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Recent blog posts
Benefits of Intelligence Testing for Children

At Drop of Life we are now offering psychometric assessments for children and adolescents. You might wonder why children or students need to undergo an intelligence test and what the advantages are of taking such a test. First, I will begin by explaining what an intelligence test measures. An IQ test measures the cognitive and intellectual abilities of a person which are compared to the average population of the same age. The letters IQ, stand for Intelligence Quotient which includes a list of domains such as problem solving, analysing situations, reasoning, planning, learning and visuospatial abilities.

One of the most proven cognitive ability tests is the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) developed by David Wechsler which is often used for children at the beginning of their school career as it can estimate their intellectual functioning through standardized testing with norm-referenced tests. The WISC-IV is the gold standard when it comes to cognitive assessment and measuring intelligence performance, and therefore we administer this intelligence test at the Drop of Life practice. The components of the WISC-IV are verbal comprehension, working memory, perceptual reasoning and processing speed, and these four components generate the general full scale intelligence score.

The WISC-IV can be used for children and adolescents between 6 and 16 years old and provides a profile of their strengths and weaknesses. Seeing that the IQ test can be used as an indicator of academic performance, schools can take advantage of this by determining what educational needs their students require to reach their full potential.

Another advantage of the WISC-IV is that it can address specific learning disabilities (SLD), which could be a leading cause for under-achievement at school. Moreover, behaviour problems and/or mood disorder are often strongly associated with SLDs. The sooner problems like these are indicated, the better the child’s educational and future outcomes. Therefore, cognitive assessment is so valuable for school-aged children.

Overall, the benefits of a WISC assessment are:

  • Provides a full picture and understanding of an individual’s learning profile and how they approach problem-solving
  • Assists schools and educators in developing educational strategies for individual educational plan development for students
  • Determines the student’s strengths and weaknesses which may impact the student’s academic performance
  • To rule-out or identify the presence of a mental disability and to diagnose a learning disability
  • Identification of intellectual gifted children
  • Early recognition of learning and reading deficits.

How to apply for a cognitive assessment?

Drop of Life provides psychometric testing such as the WISC-IV for children from the age of 6 to 16 years old. For further information about cognitive assessment please contact one of our wonderful psychologists at Drop of Life.

Reference: Wechsler, D. (2003). WISC – IV Australian Administration and Scoring Manual. Harcourt Assessment.

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The Aversion to Homosexuality and Transsexuality

May the 17th is a significant day for promoting equal human rights as its the international day against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia. This day tries to raise awareness of violence and repression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities worldwide. This raises the question, what impact homophobic & transphobic people actually have on vulnerable adolescents who are LGBT.

Homosexuality, after having been described for decades as a mental illness in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), finally got removed from this manual in 1973. Following this, the psychologist George Weinberg introduced a new term, namely homophobia which stands for a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards LGBT people and homosexuality in general. Those with homophobic views see homosexuality as a violation of traditional masculinity. In addition, transphobia and biphobia are specifically focused on the negative feelings and attitudes that people experience towards transsexuality and bisexuality respectively.

Since 2013 the Sex Discrimination Act 1985 has been enforced to make discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity finally against the law. Even with this important step forward LGBT people in Australia still have to endure discrimination, harassment and hostility in everyday life. Young people during their adolescence who are questioning their sexuality can feel threatened, fearful or disgusted of themselves when peers are using hurtful labels and make them feel not accepted. To give you an example, in school, boys can be seen as week when they don’t comply with masculine gender roles and can be called names such as gay and homo, words that also can be interpreted as lame, dumb or stupid. As a result young individuals can feel isolated, misunderstood, ashamed or even have homophobic feelings but directed towards themselves.

There are different factors that lead to people developing homophobic beliefs and attitudes. One of those factors resolve around the idea that homosexuality contradicts gender roles in both men and women. Studies have shown that there are common traits to be found for people who are exhibiting homophobia or transphobia by having attitudes of intolerance and sexual prejudice. So what are those common traits exactly? Well usually they are less educated, conservatively religious, lived in rural areas, they are less likely to have experienced contact with anyone who is LGBT and have a strong belief in gender roles and traditional values.

Overall, homophobia can be damaging to those who are affected by it, especially the young generation who are already struggling with their self-identity. Therefore it won’t surprise you that a large amount of LGBT adolescents are dealing with depression and anxiety, caused by their discriminating environment and by applying negative stereotypes to themselves.

At Drop of Life we can help in different ways to not only support those young adults who are struggling with their sexuality but also their families who might be involved. Some examples are:

  1. Information about homophobia as well as information about the anxiety or depression that is a result of homophobia.
  2. Cognitive behavioural therapy that will focus on the reframing of thoughts and will help to develop coping strategies.
  3. Relaxation and breathing strategies.
  4. Strategies to gain a stronger sense of self.

If you have any questions or would like more information on this matter please visit one of our psychologists at Drop of Life.

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Autism Awareness, Because it Matters!

