One of our most popular resources is the Quirky Kid Pack, which contains 11 resources for a range of applications. Each tool has been carefully designed by our team to assist clinicians in building social, communication, and self-awareness skills with their clients.
Their use and application have grown significantly since they were first published and we love hearing from our customers around the world about how they implement the resources in their clinic.
Recently, we were contacted by Sarah Scully, a Mental Health Clinician/Behavioural Consultant with the Developmental Disabilities Mental Health Services in British Columbia, Canada. Sarah reached out to share her experience in using the Quirky Kid pack. Her reflection highlights how this resource can be used with a diverse range of clients and settings.
Sarah’s team is made up of psychiatric nurses, mental health clinicians, behavioural consultants, art therapists and occupational therapists. They provide mental health services to people with an IQ below 70 and who live with a psychiatric illness or challenging behaviour.
Read Sarah’s case study:
I am fairly new to the Developmental Disabilities Mental Health Services team in Canada and had to deliver a presentation to my senior staff members, with the goal to work on our youth team as a counsellor, I shared my secret weapon…Quirky Kids resources.
I own and love the Quirky Kid Pack and presented on how I use these resources with my client population; adults with intellectual disabilities (ID).
I shared how I use ‘Face It Cards’ to help my clients expand on their emotional literacy. Somewhat similar to young children, many of my ID clients have the basics; mad, sad, happy and not much else. These cards help expand their emotional vocabulary and provide a fun way to notice the nuances of different facial expressions. In learning new feelings and emotions my clients are able to start relating to and naming their physiological experiences. By getting to understand what my client is feeling, I can support them and the people around them to enhance their mental health. When a facial expression comes up that a client can not name, we discuss the possibilities of what the person is thinking or feeling, making it a great way to develop empathy.
I also told my tea how I use ‘Face It Cards’ in a projective way, helping my clients deal with a history of trauma, abuse or loss. I use the cards to enable my clients to speak about the picture they see, rather than themselves. There is often hidden gems of truth in the stories created by my clients, which can be used therapeutically. I have successfully used the cards to encourage conversation about past experiences, which can open up a dialogue and courage clients to share their stories and feelings.
There is often hidden gems of truth in the stories created by my clients, which can be used therapeutically. I had one client who expressed, for nearly every card, “someone said something bad to her”, or “someone must have said something nice to her”. This encouraged a conversation about her past experiences of being bullied as a child, which related to her current feelings of being unheard by her support team today. These patterns can open up a new dialogue and encourage clients to share their stories and feelings.
I love to use ‘Tell Me a Story Cards’as Icebreakers. When meeting a new client, it helps to build trust and rapport while sharing information that you wouldn’t normally share, like the farthest you ever swam! Poor self-esteem and negative self-talk is something I commonly see in the people I serve. I use the ‘Tell Me a Story Cards’ with clients to reinforce their accomplishments and obstacles they have overcome.
Finally, I like to use the ‘Just Like When Cards’ as social stories. Often, adults with disabilities have little in the way of social connection and may not understand social norms and behaviour. These cards are a good way to explore social scenarios while talking through their personal experiences or making up stories based on the images. These cards also encourage empathy for others.
One of the best things about these amazing resources is that, although they are meant for children, they are not immature. They translate extremely well to adults with intellectual disabilities. So often, this population is infantilized and treated as permanent children as they struggle to establish their own independence as adults with extra support needs. The Quirky Kid cards are a great way to meet my clients in a developmentally appropriate but respectful way.
I am happy to say that the presentation was a success and I was offered the position. I am looking forward to kids aged 12-19 and hoping to get more use out of my ‘Likes of Youth Cards’!
In a society that is increasingly more technologically focussed, a common question asked at the Quirky Kid Clinic centres on “does my child spend too much time playing video games?” The following article will discuss what Gaming Disorders are, how one is diagnosed with a Gaming Disorder, and what to do if your child is struggling.
What are Gaming Disorders?
Although video games have been entertaining us all for decades, the notion of a Gaming Disorder has only been formally recognised recently. In June 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released their newest revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The ICD-11 lists Gaming Disorders under the section‘ disorders due to addictive behaviours’. Previously, Gaming Disorders were only considered as an area warranting further research in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychological Association, 2013).
