Just a short post today answering a frequently asked question. Can I see you for just a chat?Yes, absolutely. I am happy to talk about situations occurring at home or school and take a problem-solving approach with ideas about how to make things go better. Sometimes an hour appointment can help parents to clarify things in their minds and they are able to manage the situation on their own from that point onwards. Other times, if the situation is more complex, I can meet for a series of sessions to unpack complex problems and provide support. I’m always mindful of the cost of visiting a psychologist in terms of money but also of people’s time. I encourage people to call or email me as I’m happy to spend 15 minutes discussing a situation free of charge. If I think I can help I’ll suggest an appointment, but it may well be that I can quickly re direct you to the person who can help.
I don’t provide talk therapy such as psychotherapy or on-going counselling. I can provide referrals on to psychologists or therapists who do provide this kind of support if that is what you require.
Hopefully this has provided some useful answers but please feel free to ask more questions. You can post questions on my FB page, on the blog page or email me directly.
As someone who has worked in special education for many years classroom observations are a familiar routine for me. I have realised since moving into private practice that it’s a bit of a foreign concept for most parents. I thought I’d write about the process of a classroom observation to de mystify it.
Sometimes it is helpful for me to see a child’s behaviour in the context that it happens. If the leadership team of the school and the class teacher have given their consent for me to observe I can come into a classroom or other school setting to see what is occurring.
I usually observe for a maximum of 20-30 minutes although I may book a longer appointment. This gives me time to get settled into the room and to chat with staff if there is an opportunity to do so. I ask teachers to introduce me (if they wish to do so) as someone who is there to observe in the school to see how things work in that class or school. I ask them not to identify me as there to observe a student. Generally, I tuck myself in an out of the way spot in the room and take notes of what I am seeing. Sometimes children ask me what I’m doing so I usually have a general response prepared. My aim is to be as unobtrusive as possible whilst acknowledging that just by being there I’m changing the dynamic of the classroom somewhat.
Teachers are used to someone observing in their classrooms as this is often part of professional development. It can be very difficult when the teacher is focused on teaching a lesson to see the very small details of an individual child’s behaviour. Quite often what I can see as an outside observer isn’t possible for even the perfect teacher to see.
Usually observations are part of a wider assessment and I will provide a written report including my conclusions about what I’ve observed. The report will also include some recommendations about how to help the student engage better with learning.
One or both parents usually accompany children/young people to the appointment. We spend the first 15 minutes chatting and getting to know each other. Sometimes I have follow up questions from the written questionnaires which we can cover at this time. Parents then leave and I will work 1-1 with your child.
Usually we start with a cognitive assessment which will provide information about how your child thinks compared to other children of the same age. If you are booked for a formal assessment you might tell them that once they are comfortable with me, you will leave us alone and that we will be working through a range of different activities together. I often use the word activity rather than test as it can have quite negative overtones. The activities are often very short lasting only a few minutes and are different from the kinds of assessments or activities undertaken in school.
Once we complete the cognitive assessment, we take a short break for a snack and a walk around to get some fresh air. My office is based on a school campus which means there is equipment to play on and plenty of space to move around during our break. After this break we usually complete the achievement assessment which will provide information about how your child is learning at school when compared to other children of the same age. These are a series of short activities which while more like school activities or assessments are different than what your child usually encounters.
At some point during the appointment I usually try to encourage the child/young person to share with me their thoughts on the situation. I usually bring some simple games with me like tic tac toe which allow us to chat whilst doing an activity. I also have some strengths-based cards which are helpful to encourage discussion. At the end of the assessment session you will pick your child up. They may be tired as the sessions are intense but usually, they can return to school with no difficulty in the afternoon.
When will we find out the results of the assessment?
I don’t usually provide any feedback about the assessment on the same day as the assessment. This is because I like to take my time and consider what I saw and what the results are telling me. The assessments themselves are quite complex and require more than a superficial calculating of numbers in order to interpret the results. I also like to take my time to write a report that is clear, easy to read and contains useful suggestions for support. This can take me a week to 10 days to complete. As soon as I’ve finished writing the report, I send it out and make the offer to schedule a feedback meeting face to face.
What should I bring with us to an assessment?
