Children

Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in infants

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Posted on by Freya Gardon

Small child laying in bed looking about mobile above

A common question new parents ask us at The Quirky Kid Clinic is ‘What do we need to look out for in relation to an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?’. The following article will discuss what ASD is, the diagnosis of ASD, and what to look out for if you have developmental concerns for your child.

What is ASD?

ASD is a developmental disability characterised by marked differences in social interactions, deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication skills, restricted and repetitive interests/behaviours, and sensory sensitivities. It appears in infancy and the symptoms and severity differ from individual to individual.

The severity of an ASD presentation can range from ‘Level 1 requiring support’, through to ‘Level 3 requiring very substantial support’. When ASD is diagnosed it includes the inclusion or exclusion or an accompanying intellectual disability (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 52).

There is no known cure for ASD, and there is no current consensus amongst medical professionals on the precise cause of ASD. However what is clear is that quality individualised early intervention will support children to increase skill development, communication abilities and develop flexible adaptive behaviours (Dawson et al., 2010).

How is ASD diagnosed?

ASD has shown to be reliably diagnosed in a child as young as 18-24 months old (Charman et al., 2005). However, historically children have been more likely to have received a diagnosis closer to school age than during their toddler years (Mandell et al., 2005; Moore & Goodson, 2003).

Howlin & Moore (1997), who conducted a study of 1200 participants in the UK, reported that whilst the average age parents had any developmental concerns for their child was approximately 18 months old, for the majority of participants studied, the diagnosis did not actually occur until closer to the child turning 6 years old.

In response to ongoing research in the area of ASD diagnosis, in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics has now recommended that all children be screened for ASD at approximately 18-24 months old (Johnson & Myers, 2007).

In Australia, Williams et al. (2008) have concluded that currently, we have not matched initiatives occurring in other countries, such as the United States, in relation to early ASD diagnosis and early intervention support initiatives. However, the Autism CRC under the guidance of Professor Andrew Whitehouse and colleagues are currently developing a National ‘Best Practise’ Guideline document for the diagnosis of ASD within Australia. Whilst the document has not yet been finalised the draft submission cites the reliability of an ASD diagnosis for a child of 2 years old by a qualified professional. Although, it is still most common in Australia for children to receive a diagnosis between the ages of 3 and 5 years old (Whitehouse et al., 2017).

A reliable diagnostic process involves identifying the child’s strengths and weaknesses via a comprehensive formal assessment which includes a child observation, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2), a parent interview, such as the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), and cognitive / developmental testing such as an IQ test or a general developmental assessment, completed by an experienced practitioner (Charman, 2010; Whitehouse et al., 2017).

Following diagnosis, access to individualised early intervention with the aim of increasing developmental deficits, and decreasing challenging behaviours can make a huge difference in your ASD child’s developmental pathway.

Early Signs to look out for in infants

Identifying characteristics of ASD in a child younger than two years old can be difficult. Concerns may arise due to the ‘absence’ of behaviours considered to be ‘normal’ development and the ‘presence’ of behaviours considered to be ‘abnormal’ development.

Developmental milestones occur across age ranges so your child may be ahead or behind their peers with respect to milestones such as crawling, walking, and early verbal and nonverbal language development.

Listen to your ‘gut instinct’ as a parent. Consider seeking help from your Child Psychologist or Paediatrician if your 12-month-old infant is not demonstrating the following behaviours, either as an emerging skill that is continuing to progress, or once learnt, does not demonstrate these behaviours consistently across multiple environments (Boyd et al., 2010; Charman, 1998):

  • Responding to their name, or to the sound of a familiar voice, by turning their head and referencing the person who spoke or the direction from where the voice came from;
  • Referencing a familiar person with eye contact, such as smiling in reciprocation to being smiled at, at times such as feeding, and or when playing ‘peek a boo’ like games;
  • Demonstrating joint attention, such as referencing a favourite toy or food, then referencing a familiar person, then looking back towards the item of interest as if to say, “pass it to me”, or “can I have more”;
  • Babbling or making noises to get a familiar adults attention;
  • Developing an imitation repertoire such as waving and clapping, and or including the imitation of a familiar person’s facial expressions and movements;
  • Demonstrating reciprocal interest and enjoyment in play, such as tickles, ‘peek a boo’ like games and cause and effect toys, coordinating eye contact to indicate “more”;
  • Tracking objects or familiar people visually around the room and or following a familiar person’s gestures, such as pointing to an object;  
  • Coordinating gestures in order to communicate, such as pointing at an object to initiate a communication, or waving goodbye;
  • Positively responding to cuddling, and or reaching out to be picked up.

