There are many things to regret and be worried about now. Many of us are reeling from the rapid changes in our lives, the implications for us, our families and our work. I also feel fairly useless, I want to get out and help, but I know the best thing is to stay in.
It is a shame that we can’t do face to face training at the moment, I feel really privileged to meet so many amazing people who are all trying to make things better for children and young people who have Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs and Speech Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). I often think my role as a trainer is to present people with theories, research and sometimes my mad ideas and give them an opportunity to mull them over. These rich discussions are enormously valuable, I certainly enjoy them and course participants say they do as well. How often do we actually get time to discuss and think about things? It’s good to pause and see how new ideas could help the children and young people we work with.
This might be quite a big pause and an opportunity for much creativity. Many of the children and young people we work with are going to find this time very difficult and it’s hard when you can’t help them directly, but we can be thinking about how we might do things differently when the crisis is over.
What’s in a name?
Another change I’ve been wanting to make is to the title of the ‘Introduction to working with children and young people who have Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH) and Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)’. (One day I’d like to have a shorter and more catchy title too!). I used the word ‘introduction’ because I thought the course would be most useful to people beginning their work in this field. Now I’m not so sure, I think it is useful to people who are just beginning, but the issues covered are also fundamental to this work, whatever stage of your career. In my work with Speech and Language Therapists who work with children and young people who have SEMH it has become very clear to me that a great deal of resilience is needed, as well as the ability to focus on these fundamentals;
- Why might they be behaving like this?
- What is my role? How can I collaborate with others?
- How can I modify my professional skills to benefit these children and young people?
- What interventions and services should I offer and how?
- How can I do the best for them while looking after myself?
When times are tough in my own work these are things I often return to. Recently I was incensed by some bullying I witnessed, and I had to work hard to think it through calmly with the person responsible. I needed to go back to remembering what his life is like, how I could help him calm down enough to think and then take time to help him see and understand other perspectives using visuals (ie my terrible drawings which made us both laugh).
So, the course is really about these fundamentals, they are the things we come back to whenever we’re unsure about what to do. Whenever there’s a change; in the child or young person, the people we work with, or the systems we work within, we need to go back to basics or fundamentals. This is often hard if we can’t maintain a ‘beginners mind’, having an attitude of openness, and lack of preconceptions when thinking about what we should do, even when this is something we’ve been trying to do for a long time. There’s always more to learn, our ingrained ways of thinking or doing things may no longer be useful, it’s also possible to feel utterly deskilled at times and that’s when we need to go back to fundamental principles and work on our resilience.
I constantly update courses, because things are always changing! There’s always more research, new ideas and guidance, that’s why the reading lists are huge. However, without majorly changing the content of the ‘introduction to…’course, I now want to call it, the ‘Fundamentals of working with children and young people who have Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs (SEMH) and Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN)’ (I have to admit I got this idea from my tai chi classes, but that’s another story).
What shall we do now?
In terms of responding to big changes, (apart from not wasting energy by fighting it) it is worth remembering that resilience is something that can be taught1 and learned at any age2 here are some of my favourite resources for this which you might find useful.
- Focus on relationships Playful, Accepting, Curious Empathic – Dan Hughes https://ddpnetwork.org/about-ddp/meant-pace/
- Being creative and constructive in difficult situations https://www.actionforhappiness.org/news/covid-19-how-to-respond
- Looking after yourself https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/
NEW Online training options
They say that in times like these there is more potential for change that at other times and, in terms of training we’re going to make the best of it and be creative. We’re going to offer my courses online, with an interactive element. Many of us are getting to grips with interacting ‘virtually’ and there are of course limitations and glitches but, although we must be physically distant we can still learn together. Social interaction makes us feel better, so we’re going to keep doing it.
 Hatamizadeh, N., Adibsereshki, N., Kazemnejad, A., & Sajedi, F. (2020). Randomized trial of a resilience intervention on resilience, behavioral strengths and difficulties of mainstreamed adolescent students with hearing loss. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 128, 109722. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijporl.2019.109722