Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rise in mental health referrals for children experiencing neurodiversity

38% of children and young people accessing Kids Inspire’s charitable mental health services have described themselves as having additional needs, including neurodiversity, in the latest six-month impact analysis (April 2021-October 2021).

Since April 2021, referrals from parents and teachers for children and young people presenting with emotional, behavioural and/or social difficulties which indicate neurodivergent presentations has remained on the rise, while issues such as anxiety, social anxiety, peer relationship struggles and bullying have doubled, which are also common in neurodivergent children.

“Society is learning to adapt and understand neurodiversity more each day. More parents and teachers are identifying behaviours or difficulties that are negatively impacting a child’s wellbeing and then they reach out to us for help.” – said, Nicole Lenihan, a Kids Inspire Art Therapist specialising in children and young people.

Nicole went on to say: “Its important to be client lead in our work with children, allowing autonomy for our creative work. No two children are the same and this includes those experiencing neurodiverse traits. I avoid ‘labels’, as this can be minimising for a child’s experience of their difficulties. Rather, I use psychoeducation to help clients and their families better understand their difficulties and wonder how we might best accommodate these differences.”

“Children who are neurodivergent may find verbal communication challenging, and so in art therapy the art can facilitate this communication in images; and in doing so allows a non-verbal child to access mental health support.”

Services at Kids Inspire centre on the child/young person and are often inclusive of family support, whether that’s psychoeducation of therapeutic services, the aim is for long-term sustainable outcome for the child in the centre.

Karen Chivas, a Kids Inspire Creative Counsellor for children and young people, recently provided psychoeducation to a parent, she said: “Sometimes we parents are so busy managing whatever comes our way with children who don’t quite fit the mainstream mould, we forget that while our thoughts and actions are focussed on our child, this might not be translating into the child getting quality time with us every day just playing, crafting, chatting and having an opportunity to be heard or to enjoy a sense of belonging, which they don’t always get outside of the family. Feeling heard and included can have a big impact on our sense of wellbeing.”

Over time, Kids Inspire services have adapted to include more group work and trauma informed practice modules linked to neurodiversity, to make them more accessible to neurodivergent individuals or to support a parent/carer, after the charity noticed an upward trend in associated presentations and traits.

This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week and it’s an opportunity for all to learn more about neurodiversity and to encourage a more understanding society and community.


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