Starting school can be an anxious time for both parents and children, however you can all do something to help relieve the anxiety and have a safe and confident start to school.
While the early years are important in helping the child become into their own person, school is another stepping stone to becoming a confident, healthy individual. It is about understanding their strengths while supporting those qualities they may not be so good at to excel at school.
The My Time My Place framework for schools suggest that educators and parents think about their own transitions, how it felt and how they managed it to understand the perspective of the child/ren. Additionally, it can be more difficult for children who have autism, as they will need to be reminded before the transition what it will be like. It will also be helpful if you have a child with autism to have him/her meet the teacher, their classroom and discuss the structure of the school day so he/she will be prepared in advance to help manage their anxiety of the unknown.
When children transition well into the school environment they will feel a sense of belonging. The sense of belonging will give them increased confidence, inter-dependence, autonomy, resilience, a sense of agency, and a stronger sense of identity.
As an educator you may want to ask your students what helped them transition well, what did not help so you can understand how to improve your process the next time.
Transitioning well includes listening to the child/ren's feelings, what they think about it, talking to them in advance about the transition, visiting the school and the teacher/s before they start, talking about your own start to school and how you managed it well, visiting the school's website to learn about what they do including their fun experiences, talking about what education will do for the child in the future such as achievements and practical experiences such as being able to count their birthday money and write a Christmas wish list. Most of all it is important for the teacher to get to know the child including their uniqueness which may include learning their interests, what bores them, how to engage them, and what sets them off.
Transitioning into school is a great start to a new journey of self discovery and possibilities. Hope this helps to make it an enjoyable one!
Polish psychologist and psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski (1964) termed the construct overexcitabilities (OE) to mean that certain individuals have stronger responses and are more sensitive to certain stimuli, which include psychomotor (e.g., need to move more, impulsive activity, restlessness), sensual (receiving more sensual input than other people such as a strong reaction to loud noise, textures such as wool and/or tags, sight including light, or certain tastes), emotional (feel emotions more intensely such as a strong sense of sadness, joy, hurt, empathy, compassion, strong effective recall of past experiences), intellectual (independence of thought, sharp sense of observation, curious, questions everything, makes connections that others would miss), and imagination (tends to daydream, recognises associations through images, loves stories which represent the world of fantasy, doodles, invents).
In summary there are five overexcitabilities which gifted people may have being psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional.
Researchers have stated that gifted people are more overexcited that non-gifted people and therefore can be gifted in any of these areas such as creatively gifted, intellectually gifted, gifted in sports (psychomotor) or gifted with world issues due to strong feelings and morals. Understanding children and others through this OE lens will help inform their mental health, abilities and avoid misdiagnosis for a disorder.
Some researchers argue that there is not a strong correlation between giftedness and OE while others agree with the correlation. A meta analysis was conducted to determine the validity of the idea and found that gifted people had higher scores in some OE areas compared to non-gifted people. For example, the difference in intellectual and imaginational overexcitabilites between gifted and non-gifted people had a medium effect size. The difference in sensual and emotional effect size between gifted and non-gifted people was small and psychomotor overexcitabilities effect size was not significant. The meta analysis found that OE may not be the best way to determine if people who are sensitive and overexcited are gifted but can be a part of their character and indeed when a person presents with overexcited responses such as high energy, lack of impulse control or sensory issues, that giftedness should be considered and measured when doing a mental health assessment or to understand the personhood in educational settings.
Source: Winkler D., & Voight, A., (2016). Giftedness and overexcitability: Investigating the relationship using a meta-analysis. Gifted Child Quarterly 60(4), 243-257.
Some facts about the teenage brain. Did you know...
Researchers Li, Hestenes, and Wang (2016) studied make believe play (otherwise known as pretend play) in outdoor childcare settings as most studies investigated make believe play in indoor childcare settings. The study found that outdoor settings provided more opportunities for children to use their imagination in play.
Make believe play improves children's cognitive and social development, language development, creativity, impulse control, coping strategies, and emotion development. There was also positive relationship between make believe play and social competence but not with following rules.
There was no gender difference in outside make believe play, however other studies investigating indoors make believe play have found that boys tend to engage in concrete pretend play (using objects) while girls used abstract pretend play (transforming ideas). Outdoor play may promote gender equality because it offers more opportunities for different types of play in which girls and boys can effortlessly discover their roles.
This research has important implications in helping those who care for young children to understand the importance of make believe play, especially outdoors. This is an important message in an era where children area spending more hours playing online games than in outdoor activities.
Source: Li, J., Hestenes, L. L., & Wang, Y. C. (2016). Links between preschool children's social skills and observed pretend play in outdoor childcare environments. Journal of Early Childhood Education, 44, 61-68.
Mnemonics is any device used to help you remember. A device may include rhymes, using pictures, groups of letters to remember a long list of numbers (i.e., abc = 1). The letters can be formed into words to help you remember the numbers easier. An example is a telephone with numbers and letters on a key and telephone numbers with 1800 - ring - me.
