Childhood Conversations – Part 2

A retrospective look back at the era in which we grew up…

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Childhood. It’s arguably the most important time of our life: a precious time where we need to feel safe, happy and loved.

Most importantly, for some of us, it is a time where some of our happiest memories were made.

Berry Street believes that every single child deserves to grow up with a childhood they want to remember.

The first of our ‘Childhood Conversation’ sessions involved 6 parents from a local school, taking a retrospective look back through their own memories and experiences at the era in which they grew up.

Discussion was informally structured around the following five key themes:

  • Family environment- including: what did the average family structure look like? What were your perceptions of your parents’ work/life balance?
  • Health & wellbeing – including: how did you play – structured or unstructured? What environments did you play in? What food did you eat? How much time did you spend out of doors? Risk taking behaviours?
  • Education & Technology – including: what role did technology play within the family? What and how was information shared about families? Participation in education?
  • Community Participation – including: involvement in local community? Consumerism targeting children? Children’s voice in decision making?
  • Material Basics – including: understanding of poverty? Perception of employment/unemployment?

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It was a fun and enlightening conversation and we look forward to bringing you a summary of the issues raised.

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Therapeutic Preschool: Building Emotional Regulation

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Sumner Mental Health Services provide therapeutic support to the Futures Unlimited Preschools in Wellington KS. Specifically they provide support via the provision of Mental Health Case Management and a role called Individual Psychosocial Rehabilitation workers (IPR), for children classified with Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED).

I observed the absolute value of the IPR role in the preschool setting as I watched an IPR with a 6 year old child with significant emotional disturbance.  From the outset of allocated time, the IPR provided this child with one to one, undivided attention, co-regulation and supported emotionally and developmentally respectful redirection when necessary.  Enacting her role, the IPR was regularly in physical contact with the child in the classroom.

The IPR worker scaffolded the child from activity to activity in transitions, keeping distractions to a minimum and providing nothing short of opportunities for success for the child, all of this done through largely relational based interaction and regulation.

What really stood out to me was the fact that this child, in the hour supported by the IPR was able to experience success and a baseline level of emotional regulation, contrary to descriptions that had been given of her.

shutterstock_3095802Imagine the long term benefits we could achieve if our kindergarten/preschool children who struggle emotionally, received opportunities like this at the time when their brains are still actively organising neural networks.  Could we start to create early changes in neural templates from over active stress response systems and emotional dysregulation to enable younger children a better platform for self-regulation?

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

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

International Speaker – Jenny Fox Eades

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During my time in Australia, it was my pleasure and privilege to tell stories about heroes to two groups of Australian teenagers. I told my grandmother’s story, of struggle and humour and courage in the slums of the East End in the early part of the 20th century.

And I told the story of John, Violette and Abdullah – all of whom gave their lives for their country, one a hundred years ago, one fifty years ago and one two months ago. The teenagers were those who attend the Morwell and Noble Park campuses of Berry Street School.

I was in Australia (I live in the UK) for ten days and the reaction and welcome and feedback I had from the students at the Berry Street School was as insightful, as moving and as humbling as any I heard on my visit. The students were able to enjoy a moment’s quiet to listen to a story simply told – and to identify strengths in the characters they had heard about. They said the lesson was ‘fun’; they said it was interesting; they said it was ‘practical’ – you could touch and feel and see what we were talking about.120729_161

I have worked with stories and strengths for ten years now and I am always amazed by how quickly this simple but profound language prompts students to ask deep questions and to reflect on what they hear with clarity and insight. The students were not new to the language of strengths. Their teachers had clearly been doing some great work in this area that I was able to tap into and build upon.

I immensely enjoyed working with Australian educators during my visit. And telling a few more stories…

 

Berry Street Education – Pt. 3

Pt 3 in a three part series on Berry Street Education

Our knowledge about trauma’s shutterstock_160640774consequence on the neurodevelopment of children helps us when our young people become heightened, leading to flight, fight, or freeze behaviour.

Dr Bruce Perry has informed our work at Berry Street. Moving beyond the medical model, we work with Dr Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (and his emerging Neurosequential Model of Education) as a structure for understanding the neurobiological development of children who have histories of threat, neglect, humiliation, degradation, deprivation, chaos, and violence.

We are building upon the Berry Street Model of Education, which encompasses nine domains of our trauma-informed education, such as the importance of the integration of clinical, welfare approaches, building positive relationships, developing community/pathway linkages, etc. Teens in library

Significantly, Berry Street has a commitment to teaching children in mainstream settings through the collaborative creation of the Child Safety Commissioner’s program: Calmer Classrooms.

 

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

Berry Street Education – Pt. 2

Pt 2 in a series on Berry Street Education

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Building upon the foundation of academic rigour and our teachers’ curriculum design for deep-understanding, we turn our focus toward non-cognitive skills.

We define these skills as the performance capacities necessary to support persistent, resilient, growth-mindsets of learning.  Research tells us that self-regulation is a better predictor of success than IQ.  Developing the strengths of courage, gratitude, kindness, and curiosity hold equal importance as learning literacy decoding skills.

We hold the firm belief that Berry Street can be an innovative contributor to the education for our most vulnerable students by integrating our understanding of trauma’s effect on neurodevelopment and evidence-based practice from positive psychology, mindfulness and well-being.

Four key drivers:

1.             Staff well-being and staff self-learning:  Staff must have an in-depth understanding of well-being and working from a strengths-based perspective.  How can staff best cultivate positive emotion and character strengths to be the best teachers/mentors for our students?

2.             Dual-purpose, implicit curriculum:  We seek to take our academic curriculum and revision it through a “dual-purpose lens.”  How will we teach both a literacy objective and a lesson on persevering in the face of obstacles at the same time? Every lesson has the potential to teach cognitive skill and character strength.Teen studying

3.             Explicit and specific character learning:  We believe that in addition to a dual-purpose curriculum, there are specific time-tabled ways to teach non-cognitive skills and through our own practice and refine these opportunities throughout the school day.  (Ex: Sessions that incorporate our knowledge from therapeutic movement, martial arts, creative arts, and personal development / psycho-education curriculum)

4.             Relationship based resiliency:  Our teachers know that relationship is key to our student’s emotional-safety required for learning.  How can we nourish relationships to increase our students’ hope for their own futures by understanding of non-cognitive skills?

 

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

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.