Are you looking for an evidence-based social skills program that actually works? Does your child have autism, ADHD, anxiety, or difficulty with social and emotional skills?
The Secret Agent Society (SAS) is small group social skills program for children aged 8-12 years. SAS engages participants with spy-themed games and eye-catching resources. The curriculum has been proven to improve the social and emotional skills of participants.
Secret Agent Society participants learn how to:
- Recognise and manage their own emotions
- Cope with change
- Solve social problems
- Detect other people’s emotions
- Talk and play with others
- Deal effectively with bullying
SAS features an animated ‘secret agent’ computer game as well as parent and teacher resources and information sessions to encourage children to use their new skills at home and at school. At the end of the program, the junior detectives will graduate as a ‘secret agent’, armed with the social and emotional tools they need to continue their work in the ‘real world’. SAS is a fun, small group program that aims to help children learn how to feel happier, calmer, and braver!
For further information about the program, and the research behind it, visit the Social Skills Training Institute website, http://www.sst-institute.net.
Learning Curve Psychology has a specially trained psychologist who delivers the Secret Agent Society program at our Beaconsfield clinic on a regular basis. To inquire about enrolling your child or to attend one of our information sessions, please contact our friendly team on 9768 9990 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve heard the term “anxiety” thrown around a lot, but what is it really? And is it affecting you or your child?
Anxiety is a vague unpleasant emotional state, which can involve worry, distress, and uneasiness. It’s the body’s response to danger when we face challenging or dangerous situations. It’s completely normal to feel tense or scared when we feel threatened. A degree of anxiety is actually useful in certain situations, as it helps keep us alert and focused.
Sometimes, however, these feelings can be constant, overwhelming, and debilitating. It becomes a problem when the fears and anxieties interfere with everyday life.
Some tell-tale signs of anxiety
There are both physical and psychological symptoms you or your child may experience – we’ve listed some of the most common ones below:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart beat
- Feelings of choking
- Muscle tension
- Feeling tense and restless
- Difficulty sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Clinging to parents or guardians
- Excessive fear and worry
The symptoms you or your child experience can vary depending on what has triggered the symptoms and also on the type of anxiety. Some of the common types are Generalised Anxiety Disorder, specific phobias, separation anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
When should I ask for help?
If you notice the presence of these symptoms for 6 months or more, or if they are impacting on your (or your child’s) everyday life, then it may be helpful to seek support. You may find you have developed your own strategies to cope with these feelings, which may not be the most helpful in the long run. Children in particular may avoid the situation (the trigger) or rely on their parents to “fix it”. This in turn can increase the anxious feelings and make it more difficult for the child to cope with everyday stresses at home, school and social settings.
When looking for support, your GP or Paediatrician is a good starting point. They can refer to a psychologist under a Mental Health Care Plan, which gives you access to a rebate through Medicare (see our Medicare blog for more info on how this works). A psychologist can help you or your child understand these feelings and develop appropriate coping skills to manage anxiety.
So, anxiety is not a dirty word! It describes feelings that we all experience, and it’s ok to ask others for support if it starts impacting our daily lives.
If you would like further information on anxiety, or have concerns or questions about a loved one, call us on (03) 9768 9990 to arrange an appointment with one of our psychologists.
So what’s the deal with Medicare?
One of the most common questions our admin team receives is “what will I get back from Medicare”? This can be tricky to answer, because it often depends on individual circumstances. First, let’s go through the referral process step-by-step.
Step One: Get a referral
Before you can receive a rebate, your GP, Paediatrician or Psychiatrist have to assess you (or your child). So, make an appointment with a doctor you are comfortable with and chat about why you’d like to see a psychologist. The doctor will give you the most relevant referral (or referrals).
Step Two: Send us your referral
We love to receive your referral before you come in! That way we can check everything’s in order, so you don’t miss out on your rebate. We’ve put together information sheets on the different types of referrals we receive, which explain what’s required and where to find more information. Check them out here.
Step Three: Track your sessions
The trickiest thing about Medicare is that they track your rebates by calendar year. Let’s have a look at how it works:
- You see your GP in November 2016 and they refer you under a “Mental Health Care Plan”, which allows us 6 sessions
- You see us for three sessions before the New Year hits
- You have three more sessions in 2017 before going back to your GP for review
- According to Medicare, you have a total of 7 more sessions to use in 2017
- A GP review gives us 4 more sessions, so you would need another review in 2017 to access the other 3 sessions
Confused yet? Don’t worry, you can always check in with us to see when you need another referral!
