Newcastle Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt discusses childhood tantrums.
Meet Bailey: It seems like Bailey has been angry at everyone recently. He spends a lot of time by himself and doesn’t want to do things with the family anymore. Bailey has been getting upset over small things and doesn’t seem to enjoy the fun activities he used to. He complains about not being able to sleep and seems tired all of the time. Bailey seems different now.
Childhood Depression: Like adults, children and teenagers can also experience depression. Children with depression can become withdrawn, irritable and often put themselves down. They find it difficult to see the good things in situations and regularly overreact to small problems. As with any mental health concerns it is important to seek advice and treatment early before the difficulties develop further. Child and adolescent depression can be very concerning for family members and parents can feel helpless.
How you can help:
Professional Help: If you would like to seek advice or support in regards to your child’s mood please contact us today on 02 4929 2223. Our experienced and qualified Psychologists look forward to supporting you and your family.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a program which is already helping many people with disabilities and special needs in the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast areas. It is run by National Disability Insurance Australia (NDIA) which provides funding to eligible individuals in order to access ongoing supports and important early intervention services. Roll out of the scheme nation wide is commencing in July 2016 to assist all eligible individuals in accessing supports.
NDIS can assist eligible children, adolescents and adults with a recognised disability or special needs diagnosis such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The program outsources funding to registered providers such as Oracle Psychology to implement treatment and supports. Approved funding can include assistance from Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, Case Managers and Support Workers. However individual supports need to be approved and negotiated with an NDIS planner.
The importance of early intervention is well documented in the research literature. Many childhood conditions benefit from early identification and treatment. By recognising and addressing needs in children, clinicians can promote more positive outcomes in adulthood. Mental health diagnoses such as anxiety and depression can also benefit greatly from treatment in childhood and adolescence which further highlights the benefits of early access to services.
If you or a family member may benefit from accessing support through NDIS you can contact them directly on 1800 800 110 to enquire as to possible eligibility and the application process. Our Child Psychologists are registered to provide a range of supports and services to participants once a formal plan for funding is approved. We can also provide assistance through private health fund and Medicare rebates for eligible clients.
An article written by Newcastle Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt and published in: JiGSAW Magazine, Family Day Care Australia
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been known by many names over the years. Trying to understand how labels like Asperger's, Autism, PDD-NOS and ASD all fit together is sometimes like figuring out a puzzle. Understanding these different terms can be difficult for parents and teachers alike.
Some of the confusion comes from changes in the international diagnostic criteria over the past few years. In 2013 a new set of diagnostic terms were released as a part of the updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - Fifth Edition (DSM-V). Prior to the DSM-V three separate conditions were used to describe children affected by ASD. These were Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). With the release of the DSM-V these individual diagnoses have now been merged into one single Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.
The new umbrella term of ASD captures the similarities between the different disorders. Essentially children with ASD experience difficulties understanding the emotions of others and how to interact socially. As well as social difficulties, individuals with ASD often find it difficult to be flexible, struggle to cope with changes and have repetitive/obsessive behaviours. Individuals with ASD can also find certain sensory experiences overwhelming and may be quite sensitive to sound, touch, smell or taste.
After a diagnosis of ASD is made a rating system is applied to indicate the level of need for the individual. Professionals provide a severity rating of either 1, 2 or 3. This can be thought of in terms of Mild, Moderate or Severe symptom levels respectively. This rating system helps with understanding the level of support required and what assistance may be available.
ASD is a neurological (brain based) condition meaning it is generally life long. However early intervention by professionals such as Psychologists, Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists can assist individuals in gaining improvements in day to day activities and interactions. Generally, the earlier ASD is identified and treated the better the long-term outcomes.
Psychologists have known for a long time that what we think changes how we feel. In turn how we feel influences what we do. Some people get bogged down by the obstacles in their way. Their thoughts about situations are negative and block the path forward. So what does all of this have to do with those two words mentioned in the title of this article?
The thing is that some people look at situations and let 'BUT' get in the way:
- "I want to go to university 'BUT' it's such a lot of work"
- "I always wanted to make more friends 'BUT' I might say something silly"
- "I need to go to the gym 'BUT' I am tired"
- "I like going outside 'BUT' it's cold today"
'BUT' blocks our path. It tells us we can't do things because there is a problem. How are successful people different? They think differently. They let 'AND' tackle the problem head on:
- "I want to go to university 'AND' it's such a lot of work"
- "I always wanted to make more friends 'AND' I might say something silly"
- "I need to go to the gym 'AND' I am tired"
- "I like going outside 'AND' it's cold today"
By simply changing the 'BUT' to an 'AND' successful people accept the obstacle in their path. They know that it will be difficult and that they can take on the problem to find a solution. Achievement and attainment does not mean that you will not be faced with problems on the road to success. On the contrary, it means that you are aware of the path ahead of you and that the goal is worth the burden.
