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 – 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. 

Auditory Processing Difficulties

An individual may suspect they have an Auditory Processing Disorder, (APD), when they have a difficulty with understanding and interpreting oral information. 

Although children with APD can appear to have a hearing impairment, their hearing is usually within the normal range. The individual can hear what is being said, but finds it difficult to work out what the words mean. 

It can be hard to establish whether APD is a symptom or a contributory factor of Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia or attention deficit, because of the overlapping behaviours involved. 

When a child with APD cannot understand what is being said, they may ask for repetition, copy their peers, misbehave, not react, or do what they, (mistakenly), believe they’ve been asked to do. Such behaviour could be viewed by an adult as the result of the child experiencing a hearing problem, learning difficulty, having a poor memory, a weakness in attention, or simply being naughty.

Parents may suspect that the child is not hearing or listening properly at a young age, but it is normally when the child starts school that the difficulties become more obvious. 

APD is believed to affect between 3%–5% of school-aged children.

The child with APD will display some of the following behaviours: –

  • Poor listening ability, for example, confusion when following the sequence of a story or remembering the role different characters play within the story.
  • A difficulty coping with noise, and generally being more distractible in noisy environments. The child’s listening and performance will improve in quieter settings.
  • A problem with identifying sounds and words accurately, and often confusing similar sounding words, for example house and horse, muslin and Muslim, gum and gone. 
  • The child will find it hard to remember simple songs and nursery rhymes.
  • In school they will be slow to contribute to class or group discussions.
  • A difficulty following simple instructions, often misunderstanding what they are being asked to do. They will regularly request repetition of information, or closely watch and then copy the actions of other children. 
  • They will find it hard to follow rapid speech and fast-moving conversations.
  • Their poor grasp of phonics will lead to comparatively slow development of early reading. 

To help the child with APD: –

  • Reduce background noise and visual distractions. Turn off the radio or TV when speaking to the child.
  • Ask the child to repeat instructions in their own words to make sure they have understood. 
  • Be aware of the impact on the child of situations where acoustics are particularly poor. 
  • Don’t use ‘flowery’ language. Give simple directions with fewer words and instructions for the child to follow. 
  • Speak clearly and deliberately, slowing your rate of speech if necessary. Face the child and ensure they are looking at you, using their name to hold their attention. 
  • Use pictures, body language, gesture and visual demonstration to clarify information given verbally.
  • Be patient: the child will need additional time to hear, process and then respond to what is being said.

Remember – The auditory system isn’t fully developed until an individual is about 14 years old. Most children with APD will develop better listening skills over time as their auditory systems mature.

The Benefits of Boredom

‘And I remember how we’d play,

simply waste the day away.’

(Our House – Madness)

Many working parents rely on the stimulating environment of nurseries and day care centres to entertain their child while they are at work. Older school-aged children are taken from one extra-curricular activity to another after school and at weekends. Such structured and adult led input can reduce a child’s capacity to amuse themselves, encouraging a dependency on grown-ups to provide stimulus and entertainment. Perhaps there is an argument for reducing children’s reliance on adult organised activity, and letting them experience boredom. 

When a child is bored, they will: –

  1. Daydream. 

Children need time to daydream. Daydreaming encourages creativity. During free time, away from adult interference, children will play more creatively by, for example, using everyday objects for different purposes: a cardboard box becoming an animal’s shell, a goal, a house, truck, cave, shop, and so on. The more free time children have, the more creative they will become in their solutions to boredom.

2. Be prepared for life.

The adult world is often predictable and humdrum. Adults have to be able to complete routine tasks conscientiously: not everything is always exciting and entertaining. Workplaces may also demand soft skills such as: problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, imagination and cognitive flexibility. Children need enough free time to develop these skills: time to amuse themselves and bond with their peers, devising their own games without a grown-up overseeing their play. A football match does not have to have two equal sides, set positions, two goals, or be played with a football; the children can make up their own rules.

