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As part of our Term Three group therapy program, our ABACAS team will be running parent and carer training for our families with children on the autism spectrum.
The parent group will be based on the RUBI curriculum. RUBI is an evidence-based parent training program designed to support parents and caregivers of Autistic children ages 3-12. The focus of this program is on how to reduce challenging behaviours, including tantrums, aggression, and noncompliance.
Parents and carers will have the chance to learn new skills. Core skills will include prevention strategies, reinforcement strategies, compliance training, functional communication skills and equipping children with daily living skills.
This group training program will help parents and carers support their children’s therapy goals.
Rachel Puan, Program Manager and Lynette Tan, Case Manager from our ABACAS team will be running this program. Both Rachel and Lynette have years of experience developing Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) skills programs for children. As part of their roles they also provide behavioural consultancy services to families and schools alike. It just so happens that both are also working on the BCBA credentials via post-graduate study too.
Day and Time: Every Thursday starting 28 July 2022, 4.00-5.30pm
Session Length: 90-minute sessions weekly for 13 weeks
Number of participants: 8
Cost: $90 per session;
$44.95 USD for the parent workbook (which the centre will order for you)
For more information please contact our Client Support Coordinator on 9274 7062 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
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ANZAC Day is an important day for many Australians, when we recognise the service of defence personnel past and present, and in particular the anniversary of the troops landing in Gallipoli.
Children may learn about ANZAC Day at school through specific lessons and remembrance ceremonies. At home, children may want to talk about ANZAC Day further, which might include aspects of war. Given all the current media reporting on global conflicts, answering their questions may be tricky. We want to tell the truth but at the same time not give them so much information that we take away their sense of safety about the world.
It is important to consider how much your child might be able to cope with both intellectually and emotionally. This is going to vary from child to child, and with children of different ages.
For young children (around 4 to 8 years), we want to encourage questions but keep the messages simple and reassuring:
- It’s a day when we remember and thank everyone that has helped to look after our country
- It’s a day when we say thank you and are grateful that we live in a such a great country
- It’s a day when we remember that we have to look after everyone that lives in our community, including our older people who helped make it so great.
In these discussions, we want to gauge how our children are managing this information, and not provoke or exacerbate any feelings of anxiety.
If they are very concerned, keep reflections to past or offshore events, and discuss how in Australia we are now safe. For tender hearts, the details of death and destruction can be postponed until it can be better managed with maturity. Remember that anxious and sensitive children can generalise their fears, and it is best to not avoid but hear them voice these concerns so that they may be addressed specifically.
Our children will continue to process these concepts as they grow older, and develop their own opinions with influences from many sources, including your values as their parents.
If you ever need assistance with any of this, you have the support from our Psychology Team. Just call our Receptionists at the Centre on 9274 7062 to make an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists.
Naomi Ward and Sharon Jones
Child Wellbeing Centre
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2020 is the year that is testing our collective and individual Resilience. As we watch tragic events around the country and world, it’s hard not to feel worry or sadness, and in some instances anger. This is proving to be a very tough year on us all, including our children.
What do we mean by resilience?
Resilience is our ability to cope well with the ups and downs of life. A bit like a rubber band, how well do we spring back after we’ve been stretched by a challenge. Depending on the type and number of challenges we face, our resilience might be quite low, and we don’t’ spring back easily. Low Resilience can result in feeling anxious about the next challenge, feeling down about ourselves, and perhaps not managing the next challenge as well as we would like to. When challenges pile up, like they have been doing this year, our resilience suffers and we might begin to feel overwhelmed.
There are different ideas about how resilience develops. The most common theory is that it is a mixture of personality factors, our environment (e.g. home and school), and our perceived level of support. As a parent, now is a good time to check in with our children and gauge our children’s resilience.
How can we improve our child’s resilience?