Remember that your child may, like all individuals, experience good days and bad days. Your child’s development will occur in spurts and patterns, and it is best to evaluate your child’s development by considering the consistency and frequency of these emerging skills.

If you feel a particular skill is lacking spend the time to practise the behaviour with your child, ensuring that you are providing attention and praise for your child’s attempts at demonstrating the behaviour. If the skill does not start to develop or your child responds negatively to your attempts to model and teach the skill then seek help from your Child Psychologist or Paediatrician.  

Seeking Intervention

Commence an individualised early intervention program as soon as possible. Whether your child has a formal diagnosis or not it is advisable to start intervention as soon as you suspect that your child’s development is not progressing at the level expected for their age rather than following a wait and see approach.

Here at The Quirky Kid Psychology Clinic, our experienced team of Psychologists are more than happy to meet with you to discuss any concerns you have in relation to your child’s development and behaviour.

We always start with a parent only consultation to ensure that we get a thorough understanding of your child’s developmental history and a sense of your families identity, history and cultural dynamics. From here we provide an individualised case plan dependent on your child and families needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.

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References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Boyd, B. A., Odom, S. L., Humphreys, B. P., & Sam, A. M. (2010). Infants and toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: Early identification and early intervention. Journal of Early Intervention, 32, 75-98.

Charman, T. (1998). Specifying the nature and course of the joint attention impairment in autism in the preschool years: Implications for diagnosis and intervention. Autism, 2, 61-79.

Charman, T. (2010). Developmental approaches to understanding and treating autism. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 62, 166-177.

Charman, T., Taylor, E., Drew, A., Cockerill, H., Brown, J. A., & Baird, G. (2005). Outcome at 7 years of children diagnosed with autism at age 2: Predictive validity of assessments conducted at 2 and 3 years of age and pattern of symptom change over time. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 500-513.

Dawson, G., Rogers, S., Munson, J., Smith, M., Winter, J., Greenson, J., & Varley, J. (2010). Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention for Toddlers With Autism: The Early Start Denver Model. Pediatrics, 125(1), e17–e23.

Howlin, P., & Moore, A. (1997). Diagnosis in autism: A survey of over 1200 patients in the UK. Autism, 1, 135-162.

Johnson, C., & Myers, S. (2007). Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 120, 1183–1215.

Mandell, D. S., Novak, M. M., & Zubritsky, C. D. (2005). Factors associated with age of diagnosis among children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 116, 1480-1486.

Moore, V., & Goodson, S. (2003). How well does early diagnosis of autism stand the test of time? Follow-up study of children assessed for autism at age 2 and development of an early diagnostic service. Autism, 7, 47-63.

Whitehouse, A.J.O., Evans, K., Eapen, V., Prior, M., & Wray, J. (2017). The diagnostic process for children, adolescents and adults, referred for assessment of autism spectrum disorder in Australia: A national guideline (Draft version for community consultation). Autism CRC Ltd.

Williams, K., MacDermott, S., Ridley, G., Glasson, E. J., & Wray, J. A. (2008). The prevalence of autism in Australia. Can it be established from existing data?. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 44, 504-510.

 

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Building Social and Emotional Learning during the School Holidays

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

child inside a backpack. social and emotional skills for kids

The school holiday period can be a great time to reflect on the last term, prepare for upcoming changes and review skills that need to be improved.

Returning to school is typically experienced with mixed emotions. For some parents, it is a welcome relief after what feels like a very long holiday. For others, the return to school signals the end of a carefree, relaxing break and there can be feelings of sadness and/or anxiety associated with the return to routine and the academic and social demands associated with the school.

Children and young people equally experience a range of feelings about the return to school. For some, there is great excitement about starting a new school, seeing friends or perhaps finding out who their new teacher will be. For others, there may be sadness about the end of the holidays or anxiety about a raft of possible concerns such as making friends in their new class or coping with the work/homework requirements.

A tried and test way to prepare for changes and transitions is by focusing on your child’s social and emotional adjustment.

