Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are more powerful than we can imagine.

Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Dealing with special needs

Having worked with children, I have found myself being challenged by trial and tribulations throughout my time. I want to shortly testify to how it has affected me. Before I begin, I want to say I will not be mentioning where I work for legal reasons. All I will say is I am absolutely enjoying it and it has been a positive experience for me.

Going into Primary teaching, I didn’t know what to expect. I had some vague idea but overall there wasn’t any real indication I knew what it consisted of. I volunteered in year 1 and reception and I became attached to the job and the children I was working with. It gave me a realisation at work that I was not aware of before and for the first time in a long time, it motivated me to work. I felt that if I did not give these children a good learning experience, I would be letting them down and, more importantly, letting their future down. To me, children are the basis of us as human beings and we carry on those mannerisms as we get older.

Overall, it was going great. I was doing well in year one and I was transferred to reception which I equally enjoyed. It was at that point that I was given an eye-opener in nursery. When people look at nursery, they think it’s pretty simple: the children are at the beginning of education, they don’t know a lot and everything is basic. That sort of age for children (4 to 5) means that everything needs to be deconstructed to very basic language, everything needs to be simplified. Even phrases like ‘take away’ for maths need to be clarified and that becomes a word game. That for me was challenging at first but I got use to it.

On my first day of nursery, I met a child. I won’t go into detail about this special person, for obvious reasons, but the child had difficulties that inhibited his learning. In short, he was special needs. I want to emphasise that this was not the first time I have been with people with learning difficulties, special needs or metnal illness’ including autism and asperges. My nephew has autism and that is also reflected in his behaviour. A lot of people I know have one or the other in one way or another and in many instances, things were getting better with them. This case was a shock to me uniquely.  Put it this way, whereas the other children had come to a certain understanding about where they are, this child was not able to. In essence, he was half his age and, for example, needed more assistance to go to the toilet (having a nappy) and only knew a few phrases. For me, I had a mix of disgust and resentment. I want to emphasise I was not disgusted by the child or the fact he had special needs, to me it was the fact that I was challenged by it, it emotionally challenged me in a way that has not happened in a long time. I wanted to emotionally react and help the child by separating him from the others (even though that is the completely wrong thing to do). I guess as animals, we react to things intuitively to do what we think will help. We think that we should naturally react to what we don’t consider ‘natural’ or ‘mainstream’. But it doesn’t help and I’m glad I have the logic to see that through.

Because I was the only male assisting in nursery, I like to think it is helpful. Being a wide built man means that many of the children see me as a sort of father figure that deviates from the majority of teachers. This child would always look at me with this gaze of a two year old, this gaze of awe. At first it was slightly disturbing for me, I had never experienced anything like it but what made more of an impact was the look was of a child to his father. Going home, I thought about it deeply and that sense of disturbance, disgust and resentment made me realise something: I was challenged by something I had not experienced before. Previously, I had a feeling that I would be letting the children down if I faltered and I was doing that with this child. Therefore, I started to see my perspective and think that I needed to help this kid. More importantly, I needed to because I remember I was once a 5 year old child with special needs who needed help and in many cases I didn’t receive it. So when I came in the next day and saw that child with the glisten of awe in his eye, I treated him like every other child. I adored, appreciated and gave him the love every child deserves and I saw that helped him. I saw him be with the other children and thought “this will help him so much and develop him”. The kids who played with him didn’t judge him or treat him differently, why should I?

What I’m saying is be challenged by differences, even if it is with children and don’t let that that be a hindrance to them. When I was a child, I had special needs and learning difficulties and now I’m training to be a teacher and have a Masters in History. Don’t ever let the experience or challenge of a person with special needs, or mental difficulties, hinder you or make you get the better of your reaction. I want to show this so I can illustrate even the most insightful people get challenged by prejudices, especially when they experience the situation first hand. Be patient and know that even if you feel how you feel, every help you give helps a person overcome their difficulties.

 

 

Advertisements

Mental health (PTSD): An understanding.

People often talk about mental health as if it is something that has been solved; an incoherent problem that has been remedied. I’m here to say otherwise. I think there’s a a perception that people are better understanding mental health problems and people are able to empathise better with those who do have prevalent conditions. However, there is still a blunt gap between those who experience issues and those who do not have mental health issues. In he 21st century, there is still the reality that diabetes can be solved with insulin or a broken leg can heal but when someone says they are suffering from mental issues, the person will kindly nod, while smiling, and slowly back away from the conversation. I understand why they would. As a species, we are not biologically programmed to deal with issues like that; it does not benefit survival and it is alien to the way our biology works. Culturally, the mannerisms that are encouraged, such as individuality and non-reliance, means it is not within are mannerisms to be encouraged empathy.