Here are some areas to consider…
Mental health research consistently points out that children who feel supported and have strong relationships with their parents are better able to cope. Now is the time for open discussions that provide reassurance and demonstrate care. Simply having a strong positive relationship with your child, all by itself, helps them.
We all need to feel that we are capable and confident. It’s also how we learn to problem solve and cope with failure. Experiences of success at home and school, coupled with your recognition and praise, can really help to improve confidence and resilience. Giving your children challenges, helping them to succeed and acknowledging their success, goes a long way in supporting their resilience, emotional well-being and sense of stability. At the same time, undue or harsh criticism can erode this too.
Managing strong feelings well is a sign of healthy resilience. However, many children don’t manage strong feelings easily or naturally. You can help by showing how you cope positively with challenge and teach your own calming strategies to your child. There are so many resources online about different ways that we can teach our children these skills.
Interested in knowing a bit more about resilience? We’ve included a link to another article that you might find helpful: https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-raising-resilient-kids/
If you feel as though your child’s resilience or capacity to cope at the moment is low, and you need some assistance in supporting them, our experienced psychologists are ready to share their expertise. Please call our Reception on 9274 7062 for further information.
Naomi Ward, Director and Sharon Jones, Principal Psychologist
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Experiencing stress and anxiety at various times as a parent will be familiar. All parents know that our role has its highs and lows. Whether our children are at school or home with us self-isolating, they are in our care and thoughts 24/7. It doesn’t take a pandemic for parents to feel anxiety and stress around the job of parenting. Life can throw us many curveballs along the way. First, though, let’s have a look at what we mean by parental stress and anxiety.
What is parental stress?
Parental stress is the sense of being overwhelmed, which occurs when the demands of parenting overtake our capacity to manage it all. We all have moments when we want to pull our hair out as we are driven crazy by the competing demands for our time.
Over the longer term, this consistent stress becomes a concern when it impacts negatively on our relationships with our children and reduces our capacity to support them. We may become irritable and grumpy and overly negative. Our relationships with partners may suffer as well. This situation feels awful, and we may judge ourselves badly. Worse still, our children will start to see and possibly copy our very poor coping strategies.
What is parental anxiety?
Parental anxiety is defined as excessive worrying about the current wellbeing and/or future needs of our child. Common to parents of children with a disability, it may also develop with families where a child presents with complex or challenging needs.
While all parents have moments of worry for their children, parental anxiety is a pattern of worry that is long-standing and of such an extent that it impacts on the daily functioning of the parent and/or child.
Parental anxiety can start to look like paralysis, where decisions become difficult if not avoided altogether. Parents find themselves trying to minimize any risks for their children, which is where the term helicopter parenting comes from. And again, poor coping strategies are being modelled. Additionally, the child picks up on the parent’s anxiety and may take this on themselves too.
What can you do about parental stress and anxiety?
The first step starts with recognizing that things are getting out of control and seeking help. At our Centre, we are currently seeing a spike in parental stress and anxiety. Hence, we are now opening our Parental Stress and Anxiety Clinic (PASC) to parents of children who are not currently accessing Child Wellbeing Centre services.
In PASC, we match you with a psychologist who can help you get on top of any stress and anxiety. Typically, this is about learning new ways of managing thoughts and feelings. We also include opportunities to learn helpful parenting strategies and relaxation techniques. Sessions are currently available face to face or via online Telehealth sessions. All you need to do is let us know what will work best for you and we will make it happen.
Please contact our Reception on 9274 7062 for more information about our services and let them know that you are interested in PASC. We’re here to help!
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Managing strong feelings at the best of times can be challenging. Our children take their lead from us. When we are chaotic, so are they. When we are in the grip of strong feelings such as anger and sadness, they watch and learn (whether this is positive or negative) how to react and behave. When we are calm and rational, they are more likely to model this too, and if not, at least we are in a better place to help them with their strong feelings.