Tips to Help Your Child Settle Into Term 3

Whilst a lot of focus is placed on the academic tasks associated with school, paying particular attention to a child’s social and emotional adjustment over the coming weeks/months is also critical. Below are 3 tips to get you started:

  • Make time to check in with your child about how they are feeling and coping with the school year so far. It’s important to really listen to what your child is saying. To do this, begin by just repeating back or paraphrasing what your child is telling you. Where your child is experiencing uncertainty try to normalise this and remind your child that it can take a few weeks to really settle in. It is not uncommon for children (and parents) to express disappointment about a new teacher they may have been assigned or about the discovery that they don’t have as many close friends in their class. Rather than jumping to solve the problem for your child, build resilience by encouraging your child to come up with some ideas about ways to help themselves cope in such a situation.
  • It can often be a good idea to make time to check in with your child’s teacher as soon as terms resume. Whilst you will, of course, wish to discuss their educational strengths/weaknesses, also address how your child is feeling about their progress and to highlight anything (e.g. camp, homework) that may be worrying your child.  Make sure you also discuss your child’s social skills with the teacher. If they are struggling with friends, ask your child’s teacher how the school can help in facilitating friendships. If your child has had any ongoing incidents of bullying/teasing it is critical to mention this again and ask how they can help to ensure that such incidents don’t occur again during the next terms. Equally, if your child has a history of seeking attention from others in a class by misbehaving, check on how this is been handled at school. Teachers will undoubtedly find your insights into what works and what doesn’t work at home very useful.
  • Encourage friendships and further consolidate social skills in by organising playdates or outings with any new classmates made throughout the term. Whilst children often request existing friends, it can be worthwhile trying to extend friendship networks by inviting new children over. This is not only good for your child but can also help to expand social support networks for you as a parent. In secondary school, it is equally important to encourage friendships by providing opportunities for your son/daughter to have friends over or by offering to drive them to a movie etc. This not only helps foster friendships but also gives parents valuable insights into the type of friendships that your child is building.

Why social-emotional learning is so important

The importance of focusing on the social and emotional well being of children is becoming increasingly acknowledged. In the current climate of increasing rates of mental illness in young people and concern over youth suicide rates, the NSW government has reportedly decided to tackle the problem more aggressively by proposing to adopt a more preventative approach in addressing such issues. The Government’s decision to begin at the grassroots level and start better-educating school-aged children (from Kindergarten) about mental health issues is welcome news to everyone here at Quirky Kid.

The changes to the Personal Development, Health, Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus which are apparently due for implementation from 2020 include a more comprehensive effort to address social-emotional learning and mental health issues from primary school onwards. Beginning in Kindergarten, it is proposed that children will begin with simple social-emotional concepts such as feelings and building relationships with others, but as they progress to higher grades the aim will be to address important issues such as coping with success and failure, overcoming adversity, grief and death, coping with controlling behaviour in others, domestic violence, and substance abuse.

Helping Children to Build Important Social-Emotional Skills

Equipping children to cope with the social and emotional demands of school fosters increased coping and resilience skills. The evidence suggests that well developed social and emotional skills are both protective and helpful. Strong social and emotional skills in children not only predict fewer behavioural problems in the classroom but they are also related to positive academic outcomes and improved school performance  (Myles-Pallister, Hassan, Rooney, & Kane, 2014; January, Casey & Paulson, 2011; Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011)

The government and other mental health agencies hope that by tackling such topics in school and by better-educating children about mental health, steps will be made to not only demystify such issues but will crucially equip children with a more effective toolkit for managing difficult feelings. It is further hoped that lessons learned at school will have a lasting impact as children become adults.

How Can Quirky Kid help develop your child’s social-emotional learning skills?

At The  Quirky Kid Clinic, we are strong advocates for prevention and early intervention when it comes to children’s mental health issues. Prevention, is, of course, the preferred approach. In our experience, providing intervention to children and families before problems become too entrenched can often be the key to success. Where issues have been developing for some time, it can be much harder to address problems and for both the child and family such situations can feel insurmountable.

The Best of Friends® gives children the knowledge skills and confidence to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, develop and maintain friendships and make good decisions. Designed for children aged 7 to 11, the program teaches these critical skills to children in an age-appropriate and practical way.

