Trauma is a distressing experience that is above and beyond the person's ability to control. It may be human related which is intentional or non-intentional such as sexual, emotional, physical abuse or neglect or it is non-human related such as natural disasters. One event is traumatic however repeated events such as ongoing sexual, emotional or physical abuse is complex trauma. The traumatic event can be physically and psychologically distressing.
Trauma symptoms can range from feeling safe to complex post traumatic stress disorders. Therefore, not all people who have been through trauma need treatment. However, the earlier the treatment the better.
Treatment can help improve traumatic symptoms such as lack of concentration, hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour, oppositional behaviour, dissociaiton, lack of self-esteem, flashback of the traumatic event through intrusive memories, negative thinking, feeling the world is unsafe, unhealthy physical symptoms, lack of trust in others and more. Therefore, the traumatic event if left untreated can continue to effect the person's life.
While a person's sense of self can become shattered, through the the right support can heal and rebuild. If left untreated, the symptoms may harm the survivor and those around through aggression, anger, anxiety, dissociation and an inability to live a full and healthy life.
A longitudinal, epidemiological study of over 17,000 adults by American companies Kaiser Permanent and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention studied adverse childhood experiences (ACE) otherwise known as childhood trauma. Participants were recruited between 1995 and 1997 and continue to be monitored to measure mortality and morbidity rates.
Participants completed surveys to indicate the number of adverse childhood experiences they experienced when young, which included:
The study found that adults who have experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences had 4 to 12 fold increased health risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts. The more categories of ACE a person had been through, the more health risk factors and other risks in later life they encountered. Moreover ACE was common as approximately two-thirds of participants reported at least one ACE and 87% of those experienced more than one.
The above list is not exhaustive but provides some risk factors that can occur when a child has unhealthy life experiences. The study indicates the value of ensuring a healthy environment for children as it creates a healthier society.
The study sends an important message of what adversity when young can do when the child grows up, as well as the value of ensuring a healthy environment when raising children.
Below is the pyramid that illustrates how adverse childhood experiences influences health and lifestyle risks across the lifespan.
On a last note, I have noticed there are many online quizzes that help measure the amount of your ACE and your risk factors you may experience later in life. I would not endorse any as they may cause you unnecessary worries as there are many other factors that need to be considered, such as how you have coped when growing up (e.g., getting help or social support), and other positive life experiences which can help you build resilience.
Therefore, even though you may have been through adverse life experiences when young, you are not doomed to many risk factors. The support you received is key to a healthy life trajectory. Trauma-informed therapies are one way toward a healthy lifestyle after adverse childhood experiences.
Source: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html
Felitti, Vincent J et al (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , 14(4 ), 245 - 258.
An exercise to Improve Attention
Improving attention through visualisation is easy and will help you improve your ability for selective attention and focusing. Improving your attention will also help improve your memory. All you have to do is focus your attention on one thing. This thing can be a pen, a visual image, or anything else. Keep your attention on the object or image and notice all aspects of it. Notice the colour, texture, shape, function and meaning. When ever your attention becomes focused on something else other than the object or image, just gently bring your attention back. You can start with 2 minutes of focusing and then gradually increase the session over time. This exercise will help your ability to maintain attention in conversations, on your task and on your goals. Don't forget to do this exercise in a comfortable position, such as sitting on the floor, pillow or chair and to use a meaningful object or image.
Benefits of Improving Attention
Self-awareness and being self aware of others is an important aspect in maintaining focus. Improving your attention will help you will learn to identify how you feel, to trust yourself, and to know your strengths and limitations. When you need to focus on group work or to maintain a conversation you will learn about the other person's likes, dislikes and goals without judgement but full acceptance because your attention will stay with what is in front of you rather than shift to another topic, idea or object.
There are many factors that can cause parental stress. A few include financial, relationships, child temperament, work challenges and own past challenges.
Parental stress and child temperament is causal, however it can be argued if one causes the other. Studies have shown that children with challenging behaviours can cause maladaptive parenting strategies such as aggression or avoidance. On the other hand, parents can be stressed from factors outside of the child's control such as workplace issues which can cause maladaptive parenting styles, leading to challenging behaviours in the child.
Child temperament includes slow to warm up, fearfulness, effortful self-regulation and being difficult. These children are more likely to develop behaviour problems when exposed to stress in the family home compared to other children. The parent becomes irritable from stress, resulting in the child with poor self-regulation to become challenging. While a child who is able to self-regulate will soothe him or her self through self-talk, keeping one self occupied with something else such as playing and maintain good behaviour.
Therefore, it is important to consider child temperament and his or her environment to understand why challenging behaviours occur. Especially when one child misbehaves and the other doesn't in the same environment.
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
Information on latest research and strategies to improve mental health, trauma symptoms and trauma-informed care for children, young people and adults.