3. Develop their social skills.

A child who has nothing to do, will seek out social interaction. Children need time to play in the real world; opportunities to enjoy their surroundings, play with siblings, meet with friends, and engage in simple, everyday tasks: hanging out the washing, shopping, reading, playing in the garden. Happiness involves being grateful for simple things. Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Holocaust survivor. talked about enjoying ‘the magic of a boring evening at home.’

4. Develop personal motivation

When a child is bored, they will be forced to decide how to amuse themselves. If a child is left to pursue their own interests, they will develop their individual passions, explore different hobbies and pick up alternative pastimes. 

5. Become more independent.

Free time assists cognitive and emotional development. Children who are always occupied with adult led activity: after school care, music lessons, sporting activity, ballet, gym and chess classes, Spanish and Italian discussion groups, screens, TV, and social media, will not have the time to think or use their own brains.

6. Rest and re-charge their batteries.

When children are taken from one extracurricular activity to another, (often activities that involve little personal choice), they are likely to develop an apathy towards learning. Children need the time to rest physically and emotionally, to reflect and think about things that have happened, or that they would like to happen, to turn the TV, mobile phone or iPad off, and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. 

7. Become less self-centred.

When children are left to their own devices, away from adult intervention and organisation, they are given a valuable message, namely, that the world does not revolve around them. 

‘Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.’

(Winnie the Pooh.)

The Perfectionist.

Whilst trying to do your best is always admirable, if reasonable effort turns into a need for perfection, a commendable personality trait becomes problematic. Perfectionism can lead to reduced self-esteem, unhappiness and underachievement.

The desire among children and young people for high achievement across all areas of their life: academic, sporting, appearance, popularity, etc, has escalated exponentially in recent years. One of the main reasons for this seems to be the regular testing taking place in schools. When adults placed emphasis on test results, children are constantly reminded of the value of academic success. Social media also adds to young people’s insecurity by presenting a distorted view of the lives of others, in which good looks, a perfect figure, a fabulous social life, popularity, money and success all appear to be achieved without effort. Some groups of young people seem to feel this pressure more keenly than others. High achieving girls from schools with a reputation for academic success, are among those most likely to experience the downside of perfectionism.

The perfectionist will: –

  • Become anxious quickly and worry about errors. They will take a long time to finish work or constantly re-start tasks because they aren’t going to plan.
  • Procrastinate; constantly avoiding or putting off activities because they worry that the task may be too difficult for them to complete, and they will be humiliated.
  • Become so frustrated by any mistakes they make, they abandon the whole activity.
  • Be unwilling to try anything new. The child or young person will avoid challenges and be reluctant to think creatively in case their ideas don’t work, and they’re subject to ridicule.
  • Set unrealistically high expectations of themselves, with concern about failure being out of all proportion to the task in hand.
  • Compare themselves to others; being dismissive of their own achievements.
  • Find it difficult to accept help or advice; exhibiting anger in the face of any perceived criticism.
  • Feel guilty if they aren’t constantly engaged in meaningful work.
  • Have a compulsive drive to achieve: their self-image being based on their accomplishments. 

How to help the young perfectionist: –

  • Provide unconditional affection and care: love unconnected to achievement. 
  • Listen to what the child says, empathise, then help them to view situations from more realistic perspectives.
  • Avoid comparisons with siblings or peers. 
  • Help the child to focus on the effort they are making, rather than their achievement. 
  • Encourage them to concentrate on their own performance, and disregard the performance of others. 
  • Explain the connection between mistakes and success. There are hundreds of examples of errors that led to inventions or discoveries. 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison – inventor and businessman.

  • Provide them with coping strategies for tackling difficult tasks by, for example, taking complex pieces of work one step at a time. 
  • Give specific praise; avoiding statements about the child being gifted or a genius.
  • Be a role model. Demonstrate how to move on and not dwell on any failures. No one is defined by the mistakes they make. 
  • Help the child or young person to understand social media. What people do and say online is a reflection of what they imagine other people want, and often very different from their reality.