ADHD – a woman’s problem.

We were in the same class from the age of four to sixteen.

Guess who was diagnosed at eight

And who was diagnosed at nearly thirty?

You’re right, the latter was me – the she.’

(‘She’s bright but she talks too much.’ – Natalie Jayne Clark)

During childhood, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is more frequently diagnosed in boys than girls. This is thought to be because boys are likely to ‘act out’ in school, and their problems cause more disruption in the classroom. On the other hand, girls are believed to internalise their attentional difficulties, drift away and daydream without causing too much of a problem to anyone else.

Research suggests that between 50 – 70% of adult females with ADHD remain undiagnosed. 

Symptoms of ADHD in women:

  • Over reacting emotionally, with an aversion to being teased or criticised, in addition to a reputation for being moody. 
  • Constantly making careless mistakes, for example, collecting parking fines and tickets for the same offences. 
  • Losing, forgetting or misplacing possessions, regardless of the item’s importance: glasses, car keys, house keys and bank cards.
  • Impatience with any sort of delay, for example, when queuing or having to listen to, what the woman considers to be, unnecessary or irrelevant information.
  • Engagement with tasks is variable. The woman will hyper-focus if an activity interests her, but procrastinate over anything she perceives to be boring. 
  • The woman will have a constant sense of her underperformance, wishing she could do the things that others do so easily: enjoy a steady personal relationship, maintain a rewarding career rather than job hop, be socially adept, multi-task, concentrate and be well organised. 

Common misdiagnoses for women with ADHD include: mood disorder, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep issues, bipolar disorder, stress, obsessive-compulsive traits or depression. These misdiagnoses may result in the woman being given inappropriate medication or treatment. 

Particular problems of diagnosing ADHD in women include: –

  1. Diagnostic criteria for ADHD describe symptoms observed in childhood and adolescence. Very few women will receive a diagnosis in childhood and will not match the diagnostic criteria as an adult.
  2. Women may try to compensate for their ADHD symptoms through overwork, often to the detriment of their physical and mental health. They will be in danger of becoming people pleasers, work alcoholics or perfectionists. 
  3. The constant mental activity that is a common symptom of ADHD, could be interpreted as mental restlessness and diagnosed as anxiety.
  4. The problems with relaxation and sleep associated with ADHD, may be diagnosed as stress or depression. 
  5. The individual can appear unmotivated and tired, but then be easily lifted by something they find interesting. Irritable when bored and over excited when engaged, this behaviour could lead to a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder.
  6. Little is known about the emotional implications for women of experiencing ADHD, but these will include irritability, mood instability and problems with emotional regulation. These emotional symptoms are different and separate to the hormonal changes that are linked with women’s menstrual cycle. 

While a holistic approach, (diet, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, etc), should always be the first treatment suggested for women experiencing ADHD, it is estimated that 75% of adults will get positive results from medication. 

However, as many women report changes in their ADHD symptoms at different times in their menstrual cycle, in addition to during the perimenopausal, menopausal and post-menopausal period of their lives, increased research is needed into the reaction of different individuals to ADHD medication, in order for women to receive the support they so desperately need.

‘Society’s perceptions and expectations of our genders are vastly, vastly different.

Not to mention the gender data gap. The lack of knowledge about the condition affects everybody.’

(‘She’s bright but she talks too much.’ Natalie Jayne Clark)

Neurodiversity – Spiky Profiles

When an individual has an Educational Psychologist’s assessment, the psychologist analyses their performance in a variety of areas. A generic assessment would cover verbal and visual-spatial ability, working memory and processing speed. Verbal ability relates to the individual’s skill when using and understanding language. Visual-spatial ability refers to the skills necessary to interpret charts, graphs, diagrams, and judge where objects are in space. Working memory refers to the ability to hold and manipulate information mentally. Processing speed refers to the speed at which an individual is able to receive, understand and respond to information.

The scores for each area are taken from an amalgamation of results from several sub-tests, which are then presented as a ‘standard score’ for that particular skill. 

The average standard score would be 100, although statistically any score between 85 and 115 would be considered to be the average ability range for the general population.

Neurotypical individuals will have standard scores that vary according to their personal characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, but most scores will be around the same level. For example: 106 for verbal ability, 104 for visual spatial, 97 for working memory and 100 for processing speed. If these scores were presented in the form of a line graph, the graph would appear to undulate, but only slightly. 