This month is officially the National Autism Awareness month in Australia and to contribute to Autism acceptance and awareness, I will be writing about this serious disorder and take one moment to focus on all the Australian families who have children on the Autism Spectrum.

So first of all, what is Autism exactly? There are a large number of misconceptions when it comes to Autism, to illustrate, some people think that Autism is caused by bad parenting others think that Autism is caused by vaccination, both these statements are myths. Autism is complex and seems to be caused by many different combinations of genes and environmental factors and is often described as a brain disorder.

If we have a look in the DSM-V, the Autism Spectrum Disorder is described as ‘a developmental disorder with persistent impairments in social communication, social interaction and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities. These symptoms must be present in the early developmental period and cause significant impairment in social or occupational functioning.’
Interestingly to note that the DSM-IV diagnosis of Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) are now given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Research shows that 1 in 100 children in Australia have been diagnosed with Autism, which reflects how many people and families are dealing with this lifelong developmental disability. With the NDIS scheme starting in July things are about to change for families who can’t afford the necessary extra care for their children. This extra care is needed as children with Autism can progress and improve with the right tools and support, to reach a better quality of life for themselves as well as for their families who love them.

The effects of Autism can often be reduced by early diagnosis and with the right interventions.

So ….what to do? Well, the good news is that there are effective interventions that can help create the best opportunities for children with ASD.

  1. Parent education and training
  2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, this is a very effective evidence-based therapy that improves very specific behaviours and challenges in children and young adults. It is used to help regulate emotions and develop impulse control and improve their behaviours as a result.
  3. Behavioural interventions such as the applied behavioural analysis (ABA), is an effective evidence-based method that targets the learning of skills and the reduction of challenging
  4. Therapy based interventions such as Speech Therapy to develop a child’s communication and Social Skills, and Occupational Therapy to develop a child’s motor skills and stabilize their senses.

The interventions mentioned above are just a range of available treatment options, which can significantly improve the quality of life for children with Autism and their families.

So, behaviour can be changed and improvements can be achieved by taking small steps!

If you would like to receive more information about Autism in respect of diagnosis and treatment please come and visit a psychologist at Drop of Life Psychology Clinic!

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EVERY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS NEEDS EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE

I might start by explaining what EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE (EI) is and why it is important. It is often talked about as a bit of a buzz word however it is incredibly important to how we function. 

Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI) is a term created by two researchers – Peter Salavoy and John Mayer – and popularized by Dan Goleman. Basically EI is a person’s ability to feel an emotion, identify and label it, then know how to manage it. Big call right! Typically, we have learned this valuable skill in our youth when it was modelled to us by our family and loved ones. So, in true developmental stages, a young child will start to form some level of EI, which means that they can identify and label their emotions correctly. They will start to form these ideas by seeing, feeling and hearing what their parents do and how their parents narrate their behaviours and feelings. Babies get a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card and are allowed to scream with pleasure or howl with anger. However, hopefully, as we develop and mature, we learn to curb these extreme emotional responses. Thus allowing us to blend into our environment a bit more.

Everyone is usually aware of the term IQ, which stands for your intellectual quotient and that’s our ability to learn, and it remains relatively stable over time, believe it or not. EI is different to IQ, because it’s not about our intellect but rather, it’s our capacity to recognise and understand our own emotions and those of others. Unlike IQ, EI is not set in stone; it is flexible and can be developed. It’s a set of skills that can be acquired and improved on with a bit of practice, which is why it is useful to see a professional if your emotional intelligence is lacking or if you don’t think you do emotional intelligence well. There’s no known connection between your IQ and your EI. You simply can’t predict emotional intelligence based on how smart someone is. Although I firmly believe that some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others.

So the burning question is how much impact does EI have on someone’s professional success.  The short answer is A LOT! The reason being that this skill has been researched and tested in conjunction with other psychometrics that predict and assist performance.  The results are that EI is the strongest predictor of success and performance in the workplace.  The reason is that it holds the foundation of the core skills that we do (or should do) every day. Things such as Decision-Making, Time Management, Stress Tolerance, Anger Management, Empathy, the ability to work within a team, your ability to communicate well hence effecting Team Work and Social Skills. It is also responsible for Assertiveness and the ability to motivate yourself and persist in the face of failure or rejection. The statistics state that 90% of top performers in business have solid EI and this result remains true across all industries.

As mentioned EI is a skill that can be strengthened by training your brain to build those neural pathways by identifying and labelling emotions and feelings in the body and in those around you.  Start practicing you may get a promotion out of it!

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DOG WITH A BLOG: Benji's Birthday Week Four

This week is the last week of my birthday month!

I got to go for a ride in my humans basket to my favorite place ever... the beach!

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What a great way to wrap up my birthday celebrations. Thank you everyone for helping me celebrate my birthday month and for making it super special for me! We still have plenty of tennis balls in the clinic, so feel free to grab one the next time you visit us.

There will be more Dog with a Blog's throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled.... woof woof!

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BENJI

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Helping Children to Develop Gratitude

You have probably heard the saying ‘children are like sponges’ …. well indeed they are! 

