It’s very, very hard to learn new things when your brain won’t let you focus and won’t let your body be still. ADHD is a syndrome that is brain-based and highly genetic. It’s also a syndrome that gets bandied around lots – so much so that I think many teachers, and perhaps judges and legal representatives, roll their eyes when they hear about it.
Being able to attend well is yet another feature of our remarkable brains. Paying attention is something we take for granted when it works well. Without having a brain that can attend well, it gets harder to get started on a job, it can be difficult to keep focused, it can be hard to sustain effort, and very tricky to hold things in your memory long enough to work on them. Attention can also have implications for our ability to manage our emotions and frustrations and to regulate or give ourselves feedback. All of these brain functions depend on parts of the brain being structured and connected properly, both in physical structure plus in the ways that the brain’s chemicals move between and around these parts of the brain.
Some kids are slow to warm up in company. Some are content without too much interaction with others. Other kids live in fear of having to speak or interact with others. It’s important that we understand the differences and preferences of children before we go rushing in to make them “come out of themselves” and be the “life of the party”.
From very early in a child’s life, we can get a sense of that child being a “people person” or not. Some bubs love the smiles, noises and interactions from other happy faces. Others are less sociable, perhaps even turning away from others and burying their face in Mum or Dad’s shoulder. Some infants will need lots of social stimulation and love time spent with others. Still others will be somewhere in between and once they have warmed up and feel secure they will turn out of their parent’s armpit and smile at others.
FAT FILE Syndrome… a sad and potentiality dangerous symptom of working with complex clients. A file full of assessments and reports that lead nowhere; expensive and wordy documents that are worth nothing to the client or the client’s team when it comes to creating the much-needed outcomes.
I’m determined to make assessments meaningful which is a direct result of years of working with young people in complex situations and the reams of paper generated about them. Here are 5 characteristics of useful psychological and behavioural assessments and reports that I believe Health, Forensic and Human service personnel should consider, indeed demand…
Language specialists believe that swearing has been around since the dawn of human time. In my thinking, if something has been with human beings for so long, it must be serving a jolly important purpose.
The thing is, though, that researchers are now telling us that profanity is on the rise. Swearing and foul language can make other people feel upset or attacked, too. So, can we, or should we, immunise children against swearing?
At some stage in each of our lives we will experience the loss of someone to…. death. Despite death having been a part of human experience for all of documented history, it still feels like it is such a taboo subject to talk about. This sense of wanting to avoid the topic is largely, I think, because it is one that comes with BIG feelings and, perhaps, with questions that even the smartest grown up may not be able to answer in easy ways. All of this complexity and avoidance of big feelings can mean that, often, people do not get around to talking to their children about death and dying at all. Children can get thrown in the emotional deep-end without some understanding of what is going on for them and for others when someone dies.
Grief is often used in psychology to talk about any loss – moving school, losing contact with a friend, or even losing a favourite toy or changing houses. Adults may be a little more in tune with this kind of loss for children and find it easier to speak openly and offer support, strategies and distraction. When it comes to talking about loss due to death, we need to be just as open, sensitive, and supportive.
Resilience. We hear a lot about resilience in children and about the idea of being able to raise children who bounce back after tough times. These days, when I ask parents what they want for their children, they are less likely to say that they want them to have a good job, marry well or “stay out of trouble”. They are more likely to say that they want their child to be more resilient – to rebound from disappointments, stresses and traumas, to get along with others, and to respect themselves.
Obviously, parenting is an important part of raising a resilient child. To be proactive, work as a team, be consistent, and use the most positive forms of discipline is more likely to breed resilience in children. These things are good to know….but….
We have all likely experienced the agony of a broken heart and all found ourselves asking “why does it hurt so much?” Humans are predominantly social creatures. Even the most introverted among us can still crave intimate connection. Our survival depends on being part of a group so it is not surprising that when we feel like we are excluded, rejected or someone is no longer a friend, we get strong signals in our body that can be quite alarming.
As infants and throughout our upbringing, we humans depend on secure relationships to meet, at first our basic need for food, warmth and shelter and, later, our more complex social, emotional needs. It is well known that healthy parenting plays a part in developing adjustment. Kids with a secure base from which to explore the world and explore other relationships are generally better adjusted than those without that secure base.
I have a cloudy memory of what I think was my first day of school. The memory is assisted by a first-day photo of me in a school uniform that I did eventually grow into. I remember my school bag feeling almost larger than me. My hair was cut short, especially for the purpose of being school-ready. I don’t remember if my mother was there. I have a feeling I may have been walked to school by my neighbour who was a year older than me so had a good 12 months of school experience up his sleeve. I remember buildings being huge, smells (lots of smells – gestetner fumes, stale apples, chalk dust), and meeting new friends. I distinctly remember being very surprised to learn that one of my new friends had just become an aunty – surely being an aunty was something only grown-ups could do!
I’m always delighted to learn about the things that grab a specific child’s attention and, more often than not, it’s not the same stuff that bothers or upsets grownups. Adults need to be wary of making anxious assumptions about how children may or may not cope.
In the holiday period here in Australia, many young people get casual work. For many, that first causal job flipping burgers, wiping tables, or swiping groceries at the checkout will be their introduction to life in the workplace. The transition to work is a really important part of human development.
Back in the day when I was learning to be a psychologist, I was exposed to the work of a theorist called Erik Erickson. Apart from having a cool, DJ-type name, Erickson proposed a stage theory of human development that extended beyond childhood and well into the adult years. For Erikson, getting work was a sign that a person was moving from the stage of their identity formation through to a stage of developing intimacy. Crucial in his theory about a child becoming an adult was the concept of a child growing to know themselves and then being able to commune or relate with others. Working and the relationships the young adult has with others at work were, to Erikson, very important to their ability to have healthy adult relationships and avoid feelings of isolation.
Do you become one of those grown-ups at Christmas?
Yes, it’s that time of the year! The time when we may be lucky enough to get some time off work and spend it with family. It’s kind of ironic, that the very things we take time out to celebrate at Christmas are often the things we let bring out the worst in us.