher):


  • Make sure that any change in the students’ or the class’ routine is represented in their timetables. Make sure that such changes are explained, too.
  • Non-verbal students may be helped by introducing PECS, or Picture Exchange Communication System. In simple terms, PECS is communication through pictures, i.e. students show their teachers a picture of what they want (e.g. the toilet) and the teacher honours that request.


  • Make sure that you have their attention before communicating with them. Make sure you call on their names everytime you 6a00d8357f3f2969e2017d3bc742e7970c-400wiwant to speak to them.
  • Do not demand eye contact. People with Autism struggle to give eye-contact for various different reasons. It has been suggested that quite a lot of them are not able to process Auditory and Visual stimuli simultaneously. Others found that eye-contact is avoided when people with ASD are thinking and/ or concentrating.
  • Use concrete language. Keep it simple and straight to the point.
  • Be careful with metaphors, sarcasm and irony. People with ASD have a very literal understanding of language (a good example of this is Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Coopervideos). Most of them may not get phrases like ‘Pull your socks up’, or ‘Toast the Bride’. I remember this one student of mine a few years back who was extremely puzzled when I told him to ‘Hold that Thought’.
  • Explain everything that has a double meaning.
  • Allow extra processing time. The National Autistic Society recommends practitioners to wait at least six seconds before repeating an instruction (Six-second rule).


  • Teachers, parents and students should all be involved in planning interventions. A healthy relationship between schools and parents are an excellent platform for success.
  • Keep a home-school diary to increase communication with parents and to ensure that interventions are followed-through.

More on Autism:

Vote for Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

Does my student have Autism? Common signs to keep an eye on

Autism is a spectrum of conditions which affect different areas of people’s lives. Since its manifestation is very different from one person to the next, it is very difficult to tell whether a child has it or not, especially in the classroom. Students who have Autism but is not diagnosed are often labelled as ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, or ‘odd’, amongst other things, which could lead to many different negative consequences such as bullying, and/ or depression. Therefore, it is important for teachers and teaching assistants to know what signs to look out for in order to determine whether a child needs to be referred to professionals to be assessed and diagnosed.

Below are a few common characteristics which majority of students with Autism present.Having worked with people of various ages (3-16 y/o) who have been diagnosed with Autism for a long time, I have noticed that they display some common behavioural patterns (AGAIN, REMEMBER THAT AUTISM IS A SPECTRUM OF CONDITIONS). I must warn you that this list is only a guideline and not an official diagnostic criteria. PLEASE NOTE that it is easy to go down the road of ‘home-based diagnosis’ and that teachers must remember not to do so.It is also important to remember that Autism manifests in different ways, therefore the magnitude of each characteristic, and the combination of characteristics WILL vary from one person to another. Students who exhibit these characteristics should be referred to the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (or equivalent). I always tell my colleagues at work that it is better to flag up a student as possibly having Autism (or another Special Need) and be proven wrong, than to ignore the signs and risk not getting the right help and interventions for the student.

Here is the list of characteristics/ behaviours:

  1. Makes very little or no eye-contact. Some children may give eye contact but would only look at you from the corner of their eyes.
  2. Can only understand questions (even simple ones such as what the weather is), when phrased in a specific way. If certain words or if the sentence structure is changed, despite the meaning staying the same, they will appear clueless  and may not give any response.
  3. Has difficulties imagining a situation or ‘putting themselves in other people’s shoes’.
  4. Takes spoken language literally and has a very limited understanding (if at all) of metaphors. If told ‘would you like to come and sit on the carpet?’ because it is carpet time, a students with Autism may respond with ‘No’.
  5. Instead of talking to people, they talk AT them. Conversations are led by them all the time, and the topics only revolve around the things that they like. They may lose interest  (or ignore you) if you speak about something that they do not find interesting.
  6. Finds it difficult to read facial expressions and emotions. 
  7. Displays inappropriate emotions. May laugh even if someone’s crying. May ignore someone’s cry for help.
  8. Does not obey your instructions unless their name is mentioned or unless you are talking to them face-to-face.
  9. Gets upset when routines change, e.g. when a lesson is cancelled, when a substitute teacher is taking the lesson or when moved seats.
  10. Repeats phrases they have heard, even inappropriate ones.
  11. Has little or no interest in seeking out other children to play with or interact with.
  12. Play with toys in an unusual way, e.g. instead of rolling cars to pretend they are real cars, students with Autism may line them up.
  13. May be overly fascinated by patterns or strong visual stimuli, e.g. brightly coloured poster on the corner of your classroom wall.
  14. Can be overly active or much less physically active than their same-age peers.
  15. Develpmental milestones may be achieved in a pattern that is not the same as everyone else– can be noticed when placing them on Profile Points level (England, UK).


More on Autism:

Vote for Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?