We want to be able to coach them through these strong feelings and teach them how to manage them well. However, that means we ourselves need to have a sense of how to do this so that we can help our children find calm. Sometimes, even if we do know what to say and do, our own strong reactions to them can interfere with a rational and helpful response.
What to do with strong feelings first?
Here are some tips to initial responses you can try:
- Allow them to express themselves (without hurting anyone), for a minute or two. This might be verbal or non-verbal expression;
- Reflect back to them what you think they might be feeling …“you seem pretty angry”, “do you feel frustrated?”, “are you sad?”. Often merely acknowledging their feelings will help diminish their intensity. When children feel seen and heard, they tend to calm naturally;
- However, when their feelings are very big and strong, we may need to let them express it further, but help them to do this more appropriately. For example “do you need to stomp out your anger?” (and stomp with them), “why don’t you hit this cushion with all of your anger?” (and stay close by), “it’s ok to scream loudly, but do it into the air or a pillow…not my face”.
How to help children calm down
Any break in this expression of feeling is the time to jump in with calming strategies:
- encourage little ones to breathe, and in particular to blow out a big breath, just like blowing out lots of candles;
- explain to pre-teens and teens that we need to expel the build-up of carbon dioxide that makes us feel sick and dizzy;
- encourage them to move around, to shift the adrenalin that has built up;
- connect with little ones again, by holding their hands and looking into their eyes, affirming to them that they are safe and not in trouble for having big strong feelings. If there was a trigger event of a conflict, address this afterwards, but not right now. Wait about 10 minutes before talking about it when you are both calm;
- connect with teens by a touch, a text, or gesture of making them something to eat or drink. Give them the option of talking to you, if not straight away, then perhaps in the car on your next trip. If conflict needs to be addressed, deliver the pre-agreed upon consequence without negotiation or emotion.
What if strong feelings are becoming a problem?
If you are unsure, our experienced psychologists can be your coach. They will then be able to show you how to model becoming calm for your children to see and encourage how to teach your children with similar strategies.
We all know that parenting is not an easy journey and that many of us experience stress and anxiety or even guilt at times. If this is the case, and you are overwhelmed with your own strong feelings, we have a clinic at the CWBC designed specifically to address parenting stress and anxiety.
During these challenging times, the Centre remains open and can offer in-person sessions or online meetings.
Please contact Reception for further information.
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It is more than likely that by now you and your children are being exposed to sources of anxiety and panic around the coronavirus (COVID-19). As always, when parents worry or panic, children can pick up on this without really understanding what it is all about. Typically their questions will start with “what is … or … what if”. Rather than just telling them not to worry, simple explanations with age-relevant objective information can be very helpful.
Helping kids understand the worry about the Coronavirus
One of the best antidotes to anxiety and panic is knowing more about the topic. It may be helpful for you to know that recently the statistics are indicating that children are not being greatly affected by the Coronavirus. To date, it seems that children may be less likely to catch the virus, and if they do, they may have mild flu like symptoms that seem to resolve without further complications.
If the children see people wearing masks on tv or in shopping centres, you might talk about it helping to prevent the spread of germs, and why washing your hands is very important. Teenagers might like to discuss the pros and cons for wearing a mask. These are easy conversations that will assist them with any sense of worry or anxiety. However, it is very important that adults discussing this with children are well-informed, not by the news but by our science forums.
Getting helpful information
News reports exacerbate anxiety and panic around people stockpiling staples. Rather than it being the situation of every-man-for-himself, this is a wonderful opportunity to talk to your children about being organised, and thereby being able to support your family and community. When buying extras (if this is what you choose to do), you might discuss how you as a family might need to support others who aren’t able to be as organised. For example, if you know near-by elderly people, you might talk in terms of making sure that you will be able to help them if this is needed. Depending on their age, your children might also understand the need to support other families with people who are often sick (the immunosuppressed). Indeed, there may be families in their school that are already identified, and this close-to-home example allows the possibility of thinking about what others might need too.
