Thinking Strategically in Health and Education Practice with Children and Families. Have we got a Missing Model?
The I Matter Framework was drawn together as a response to my professional concern that something pretty serious was missing in child and family practice.
There were so many different approaches that families, and front line practitioners, especially those with the most challenging and complex behaviour often found themselves feeling completely bewildered about what to do and why to help their child.
The I Matter Framework offers a practical easy to share integration of the evidence on what is involved in supporting the healthy development of the child - which decades of research has evidenced fundamentally requires healthy adult-child relationships. . As such the I Matter Framework is relevant to professional thinking and intervention in relation to universal, targeted and specialist care Training in the I Matter Framework can support your own understanding and ability to understand what is not working within the following areas of practice and what needs to happen and why to see some meaningful differences.
i. The Everyday Tracking of Children's Social Emotional Progress. It is very shocking but this is not happening. When children leave Early Years setting routine school practice stops paying attention to whether social emotional milestones are being achieved. Instead, regardless of the child's needs or history, the focus shifts to the tracking of literacy or numeracy only and consequently the focus of teachers attention moves away from the details and subtlety of the acquiaitions of emotional skills and instead sees only the fact that a child is not progressing on those issues being measured. This is particularly serious for our most vulnerable children. We are determined to see this change and we are working with the Kendal ICC hub and schools in our area to develop this thinking
ii. CAMHS THRIVE redesign. Our perspective on the national THRIVE initiative is that THRIVE offers an important view that care for vulnerable children should be delivered within everyday settings rather than being 'referred out' as was often implied by the tiered CAMHS triangle Given the scale of current challenges seen in everyday settings this is important to sstate clearly, however the success of such thinking depends upon universal settings being empowered to understand and take action to address local needs with thinking that upskills professionals who have not typically had specialist training. I Matter Framework Training helps equips frontline practitoners for more confident practice with children who are struggling and their families
iii. Adoption Support Funded Packages Our concern about a lot of post adoption support is that in emphasis it is still poor in integrating home and school thinking. The reality is that to help a child who has experienced complex trauma or neglect, successful care depends upon bringing the adults at home and at school together into some shared perspectives around needs and priorities. I Matter Framework Training provides a structure that helps assist the delivery of complex co-ordinated care packages focussing on the bringing together of perspectives to support home and school based progress
iv Education Health Care Plans. Again our concern about a lot of Education Health Care Planning for children who have challenging behaviour or mental health care planning is that the focus is on school based interventions - too often delivered by front line staff who have very little training and too often with very little attention given to the training and support needs of home based adults. This is not in line with the evidence on what is needed to stabilise and positively impact the wellbeing and progress of the challenging or complex child. I Matter Framework Training provides a structure that helps assist the delivery of complex co-ordinated care packages focussing on home and school based progress
v. Pupil Premium Funding How much of your pupil premium funding goes towards ensuring that front line adults and home based adults are well trained and well equipped to manage and be most effective in their challenging roles? Too much pupil premium funding is used to employ staff who are not given the training that they need. Too little pupil premium funding goes to ensuring that families under very real pressure are equipped with the training and support and accountability that they need to parent effectively and confidently in challenging situations. Failure to come behind stressed families is a massive contributor to challenging behaviour in the classroom. I Matter Framework Training enables your schools and communties to start to develop capacity to deliver informed education and support
vi, Children Looked After Children who are looked after have often experienced significant trauma and/or neglect. They are vulnerable precisely because of the disruption of core relationships and too often schools give lip service to their commitment to meet what are clearly evidenced vulnerabilities in terms of social emotional progress and ability to manage relationships. Failure to ensure whole school training and thinking that gives such children a chance to rebuild trust in adults and in their own ability to be successful within healthy relationships leads to excessively high levels of exclusions and further disruptions that has massive longer term social impact. I Matter Framework Training can ensure that home and school adults have strong foundations and the training and support they need to deliver joined up care packages that prioritises the development of often overlooked skills
vii. National Training of Teachers and Headteachers. In the drive to raise standards in literacy and numeracy something serious (and rather shocking) has been overlooked. Too few teachers and headteachers have a solid understanding of how children develop. Too few have an understanding of the relationship process that shapes the emergence of brain capacities in which they are engaged everyday. The general public have a right to assume that teachers and headteachers have this training but our experience is that this is not the case. There are some very intuitive teachers and headteachers delivering brain sensitive care but this is not a given to be found in our everyday schools practice. I Matter Framework training creates a foundation for understanding the centrality of the adult-child relationship and a foundation for more wholistic thinking about the priorities in our schools
viii Addressing antisocial behaviour and crime One of the most clearly evidenced areas of child intervention research is the continuity often seen between challenging behaviour seen in early childhood and later difficulties. Another clearly evidenced area of research is the number of children who become involved in youth offending who struggle to understand and take care of the needs of others. What this again suggests is that what is needed is clear investment in preventative practices that ensure that children's early needs for effective care that priorities their social emotional skills development and their ability to understand and empathise with others is given a top priority. This is our view suggests that there is an urgent need to review what is being tracked in school education practice. There are in our view some glaring gaps. I Matter Framework Training sets out the skill sets that are needed by both staff and pupils and provides tools to assess and monitor progress.