So embrace this potentially challenging time with your son/daughter and remember children tend to take the lead from their parents. With this in mind, try to model calm, brave behaviour whilst at the same time keeping the doors of communication wide open. By adopting these strategies your child should feel a little braver about adapting to their new classroom, teacher and school expectations.

Term 3 Social and Emotional Learning Programs for Children

If you are looking for a more extensive approach to preparing your child for Term 3, book now for our The Best of Friends® holiday and Term 3 Programs.

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References:

Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., & Schellinger, K.B. (2011).  The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions.  Child Development, 82(1), 405-432

January, A.M., Casey, R.J., & Paulson, D. (2011). A Meta-Analysis of Classroom-Wide Interventions to Build Social Skills: Do They Work?.  School Psychology Review, 40(2), 242-256

Myles-Pallister, J.D., Hassan, S., Rooney, R.M. & Kane, R.T. (2014).  The efficacy of the enhanced Aussie Optimum Positive Thinking Skills Program in improving social and emotional learning in middle childhood.  Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 909.

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Raising Readers: Parenting with Books

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

We all recognise the benefits of reading. At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we’ve put our pens to paper and compiled a list of all the subtle social, emotional and language boosts a simple ‘bedtime story’ can have. We also prepared a step-by-step guide on how to build a healthy and manageable reading routine for your family!

The Benefits of Reading

  • Reading is a bonding experience. Reading with your child helps to nurture your relationship with them. It’s an opportunity to spend exclusive time together without distractions or external pressures. Richardson et al. (2015) found that reading with your child helps them to feel more secure and bonded with their parent as well as helps children absorb new information faster.
  • Reading builds language skills. Children who are exposed to a great volume of rich language are given a head start academically and develop stronger language skills (Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder, 2013). This ultimately impacts not only their learning and cognitive development, but also positively influences a child’s communication skills.
  • Reading builds coping skills. Setting aside time to read with you child provides a regular forum to contemplate and work through challenges. Reading, looking at pictures and pointing things out provides an opportunity for your child to express themselves as they relate to the characters in the story. This promotes healthy relationships and provides positive ideas and ways to express oneself. For example, a child transitioning to school may benefit from reading a story about another child starting school as walking through the experience in someone else’s shoes can help normalise their own feelings, understand their experiences and build up a set of coping strategies for these experiences.
  • Reading is relaxing. iPads, TVs, phones, computer games; it is often impossible to compete with the whizzing, whirring, distracting nature of these devices. Finding time in your day to sit down with your child is a crucial opportunity for quiet reflection and mindfulness. Think of it as a way of “tuning in” as opposed to “tuning out”.
  • Reading teaches empathy. Being able to share and understand the feelings of others is a skill crucial to building our social relationships. A study out of Cambridge University (Nikolajeva, 2013) found that reading books about fictional characters can provide excellent training for young people in developing and practising empathy. Through reading, a child experiences the feelings of another person in different situations, which helps them develop an understanding of how they feel and think. These skills, when nurtured, help the child to show empathy in real life situations.

So, we now know the benefits, but how can we put this into practice? Here are some pointers that our Psychologists here at Quirky Kid recommend for people looking to transition storytime from a rare occasion to an unmissable part of their daily routine.

Building your Reading Routine

  • Timing is crucial. Set reading time to about 30 minutes before the child’s bedtime. Recommended time for a reading session is between 10 and 30 uninterrupted minutes depending on your child’s age and attention span, but follow your child’s interests. 
  • Get comfy. Make sure your reading space is comfortable and that your child can see, hear and respond easily. Limit the distractions available around you. 
  • Be prepared. For kids who have trouble sitting still, provide things to keep their little hands busy. Providing paper and crayons to draw with or toys to look at can help, whilst still listening to the story. 
  • If you don’t like it, ditch it. Select a captivating text that will keep both you and your child engaged. Don’t insist on reading something that you or your child are not enjoying. Everyone tastes are different after all! 
  • Encourage discussion at every turn. Start with the cover: what do they think the book will be about? At each page: what do they think might happen next? After the book: what happened here? So many lessons can be learned from these mini-recaps! 
  • Let them try. If your child has begun school, help them to sound out words phonetically and occasionally point to some sight words that they may recognise. 
  • Don’t try to compete. Very few children, given the choice of watching cartoons, playing games or reading a book, are going to choose books – at least, not until they’ve developed a love of reading. Set a cut-off time for technology and give the child the choice of hearing a story or reading aloud. 
  • Make it fun. Be as animated as you can whilst reading. This will add to the enjoyment and imagination that goes along with reading, especially for the younger children. Adjust your pace, tone and volume to the story.