 

 

As parents we quickly learn that our reactions, words and attitudes are mirrored by our children.  In fact, children form views of their internal and external world which are largely based on experiences they are given in the early years.  Psychologists often refer to these as core beliefs and values.

Attitudes are similarly developed through the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that have been modelled.  In the long term, attitudes will influence children’s choices as they go out into the world.

As such, being grateful is not only an attitude that can be assimilated from a young age but with sufficient repetitive experiences, can become entrenched in the child’s belief system and values.

But why is it important for children to develop gratitude?

Research shows that individuals whom have a well developed sense of gratitude, experience more life satisfaction, greater levels of optimism, higher self-esteem, have more empathy and increased psychological resilience.  This means that in the face of adversity and challenges, they are more likely to bounce back quicker.

Providing opportunities for children to experience gratitude is therefore an investment in their long term psychological wellbeing!  Developing a true sense of gratitude however, is more than just learning to say thank you ..but is instead cultivated through direct involvement that allows children to truly experience what gratitude is about. 

Ideas that may help to prepare children to develop gratitude

  1. Role model it.  Your actions, words and behaviours will be the most powerful roadmap a child will have as they go out into the world.  So choose to behave in ways that demonstrate what gratitude is about.
  2. Take a moment each day to be grateful for 5 things (people, objects, friendships, kindness, health, love) that you have in your life and share them with your child. For younger children, help them to draw a picture of something that happened in their day which they are grateful for.
  3. Play games that increase awareness of gratitude: write secret notes to each other expressing something you are grateful for and place them under the pillow, or inside the lunchbox. Encourage them to do the same to you and to others (eg. friends, grandparents, siblings). For younger kids, draw pictures to each other.
  4. Create a gratitude jar: once a day, write down on a piece of paper something that you are grateful for and place it in the jar.  Do this each day of the year and on Dec 31, open the jar and read them out.
  5. Limit how much you give them: with today’s throwaway society, it is easy for our children to be given too much. Help them to save for something special instead.
  6. Expose children to opportunities to feel firsthand the joy of being grateful:  help them volunteer to help others, engage in random acts of kindness (do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return (smile, hugs, make a card, draw a picture, pick a small flower)
  7. Involve them in tasks that include some preparation, such as meals or tidying up so they understand the effort that is involved.  Make time to reflect on this effort at the end.
  8. When receiving a gift, reflect with them on the effort the person giving it must have gone through to find it, make it or buy it, wrap it and give it. 
  9. Observe mindfully.  Sit with your child in the garden and watch the ants!  Talk about their actions in seeking and finding food, comment on how they work together to help each other. Do this with other things in the environment to create a sense of gratitude for nature.

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Below is the attachment link for the 30 Day of Gratitute Calander. You can print one off for you and your child or children to complete together!

30-Days-of-Gratitude.pdf

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DOG WITH A BLOG: Benji's Birthday Week Three

We are still celebrating my birthday month here at Drop of Life! My human organised more cool things for me this week:

My Human threw a party for me at work!! Even got some yummy treats. 

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My Human organised a spa treatment with my Jayne from Aussie Pooch Mobile who is so sweet with me, the body massage is THE BEST!

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If any humans want to pamper their pooch, Jayne is the best in the business. You can call Aussie Pooch Mobile on 1300 369 369 to make a booking with Jayne.

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All that pampering and partying made me super sleepy, so I spent the rest of my day relaxing.

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Even though its my birthday, giving makes me a lot happier than receiving For the rest of the month there will be a bucket of tennis balls in the clinic. Feel free to take one for your furry friend to brighten their day!

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My brithday month isnt over yet! Make sure you tune into next weeks Dog with a Blog to see how we wrap up my birthday celebrations.

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BENJI

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My human has organised so many things this week to help me celebrate my birthday month:

 

My Human planned a play date with my best  friends Campbell (the big bog) and Roxy (I think I love her) and we went and played in the park together! Campbell never has much to do with me but I know the big guy loves me

 

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Benji and Roxy

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Campell, Roxy and Benji 

 

My Human took the big dogs and I to the beach on the weekend and we ran and played in the water so much fun. It’s my favourite place in the world to go!

 

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My Human tells me that she has more exiciting things planned throughout this month to celebrate my birthday. Make sure you read next weeks Dog with a Blog to find out more!

 

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BENJI

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DOG WITH A BLOG: JAN IS MY BIRTHDAY MONTH!!!

It’s my birthday this month!! Woof Woof

I turn 36, or in human years 5! Super excited and my human tells me I can celebrate alllll month long, with lots of things happening at the clinic so look out for it!

My Human went away for Christmas which makes me sad, but I got to stay with Poppy who spoils me and gives me all sorts of yummy food – some  I’m not allowed to have!  Which meant I got to see my vet at 2:00am, poppy was worried because I was feeling very unwell and was making a mess everywhere. It’s so scary to go to the Vet with all those smells and that strange environment, I get very anxious and scared.

