Resources on Learning Disorders and Child Psychology

Please take a look at our available resources, which are aimed to provide further knowledge for parents or guardians of children and adolescents.


Separation Anxieties in Children and Adolescents

Coping with Child Depression

Coping with Stress in Children and Adolescents

Suspected ADHD

Learning Problems in Children and Adolescents


Separation Anxiety in Children

Dr. A. Lynne Beal, Psychologist

Reaching your achievement potential

416-433-9726


Ten-year-old Paul has a stomach ache and asks to stay home from school. When he is at school, he asks his teacher repeatedly to call home for his mother to pick him up early because he is not well. He worries that his mother might get kidnapped or hurt. Fourteen-year-old Samantha frequently stays home from school after her parents leave for work. She tells them that it is a “rough school” and “too dangerous.” Some might say these students are showing “school phobia,” while in fact their avoidance of school is their attempt to reunite with the parent or caregiver. Their recurring symptoms are signs of separation anxiety.


Separation anxiety begins before age 18. It causes significant distress or interference with children’s functioning at school, socially, and in other important areas of their lives. Developmentally, separation fears are normal in infants and toddlers. It is not uncommon for four-year-olds to cling to their parent or cry on the first day of Junior Kindergarten. But, by school age, children usually overcome their fears of separation.


By middle childhood, expect your child to be able to go to school without a fuss. He or she should be able to remain at school or with a caregiver without making non-emergency calls to a parent. Your child should have no problems returning to school in September or after a holiday, despite their anticipation or excitement or disappointment or concern.


Adolescents will deny feeling anxious about separation. However, reluctance to leave home and avoidance of independent activities, particularly school, could indicate separation anxiety. An adolescent showing separation anxiety will need therapy.


Children at any age, who believe that their parent might come to harm or leave them, could develop separation anxiety. Their worries can become overwhelming when a parent is ill with a life-limiting illness, or when parents are separating, or when one parent has died. Where it is realistic, reassure your child about their continuing contact with you, or alternate arrangements in your absence.


If your child is showing signs of separation anxiety, consider whether their fear is more severe than the situation would warrant. If so, you need to take action:

  • Keep to a consistent morning routine.
  • Get advice from your family physician on symptoms of illness that require staying at home; otherwise, send the child to school.
  • If you are fearful about your child being separated from you, seek professional advice on ways to keep your child safe while allowing them age-appropriate independence.
  • Advise the child’s teacher of the problem and enlist his or her help with the daily transition into school.
  • Keep in regular contact with the child’s teacher to monitor her progress at school.


Teachers can help too:

  • Provide consistent arrival routines in the classroom.
  • Provide incentives for arriving on time and for good attendance, like rewards or special responsibilities for “early birds.”
  • Establish clear rules about phoning home only in emergencies.
  • Maintain a positive focus with the child, and praise them for their progress.
  • Pair the child with a classmate buddy to meet him in the playground and come into class together.
  • Document the fearful behaviours and their frequency for discussion with the parents.


Cognitive behaviour therapy is an effective treatment for separation anxiety. This work engages the child in discussions about their specific fears and beliefs. It helps the child to tell when a fear is not so scary after all, and how to cope when it is scary. The therapy is geared to the child’s development.


Psychologists are regulated health care professionals who treat separation anxiety, often using cognitive behaviour therapy. Psychologists in private practice receive referrals directly from parents. They can provide valuable treatment to children and advice to parents and teachers.


Download the PDF for Separation Anxiety in Children.


Overcoming the Winter Blahs in Children

Dr. A. Lynne Beal, Psychologist

Reaching your achievement potential

416-433-9726


February is the month of “the winter blahs.” Children, too, get the blahs, especially when activities are largely restricted to indoors, with limited opportunities to get out and socialize. But when do the winter blahs turn into the more serious problem of depression in children? How can parents tell the difference? And, what can you do if your child is depressed?


Feeling sad, unhappy, bored, or “down” are common experiences for children and adults alike; but most children bounce back quickly. It is only when a number of symptoms of depression persist for two weeks or more that a child might be considered to be clinically depressed.


Symptoms of depression in children include:

  • A depressed or irritable mood
  • Lose interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss, or failure to make expected weight gains
  • Sleep too much or have problems sleeping, or show fatigue or loss of energy
  • Motor agitation, or reduced motor activity
  • Children might blame themselves or call themselves “stupid” for small mistakes
  • Think frequently about death or suicide
  • Younger children are more likely to complain about stomach aches or other ailments and fears
  • Adolescents are more likely to become sulky, overly emotional, and withdrawn, or to get in trouble for antisocial behaviours
  • Girls are likely to show sadness or to withdraw from normal activities
  • Boys are more likely to show aggressive behaviours


You are likely to see some of these symptoms in your child at some time, but one symptom does not mean your child is depressed. A professional diagnosis by a Psychologist, Psychological Associate, or Psychiatrist is needed.


