Tag Archives: psychology

Born Naughty? – Initial Reactions

(Photo taken from the Guardian)

The new Channel 4 documentary series Born Naughty? looked at the causes of inappropriate behaviours in children. Last night’s episode featured two children and their families. Six year-old Theo whose behavioural outbursts were apparently difficult to control is suspected by his mother to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. In the show, Theo’s mother seems to want Theo to be diagnosed to prove to herself (and others) that she was not a bad parent. The other child was nine year-old Honey who has been excluded from school due to her behaviour and has not been in formal education for months. Her parents, also wanting to prove that they are not bad parents, wanted to know whether she has an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).

The good

1. Holistic(-ish) portrayal of the children

What I liked about the programme was their conscious effort to show that both children’s behaviours were not always bad. Theo was shown to behave really well at the psychologist’s office and around her grandma, while Honey behaved well when she was around animals.

2. It showed professionals in a positive light

The professionals in the show aimed to gain a holistic perspective of the children’s behaviours and the reasons for those behaviour with the intent of improving the situation. They all worked collaboratively and came up with solutions to each family’s concerns.

3. The effects of a diagnosis (and lack thereof)

Honey was diagnosed with ASC and Pathological Demand Avoidance (a term I absolutely loathe) to the delight of her parents. The diagnosis was welcomed by the parents as they were previously blamed for Honey’s behaviour. It helped them ‘see’ Honey’s behaviour in a different light. In addition (and perhaps most importantly), the diagnosis triggered appropriate support that she needed such as her access to an Art therapist who comes to their house regularly to work on her behaviours and anxiety. In addition, she also secured a place at a school wherein she could be around animals which she absolutely loved.

Theo on the other hand was not diagnosed with ADHD as her Mum was hoping for. Rather, her Mum was given a strict behaviour programme. The programme helped as Theo was shown to display appropriate behaviour at the end of the show. His sleeping pattern and relationship to his mother also improved.

These hghlight the fact that slapping a diagnosis at every child who misbehaves is not always the right solution. In addition, a professional assessment is meaningless unless the appropriate support and interventions are planned and strictly implemented.

The less good

1. The title

I almost did not watch this programme because of the title. No one is born ‘naughty’.

2. The children were labelled as naughty

I feel like these vulnerable children are portrayed in the worst way possible as they were labelled naughty. I guess this is a reflection of some people’s perceptions of young people who misbehave. As I have said above, I felt that the programme tried to show the children’s positive side as well as their not-so-positive one.

3. Children were not protected

I’m still concerned that although their families consented, they were not able to give their appropriate consent. How will they feel in a few years’ time? How will they react when they read the inappropriate and vile comments posted on social media sites?

4. Idealistic scenario

I’m sure there will be a lot of families in similar situations wondering why they have been refused an assessment. Similarly, some of those who have been assessed may be left wondering why they have not received the appropriate support post-diagnosis. I must stress that this is not a criticism of the show, but one directed to some professionals.

HOPES AND FINAL THOUGHTS

I hope that future episodes will further show the complexities of behaviour and explore different explanations of why some children behave inappropriately. Despite the shows shortcomings, I feel that it is a step forward in dispelling the unfortunate wide-spread belief that behaviour IS the problem. Instead, what I want is for people to understand that behaviour is a consequence of something else.

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I’m very close to completing a significant year of my doctoral training to become a qualified educational psychologist. It is a tough and long journey, but it is worth every sacrifice. I am continually learning ways to enable pupils, parents and teachers to make their situations better.

I enjoy the challenge of this journey. I feel prepared as long as I have my coffee!:D

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Journey

Sunday reading: Egan’s The Skilled Helper

Reaching my weekly writing target early meant that I can finally catch up on my reading (and blogging). Right now I am reading Gerard Egan’s The Skilled Helper with the hope that it will improve my counselling skills. Egan’s approach draws together a couple of psychological theories and applies it to counselling. I can myself using his method in the next coming weeks!

Have you read it? WHat do you think about it?

Be kind to yourself

I’ve learned a very important lesson this week – one that I should have known for a very long time. It’s that IT IS ALRIGHT TO MAKE MISTAKES. I have been hard on myself for most of my life. I always wanted to do the right thing. I never wanted to make unintentional mistakes. Recently, I began to realise that life is a process of learning and growth, and mistakes are part of it. It’s time to embrace my mistakes, learn from them and keep growing.The lessons that I’ve learned from all of my mistakes have helped me to become the person I am now – one that’s better than who I was yesterday, but far from being the best person that I can be.