My human has taught me that focusing on one thing at a time can make me feel better. So I looked at an ant walking across the floor, and focused really really hard on all the zigging and zagging that the little fella was doing. Before long I forgot where I was and didn’t feel so bad. Thanks mum, great advice!

My human is home now and I am back to normal and looking forward to what will come up this month WOOF WOOF – I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas and I can’t wait to see some of you this year. 

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  BENJI

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Don’t Panic!

I was very fortunate to attend a psychotherapy conference in the USA before Xmas and was so impressed with a talk by Dr David Burns entitled "When Panic Attacks". Dr Burns has been working with anxiety and depression for many years and has developed extremely effective treatments for anxiety disorders, including panic.

The talk got me thinking about panic attacks… Panic attacks are extremely common with estimates revealing that between 2-4% of the Australian population suffer from panic disorders with recurring panic attacks, with panic being almost twice as common among women than men. Panic attacks can be extremely frightening for sufferers, with many people worrying that they are having a heart attack, are losing control or even going crazy. After experiencing their first panic attack, people can worry about having further panic attacks which can then lead to panic disorder. It can become a debilitating and isolating condition as people can withdraw from situations and activities that they enjoy in an effort to avoid having another panic attack

A panic attack is described by the DSM-V as an "abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within a few minutes” and during which people can experience a pounding heart, trembling or shaking, breathlessness, nausea or a fear of dying, among a number of other symptoms. This sudden increase in anxiety can occur from a calm state or an anxious state. 

So… what can be done? There are some very effective treatments for panic disorder, so don’t despair! Below is a brief summary of the treatment options:  

  1. Information on panic and how it arises
  2. Changing the way you think about panic, reframing your thoughts and learning about breathing and relaxation strategies
  3. Gradually exposing yourself to the way that anxiety manifests in your body; and
  4. Confronting situations that trigger anxiety, once you have learned coping and relaxation strategies

                                                                                            

Essentially, anxious thinking is based on unhelpful and inaccurate thoughts that can be challenged with therapy. As Dr Burns concisely put it, you feel the way you think, and you can CHANGE the way you FEEL!

If you would like help with recurring panic attacks or anxiety, book an appointment with Claudine or another psychologist at the Drop Of Life! 

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Christmas is now upon us – Kindness Matters!

It is interesting, as I grow older and wiser, and my children have partners and lives of their own, I find that Christmas feels different!  When I had a younger family and we were all under the same roof it was financially difficult because of the expectations around gifts and the season events.  However that was offset by the thrill of Shopping centres and Christmas carols which excited our  little family and made the season come alive.

Now that it is only my husband and I in the house and no grandchildren as yet!! This time of year is more about my relationships and slowing down to feel connected with those that I choose to be in my life.  This leads me to feel like there is so much more about this time of year than gifts and the commercial side of things.   In the clinic our monthly competition has changed to a challenge!!!! (should you choose to accept). We have borrowed a 'Kindness Calendar' which has something very small every day that I challenge everyone to do. The gift of giving is not only around presents, it is also about the ability to give of yourself to others without any sense or feeling of reciprocation. It's doing something simply because it feels good and costs nothing, but to someone else it may be everything!

I remember one year a very long time ago when I was in hospital with my youngest who was very unwell and had spent years in and out of hospital. I had a school mum come to the hospital and simply arrive with no other agender than to give me a hand massage and manicure which she did then left. It was such a simple gesture and so very kind, and to this day almost 18 years later it still sits with me as one of the kindest and most unselfish things someone has done for me. It saddens me that most of us only stop this time of year to think consciously about giving to all, I have no doubt that you are doing kind things often,  however how often do you stop to make a conscious choice to change the way you act and treat others? How often do you stop and ask, is there a softer way to say that so it is heard by others and not reacted upon? What is one small thing that I could do to make someone elses life easier/happier? Challenge number 2, slow down and be aware during this month of your interactions, of your words and most importantly of your stress levels.

I have enjoyed tremendously working with you all this year and sincerely hope you have a relaxing Christmas filled with love and wonder.

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Dog with a blog

Hi its me again Benji, my human has asked me to do another Dog with a Blog.  My human and I went to an event the other night where other animals came, as well as a lady Kathy from the Pet Wellness Centre. Which sounded like a  pretty cool place to go but I think she also said their was a vet in their…grrr no sure about that now!! Kathy brought her pup which had really sharp teeth and really really wanted to play..with his teeth!! So I tried hard to stay away from him, lucky I made a good friend with another shiatzu who was pretty cool.

My human and Kathy talked about lots of cool things about animals.  Everyone got really emotional when Kathy was telling them about the research around what makes dogs the most happiest… which of course was the smell of their humans.. weird I thought everyone would of known that.. woof.

