by Huddl Advisor, Dr Ruth MacConville
At Huddl we felt it would be helpful for parents and carers to understand the meaning of terms commonly used to describe certain behaviours in children and young people (CYP). Unless we fully understand their meanings we are not best placed to spot signs early on.
One of our wonderful Huddl Advisors, Dr Ruth MacConville, has written a glossary of terms for us all to gain knowledge and learn, we hope you find it as useful as we have here!
The term 'additional needs’ is used to indicate that a CYP needs extra support so that they can participate fully in school. This could be due to a medical condition, e.g. asthma or allergies, a developmental disorder such as autism, a physical or sensory impairment, or a learning disability. It could also be due to mental health issues such as abuse, neglect, trauma or grief.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: impulsive, overactive and/or inattentive behaviour to an extent that is unwarranted for a CYP’s developmental age. ADHD affects how well an individual can sit still, focus and pay attention. A CYP’s behaviour is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
CYP become anxious when they think that they will fail, be punished or suffer humiliation for that failure. A CYP who is anxious about failure does not want to try out new things and only feels comfortable in the most familiar and well-tried situations. To avoid self-doubt CYP may crave a rigid schedule and create rituals to create control and order. Every time a CYP makes a mistake they blame themselves, often unjustifiably. This confirms their general inadequacy. Feeling inadequate then confirms their belief that there is no point in trying. Hence CYP with anxiety often lack motivation and because they are unmotivated they do not receive positive feedback that they need. Anxiety caused by low self esteem, also reinforces low self esteem.
Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is usually regarded as a type of Autism because it is characterised by the same core characteristics, i.e. the `triad of impairment’, i.e. social interaction, social communication and social imagination, but with a more subtle presentation of difficulties. AS affects every aspect of a CYP’s development. Individuals are usually considered to be intellectually able yet experience significant social difficulties. Diagnosis is usually made at a later stage sometimes even in adulthood.
Bipolar disorder can cause mood swings from the highs of hyperactivity or euphoria (mania) to the lows of serious depression. It’s most often diagnosed in older children and teenagers but it can occur in children of any age. Signs and symptoms include very severe mood swings, hyperactivity, impulsive, aggressive or socially in appropriate behaviour, insomnia or decreased need for sleep, depression or constant irritable moods, grandiose or inflated views of one’s own capabilities, suicidal thoughts in older children. Diagnosis can be challenging because other mental health conditions often exist alongside bipolar disorder such as ADHD, major depression and anxiety disorder.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder and is defined as 'a preoccupation with some imagined defect in appearance’. Sometimes described as 'the disorder of imagined ugliness’ BDD may involve stress over; an imagined defect or physical anomaly, body weight or shape concerns, concerns with facial features, complexion or hair. Most incidences of BDD occur in adults, but symptoms usually start in childhood. BDD affects girls and boys equally.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated over time. Individuals who bully use their power e.g. physical strength, access to personal information or popularity to control or harm others. There are three main types of bullying:
- verbal bullying: teasing, name calling, taunting, threatening.
- Social bullying: hurting someone’s reputation or relationships, spreading rumours, leaving someone out, embarrassing someone in public.
- Physical bullying: hurting a CYP’s body or possessions by hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, breaking a CYP’s possessions making rude or unkind hand gestures.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is based on the fact that our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all connected. CBT focuses on the present rather than on the past and shows us that reframing, i.e, making a change to the way we think, can help us manage our feelings and our behaviours. CYP often have negative or anxious thoughts which can reinforce a lack of confidence or low self-esteem. With practice CYP learn to 'catch' these negative thoughts and reframe them, i.e. replace them with more positive thoughts that enable CYP to be more in control and to change their behaviour.
Developmental Delay is the condition of a child being less developed mentally or physically than is typical for his or her age. This can occur in any of the following key areas of development: cognitive, social and emotional, speech and language, fine and gross motor skills.
Dyslexia is a processing difficulty that can be auditory, visual or motor in nature or a combination of the three, which hinders the acquisition of literacy skills. Working memory, which enables us to follow conversation or stories and extract the key points may also be affected.
Dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of gross and/or fine motor skills. The CYP with dyspraxia cannot make their body do what they want it to do. They do not usually have difficulty with the understanding of how to carry out an activity but rather with the processing of information, the ability to make a plan and the organisation to complete it.
Feeding or eating patterns or behaviours that result in disruption to expected growth, development, and/or functioning. Clinicians consider four areas in considering the severity and the need to intervene in an eating disorder;
- Nutritional adequacy of intake
- Impact of eating disturbance on weight, growth and physical development
- Impact on social and emotional development
- Impact on interaction with caregiver and family functioning.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent and unreasonable anxieties. Symptoms include excessive irritability, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, chronic fatigue, edginess and restlessness. GAD is probably the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental factors.
