Counselling the Child

Learning Difficulties –Dyslexia

In case of dyslexia, a specific area of the brain is normally affected, and results in problems with processing information from a range of inputs. It affects not only reading and writing but delays information processing resulting in problems in verbal conversation. For example, pauses while "processing", difficulty with spelling, difficulty with comprehension while reading, problems with "proof" reading, and difficulties with essay writing etc. There are different types of dyslexia. Some are complex, some severe and some which effect mathematics, memory or speech more than other types.

Effects of Dyslexia

  • Fear of failure.
  • Negative self-image because of difficulties in study and learning.
  • History of bullying because of "pauses" in speech or listening.
  • Higher levels of stress caused by the added strain of processing information.
  • Anger management.
  • Unable to measure the passage of time.
  • Over keen to revisit academic areas in a desperate attempt to gain success.
  • Unable to remember facts, dates, numbers or read material.
  • Post-traumatic Stress effect- symptoms of traumatic stress, abuse, relationship difficulties, study issues or work issues.

Habit Disorders
Habit disorders include a range of phenomena like Thumb sucking, Repetitive vocalisations, Tics, Nail biting, Hair pulling, Breath holding, Air swallowing, Head banging, Manipulating parts of the body, Body rocking , Hitting or biting themselves are a few such habits. All children will at some developmental stage display repetitive behaviours but whether they may be considered as disorders depends on their frequency and persistence and the effect they have on physical, emotional and social functioning. These habit behaviours may arise originally from intentional movements which become repeated and then incorporated into the child's customary behaviour. Some habits arise in imitation of adult behaviour. Other habits such as hair pulling or head banging develop as a means of providing a form of sensory input and comfort when the child is alone.
  • Thumb sucking - this is quite normal in early infancy. If it continues, it may interfere with the alignment of developing teeth. Parents should try to ignore it while providing encouragement and reassurance about other aspects of the child's activities.
  • Tics - these are repetitive movements of muscle groups that reduce tension arising from physical and emotional states, involving the head, the neck and hands most frequently. It is difficult for the child with a tic to inhibit it for more than a short period. Parental pressure may exacerbate it, while ignoring the tic can reduce it. Tics can be differentiated from dystonias and dyskinetic movements by their absence during sleep.
  • Stuttering - this is not a tension-reducing habit. It arises in 5% of children as they learn to speak. About 20% of these retain the stuttering into adulthood. It is more prevalent in boys than in girls. Initially, it is better to ignore the problem since most cases will resolve spontaneously. If the Tongue-tied speech persists and is causing concern refer to a speech therapist.
  • Anxiety Disorders and other Phobias- Anxiety and fearfulness are part of normal development; however, when they persist and become generalised they can develop into socially disabling conditions and require intervention. Approximately 6-7% of children may develop anxiety disorders and, of these, 1/3 may be over-anxious while 1/3 may have some phobia. Generalised anxiety disorder, childhood-onset social phobia, separation anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobia are demonstrated by a diffuse or specific anxiety predictably caused by certain situations.
  • School phobia occurs in 1-5% of children and there is a strong association with anxiety and depression. Management is by treating the underlying psychiatric condition, family therapy, parental training and liaison with the school in order to investigate possible reasons for refusal and negotiate re-entry.

Disruptive Behaviour
Many behaviours, that are probably undesirable but a normal occurrence at an early stage of development, can be considered pathological when they present at a later age. In the young child, breath holding or temper tantrums are probably the result of anger and frustration at their inability to control their own environment. For some of these situations it is wise for parents to avoid a punitive response and remove themselves from the room. It is quite likely that the child will be frightened by the intensity of their own behaviour and will need comfort and reassurance. While some isolated incidents of stealing or lying are normal occurrences of early development, they may warrant intervention if they persist. Truancy, arson, antisocial behaviour and aggression should not be considered as normal developmental features.

2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
It is characterised by poor ability to attend to tasks (e.g., makes careless mistakes, avoids sustained mental effort), motor over activity (e.g. fidgets, has difficulty playing quietly) and impulsiveness (e.g., blurts out answers, interrupts others). For the diagnosis to be made, the condition must be evident before the age of 7, present for >6 months, seen both at home and school and impeding the child's functioning. The condition is diagnosed in 3-7% of children of school age. Medication provides reduction of symptoms, at least in the short term. Behavioral modification and neuro-feedback are the non-pharmacological treatments with the largest evidence base.

3. Passive Aggressive Behaviour
Passive aggressive behaviour takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behavior. It is where you are angry with someone but do not or cannot tell them. Instead of communicating honestly when you feel upset, annoyed, irritated or disappointed you may instead bottle the feelings up, shut off verbally, give angry looks, make obvious changes in behaviour, be obstructive, sulky or put up a stone wall. It may also involve indirectly resisting requests from others by evading or creating confusion around the issue. Not going along with things. It can either be covert (concealed and hidden) or overt (blatant and obvious). They might appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well-meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation going on - hence the term "Passive-Aggressive".

