The BPS Research Assistantship Scheme is highly competitive, so the Department is proud to be successful in being awarded two summer internships to Dr Alison Owen and Dr Sarah Rose. We wish both students the best of luck in their Summer Research Assistantships!
One of the award holders, Louise Middling, who is working with Dr Sarah Rose, has written a blog piece about her experiences studying BSc Psychology and Child Development and the focus for the research.
If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I would be a mature student at staffs studying BSc Psychology and Child Development I would never have believed you. I can honestly say though that it has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. The course has opened up a wealth of opportunities for me that I could never have envisaged before I started, and I have met some amazing people along the way.
Having worked as an intervention specialist in a primary school, I have always been interested in exploring new ideas about how children learn and develop and so when the Research Assistantship Module came up as an option module in Level 5, I knew I wanted to take part. I read all of the project proposals hoping to find a project I could really resonate with and learn some new skills that I could benefit from in my final year project. I found myself drawn to a project with Dr. Sarah Rose on the use of social media among young children. I had to admit that my knowledge of social media was scant, and part of me knew that as well as an interesting project, I would need to know all I could to learn to navigate this with my own children in the future!
Luckily I was accepted onto the project and under the guidance of Dr. Rose set about identifying and researching social media platforms designed for use by young children and researching how they interact with each other on these platforms, while looking for relevant research into this topic area. Over the course of the assistantship, I learned so much that has really benefitted me both personally and professionally, and have built skills that I can take forward into the future.
I was delighted when Dr. Rose put me forward for the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme with the British Psychological Society, and was so happy to hear that we had won one of the awards grants. This has enabled us to extend our research and work with Dr. Beatrice Hayes of Royal Holloway in London into completing a scoping review on perceptions of young children’s SNS use over the summer. I can’t wait to see where this research will lead. If you are reading this and wondering whether to complete the Research Assistantship Module, I definitely recommend it. I’d like to thank Dr. Rose for her mentorship and support throughout.
Written by Psychology and Child Development graduate Chrissie Fitch BSc (Hons) MSc MBPsS
During secondary school, I had the opportunity of attending a conference where Elizabeth Loftus discussed her work in eyewitness testimony, and Christine Sizemore shared her experiences with multiple personality disorder. At this time, I also became aware of neurodevelopmental and neurogenerative disorders as I babysat for a disabled infant and cared for my grandmother who had dementia. This piqued my interest in psychology as a young teen and caused me to take the subject at A Level. However, it was during my gap year, almost twelve years ago, whilst teaching English to 5-12-year-olds at a charity school in Sri Lanka and studying online courses in child psychology and counselling that I realised my passion of pursuing it as a career – I now do distance learning course authoring and tutoring myself!
During my degree, I volunteered at a local children’s centre and gained experience of working with children of varying needs and abilities; every child I have met has taught me a lot about life. Obtaining an unconditional place on the BSc (Hons) Psychology and Child Development degree with foundation year at Staffordshire University was a dream come true.
Whilst I majored in child psychology, I really enjoyed the other optional modules because it widened my knowledge and revealed links to my chosen specialism. I would say that the most difficult module was research methods; I tended to get quite frustrated with SPSS and couldn’t get my head around certain qualitative methods. Saying that, I ended up managing to take advanced research methods in final year, which wouldn’t have happened without the help and encouragement of the lecturers and tutors as they made classes interactive and were always on hand to help if we were struggling in any way. My project supervisor helped me with my master’s application, and I am still in contact with her; they really do go above and beyond at Staffs!
Whilst I have worked as an honourary research assistant for a school interventions project, I struggled with finding paid assistant psychologist posts after my master’s. Despite this, I have learnt that determination, hard work and perseverance will pay off when the time is right. I’m currently self-employed and work remotely as a distance learning assessor and internal verifier for the psychology and counselling courses. As a graduate member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), I have attended and volunteered at conferences, edited articles for various magazines and have also written reviews for various divisions as well as BPS The Psychologist magazine. I have also been able to get friends and colleagues featured on the website.