Fostering a positive reading environment in the home can provide many benefits for you, your child and your family. Reading with your child not only develops their language and literacy skills, but also helps them develop many foundational skills that will support them throughout their life, including resilience and empathy skills. Setting aside thirty minutes a day to make storytime a regular and enjoyable part of your family routine is one of the best and most valuable times to raise a reader and connect with your child.

For more information about how to support your child and their social, emotional and learning needs consider The Best of Friends Program or  contact us with any questions.

For great titles, visit https://therapeuticresources.com.au/

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References:

  • Fernald, A., Marchman, V. A., & Weisleder, A. (2013). SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Developmental science, 16(2), 234-248.
  • Nikolajeva, M. (2013). “Did you Feel as if you Hated People?”: Emotional Literacy Through Fiction. New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, 19(2), 95-107.
  • Richardson, M. V., Miller, M. B., Richardson, J. A., & Sacks, M. K. (2015). Literary bags to encourage family involvement. Reading Improvement, 52(3), 126-132.
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Podcast: How to Help Children Cope with Bad News

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Poscast on Helping Kids to make friends by Quirky Kid

We’d love to share our latest podcast recorded by Dr Kimberley O’Brien for a local magazine with you. This weeks topic is helping children cope with bad news.

Quirky Kid has produced a full range of creative and engaging Therapeutic Tools.


 

[00:00:00-00:00:32] Dr. Kimberley O’Brien introduces strategies for parents to help kids cope with traumatic news.

Hello Bonnie. It’s Dr. Kimberley O’Brien here. I’m auto-recording in Japan, so I hope there won’t be any background distractions. I’ll talk for five minutes on strategies to help kids cope when they’ve seen a tragedy, or had some sort of unfortunate event. I’ll have some tips for parents as well – I’ll fill you in on that towards the end of the interview.


 

[00:00:33-00:02:27] Parents shouldn’t shield children from all forms of adversity. Instead, teach them coping strategies for stressful events, since those are an inevitable part of life. 

The first thing you said was about helping kids to deal constructively with bad news, rather than sweeping it under the carpet. I agree that it’s a healthier approach, because it’s really setting them up for life. It’s giving them the skills to overcome adversity, without feeling like a parent is required to shield them from something that’s not appropriate for kids to hear.

From a young age kids are learning how to overcome physical injuries. Like toddlers grazing knees – they hop up and brush themselves off, and then life goes on. They can cope with those sorts of little incidents. And if we do shield the kids from all adversity, then they don’t learn the coping skills they need in certain situations, like if they are not good enough for a sports team, or if they’re excluded from a game at school. Teaching them coping skills is like teaching them life skills that help them to be more resilient. And it gives them confidence to be able to overcome issues moving forward. That’s part of healthy psychological development.

Imagine adults that haven’t learned to overcome adversity. They’re more likely to react negatively, perhaps need a lot more support, and need to take time off work if they haven’t learnt to cope with life’s issues that will come our way. That’s just part of life, isn’t it? Kids will have to change schools, or they may lose a pet or loved one. That stress is a part of living, so it’s something that kids need to learn to cope with.


 

[00:02:27-00:04:08] Encourage children to express their feelings in words, rather than through actions. Praise them for expressing themselves clearly, and empathise with them verbally. When something bad happens, let kids write down questions in a booklet, so you can answer those questions when you feel prepared to remain calm during the discussion. It’s a way to model good coping skills. 

The best way to do this, for parents, is to prepare for question time if it’s something that’s happened for a young person, like the loss of a pet. Have a question booklet that kids can record some questions in. And then make sure you feel prepared emotionally to answer each one of those questions. When I say prepared emotionally, I mean that children often take their cues from their parents. If parents are very emotional, kids will often follow suit and become quite emotional. So being prepared to model good coping skills as a parent is important. Say “these things happen but we will get through it”. Use words to explain those feelings.