ix) National Parent Education Strategy So, overall, why is it still so difficult for parents and carers - even very committed parents and carers who are looking for help - to access it? Our view is that parenting and caring is still seen as an 'add on' - an 'it would be nice if we were funded to it - but it is not our business' style of thinking. Yet if we are serious about evidence based practice this neglect of the centrality of the adult-child relationship to educational outcomes, mental health outcomes physical health outcomes and crime statistics does not hold water. The skills of parenting and caring are complex and sophisticated and can improve with understanding and support. Investment in skills development should not be seen as a mark of shame but as a positive commitment to health and excellence. So something seems to be off track in our thinking and messaging. I Matter Framework training comes to this challenge by equipping professional settings with the attitudes and perspectives necessary for better work with parents.
Intent, implementation, impact - How I Matter Training can help support you with the new Ofsted Framework
What exactly are you going to focus on teaching in your school?
How are you going to ensure consistent implementation?
How are you going to demonstrate impact?
We have a package designed to introduce a different perspective on school priorities and we are putting it forward as there is an elephant in the room when it comes to schools practice and improving outcomes - infact maybe there are two or even three elephants.
I drew the I Matter Framework together because after many years in clinical and education practice I concluded that something was missing. I couldn't figure it out for a long time but when it finally became clearer I was shocked.
Many many documents have been written in health and education about the importance of evidence based practice but what the I Matter Framework does is highlight what the evidence is really telling us - when you pull all the different bits together and organise them carefully.
What decades of research evidence tells us is that if we want to improve outcomes for children - educational and mental health we have to focus on three things that are about relationships :
i) healthy adult-child relationships - teacher-child relationship and most importantly parent-child relationship
ii) supporting the foundations of healthy social emotional development - these are skills which emerge with support
iii) supporting healthy communities in which parents and children experience a sense of welcome and belonging.
There are a few issues that are rather shocking here
i) how have these issues been overlooked?
ii) why are teachers and other child and family professionals not being trained in child development
iii) why are so many children being diagnosed as 'disordered' when the above issues are being overlooked
So here is a suggestion that we can help with:
1. Why not have the intent to introduce a social-emotionally brain aware community wide curriculum that equips your pupils and their families for success in healthy relationships
2. Why not work with us to use our supported online learning to ensure your staff team have these key training gaps addressed
3. Why not use our assessment tools to demonstrate need and show impact.
We would love to help : PLEASE CONTACT US
'I stood at the school gate and saw it all. I saw children going through a personality change as they left our premises and it wasn't just a few families. Something is off track in the adult-child relationship. How do we start to address this?' These were the recent reflections of a Headteacher of a school that has recently become one of our licensed I Matter schools embarking on our next culture change programme which aims to help staff and parents revisit ideas about what children need to thrive and why and the role of a school in that.
Here is a very very exciting Ofsted Letter. Hope school in Liverpool. Oh fantastic!! Finally it seems that sensitivity is starting to develop. With team work we can make a difference
It is exciting to see that there are others who know that the diagnostic grip on mental health practice in adult and child services is damaging and needs resisting and that this resistance is now coming together via a range of pyschologsits and psychotherapists across the country. There is the Cumbria Resliience Project and now we are having conferences run in the are of the British Psychological Society Power-Threat-Meaning Model. I think the The Adult-Child Well-Being 'I Matter' Framework puts the Power Threat Meaning Framework into a teachable format intending to help and influence those in making decisions about child and family practice.
One of the people who has inspired me most in the autism world is Stephen Gutstein, founder of Relationship Development Intervention. There are a few others but Stephen is one of the practitioner researchers who has stood up for the message that children with difficulties on the autistic spectrum can be helped when we use an informed developmental approach.