However, the profile of neurodiverse individuals, (those who experience such specific learning differences as dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia or dyspraxia), will appear as ‘spiky’. These individuals may excel in some areas, but struggle in others; hence the term ‘specific‘ learning difficulties. For example, the individual might achieve a standard score of 94 for verbal ability, 122 for visual spatial, 65 for working memory and 111 for processing speed. They may achieve differing results for the individual sub-tests within the separate areas, with excellent scores in some of the tests, but much lower scores for others. If these individuals’ scores were presented in line graph form, they would appear as a series of mountains and valleys: some scores being very high, while others are very low.

This mismatch between their different skill sets may result in neurodiverse children being accused of laziness in school: they appear to master some things easily, but inexplicably fail at others. Unsympathetic school staff may assume this failure is due to a lack of effort, when in reality, any failure is the result of the specific skill set that the child is using at that moment. Is it a strength or a weakness? The child may be unaware of the discrepancies between their different abilities and accept the idea that they are idle or stupid, with many of the children playing to the labels they are given.

Neurodiverse children tend to cope better at primary school, albeit at a level below their potential, but will experience more of a problem at secondary school. Secondary school teaching methods tend to be designed with the neurotypical individual in mind, so there is the danger that the neurodiverse pupils may switch off from learning, fall behind and lose motivation. This situation is not inevitable, and when alerted to these pupils’ problems, good schools and teachers can succeed in making secondary education more welcoming for the neurodiverse pupil. 

‘A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.’

(Eeyore)

Spelling and the child with dyslexia

Learning to spell accurately is one of the many challenges faced by the individual with dyslexia. If a child’s ability to spell doesn’t develop in line with that of their peers, the danger exists of a mismatch between the standard of their written work and their underlying ability. This may result in teaching staff underestimating the child’s academic potential.

Supporting the dyslexic child with their spelling.

  1. Have the child’s hearing checked. Many young children suffer from an intermittent hearing loss such as glue ear. This may affect their grasp of basic phonics; for example, ‘b’, ‘p’ and ‘d’ will all sound the same to a child with a heavy cold. 
  2. Before a child can master spelling, they need to know the letters of the alphabet and the sounds that the letters represent. They need to be able to hear sounds within a word and to link those sounds to the appropriate letters. English spelling rules can seem complex, but if a child’s spelling is phonetically accurate, for example, wud/would, shud/should, their written work will be understood.
  3. Revising spellings for a weekly test will not help the child with dyslexia develop spelling skills. Constant repetition and over-learning of basics are essential. It makes sense to target those words that the child writes most frequently, for example, keywords or topic vocabulary, rather than words the child will rarely use. 
  4. It is particularly useful to be able to spell keywords. These are the small words that are frequently used in written work: come, they, their, said, who, and so on. Sixteen of these keywords make up approximately half of the words in written texts. 
  5. Multi-sensory learning, (learning that involves several senses), is likely to be the most successful approach for children with dyslexia. The ‘Look, say, cover, write, check’ method of revising spellings would be a simple example of multi-sensory learning. 
  6. Spelling programmes for dyslexics need to be structured and sequential, with constant overlearning and revision. 
  7. Learning a few basic spelling rules is helpful, for example, ‘i before e, except after c’. Do not try to teach an excessive number of rules as they can be complicated, and most children with dyslexia have poor memories. 
  8. Work out which approaches help the individual child. Children with dyslexia will all have their own preferences for remembering spellings: mnemonics, looking for words within words, tapping out syllables, learning about word origins, sorting words into families or focusing on suffixes and prefixes. Tracing words whilst saying the letters, spelling games on the computer and building the words with magnetic letters are all approaches worth trying. 
  9. For severe spelling problems, voice recognition software is one answer. However, it is useful for the child to be able to recognise the correct word when given a choice: generous exposure to the printed word may help with this.
  10. Spelling is only one element of writing, and it would be a pity if a child’s potential was restricted because of their poor secretarial skills. With appropriate coping strategies and accommodations within school, weak spelling need not curtail the individual’s overall achievement.

Homework and the child with dyslexia.

For pupils with dyslexia, homework can be a frustrating experience. It is not just the homework itself that may be challenging, or the child’s levels of literacy, but also their difficulties with organisation and concentration. 

As all academic work requires their full concentration, the child with dyslexia has to work far harder than their peers. They are unable to complete work to an appropriate standard on automatic pilot. Accurate reading, spelling and writing all demand effort. It is easy to understand how a child exhausted after a gruelling day at school, would resent continuing that pressure into the home environment. 

