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
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!
According to the recently published Lancashire Children and Young People’s Resilience, Emotional and Mental Health and Well-Being Transformation Plan for 2015-2020, it is recognised that:
The newly published Transformation Plan notes that:
This is important but shocking information. In the I Matter Project however we contend that there is also a key gap in models for practice in child and family work. We argue in particular that in spite of the rhetoric of evidence-based practice there is no practice model in child and family work that adequately connects up the relationship between adult well-being, child well-being and development. There is also a gap in models of service delivery that can respond to the sheer scale of the current unmet needs.
What we think is therefore needed is some big picture innovative thinking about what is really underpinning the rise in child mental health difficulties, and some lateral thinking about how the difficulties might be more meaningfully addressed.
If you would like further information click here to take a look at our courses
Or to read the full report click here
Sometimes when I start talking about the I Matter Project I can feel a little embarrassed. The thing is, the issues the project is addressing are really not rocket science. It is not as if I am speaking about things that people don't already sort of know.
The difficulty is that ideas and issues that seem quite straightforward, are not actually happening when it comes to practice. Everyone knows for example that parenting is important when it comes to helping children, but parent education is not anyone's primary business As a result, what should be happening, is not actually happening.
So here are 6 reasons that your school or service needs a parent education strategy:
i) Mental health outcomes are massively impacted by parenting competence
ii) Educational outcomes are massively impacted by parenting competence
iii) Challenging behaviour and Youth offending outcomes are massively impacted by parenting competence
iv) Parenting lack of confidence is widespread
v) Hoping that 'someone' will address the parenting issues means that you have left responsibility for a massive factor that will impact on your own outcomes to someone else.
vi) Anything less than a clear strategy is unlikely to make a dint on the scale of the unmet needs
Hope that is enough to get you thinking. If you would like to join our Action Research Network to explore these issues in more depth with other professionals, you can get more information by clicking here
As a practising clinical psychologist and experienced teacher I have become increasingly concerned about the levels of stress I am observing amongst my education colleagues in schools. This last half term it seems that staff are more stressed than ever before and we are just at the beginning of the school year.
Teachers are by and large an extremely conscientious and hardworking bunch. My concern is that the expectations of what class teachers and senior leaders should be able to achieve have grown and grown and grown, to beyond what is reasonable and healthy. The resulting imbalance between the demands of the role in hand and the capacities or resources that the class teachers and senior leaders available to them is seriously out of balance for too many.
Symptoms of stress arise when there is an imbalance between demands and resources: As anyone who starts to study the content covered in the Level 1 I Matter Courses, will quickly come to appreciate, it is quite clear that excessive imbalance between demands and resources can lead to predictable physiological and psychological impact on children and on adults. One of the most important of these is that stressed adults and children all tend to become more reactive, and impatient and intolerant. This is of particular concern when those same stressed adults are interacting with highly reactive and stressed children and parents.
There is some amazing practice in our schools with committed staff seeking to offer every child an opportunity for an education. Learning I Matter principles can really help a lot. However, there comes a point with too much top down pressure to deliver results that are out of line with what these same professionals, children and parents can realistically manage, then what I have seen is that the child can become the barrier to the teacher and school delivering the required results.
The personal and professional impact of excessive demands In this content, the sheer level of stress I observe that is being experienced by too many schools in connection with the Ofsted process is an indicator of something that is seriously out of touch with the reality and needs of what is actually happening. I am appalled when I get to hear about yet another experienced head teacher or class teacher reaching total breaking point, but in the last months I have been hearing these stories more and more often. I think this is a result of an unfair and unreasonable amount of pressure on adults who deserve our support.
Not only are some personal tragedies involved for highly committed individuals, but this relentless pressure on already committed adults has in my view very serious potential impact for our most vulnerable young people. What these young people need more than anything is time to develop within the context of supportive emotionally attuned relationships with adults who are not overwhelmed. Learning to relate to other people takes time and is very difficult to learn if the task demands are developmentally insensitive and the people being interacted with are pushed to breaking point.
My greater concern is that these issues played out in the classroom with our young people have really long-term significant impact. When children who have significant delays in their social-emotional development are not given time to learn these skills because the curriculum is insensitive to the need, and when the teachers are being pushed and pushed to deliver literacy and numeracy results regardless of their pupils capacity and readiness for such formalised adult led learning, the result is not neutral. The consequence of such a mismatch will inevitably be felt in too many stressed and disengaged young people who are difficult to teach, and genuinely do not understand themselves or other people, having little or any motivation to learn.
Symptoms of stress and the issue of diagnosis The symptoms of stress are observable in quite specific patterns of brain functioning characterised by much more immature long lasting functioning. The symptoms are those that commonly come to be described with psychiatric labels: anxiety, depression, ADHD, ASD, ODD. The labels do not adequately highlight what is really happening but it is serious because these same difficulties mean that that the given young person is likely to be much less employable and much more likely to have difficulties in their own adult relationships.