Click here for his recent talk on What we should be aware of in Autism
One of the things that is most shocking in the field of autism is that the research about what children on the autistic spectrum need in order to make progress with core challenges, is there but it is still not well understood. Notably what is poorly understood is that the key place in which the key missing skills can be nurtured is within the parental relationship.
This is a challenging but also ultimately an empowering message for parents, but it is one that challenges the way in which professionals need to think and practice. One of the things that happens when children are struggling to learn in the way typical children learn is that parents become disoriented and can lose confidence. Sadly the diagnosis of autism, particularly when it is not followed up with the right support, can sometimes further impact parental confidence just when there is a need for parental confidence to be enhanced.
There is an urgent need for professionals to update themselves about a developmental approach to autism and an urgent need to learn about how to help parents become more skilled and confident in their own role.
I think we can come to this task from a number of different angles. In the I Matter Project we use a developmental understanding of skills and an understanding of the core parent-child relationship and the role of parent as a coach in something we refer to as the I Matter process. The key is to remember that social development is hierarchical - it is not possible to build complex skills if foundational skills are not in place.
Having a child with a diagnosis of autism may be a road less travelled - but if you want to make a difference then there are a lot of wonderfully interesting things to learn. Stephen Gutstein is one of those practiioners who has worked tirelessly to try to ensure that a new perspective is shared. His message is vitally important though in this talk you will see that he is feeling dismayed that it seems to be so difficult to get this message out to a wider community. His message is important - it is that if you are willing to learn, it is never too late to make a difference!
I recommend you listen to the talk! Here is the link again
Click here for his recent talk on What we should be aware of in Autism
In recent weeks, in the process of submitting the I Matter courses for CPD accreditation via the CPD Standards Office I have had to go through a rigorous process. I have had to supply documentation and evidence to show that the course has been carefully put together and that proper systems are in place to ensure that participants have a good experience. I have had to demonstrate that feedback on the course is carefully gathered and evaluated.
In this process I have also been looking at the question of how CPD is usually evaluated for impact. I have found some useful articles. One from the Training and Development Agency for Schools suggests that as it can be difficult to evaluate the impact of CPD, managers should try to ensure that:
i) CPD is planned and carefully integrated as part of an individual's performance development plan and based on identified needs of the individual employee
ii) chosen based on what the individual wants to be learning, on how the CPD will likely impact their behaviour and how this will likely impact the children or families they work with
iii) reviewed for impact with their manager within an agreed timeline
iv) evaluated as a collaborative process for impact
v) judged where possible against some clearly pre-defined success criteria
vi) reviewed for impact over short, medium and longer term
vii) included with a cost-benefit analysis
viii) ensuring that the time taken to evaluate impact is proportionate to the identified need
As an example of the above in relation to I Matter Training, Mrs Jones is a Teacher in a primary school. She has identified that she often struggles to understand the behaviour of several of the children in her classroom. She explains to her line manger that she often feels stressed by the behaviour and is not sure that she is as helpful as she could be. She expresses a wish for training that will improve her confidence in her role. Though her child is managing academically, she would like to see him coping better in the classroom with relationships.
With her senior manager they identify a need for some further training about working with a child who struggles with relationships. A colleague suggests that I Matter Training Basic Certificate could be helpful to her and in looking at the details they notice that the course will address her understanding of the needs of the child and her own stress levels. They agree that the course appears to be good value with several parts to the training and a combination of face to face and online learning. They decide to reserve a place and book in some contact points to review the learning that Mrs Jones is having and the impact it is having on her practice.