How to help: –

  1. The class teacher needs to be aware of struggles with homework, (in addition to any excessive amounts of homework being given by other teachers). The purpose of homework is to practise something that the children are already familiar with. They should not be set work that is beyond their capability or which takes too long to complete. Simple solutions would be to avoid giving homework for homework’s sake, setting smaller amounts of work, and/or allowing pupils extra time to complete the work.
  2. All children need time to play and relax. Children with dyslexia find it difficult to maintain concentration for long periods and tire quickly, so a ‘little and often’ approach to homework is preferable.
  3. Visual supports are essential. Large whiteboards are the perfect solution for tracking homework, with homework set written on the board, then erased when completed. Lists, post-it notes, calendars, timetables or ‘to do / done’ lists will all help the disorganised child.
  4. Support a hesitant reader, a tired child or a slow writer by reading questions to them or copying out sums into their books for them to complete. 
  5. If your child has difficulty writing homework down at school or remembering tasks, liaise with the teacher to see if homework can be provided on a worksheet or accessed via the school’s website.
  6. You are a parent, not a teacher. Do not try to teach them at home. If they ask for help, give it. If they do not, leave well alone.
  7. Do not give the child extra homework over the weekends. For children with dyslexia, it is essential they have generous down time to enjoy their own hobbies or simply relax and do nothing.
  8. Create a suitable working space for them away from distractions.
  9. Make use of IT. IT is a boon for a child with dyslexia. They can word process their work rather than laboriously copy everything out by hand, and use the spellcheck facility. Use text-to-speech software to read longer pieces of text or to proof read their own work. Use their mobile phone to take photos of important information, set reminders for deadlines or record voice messages.
  10. Be an advocate for your child. Not every teacher will be aware of the range of different problems pupils with dyslexia can experience. They may be confused by children whose underachievement appears to be due to carelessness or a lack of effort. All teachers need to have an understanding of dyslexia in order to avoid misinterpreting these children’s behaviour. It is a teacher’s responsibility to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning for every pupil within their class. Children with dyslexia will then be able to enjoy the same feelings of success as their peers. 

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) in Childhood

Developmental Language Disorder, (previously known as Specific Language Impairment), is a communication difficulty. The disorder is thought to have a genetic link, and it is usual for several members of the same family to experience similar problems. Current research estimates that between 3% and 10% of school children experience a DLD. 

A DLD will give the child a difficulty with receptive and / or expressive language. Receptive language refers to an individual’s capacity to understand spoken and written language. Expressive language refers to their ability to use language to convey meaning.

When a child has a receptive language problem, they: –

  • experience difficulties following a conversation, particularly if the content of the conversation is unfamiliar and people are talking quickly.
  • have a problem with understanding instructions and directions, particularly when the instruction has several parts: ‘Please could you go upstairs to Chloe’s room, and see if you can find her navy blue socks in the left hand side drawer of the wardrobe. If they’re not there, have a look on the top shelf of the airing cupboard.’
  • appear to lack interest when books are read to them.

When a child has an expressive language problem, they: –

  • have a restricted vocabulary. Their speech may seem immature for their age.
  • talk less than their peers. They will not volunteer conversation easily, particularly with people outside the family.
  • experience word finding problems. This will make their conversation seem hesitant and disjointed. 
  • mis-use words that are similar or sound similar.
  • use grammar and tenses inappropriately.

When looking at the difficulties a child with a language disorder experiences, it is easy to see how the child’s difficulties could be interpreted differently. For example: –

  • As a slow processing or working memory difficulty. The child doesn’t seem to retain or process information given verbally and is constantly asking for repetition.
  • As an attention weakness because the child so often seems ‘away with the fairies.’ Perhaps the conversation is moving too quickly for them to follow, or they have given up trying because it is tiring to concentrate so hard.
  • As naughtiness. The child may be slow to get down to work because they are uncertain of what they’re meant to be doing. They may use avoidance tactics: going to the toilet, sharpening pencils, talking to their peers to check what they are working on or copying the work of others.
  • As a social communication weakness. When the child does not quite understand what is being said, they may respond inappropriately.
  • As shyness. If the child is uncertain of what is being discussed in class, they will be unwilling to answer questions or volunteer an opinion. This behaviour may be interpreted as shyness.