Gifted and Talented
The term 'gifted and talented’ describes CYP who have the ability or potential to develop significantly ahead of their peers. Gifted learners are those with abilities in one or more academic subjects, e.g. maths or English. Talented learners are those who have practical skills in areas such as sport, music, design, or creative & performing arts. Increasingly skills and attributes such leadership, decision-making and organisation are also being taken into account
Grit is the ability to sustain interest in and effort towards a very long- term goal. Commitment to task, perseverance, endurance and hard work make a person 'gritty'. Grit is a core component of lifelong happiness and an important predictor of success.
A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence, but as a springboard for growth and stretching our existing abilities. In contrast, a fixed mindset assumes that our character, intelligence and creative ability are fixed and can’t be changed in any meaningful way through effort or persistence. Avoiding failure becomes the only way to maintain the sense of being smart or skilled.
A learning difficulty usually refers to a difficulty in learning that is specific rather than global. Conditions like dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia are all considered to be learning difficulties rather than learning disabilities because they only affect a CYP’s ability to learn in specific areas. A learning difficulty wouldn’t normally affect a CYP’s overall intelligence.
A learning disability usually refers to a CYP who has an IQ lower than 70 who are intellectually delayed in every aspect of his or her life. Learning disabilities can be mild, moderate or severe. CYP with mild learning difficulties may be able to be relatively independent whereas those with profound learning disabilities will usually require high levels of care.
Major depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and a total lack of interest in the world. It must be present for two weeks before a diagnosis can be made. Major depression causes severe symptoms that affects how a CYP thinks, feels and manages everyday activities. A CYP with diagnosed major depression will generally be solely focused on the `lows’, i.e. his/ her negative emotions and symptoms.
Motor Learning Difficulties
Motor Learning difficulties sometimes referred to as dyspraxia or motor planning difficulty affects the development of gross motor skills like walking or jumping, the development of fine motor skills such as the hand movements needed to write legibly and the mouth and tongue movements needed to pronounce words correctly. Social skills can also be affected and CYP may behave immaturely even though they typically have average or above-average intelligence. CYP don’t outgrow motor learning difficulties but occupational therapy and speech and language therapy can enable CYP to manage their difficulties. Typically CYP learn to work around their difficulties and build on their strengths.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious anxiety – related condition where a CYP experiences intrusive, irrational, obsessional thoughts sometimes followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges. OCD interferes with daily functioning at home, school and socially because it causes significant distress and can takes up an excessive amount of time.
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is an extreme or irrational fear or aversion to an object, activity or situation that cannot be reasonably explained and leads to a compelling need to avoid it. Phobias often develop during childhood or adolescence.
Resilience is a psychological strength. It is the capacity that enables an individual to 'bounce back', i.e. restore equilibrium or wellbeing in the face of stress, adversity, disappointments, setbacks, hardship and challenges. Resilience is also about the ability to 'bounce forward', i.e. be hopeful, get out of our comfort zone and take 'healthy risks'.
Self-esteem is a set of skills that allows a child to persevere, keep learning and to keep caring. It is not a single idea, feeling or belief. It is the belief that one should persevere, take responsibility and make a positive difference to one’s environment. Self-esteem is made up of the skills that allow us to keep bouncing back when we experience, disappointment, frustration, or failure, and sustain positive engagement with others. Self esteem is not about ego boosting practices such as encouraging positive thinking or self-praise.
Sexting refers to using texts, to send self-made images, usually of a sexual nature. Although the age of consent is 16, the taking and sharing of pornographic images (or films) is illegal for anyone under 18, even with the consent of both parties. This includes naked selfies and sexting.
Speech and Language Therapy
Speech and language therapy is concerned with the identification, assessment and treatment of the speech, language communication and swallowing needs of CYP. Speech and language therapists are allied health professionals. They work closely with parents and carers, and also professionals such as teachers, psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, doctors and nurses.
Being under pressure is a normal part of life, positive stress can help a CYP take action, feel energised and get positive results.
Too much stress, on the other hand is the feeling of being under intense mental or emotional pressure and being unable to cope. Symptoms may also include tiredness, headaches and/or an upset stomach. There is no medical definition of stress and it isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis but it’s closely linked to mental health because when a CYP becomes overwhelmed by stress it may develop into anxiety or depression.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety disorder is extreme shyness. It is a specific type of anxiety that occurs when a CYP is in situations with other people, e.g. going to school or restaurants or seeing friends. CYP worry that they might do something embarrassing in these situations which will make others laugh at them or think negatively about them. They therefore feel nervous in social situations. This can lead them to be withdrawn and avoid social situations. This avoidance can result in CYP being isolated, missing out on experiences and some may therefore lack social skills. CYP with SAD tend to be less anxious with family and close friends.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
SUD occurs when a CYP’s use of alcohol or another substance e.g. drugs leads to health issues. The exact reason for the disorder is unknown, but possible causes include: a CYP’s genes, the action of the drug, peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety, depression or low self esteem. CYP who grow up seeing their parent’s use drugs tend to have a higher risk of developing SUD. There are 4 stages of drug use that lead to addiction;
- experimental use
- regular use
- problem or risky use
CYP move through these stages more quickly than adults.