Grace

/Grace

About Grace

Grace joins Benchmark Psychology with a wealth of experience in the assessment and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders. She will be a driving force in our organisation as we strive to provide high quality services to this population.

Embracing Easter – It’s time to teach play

Most of us can’t decide what we think of the Easter holidays – it seems every bonus comes with its own cost. The camping trip is booked, but will begin with standstill traffic on the Bruce Highway. The chocolate eggs have been hidden, but a secret few will always remain behind the couch (yes, that’s why you have ants). The kids are on school holidays, but the kids are on school holidays.

Having the kids home can fill parents with a mix of joy (think – no school drop-offs, lazy mornings, fun time together) and dread (think – they are there ALL the time, I miss the peace and quiet of work). But, how often do we think of school holidays as a time to teach our kids new skills?

As a parent, you are always your child’s number one teacher! So now the school-bell has rung, it’s back to you to help give your child the skills they need to thrive. I’m not talking about teaching maths and history; I’m talking about teaching play.

Developing good play skills is essential for all children. Play is where we learn tolerance and problem solving, where we express our creativity and healthy competition, and where we develop friendships and explore relationships. While play skills come naturally to some, many children struggle to find their feet in the playground.

Working with children with autism and other social communication challenges, I spend a lot of time in schools teaching kids how to play with their peers. I can get the basics across with books and individual sessions, but the real learning happens out there in the field. You’ll find me hanging out in the sandpit, on the spider web, and at the oval (and yes, I have been told to sit out once before because of the no hat, not play rule). So, how can you get involved and help teach your child how to play this Easter holidays?

 

Step 1 – Release your inner kid

Mum & SonWe all know that a group of adults and a group of children playing look like different species. If you’re going to help teach your child how to play, you need to find and release your inner child. A few key pointers to look out for – 1) kids don’t talk and explain themselves as much as adults, they just do stuff and get on with it, 2) kids lose themselves in the moment, they’re not pretending to be Spiderman, they are Spiderman, and 3) kids join in on play by announcing their role in the game, not by waiting to be given one (“I’m the postman!”).

If you’re still feeling stuck, take some time to watch how your child, their siblings, friends, and cousins interact when they’re playing.

 

Step 2 – Brush up on the games

I’m telling you, the field has changed. I’m sad to say, What’s the time Mr Wolf? is getting dusty, and Mr Freeze is the new cool kid on the block. Tiggy/tag and stuck-in-the-mud are still going strong (woohoo!). But, if you don’t know how to recreate a live action version of Minecraft, you’re going to struggle. I recently asked a group of kids to play Red Rover with me and only got blank stares back. Hiding my inner devastation, I took this as a challenge and taught them now to play it – within 10-minutes they had mastered it and I firmly believe their little futures are better for it!

Remember, the internet is a marvellous place where you can look up modern playground games – but this isn’t always necessary. The expert in your child’s playground is sitting right in front of you. Ask you kids what they play at school. If they’re not sure, ask their friends and cousins for some ideas.

 

Step 3 – Break it down

There are many skills involved in play – watch your child play and see if you can identify what skills they have, and what skills they are missing, to be successful in a particular game. For example, you can’t play tiggy/tag unless you can run – and even then, you’re always going to be “it” if you can’t run very fast, and that’s not so much fun. So if speed isn’t your little one’s strength, start off with some running races to help increase their gross motor skills and teach them how to sprint. Similarly, if you want to be the leader at Mr Freeze you’ll have to call out someone’s name, so if you’ve got a quiet talker, start by practicing using a loud voice by sending silly messages to one another across an oval/park.

One of the key skills to being successful in any game is actually just sticking around. If your little one is a bit of a wanderer and loses interest quickly, teach them how to stay with you for longer and longer. Create a clear play environment (e.g. the Lego mat or playdoh table) and alternate between play- and break-time, gradually increasing the duration of the playtime (e.g. 2-mins, 4-mins, 8-mins, 10-mins) and rewarding them for sticking with you with lots of fun and laughter.

