Read all about it! Temple Talks Autism makes The Herald in a fascinating Temple Grandin interview

Dr Temple Grandin
06 May '19

Journalist for The Herald, the 30-year veteran Hugh MacDonald, took time out from his sports brief to conduct an interview with Temple Grandin ahead of her appearance in Glasgow at Temple Talks Autism 2019.

It’s a fascinating conversation, covering the autism spectrum, the importance of work for autistic youths, and her own unique life experiences. There’s also input from Jim Taylor, the autism expert who’ll be chairing the conference.

Click the picture below to read the article on The Herald website:

Hugh McDonald Temple Grandin article - The Herald

Resilience for children: what it means, why it’s important and a guide to the hallmarks and risk factors

Annual Children's Mental Health Conference 2019
01 May '19
Annual Children's Mental Health Conference 2019

Resilience for children: what it means, why it’s important and a guide to the hallmarks and risk factors

Ahead of her appearance at our Annual Children’s Mental Health Conference 2019 (5th June, Glasgow), we’ve adapted a piece by Dr Tina Rae, from Teaching Times’ Every Child Journal, on the subject of resilience. This is one of the topics she’ll cover at the conference (which also features Prof Barry Carpenter and more) – sign up today! This is part one – parts two and three of the piece will appear in the coming weeks…

The importance of creating a resilient staff team and a whole-school approach based in the philosophy and approaches emanating from positive psychology is presented as are some key tools and evidence-based approaches which can help us to meet such an objective.

The Department for Education and the Mental Health Foundation define a mentally healthy child as one who can:

    • develop psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually;
    • initiate, develop and sustain mutually satisfying personal relationships;
    • use and enjoy solitude;
    • become aware of others and empathise with them;
    • play and learn;
    • develop a sense of right and wrong;
    • face problems and setbacks and learn from them.

This list is further built upon by Helpguide, the non-profit website health guide, to include a sense of wellbeing and contentment, a zest for living, resilience (the ability to “bounce back”) and creative as well as intellectual development.

On initial reading, this list may appear somewhat simplistic. However, once we begin to reflect upon our own lives and relate these descriptors to young people in schools, it is possible to see how it can provide an initial starting point for identifying problems and difficulties. As Mark Prever states in his book, “They are useful indicators when we consider their opposites – an activity that way gives us some insight into the meaning of mental health problems and mental illness[1].”

Raising awareness

The Office for National Statistics noted that over ten per cent of children aged between five and 15 years are affected by a mental health problem and that this figure rises to 11.2 per cent for students of statutory secondary school age[2]. This means that the average secondary school of 1000 pupils will have:

    • 50 students with depression;
    • 10 affected by eating disorders;
    • 100 suffering/experiencing significant distress;
    • 10-20 students with obsessive compulsive disorder;
    • 5-10 attempting suicide.

As Prever suggests, “This, then, is the task faced by schools. Wherever possible, we need to find ways to prevent these problems in young people from developing. We need to act early with our own school-based support systems and refer on to – and work directly with – mental health professionals where this is felt necessary and desirable.”

Teachers and those who work with young people in schools can and do successfully prevent the escalation of mental health problems in their students by understanding more about protective factors and ensuring that they are promoted at an individual, group and systems-level across the whole-school community. This, in turn, can then support systems and approaches at both individual and group levels to build resilience and overall wellbeing.

What do we mean by resilience?

Resilience is about “bouncing back” from what life throws at us. It is about being strong inside and able to adapt well to changes and difficulties. It is about flourishing in life, despite our circumstances.

If children are resilient, they will be able to cope better with problems, they will have better health and they will be happier and more fulfilled. They will also be less likely to develop emotional problems like depression or anxiety.

But resilience is not just something you have or don’t have. The important truth is that we can help all children to become more resilient. We can’t protect children from all the things that may cause them distress throughout their lives. But we can help children become more resilient so that they are more able to cope with life’s uncertainties and problems. And all children, no matter what their background, will have to face problems and changes in their lives. So our support is really important in helping children become more resilient.

Annual Children's Mental Health Conference 2019

Coping with Change

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.’ – Charles Darwin

The way in which young children, and indeed adults, cope with change is one important component of our mental health. This capacity tends to be shaped by our own unique combination of nature, nurture and events and a resulting balance in our lives between both risk and resilience. For many young people who have experienced secure attachments and nurturing in their early years, adults will be seen as trustworthy and reliable. These are the people whom children can go to when they are attempting to deal with difficult issues, uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, and at times of transition such as secondary transfer.

For those whose experiences of adults are more chaotic and whose relationships did not lead to the development of resilience, trusting adults and regulating their strong feelings may be slightly more problematic. Children who are more vulnerable will tend to find it more difficult to ask for help, and also to cope with any underlying anxieties which they experience during the process of change.