My human talked about what we do in sessions and how beneficial it was and what happens to humans bodies and minds when they interact with animals.  Again …weird… I thought everyone would have known that it is really good for them to hang out with us. It does things like;

  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Lowers Heart Rate
  • Reduces de-escalation times
  • Increase self esteem
  • Helps regulate emotions and behaviours
  • Helps form healthy attachments
  • Increase eye contact
  • Decrease distractibility
  • Improve appropriate voice tone
  • Significantly lower behavioural, emotional and verbal distress

She’s real smart to know all that stuff.  I can smell something really cool outside so I’m off to explore what it is.  I’ll talk later woof!

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It's Benji! A Dog with a Blog

HI my name is Benji and I work at Drop Of Life with my human Natalie. Let me start by reminding you I'm a dog! My Human Natalie has let me have my own BLOG... wooof a dog with a blog... it will become a thing I bet!
This is new to me my human blogs all the time however I'm not as good as she is so be kind to me when reading. When you read this you must remember I'm a Dog so I'm very focused on instant gratification.. Like when you come into the clinic I just roll over so you can instantly rub my belly (Coz that's what I love soooo much!!)
My Human tells me we have a big gathering coming up at the end of the month which means I get to hang out with everyone that comes soooooo looking forward to that, (don't tell my mum I asked but bring treats! I really like chicken the best... or sometimes cheese.. although that sometimes isn't too good for me..if you know what I mean anyway back to what I was saying… looking forward to the gathering ..as the BEST part of my day is when you come to visit me.

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Top 5 Tips Understanding The Teenager

Top 5 Tips Understanding The Teenager

Most people are aware or at very least can remember their own teenage years and know that this period of time is a HUGH time of change. One of the reasons is the massive amount of change that goes on inside of the teenage brain. Our brains continue to change throughout our lifespan, but never as much as during these years. The teenage brain is under massive influence of new hormonal messages as well as the overwhelming need to have new experiences. These changes start to reshape and reconstructed the brain and a period of PRUNING occurs which is a scientific term that means some pathways are closed down and some are rerouted and reconnected to other destinations. As with anything massive change there is bound to be issues with things not running smoothl!! We are now starting to understand why there is a change in personality and the basic stability of our child because the new perspectives (pathways) and reactions are flying left right and centre. So, it is always important to bear in mind amongst the teenage chaos years that they are still in a developmental stage of their life and this stage affects the rest of their lives. Those experiences and current needs are shaping the pruning and sprouting process in the brain. Let’s look at what to expect from my humble experience –

1. EXPLOSION OF NEURAL PATHWAYS - Right before puberty the brain is blossoming and there is an overabundance of neuronal connections, so this now becomes a critical period of development. This structural reorganization is thought to continue until the age of 25, which is probably just as well given some of the experimental experiences they get up to eg drinking to excess, drugs etc.

2. PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT - The most obvious is the awkward growth spurt, and physical changes that occur. It sometimes looks like teenagers themselves cannot control their bodies, becoming clumsy and not realising their new found strength. Puberty is the beginning of major changes in the limbic system, meaning among other things there is a change in the circadian rhythms (which are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a roughly 24 hour cycle) this looks like the teen sleeping in and going to bed later. Which means they start to rack up sleep debt!!! This is really bad because sleep is thought to help reorganise the teenage brain. As we all know sleep deprivation leads to an exacerbation in moodiness and cloudy decision-making!! The hormone changes at puberty have a huge affect on the brain, one of which is to spur the production of more receptors for oxytocin, (bonding hormone). This may result in an increased level of sensitivity and leading to feelings self-consciousness, making an adolescent truly feel like everyone is watching them. This may make a teen seem self-centered (and in their defence, they do have a lot going on).

3. IDENTITY – forming and storming their identity - Teens have this overwhelming urge to figure out who they are and what they believe and stand for. This is often formed through their peers who become VERY important throughout this stage. They will experiment and work out with the different groups what they do and don’t like. Parent s and other role models play a role too.

4. NEW THINKING SKILLS – As mentioned now we have lots more brain development to access, so it will start to interconnect an gain more processing power. So they START ..not there 100% yet ..to access more complex decision making skill. So for awhile this does not always work out for them. Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to: #Act on impulse, #misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions, #get into accidents of all kinds, #get involved in fights, #engage in dangerous or risky behaviour. AND LESS likely to: #think before they act, #pause to consider the consequences of their actions, #change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviours. Which leads us to - DECISION MAKING PROCESS! – The teenagers newly found emotions and brain development tend to affect their decision making processes. This will mean that their decisions can be overly influenced by their emotional part of the brain (limbic system) rather than our more rational prefrontal cortex. This will often leave a lot of adults around them going…’what the!’ as they will do silly things like drive too fast, drink and drive, punch walls/jump off high things and hurt themselves, when they clearly know better. Basically cause and effect is hindered, as the teenage brains is simply put wired to seek reward making them vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviours. According to many researches by late adolescence, say 17 years on, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and long-term perspective taking is thought to help them reign in some of the behaviour they were tempted by in middle adolescence. PHEW!

