Creswick Fellowship Tour – Sandhill Childhood Development Centre

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I spent the week of May 12 -16 with the staff and residents at Sandhill Child Development Center in New Mexico.  “Sandhill Child Development Center is a residential program for children ages 5 to 13 at admission, who are experiencing significant difficulties functioning in their current home, school or community due to an inability to regulate their emotional states. By repairing a child’s trust in care and adult guidance, Sandhill gives the child the tools necessary to proceed with a healthy and bright future. Sandhill Child Development Center emphasizes a relationally-based clinical approach that is grounded in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) developed by Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and The ChildTrauma Academy.” Sandhill takes children from all over the United States.

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As one of the ChildTrauma Academy’s initial partner certification sites there was no question about visiting Sandhill. Having been at the implementation of neurodevelopmentally informed interventions in their residential treatment for some time now, I wanted to see for myself where they were up to and what discoveries they had made.

Interventions include:

  • Individual weekly therapy for the child
  • Family therapy
  • Parent training sessions
  • Modelling sessions/co-parenting on site
  • EMDR
  • Animal Assisted Interventions
  • Nutrition – provision of a “brain friendly” diet which strives to use many organic and whole foods.
  • Exercise and recreation – including sports, team building, martial arts and other exercise based activities.
  • Service Learning via voluntary interaction in the community
  • Neurofeedback
  • Wilderness Adventure Therapy.
  • Daily education

All of this provided on site or as part of the one program! Sandhill has capacity for up to 30 children and adolescents at any given time and their average length of stay is around 18 months. Read more about Sandhill Child Development Center here, at Chelle Taylor’s blog My Creswick Fellowship Tour

Edited version of a post written by: Michelle (Chelle) Taylor, Clinical Psychologist and NMT Consultant, Take Two Program

Berry Street Education – Pt. 1

Pt 1 in a series on Berry Street Education 

StudyingBerry Street Education seeks to:

  • Advance models of secondary schools to meet the needs of educationally disadvantaged / disengaged young people with a history of trauma, abuse or neglect.
  • Bring together three fields of research:

o   trauma-informed

o   neurodevelopmental

o   positive psychology/education, uniting them in a strong culture of academic achievement.

  • Inform the teaching practice of vulnerable children through this integrated approach in a continuum of school settings.

Cognitive & Non-Cognitive Skills at the Berry Street School:  CHARACTER COUNTS

At Berry Street, our knowledge of trauma’s impact on our students’ development guides our education program design. We seek to understand and undertake a bold next step to our curriculum development and school culture: the integration of our knowledge of trauma’s impact on neurodevelopment along with the best practices around the sciences of well-being, human flourishing and positive psychology.

Our students come to us with histories of education neglect, substance abuse, generational trauma, and a great deal of personal struggle.  We seek to create dual-purpose educational experiences: building both cognitive skills and strengths-based resilience.

We know that for our Berry Street students to succeed in school, in transitional career pathways and beyond, we must teach a mosaic of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills.   We define cognitive skills as the skills necessary to understand and process information—the foundational academic skills for literacy, maths, inquiry-based learning, vocational knowledge and electronic media.

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning. 

The importance of oral language competency

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Associate Professor Pamela Snow of Monash University presented a keynote speech on the link and implications of oral language competency and vulnerable young people.

Oral language competency is the ability to process and comprehend language. One’s language competency is formed during infancy and childhood, and refers to the degree of language enrichment in the home.

Dependent on socio-economic status, the consistency and frequency of language and words spoken to children by parents can differ greatly. Parents who do not work outside the home can manage 616 words an hour, working parents can manage 1,252 words an hour and higher income earning parents can manage 2,153 words an hour.

The importance of language competency helps to form the basis of communication skills, and in turn, determines the success of maintaining relationships.

The complexities and nuances of language pose challenges for those with low levels of oral language competency, such as understanding what are jokes, metaphors, sarcasm and innuendo, to name a few. Children need a lot of emotional and linguistic exposure from their parents as they navigate through the complex world of interpersonal relationships.

By formal measured standards, 50-60% of young offenders have a language impairment. As such, it is highly likely that boys with behavioural difficulties have underlying language difficulties.

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By recognizing oral language competency as a key area of childhood development, policy makers, teachers and youth justice systems can be better equipped to assist vulnerable young people.

In what ways did your parents communicate with you as a child? How often do you spend time talking with your children?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

The boys need us: technology & the mental health & wellbeing of young men

Associate Professor Jane Burns

 

Technology can provide young people with the support they need outside of business hours.