I wanted to share this to you because I want you to try to be kind to yourself. You need to forgive yourself because if you don’t who will? What matters is what you do after a mistake. Would you learn from it and change your behaviours/thinking? I hope so.

Life’s hard enough. Don’t make it harder!

Who are you?

Identity.

Most of us spend our whole lives trying to find out who we really are. Try this, try that, stay here, go there. Our identities evolve. Who we are now will be different from who we were yesterday and who we will be tomorrow. Although I must admit that our identities only change to a certain extent. There are some things that we cannot control however hard we try. But isn’t it a beautiful and freeing idea to be in control of (almost) all of your life? Isn’t it a wonderful realisation that it is never too late to be who we want to be?

On the other hand, we must also accept that others change too. The people around us will change – hopefully for the better. But the best thing is that we can change (or reinforce who we already are) together.

A Professional’s Guide to Talking About Autism

Talking about Autism in  professional contexts should be done with utmost sensitivity and respect towards the individuals with the condition and their families. Having sat through assessments, consultations, education and health care meetings, annual reviews and planning meetings with familes and professionals, I have learned lessons of what to do and what not to do when it comes to talking about the said subject. I am aiming, through this article, to share with you what I have learned over the years.

1. It’s not an epidemic and no one is ‘suffering’ from Autism

Despite what the figures suggest, I do not consider Autism as an epidemic – it has been around for longer than we all think and we just got better at identifying it.

I would try to avoid using any negative terms at all when talking about Autism. Someone HAS Autism, but he/ she is not suffering. I prefer to call Autism as a condition, not a disorder or a disease.

Please note that I do not want you all to turn a blind eye on the difficulties that the individuals and their families are having at any point. Absolutely not! I urge you to acknowledge that. What I want you all to understand is that whatever it is that is happening now can be changed. Focus on what can be done (realistically) to make their situations better.

2. Individuals with Autism; not Autistic individuals

The jury is still out with this one – some actually want to be identified as ‘autistic’, as it is a major part of their identities, while some would like to be referred to as (for example) ‘a girl with Autism’. I always use the latter one, unless corrected by the individual or the family. I feel that by referring to them as ‘individuals with Autism’, I am acknowledging that there is more to them than having a diagnosis – that Autism is only a part of who they are. By doing so, I believe that I am opening up the opportunity for others to truly discover who the person really is as a whole.

3. Avoid using ‘High/Low Functioning’ and ‘severely/mildly Autistic’

I myself am guilty of this until recently. First of all, I know that levels of functioning depends (in a large part) on the individual’s IQ score. However, I began to understand that IQ is only a part of who they truly are.

I understand that levels of functioning may give professionals and parents a common language/ reference point to which they can base an individual’s set of abilities. But I feel like this should be avoided as it is misleading. I have met many people with Autism who have overall IQs of less than 70 but are amazing in specific things. One may be ‘low functioning’ but it does not mean that they cannot (or are not) good at something.

What I find helpful is to look at the overall picture. Try to understand every context, every behaviour, every aspect of the individual’s life. Then, if you need to talk to the individuals with Autism and/ or his/ their families, you should pinpoint the areas in which they have strengths and the areas in which they need to improve. Not only will you be able to offer a much better informed solution (if that’s what’s needed), you may also make the families feel that they were listened to.

4. SHUT UP AND LISTEN!

As professionals, most of us are eager to offer advice. But having spoken to a lot of families over the years, what they appreciate is being listened to – genuinely and empathically. I advise you to take a step back and listen to what they are saying before speaking or making your mind. Clarify what you heard and don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure that you truly understood what they meant.

5. No two individuals with Autism are the same

I know that you all may have read/ heard this before, but I want you to always keep this in mind. No matter how many people with Autism you have met, the next one would be completely different from the others. Never assume that you already know what to do. I suppose if you want to stay true to this advise, you would follow number 4.

Final comments

All of what I have said may not be a unique revelation to many of you. However, I feel like I owe it to the Autism community to remind you (and myself) of all of them. I know that we all want the best for the people we work with, which is why I am confident that the Autism community is in safe hands.

Please feel free to contact me and/ or leave comments if you wish to discuss anything further.