5. SOCIAL – As mention we have this Hugh amount of brain development and skills which the teenager is still trying to figure out how to work with. I like the analogy of when you get a new cadet, you kind of just experiment with it until you figure it out… well that’s our teenagers in a nutshell!! This is why teenagers need to experiment with new situations, friendships and challenge pretty much everything. In most cases teenagers will try this out with their parents (as it’s a safe environment – meaning you will love them anyway, most of the time!) and NOW we have parent child conflict to add to our mix of chaos. Conflict becomes like an experimental ‘self expression’ if you will, this is even more complicated by the issue of the ‘Ego Centric Brain’ meaning it can be difficult to understanding another’s point of view. again parent child conflict! So as hard as this might be to believe this behaviour is not actually a personal thing. Keep in mind that we need to be the bigger, stronger and wiser person, so as to help them to stay calm, listen and basically be good role model. We need to show them HOW we want them to behave. They need to learn and practice how to develop those underdeveloped abilities. Until these areas are fully developed there is the possibility of them misreading teachers, parents and others. Just a little word to the wise - The more you yell at a teen, the worse they will likely behave, often not matter how careful you are there is always the possibility that it will end in tears or anger because they will have misunderstood what you have said, … Its tough, dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.

6. INDIVIDUATION - One of the jobs of a teenager is to start to separate from their family and establish some autonomy, both emotionally, physically and financially. Don’t worry just yet because they still need their parents to provide them with the well needed stability and structure. So even when your 15/16yo is trying to act like an adult and do adult things if you treat them as an adult you may be setting them up unfairly for failure in the future. They still need you even if they say they don’t. One of the BEST ways to parent your teen, other than being reliable, predictable and a good listener, is to be a good role model, especially when dealing with stress and other tough life events. The teen is trying really hard at this stage to figure our their own way of coping and they are always watching you. "It is the first time they are seeing themselves in the world," meaning their greater autonomy has opened their eyes to what lies beyond their families and schools. They are asking themselves, for perhaps the first time: What kind of person do I want to be and what type of place do I want the world to be?
Our job as parents is to help them explore the questions, rather than give them answers.

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There’s no such thing as Infant Mental Health

It’s interesting when I speak with others about the work I do, and their faces look quizzingly at me when talk about providing mental health services to infants and children.

“But babies don’t have anything to worry about! Why are you counselling babies? And who on earth can hold a decent conversation with a 2 year old that doesn’t end in a tantrum or consist entirely of playing dolls/cars?”

I enjoy these conversations, as it provides an opportunity for someone to learn about this incredibly important, and largely overseen area.

Some facts about Perinatal, Infant, and Early Childhood Mental Health:
• Perinatal and Infant Mental Health go hand in hand to describe the mental health and emotional wellbeing of women, their infants, partners, and families. This includes DADS 
• To support the infant and young child to develop the capacity for experiencing, expressing, and regulating emotions; forming close and secure relationships; and exploring the environment to enhance learning
• It is typically the period from conception to about 3 years after the end of the pregnancy.
• It is important to note that this area can cover parents who have also lost a child, including through termination, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
• The most common mental health concerns for this group are anxiety and depression
• The mental health and wellbeing of parents is critically important to the emotional and physical development of the infant. Untreated concerns have significant impacts on the parents, infant, and whole family
• Treatment is available and can be highly effective. This ranges from counselling to medication, and extra supports from health professionals where necessary

What psychological support can look like for families seeking help:
• Working directly with the parent/s to support their wellbeing
• Observe, role model, coach, and provide feedback around supporting their infant/child
• Be part of targeted groups and workshops, such as Circle of Security, Bringing Up Great Kids
• Supporting the child (if older) directly to work through their areas of difficulty. This is done through the use of games, play, and child-led interests
• This is all done in a strengths-based, collaborative, warm, engaging and supportive space

Some tips for supporting your mental health and wellbeing during this period:
1. A good routine goes a long way. This allows you and your child to have a certain level of certainty about your day
2. Fuelling your body with healthy meals. This will give you the right type of energy needed to be a very busy mum/dad
3. Sleep, rest, and nap at every available opportunity. Your body and brain need many times to re-energise and re-cooperate
4. Enjoyable physical activity. This can be a simple stroll with bub, heading to the playground and playing ‘chasy’, yoga, or going for a swim
5. Using techniques to de-stress. This can be relaxation training, meditation, or mindfulness
6. Doing something ‘selfish’ each day. This means setting time aside where you can take a breather and do something special. This could be as simple as reading a chapter in a good book, looking through a magazine, catching up on last night’s episode, or calling a friend
7. Vent and debrief. It can feel so good to just talk about everything happening, and have someone be a ‘soundboard’ for you. Problem solving with a trusted person can have wonderful positive outcomes
8. Adult time. Some give and take with you nurturing your partner, but also them providing some TLC for you too. We tend to forget or not have enough time for other halves, however making the effort is essential
9. Delegate. Involve your partner or family members in the daily care of your child
10. Develop a support network. It can be hard to ask for help, but it can be even harder accepting help too. Start to build a community around you

“There is no such thing as a baby. There is only a baby and someone.”
Donald Winnicott

Adapted from Children’s Health Queensland

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Posted by on in adults
How Self-Compassionate are you?