What can parents do to help their children to cope with the winter blahs and to prevent depression in their children?

  1. Try to catch your child doing something good, and praise him or her for it. Depressed children have to be told that they do some things right, and be encouraged to keep up the good work.
  2. As much as possible, try to maintain stability in the family. Stick with your household routines, bedtimes, and rules. If you have a change in your family or your routines, tell your children what the change is and why it is happening. Tell them what will happen to them and what they will be doing that is different.
  3. Make sure that your child gets enough physical exercise and recreational activities. Physical activities help us to produce endorphins, a chemical in the brain that has been related to feeling good. Check out your local recreation centre for activities of interest to your child that he or she could join. Help your child to invite a friend so they can go together. Encourage the reluctant child to “try once.”
  4. Ask your child what he or she will be doing when he or she feels better. Try to engage your child in that activity. By doing something enjoyable, the child will soon start to feel better. Your child doesn’t have to feel better before doing something enjoyable. Doing an enjoyable activity will lead the child to feeling better.
  5. If you are concerned that your child shows persistent symptoms of depression, consult with your family physician or a Psychologist.


Download the PDF for Overcoming the Winter Blahs in Children.


Coping with Stress in Children and Adolescents

Dr. A. Lynne Beal, Psychologist

Reaching your achievement potential

416-433-9726


Stress occurs when

The experience is that:

  • The perceived demands of the situation are greater than the perceived resources (or ways of coping) and
  • The outcome is deemed to be important


Symptoms of Stress


Withdrawal

Anxiety

Misbehaviour

Illness


Coping Strategies


Adapt

Discuss

Activities

Play / relax

Teach coping strategies


Anxiety markers – the F words: Fear, Failure, Fool


Listen for your child saying these words to describe himself or herself.


Coping Strategies

  • Scheduling and time management
  • Organizers to track the schedule
  • Organizers to track necessary equipment
  • Ask, what would a good problem-solver do?
  • Knowing when to take a break
  • Knowing when to get back on task!


A Parent’s mission:

  • Don’t allow your child’s stress to interfere with reaching his or her achievement potential at school, in extra-curricular pursuits, or socially.


Download the PDF for Coping with Stress in Children and Adolescents.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child Might Have ADHD

Dr. A. Lynne Beal, Psychologist

Reaching your achievement potential

416-433-9726


Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder is also known as ADHD or ADD. The diagnosis must be made by a qualified Psychologist, Psychological Associate, Psychiatrist or Pediatrician.


These points can assist parents and educators in determining whether to refer a child for assessment and diagnosis:


  • Symptoms, such as restlessness and inability concentrate may occur as a reaction to various life stresses. ADHD might not be the cause.
  • ADHD is a separate disorder from learning disabilities, although a student might have both disorders. Neither one causes the other.
  • ADHD begins in childhood. Adult onset of the symptoms is likely related to a different problem.
  • ADHD symptoms and resulting impairment must occur in at least 2 different settings, such as home and school or work.
  • Persons who have the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD do not show excessive motor restlessness.
  • Many of the symptoms of ADHD are also present in other problems, such as depression and anxiety. The real cause of the symptoms must be determined through diagnosis


Medical problems could interfere with a child’s attention and concentration. Be sure to
get a medical examination that considers a wide range of causes of the symptoms.

An assessment for ADHD usually includes questionnaires for parents and teachers to describe the person’s functioning in the home and school settings.


Further information is available through:


C.H.A.D.D., the support and advocacy group for parents of children with ADHD

http://www.chadd.org


Teach ADHD, a resource from the Hospital for Sick Children

http://www.teachadhd.ca/Pages/default.aspx


The ABCs of Mental Health is a free on-line resource for parents and teachers. The chapter on The Inattentive Child is a guide to observing difficulties and provides strategies to support the development of attention controls


https://www.hincksdellcrest.org/ABC/Welcome

Download the PDF for What to do if you suspect your Child Might Have ADHD

http://www.Idao.ca

Features of Developmental Disorders

Substantial limitations in functioning characterized by:


  • Significantly below average intellectual functioning
  • Concurrent deficits or impairment in adaptive functioning in at least two areas:
    • Communication
    • Self-care
    • Home living
    • Social / interpersonal skills
    • Use of community resources
    • Self-direction
    • Functional academic skills
    • Work
    • Leisure activities
    • Health care
    • Safety
  • Onset is before age 18 years
  • Different levels of severity can be diagnosed


Further information is available from AAMR

http://www.aamr.org/About_AAMR/index.html


Other Learning Disorders Not Included in the Above Diagnoses

  • Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and others
  • Reading Disorder, Mathematics Disorder, Disorder of Written Language
  • Developmental Coordination Disorder
  • Expressive Language Disorder, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, Phonological Disorder
  • Motivation problems and other clinical disorders


Download the PDF for Learning Problems in Children and Adolescents.

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