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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Listen to Your Children

"I have the idea here (points to brain). I just can’t get it to come down through my arm and out my hand onto the paper.” 

Spoken to me by an eight-year-old third grader named Darren in the fall of 2000, it was the most applicable description of dysgraphia that I have ever heard.  Throughout the years I have used it often when talking with parents.  While the research into brain function and physical development may be meaningful, it is this quote to which they truly relate, the words conveying what their own child has perhaps been unsuccessfully trying to express. 

As parents it is so important to listen to our children, to hear the message beyond the words or the frustration. But this can be difficult to do, particularly when we become caught up in our own frustration, concerns, and upsets about the challenges we see our child confronting.  I will address this specific issue in future blog entries, but for the time being will pose these questions to you, the reader: 
  • What can you do in your family to enable your child to communicate what they are experiencing?What opportunities are you providing for their self-expression either verbally or nonverbally?  
  • How well are you listening to what they are saying?
As a diagnostician I pose these questions to parents as part of the evaluation process, challenging them to think deeply about the experiences their child is trying to convey to them as well as those that the youngster has been unable to share either due to inability or fear.

I think of Darren often, he made a lasting impression.  So did his family, because they came to me already asking these very questions.  The younger of two boys, I have always felt that Darren was very fortunate to have a mother who recognized early on that something was amiss and a father who was wise in listening to his wife.  At the time Darren’s mother, Becky Scott, was a full-time homemaker with good instincts about her son and the valuable sense to follow her gut and pursue an independent psychoeducational evaluation when her concerns were not initially shared by Darren’s school. (More about this in the future too.) 

In the process of evaluating a child I ask parents to think about their instincts. 
  • When did they first feel that something was amiss?  
  • What was that something?  
  • In what ways did they try to effect their child’s development and how did it go?  

The answers to these questions provide me, the clinician, with a wealth of information, creating a map of development that provides precious insight as to the earliest and ongoing behaviors or characteristics that emanated from the child’s learning style.
  • What are your instincts telling you about your child?
  • What words or behaviors has your child been using to show you that he or she is struggling?
Hopefully now I’ve got you thinking.  In the coming months I will talk more about how you can develop skills in listening to your children and to one another.  These very skills will support your ability to identify and address challenges created throughout a family when a student is struggling to learn.

Thanks, Jennifer
Jennifer Jackson Holden, Psy.D.
Clinical and Educational Psychologist
Center for Psychological Services
Paoli, Pennsylvania

610-647-6406, ext 3

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