How Self-Compassionate are you?

This month we will be focusing on Self-Compassion!! While we are all familiar with the term Compassion, we might not be as familiar with the idea of Self-Compassion. In essence while we may be kind and compassionate toward others, many of us struggle to be compassionate toward ourselves.

We may judge ourselves for our perceived failures, speak harshly to ourselves when we make a mistake, and feel separate and cut off from others during times of suffering.

By taking a more Self-Compassionate stance toward ourselves, we can be more open to our experiences of suffering, be kind and caring toward ourselves, view our shortcomings non-judgmentally and see our suffering as part of the human condition (Neff, 2003).

We can also become aware of our critical voice. You know, that voice that tells us that we are “not good enough,” that we are unlovable, that we will fail or that things won’t get better.

There are three parts to Self-Compassion. The first is being kind and loving to oneself instead of judgmental. The second is accepting that suffering is part of the human condition, which helps us to stay connected to others rather than isolating ourselves. The final important component of Self-Compassion is mindfulness, that is, contact with the present moment and one’s own suffering, as opposed to avoiding experiences of pain and suffering.

Research has shown that people low on self-compassion tend to struggle with depression, anxiety and other problems, while those high on self-compassion tend to have improved psychological well-being, satisfaction with life and overall coping strategies.

So, if you want to increase your Self-Compassion, you could try the following:

    1. 1. Consider how you would treat someone else, like a friend. What tone of voice would you use? What would you say to comfort them? What sort of language would you use (i.e. supportive versus blaming)
    2. 2. You could comfort yourself with a physical gesture
    3. 3. Develop compassionate language toward yourself and use these phrases in times of stress or distress
    4. 4. Practice meditation or mindfulness

If you would like more information on Self-Compassion, or you would like to find out how Self-Compassionate you are, ask to see Claudine at Drop Of Life for an appointment! 

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Why we love Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory

Why we love Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory

This month is the start of Autism Awareness Month in Australia and Autism Queensland's annual Go Blue for Autism campaign. In my research to do a blog on this topic, I came across an article which looked at Asperger syndrome completely differently and it made so much more sense to write about it in this format than in the typical diagnostic format.

The majority of people have some idea of Asperger syndrome, and if not they can certainly reflect on the characteristics of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Just to refresh your memory, Sheldon plays a scientific genius who works at a local university and shows several characteristics typical to those who have Aspergers, such as attention to detail, repetitive actions and a lack of social skills. I realise that I am just postulating on whether or not the Sheldon character has Aspergers, regardless the show’s popularity has brought a level of tolerance and appreciation for Sheldon’s character. I have to admit that I love and watch The Big Bang Theory and am quite fond of Sheldon’s character. One of the biggest reason why people seem so drawn to Sheldon is that he comes across as absolutely brilliant. The characteristics that I love about him is he is who he is and doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t. He’s just his own unique self! That is something to admire.

There has always been speculation around other prominent figures, and recently self-advocate Dr Temple Grandin mentioned that she believed Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein shared characteristics of Aspergers, Much like Sheldon, these two geniuses are seen as brilliant minds that also have issues with social interaction.
Sheldon, Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein show us that anyone with a dream, with or without a diagnosis of Asperger's can aspire to obtain a job you love, be in a healthy relationship and live an independent life. These people show us hope that this can become a reality.

Even though Sheldon may seem different, anyone with a profile like his should be treated with respect and tolerance. Because the wide spectrum of autism includes many truly unique individuals. Their stories should be celebrated much like those of Sheldon, Albert and Steve.
My message in this month’s blog is one of respect and tolerance

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Posted by on in family
When Children Lie
 When Children Lie

A number of parents have been asking me about lying over the last few months. Whilst the below information is useful for parents who are currently experiencing this frustrating issue, it’s also a good resource for those who wish to be proactive.

Emotional intimacy with our children is a fragile gift that can easily break when we erode trust through punishments, shame, blame, scolding, or manipulation. When our children’s behaviour is off-track, they need us to calmly stop them, help them, and guide them. They need to know we’re always in their corner (rather than sending them off to one), and that we will create safety – not only physical safety, but also safety in our regard for them – safety in our love and our “like,” a 100% safe relationship.

Alternatively, shaming or punishing children for lying creates distance and mistrust, which only encourage kids to lie better.

As for consequences, with the respectful parenting approach, consequences aren’t tactics to be “implemented” like just another form of punishment. If there are consequences, they are honest sharing of our own truths as parents. So, if there was a consequence in the case of a 6-year-old lying, it might look something like this (shared calmly and nonjudgmentally): “I am not going to be able to let you go to Juliet’s house again if you can’t tell me the truth about what you two did. I’m just not comfortable.”

There are a variety of reasons a child might lie in the early years (most of them so perfectly harmless that describing them as “lies” seems too strong a word). They are all motivated by the same thing: lying feels preferable to that child. In that particular moment, they may be experiencing:

  • • Fear – the unfortunate result of our past anger and other emotional responses or punishments when our children have erred. It seems better to them to not admit they did it.