 

After Baroness Susan Greenfield discussed some of the issues with social media, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAWCRC) Associate Professor Jane Burns, led an interesting workshop on the impact technology has on the mental health and wellbeing of young men in Australia.

Speaking from a personal perspective, Jane’s own 7-year-old son Angus, lives with autism and down syndrome, and relies on an iPad in order to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

A champion for the digital movement, Jane believes that Australia should utilise the technologies available to us today in order to provide youth with more accessible, online mental health services.

She contends that while Australia is one of the leading nations in service provision, we are living in an opportune time to decrease the still apparent disparity in health care in rural societies through mental health professional providing services online, building connections with and between young people.

Jane Burns, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre
Jane Burns, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre

Working with Movember, Beyond Blue, University of Sydney, and The Black Dog Institute, the YAWCRC conducted a national survey in 2012 to produce a research report on the impact of technologies on young men’s mental health and wellbeing.

Implementing the gold standard of survey-taking, they interviewed 1,400 young men aged 16-25 from all states and territories around Australia, of which 30% were from regional, rural or remote areas, and 2% identified as Indigenous.

Interesting stats from the research:

  • 99% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use the internet,
  • 95% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use it everyday or almost everyday.
  • Most are online for 2-4 hours a day,
  • 20% are online for 5+ hours a day.

The top three ways young people use the Internet:

  • 94% email in 2012 (up from 13% in 2008),
  • 93% facebook in 2012 (up from 32% in 2008),
  • 86% YouTube in 2012 (up from 7% in 2008).

How young people use the Internet:

  • 74.8% access the Internet by phone,
  • 69.9% access the Internet by laptop,
  • 34.3% access the Internet by tablet,
  • 30.8% access the Internet by desktop computer.

Where young people use the Internet:

  • 75.9% access it in their bedroom,
  • 56.2% access it in a social setting.

The main issues that concern young men aged 16-25:

  • 47.6% said coping with stress,
  • 26.6% said depression,
  • 26.3% said body image issues,
  • 19.3% said bullying or emotional abuse.

Finally, 42% of young men experience ‘moderate’ to ‘very high’ levels of psychological distress. Young men aged 22 to 25 years consistently reported higher rates of suicidal thoughts.

Associate Professor Jane Burns

Almost 1 million young men are experiencing moderate to very high levels of psychological distress. Regardless of psychological distress, use of the internet is almost universal (98%) and in similar frequency. Even with advances in mental health services, young men do not seek help and many young men are not using services until they reach crisis point.

It appears that many men who are experiencing psychological distress tend to go online and use digital tools to express, share, distribute, and discuss their issues with others in a private, confidential setting. This acts as a cathartic tool and mental wellbeing exercise that can translate into their everyday lives.

Jane concluded the workshop by stating that further research needs to be conducted, and more data needs to be collected in order to understand the effects of technology on mental health and wellbeing. She is interested in knowing how we can tap into and use gaming and social media to use and create content for mental health services. 

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Young people transitioning from out of home care in VIC

Associate Professor Philip Mendes
Associate Professor Philip Mendes

“Young people with disabilities are facing huge challenges when leaving Out of Home Care.”

On Friday, the second day of the conference, Associate Professor Philip Mendes from Monash University presented the findings of a study into this transitional period.

Philip said his study confirmed that young people leaving care are more vulnerable to poorer outcomes. He drew comparisons with the wider community, highlighting many young people don’t leave the homes of their parents until they are aged 25 and of those who do leave home by 18, a large portion continue to receive some sort of support from their family.

This is in stark contrast to young people with disabilities who are leaving Out of Home Care at age 18 and are often not ready to be fully independent for a variety of reasons.

There is minimal research about how many young people are in care, or what types of disabilities they live with, but it appears there is an over representation of children with a disability.

The findings of the study concluded:

  • Young people with disabilities are not experiencing planned transitions from care and are not receiving the care they need.
  • Young people are sometimes transitioned into aged care facilities.
  • The system is crisis driven.
  • Inadequate funding results in a lack of accommodation options and support services for young people with disabilities.
  • Young people’s participation in their leaving care plan is hampered by the lack of resources and services.
  • The sudden transition from statutory children’s services to voluntary adult disability services is problematic for some young people.