Risk factors

It is important to highlight the fact that risk does not cause mental health problems in children and young people – however, it is something that is cumulative and does predispose children and young people to poor outcomes in the longer term.

It is therefore essential that those who are working with young children, both in the learning and social contexts, aim to minimise the number and extent of risks that they are exposed to. It is not always possible to remove the risk itself but an awareness of the presence of risk can quite often change the way that adults understand a young person’s needs and respond to them.

It is vital at the outset that school-based staff, for example, have access to information which would ensure the identification of any potential risk factors or existing risk factors for individual children and young people. These can include the following:

    • genetic influences;
    • learning difficulties;
    • specific development delay;
    • communication difficulties;
    • a difficult temperament;
    • physical illness;
    • previous academic failure;
    • low levels of self-esteem.

Predisposing factors within families can also include the following:

    • overt parental conflict;
    • family breakdown;
    • inconsistent or unclear discipline in the home;
    • hostile and rejecting relationships;
    • failure to adapt to the child’s development needs;
    • physical/sexual abuse and/or neglect or emotional neglect;
    • parental psychiatric illness;
    • parental criminality, alcoholism, drug abuse and personality disorder;
    • death and loss including the loss of friendships.

Predisposing factors in the wider community can include the following:

    • socio-economic disadvantage;
    • homelessness;
    • disaster, accidents, war and other overwhelming events;
    • discrimination;
    • other significant life events.
Annual Children's Mental Health Conference 2019

Promoting resilience

It is vital therefore that school-based staff engage in the process of promoting resilience in children and young people in all key stages and particularly upon the stage of transition between Key Stage 2 and 3.

Newman defined a resilient child as one who “can resist adversity, cope with uncertainty and recover more successfully from traumatic events or episodes”[3].

He described resilience as being a set of skills that are required through experience, although there may of course be some inherited aspects. Resilience is not about invulnerability but is essentially about our capacity to cope.

Continuous and extreme adversity is likely to drain even the most resilient children and adults. Rutter argued that resilience is created when risk is reduced through a series of protective mechanisms or factors – it is these that can change a child’s trajectory in life[4,5].

When children are supported in developing a positive appraisal of themselves and to think differently or in a more solution-focused way about events they are then and able to feel differently about their own competence. In essence, they believe in their own ability to cope. Rutter also argued that risk is reduced when the exposure to risk is altered in some way.

Rutter highlights the following factors which protect young people in adversity:

    • the ability to integrate experiences into their belief systems;
    • the presence of self-esteem;
    • the ability to be proactive in relation to ongoing stress;
    • having secure, affectional relationships;
    • some measure of success and achievement;
    • interaction with others in securing games;
    • parental modelling or redeeming relationships i.e. modelling by another supportive adult;
    • the ability to process events and experiences in a meaningful way;
    • gaining mastery over stressful events.

Daniel and Wassell developed the notion of domains of resilience[6]. They highlighted six areas of a young person’s life where resilience could be promoted. These are as follows:

    • Secure base;
    • Education;
    • Friendships;
    • Talents and interests;
    • Positive values;
    • Social competence.

The idea of such ‘resilient strings’ is similar to Rutter’s protective mechanisms. These are processes which interact with each other over time in order to reinforce the level of resilience a child or young person actually has.

It is also likely that in resilient children, one domain of resilience will positively impact on another. For example, a young child who has a musical talent and who is asked to perform in a school band or choir is also likely to develop friendships and as a result will take up a higher profile social role in the school which is more valued. This in turn will promote his or her educational outcomes in the long run.

Resilience in the child

Research has consistently identified the following protective factors for children’s wellbeing and mental health:

    • Female (in younger children);
    • Secure attachment experience;
    • Outgoing temperament as an infant;
    • Good communication skills and sociability;
    • Being a planner and having a belief in control;
    • Humour;
    • Problem solving skills and a positive attitude;
    • Experiences of success and achievement;
    • Faith or spirituality;
    • Capacity to reflect;
    • At least one good parent/child or carer relationship/supportive adult;
    • Affection;
    • Clear, consistent discipline;
    • Support for education;
    • Supportive long-term relationships or the absence of severe discord;
    • Wider support networks;
    • Good housing;
    • High standard of living;
    • High morale at school with positive policies for behaviour, attitudes and anti-bullying;
    • Opportunities for valued social roles;
    • Range of sport and leisure activities.

Dr Tina Rae is a Professional and Academic Tutor at the University of East London. She has over 30 years experience working with children, adults and families, and specialises in social, emotional and behavioural disorders and difficulties.