Sometimes kids will use actions or behaviour to express their emotions. For example, they may feel disappointed, or upset that they didn’t make the sports team, and they may throw their sports bag across the room. But what we want kids to do is to use their words, and say “I feel so disappointed, I’m so jealous that my best friend was selected and I wasn’t”. Parents should then use verbal praise to say “I’m so glad to hear you express yourself so clearly, now I understand how you feel”. Parents can empathise with young people: “I’ve felt that way before, this must be hard”. Empathising is also part of helping kids to express their feelings in words, rather than in actions.


 

[00:04:08-00:05:01] When it comes to family trauma, such as a separation or a tragedy, it’s better to get professional help because they can remain objective and provide the family with support.   

Just a final point now, for parents on how to help kids through family separation. It’s good to encourage them to see a psychologist, such as someone at the Quirky Kid Clinic or a school counselor, to help them normalize those feelings. Often if parents are involved in situations, like if there’s been a tragedy or trauma within the family, it’s better to get professional help. A professional can remain objective and provide kids and parents with stats on how often these things occur, how long it may take kids to recover, and what the phases of grief and loss may be. It’s good to have an expert when dealing with family separation or similar situations.


 

[00:05:01-00:05:58] When a tragedy happens, stick to the basic facts when relaying the news to the child. Avoid delving into the causes, or exposing them to distressing images, to avoid more of an emotional response. 

And finally, a tip about how to relay the news to a child. Say it was something that happened in the world, like a tsunami. We often get rising referrals when there’s been a trauma, like a tsunami, and kids have seen it on TV. It’s best to switch off the news when there’s lots of visual, distressing images for kids to catch. Parents have more control when they’re giving the news to the young person. Stick with the facts: what happened, how it happened, when it happened. Avoid going into the whys, because that’s often going to trigger more of an emotional response.


 

[00:05:58-00:06:50] Apart from verbally expressing themselves, it can also be useful for kids to use art or visual props to talk about how they felt before, during, and after an incident. 

I’m going to wrap up now. To help kids deal and process emotions, help them to use their words to understand those feelings, or to seek help from a professional. Sometimes kids will express their feelings using art, so give them an opportunity to draw what happened. Or, they can select images, such as from our “Face It” cards, which are feelings cards with a whole bunch of different facial expressions. Children can use them to talk about what they felt before, during, and after an incident. Visual props can be very helpful.

Bonnie, it’s been a pleasure to answer your questions today, and I look forward to talking to you again in the future. I’m Dr. Kimberley O’Brien from the Quirky Kid Clinic. That’s www.quirkykid.com.au. And keep in touch. Thank you.

5 Tips on Building Entrepreneurship Skills in Teens

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

We have had the privilege of working with some amazing adolescents over the years, and as a team, we have noticed how creative, connected and educated many of our youth are. 

More adolescents are walking through our doors armed with ideas on where they want to head in life, with strong ideals of managing a future work-life balance, being productive with their time and helping others along the way. Our youth are at an age where they are masters of digital communication and used to working in collaborative, team-based contexts where multitasking and connecting through social media has just become the day to day norm – they are young entrepreneurs

At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we are committed to harnessing the strengths of those we see in the clinic, and often we are talking with families about how to develop the entrepreneurial skills of our youth who are growing up and responding to their world of connectivity, creativity and innovation.

Here are five tips to foster entrepreneurial skills in your adolescent:

1 – Build Resilience

Becoming a young entrepreneur by its nature requires a great deal of resilience. To have the courage to try out something new and manage setbacks and failures in the process requires the strength of character. 

Building resilience in children starts from an early age, with children learning how to delay gratification around the preschool years. This ability to understand and feel comfortable with situations in which rewards take time and effort is one of the first building blocks for resilience in our children. 

While resilience skills typically develop with age and social interactions, resilience can be fostered and directly taught. Some helpful ways of promoting resilience amongst our adolescents include: 

  • helping them develop problem-solving skills,
  • ensuring they feel socially connected with peers and their community and embracing their differences. 

With adolescence comes a desire to be independent and providing age appropriate independence with clear and consistent limits helps adolescents develop resilience. Eric Greitens (2015), author and Rhodes Scholar wrote:

Entrepreneurs jump on the wild roller coaster ride of life where the tracks haven’t yet been fully built. They’d have it no other way. They’re happy that way — with the wind in their hair.”

and being resilient is a necessary quality to develop and manage the ride ahead.