Highlights of my learning are researching about adult intuitive eating habits and body image satisfaction for my undergraduate project and predicting that factors like parenting and self-compassion affect these for my master’s dissertation. With the encouragement of my supervisors and alongside some invaluable friends and colleagues, I got a research article based on both studies published by the BPS Division of Health Psychology and also a literature review by the BPS Division of Educational and Child Psychology. As Visiting Research Associate of the Nutrition and Behaviour Unit at the University of Bristol, I am investigating the parental feeding practices and problems of primary school-aged children with and without a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. More recently, I was appointed as associate editor of the Culture section of BPS The Psychologist magazine.
I have done things differently to many of my peers, most of whom worked part-time alongside the degree and are now in assistant psychologist roles or on doctoral programmes, but I wouldn’t change anything. Everyone is different and has their own set of beliefs, goals and dreams; I am content in the knowledge that I am able to help people in the way that I have been helped. I believe I am continuing to hone my skills in order to work with the sensitivity and dedication that is needed for a psychologist. I can’t wait to someday qualify as a chartered psychologist and be able to make contributions to the improvement of educational and socioemotional outcomes of children, young people and their families when they need it most. It all started at Staffs!
If you have any questions about my journey please email or follow me on twitter!
Written by Kim Buckless, Psychology and Child Development student
I’m a final year mature student on BSc Psychology and Child Development. I wanted to share my experiences and a few tips from working on my final year project so far.
My experiences leading up to the project
I have been worried about my final year project throughout my course. Every time the project was mentioned my anxiety levels would be through the roof, thinking about SPSS, word counts, discussions and disseminating my findings. Now I’m in my final year and working on the project it is a little daunting, but I am determined to plough on and work on a project that I am really interested in.
My project title is ‘Investigating the link between Autism and Eating Behaviours in Children and Adolescents’ (yes, it is a mouthful!). I am currently in the recruitment phase, which can be challenging as my project is looking for a specific demographic of participants (I know, haven’t made it easy for myself).
Thinking about your project?
Read, and read a lot. I recommend having a read around the topics that you are interested in. Some articles include suggestions for future research which can be really useful. The project can be on any topic area in Psychology, this is a great aspect of the Psychology courses at Staffs as it gives you the opportunity to choose the topic area yourself and then work with your supervisor.
In addition to reading in your topic area I highly recommend participating in research projects. This gives you many ideas on different methodologies and other research areas that can help to develop your ideas when you are ready to put your project together. You will see the standard consent and debrief forms that you will adapt for your study. Furthermore, the University library has helpful guides if you are considering using Qualtrics to collect questionnaire responses that are worth checking out!
Working with your supervisor
If you haven’t got a clue about what project you’d like to conduct don’t worry! The lecturers do a pitch on their areas of interest and some potential ideas that you could build on in level 5. This enables you to consider which supervisor’s you might like to work with, and you can have a chat with them about your project ideas. This is a really good way to assess the feasibility of your project and gain feedback on your ideas. You can also chat about what the project will involve e.g. whether the study should be quantitative or qualitative, which may be a big deciding factor on your materials and which supervisor you choose.
If you still can’t decide don’t worry, you can submit multiple ideas to different potential supervisors, ranking them from your most preferred option at the end of level 5. This enables students and supervisors to be matched based on methodology, topic area and your preferences. Your project supervisor needs to be someone that you feel you will get on with because the number of meetings and emails about the project are relentless! In my case my supervisor is always there to support me and offer those much-needed pep talks!
Remember all the little steps count!
Remember every part of the project you complete e.g., handing in your ethics form, is one ticked off your list, so be proud of yourself. Also, when you feel like it becomes overwhelming, take a break, and come back to it when you feel ready. Take advantage of the fact that you are being guided through every stage of your project as most careers in psychology will involve research. But don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s the best way to learn for the future.
Interested in participating?
Finally, I’m going to give my project a cheeky plug, so feel free to take part, share or tweet on your social media. If you have a child with a confirmed diagnosis of Autism, aged between 9 and 16 and fully verbal please do consider participating! The study will involve you and your child answering questions about their behaviours and thoughts around eating. It will also involve your child completing a brief multiple-choice quiz to assess their understanding of language. Thank you so much!
Dr Richard Jolley writes about recent coviddrawings research and how you could help!
How has the current coronavirus situation changed the lives of children? What would the children themselves tell us?