I believe that this dynamic is a vital player in the rising concerns about child mental health, challenging behaviour, and crime statistics. Importantly these dynamics cannot be addressed through more and more pressure to deliver unrealistic educational results.
What's the alternative? What is needed in my view is a collective step back and a reconsideration of what we are observing. What is needed is policies and practices that give much better appreciation of child development and the adult role in the developing brain. It needs us to wake up to the extent of the real difficulties experienced by so many children in our schools in their social-emotional development and to think hard about what really needs to happen.
We as adults need to make some changes.
This project wants to campaign on these issues so if you have ideas about how this could be achieved please contact us or join a course click here
Copyright CBetoin2015 All Rights Reserved.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence have just released a draft document for consolation on attachment difficulties.
This is a very welcome development!
The consultation page (http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/GID-CGWAVE0675/consultation) contains the documents, background documents and instructions on how to comment.
It is possible to register as a stakeholder but the consultation will close on the 13th July 2015.
So, what do I think is missing from the draft document? It is a great document, and a big step forward. However, I don't want to see attachment difficulties ring fenced to adopted children and children in the care system, and I think there is insufficient recognition of the way in which living or working with a child who has had disturbed attachments can actively impact on and destabilise the unsuspecting adult. This understanding is vitally important, as lack of professional understanding of the critical role of the adult and the adults' needs is at the heart of many placement breakdowns for children.
So I plan to share my views - what views have you got?
In my work with schools, parents and young people, I often hear people talking about the fact that they feel they have tried everything to engage parents, but the parents don't want to come along. Or I hear parents saying that they have tried everything to interest their child, but their child is not interested. I sometimes hear parents saying that they have tried to get their school interested in some training but the school have not been interested. And sometimes I hear people talking about themselves but feeling that all their apparent efforts were not paying off. So what is this issue of readiness to change?
Readiness for Change is something we always need to be thinking about when thinking about change with complex children, parents and professionals. Broadly speaking where readiness for change is concerned we can divide people (young people and adults) into three groups: those who are not interested (yet) and may seem very passive, those who are motivated if support is around but may do a lot of blaming of others, and those who are quite independent in their learning process and don't need much encouragement to get going and go further. In solution-focussed therapy these are referred to as visitors, complainants and customers
In relation to parenting, or to being a professional with complex children this breakdown might appear as follows: Have a read and ask yourself which best describes you
If you look at the above descriptions, it is clear that it is MUCH easier to help and work with Customers for change. It is much more difficult and often not that rewarding to work with people who are only Visitors in relation to change. Complainants are however an interesting group - some patience is needed as they come round to understanding that change is something we can only do ourselves.
So what about yourself? And what about your child or the parents you work with? Are you or they a Visitor, a Complainant or a Customer? It makes a difference!
Look out for more posts on Readiness for Change and how to work with it as it is important.
If you would like to check out your I Matter Readiness click here to work through our I Matter Readiness Assessment
So you know well the extraordinary investment of time, energy and finances that is currently invested in tracking children's progress.
But what if we were missing something REALLY important?
I think we are.
We have huge concerns about rising problems of child mental health and concerns to raise educational outcomes, with huge numbers of adults being driven to monitor more and more details of what children are doing.
But believe it or not this massive industry is are not tracking the foundations of healthy child development.
So, with the support of health visitors and health services, parents of newborns through to school age are given some support - dwindling - to monitor their child's progress through developmental milestones.
Then, however, when children arrive in the Early Years Foundation Stage, the detailed tracking of the strands of child development reduces dramatically. Soon after, when the child transfers to Reception and to Key Stage 1, the tracking of a child's acquisition of key development milestones abruptly stops, to be replaced with an exclusive focus on the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills. For all but the child with the most severe difficulties, this is regardless of whether the child has mastered the steps necessary to thrive in school or not.
It's extraordinary, but it's true.
We stop systematic tracking and we stop paying attention to such important issues as the child's attention skills, or their fine motor skills or their ability to understand and manage emotions, or their ability to understand another person.
We stop paying attention to parental confidence or parental understanding of what children need. And, because we insist that teachers pay so much attention to the acquisition of literacy and numeracy we stop asking teachers to learn and be mindful of how children develop.
We fail to teach our teachers that children learn best in the context of relationships
And then we appear surprised that children seem to be struggling...
Let me get this clear, I am not a fan of the obsessive level of target tracking that we have today. It seems to mean adults are becoming less and less able to see the real needs of the children sat in front of them, but it would help perhaps if we could became aware of what is not being tracked that is of huge importance to the rest...
Our Action Research Group set off this week to explore the results of checking out the progress of some older children using tools that are usually used to assess progress in the Early Years Foundation Stage. What do you think they will find?
If you want to hear more about our learning why not request to join the I Matter - Network on Linked In or on look out for updates on Twitter. Or, just get in touch by emailing: email@example.com
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
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How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
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