Yes, there is concern about COVID-19. Do we need to panic? Absolutely not and it is imperative for our children that we don’t. Our children can catch anxiety as easily as any virus. Protecting them from the germination of our own anxiety is the best preventative.
You are of course very welcome to discuss your concerns about your child’s level of anxiety with our psychologists. We can’t help with medical advice but we can help with anxiety management.
Please call reception on 9274 7062 for further information.
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Some of our little ones, and even our no-so-little ones, might be finding it hard to say good-bye to their parent at the classroom door. At the beginning of the school year, particularly for under 6’s, this is understandable in terms of their attachment to us, as well as the unfamiliarity of a new room and teacher. By now, most of our kiddies are settling into their new routine and are comfortable with a quick kiss and wave. However, for some children, this parting can still be an excruciating time, with great distress for all involved.
Why do children find it hard to separate?
Sometimes the reasons for this can be quite clear, especially if they’ve suffered a recent loss or trauma. For others, their distress is unexpected, and parents can find this very confronting and concerning. When there is great wailing or screaming, and clinging to the parent for dear life, both parent and child are likely to need support and assistance to reduce everybody’s anxiety. Old school thought included ripping the children off their parents with the belief that the child will forget them once they’ve left. These days we tend to adopt a more gentle approach, with less painful measures and less lasting repercussions.
What can I do to help?
Just as you might have done when they were little, give them a period of time for adjustment, with some words in their ear about what you will do together on pick-up. Give them something of yours to hold and settle them into an activity close to their teacher.
When these soothing words and support are not enough, we need to determine what is going on for them and give everyone coping strategies to help with this situation. Whether or not it is actually separation anxiety, teaching staff and parents, as well as the children, will do well with a nurturing plan moving forward.
If you would like more support, we have psychologists experienced in this area that can assist you. Please call us on 9274 7062 for more information about our services.
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Aside from getting back into routine, going back to school is a great time for children to reconnect with their friends. It’s also another year ahead of learning and fun. For some children the transition back into school can be challenging. Rather than leave that transition to the night before, there is quite a bit that you can do right now to help with getting your child ready.
5 Tips for getting ready for school
If you haven’t already started, this week is the time to start focusing on getting everyone ready for school again. How can you prepare?
- Sit down and plan out with your children what you will need to do to prepare for school. Create a checklist and timetable of all the steps that are required. This helps reduce any overwhelming feelings to something more manageable.
- Talk about the good things that are likely to happen when your child is back at school. The start of the school year is a time to make new friends and meet new teachers. There’s also lots of cool stuff to learn about.
- Adjust sleep times. During the holidays most children tend to go to bed later than they would on a school night and sleep in later. Starting to adjust sleep times gradually before school starts is likely to be more effective then suddenly demanding that your child be asleep at their usual time the night before school starts!
- For younger children, do a walk around the school showing them where their class will be, how to find the toilets and where school drop-offs and pick-ups will be and
- Celebrate back to school with a party or special event. Include one of their friends or classmates for school to make the occasion that little bit more special.
What about the anxious child?
Some children become very worried at the start of the new school year, often imaging the worst is about to happen. As parents, it’s important that we acknowledge those worries. Telling someone not to worry seldom works! Instead the focus on coping strategies and helping the child find things to help them manage these worries.
For some children, rehearsal strategies like social stories are really helpful. They explain what is going to happen and can reassure the child that things will be fine.
For other children, finding gentle ways to challenge their worry thoughts is what’s needed. For example, reminding them of all the other times they were worried and good things happened.
Being a little worried about going back to school is perfectly normal. However, if you feel your child is “too worried” then our psychology team is there to help with strategies to help children back into school. Please call reception on 9274 7062 for more information about our services.
