WHAT IS A SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DIFFICULTY?
Many of the students I work with have had early life adversity. This may be a developmental trauma such as abuse or neglect or it may have been difficult early years in which the challenges of bonding with a main caregiver have resulted in social emotional problems. There are many reasons why a child may not get their attachment needs met. Illness and/or hospitalisation in child or parent, neurodevelopmental difficulty or a separation or loss are all significant factors. Often this can leave the child at risk for a range of social, emotional and cognitive difficulties. The outcome of these situations results in hard-wired survival strategies that become imprinted in their brain. The effects of brain and biology are added to the need to relate, shame and guilt, problems with emotional regulation and memory of the trauma.
THE APPROACH TAKEN BY AMANDA
As a speech and language therapist, I am often asked to go into schools to do an assessment and observation of children that present with social communication challenges. In children/students that have had adverse early life experiences I often notice that in order for effective 'learning behaviours' to develop, it is vital that their emotional needs are met before this can happen. Amanda adopts a holistic approach to observation and assessment of the child's need with a view to providing advice, therapy or referral onto specialist services.
It has become well recognised that developmentally traumatised children with social-emotional difficulties require an empathic behaviour management approach (EBM). This type of 'new logic' (Elliott, A. 2013) adopts an approach that works on trying to figure out the function of the child/students behaviour. It utilizes the science of how the brain gets hard wired for survival and understands that there will be triggers that cause flight, fight, and freeze behaviour. By empathically working out how the child’s/students behaviour makes good sense and how it has been a pragmatic and adaptive strategy, we can begin to make changes in the way we relate and work with children experiencing these challenges. There is often a very real need for interventions to target sensory and emotional regulation before work can be carried out which addresses language, cognitive and social based learning. However, once this is achieved, there are many useful strategies for school and home which can be put in place to support progress.
Elliott, A. (2013). Why Can't My Child Behave?: Empathic Parenting Strategies that Work for Adoptive and Foster Families. Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Golding, K. S., Fain, J., Frost, A., Templeton, S., & Durrant, E. (2012). Observing Children with Attachment Difficulties in Preschool Settings: A Tool for Identifying and Supporting Emotional and Social Difficulties. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.