The current coronavirus situation presents a unique opportunity to discover the diverse characteristics and consequences of a pandemic upon children. When children are facing changes and challenges to their lives it’s important to allow them to communicate how they are thinking and feeling. Sometimes they’re happy to talk about their experience, but sometimes they prefer to express themselves in other more creative ways, such as making a picture.
Since June of this year a group of researchers in the Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University have been asking children and parents across the UK to help us understand how children are experiencing the coronavirus situation through their drawings. It is being led by myself, Dr Richard Jolley, with co-investigators Dr Sarah Rose, Dr Claire Barlow and Dr Romina Vivaldi. It has been funded by the School of Life Sciences and Education (LSE). This has enabled us not only to purchase a dedicated website and database for the project but also to employ a final year student (Gina Halliwell) as a research assistant to manage the day-to-day running of the project. You may like to read Gina’s own blog on her research experience on the project!
So what is involved in the project?
Parents are directed to the website www.coviddrawings.org.uk where all the information about the project and what they need to do is provided. We even have made a video just for children to explain the project! In essence, children are asked to think about their life since the coronavirus entered the UK, how it might have changed their lives, how they have felt about that, and then to draw a picture about it. There is a comments box provided if the child wishes to write about their drawing (potentially with the parent’s help). A parent then takes a picture of the drawing and uploads it to the website.
So, what themes might you expect children to show in their drawings? The highly transferable nature of the virus? Or perhaps the behaviours we have all been asked to do to limit the risk of transmission – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolation? Then, there is the psychosocial impact upon the children, particularly the isolation from friends during the lockdown. Will children show psychological reactions of fear, sadness or loneliness? And what about the changes in the routine of their lives, such as disruption to school attendance and different family dynamics at home? Has this led to boredom and restlessness, or presented an opportunity to spend more time on activities and family they love? Despite the challenges the current situation has brought children we are seeing children communicate more positive aspects through their drawings.
What themes can you see in this drawing?
Whatever themes the children communicate we are interested in whether they vary across the ages of the sample, which might indicate that developmentally children have experienced the current situation differently. Also, will there be differences in the themes communicated between boys and girls? In addition to age and gender, we will be exploring whether the themes vary according to a set of demographic and situational variables. For instance, which country the child lives in, whether they live in a rural or urban environment, if either parent is a key worker, and whether the child returned to school – all of these could have an impact on how the child draws their experience of the coronavirus. In addition, we ask the parents to indicate on a scale the extent in which the family health has been affected by the coronavirus situation, and ask the child to choose from a series of faces how they have felt about their life in these times.
Would you like to participate?
And here is the good news – we are very keen to recruit more children and parents! If you are reading this blog as a parent of a child between 4 and 14 years, and you live in the UK, do you think your child would like to draw their own experience of the coronavirus situation? In which case please have a look at the project’s website www.coviddrawings.org.uk If you have any further questions please contact the project email address email@example.com and we will respond as quickly as we can to your query.
This week they have been having a go at some Theory of Mind tasks. These tasks are particularly suitable for children between the ages of about 3- and 7-years-old. We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments, please tweet us @StaffsPsych or add your comments to this post!
Psychologists are interested in how humans make sense of the world, this includes how they make sense of what others think. This ability to theorise and predict what someone else might be thinking develops with age and is called ‘Theory of Mind’.
This skill of predicting what another person may desire, believe, or feel usually develops between 3 and 7 years of age. The more psychologists have studied the development of theory of mind the more they have realised that it is not a single skill, instead it is a series of complex skills which develop over time.
False Belief Task 1: Sally and Ann
First we have had a go at recreating some of the classic Theory of Mind tasks testing ‘false beliefs’. These tasks require a child to understand that others may not have knowledge that they do, and which is correct. Therefore, they are called ‘false belief’ tasks as they require the child to recognise that someone else may have a ‘false belief’ about a situation.
One of the most famous of these false belief tasks is the story about two dolls, Sally and Anne:
Sally has a marble which she puts in a basket. She then goes on a walk. While she is on the walk Anne moves the marble to a box. Sally comes back from her walk and the child is asked where Sally will look for her marble.
To ‘pass’ this task the child needs to respond that Sally will look in the basket as she doesn’t know that the marble has been moved to the box.
Both my 4- and 6-year old seemed to enjoy this and found it relatively easy. If you would like to see the videos do have a look here. I used a paper prompt for the story about Sally and Anne, if you look on google you will find a few to choose from.