Step Four: Arrange referral reviews
Medicare place restrictions on how many sessions can be referred at one time. So, for example, a “Mental Health Care Plan” can give you up to 6 sessions at a time. Once you see us for 6 sessions, your psychologist sends a report back to the doctor. You then need to make an appointment for a “review”. We’ll let you know when this needs to happen!
So what will my rebate be?
This is the part where what you have already spent on medical appointments adds up! The Medicare Safety Net tracks all of your out-of-pocket expenses (not bulk billed) within a year. Once you hit the threshold for your particular situation, Medicare will give you a higher rebate for the rest of the calendar year. It resets each January 1st.
The standard rebate amount depends on the type of referral and the type of psychologist you see. Medicare also review their rebate amounts periodically. This is why we suggest calling them with the item number, which you can find in our information sheets (see Step Two). You can also go to www.mbsonline.gov.au and search the item number – the rebate (“benefit amount”) will be listed at the end of the description.
Hopefully we have helped explain the deal with Medicare! Have more questions? Comment below or jump onto our Facebook page and ask away! Alternatively, call (03) 9768 9990 or email email@example.com
Dyslexia is the well-known term for a Specific Learning Disorder in reading. It is the most common form of learning disability, accounting for 80% of all children identified.
Problems with reading, and related difficulties in comprehension, spelling and writing, are common experiences for those with dyslexia. Many people also experience difficulties with working memory, attention and organisational skills.
Dyslexia is characterised by:
- Difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition
- Poor spelling and decoding abilities.
These difficulties typically result from an inability to effectively translate the basic components of language (phonemes) into words and sentences. This is despite being of average or higher intelligence and receiving effective teaching at school.
Secondary consequences may include a disinterest in reading and difficulties with comprehension, which affects growth of vocabulary and background knowledge of a topic.
How is dyslexia treated?
Dyslexia is a life-long condition. With proper help, most people can learn to read and write well. Early identification and treatment is the key to helping dyslexics achieve in school and in life.
- Systematic and explicit teaching methods that involve several senses (hearing, seeing, touching) at the same time; usually from a teacher, tutor or therapist specially trained in a multisensory, structured language approach
- Individual support with structured practice and immediate feedback to assist development of automatic word recognition skills
- Modifications to the school curriculum to support the individual. For example, extra time to complete tasks, help with taking notes, modified work assignments, taped tests or alternative means of assessment, listening to books on tape, using text reading computer programs and writing on computers
- Psychological support for emotional issues that sometimes arise as a consequence of difficulties in school
Check out this video from TedEd for a great summary!
For more information or to enquire about assessing for dyslexia, feel free to make an appointment with one of our Psychologists on (03) 9768 9990.
This resource is based on information gathered from AUSSPELD (uldforparents.com) and LD online (www.ldonline.org).
What is LEGO®-Based Therapy? Essentially, it uses children’s natural love of LEGO® to motivate them to engage socially with peers. It can help with symptoms such as aloofness, shyness, rigidity and/or anxiety.
Research has shown children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), anxiety and depression can significantly improve their social competence through this therapy (LeGoff, 2004).
By providing an effective and engaging learning environment, your child can develop and master social skills. These include:
- Turn taking;
- Problem-solving; and
It is totally awesome, because children learn in an authentic way. This is due to the natural play environment, which makes it easier for your child to generalise their new skills.
In particular, children with ASD have trouble taking what they’ve learnt and applying it to different situations. This is what we call “generalising”. So the beauty here is that they are engaged socially with peers, making it easier to use the same skills in other social encounters!
Ok, I agree, it’s awesome! Where can I sign up?
We offer a LEGO®-based social skills group, called Brick-by-Brick. Sessions are run weekly throughout each school term. One of our registered Psychologists will guide and teach your child.
If you think we need a Brick-by-Brick School Holiday Program, tell us! Be sure to let us know how often you would bring your child in over the holidays, plus how long you’d love the session to go for.