How to help.

  1. Make sure you have the child’s attention before you begin to speak. Say their name before talking to them, asking questions or giving instructions.
  2. Ensure the child is given enough time to speak without being interrupted or hurried. 
  3. Adapt your conversation so that your speech is slower and your sentences are shorter.
  4. Tell the child that you are happy to repeat instructions, (without comment or criticism.)
  5. Use body language to emphasise essential information.
  6. Double check that the child has understood what has been said, by asking them to repeat instructions in their own words. 
  7. Encourage the children to speak up if they are confused or uncertain. (See point 4.)
  8. Do not give important instructions if the child is involved in another activity, and their attention focused elsewhere.
  9. If instructions are complex, provide a written list for the older child to follow. Simplify and ‘chunk’ directions for the younger child.
  10. Use visuals: gestures, diagrams, pictures, videos or role play to help the child understand and retain information. 

It is important that any language problems are identified at an early age, as such difficulties will affect a child’s speaking, listening and literacy skills and therefore, have a knock-on impact on their performance in the classroom.

September

September – a new opportunity to identify barriers to pupils’ achievement.

It is important that children who experience difficulties in school are identified and offered appropriate support before any problems become entrenched. It is understandable that teaching staff become accustomed to pupils’ different personalities and foibles over the school year and, as a result, may fail to recognise the indicators of underlying difficulties. The start of the new school year in September provides the opportunity for a new class team to bring fresh pairs of eyes to examine the children’s behaviour.

The behaviour of children who have ‘flown under the radar’: –

  1. Unusually high levels of dependency.

Some pupils seem to need continual reassurance that they are completing the task correctly, that they have understood the adult’s directions, that they are doing the same thing as the other pupils and so on. They may become anxious or distressed when they don’t know what to do or can’t follow instructions.

2. An inability to articulate their ideas.

The pupil may find it hard to express themselves clearly and succinctly: perhaps because they lack the necessary vocabulary or because they are unable to organise and structure their thoughts.

3. A limited attention span.

The child may have a real difficulty with maintaining attention: listening to instructions, focussing during discussions, sitting still at story time or concentrating during Assembly. They may distract others by talking, fidgeting and wandering around the room. Others appear lost in their own little world.

4. A poor level of general literacy. 

The child’s spelling may be weak, their reading hesitant and handwriting untidy. They often find it hard to understand or use class texts, and will copy others or cheat rather than ask for help.

5. Challenging behaviour.

The pupil may be difficult to deal with in lessons: cheeky to adults, arguing with peers, often off task or causing low level disruption. They may take on the role of class clown.

6. Poor organisational skills.

The child will forget their cookery ingredients, maths equipment, reading book and sports kit. Homework will be forgotten or not handed in. The pupil will appear to have little idea of class routine or what lesson is next.

7. An unusually negative self-image.

The pupil may never be happy with anything they do; they reject offers of help and continually put themselves down. They can be solitary children because of their negativity.

8. Withdrawal in the classroom.

The child may withdraw into themselves, be reluctant to join in with the usual classroom activities, and become distressed if they feel forced to participate. 

9. Poor presentation of work.

Work may be scrappy and poorly presented. Handwriting may be illegible and drawings immature. Maps, diagrams and charts will appear not to have been planned with care or any attention to detail. 

10. Problems with number work.

The child will not have a grasp of basic number bonds and times tables. Wordy problems will present a particular difficulty: the child simply cannot understand what they are being asked to do.

20 Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Women.

‘Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.’

(Albert Camus)

A diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD), may be given when an individual experiences ongoing difficulties with self-regulation, concentration, attention, planning, impulse control and memory over an extended period of time.  

Historically, research into ADHD focused exclusively on boys and men, and a gender bias in diagnosis still exists. Boys are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. This may be because boys are more likely to display disruptive behaviours in school, so their difficulties are obvious. Girls are more likely to be quiet, inattentive daydreamers, with their symptoms viewed as personality traits. As girls tend to create less of a problem for teaching staff, many will remain undiagnosed.

Research would suggest that up to 50 – 70% of women with ADHD are undiagnosed. One of the reasons for this relates to the hormonal changes that all women experience throughout life. Puberty in girls begins at around ten years of age, and the menopause finishes when women are in their late 50s, so women may experience hormonal swings for up to 50 years. Pregnant women may complain of exhaustion and poor memory, women in their thirties and forties may experience pre-menstrual tension, adolescent girls can suffer from mood swings and low self-esteem, menopausal women may be emotional and aggressive. It is easy for professionals to confuse symptoms of ADHD with so called ‘women’s problems’ and, as a result, many women are misdiagnosed with anxiety or depression and prescribed inappropriate medication.