False Belief Task 2: Smarties Tube
Other versions of the false belief task have also been developed. Probably the most famous of these is the Smarties tube task. In this a child is shown a smarties tube (or some other familiar container, we used a pencil box).
The child is asked what they think is inside, as long as you have chosen something the child is familiar with, they should give you the expected answer, e.g. Smarties (or in my case pencils).
However, what the child doesn’t know is that prior to the experiment you have taken the expected contents out and replaced them with something unexpected! You then show the child the unexpected contents, this often gives them a good giggle. Then you close the container again and ask them what someone else, who hasn’t seen inside the container, would think was inside.
My 6-year old really enjoyed this task as he found it very funny. My 4-year old was a little more confused by it though (video can be found here). She thought that Nana would think there were sweeties in the pencil box! I did wonder if this might reflected the box that I had chosen as maybe she thought Nana would not be familiar with the box and therefore that it contained pencils Alternatively, maybe there is something about this task that she just found more difficult than the task about Sally and Anne?
Diverse Desire Task
Since the development of the false belief tasks it has become recognised that these tasks test just one aspect of Theory of Mind. If we are interested in children’s understanding of the minds of others, then we need more tasks as people’s minds are very complex. We need tasks that test children’s understanding of different types of thoughts, not just someone’s knowledge and beliefs.
One of these more recent tasks has been designed to test children’s understanding that the likes and desires of others may differ to their own. To test this, you will need a picture of two possible snacks (we used pictures of a cookie and a carrot) and a soft toy who can be the character in the story. Now you are ready to engage in the following conversation with your child.
Here are two different snacks, a carrot, and a cookie (show them the pictures). Which would you like best?
Here is Farmer Tom (the name of the toy we used), and it is his snack time!
Farmer Tom really likes (opposite to what child said). He does not like (what the child says), he likes (opposite to what the child said).
So now it is snack time, Farmer Tom can choose what he would like to eat. Which snack will they choose, a cookie or a carrot?
To ‘pass’ this task the child needs to choose the snack for the toy character that the character likes – rather than the one that they would choose. Both of my children found this quite easy, you can see them having a go here. I was not surprised by this as understanding of diverse desires has been found to be one of the first Theory of Mind skills to develop, usually before the understanding of false belief
Real – Apparent Emotion Task
As well has having beliefs and desires we have emotions too. Some more recent Theory of Mind tasks, such as this story about Sam have aimed to investigate children’s understanding of the emotions that another person might feel and show – and that these may not always be the same as people can try and hide their emotions.
To test this understanding of emotion you will need a couple of paper props: a silhouette, or outline of a boy, and three face emojis (happy, neutral and sad). Make sure that your child is confident about the feelings that each of three faces represent and introduce the silhouette of the boy explaining that it is ‘Sam’ the boy in the story that you are about to read.
Now you are ready to read the story:
This story is about Sam. I am going to ask you some questions about how Sam is feeling, how he is really feeling on the inside, and how he looks on his face. He might feel one way inside but look a different way on his face. I want you to tell me how he really feels inside AND then how he looks on his face, okay?
Sam’s friends were playing together and telling jokes.
One of the older children, Rosie, told a mean, unkind joke about Sam and everyone laughed.
Everyone thought it was very funny but Sam didn’t.
But he didn’t want the other children to see how he felt about the joke, so Sam tried to hide how he felt.
So, how do you think Sam felt on the inside when everyone else laughed at the joke?
AND how did Sam try to look on his face?
To pass this test children need to recognise that although Sam felt sad inside, he tried to disguise his feelings by looking neutral or happy. I was surprised at how easy both of my children found this task as understanding of emotion has generally been found to be one of the later Theory of Mind skills to develop. This led me to wonder whether maybe taking the ‘test’ in a familiar environment with a familiar adult who they are used to listening to made it easier for them to pass the test?
Finally, some reflections on these tests…
Although the theory of mind tasks are tests of social cognition they also require good language skills as children really have to listen and understand what you are saying otherwise they would be likely to give the wrong answers. I think, like the Piagetian tasks I wrote about last week, that when we are able to present these tasks in a child friendly way that makes sense to the child we may find that some abilities develop slightly sooner than the theorist originally thought. These reminds us how important the environment and context is for children, if they feel comfortable and relaxed they may be better able to show us their true cognitive abilities.