Though the agency works with schools, the above process would apply equally in relation to the CPD needs of a social worker, health visitor, GP or paediatrician
If you are interested in our I Matter Courses for CPD purposes and are wondering about how they could be integrated into your personal performance management process please click here
Professional or home life with complex or challenging children can be very demanding. I know because I have worked in this area for nearly 30 years and I have often found myself often feeling helpless in the face of demands that seem to keep increasing year on year working in services that seem poorly adapted and unresponsive to the scale of the needs at hand. So I developed I Matter Training in response to my own confusion and because I felt that there was something really important missing that was making it more difficult to feel good about my job, or in my other multiple roles.. Here are the ways that the I Matter Framework, I Matter Model and I Matter Process help me and what I have heard others saying that the training offers them:
1. I feel much more confident in the theoretical basis of my practice decisions
As a teacher and a clinical psychologist, I had done a lot of training but the truth is that I left my clinical psychology course still feeling pretty confused about what clinical psychologists did and why. This is because I saw psychologists - good psychologists - practising in very different ways. I heard others saying that it was a matter of 'personal choice' but that felt pretty feeble after years of training and I wanted something much more solid that could join apparently diverse important ideas into a more connected whole. The I Matter Framework does that for me - it helps build up a big picture that connects up diverse well-established ideas into something very concrete and practical and founded upon the premise of a learning journey. Persuading others - that the I Matter Framework and Model could also help them has proved more challenging than I anticipated (I have my rejections letter wall!) but this doesn't change the fact that I feel much clearer about the day to day foundations of MY work. You could have this confidence too!
2. I am able to make sense of very diverse observations and have a method of sharing these explanations with others I know that to be effective in helping children it is vitally important to be successful in helping adults at home and at school. I know that as a professional and as a parent I am also expected in some degree to be a role model. The challenge has been finding a way to explain important ideas in a way that makes sense to professionals and parents with very different levels of experience and training. Many of my clients don't read books. With I Matter Training I have a way of integrating simple but powerful psycho-education into my sessions or informal conversations in a way that empowers my clients or others to feel much more confident in making and taking responsibility for key decisions. When I realised that there was a need to shift the hearts and minds of a much wider community, I decided to invest in having my initial scrappy drawings turned into professionally designed posters that are intended to attract attention and start important conversations. Teachers love these posters! Parents and Young People get them too. If you train with us, you could own a set of these posters to support this work.
3. I Matter Training offers a very powerful and clear alternative to an overly medicalised model for understanding mental health difficulties and challenging behaviour Have you noticed that when there are no good explanations around that people default to thinking that there must be something wrong with the child, and wanting to know what the diagnosis is? Have you noticed that the solution commonly then seems to be that the child needs a label or some medication? The demand from parents to have solutions means that as a professional you can be on the back foot if you do not have something strong and solid to support an alternative way of understanding. I Matter Training gives me confidence in helping parents and others think through these labelling and medication decisions with much more clarity. Labelling and medication can at times be helpful but many know that it is often being used recklessly and in the absence of the psychological support that should form part of a good intervention with a more challenging child. I find that with better understanding parents are often more able to resist the overly-medicalised option. I know that some children are very demanding and need adults to build really advanced skills. There is a structure there now to support this longer-term work. If you take the basics training you will be able to access that network of support opportunities.
4. I Matter Training helps me feel solid in knowing that there is a need to challenge current educational policy and practices - I have worked as a teacher and I work with some amazing schools and teachers but it is clear to me that something is seriously off track in the current regime and in the practices of Ofsted. There are so many stressed children and stressed adults that it is clear that in spite of the rhetoric of raising educational standards - the reality is that school is becoming a toxic place for many children and adults. A group that is particularly vulnerable is those children who have not mastered early social-emotional foundations of learning - due to sensory processing difficulties, or neglect or trauma. This includes children who have been given a diagnostic label, children in the looked after care sector, or those who have been adopted. These are a growing number in every school and classroom. Who can speak up for this group? Failure to 'raise standard's with this group is not just a result of poor teaching - My observation is that there is a mismatch between demands and resources and between the needs and capacities of the child and what the adults in the room are being asked to do. More therapy is not the solution. My view is that senior decision makers who are making important decisions that impact heavily on children and families are poorly informed. I Matter Training and assessments are attempts to set things out in a manner that offers clarity and gives schools a chance to 'fight back'. Emotionally healthy adults cannot emerge from large numbers of children whose emotional needs have been persistently overlooked. It is not possible. We know this - it is not rocket science - but it is important to me as a teacher and psychologist to act upon this knowing - not just to talk about it. But no one person can do this alone. Change will only come about if people like you decide to join a movement to challenge current practices.
5. I Matter Training helps me know that I cannot be effective if my own well-being is being too heavily impacted. It is easy to miss the point at which situations which were 'manageable' become 'unmanageable'. I have found that the I Matter Framework and the I Matter Model and the I Matter Process provide me with some powerful insights that make it much easier to manage very high levels of demands.. However when demands continue relentlessly at work or in home relationships then there is sometimes a need to take a stand and set a boundary - even if others don't like you doing this. Figuring out when this point has been reached and then taking the actions that are needed to protect yourself, and manage the resulting conflict, so that you can be effective in fulfilling your role or doing your job is a vital part of feeling good about what you do. Sometimes red route anger is a healthy response to an unhealthy situation. Have you ever found yourself at such a point? Your well-being matters! Not just for you but for those you are working to support. The important thing is that you understand the foundations for your own choices.
