The EPIC intervention and use of associated materials aims to facilitate optimal thinking, learning, and wellbeing in children and young people.
A central part of the EPIC approach is the use of psychoeducation. What is psychoeducation and what does it involve?
Psychoeducation involves gaining knowledge to help with understanding of a condition. The aim of psychoeducation within the EPIC approach is to ensure that everyone caring for a child understands the strengths and difficulties of the individual child. Our booklets ‘Understanding ADHD’ and ‘Understanding DCD’ can be used at home and at school to help with understanding a child’s difficulties.
Within the EPIC approach, psychoeducation is not about learning about a diagnosed condition such as DCD and assuming every child with DCD has the same set of difficulties. Children with the same diagnosis label differ from each other. These differences mean it is important that everyone caring for a child understands the strengths and difficulties of that individual child and not what they assume would be their difficulties from their label.
A really good example concerns Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Of course it will be assumed that a child with this label has an ‘attention’ difficulty – it is in the name after all. But actually our research shows that if you ask children with ADHD to complete a range of tasks tapping areas like attention, memory, planning and similar skills, the fewest amount of children have a difficulty in ‘attention’. A lack of concentration can reflect a whole wide range of thinking or other difficulties. It could reflect a memory difficulty – we know that for many children with ADHD information disappears more quickly from their short-term memory than it does for other children. Many of these children have sensory processing difficulties and are hyper sensitive to noises or other sensory information around them. Classes are noisy busy places. It is likely that many children with developmental difficulties are distracted by aspects of their environment they are sensitive to, rather than by an internal ‘attention’ difficulty. For other children there will be a thinking related attention difficulty. Each child is different. The EPIC approach takes a ‘strengths and difficulties’ perspective where each child is understood as an individual.
How can the EPIC materials help with identifying what is the underlying difficulty affecting a child? The ‘Understanding’ booklets detail areas of strengths and difficulties to think about and focus on. In our strategy booklet (designed for teachers but it is also suitable for parents) we describe everyday games that can be used to think about what underlies a child’s difficulties. Every day games like connect 4 and snakes and ladders can be useful with this. With connect 4 you can play and see whether a child plans out their moves and whether they have difficulty in taking turns. Being able to think flexibly can also be observed when playing connect 4 by switching the players colour disks between games. Snakes and ladders is also useful for this – play normally and then switch to going down the ladders and up the snakes.
In our booklets we emphasise the importance of talking to a child about their thinking processes. Many children with developmental difficulties don’t have the neurotypical child’s automatic tendency to plan and to use strategies to aid memory. Psychoeducation can help a child to recognise they need to put strategies in place to help them complete tasks and activities. Parents and teachers can also put strategies in place to aid thinking difficulties and ensure a child can approach and complete a task as best as they can.
We are currently designing a more general booklet that will be useful for children without a diagnosis. Many children do not have a diagnosis as they are on a waiting list. Others are without a diagnosis as they may not have quite met criteria during assessment. Other children have similar thinking and wellbeing difficulties to those with a diagnosed developmental condition but their difficulties have arisen from a different reason such as having been born premature. Our approach of taking each child as an individual means that these games and activities are likely useful for children without a diagnostic label.
Of course all children have strengths and difficulties so these booklets can also be used more generally with children. We very much encourage that a whole class approach is taken when learning about thinking processes in school. This can help foster children’s awareness and insight into the limitations inherent in aspects of our thinking like our memory and successful planning and organisation.
Tomorrow we will blog about pairing knowledge of a child’s difficulties with suitable strategies for facilitating optimal thinking, learning and wellbeing.
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