Let us know what you think!
Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.
I am Sarah Rose, the Course Leader for the BSc Psychology and Child Development Award and while I have been at home with my children, I have been having a go at recreating some classic cognitive psychology experiments with them. Today we had a go at some of the classical Piagetian Tasks. These tasks are particularly suitable for children between the ages of about 4 and 8 years old. We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments, please tweet us @StaffsPsych or add your comments to this post!
Jean Piaget developed an influential theory of cognitive development, suggesting that as children grow older the way that they understand and think about the world alters. He was one of the first the argue that the way that young children understand the world is not just an immature version of adult understanding, instead he argued that it was fundamentally different. He developed a series of tasks, known as conservation tasks, which demonstrated this. I have had a go at recreating these tasks at home with my 4- and 6-year-old. If you cannot load any of the videos within the blog piece please watch them here.
Task 1: Conservation of quantity
Materials: Traditionally this task is done with water, but to make tidying up easier we used rice. In addition to this some plastic glasses (ideally transparent) of different shapes and sizes, although two of them need to be the same size, are needed.
First, put an approximately equal amount of rice in the two glasses that are the same size.
Ask your child if there is the same amount of rice in both.
If they say ‘no’ encourage them to move a little from one to the other until they are happy that there is the same amount in both.
Once they are happy with this ask them to pour the rice from one of the glasses into another one (ideally one that is noticeably taller and narrower, or fatter and wider).
Now ask them if there is the same amount in both glasses, or if one glass now has more rice in than the other.
You might be surprised by their answer, you could ask them to explain it to you.
Results: According to Piaget, and also my recreation of this experiment with my own children, under the age of about 6-years might struggle with this, and believe that by pouring the rice from one container to another the amount has actually changed. This suggests that their mental representation and understanding of quantity might be quite different to ours. I was interested to see how my 6-year old’s understanding was clearly still shifting and developing as he explained why it looked like there was more in one glass than the other but actually it was the same amount.
This is how my two children got on:
Task 2: Conservation of number
Materials: 14 counters of equal size, we used pennies as I could not find the counters. You might also like a Teddy Bear to act as an assistant!
Place the counters in two rows so that both rows have the same number of counters and they are equally spaced.
Ask your child if both rows have the same number of counters (hopefully, they will agree that they do but if they do not, just remove a counter from both rows until they agree that there is the same number).
Now either you, or that cheeky Teddy assisting you, could move the counters in one of the rows so that they are spaced further apart. This will make one of the rows appear to be longer.
Now ask your child whether there are the same number of counters in both rows, or whether one row has more counters than the other.
Again, you might be surprised by their answer and you could ask them to explain their thinking to you.
Results: Again, children under the age of about 6-years old may struggle with this. It has been found that making slight adaptions to Piaget’s original task, such as having a naughty Teddy assist, can help children of a younger age to pass this task. It was still a bit tricky for my 4-year-old though!
Task 3: Conservation of mass
Materials: Two balls of play dough that are different colours. A surface that you can roll the play dough on.
Instructions: Take the two balls of play dough and roll them into balls. These two balls should be the same size, and you should check with your child to make sure that they think they are the same size too! If they do not adjust the size by removing small amounts from the one that they think is biggest until they are happy that they are both the same size. Now, while your child watches, take one of the balls and roll it so that it becomes more of a cylinder shape. Once you have done this ask your child whether both shapes have the same amount of playdough, or whether one has more than the other. Again, you might be surprised by their answer and you could ask them to explain their thinking to you.
Results: Children younger than about 7-years-old are likely to tell you that the amount has changed. Piaget found that children did not show adult understanding all his conservation tasks at the same point, rather as they developed, they would ‘pass’ some before they passed others. This task involving mass is often passed later than those involving quantity or number. Again I found it really interesting to see the difference in my 4 and 6-year olds understanding.
We would love to hear how your children got on with these experiments. Please tweet us @StaffsPsych!
If you have not been able to view the videos within the blog piece you can find them all here.
Although this has been going on for several weeks now and it looks like restrictions are beginning to relax, possibly even with some children going back to school next month, this is not necessarily making the strain on families any easier.