Characterised by recurrent and persistent game playing behaviour (both online and offline formats), an individual with this disorder would give gaming increasing priority over their daily life, to the extent that it impairs other areas of functioning.
Regarding prevalence, Gaming Disorders are more common in males than females (Wartberg, Kriston, & Thomasius, 2017). Though it can present at all ages, most of the research highlights adolescents and young adults as being more impacted (Wartberg et al., 2017).
How are Gaming Disorders diagnosed?
To be diagnosed with a Gaming Disorder, the following symptoms need to be observed over a 12 month period:
Impaired control over gaming practices (preoccupied, withdrawal symptoms when gaming is not possible)
Increasing priority is given to gaming over other areas of life, and other interests. (For example, stop engaging in social activities, other hobbies or experiencing sleep disturbances)
Continuing to game despite negative repercussions (WHO, 2018).
This is not to suggest that children cannot play video games or shouldn’t enjoy some screen time on the iPad; it can be a useful tool to develop hand-eye-coordination, teach problem-solving skills or relieve stress (Granic, Lobel, & Engels, 2014; Li, Chen, & Chen, 2016). Likewise, it is important to reflect on the changes that have occurred in ‘gaming culture’ over the decades. Typically speaking, games developed today are not just more interactive and complex, but also more accessible for consumers. There is also a social aspect to it; often games can connect players not just to friends but others across the world. When making a diagnosis, a professional will also consider the context for each individual child.
Awareness around Gaming Disorders is more about making ourselves mindful of what too much focus could lead to. As a parent, listen to your gut instinct in these situations. Ask yourself, has my child’s mood changed negatively from continuous play? Do you feel like they need to cut down the time/frequency of play? Are they losing social connections? Is their school work suffering without other explanation?’
While only a small proportion of individuals who engage in gaming activities will go on to develop a disorder, it is important to check in with your child as to how much time they are investing in their gaming. Rather than telling your child, they cannot play (in turn making it more desirable), you may want to check in and see whether they feel in control of their gameplay.
If gaming appears to be having a significant effect on your child’s mental health and/or other areas of life, it is important to start intervention as soon as possible rather than waiting for a major incident to occur. Evidence-based intervention for Gaming Disorders recommend a cognitive behavioural approach, including monitoring time spent gaming while simultaneously addressing the thoughts that maintain game play (King, Delfabbro, & Griffiths, 2010).
Gaming Disorders may also be a potential warning sign for other areas requiring intervention (anxiety, depression, bullying, etc).
Here at The Quirky Kid 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.
American Psychiatric Association. (2001). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American psychologist, 69(1), 66. doi: 10.1037/a0034857
King, D. L., Delfabbro, P. H., & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Cognitive behavioural therapy for problematic video game players: Conceptual considerations and practice issues. Journal of CyberTherapy and Rehabilitation, 3(3), 261-273.
Li, L., Chen, R., & Chen, J. (2016). Playing action video games improves visuomotor control. Psychological science, 27(8), 1092-1108. doi: 10.1177/0956797616650300
Wartberg, L., Kriston, L., & Thomasius, R. (2017). The Prevalence and Psychosocial Correlates of Internet Gaming Disorder: Analysis in a Nationally Representative Sample of 12- to 25-Year-Olds. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 114(25), 419–424. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0419
World Health Organisation (2018). International Classification of Diseases, 11th Revision (ICD-11). Retrieved 21 August, 2018, from https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en
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
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.
Greatness comes in many forms and is quite subjective depending on an individual’s age and abilities. For a child overcoming anxiety, greatness may be winning a public speaking competition or finding the courage to confront a new fear. For others, greatness may reveal itself through academic or sporting achievements, kindness, creativity or thoughtful leadership. In any case, discovering one’s unique strengths or passions is easier with the help of a caring coach, an attentive teacher, or a dedicated parent.
According to a recent survey of Australian students in Year 4 to 12, parents and teachers are the greatest influencers of a student’s sense of satisfaction and fulfillment (State of Victoria, Dept of Education and Training, 2017). Therefore, it is essential for parents and teachers to give sound advice on the subject of achieving greatness as defined by the child.