To read more about the awesomeness, check out this article: www.brickdave.com/how-to-learn-with-lego
LeGoff, D. B. (2004). Use of LEGO® as a therapeutic medium for improving social competence. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 34(5), 557-57. doi:10.1007/s10803-004-2550-0
LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorise or endorse this program.
You already know that toilet training can be challenging, tiring and messy. But did you know it could also be FUN? Research suggests that fun is not only beneficial to learning, but is key to effective information processing and long-term memory storage. Incorporating joy and excitement into the toilet training process can help your child transition out of nappies quicker. Here are four quick tips for making toilet training an exciting and successful time for your child.
1. Choose your own undies
Adjusting to the feeling of wearing underwear can be tricky for some children. Incorporate a sense of excitement into this big step by allowing your child to choose their first pair of undies.
2. Reward away!
Rewards can be used motivate your child’s progress, making toilet training positive and exciting. Rewards might include a special snack, a fun outing, a lucky dip or a sticker on a rewards chart. Be sure to break down the toileting process (from saying “I need to go” right through to drying hands) into smaller, achievable steps. This will help your child to experience lots of little victories, rather than just when they have mastered the whole process.
3. Become a bathroom cheerleader
We already know that you are your child’s biggest fan. Now it’s time to prove it! Using lots of enthusiastic praise and encouragement, along with rewards will motivate your child to persist with toilet training. Use descriptive praise by labeling the positive behaviour, and nonverbal praise such as clapping and smiling. You might even get your silly on by using noisemakers or party poppers to make toilet time feel like a party!
4. Watch Tom’s Toilet Triumph
Tom’s Toilet Triumph is a fun and easy way to introduce your child to toilet training. It is an animated short film designed to teach children the whats, hows and whys of using the toilet. Watch Tom’s Toilet Triumph with your child, pausing to talk about the key ideas. Tom’s Toilet Triumph can be purchased at the South Australian Government website or is available for viewing on YouTube.
For support in toilet training your little one, contact us on (03) 9768 9990 and make an appointment with one of our psychologists.
Starting primary school is a big milestone for children and parents! While it can be an exciting experience, transitioning to school presents many changes and challenges that can be scary for a little prep-to-be! To help you and your child prepare for prep, we’ve rounded up four quick tips for making this transition a successful one.
1. Start ‘prepping’ now!
Transitioning to school does not only occur on the first day of school. It is a process that starts the year before prep, and will continue as your child attends their first days, weeks and months of school. Term three is a great time to start talking to your child about starting school and discussing some of the changes they will experience.
2. Take note of your child’s development
Starting school involves a complex interplay between several developmental areas. It is important to consider not only your child’s intellectual development (such as counting and recognising their name), but also their social, emotional and physical skills. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, we recommend that you speak to your child’s psychologist, teacher(s) or paediatrician. This is to ensure that appropriate targeted interventions can be employed to support your child’s transition to prep.
3. Prepare a social story!
Social stories are short, pictured descriptions of real life situations that can help young people understand or prepare for an event or activity. Social stories are a great way to help your child prepare for some of the changes and events that may occur at school. Check out this awesome list of apps and software programs designed to make creating social stories quick and easy.
4. Enrol in a school readiness program
School readiness programs are designed to support children transitioning to primary school by equipping them with new skills and knowledge, and exposing them to the demands and expectations of a classroom environment. Learning Curve Psychology offers a school readiness program called Ready, Set, Prep! This is an individualised program designed to specifically target your child’s developmental needs.
To find out more about more about Ready, Set, Prep! or for more information about school preparation, contact us on 9768 9990.
Trying to avoid hearing the words, “I’m bored!” these school holidays? Here are some fun ideas to keep your little ones busy.
1. Go on a geocaching adventure
Geocaching is like a modern day treasure hunt. Using a GPS or smartphone, you and your kiddies can go on an outdoor adventure to search for buried treasure. To start your geocaching adventure or to find out more, download the Geocaching app on iTunes or go to the Geocaching website.
2. Check out The Snail and the Whale at The Melbourne Arts Centre
Does your child love stories and dramatic play? The Melbourne Arts Centre is presenting a dramatic adaptation of the storybook The Snail and the Whale, so your child can watch the tiny snail’s crazy adventures come to life on stage! More information about the play can be found on the Arts Centre Melbourne website. There is also a visual story available to download to prepare your little one for the big adventure!