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Bushfires have dominated the news these holidays. For some, the holiday season has been about survival and trying to keep a roof over their heads. For others, it’s been the mixed feelings of sadness and at times anger as we monitor the news. There have been stories we have read about where we have felt proud about our fellow Australians – mixed in among the distressing ones. For many of us, we have experienced worry as we have watched daily coverage about the bushfires. Sometimes, even frustration as we look for meaningful ways to help.
Through all of this time (and times to come) our children have also been watching. Through the media, they are learning about the impact of the bushfires on people, communities and animals. They are also learning from how we as parents respond to the news. While older children may be able to use their words to ask about what is happening and seek reassurance, younger children often can’t. Changes in behaviour are often how we know if a child is feeling distress or anxiety.
Signs to look out for
Whether it’s to do with the bushfires or other natural disasters, children may be displaying symptoms of anxiety and distress through their behaviour. During the school holidays, these are some behaviour changes to look more closely at:
- sleep changes – nightmares, sudden difficulties sleeping alone and/or difficulties falling asleep
- eating changes – loss of appetite or a sudden increase in appetite
- mood changes – increased anger or irritability (this can also look like a sudden increase in defiant behaviour).
- increased clinginess – needing to be physically close to their parents, needing more physical affection, separation anxiety
- increased complaints about feeling unwell – complaining of tummy aches, headaches – where there is no underlying medical concern.
How can parents help
There are three keys things that parents can do to help children feeling anxious about bushfires:
- Limit how much exposure your child has to the news. Re-occurring images about devastated communities, the impact on wildlife and the anger people are feeling are scary for children. If anything, it’s the news stories about bravery, communities supporting each other, animals being cared for that is the range of stories to let young ones see. Make sure to talk about any of the stories children are seeing -both to provide balance and to provide reassurance.
- Monitor your own feelings and responses. Big feelings (anger, fear, sadness) being expressed by parents can be overwhelming to young children. As parents, we need to find places to express these away from our children.
- Reassure children. When children are expressing their own fears, they need to be reminded that they are loved and cared for and most importantly, personally safe. Let them know that there are people in the community helping those that need help, including the animals.
These same strategies are also relevant for older children too.
Lastly, it’s normal for everyone to have big feelings when terrible things are happening in the world. However, if your child continues to remain anxious after the bushfires, then it might be time to seek help. Your GP or school student services team (once school is back on board) are good places to start. You are also welcome to talk to one of our psychologists.
Please feel free to ring Reception on 9274 7062 for information about our services.
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When working with a client recently, I was reminded again that children often use behaviour as a way of communication. In many of our posts we have covered, more than once, that there are four functions of behaviour, escape, tangibles, automatic and attention. Behaviours can provide access to more than one of these simultaneously and these behaviours may be appropriate or inappropriate.
All behaviour has a purpose
Inappropriate behaviours are never just something to be reduced to manageable levels, they are communicating a need. It could be “I don’t want to do this” or “I don’t have the skills to do this”. Sometimes it’s “I’m having a great time, but I don’t know how to show you” or “I need something”. For many children on the Autism Spectrum, there are skill deficits that can leave a gap between what a child is trying to say, and what they are able to communicate effectively to another person. Hence the importance of standing back sometimes and thinking about what is happening.
So, what does this mean for practice?
I speak about “replacement behaviours” often and that is first and foremost what needs to be addressed through therapy. Children have a right to develop the skills to independently communicate, so long term they can be their own advocates and control their own lives.
In the mean time, before those skills are developed and consolidated, as parents and therapists we can make environmental changes to reduce the demands on children, provide visuals that support them to understand the rules and what is happening next. It’s important to remember the onus is on us to support them. Children don’t act out to be malicious, or to spite anyone – we are responsible for their behaviour.
Our Program Managers are there to help if you have a child who is displaying problem behaviours and you’re unsure what they are trying to communicate. We can help you tease it the behaviour out, and develop a plan with you to work on reducing the problem behaviours, modifying your environment, and reducing the skill gaps.
ABACAS Program Manager