References

1. Prever, M. (2007) Mental health in schools. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
2. Office for national statistics (2003) The mental health of young people looked after by local authorities. London: National Stationery office.
3. Newman, T. (2002) Promoting resilience: A review of effective strategies for child care.
4. Rutter, M. (1985) Resilience in the face of adversity: protective factors and resistance to psychiatric disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 147: 598-611.
5. Rutter, M. (1987) Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57-3: p.316-331.
6. Daniel, B. and Wassell, S. (2002) Assessing and promoting resilience in vulnerable children, volumes 1, 2 and 3. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.

Things all Parents, Teachers and Carers Should Know About Mental Health Issues in Children

05 Dec '18

Things all Parents, Teachers and Carers Should Know About Mental Health Issues in Children

If you are a parent, teacher or care for children, it is essential that you understand and how to recognise and deal with children’s mental health issues. Here are just some of the things you should be aware of.

The Statistics

Whilst thought to be very uncommon, mental health affects 10-20% of children before they become an adult. It is essential that parents and teachers understand that out of character behaviour could be signs of a more serious underlying issue.

The Risks

There are certain factors that make children more at risk of developing a mental health issue early in their lives. Children with physical illness or disability are much more likely to develop a mental health issue. Also, children with difficult relationships such as victims or witnesses of domestic abuse, bullying or trauma are highly susceptible to developing mental health concerns. If a child facing any of these circumstances is showing signs of a mental health issue, it should be taken seriously.

The Signs

There are many signs which may mean a child is suffering with mental health difficulties, including:

– Changes to their sleeping pattern, over sleeping or trouble sleeping

– Withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed

– Engaging in difficult behaviour such as tantrums or running away

– Becoming overly focussed on a certain task or routine

These are just some of the signs that your child might be suffering from a mental health issue, it is always prudent to seek the advice of a professional if you have concerns.

The Strategies

What should you do if a child is exhibiting these behaviours? There are a number of proven strategies for dealing with issues. Spending at least 15 minutes per day of one-to-one time, without distraction, can help build a positive relationship and may encourage your child to open up about their difficulties, and feel supported. Similarly, understanding your child’s specific needs and being supportive of their circumstances can also improve the situation.

The Treatment

If their behaviour does not improve, it is time to seek professional help. Children’s mental health issues are usually treated with a combination of therapy and medication, and your medical advisor will be able to set out the options for you clearly and concisely to help you make the right choice.

Awesome CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals – Come and learn with us!

If you are interested in attending an inspirational Medica CPD event, where you will learn from world leading experts how to implement strategies for success, check out our events page. You can book our events online just for yourself, or for a group. For more information, you can also get in touch with us any time, and we would be glad to tell you more about how our events can help you make a difference.

Supporting Employees with Autism in the Workplace

24 Nov '18

Supporting Employees with Autism in the Workplace

Employees can be an excellent asset to your business when properly supported. That is why it is essential that you support employees with autism in your business. Regardless of whether you are a business owner, manager or fellow employee, there are a number of key steps you can take to help employees with autism thrive in a workplace setting.

Arrange Staff Training

Many of your current employees may be unaware of what autism really is, and what it can mean for those with the condition. You should arrange a training session or attend an event that will inform employees of what this means, and how best to support the employee with autism.

Take time to understand

Autism is different in each and every person. The scale is broad, and some people display certain behaviours whilst others do not. It is vital to take the time to understand ow autism manifests in the employee you are taking on, so that you can take action to support this employee fully.

Tailor the working environment

One you understand what difficulties the employee faces as a result of their autism, take steps to mitigate these factors. For example, give them their own space in your open plan office where they won’t be disturbed. Make sure the lighting or noise isn’t too distracting, or that they will not be approached by visitors if they find social interactions challenging.

Awesome CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals – Come and learn with us!

If you are interested in attending an inspirational Medica CPD event, where you will learn from world leading experts how to implement strategies for success, check out our events page. You can book our events online just for yourself, or for a group. For more information, you can also get in touch with us any time and we would be glad to tell you more about how our events can help you make a difference.

Top Tips for Dealing with Autism Behaviours

13 Nov '18

Top Tips for Dealing with Autism Behaviours

Regardless of whether you are a teacher, social care worker, healthcare professional or from any other background, it is likely that you will at some point encounter someone with autism. This can be challenging if you are unsure of how to handle autism behaviours, but in reality there are some very simple strategies you can learn to assist you.

Be patient

It can take time for someone with autism to adapt to changes, and progress might seem slow. However, it is important that you are patient and supportive. Set small goals and track achievements.

Consistency

People with autism may find it difficult to understand social situations, and to adapt to new processes, rules or what is expected of them. Ensure that there is an element of consistency to the way you treat them, and as far as possible to their interactions with you.