Some examples of passive aggression:
  • Non-Communication when there is clearly something problematic to discuss
  • Avoiding/Ignoring when you are so angry that you feel you cannot speak calmly
  • Evading problems and issues, burying an angry head in the sand
  • Procrastinating intentionally putting off important tasks for less important ones
  • Obstructing deliberately stalling or preventing an event or process of change
  • Fear of Competition Avoiding situations where one party will be seen as better at something
  • Ambiguity Being cryptic, unclear, not fully engaging in conversations
  • Sulking Being silent, morose, sullen and resentful in order to get attention or sympathy.
  • Chronic Lateness A way to put you in control over others and their expectations
  • Chronic Forgetting Shows a blatant disrespect and disregard for others to punish in some way
  • Fear of Intimacy Often there can be trust issues with passive aggressive people and guarding against becoming too intimately involved or attached will be a way for them to feel in control of the relationship
  • Making Excuses Always coming up with reasons for not doing things
  • Victimisation Unable to look at their own part in a situation will turn the tables to become the victim and will behave like one
  • Self-Pity the poor me scenario
  • Blaming others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for your own actions.
  • Withholding usual behaviours or roles for example sex, cooking and cleaning etc. to reinforce an already unclear message to the other party
  • Learned Helplessness where a person continually acts like they can't help themselves.

Passive aggression might be seen as a defence mechanism that people use to protect themselves. It might be automatic and might stem from early experiences. What they are protecting themselves from will be unique and individual to each person; although might include underlying feelings of rejection, fear, mistrust, insecurity and/or low self-esteem.

4. Anger
Anger is an emotional response related to one's physiological interpretation of being wrong, offended or ignored. It is an indicator of one's boundaries being violated. One of the responses is to react by retaliating. It can also be a blocked energy. By learning to understand your own anger you can find the source, or the initial wound, and can work to free the feeling. When you are free from anger, you no longer carry the pain and can start reacting to situations appropriately. The aim is to feel comfortable in your own skin. After all, no-one chooses a seat on a bus or train next to someone who is displaying anger.

Anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression., An angry person may lose their objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others and or to themselves. When anger is used unconsciously as a defense tool you end up pushing people away.

5. ABUSE
Any behaviour towards someone that causes deliberate harm or upset can be considered abuse. The common forms of it includes domestic violence, child abuse and emotional abuse.

Sexual Abuse
If a person is pressured to do something sexual against their will, it is a form of sexual abuse. It can range from unwanted touching or photographing to rape. It can be a fine line between two consenting adults experimenting with their sexuality and then one person feeling pressured into performing an act which is degrading or frightening. Pornography, for example, can be enjoyed by adults or may be a humiliation for one. Sexual assault, sex with children under the age of 16, incest, rape by a stranger or inside marriage, are all crimes and matters for the police. Sex without a person's consent due to drugs alcohol or unconsciousness is abusive.

Many women and children who have been abused know the aggressor. The abuser can be a close friend, relative or past partner. Generally, males are more likely to be assaulted by strangers, figures of authority, such as someone at school, or a relative.

Signs of Sexual Abuse
  • changes in behaviour
  • refusal to see a certain person
  • children may run away from home
  • the development of an eating disorder
  • drop in achievement at school or work
  • drug or alcohol use
  • nightmares
  • dread of a medical examination
  • pregnancy
  • Attempting suicide.


Causes of Sexual Abuse
Research and statistics have shown that many aggressors have been the victims of abuse themselves, especially during childhood. Other research suggests that just one in eight continues the cycle of abuse. As with all types of abuse there are issues of powerlessness, control and anger which remain unresolved which means that the wishes of the abused person cannot be respected.

Effects of Sexual Abuse
  • fear and panic attacks
  • low self-esteem, development of depression or an eating disorder
  • problems getting aroused or pain during intercourse
  • headaches, migraines and body pains.


Physical abuse
Physical abuse is when someone hurts another person on purpose and is often seen in cases of domestic violence. It entails a vast spectrum of harmful behaviour, including slapping, burning, biting and kicking. Victims can be of any age and come from all walks of life, and although many survive their injuries, in some cases physical abuse can be fatal. Seeking professional support is essential for helping victims of physical abuse to overcome psychological difficulties that can stem from their traumatic experiences. In many cases physical abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger and other challenges such as sexual issues and trouble trusting new people.

Living with Physical Abuse
Living with physical abuse can be extremely distressing, and victims will usually be in constant fear that the acts of violence - or worse - will happen again. Whatever the degree of physical abuse, there is always a risk of causing a permanent disability, injury or even death.

Causes of Physical Abuse
There is no specific cause of physical abuse, and it is essential that people suffering at the hands of an abuser recognise they are not in any way responsible for what is happening to them. The fault of physical abuse lies solely with the abuser, however it is unknown what specifically triggers someone to threaten and carry out violent attacks on others. Generally it is thought that various risk factors influence the likelihood of someone becoming physically abusive towards another person.

Generally, people who physically abuse others can come from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities, but all are considered to exhibit a set of common patterns. These include:
  • low self-esteem
  • extreme jealousy
  • using threats to control another person
  • an insatiable ego
  • short temper
  • making jokes about violent situations
  • involved in alcohol or drug abuse
  • fascination with violence and weapons
  • exhibits cruelty towards animals
  • Seem emotionally dependent.

Effects of Physical Abuse
The effects of physical abuse are acute and tend to be far-reaching. While the immediate effect is emotionally traumatic and painful, with a visible injury such as a bruise or a cut forming, the long-term effects can be far more damaging - both psychologically and physically.



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