So, I am going to give you six tips based on psychology evidence and theory.
They won’t necessarily make parenting any easier, but I hope they may give you something useful to think about – and maybe make you feel a little more confident about some of the decisions that you make as a parent.
Tip 1: Show connection
A large body of evidence suggests that feeling “securely attached”, connected and loved is important for children’s development and wellbeing.
For young children, physical touch is very important and can reduce stress. Furthermore, there is no evidence that being more affectionate with your children will make them clingy, in fact to the contrary it will help them feel safe and build their emotional resilience.
Older children may not want you to show them physical affection, but it is important to still find time to connect with them. Maybe making some time to exercise together, or sitting down to watch a film as family, may provide an opportunity for this.
Tip 2: Be a balanced parent
While it is important that we listen to and respond to our children’s needs it is also important that we place reasonable, age appropriate demands on them. Psychology evidence suggests that we should aim to be an “authoritative” parent who sets the boundaries and has clear expectations of our children while also being supportive and responsive to our children.
Tip 3: Manage anger (own, child and between children!)
It is completely normal for both us and our children to feel angry sometimes, especially during the stress of a pandemic. Remember that anger is often a symptom of stress and the demands of the environment we find ourselves in.
This means that you should not feel cross with yourself, or your child for showing signs of anger. Instead see it as a symptom, a sign that you, or your child, need to try and take some time to calm down and reduce your stress levels. Maybe now would be a good time to go outside and run around the garden (whatever your age) or lock yourself in the toilet (maybe just for adults this one!).
Tip 4: Develop routine
This pandemic is affecting everybody, but it is affecting people in different ways.
You might be at home trying to work or worrying about whether you will have a job to go back to after furlough while also feeling pressured to entertain your children and support their learning.
Or you might be a key worker, working extra hours, feeling stressed about the risks to yourself and your family as you drop your child off at school or nursery.
Whatever your circumstances, all our experiences, both as parents and as children, are likely to be very different to what they were. This can be very unsettling for everyone. However, routines can help to give us a sense of control and a sense of predictability within our lives. So, try and develop a routine that works for your family.
There may have to be adjustments and flexibility but knowing that there are certain times during the day when parents will focus on work, children will focus on school work, entertain themselves or everyone will focus on having fun, or maybe exercising together, can be very reassuring for everyone. This can also help with those feelings of parent guilt as you try and meet the demands of working and meeting your children’s needs.
Tip 5: Manage screen time
Something that you may be worrying about is the amount of time that your child is spending in front of a screen, especially as more and more providers are making educational resources available online for free. Evidence suggests that screen time can be part of a balanced childhood, and indeed it may be very useful to make it part of your daily routine.
I have heard some lovely stories of extended family and friends interacting with children over screens, for example helping out with some schoolwork or reading a story, and evidence suggest that connecting with others in this way is very positive for children.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that although children learn best through interacting with others screen content can support their development. So do not feel guilty about using screen time within your daily routine. With children and young people spending more time online, many parents may be worried about their online safety. Through talking to your child, voicing your concerns and regularly checking in with them when they are online you can support them through promoting dialogue about online safety and what they should do if they feel unsure or threatened.
Tip 6: Build “emotional resilience”
It is a fact of life that things are not always easy, we want to try and develop our children so that they have the inner strength to cope with this, I think my dad would have called this having a thick skin!
The suggestions that I have given already will help your child to develop this emotional resilience, or thick skin. Other things that are important are talking to your child, try and let them know what to expect:
Talk about times of change that they have experienced – explain that this will be a time of change.
Provide clear answers to questions, that are as truthful and as age appropriate as possible.
It is okay to tell themthat you are worried too, or that you do not know when the virus will end or when they will be able to see Nana and Grandad again.
But also reassure them that you will look after them and help them feel safe and help them to keep perspective, for example by shifting beyond the current situation to a time when families will be able to be together again.
Of course, talking may not be easy, but try and open conversations and look for opportunities when your child may feel under less pressure, for example maybe while you are watching TV, taking some exercise together or engaging in a craft activity. Ask them their opinion about what is happening and listen to their answer.
Parenting is hard and I certainly make lots of mistakes. But do not be hard on yourself, try and praise yourself and your children when things are going well. Notice and remember the good times as evidence suggests that praise and positive memories are much better for promoting good behaviour than punishment.
