Tag: Learning Difficulties

How to prepare for 2016 with the help of a Child Psychologist

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Posted on by Dr. Kimberley O'Brien

How to Prepare for 2016 with the Help of a Child Psychologist

Children present with a whole range of interesting characteristics. Amazing vocabularies, confidence in the company of adults, endless creativity and emotional intelligence beyond their years. While others struggle with background noise and refuse to put pen to paper due to sensory issues and perfectionism. The start of a new school year is often when parents decide to have their children assessed to gain clarity and direction for the year ahead. Armed with information for teachers, parents are empowered by an expert opinion.

Deciding to seek a professional opinion can take months or years of deliberation. Some put off an assessment in the hope their child will ‘catch-up’ or ‘settle down’ with maturity. Others proactively seek a standardized assessment with the view to access evidence-based intervention as soon as possible. In my experience, young people respond positively to intensive support tailored to meet their needs in the home, school and community setting. They thrive with extra attention and understanding.

A significant event or developmental milestone, such a starting kindergarten, changing school or starting secondary school may trigger parents to make an appointment with a psychologist. Common goals for intervention include ‘behaviour management strategies‘, ‘greater classroom support’ and ‘to help my child maintain friendships’. Whatever the precursor, the assessment process begins when parents engage in a joint appointment to provide background information. The initial interview is an opportunity to learn more about the child’s developmental history while gaining a detailed account of the child’s presentation at home and school.

Many parents bring school reports or previous assessments to pinpoint their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Telephone consultations are often recommended between the teacher and the psychologist to gather current insights into any social or behavioural issues. The information provided by teachers and parents is essential to establish the best way forward. The psychologist’s plan is referred to as a ‘case plan’.

A case plan may include a selection of standardized assessment tools to be administered in the clinic setting; playground and classroom observations or programs to be facilitated with same-aged peers. Popular goals identified by young clients in their initial appointments are often on par with developing academic confidence, gaining independence and establishing organizational skills. For children, this often equates to greater understanding from the adults around them, as opposed to frustration or pressure to perform. For parents and teachers, the assessment process often brings about clarity, direction and initiates a team approach to solving the issues.

In some cases following an assessment, parents and teachers are divided by a diagnosis or lack of diagnosis. According to some parents, pre-school teachers have been known to confidently diagnose Autism based on observation alone. We also hear from schools seeking “a DSM-V diagnosis” in order to apply for funding. In these circumstances, a psychologist is likely to suggest a case conference at the school, involving parents and teachers to mediate around the pros and cons of a diagnosis or a label.

Semantics aside, most parents are more interested in the recommendations included in an assessment, as opposed to a diagnosis. This detailed list of practical ideas is designed to harness individual strengths while addressing areas in need of support. Community-based programs, such as daily swimming or kid’s yoga courses, often compliment clinic and classroom interventions.

For teachers navigating a new mix of students in the coming weeks, a well-considered assessment including practical classroom strategies is peace of mind for parents wishing to give their child a jump start to the year ahead. To learn more about developmental assessments, see: https://childpsychologist.com.au/service/

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Education and Developmental Conference 2011

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

It was a pleasure to participate during the 2011 Educational & Developmental conference in Melbourne last month. A great incentive for us in attending to the conference was Professor Nancy Mather’s workshop. Professor Nancy is a special education expert from the University of Arizona specializing in learning disabilities diagnosis and intervention.

Kimberley O’Brien –  who also presented during the conference – and our team have enjoyed the current research findings  from colleagues around Australia.

More about our participation

Kimberley O’Brien, our principal child psychologist , presented on her PhD research topic on Social Inclusion, Self Esteem and Belonging For Students in Transition From Primary to Secondary School, that Kimberley is completing under the direction of Prof Helen Watt from Monash University.

About the conference

The Conference —Theory to Practice: Positive Development and Wellbeing, Educational and Developmental Psychology Conference 2011— is being hosted by the APS College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists to promote a broad spectrum of research in the sector from psycho-social wellbeing through to learning, literacy and numeracy. The College is committed to evidence-based practice and to promoting the best research and latest developments in the field.

What this means for our clients?

The Quirky Kid Clinic is committed to professional development to deliver current and evidence-informed intervention to all our clients.

Over the last years, we have focused on the topic of Learning Disabilities and assessments and are now better equipped  to identify and support children and families experiencing learning difficulties and disabilities.

Contact us on + 02 9362 9297 for more information about our assessments or to schedule a consultation.

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Vocabulary in Primary School

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Vocabulary knowledge has a wide-ranging influence on a child’s reading comprehension ability. Therefore it is important to ensure that students are being taught vocabulary in an effective and long-lasting manner. Below is a program designed by Dr Lorraine Hammond from Edith Cowan University on effective vocabulary instruction however, there are other ways of teaching vocabulary as well.

Dr Hamond separates words in Tiers. Examples of Tier 1, 2 and 3 words are below:

  • Tier 1 (everyday words) – lamp, spider, shirt, flower, mouse
  • Tier 2 (language of academics, business, government) – illusion, improvise, meticulous, glimpse, edible
  • Tier 3 (domain-specific terminology) – hydraulic, asymmetrical, monograph, periodical

1. Decide which Tier 2 words are relevant and teachable to your students.

When choosing tier 2 words to teach your students, it is important to consider the importance and utility of the word, as well as its instructional potential: you mus be able to explain the words using concrete, simple terms. It is also important to consider whether the students already have the vocabulary to explain this word.

2. Write some child-friendly definitions that are meaningful to your students

Use language that your students are familar with and try to capture the definition of the word in its broadest application. For example:

Furious: Someone who is furious is extremely angry

Premonition: If you have a premonition, you have a feeling that something is going to happen, often something unpleasant.

3. Provide an additional context for a word

For example, Furious doesn’t always mean extremely angry. Furious can also be used to describe something that is done with great energy, effort, speed or violence.

4. Provide opportunities for students to actively process word meanings

The key to effective activities is that they require students to attend to the meaning of a word in order to apply it to a given situation. Some examples of opportunities for students to engage in words include:

  • Word associations
  • Have you ever? questions
  • Idea completions
  • Questions, reasons, examples, making choices

5. Provide for a high frequency of encounters over time

Frequent encounters with words make new knowledge ‘stick’. It is recommended that teachers provide their students with 10 new words per week, with daily activities, as well as ongoing revision of words that have already been introduced.

6. Review student learning

The most effective way to review student learning is by asking, specifically about the new vocabulary. Learners need six (meaningful) exposures to a new word during the initial lesson and at least 30 additional exposure during the ensuing month.

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Information for this page was taken from Dr. Lorraine Hammond’s lecture, “Teaching Vocabulary: One component of reading comprehension” presented at the SPELD Conference 2009 on 7th October, 2009 . The Quirky Kid team attended to this event.

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Managing Attention Difficulties

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

What is attention?

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
  • Forgetfulness
  • 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.

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Auditory Processing Difficulties

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

What is Auditory Processing?

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:

  • Hearing loss
  • Learning difficulties
  • 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

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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.

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