Another strategy is to connect words with pictures to improve retention and retrieval. Make the image as vivid as possible in your mind. You can even make it is interesting ridiculous as you can. Connect emotions with the image. Click here for an example from Vocabulary Cartoons
FACT: Mnemonics is effective because it connects new information with information that you already have in your long term memory. The memory is further improved when you use all your senses such as smell, image, feelings.
Most of these translations are from Cindy Goldrich's book "8 Keys to Parenting Children with ADHD". While it is important to understand ADHD challenges to help the children learn how to remain focused, organised and self-aware, it is also important to see their challenges from another viewpoint. All children are unique, but their uniqueness may present as challenges when put in a pool of normality. When you let them thrive in their own unique way, you may get amazing results. Some unusual and unique people who helped changed the world for the better with their crazy, creative ideas include Walt Disney, Albert Einstein and Richard Branson, just to name a few. Remember, ADHD people are now being called the creative genius.
•Questions Authority – Independent Thinker
•Lazy – Laid Back, Relaxed
•Argumentative – Persuasive
•Manipulative – Delegates Well
•Bossy – Signs of Leadership
•Distractible – Curious
•Poor Sense of Time – Lives in the Moment
•Difficulty Transitioning – Can Focus Intensely
•Hyperactive – Full of energy
•Strong-willed – Tenacious, Persistent
•Daydreamer – Creative, Imaginative
•Daredevil – Risk Taker, Adventurous
•Aggressive – Assertive
•Slow Processor – Deep Thinker
•Confusion - Intellectual Curiosity
I have been reading a book called "Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)" and decided to share some insights I have learned from the book as believe it is an important message to spread. The book is authored by Gavin De Becker, who himself experienced abuse from his own mother when he was a child and now works to help others identify predators and abusive people to prevent harm.
People who do abuse, usually come from abusive families or have been abused in some way themselves. However as you know, some use their experience to help others prevent abuse such as the author Gavin.
Gavin discusses the "survival signals" that will help identify predators. These include:
I will use the pronouns his/her because even though it is mostly males who abuse, it is also important to be aware that females can also abuse others, such as it was Gavin's drug addicted mother who used to bash all her children for hours at a time.
Forced teaming is when the predator will use the word "we", "both of us", or "we're a team" in his/her conversations. If this happens when you just met someone then be aware that it is a sign of grooming.
Charm and niceness is used as a strategy to again groom the parent/caregiver and or child to his/her web of deceit. Gavin says that if the person comes across as too nice, then it is probably too good to be true. The person will be nice to initiate a social interaction, but once he/she develops trust, then it will transform into abusive behavior where boundaries will be violated.
Too many details will be provided by the predator to again continue the social interaction and also gain further information of the person they want to abuse. Gavin mentions that when people are deceitful, they will give too many details to assume honesty, however an honest person won't need to include so much detail because of their sincerity. Too many details may include what his/her own child has as a pet, what type of pet, his/her child's name, where he or she goes to school, etc. The predator may not even have a child, but will mention this to build rapport and trust.
Typecasting is what predators do to make the parent/caregiver and/or child feel insecure and let the child into his/her own care. For example, he/she may say that the parent/caregiver is overprotective, so the parent/caregiver will want to prove he/she is not and let the child spend time with the predator.
Loan-sharking is when the predator offers to help the parent/caregiver, but expects more in return. For example, the predator will come visit the parents, befriend them, offer to do the gardening, shopping or spend time with them and in return may ask to spend alone time with the child.
The unsolicited promise is when the predator provides an empty promise to gain trust. Gavin says to trust your intuition of what the person says, and if it doesn't feel right, then it probably is not right.
Discounting the word "no" is when the predator will not hear the word no. The predator will keep following and asking in a variety of ways, even though you said no.
An example Gavin provides is when a parent was shopping with her young son in a busy market. The predator noticed that the boy could not be bothered shopping with his mum (predator noticed vulnerability here) so approached them to offer to spend time with the boy while the mother shopped (unsolicited promise and loan sharking). Surprised at the offer of leaving her son with a stranger, the predator kept asking, the mother kept saying no, but in the meantime the predator kept mentioning his own son, his sons favourite pet (too many details and discounting the word no), said she was probably overprotective (typecasting), often used the word "we" (forced-teaming), was too nice, and promised to bring him back (unsolicited promise), while the mother shopped in peace (loan sharking). While the mother thought this man was crazy with his suggestion, her attention went to shoes she liked. At the same time the predator took her son away because the boy started to gain trust in this man who had a son his own age. The mother noticed her son missing, but her son and the predator was too far for her to catch them. They disappeared out of her sight. She never saw her son again.
Gavin continually stresses to listen to your intuition to identify a predator. If somebody does not feel right, then leave without a thought. Intuition and identifying the signals to survive is what can save you and your child/children.