“After transitioning from care, young people with disabilities should have ongoing monitoring and support”

Associate Professor Philip Mendes

Philip continued to explain the situation for young people with undiagnosed disabilities, borderline disabilities and mental illness was also dire. They ‘fall through the net’ and are often left worse off than those with significant diagnosed disability.

“The most common type of disability is mental illness and yet young people with mental illness are not eligible for disability services,” he said.

Philip’s presentation highlighted how a sector that is underfunded is not providing the level of care and support a vulnerable group of people need. The process of leaving out-of-home care is fraught with difficulties, as one can imagine.

Perhaps the most important finding from Philip’s study:

“After transitioning from care, young people with disabilities should have ongoing monitoring and support”

For more information on how young people are affected, read this great article from The Age on Chantelle’s story of leaving care with a mental illness.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Homelessness- ‘Through the eyes of a Child’

Michelle Clayton
Michelle Clayton, Children’s Resource program coordinator, Southern Region

Presenters Michelle Clayton and Susie Richards, both Children’s Resource Program Coordinators, from the Southern and Eastern Regions respectively looked at issues of homelessness and family violence through the eyes of the children involved.

The key is that, children’s experiences of homelessness are very different to those of adults.

The important moments in this journey might be leaving a pet behind or losing a teddy bear, these are things that need to be understood by the social workers who take on these cases.

But the question is do you have the resources to make a space nurturing for a child and to make your service suitable for a child?

There are plenty of barriers in working with children facing homelessness:

Susie Richards
Susie Richards, Children’s Resource program coordinator, Eastern Region
  • Who is the client? Is it the child, his/her family or parents?,
  • Children aren’t often funded as clients,
  • Children can be somewhat invisible to the worker (as they’re often as school and cannot often be accessed on week days),
  • There is a belief that children are resilient,
  • There is also a belief that fixing the homelessness problem will fix the child (even though the trauma of such an event will impact onto the child’s life for a long period),
  • Parents are protective of children and generally have reasonable parenting abilities,
  • Children’s issues not addressed because of the hierarchy of needs within the family.

The role of the Statewide Children’s Resource Program is to try and overcome these barriers through training, much of which is offered free to agencies, and resource distribution to aid workers who are trying to engage with children facing homelessness.

The program aims to raise awareness among workers about the impacts on health, mental health, education and emotional stability that homelessness can have on a child and some of the simple things that can be done to aid kids through this time, such as having toys for kids to play with in the office.

Toys for children to play with

Workers in this area need to assess their current ideas of children’s rights and their usual methods of dealing with family homelessness.

The Statewide Children’s Resource Program seeks to inspire this assessment and teach workers to improve their practice and support children who face homelessness.

For more information on the type of resources developed visit http://www.homelesskidscount.org/

Post written by youth bloggers from SYN Media.

Children’s voices & the power of an image: exploring ways in which children let us know of difficult life experiences

Children's Voices and the Power of an ImageTwo staff from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne’s Gatehouse Centre For The Assessment & Treatment Of Child Abuse and Trauma, Mary Raftopolos (Psychologist) and Olivia Dwyer (Art Therapist & Child Psychotherapist)  focused on how children communicate their inner-world through art therapy.

Art therapy is generally divided into two concepts:

  • art as therapy, as a cathartic process ( for the purification and/or purging of emotions); and,
  • art in therapy, as art made in the context of psychotherapy.

Regardless, emphasis is placed on the process, not so much the final product.

Images and artwork produced by children who have suffered family abuse and breakdown were displayed to the audience, and we were challenged to consider how we experience and interpret these images.

These images included paintings, drawings and Sandplay Therapy that children, who typically are unable to verbally express, use to convey their inner world.

Sandplay Therapy involves the child making a picture in a tray of sand, and without any further direction, allowing the therapist to observe the process in which the child forms the art piece. Miniatures are chosen as they create an image/world in the sand.

Many of the themes conveyed in the featured pieces of art included:

  • Self regulation (fences, police, natural boundaries),
  • Poor relationships,
  • Fear,
  • Chaos,
  • Growth,
  • Containment,
  • Journey,
  • New beginnings,
  • Hiding treasure/finding treasure,
  • Gathering of energy,
  • Or, celebrations/rituals.

Mary and Olivia concluded the workshop with some of the positive results from art therapy over time, including the process being used as a tool of catharsis, in addition to allowing children to convey thoughts and feelings they would otherwise not be able to verbally.

Art Therapy & Sandplay have indeed proved wonderful, non-intrusive ways of working with children who have experienced trauma and/or neglect.

Blog by: SYN Media blogger