Guest, Lucy Miller is a nutrition student, marathon runner, and a passionate writer for Mind Your Zen, a brain nutrition supplement brand. Here she discusses mental health of children and teaching.
Many children today are affected by a mental illness and National Institute of Mental Health estimates that “just over 20 percent (or 1 in 5) of children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder”.If you are concerned about you or your child’s mental health, there area number of simple quizzes you can take. Whatever the situation, an important thing to remember is to treat a child like anyone else, while at the same time catering to their special needs as best you can. Some of these conditions include Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), mood disorders, and various forms of autism.
When teaching children, I have learned that it’s imperative not to alienate them or treat them differently because of their mental health issues as often, this can make them feel worthless and shatter their self confidence. Instead, treat them like you would other children; teach them that they are responsible for their own actions, encourage them to feel involved rather than separating them from others and not to discuss their issues in front of other students in the class.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
If a child has ADHD, which can prevent them from paying attention in class, or display behavioral problems, it’s important not to identify their behaviour with the disease. If you say, for example: “Please control your ADHD and pay attention…” this could alienate your student. Instead, hold them responsible for their actions and treat them as you would your other students. Some symptoms of ADHD that can affect a student are:
- Talking out of turn, moving about, trying to get attention.
- Difficulty following a long list of instructions.
- Forget to write down homework assignments, do their homework, or bring it to school.
- Messy handwriting or motor control problems.
- Can’t do long-term projects without supervision.
- Can’t work with groups or take a group off-course from a project.
Without alienating the child from the rest of the class, seat them away from windows and doors and have them sit directly in front of your desk. This will help them pay more attention. Also, ensure a quiet area for studying and/or test taking. These, and other teaching tips, will go a great way towards helping your student adjust.
Present the most difficult material at the beginning of class.
I would suggest that you repeat instructions frequently, give tasks very simply and one at a time, and present the most difficult material at the beginning of class, when the student will be less distracted.
Students struggling with depression may not present with any obvious symptoms so be sure to be aware of any warning signs. And if you recognise symptoms in one of your students, take action as early intervention is the best in the long term. On the other hand, if someone is struggling with depression, it’s important to recognise that the problems they are facing are likely due to the depression rather than a specific situation. Let the child know they aren’t to blame for their low mood and help them to be mindful of the various factors that can influence their feelings, and thoughts, as they will feel worse if they feel they are at fault for something.
Forms of Autism
What about a child with mild autism or autistic tendencies? In this case, the most important thing is to teach the child structure. Plan their day, teach them to take notes, and help them learn to switch from one task to another. A child with autism can often be extremely intelligent and focused on a specific area of their life while ignoring all other areas so by helping them develop some structure can have a positive affect on both their life and learning.
Many with autism are visual, rather than auditory learners. This means they think in pictures and images, rather than in thoughts, words, or concepts. Relational words, by contrast, are much harder for those with autism to learn as they recall images thus they make an association between these words and an image. Children with autism also experience difficulty with long verbal instructions. For those who are able to read, it’s very helpful to write down some instructions so they can form a picture.
From my own personal experience, there is a great benefit when helping an autistic child develop their talent(s), as they can be very good at drawing, playing music, creating art, and using computers.
Ensure you support them to cultivate their genius.
You may also find a student has become fixated on a particular subject. A child with Asperger Syndrome, for example, might know everything about dinosaurs, talk constantly about dinosaurs, and steer every conversation they have back to the topic of dinosaurs. If one of your student’s displays this behaviour, find a way to help them become motivated to learn other subjects by incorporating their ‘interest’ into the learning process. So, if they like dinosaurs, teach them mathematics using dinosaurs by using visual methods to represent the numbers. This will aid them to focus on what they are learning.
Adapting learning techniques to the child is very important.
I’ve seen many with autism who have very rough handwriting that makes it very difficult for them and for their teachers to read what they write. For this reason, it’s often useful to have kids with learning disabilities type on a computer and you can encourage this strength as part of their learning.
Many with autism can go on to become highly functioning members of society, yet many with this disorder fail to be socially aware. It’s important to help children with Asperger’s or other forms of autism develop social awareness, helping them to thrive with various group situations and learn to recognise and care about the feelings of others.
As a teacher we can do our best to make sure that all children mental challenges receive the care and special help they need to succeed.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).