3. Build a rainy day obstacle course
Help develop your child’s coordination and balance by building an awesome indoor obstacle course. All you need is some furniture, household items and a dash of imagination. The possibilities are endless. Check out some obstacle course ideas at the Family Education website.
4. Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt
Explore the great outdoors on a nature treasure hunt! Give your child a list of items that they can easily find in a park or in the backyard, such as sticks, pinecones, acorns etc. Visit Kidspot for inspiration.
5. Check out a sensory-friendly film
Visual schedules can be invaluable for helping children to shift between and perform tasks and routines independently. However, there are a few tricks to making good visual schedules and effectively supporting your child to use them.
1. Include images
Even if your child can read, be sure to include pictures in addition to written instructions. Your child will be able to refer to it at a glance, is more likely to visualise the next step in their mind, and won’t become as overwhelmed by following the schedule when they are tired.
2. Mark it off
Design the schedule with a method for marking off each step as it is completed. This will increase your child’s focus, organisation skills, and sense of achievement. Some options include: − Designing the schedule with a blank circle next to each step. Give the child a marker to tick off each step as they go. − Attach each step with Velcro or Blu-Tack. The child can then remove each task when it is completed and place it in a “finished” box, jar or envelope.
3. Make it visually appealing
Be sure to use background colours or designs that will appeal to your child. For example, if they are in love with Frozen or Star Wars, use Google images or stickers to decorate the schedule to make it visually appealing.
4. Begin with prompting
When you first introduce the schedule, your child will most likely require prompting to carry out the routine successfully. You may need to use verbal prompts for several days or even weeks. You may also need to physically walk with your child to guide them from one task to the next.
5. Fade the prompting
When your child is beginning to understand the process of their visual schedule, reduce the amount of prompting you provide. This includes allowing them to move from one task to the next independently, providing less verbal support and by keeping some physical distance between you and your child.
6. Provide reinforcement
When your child carries out one step on their schedule independently, use positive reinforcement to encourage and reward the behaviour. Positive reinforcement may include enthusiastic verbal praise, a cuddle or high-five, or offering a small reward such as a sticker. As your child becomes increasing proficient at performing the steps independently, gradually reduce the reinforcement to simply praising them when they have completed the whole schedule.
For more information about making and using visual schedules, call us on 9768 9990.
Education research has shown that preparation for school readiness begins from the moment a child is born (Hart and Risley, 2003). In particular, the amount of language that a child hears before age three has a significant impact on their developmental trajectory, processing speed, and ultimately, their educational success. Therefore, creating a language-rich environment goes a long way towards preparing your child for school.
Luckily, creating a language-rich environment is easy. Dana Suskind (2015), author of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, offers the “Three T’s”–talk more, tune in and take turns–to simplify the way we think about producing a language-rich environment.
1. Talk more
Talk to your child as often as possible, and encourage them to talk to you. Whether you’re changing their nappy, eating dinner or walking around the shops, initiate a dialogue (or monologue!). Tell your child about your day, express your thoughts and feelings, ask questions, narrate what you are doing, and share your ideas, regardless of their age. Use a wide, vibrant vocabulary. For example, rather than saying, “Do you want a carrot?” say, “Do you want a crunchy, juicy, orange carrot?”
2. Tune in
Pay attention to what your child is interested in, and talk more about that. Adults and children alike naturally pay more attention to a conversation when the topic is something that we find engaging. So if your child is really into Stars Wars (like my five-year-old nephew is right now!), initiate and maintain conversations about that topic. Even (or especially!) if you know nothing about your child’s interests, ask lots of questions to get them talking.
3. Take turns
As much as possible, think of and treat your child as a legitimate conversation partner. Even before they have learned to speak or babble, respond to their gestures and facial expressions as authentically as possible. When they do begin to speak, give them time to talk, and then respond appropriately. Use eye contact, and expressive pace, tone and volume to model the various aspects of spoken language. This prepares them for the conventions of conversation, and equips them to be effective talkers and listeners.
Thoughts to share? Add a comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by age 3. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/ae/spring2003/hart_risley
Suskind, D., & Suskind, B. (2015). Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain. United States: Dutton Books.