By: Paris Herbert-Taylor Nurturing and developing writing skills in young people allows for development of great tools that aid children throughout their schooling years and into adulthood. Writing and storytelling let children expand their imagination, extend their communication abilities and it also offers them a space to explore their feelings.
As children grow, their understanding of themselves changes. Writing about thoughts, feelings and ideas is one way in which children are able to distinguish themselves as separate from their family unit, and unique among their peers. Sharing their stories, or their journal entries in the lower primary years allows for a sense of self to develop and lets the child understand that their ideas may differ from those of the people around them, and that what they are sharing, writing, and thinking about are valuable and interesting entities.
As children progress through Middle school and High school, writing and being able to communicate through the written word becomes vital as many of the subjects offered at this level are centered upon the need to express thoughts and ideas, as well as recount learned facts.
Kimberley O’Brien is the principal psychologist at the Quirky Kid Clinic and has worked as a child psychologist for 16 years. Kim notes that from a mental well-being point of view “writing provides a healthy outlet for self-expression, reducing the likelihood of behavioural, social and emotional issues.” Positive outcomes of getting your child to write may be: better communication skills, a developed imagination and pride in creating something creative.
If your child is struggling to write or express themselves with the written word, there are many positive ways to encourage them.
Consider finding a diary for your child to decorate and make their own, and ask them to jot down ideas, feelings or even little stories or funny lines. Have a sharing time allocated each week in which they can read you, or let you read, what they have written. Offer praise and encouragement.
Suggest your child participates in writing competitions or to write a letter to their favorite magazine. Even if the child doesn’t win or have their work published, the process of completing a formatted writing piece, with encouragement and praise, will build confidence to keep writing.
Ask your child to write a letter or make a card for someone, and then send it. It could even be a letter to someone in the household, like the family pet. This way the child is learning about writing as a communication and can be a fun exercise that they will enjoy, especially if they receive a card or letter back!
It is more important to get a young child writing than to worry about sentence structure, grammar or spelling. Those things will improve with the frequency of writing, and if you daunt them with too many rules and regulations, they may not enjoy the experience and realize that writing is actually really fun!
Attention is the cognitive process of concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things. Examples of attention include listening to one conversation while ignoring others that are going on in a room, or focusing on what is happening in the classroom when there is a sports lesson going on outside.
How can I tell if my child has difficulties with attention?
Children with attention difficulties often display some or all the following behaviours:
Making careless mistakes in schoolwork
Difficulty sustaining attention during a task or when playing
Seems to not listen when spoken to directly
Doesn’t follow through on instructions and doesn’t finish schoolwork
Difficulty organising complex tasks
Loses important items
Avoids or dislikes activities that need long periods of concentration, such as school projects
Is it Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)?
Not all children with attention difficulties have ADHD. All children will have periods of inattention at some point for various reasons such as being tired, hungry or disinterested in the current task. Children with ADHD display inattentive and hyperactive behaviours more often and intensely than other children the same age. Diagnosis of ADHD is a lengthy process that can be completed by a pediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist.
How can I manage my child’s attention difficulties at home?
Maintain eye contact with your child when giving instructions, and have him repeat instructions back to you so you can be sure he has understood.
Keep the daily routine as predictable as possible, and prepare your child for changes in her routine.
Keep verbal directions clear and brief.
Provide healthy food options to enhance energy and concentration.
Ensure your child has regular sleep and wake times for adequate rest.
How can my child’s attention difficulties be managed in the classroom?
Provide the child with low-distraction work areas, such as being seated near the teacher’s desk, and away from temptations such as toys or computers.
Establish specific classroom rules and follow them consistently.
Surround the child with classmates who will serve as good role models.
Where possible, write instructions down as well as giving them verbally, as written instructions serve as a reminder to stay on-task.
Break large activities into small achievable steps, only giving the next instruction once the first step has been completed.
Provide positive statements and praise when the child is focused and on-task, and decrease the focus on negative behaviours.
Schedule more difficult or demanding tasks at the best times for concentrating, usually mornings.
Allowing the child extra time to complete difficult tasks where possible.
We offer a range of services, workshops and individualized consultations to support children with attention difficulties or ADHD. Please contact us for more information
Information for this fact sheet has been gathered from the Better Health Channel, Raising Children Network, and child psychologist Kimberley O’Brien. Prepared by Psychologist Jacqui Olsson.