We cannot avoid problems. We can't expect everything to be easy. We need to consider situations with balanced and helpful thinking styles. Motivation is not something that you wake up with one day. It is a journey that begins with a single step. Like the Lion in the 'Wizard of Oz' he was not given courage by the wizard. It was something he proved to himself he had by completing the journey.
Remember these two words (AND/BUT). Take life head on. Find solutions to problems. Build your skills and mobilise your resources. You can achieve 'AND' it will be difficult.
Many local families have been affected by the storms and flood damage over the past week. It may be difficult for some children to adjust to these incidents however there are some simple things you can do to help them cope.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that every child reacts differently to natural disasters. It can be normal for a child to experience some levels of anxiety and fear after traumatic events. Some children may have nightmares, sleep difficulties and may struggle to separate from their caregivers for a while after the event. This is expected and can be helped with some gentle reassurance and patience from adults. It may take several weeks for a child to feel calmer and more secure as things slowly return to normal.
Once the disaster is over it’s important to try and return things to normality as quickly as possible. Continue with regular routines and provide a safe and supportive atmosphere. Ensuring that children are well fed, clothed and sheltered should be the first priority. This allows them to feel safe in their environment and promotes recovery.
Offer opportunities to discuss the events and allow children to ask questions if they have any. Focus on providing gentle reassurance rather than facts, as children do not need to know all of the adult details. Give them age appropriate explanations and explain that these types of events are actually quite rare.
It can be helpful to limit how much children are exposed to news reports and adult discussions of the disaster. This can be re-traumatising particularly in younger children, as by listening they can re-experience the distressing events or over emphasise them.
Of course one of the most important things is for adults to model resilience. Show children that things are under control by staying calm and providing them with a secure base to seek comfort from. They will gain strength from your own strength. Look after yourself and seek your own help and support if you need it.
Staying connected with friends, family and the community is an important aspect of recovering from a disaster. Everyone needs help at times and it is okay to ask for a shoulder to lean on. If you or your child experience extreme or prolonged distress following the recent floods, it may be helpful to seek professional psychological support to assist in the recovery.
Dyslexia is a condition that many professionals and parents often misunderstand. In the community it is often incorrectly believed to be a visual difficulty when in most instances this is not the case. Dyslexia is a condition which affects a child's ability to efficiently process sounds and link them to letters. It's important to identify Dyslexia early in a child's life in order for them to get the help they need.
One to one direct reading instruction by a qualified professional is extremely important if your child is diagnosed as having Dyslexia. Commencing intervention as early as possible in a child's life promotes success and improves outcomes. Children with Dyslexia can become functional readers and can have the same opportunities as others.
If your child has reading difficulties and is falling behind in class talk to their teacher as a first step. Teachers can give you an indication of where exactly your child's literacy levels are compared to other children.
Monitor your child's difficulties and give them individual support. Read to them and with them regularly. Start with the basics and try and make it fun. Give them choices over what they can read and appeal to their interests.
There are many great iPad apps to help with developing fundamental reading skills. Look up 'phonological processing', 'phonics games' and 'children's reading games' in the app store initially to get some ideas.
It's important to remember that all children develop at different rates with regards to academics, social skills and language. Some children do need more time to develop certain skills however sometimes it is more than just a delay. 5-15% of children experience Dyslexia which is a brain based disorder and not merely a delay. If your child has Dyslexia or another learning disorder early assessment and treatment is extremely important.
If you have ongoing concerns, your child is not improving or you feel that there is more to it than just a delay your child may benefit from a comprehensive learning assessment. An assessment by a Child Psychologist will provide a detailed overview of your child's learning strengths and weaknesses and can identify learning disorders such as Dyslexia.
If you have further questions about Dyslexia you may be interested in viewing this article which provides a good overview for parents.
You can also call us on 02 4929 2223 and we would be happy to help you and your child.
Children can become scared, worried and concerned at different points in their life and it is only natural for parents to want to help. As a parent you want to see your child grow into a happy and confident individual. Their self-esteem and wellbeing is so important and shapes who they will become as an adult.
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of nervousness and distress which both children and adults feel as a normal part of life. For example, many individuals feel somewhat 'on edge' and experience a sense of discomfort when they are in unfamiliar situations such as large parties or starting a new job. When we experience these feelings in small amounts this can be helpful as it makes us consider our actions to try and make a good impression.
However, some children and adults suffer from extreme anxiety and feel overwhelming stress levels in new situations or times of uncertainty. In these instances seeking assistance from a Mental Health professional, such as a Psychologist, can be helpful to learn strategies to cope and manage anxiety symptoms.