Gavin also says to keep your child safe, tell them to go to a nearest woman if they feel there is danger rather than tell them to go to a nearest police station (as the closest one may be too far) or to a nearest male (as most predators are mainly men). Also females are known to be nurturing and therefore mostly likely to spend time helping. Also, teach your child how to approach safe strangers so they can learn what is safe and not safe and how to get help. If they learn stranger danger, then seeking help may be too difficult if every body is considered dangerous. For example a mother would ask her son to approach a stranger and ask for the time. One day he did need help, and was able to identify a safe person and ask for help.
On a last note, even though children who have experienced violence or have been abused will most likely become violent or abusive such as controlling, the experience can actually help them use their adversity into becoming successful. It is important that when you see a child who is rough on the outside, that they actually need love to be filled on the inside. In summary, look beyond what you see, empathise with them, help them identify where their behaviour is coming from (their past experiences) and that they can become more than what they have learned as a child. As Gavin says "You and I can give that same gift (help them learn that their violent and/or abusive past can teach them how to be better and may even give them knowledge to teach others how not to behave) to abused children, children who are not, contrary to popular belief, destined to become violent adults. If we show them that they are the residents of their homes and not the architects, then where they are needn't limit where they go". Teaching them that it was not their fault the violence occurred, will help them learn they did not cause the unhealthy behaviour, but can learn from the experience to become a better person.
Learning about healthy relationship with self and others is conditioned from past experiences, meaning that parents and other caregivers can unconsciously demonstrate to people they care for about being anxious, disorganised (wanting to be close, but move away due to fear) or avoid relationships. In turn, the person (such as you) may then meet a partner or friends that support and maintain the unhealthy style (e.g., if you are submissive your partner will be controlling). Therefore the style can last for generations. It is important to be the change so you can then demonstrate to people you care about (and work with) about how to treat yourself and others well.
Multitasking is about switching focus between one task to another. It then requires the person who is multitasking to regain focus, which could take between ten or fifteen minutes. As can been seen, while multitasking causes the person to refocus, it also causes a loss in performance. For example, Buser and Peter (2012) examined the performance level of males and females ability to multitask. Another study examined judges who worked on many cases at once. Those who worked on many cases at a time, performed worse as they took more time to complete their work compared to judges who scheduled their cases and worked sequentially. One possible cause to decreased performance due to multitasking is the “task carryover account” meaning that there is a carryover effect when you switch tasks. The carryover effect is a cost from the person needing to inhibit the previous information in order to complete the new task. However, if the person had instead scheduled his or her task to be completed sequentially then the carryover effect would be eliminated causing an increase in productivity.
To put this in another way, when a person starts one task and then switches over to the next, while the first task is not fully completed then the activation of attention necessary to complete the second task takes longer as the first task is not fully uninhibited from the person’s attention span, producing a carryover effect. Moreover, the mind of the person is still learning from the previous task and needs to prepare for the next task causing a cost (time) from switching from one task to the other. In the Buser and Peter (2012) study, researchers found that the more people switched from one task to the other, the more performance suffered.
It is important to mention that the studies discussed in this article investigated mental tasks, not physical tasks such as housecleaning. Therefore a drop in performance may also have been caused by less mental processing as the ability to multitask requires bottom up processing (taking in information from the senses which has not yet come into full awareness) and scheduling requires top down processing (driven by cognition), which is stepwise and requires thoughtful analysis to complete the processing.
The Buser and Peter (2012) study, which examined gender differences in multitasking, found that both genders (males and females) do not perform better when multitasking. It was previously suggested that males, hunters, perform sequentially and therefore cannot multitask effectively while females who are known to be gathers can do many tasks at the same time well. However, when this suggestion is investigated it was found that females prefer not to multitask and their performance suffers just as much as males.
In summary, scheduling is better than multitasking. This means it is best to complete one activity at a time, rather than many at once for your performance to be at its best.
Studies are conflicting to indicate that diet, exercise and cognitive activity prevent dementia, which are usually due to methodological issues and cohort studied. However there are studies that do show good results, inconsistent as they are. The Mediterranean diet is one that has consistently showed positive results in preventing cognitive decline but not towards the relationship with dementia.
The Mediterranean diet consists of less meat, more of fish, legumes, moderate levels of red wine, extra virgin olive oil, fruits and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet is also about connecting with people while preparing the meal and eating, therefore increasing social activity. This is because Mediterranean's prepare their meal together with family and/or friends (unfortunately Mediterranean's are steering towards the Western diet) Increased social activity is also another preventing factor in dementia. People who follow the Mediterranean diet also eat their main meal at lunch-time and have fruit for dessert.
Social activity can help improve cognitive functioning, especially during intellectual conversations. Talking to people about what you have read and learned will also help improve memory by working it. Researchers investigated older people volunteering to help students learn. The activity improved their physical strength, social support networks and cognitive activity.
It is important to be careful what you read, especially when it comes to research findings, as the result may be influenced by other factors such as type of people participating, type of methods used and number of participants involved. If researchers repeated the same study, it may prove otherwise.
jb Consulting and Psychology
Counselling, consulting and eduction to improve child, adolescent & youth mental health, and parenting skills.