08 Apr 20212-minute read
Healthcare

Engaging people in healthcare practices is a challenge for all clinicians but especially so when it comes to children. Now that technology has seen a dramatic upsurge in clinical use through necessity (ie. as a direct result of the global pandemic), the challenges of engaging clients specifically in digitally integrated therapy may be top of mind for many practitioners.

The good news: while there are some specific considerations to address, for the most part, there’s very little difference in making therapy more engaging, whether using technology or not. However, where digital devices really come into their own is with the younger generation; those who have grown up or are growing up with technology (and loving it!).

Taking a (little) human-centred approach to technology

Children and young people have been born into a world where the Internet and smart devices are commonplace and, therefore, they are far more familiar with technology and less intimidated by it than any other generation. However, despite such familiarity, it’s likely they won’t understand how to use such technology to elicit therapeutic benefits. This means it’s vital that practitioners possess the skills and the patience to show young people why, how and when to best make use of their digital tools – and do so in an age-appropriate manner.

At the same time, professionals need to be guided by a child’s digital preferences. While part of the appeal of using digitally integrated therapy is its ability to captivate and engage kids, it’s important to know that not all apps or games will suit all children. Furthermore, despite developers’ intentions, apps and games tend to be used by people differently depending on individual traits and preferences such as their age, technical skill and competency, their personality and motivations, to name just a few factors.  

Healthcare practitioners need to have an intimate understanding of how to use the digital and technological tools at their disposal so they can confidently guide and reassure both parents and children, and be confident in the efficacy of the results achieved. One of the many benefits of using technology is that it’s constantly changing and evolving. As the professionals guiding children through the treatment journey, it means clinicians need to be as dynamic and adaptable as the applications they use. 

Building on the advantages of built-in engagement

Practitioners who work with kids are accustomed to finding new and inventive ways of connecting with them – playing on the floor, singing songs, creating worksheets and just generally integrating fun into their work as a way of connecting. Incorporating technology is essentially the same but just using a different toolkit.

For example, a clinician might have a client who loves superheroes. In order to build rapport and meet therapeutic goals, they are likely to take great pains to incorporate superhero colouring-in sheets, app and other activities in the treatment. Contrastingly, digitally integrated therapy can shortcut the work required to secure ‘buy in’. If it’s bright, interactive and on a screen, it’s more likely to grab a child’s attention, whether it’s about superheroes or not!

As an added bonus, children get to use digital devices in their own time, which only reinforces the important work practitioners are doing with them in the real world.

What might be limiting for some clinicians is not knowing where to look for appropriate digital tools. There are many professional development resources available but one place you may like to start is with Fiona Zandt and Suzanne Barrett’s website where they offer some great blog posts and tips for therapists working with children (note: since COVID, some of their resources now refer specifically to digital tools). 

In conclusion

Technology comes with an inherent ‘built-in’ engagement factor for people of a certain age or generation but that doesn’t mean that clinicians can take a set-and-forget approach – we need to be mindful of what works for different personalities and how we can encourage them to use that technology to elicit the appropriate results.

Whether coming from a tech-savvy mindset or not, practitioners also have a responsibility to fully understand the ins and outs of the digitally integrated therapies they are using. Only then will they be able to use the technology in that way it is intended.

Engaging people in healthcare practices is a challenge for all clinicians but especially so when it comes to children. Now that technology has seen a dramatic upsurge in clinical use through necessity (ie. as a direct result of the global pandemic), the challenges of engaging clients specifically in digitally integrated therapy...

24 Mar 20212-minute read
Healthcare

'Gamification’ is a word that’s being used more and more in our everyday lives. It’s likely to be a concept that most people know when they see it but struggle to define in its varying contexts.

'Gamification’ is a word that’s being used more and more in our everyday lives. It’s likely to be a concept that most people know when they see it but struggle to define in its varying contexts.

16 Feb 20212-minute read
Insider

TALi Health is thrilled to announce that it is working with leading advocacy and advisory organisation SPELD Victoria through a long term collaboration to assist in making a vital contribution to improve learning opportunities and educational outcomes for children with learning challenges.

TALi Health is thrilled to announce that it is working with leading advocacy and advisory organisation SPELD Victoria through a long term collaboration to assist in making a vital contribution to improve learning opportunities and educational outcomes for children with learning challenges.

10 Feb 20214-minute read
Parents

We all have our own ideas about what ‘attention’ means. However, when asked to fully describe attention, many of us will struggle to provide an answer that goes beyond a simple explanation of ‘focusing on something’ or ‘paying attention’.