Here are some resources that you might find useful:
The National Autistic Society defines autism as a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them”.
A little about my children:
I have two beautiful little
boys and two older children.
my little boys is diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum condition.
little boy is currently undergoing assessment for attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia.
Our journey for an autism diagnosis:
At the age of 9 my son was
diagnosed with high functioning autism. The journey to get the diagnosis was
challenging. From the age of 4 my son:
tantrums that would last for hours after school
restless and was struggling with the children at school
Each parent’s evening, I
would have the same feedback that my son was “academically really intelligent,
but he lacks concentration and fidgets too much!”.
Until one teacher at a parent’s evening said, “I believe you, I can see traits of autism, but they are very subtle”. Due to this teacher acknowledging these traits in my son and adapting his learning environment he:
fewer major tantrums after school
happy again and was sharing stories about his day
My son is now 12 and has
moved from primary school to secondary school. During the transition we are
trying to raise awareness of autism and support him, and other children, to
achieve their potential.
Why I chose to study Psychology and Child Development:
Based on the journey that I
have been on with my boys I decided that I wanted to be able to help other
children, caregivers, families and schools during the diagnosis and support of
I am completing my course as
a mature student and I am really looking forward to graduating with this degree
to put what I am learning into action!
You can read more about autism on the National Autistic Society’s webpage.
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The BPS Undergraduate Assistantship Award marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. It allows students to work alongside a senior researcher to develop skills in research development as well as research measures. With the support and supervision of Dr. Sarah Rose, I decided to apply for this Award to carry out research into the potential of mindfulness colouring for reducing exam anxiety among A-Level pupils.
Although I was nervous when applying for the Assistantship, the application process was also exciting as I could focus on a topic that was of great interest to me. My interest in reducing anxiety felt by A-level pupils preparing for their exams came in part from my own experience. A-level exams are one of the most crucial points in education; pressure to do well is increased as the next stages is to move on to study at University, apply for a job or for an apprenticeship, all of which require good grades. The colouring aspect of this research came from the expertise of Dr Sarah Rose. Sarah’s expertise gave me the confidence to want to assess mindfulness-based colouring as a means of reducing the anxiety induced by exams.
As I prepared the application form, I enjoyed carrying out in depth reading about exam anxiety and mindfulness-based colouring interventions. It was also a great opportunity to put my knowledge of research design that I had already developed during the first 18 months of my degree in Psychology and Child Development into practice. I not only to think of what research I wanted to conduct but, also how I would go about measuring and collecting the data from participants. In particular, the experience that I had gained during the Research Assistantship Module, which had allowed me to develop skill in data collection, helped me to plan what I would need to do.
When choosing the materials for the study I wanted to take measures as accurately as possible, so I decided to combine self-report measures and physiological measures. This led me to use a BioPac, this was a great opportunity to learn about a new piece of equipment under the guidance of Paul Gallimore, one of the Psychology Technicians. Under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Rose, I selected questionnaires to assess state anxiety and mindfulness. The conditions were constructed based on past research and past interventions including mindfulness colouring. This led me to use mandala colouring, both with and without the addition of mindfulness instructions, and a control condition in which participants spent time doing a free drawing.
Originally we had planned to try and collect data from 90 A-level pupils but due to various delays this was not possible as the exam period was almost over when we began data collection. So, although I collected a small amount of pilot data which gave me valuable experience in working with colleges, I plan to collect data again next summer.
To make the most of the Research Assistantship we decided to write up our plan for the research as a preregistered report. This means that we have submitted the introduction and method sections to a journal and are now awaiting their feedback. Writing this was interesting as it differed more than I expected to the write up of a laboratory report. It requires a lot more references to past research as well as a description of how we intended to analyse the data.
We have also submitted a poster for the BPS Annual conference next year. I found this more interesting and fun to create as I was able to think about how to make the deign engaging. The poster required an outline of why the research was being conducted, what we expected to find, how we were going to collect and analyse the data. Both the preregistered report and the poster have helped me to learn how to write more concisely and to report research in an accurate and detailed manor. The Research Assistantship has given me an insight into what being a researcher is like and helped me to develop skills that will be useful for my third-year project and my future research career.