Symptoms of ADHD vary between women, but common traits would include: –

  1. Being distractable. Everyone with ADHD has a problem with concentration and focus, continually being distracted by external and internal factors. Their thoughts constantly interrupt their attention. They may be having a job interview, when they suddenly realise that they’re not sure if they locked the car; where they parked the car; whether they paid for parking. Then the interviewer asks a question and it’s obvious they haven’t been concentrating.
  2. Being accident prone. Pranging the car, leaving an empty pan on the hot plate, falling over something that has been put down seconds earlier.
  3. Being easily overwhelmed. Women are expected to manage work commitments as well as caring for children or elderly relatives, coping with domestic responsibilities, keeping fit and looking good. Women with ADHD have to expend considerable amounts of energy on tasks that others manage on automatic pilot. Such conscious effort is achievable, but exhausting.
  4. Underperforming. The woman will know that she has potential, and feel frustrated that her ADHD traits block her way to realising that potential.
  5. Being forgetful. Forgotten medical appointments, birthdays, play dates, bills and meetings. Misplaced house or car keys, purses, glasses, iPads, phones, bank cards, pieces of work, (the importance or value of the item does not guarantee its safety) Umbrellas, handbags, coats and shopping left on buses. Forgetting to put petrol in the car or to buy a key ingredient for a special meal. The list will be endless.
  6. Having a poor sense of time. Women with ADHD will have poor time management. They fail to appreciate how long it will take to do a task or to drive somewhere. Schedules will be approximations. 
  7. Feelings of incompetence. Difficulties with focus and concentration will mean that the individual never grasps all of the facts or information. They may try to fill in gaps, but are often left feeling stupid. 
  8. Feelings of ‘Why is it always me? Why is it me who buys theatre tickets, but goes on the wrong day? Why is it always my child who goes in school uniform on Mufti days? With ADHD, it can feel as if every day is spent in damage limitation rather than in progression of personal goals. 
  9. Experiencing imposter syndrome. When the individual is constantly covering up for errors, striving to be something they’re not, they know that the persona on public display is not the real them. As well as it being exhausting to maintain such a pretence, there is the ever-present fear that they will be ‘found out’. 
  10. An inability to regulate emotions. ADHD individuals can be volatile and respond explosively to situations without thinking. This can lead to problems in personal relationships.
  11. Impulsivity. Impulsive purchases they can’t afford: buying an expensive pair of shoes because they feel a bit down, or even a flat and leaving worries about the paying the mortgage till later. Eating a packet of biscuits or cake on Day 1 of their diet.  
  12. Being disorganised. The ADHD woman will constantly ask herself why she is unable to manage and organise things that other people do easily. Her desk will be piled with paperwork: even when she makes an effort to clear it, it will only stay tidy for a day or two.
  13. Job hopping. These women often start a career, but never manage to stay in post long enough to progress. Their CVs will never fit on to a single page.
  14. Finding routine tasks challenging. Completing boring, repetitive tasks is almost impossible, and will be avoided or delayed. Procrastination is the name of the game.
  15. An ability to hyperfocus. If an activity captures the individual’s interest, they are able to block out everything else in order to concentrate. When others see this behaviour, they assume the individual is selective about what they want and do not want to focus on.
  16. An inability to relax. The individual finds it hard to unwind. Relaxation must involve activity, as if the person is driven by a motor. 
  17. Appearing selfish. At social gatherings the individual will talk over people because of nervousness, but interrupting conversations and failing to listen will make them appear self-centred. Their minds will drift during conversations unless they’re talking, or it’s a topic they find interesting. Any difficulty remembering people’s names will add to the impression of a lack of concern for others.
  18. Appearing thoughtless. The woman with ADHD will often say what first comes to mind, and inadvertently hurt other people’s feelings. 
  19. Experiencing sleep disorders. Most women with ADHD suffer from difficulties with sleep.
  20. Having poor long-term commitment to work. Although an individual may be fascinated by anything novel and new, and start tasks with great enthusiasm; following through on the project will be difficult when the need for detailed or mundane work arises.