Thinking uses up energy so ensure your child has something to snack on when we take a break. A water bottle is also a good idea. Bring any further information that you think may help me to understand the situation, this could be school reports or reports from other professionals.
Over the past year since I began seeing clients privately, I have been asked a range of questions by parents about what to expect on the day that they bring their child to see me. Today I thought I’d start a series of posts covering some of these questions. For the next few weeks I’ll post answers to a range of questions that parents have asked me. As I tailor the experience of each child/young person to their specific needs these are general ideas.
What should I tell my child about seeing a psychologist?
My advice is always to be honest but gentle with your child. It is likely they are very aware of any difficulties with learning or behaviour they may have. Make sure to use language that your child understands and is appropriate to their age and developmental stage. Tell them that you are coming to see me so that I can help to find a way to make the situation work for them and for your family.
Your child may feel more comfortable if they have a chance before the appointment to know a little about me. You could show them my pictures on my website and checkout the page with information about me on my website, https://www.edpsych.co.nz/about-the-psychologist.html
Welcome back to the 2019 school year. Hopefully everyone has had a chance to have a break and some down time from the busy school schedule during term time. Many schools will be starting back in the next week or so. Getting back to the school routine can be a challenge. As I’ve mentioned before change is tricky for everyone, but there are lots of things you as parents can do to help your child. Here are my top tips for making the transition back to school an easy one.
A few days before school starts:
Start getting everyone back into their usual sleep routines. This one can be tricky with the long days we are experiencing but try shifting in small increments of 15 minutes each day so that at least once school starts your child will be able to have a reasonable amount of sleep.
Discuss what the getting ready for school routines in the morning and at night will look like. Ask your children to share their ideas. It may be helpful to start with to write the steps down and have them somewhere central for children and adults to refer to. An evening and a morning routine will ensure that there is time get everything done.
Check in with school websites and or re read email or paper communications from school on first day and week routines.
Talk positively about the upcoming school year and the fun and interesting learning that will occur.
To support children with specific concerns:
If your child has very specific learning or behaviour needs or has experienced some big life changes during the break, I recommend you contact your child’s school and let them know what the situation is. If you don’t know who the teacher is for 2019 you can always contact someone on the leadership team who can pass the information on to the correct person.
If your child is attending a new school or is anxious about starting back it may be helpful to go for a visit to the school and walk around checking out the playing fields and equipment as well as the layout of the buildings before school starts.
Throughout the school year but especially in January and early February:
Once school has started make sure you look for any opportunity to attend parent evenings, school picnics and so on. Many schools provide a range of options and while it’s not necessary to attend all your child’s education will be all the richer for your participation and interest in what they are doing at school.
The things I’ve listed seem simple but as is often the case if you get the basics right it’s possible to avoid needing to manage more difficult situations.
The idea comes from the British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott who was born in 1896. In his book Playing and Reality, (London: Tavistock, 1971) Winnicott proposed the idea of the good enough mother. As might be expected for a man of his time, he saw active parenting, particularly of infants, as the domain of mothers. If we shift the concept into current times, and consider that the idea of good enough applies to the people/person who is actively parenting rather than gender, it is a useful way of thinking for all of us involved in parenting or working with children and young people.
In essence, Winnicott is suggesting that initially parents provide everything an infant needs. At times parents even anticipate what they might need. For example, mums and dads swaddle their babies and lie them down soon after a feed knowing that their baby often needs to sleep after eating. As parents settle into the routines of the new baby they may momentarily delay providing what is needed. A baby may be left to cry for a moment before mum or dad comes to get them up from a sleep because the caregiver may be playing with a sibling or completing a household or work task. As children grow and develop this becomes a familiar pattern in that the early total devotion to an infant isn’t possible to sustain in the real world of siblings, work and household commitments. Often parents feel guilty about this split of roles and responsibilities. The good enough parenting concept helps us to make sense of the realities of parenting. The delays in delivering what an infant and child want are actually a good thing. They help our infant begin to develop their idea of self-concept, that they are separate from their caregivers and helps them to feel secure in their relationships with their caregivers. They learn that when their needs are not satisfied immediately there is no cause for concern.
So next time your child demands your attention for entertainment or food or other and you have to say ‘in a minute’ or ‘not right now’ instead of feeling guilty pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you are being a good enough parent and that is in fact being an excellent parent!
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.