2 – Harness Creativity and Personal Experiences

All too often, we as parents and carers can focus on developing compliant children. It comes with the territory of helping our children conform to rules in school, manage their time and activities and be part of a happily functioning family system. Sometimes we can lose sight of just being a kid and the creative and unique ways our children often see the world. 

Entrepreneurs need to be creative, seeing opportunity where others have not and taking risks where others don’t dare. Bearing in mind your child’s interests, passions and creative outlets can really help foster their positioning to become entrepreneurs. Take the time yourself to be interested in your child and schedule plenty of time for them to fill with their own interests. Utilising and reframing personal experiences can also be valuable. 

Take Bridgette Veneris, the 10-year old Melbourne girl who won the littleBIGidea competition for her invention of an easy-to-use adhesive bandage dispenser (Charpentier-Andre, 2016). Bridgette utilised her experiences while in a hospital recovering from leukaemia to develop a sticky bandage that was quicker and easier to peel off. Ideas and inventions can come from unexpected places, even negative experiences, with the right support and interest.

3 – Develop a Growth Mindset

Children are becoming increasingly exposed to the concept that our abilities and capabilities are not fixed but rather, malleable and changeable. 

This growth mindset is becoming part of our children’s language in the educational setting. Children are learning to swap their “I can’t do it” attitude for the “I can’t do it yet, but with effort and support I can!” mindset. Recent advances in neuroscience indicate that our brain has an amazing ability to change in response to situations, attitudes and support. 

Parents and carers are positioned to support children’s development of this growth mindset. Entrepreneurs succeed with a growth mindset – they need to be flexible on the start-up roller coaster ride, learn from experiences and attribute failures to things that they can change. Parents can foster a growth mindset in their adolescents by encouraging them to problem solve issues that arise, take a flexible approach with failures and embrace the learning process involved, encourage taking a leap of faith with ideas and praising effort, persistence and self-reflection. Companies such as Google, Apple, Disney and Amazon are known for fostering a culture of curiosity, innovation and risk taking and valuing the growth-mindset of their employees.

4 – Call in the Community

Helping your child connect with those around them that have similar interests as well as complimentary skills will help position them for success in making their ideas not only a reality but a sustainable one. Entrepreneurs not only need great ideas, but they also need to be able to bring ideas to fruition and ensure the scalability and longevity of their enterprises, and having a team around them to provide backing, guidance and reflection is important. 

Building a team and support network around your adolescent is an essential ingredient for the making of an entrepreneur. Some ways parents can help is by providing their adolescent with guidance, particularly on their experiences with running a business and managing success and failure, helping their adolescent link in with an appropriate mentor and fostering a network of like-minded adolescents. Adolescents need to know their parents have their backs, even in times of challenge and failure.  

5 – Provide Guidance around the Practicalities

To become an entrepreneur requires knowledge around the logistics of how a business works, from understanding how to set up a bank account all the way to the knowing about the commercial guidelines and laws surrounding your business idea and model. 

Parents and carers can share their business experiences and facilitate the growth of financial literacy by stepping their adolescent through the processes of setting up bank accounts and navigating business structures. It can be helpful to call on mentors or link your child into courses that may be helpful for their business, e.g.,. Commercial law or coding courses. Of course, parents and carers are also positioned well to help their adolescent understand and learn about self-care and balancing the demands of what comes with becoming an entrepreneur with those of being a child.

Our youth are growing up in an environment which is thriving on connectivity, creativity, and innovation, which for many adolescents, provides a perfect base from which to encourage their strengths and foster their entrepreneurial skills.

Do you want to help your child excel in their field? 

Here at Quirky Kid, we run a program to do just this, and it’s called Power Up! Run both at clinics and as a unique online program, Power Up! takes all the essential psychological techniques used by elite performers and makes them accessible to children through the teaching of Performance Psychology.

References

Greitens, E. (2015). Why resilience is the key ingredient for successful entrepreneurship. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243910

Charpentier-Andre, S. (2016). Melbourne girl NASA-bound after creating bandage dispenser while undergoing chemotherapy. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/bridgette-veneris-invents-adhesive-bandage-dispenser/8006780

Robinson, J. (2014). The 7 traits of successful entrepreneurs. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230350 

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