The lack of a diagnosis or a misdiagnosis is devastating for many women leading to underachievement, unnecessary medication, poor self-esteem, self-doubt, anxiety, frustration and confusion. 

An accurate diagnosis will lead to an understanding of problems, advice and support, self-help strategies and appropriate medication. A treatment plan will allow relief from symptoms and a greatly improved quality of life. 

Learning from exams

‘Hi ho silver lining’ – Jeff Beck.

Ten alternative lessons to take from sitting exams.

The summer term can be a particularly trying period for secondary pupils because of school and public exams. Some students enjoy the challenge and competition of exams, others hate the whole experience, while some feel frustration when they’ve worked hard, only to be disappointed by their results. 

Immediate lessons learnt from taking exams will include: whether the pupil works too quickly or too slowly, whether they understand and respond appropriately to exam questions and whether their revision has been effective.

However, it can be helpful to view exams from a broader perspective. Every experience in life, fun, challenging, sad or otherwise offers the individual an opportunity for personal growth. You take from all experiences what you will, so why not take positive lessons?

Ten alternative lessons to take from sitting exams: –

  1. Errors provide us with opportunities to develop and improve our performance.

We can correct the mistakes made in an exam; noting the changes that need to be made to our exam and revision techniques. 

Human beings learn by trial and error. When we accept that making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process, then learning opportunities become more important than the errors we make. 

  1. It is helpful to be able to remain calm under pressure.

A hard exam will be hard for everyone, but if you can remain calm and still do your best, you are certain to achieve better grades than those who panic. The ability to keep calm under pressure is always useful.

  1. Understanding is preferable to memorising

Students with good memories may do well in exams, but in the long term, be unable to apply information they have learnt by rote. Anyone who understands rather than memorises, will be able to use their knowledge for problem solving and higher order thinking. 

  1. Working effectively saves lots of time. 

Exams are about working effectively. Always spend time planning how to approach a problem, rather than launching in without thought and wasting time with unnecessary activity.

  1. To compete against yourself rather than against others. 

There will always be somebody who does better in an exam than you. Compete against your own personal bests rather than anyone else’s, in order to avoid being discouraged. Taking small steps towards personal targets, in life is the way to make progress.

  1. When we solve our own problems, our self-confidence increases. 

Work out for yourself what went wrong in an exam or in another situation in life. Individuals who can solve their own problems will experience feelings of success: this will be motivating and support their self-confidence. A virtuous circle will then develop with the individual becoming more resilient, persistent, and applying greater effort to future challenges because they feel that they will be successful. 

  1. How we can motivate ourselves.

If you remind yourself of why you want to do well in this exam, perhaps to prove something to a teacher, to be able to study a subject for GCSE or ‘A’ Level or because a good grade is necessary for your chosen job or career, you will learn a valuable lesson about motivation. Work out what is in it for you. Try to look at situations in the long term. Maybe you would prefer to be out with friends on a Friday night, rather than at home working: it’s down to you. Immediate pleasure or delayed gratification: the choice is yours.

  1. Resilience is an invaluable personal attribute. 

It is worth remembering when you make mistakes in life as in exams, you will always have another chance. There will always be another exam to take or an opportunity to re-sit an exam. Allow yourself time to feel irritated, embarrassed, upset or disappointed and then move on or try again. 

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius (Chinese philosopher)

  1. Creativity is born out of change. 

Failure in a test will encourage us to find new ways to do things, rather than repeat the same unsuccessful approach. Tackling a problem differently will mean exploring alternative ways of working, and we can then apply some of those new approaches to other situations. 

  1. Human beings are strongest when they co-operate

When you struggle to understand what went wrong in an exam, one solution would be to ask someone for help. Being able to work with others is an essential life skill: sometimes they will help you, and sometimes you will help them. What goes around, comes around.

‘Counting your blessings.’ 

The benefits of developing a sense of gratitude.