What I am aiming to do in this article is debunk the myths surrounding a prevalent mental health issue: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and attempt to make the reader empathise with the condition by using writing to portray an image in the reader’s mind.

A key myth is that PTSD is it’s limtied to the warfare. Though it is prevalent on the battlefield, it is only so because the conditions and strains of warfare make it possible for the condition to become a reality. The first cases of post-traumatic stress were recorded in industrial and locomotive accidents during the 19th century (the condition was labeled ‘traumatic neurosis’). Today, it can include trauma caused by accidents; negative experiences and social, emotional, physical and psychological abuse. This leaves an underlying efffect on the way the mind reacts and develops based on those conditions.

Put it this way, the person suffers trauma at a young age or suffers an accident and though there is rationality to the way the mind deals with it, illogically the body gears itself up to the event happening again. For example, a driver might tense up or a person who was once abused may attack someone for no reason: it’s simply a means in which the mind comes to terms with the sudden anxiousness perceives an immediate danger (whether real or imaginary). One way this happens is by memories. In an experiment at an American University, a psychologist separated a group of students in two parts: the first wrote an account of events that were upsetting to them in their lives, the second wrote about some mundane aspects of their day. What was discovered was the people who had wrote down their upsetting/distrubing accounts recovered better than those who didn’t and the second group had a harder time. In other words, the mind attempts to recollect the experience the person has suffered through alternative means that are not obvious, it’s like the nerves and mind of the person as are trying to let the issue out but not directly reference. Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaugherhouse Five who also suffered from PTSD) describes it as “describing the sun without staring directly at it”. Vonnegut does this in his novel by time travel to explore his experiences. It’s understandable, when you experience loss you try to describe it without confronting the problem because of the emotional impact the memory has and confronting it directly makes you nervous because your body reacts to an imaginary reprisal or consequence. With PTSD, it’s the same but times a thousand.

 

To give readers an idea of what I mean, I am going to describe what it is like to have PTSD using simple language and terminology, in order to build an image into the person’s mind. Imagine you are standing in a room full of people talking. Some of them you know, others you don’t. Some may be friends of friends, other’s relatives. It can be outside, in a party, an apartment, a beach, just somewhere where there’s a social event occuring. Now, looking around at all the people smiling, talking, laughing and building rapport, you feel that around the room there is an inside joke everyone is in on. For some reason or event, which you somehow missed, everyone is sharing this inside joke and you don’t know what it is. You can’t understand it and it’s not possible for you to comprehend without your mind going blank. Everytime you do talk to someone, your mind goes blank so you don’t know what to say. All you can do is listen and try not to go at 80mph and deal with things logically; if not logical, you will feel lost in a vaue feeling of confusion. Alone, your mind begins to think about things and speculate and shortly it turns into a memory and that memory becomes a fantasy. Your mind forces this memory onto you out of nowhere. In the fantasy, you recall something that happened and when you snap out of it, you realise you’re emotionally invested in the fantasy and you’re talking to yourself. Nothing really makes sense outside, I mean you know why everything’s happening but none of the social barriers, mannerism and time make any sense or seem to matter. You feel tired so you can only keep less fatigued by thinking and self-disciplining yourself to stay up. Talking to people, you can see something is not right with you, people think you are weird in some illogical way and you don’t conform to the emotional wave going forwards at a certain speed. Maybe they think you’re there to get something out of them or one-up them. Either way, they can sense something but don’t know what it is that separates you. Your head feels like there’s heavy pressure on it and you can feel the nerves around you coming alive. Your heart’s beating to the point where it feels like it’s thumping your chest and thumping the body with it in a massive vibration. You can’t get your head around how people are enjoying themselves or why they’re laughing, they just are; you can’t get on the inside joke and so you stay silent. Your mind’s still blank. You’re moving small parts of your body very quickly and realise you’re doing it only when it’s happened and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is a taster of what it feels like to have the condition. I hope this brings a better understanding for people to understand what it feels like and how this example can also be extreme in varying circumstances.