Remedy: Respectful, empathic guidance (for much more detail on this particular part, please refer to the webpage)

  • • Shame, blame, embarrassment – because our focus has been “teaching our kids a lesson” rather than understanding the behaviour. The real lesson has been our lack of empathy for their immature stage of development.

Remedy: Create safety with nonjudgmental responses like, “I hear you saying you didn’t hit your brother. It seems that he was hit. Please let me know whenever you feel like hitting, so I can be there to keep you safe.”

  • • A need to test our leadership – children might “try out” mistruths to see if they have the power to ruffle their leaders’ feathers. If we fail this test, they might need to try it out again. And again.

Remedy: Diffuse these tests by taking them in stride and connecting lightly and knowingly. “Hmm… you didn’t let the dog out, and yet out he is… Verrrry mysterious.”

  • • Enjoyment of imagination and fantasy – children can become absorbed in their fantasies, even to the extent that it can be difficult for them to separate fantasy from reality. This a healthy stage of development children pass through, and they certainly don’t need us to jar them out of it.

Remedy: None. No need to worry, just enjoy with them. “You’re a purple dragon? Ah, yes, I can totally see that now.”

  • • Wishful thinking, projecting, and visualizing success – children might imagine themselves succeeding at a task that, in reality, they didn’t even attempt. These projections can help them shore up the courage to do it the next time.

Remedy: Again, visualization is positive and healthy, so I would connect rather than correct. “You felt yourself going down the highest slide today. How did that feel?”

In all cases, our openness, curiosity and unruffled, unthreatened, patient responses are the best way to diffuse the need to fabricate. And they also go a long way in forging a relationship that forever eliminates the need for avoidance of the truth.

No lie.

By Janet Lansbury

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A message to parents and carers about the importance of caring for yourself.
A message to parents and carers about the importance of caring for yourself.

 

Much has been written on the subject of positive role modelling. In all facets of functioning children and young people seek and need positive role models. Now here comes the good bit – parents and carers your mission, and I so hope you accept it, is to actively and purposefully care for yourself whilst your child is engaged in therapy… And even if they’re not.

Being the front line support person for a child is an incredibly important and rich role. Being available, being patient and kind, being able to meet their many and varying needs requires energy, enthusiasm, commitment and at times great stamina.

Taking time to rejuvenate, recover, rest and care for yourself demonstrates the importance of self -love and care. Taking time to connect with family and friends, to have fun, share a laugh, be silly and playful. We all know that actions speak louder than words so taking time out for a cup of tea with a friend, a soak in the bath or a walk on the beach is showing that we value and prioritise care for self and makes us better able to care for others.
Those who have travelled on a plane will be familiar with the safety message – please put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Parents and carers commitment to their child or young person’s therapeutic plan for self-care can result in their own plan falling by the way side. Consider your therapist as flight attendant offering you the same sound and evidence based advice – care for self means we are better able to care for others.

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"Have 3 x 30 daily and call me in the morning"

"Have 3 x 30 daily and call me in the morning"

Happy New Year! Would you be believe it's 2017 already? I certainly have difficulty doing so. It seems like only yesterday that I was watching the telecast of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and only yesterday when my eldest nephew was born (he is now 10, going on 17). The Christmas and New Year festivities are over, and we're all slowly getting back into the 'routines' of daily life.

Sometimes though, the routines can have the wearing down effect on our emotional and physical resources, especially when we don't realise that we could be running on 'low battery' or 'empty' until something declines (e.g. having low energy, feeling overwhelmed, body aches and pains, etc). Sure we all have our own ways to recharge, decompress and 'top up the tank', but it can be a challenge at times. I learned about "3x30" after a conversation with a GP about the cumulative effects of stress, and he shared with me the simple formula he gives to patients in order to minimise the effects of stress and keep their resilience reserves topped up.

Everyday, do the following:

  • 30 minutes of humour - laughter is the best medicine so they say, and it does change the biochemistry of the body/brain so that the stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are reduced. So go and laugh! Watch something funny, read funny comics, joke with friends and family to your heart's content.
  • 30 minutes of fun/pleasure - doing an activity that you absolutely enjoy takes your mind off worry and concerns. Yes it can be a distraction, but a welcome one if the result is that you are feeling calmer, more relaxed and feeling more grounded.
  • 30 minutes of physical activity/exercise - physical activity and exercise in all its forms (yoga, walking, Zumba) allows the body to metabolise stress hormones and expend the nervous energy associated with it. It doesn't have to be hardcore, so long as it's moderate movement and something you enjoy, the benefits of regular activity far outlast the half-hour you've invested.

So there you have it. 3x30 daily (or as often as you can) for keeping your emotional and physical reserves topped up. You can do each separately or combine all of them, and it doesn't have to be 30 minutes (can be more or less, just what works for you). Just like the proverbial apple, 3x30 a day keeps the blues (and the doctor) away!

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