Auditory Processing refers to the brain’s ability to recognise and interpret the sounds from the surrounding environment. People with Auditory Processing difficulties do not process information in the same way as others, as their ears and brain to not completely co-ordinate. Something adversely affects the way these people recognise and interpret sounds, particularly the sounds involved in speech. People experiencing these difficulties may be diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).
What are the symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?
People with APD may have difficulties with the following tasks:
Focusing on the voice of one person in noisy environments
Remembering instructions given verbally
Distinguishing between similar words, such as slime/climb, thin/thing etc
Filtering out background noise
Sustaining attention for periods of time
Participating appropriately in discussions with groups of people, such as in the classroom.
They may also show academic difficulties, behavioural difficulties and/or social difficulties.
Could it be something else?
Before your child is diagnosed with APD, it is important to rule out the following issues:
Attention problems such as ADD
Other language problems
Major developmental difficulties such as Autism
What can I do if my child is experiencing Auditory Processing Difficulties?
Auditory Processing Disorder is best treated by an Audiologist or Speech Pathologist. However, the following strategies may be implemented to make some tasks easier for your child.
Try to make sure that his learning environments (both at home and at school) are as quiet as possible when the concentration is required.
Ask your child’s teacher if she can sit at the desk closest to the teacher’s desk, so the teacher’s voice is loud compared to others.
Give your child written instructions for homework, chores, etc so he can refer if he has forgotten.
Break instructions into small, achievable steps and give small rewards or verbal praise when each step is completed
Visual cues for tasks at home and at school should be provided to aid your child in understanding what is required of her
Ensure you have your child’s attention (e.g. eye contact) before speaking to him
Check that your child has understood what has been said to her by asking her to repeat or summarize the instructions she was given
Information for this fact sheet was taken from the Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service website; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2004), and from Child Psychologist Kimberley O’Brien.
Some parents may find it very difficult to discover their child is homosexual. Common reactions on learning that your child is homosexual include shock, disbelief, disappointment, sorrow, guilt and confusion.
Furthermore, parents also may also feel as though they have done something wrong, that their way of parenting was inappropriate or that they have failed in some way. Some feel embarrassed about other people finding out, or worried about how others will react.
On the other hand, parents may feel joy, proud and contentment with the good communication with the family.
Below are answers to common questions we are asked about parenting gay children:
Why did my child choose to be gay?
Being gay is not a simply a choice. Sexual orientation comes from within a person, and is part of a person’s whole being. It is not caused by anything parents have done, and can’t be changed by anything parents do. The choice your child has made to come out means that he is ready to accept who he is and live happily.
Is it a phase?
It is a normal part of development for a child or teenager to feel unsure about their sexuality. However, if your child tells you he or she is gay, then he or she is usually sure that is how he or she is. When they tell you ‘I am sure’, they need you to believe and support them.
Why didn’t our child tell us earlier?
For a child to tell his parent that he is gay takes great courage. He may feel worried about hurting you or feeling guilty about you losing some of your dreams, such as natural grandchildren. The main reason young people withhold this information for so long is fear of rejection by parents, or other family and friends. The longer it takes to come out, the more this fear grows.
Is my child different now?
Your child has not changed just because she has told you about her sexuality. There are many parts to your child that you know and love that have not changed, such as what she does, what she likes, and the many things that make up the person that she is.
Coming to terms with these changes
Whatever your response is, you will be grieving in some way because every change involves some loss (as well as some gain).
You might find it helpful to talk it over with people who understand what you are going through.
Coming to grips with this information and accepting it takes time and there are no hard and fast rules as to how long it will take. It is different for everyone and there is no one right way.
The number one thing is to make sure that your kids are safe and accepted no matter what they do – it’s that unconditional love that they need. Try not to become too attached to the future in terms of the fulfilment of your own hopes and dreams. Be supportive of the individual choices your children make, and just see what happens.
The Quirky Kid Clinic can help parents and families with communication strategies as well as dealing with common issues that may arise when a family member communicates his sexuality. For more information, book to our ‘Sort it out’ workshop or please contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Kimberley O’Brien, our principal child psychologist, discussed bullying with the presenters of the ‘7 pm project’ on Channel 10. You can find more information on bullying including practical strategies for parents by visiting our resources page or discussing it on our forum.
You can watch the segment below. Please wait until the end of the segment. The video contains advertising and some strong images.
The Quirky Kid clinic runs a great program called ‘The Best of Friends’™ that playfully address social issues within the school setting
If you have a story and would like to discuss it with us, please contact us to schedule a time. Kimberley O’Brien enjoys sharing the best of her therapeutic moments with the media. View our media appearances to-date.