 

Water Fight

Step 4 – Have fun, always

The take-away message when teaching children play skills is this: playing with others is fun! If they haven’t got that message, you haven’t taught play skills. We need children to absolutely love engaging with us when we’re playing with them, so they’ll want to spend time playing with their peers in the playground. Children’s games are incredibly fun – if you disagree, you just haven’t played them in too long! Lose yourself in the game and laugh along with them.

So while you’re sitting there on the Bruce Highway this Friday, chocolate eggs melting away in the boot, start up a game of Alphabet Number Plates or 20-Questions and enjoy the ride!

 

Grace works with children, adolescents, and adults at Benchmark Psychology. Grace has a special interest in supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. For more information, visit: http://www.benchmarkpsychology.com.au/about-us/meet-the-team/grace-sweeney/

Embracing Easter – It’s time to teach play2019-05-14T11:12:03+10:00

6 Ways to get help for your child

Girl (free comm use) As a parent, supporting your child or teenager through mental health challenges can seem overwhelming. Many parents find themselves wondering – What do I do now? Who can help me?

What’s best for my child?

It’s good to know you’re not alone.

The Department of Health recently published a report on one of the largest national surveys ever taken on the mental health of young people. They asked parents what they found hard about getting help for their children and teens. One of the biggest worries parents had was not knowing where to turn.

So, how can you get help for your child?

 

1. Visit your doctor

GP’s and paediatricians are trained in recognising common mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression, and substance use problems. Not only can your doctor give you advice on how to cope with some of these challenges, they can also refer you to a mental health professional in your area for more support if needed.

 

2. Find a mental health professional

Mental health professionals are experts trained in treating mental health challenges, and include psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, and others. These professionals will speak with you and your child to find out what challenges they are facing, help you to set a goal for therapy, create a personalised treatment plan, and monitor how therapy is going.

 

3. Talk to friends and family about how they accessed help

Asking your friends or family members about how they accessed help for their kids can be a great starting point. Our loved ones can point us towards people, services, and resources that helped them support their kids through a difficult period. You might even find that having a conversation with another parent going through similar struggles can help you feel more supported and less overwhelmed.

 

4. Get some tips online

If you want the best advice on the net – go straight to the experts. Websites like beyondblue.org.au, mindhealthconnect.org.au, and headspace.org.au are full of helpful strategies, resources, and information for parents and young people with mental health challenges.

 

5. Book an appointment with the school guidance counsellor

School guidance counsellors are another great starting point to get help for your child or teen. These counsellors may already have a relationship with your kid and can help them get support straight away, in the familiar school environment. They can also provide added support for school-related issues and can communicate with teaching staff to help your teen achieve in the classroom.

 

6. Log into therapy

Parents and young people can access evidence-based support from the home computer. Computer-based therapy programs are now available to help young people manage anxiety, depression, mood problems, and odd experiences, as well as build resilience, study skills, and much more.

What about #6: Log into therapy? Have you ever heard about logging into therapy as a way to get help for your child?

Girl Laptop 2 (free comm use)[1]
Even though we’re all pretty switched on when it comes to technology, most parents don’t know that Australia has access to some of the best computer-based therapies for young people in the world.

A team of researchers at Griffith University and the University of Southern Queensland are trying hard to fix this. Their first challenge is to find out what parents think about computer-based therapies.

What do you think about using technology in therapy? Have you ever heard of a computer-based therapy program? Do you think they could help your kid? Why did you choose face-to-face therapy instead? We want your answers!

 

If you are a parent with a child under the age of 18 who is currently attending a mental health service, you can help out by completing a 20-minute online survey.

 

Every parent can enter into a draw to win a $100 gift-voucher.

 

To get involved straight away, start the survey here:

Mouse (free comm use)

 

To find out more, go to www.facebook.com/loggingintotherapyparents

 

Want to find out more about the Department of Health report? Go to:

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-m-child2

 

6 Ways to get help for your child2019-03-26T20:10:34+10:00