Be sensitive to the sensory environment

Many people with autism find it difficult to focus where there is a lot of loud noise, and many may be alarmed by a fire drill or sudden loud noise. Try to anticipate these things and make the environment as comforting as possible for them.

Communicate well

What may seem straightforward to you or I may not be understood in the same way by a person with autism. Try to be very clear in your meaning and take the time to ensure they understand. In the same way, many people with autism struggle to communicate, particularly when they are anxious or upset. It can help not to make them feel overwhelmed, to give them space and time to consider how best to communicate what they are feeling.

Managing change

Some people with autism struggle to adapt when things change, but the best thing you can do support them is to prepare them and manage the transition. Let them know about any changes in advance and set out clearly what will happen.

Offer a safe space

If a person with autism is seeming to become anxious or distressed, offer them a quiet, safe space they can be alone and calm down. Even offer a calming activity.

Awesome Autism Education CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals

If you are interested in attending an inspirational Medica CPD event, where you will learn from world leading experts how to implement strategies for success, check out our events page. You can book our events online just for yourself, or for a group. For more information, you can also get in touch with us any time and we would be glad to tell you more about how our events can help you make a difference.

Could Apple’s new Software Reduce Anxiety in Teens?

30 Sep '18

Could Apple’s new Software Reduce Anxiety in Teens?

In a world of rapidly evolving technology, it has been suggested that constant connectivity through social media is leading to a rise in anxiety and mood disorders among teenagers. A study carried out in 2011 – at the height of smartphone adoption – noted a sharp spike in anxiety and mental health problems among teenagers. Apple have recently responded to this problem by developing software that allows users to limit the amount of time they spend on their phones, but will this have an impact? Perhaps not. A recent article in the New York times highlighted that while, yes smartphone addiction may contribute to mental health problems among teens, this may be a symptom of a number of deeper problems, relating to uncertainty.

As it stands, teenagers and young adults are facing greater worry and uncertainty around their careers and finances than ever before. They are the first generation that can expect to be financially worse off than their parents. At the same time, they are bombarded with information- which may be ‘fake news’ about the world they live in. What is their escape from these problems? Consuming more conflicting information and viewing lives of luxury and excess online.

Arguably, reducing screen time could assist with teenage anxiety, but it is also essential to address underlying problems and child and teenage mental health more generally. We offer a wide variety of events covering children and teenage mental health. Take a look at what we have coming up here.

Awesome CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals – Come and learn with us!

If you are interested in attending an inspirational Medica CPD event, where you will learn from world leading experts how to implement strategies for success, check out our events page. You can book our events online just for yourself, or for a group. For more information, you can also get in touch with us any time and we would be glad to tell you more about how our events can help you make a difference.

Noticeable Rise in Under-19s Mental Health Treatment under NHS

05 Sep '18

Noticeable Rise in Under-19s Mental Health Treatment under NHS

Recent NHS figures have shown that a record number of young people are being referred to the NHS for treatment of mental health issues. Almost 400,000 young people aged under 19, are being referred in England alone. However, it is likely that these figures have risen so dramatically in recent years as the public become more aware of mental health issues, and more young people are seeking help with mental illness. This has been welcomed by many experts working in the healthcare sector, but greater support is required to manage the increasing numbers of children suffering.

Supporting Young People with Mental Illness

In April 2018, there were a total of 389,727 “active referrals” for people aged 18 or younger this is around 33% higher than the same month in 2016, according to the statistics published by NHS Digital. The number of young people seeking help for conditions such as eating disorders, anxiety and depression is rising, but psychiatrists who specialise in children and young people’s mental health are pleased by the increasing number of referrals, as it means that more people are getting the help they need. However, at present the NHS workforce is not equipped to cope with such a sharp rise in numbers, and greater support is needed to ensure that each and every young person is properly treated.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, the chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“It is great to see that more and more young people are having their mental health problems identified … Mental health is clearly becoming less taboo, and services are becoming more accessible.

“But to treat such a large group, we need a great enough workforce. Current demand is far outstripping supply. Child and adolescent psychiatrists fell by 6.6% between May 2013 and May 2017.”

It is clear there is a need for greater support for children and young people when it comes to both recognising the symptoms of mental health issues and getting them thehelp they need. Here at Medica CPD, we bring specialist children’s health experts to our events, to give you expert insight into how you can make a difference to the lives of children around you. Check out our upcoming events page to see what we have in store.

Book a Children’s Health CPD Event Today

If you are interested in attending an inspirational Medica CPD event, where you will learn from world leading experts how to implement strategies for success, check out our events page. You can book our events online just for yourself, or for a group. For more information, you can also get in touch with us any time and we would be glad to tell you more about how our events can help you make a difference.