6. I have assessment tools and resources that fit the needs that I see on a day to day basis in school and clinic settings. One of the most difficult parts of my job has involved being asked to use routine assessment tools that do not fit adequately with the needs that I have observed in everyday practice. So as part of the I Matter Training package I invented some new ones - and trialled them with local colleagues. For the first time I have tools that get at the key issues that I know an effective intervention must shift in a school or home setting if change is to be longer standing. For the first time I have a developmental tool that can be used with the older child at work or at home in a manner that is informative, and sometimes shocking, to those involved. It is also immediately practical and empowering. I believe that these tools are really important as they allow us to give the numbers that educational policy makers crave, focussed on issues that matter to teachers and social workers and psychologists of the more complex child. The assessments provide a foundation for providing that longer term support. Yay! I am still working on the challenge of getting this thinking to people who need it, in a manner to bring about the changes that are needed. You could be part of that process.
7. I have a community of colleagues from different disciplines who 'get' the issues and who want to work with me and others to find a way to get this training out to a wider community of professionals and parents. Feeling professionally or personally isolated when you are coping with high levels of demands can be very difficult indeed - in fact it can be exceptionally draining to feel that you are seeing something that others are not seeing nor appearing to care much about. I Matter Training helps you join a supportive passionate community of 'old fashioned' professionals who believe that our job as professionals in children and families is to look after ourselves so that we can ensure that the emotional and developmental needs of child and family are met at home and at work. It is a community that believes that confident formal learning of literacy and numeracy will follow with much less angst for child and young person if we first ensure these strong social-emotional foundations. I Matter Training will help you join up lots of dots and support you on a journey through lots of ups and downs.
So you can take I Matter Training as a professional but will likely find that you come away also thinking much more deeply and consciously about your home-based relationships. This can sometimes be challenging but with more conscious awareness you will find yourself empowered to work more effectively with others to make important decisions. It is as you take this vitally important longer-term view that you will be better equipped to support mental health and healthy development of yourself and of those you support at home and at work.
Any more ideas?
I would love to hear from you!
Take care - you can make a difference!
There is a significant crisis in the provision of mental health services for children and families. The needs are growing and services are being cut. So maybe there is a need to think laterally?
I think the research evidence is clear: Strong attachment relationships at home and at school make a profound difference to the way in which a chlld's brain functions and develops and to their ability to understand and work with others to overcome their challenges.
Therefore if we want to impact on mental health and educational outcomes we need to actively promote understanding of the importance of relationships and relationship skills in building resilience across the life span. We need to engage with and prioritise the challenge of helping adults and children build healthier relationships. Improved relationships are important as an early intervention goal, and improved relationships with SELF and with other, are vital to healthy recovery from a wide variety of physical and mental health issues.
So how do we ensure that these well-evidenced ideas get to parents and professionals who need the knowledge? How do we get people talking about the issues that really matter if we are to see healthy change even at times of great social pressures?
An I Matter Action Research Project is an opportunity to explore this question in your setting. We may know what we want to achieve but actually getting there is not always that easy. In fact getting it can sometimes be very tricky indeed. But with trial and error there could be a way. In the I Matter Project we have done a lot of work on the presentation of key content and on delivery options: Key ideas are provided in online teaching and visual resources and the assessment tools promote discussions about outcomes. However, implementation is only implementation when it really happens. So we are interested in working with others to explore what is needed to make implementation a success.
Most importantly, there is not just one solution to promoting better relationships between children and adults and between school and parents. Some schools and services are already active in reaching out to parents, some do very little as yet. Some staff teams know a lot already, and some much less. Some families will need very little support for very little time - some need a lot more for a lot longer. Some families need group support and some families progress with 1:1 only.
The big advantage of being involved in an Action Research Project is that YOU start to observe and question these variations yourself and you as a team can invent your own local solutions.
You also start to build capacity so that you have people on your team and in your community who can take the project forward. if you would like to find out more why not Click Here
The quality of the sound recording on this is very poor - sorry - but if you can bear it the content will I hope be useful!
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
The I Matter Prof Blog:
How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
My Favourite sites