Taking an individualised approach when helping a child with developmental difficulties

The EPIC intervention and use of associated materials aims to facilitate optimal thinking, learning, and wellbeing in children and young people. Today we are going to cover a further aspect of EPIC: taking what is called an ‘individualised transdiagnostic’ approach.

The EPIC approach is individualised. It is important that psychoeducation and strategies are based on a child’s strengths and difficulties and not assumptions about their diagnosis. As we have mentioned before research has shown that not all children with ‘Attention’ Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder actually have an attention difficulty. They may act distracted because of a difficulty in memory for example. We need to look beyond the diagnosis because as the saying goes ‘if you have met one child with ADHD you have met just one child with ADHD’. We know from decades of research that children with the same diagnosis can ‘look’ very different to one another. An example is ’executive functions’ – which are thinking processes we engage to organise ourselves and to help us to achieve goals. There are different types of executive functions. Memory – especially using strategies or organising your memory is one example. Another example is being able to use your attention flexibly – for example in moving easily and flexibly from one part of a task or an activity to another. These seem very different – but both are part of the concept of executive functions. Some children with ADHD have a difficulty in one of those processes, some the other, some both, and some actually neither of them. This means we need to be careful about making assumptions of what a child’s thinking difficulties will be, based on the label a child has. The label is a guide but we need to ask further questions about what it is for that child that distracts them – attention, memory, sensory processing or something else? See our booklets for more information on this.      

Many children with a particular developmental condition show difficulties associated with another. Even if a second condition has not been diagnosed, a child may still show difficulties associated with a different disorder that are making life difficult for them. A common example is a child with ADHD showing sensory processing difficulties we normally associate with autism or dyspraxia/DCD symptoms or diagnosis. A child with ADHD may act distracted and can’t focus and of course it would look very much like an ‘attention’ difficulty. Actually though the child may have sensory processing difficulties and they are distracted by particular noises that occur in the classroom or at home. It is important we take an individualised approach and assess what the specific difficulties are that an individual child is experiencing. Our booklets detail lots of ideas and activities as to how to identify what the underlying difficulty might be. Our strategy book describes ways then that these difficulties can be helped.  

We hope you find our booklets useful. Do please contact us with any feedback you have! 

Visual production credit: photographer sturti via Getty Images

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