To teach your child to feel confident and resilient you can start by helping them in five simple ways:
1. Educate about the worry - Sometimes a small amount of age appropriate information can help your child feel better. For instance, if your child is scared of thunderstorms you can teach them in basic terms that there is nothing to be afraid of. E.g. Explain to them that the clouds rub together and make noise just like when we scrunch up paper. "We can't be hurt while we are inside the house. It’s just noise".
2. Encourage your child to cope with their fears - Avoiding situations which are not dangerous only prolongs the problem. Avoiding teaches them they are not safe and they need to stay away. Instead, gradually encourage your child to confront the situations they are scared of and they will learn they are safe and can cope. For example, if your child is afraid of dogs first show them pictures of friendly dogs. Then build on that by looking at videos together and visiting pet stores to see the puppies behind the glass. Eventually build up to the real thing, but only ever put the child in a situation in which they are safe.
3. Praise your child for being brave in difficult situations - When your child achieves a bravery goal or attempts something difficult praise and reward them. Be explicit and show emotion so they know how much it means. "Wow! I am so proud of you for talking in front of your class. That is a difficult thing to do but you did it anyway". This gives your child important feedback and encourages them to continue.
4. Talk about your own helpful thoughts to ease worries - Showing your child that you use positive self-talk to cope in day to day life will help them learn to do it also. Verbalise your own coping strategies and they will absorb it like a sponge. e.g. "I was a little bit nervous in my meeting today but I thought to myself 'I can do this and I am good at my job'. I felt much better after that".
5. Show your child how to reassure themselves rather than always relying on you - Sometimes children actively seek reassurance for the same thing over and over. If you notice your child is always worrying and asking you the same questions when they are scared you may need to get them to self-reassure more. For instance, if your child often worries that you will not be back to get them at the end of the day and always asks if you will definitely come to pick them up after school you could say "Remember we spoke about that yesterday. What did I say then?". Get your child to identify what you said the day before and repeat it to them self. e.g. "Mummy always comes to get me. She would never leave me behind". Using visuals and picture stories can also reinforce these ideas. Doing this helps your child to use positive self-talk to cope independently.
If your child is struggling with anxiety please call us on 02 4929 2223 and our Child & Adolescent Psychologist would be happy to help.
Anger outbursts and tantrums can be a normal aspect of child development. We have all witnessed a child dropping to the floor yelling and refusing to budge when they don't get their own way. It is also easy to think of a time when a teenager has slammed their door and hid away in their bedroom. Everyone gets angry, including adults, but it is important to learn how to manage and express anger in appropriate ways. Child Psychologists can help with teaching your child to develop their emotional intelligence and coping skills.
Some ways you can help your child with everyday anger include:
Talk about feelings with your children. Let them know you understand how they are feeling and label your own emotions. e.g. "Oh no, I can't remember where I left my keys. How frustrating". When children hear emotional language they learn how to use it themselves. The more we use language to label how we feel the less we act out our anger with aggression. Reflect your child's feelings so they know that you are in tune with their needs. e.g. "I can see that you are angry because you have your fists clenched and you are gritting your teeth". This can allow your child to know that they are being heard and can de-escalate situations. This allows for appropriate consequences and follow-up to take place without things getting out of hand.
You can let your children know how to cope by showing them. When you have a problem that is appropriate to let your children know about verbalise and demonstrate your positive coping strategies. This can include positive self-talk. e.g. "I feel pretty tired after a big week at work. I'm going to give my friend a call and then go for a swim. That will make me feel better". Children are like sponges and will mimic your coping habits.
Identifying Calming Strategies
Find time to set aside to sit down and talk with your child about their anger. Create a positive opportunity to identify appropriate things they can do when they are upset. Make sure you find a time when you can discuss without rushing. Explore what your child notices in their body when they are angry and the types of things that upset them. Make a visual list of choices they can make if they are angry. Children respond very well to rules and expectations which are explained ahead of time. Some coping strategies could include 'talking to someone', 'having some quiet time', 'relaxation exercises' or 'doing some physical activity'.
Role Playing Difficult Situations
Common situations where difficulties arise can be role-played. Recurring situations can often include resolving conflict with siblings, coping with losing and learning to share. Take time to act out these situations with your child and their siblings. Children learn by doing, so take time to play and pretend a situation is happening. Get involved and make the conflict resolution role-play fun. Demonstrate what they should and should not do and then get them involved in the play acting.
Acknowledging Positive Coping
Praise your child when they demonstrate appropriate expressions of emotions and when they use their words. e.g. "I'm so proud of you. It was sad that you didn't win but you were a good sport by congratulating the other team".
In some instances a child may be struggling with severe anger which may benefit from professional help. Seeking support from a Child Psychologist and Adolescent Psychologist can provide you and your family with the guidance you need.
Contact us at www.oraclepsychology.com.au if you need our help.
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Child Psychologist Daniel Wendt is the Principal Psychologist of Oracle Psychology in Newcastle, NSW.