Aunt Lucy taught me to count my blessings. It’s the first thing she does when she wakes up in the morning …………

The benefits of developing a sense of gratitude include: –

  • The development of optimism and a positive outlook. When an individual makes a conscious effort to feel grateful for all the things they enjoy; they will develop a more positive approach to life generally. A sense of gratitude reassures the individual that everything is fine as it is, and reduces the need to continually strive and chase happiness. 
  • A reduction in a perceived need to buy happiness. Buying ‘stuff’ will only bring temporary happiness. The pleasure of a new phone, new trainers, new car or new toy, will not last. If an individual is content and grateful for what they have, they will become less materialistic and feelings of envy will be diminished. 
  • The development of empathy. Gratitude encourages the individual to be more caring and to think about the needs of others.
  • Improved mental and physical health. Gratitude has been shown to reduce levels of anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system and have a positive effect on the quality of a person’s sleep.
  • Enhanced personal and social relationships. When gratitude is shown towards others, the quality of personal relationships improves and connectivity between individuals increases. A sense of gratitude helps to overcome such negative emotions as jealousy, and allows the person to feel happier around others.
  • An increase in self-esteem. When the individual acknowledges their gratitude for family and friends, they accept that there are people close to them, who care about them. Knowing that they have value in the eyes of others will support their self-confidence.

To develop gratitude: –

  • Slow down and take time to appreciate what is already good about your life. Spend a few minutes every day thinking about the things you are grateful for: good health, extended family, good weather, loyal friends, satisfying hobbies, a well-kept garden, a much-loved pet and so on.
  • Acknowledge the small things you encounter daily that give you pleasure, particularly those things you normally take for granted: a favourite TV programme, a refreshing shower, a perfect cup of tea, a bus arriving on time or a funny Instagram post.
  • Express gratitude to others. The next time an acquaintance does something helpful or kind, thank them for their thoughtfulness. Even if you don’t feel like it, go through the motions of being grateful: smile, express your appreciation verbally or send an email to say thank you. What goes around, comes around. 
  • Actively look for situations in which you can feel grateful. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to practise gratitude: for example, going to the dentist and not requiring treatment, having a good night’s sleep, getting a seat on the train or doing better than you thought you would in an exam.
  • Write down ten things you are grateful for every day then, whenever you feel dissatisfied, look back at your lists and remind yourself just how many things you have to be grateful for. 

……….. I’ve been counting my blessings. Except, I do mine before I go to sleep. I have so many, I may not have time tomorrow.’ (Paddington Bear)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) in adults

APD is a disorder where an individual’s brain is unable to process sound in the usual way. Some adults will have had undiagnosed APD since childhood and established coping mechanisms for what they assume to be a personality trait.

One of the most common problems experienced by adults with APD is understanding speech in environments where there’s a lot of background noise. This has been referred to as ‘Cocktail Party Deafness’. Cocktail Party Deafness describes social situations in which it is easy to become confused by general chatter and music, whilst trying to concentrate on a one-to-one conversation.

Adults with APD will experience difficulties with: –

  • Rapid speech, unfamiliar accents, and the processing of complex spoken sentences.
  • Using the phone. During phone conversations it is necessary to ignore sounds in the immediate environment in order to focus on the person speaking at the other end of the line.
  • The nuances of speech, for example, not picking up on sarcasm or irony.
  • Following multi-step instructions. The individual may hear and remember the first instruction; but because their processing of language is slow, they miss the second instruction, but hear the third, and so fail to follow the directions properly.
  • Following discussions in an environment with poor acoustics and a lot of echo, for example, restaurants, pubs or work canteens.
  • Hypersensitivity to certain sounds: finding some noise frequencies physically painful.

How can adults manage their APD?

  • Environmental modifications such as carpeting, curtains and soft furnishings will help to absorb excess noise.
  • By minimising background noise: sitting away from fans, air conditioning units, open windows next to busy streets, or talkative colleagues.
  • By asking for help. Ask if others would mind speaking as slowly and clearly as possible, attracting the individual’s attention before speaking to them, and using body language or visuals to emphasise key points.
  • By arriving early for meetings in order to sit in the best position, away from distractions, and with a good view of the speaker’s face and any visual aids.
  • When listening, the individual should focus on the person speaking, position themselves directly in front of them, and watch their body language and facial movements carefully. Ask the speaker if they could try not to cover their mouth with their hands or speak with their back turned.
  • By writing down anything of importance: dates, addresses, appointments or phone numbers.
  • By playing to their strengths. Adults with APD often think of points they would like to make after a discussion has moved on. If being put on the spot is difficult for the individual because of the time needed to formulate their response, they may prefer to write a report, send a text or use email .

Many adults will have found their own ways over the years to cope with their APD. However, as APD is thought to have a genetic component, it is worth parents being alert to any indictors of the disorder in their children in order to help schools to identify problems early. This will enable teachers to make more accurate diagnoses, and to support the children as appropriately as possible.