Leadership expert, Robert Kaplan (2013), developed a roadmap for reaching potential. In brief, he suggests greatness is achieved when we know our strengths, take the initiative and connect our daily actions to a clearly defined goal. For most children, defining a goal is easy but taking the initiative to make it happen is usually dependent on the adults around them. That’s where we come in!
Here’s what you can do:
Foster their self-belief. For example, if you know a child who aspires to be a professional soccer player, help them find a great coach or coaching clinic. For those with more left-of-centre skills outside the areas of sporting or academia, keep an open mind to the activities available that might help push their strengths to new levels. Show them that you believe in them and make it happen!
Research together. Show young people how to take the initiative by helping them to research and connect with experts in their field of interest. A child with a passion for making robots would be forever empowered if you showed them how to contact the Head Inventor at Battlebots. Imagine if they said yes to a Skype call?
Use a wide-angle lens. Think broadly when it comes to inspiring young people. Be proactive and organise a range of guests to visit your school to spark an interest in every child. These could include artists, refugees, adventurers or someone with a “diffability” who is pursuing a passion. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Set an example. Take on a challenge of your own and you will inspire others to do the same. Show some initiative and take steps on a daily basis to reach your goal. Share your journey’s highs and lows with the young people around you and make haste towards your destination.
Work together. Challenges aren’t meant to be simple, but staying focused on the task at hand is easier when those around you are doing the same. Achieve greatness among your classmates, family or friends and your success will be even sweeter!
Our online Performance Psychology program Power Up! has been specially created for kids who want to push their performance skills to the next level. Power Up! gives them the power to: build self-confidence, cope with the pressures of competition, overcome self-doubt and negative self-talk, set goals and make plans to achieve them and maximise performance in any chosen field.
Kaplan, R.S. (2013) What You’re Really Meant to Do: A Roadmap for Reaching your Unique Potential.Ebook. HBR.
Right School-Right Place (2017) State of Victoria. Department of Education and Training (Vic).
Working with children and their families is a very stimulating and rewarding experience. At the Quirky Kid Clinic, we embrace the uniqueness each child brings to our clinic and ensure all treatment and intervention is tailored to match the needs of each family. As clinicians, we use a wide variety of techniques and I’d like to share one with you.
The ‘All About Me’ Map
Engagement is a foundational and fundamental part of treatment. As clinicians we know how important it is to build engagement with a child before more formal therapeutic work begins. Research tells us that there is a significant positive relationship between the therapeutic alliance and treatment outcomes (Lambert & Barley, 2001).
My first session with a child is always about engagement, hearing all about them, the things they love, the important people in their life and the things they would like some help changing. Children often find it difficult to talk with a stranger in the first session and that is why we use our paper and textas to draw a special Map, all about them.
This activity typically provides enough space for children to be open and engaged, as children focus on drawing and writing, with no pressure to make eye contact with the clinician, who is positioned alongside the child and offers assistance with writing if the child requires.
How it’s done:
The Map typically starts with the child being asked to draw a circle in the middle of a big piece of butcher’s paper and then to write their name and age in the middle.
From there, the child can draw a map, full of mountains, oceans, or all the things they love or places they don’t love so much, with each used as a discussion point for the clinician. Remember to be curious! General areas that could be covered include things that the child enjoys, extracurricular activities, school, friendship connections and supports.
Some questions I ask to help children reflect upon what they enjoy (and to add to their map) include:
If it were raining outside and you had to stay indoors all day, but you could choose to do anything you liked, what would you choose?
If it were a mum day, what would you and mum choose to do together?
Who do you hang out with in the playground, what do you do?
Is there anything important that I haven’t asked you about that needs to go on your map?
After we have completed all the things that the child enjoys or things that are going well, we might draw some waves or special areas that the child chooses, to include the things that the child would like some help with.
Questions I ask around are:
Are there things that you might worry about, what about at school, home, with others/friends?
What sorts of things might make you feel angry?
Do you ever feel sad? What about?
If you lived in a perfect world, what sorts of things would have to change to make it perfect?
This activity is also helpful in assessing things from the child’s perspective, garnering the child’s level of insight, assessing whether the child’s goals align with the parental goals for treatment, allowing the child time to express the things they might be concerned with and offers hope to the child that you understand them and can support them.