We all have our own ideas about what ‘attention’ means. However, when asked to fully describe attention, many of us will struggle to provide an answer that goes beyond a simple explanation of ‘focusing on something’ or ‘paying attention’.

21 Dec 20203-minute read
Parents, Healthcare

How a brain develops hinges on a complex dance between the genes you inherit, and the life and education experiences you encounter from a young age. These interactions not only establish the context with which children understand and adapt to the world in which they live, they directly affect the way our brains are wired.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change: the ability to absorb information, learn new skills, adapt to new environments and establish relationships with others and the greater world around us.

Studies have shown, by the age of three, a child’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. Because of this neuroplasticity, identifying and addressing learning disabilities at a young age is crucial to maximising a child's chances to make the most of their educational experiences, to effectively socialise and interact with others for collaboration and cooperation, and to function to the best of their neurological and emotional capacity.

While many of us can identify with being asked, or told in some instances, to ‘pay attention’, understanding the many different layers of attention – and their impacts on our development as individuals – plays an important role in equipping us to maximise our potential as adults later in life. 

According to Amir Raz and Jason Buhle in their research paper, 'Typologies of attentional networks, "Great minds have grappled with the study of attention, but, in 1890, William James was probably the first to write about its multiplicity. Several researchers have since suggested that there are multiple components to attention (for example, Allan Mirsky and colleagues), and the field of attention is now one of the most studied in the cognitive sciences."

"An early influential model, which suggested that attention has various neurological underpinnings was first proposed by Michael Posner (1971). There are at least three key functionally and anatomically distinct types of supramodal attentional varieties," continue Raz and Buhle. "Although in the early 1970s these attentional networks were termed selection, capacity and alertness, over time they have gone through a few variations, and today we refer to them as executive, orienting and alerting, respectively."

At TALi, we subscribe to the Posner theory of attention, and we refer to these three attention domains as Executive Attention, Sustained Attention and Selective Attention.

Executive Attention

Executive Attention – sometimes also referred to as supervisory, conflict resolution and focussed attention – refers to the ability of individuals to regulate thought, behaviour and emotion, especially in conflict situations where there’s a range of potential responses. It’s a key plank in a person’s ability to problem-solve or execute complex cognitive tasks.

When it comes to children, Executive Attention has an important role to play in developing relationships and interactions with everything around them. Simply put, a deficiency in Executive Attention makes it difficult for people to create and keep lasting friendships, interact appropriately with teachers or authority figures, participate in a range of activities (sports, group learning and so forth) without compromising others in that group from performing at their best.

Children with Executive Attention vulnerability panic when routines or rules change, and struggle with switching their focus from one task to another.

Sustained Attention

Sustained Attention is about the ability of a person to focus on an activity or stimulus over an extended period of time. Having good sustained attention helps children efficiently carry out tasks and activities in our everyday lives, especially the kinds of tasks and responsibilities that take a substantial amount of time to complete.

In adults, Sustained Attention is important for functions like driving a vehicle. Fatigue and distractions are among the biggest contributing factors to road incidents, so having a good level of Sustained Attention is a cognitive capacity that helps us remain focused and alert on our surroundings and road conditions to avoid any accidents.

Sustained Attention levels in children determine their ability to comprehend and absorb what they’re learning in the classroom and at home, and for how long. Low levels of Sustained Attention can contribute to poor academic performance, which, if left unchecked, can adversely impact a child’s quality of life and opportunities to thrive.

Selective Attention

Generally, attention is a limited resource. Selective Attention, therefore, enables us to efficiently tune out distractions or unimportant details and focus on what matters at any given point in time. We focus our attention on certain things in our environment, while other things 'take a backseat', for lack of a better description.

A popular way of explaining Selective Attention is the 'restaurant' example. When we dine at a restaurant, there’s a lot going on: waiting staff moving from table to table taking and delivering orders, activity in the kitchen, patrons being seated or departing after a meal and possibly talking loudly... it's a range of other stimuli happening all at once. Selective Attention is our cognitive ability to place all these competing elements aside and focus exclusively on the conversation happening with the person, or people, at our table.

In relation to children, Selective Attention refers to their ability to filter out distractions in the presence of distracting and competing stimuli – i.e. being able to remain focused on the teacher, or completing tasks despite other students talking and chatting or activities on a nearby sporting field taking their attention away from the task at hand.

Being easily distracted, or being unable to filter out competing stimuli, makes it difficult for children to absorb and retain information, which will adversely affect academic performance.

 

Conclusion

By detecting attention vulnerabilities and then strengthening attention skills at a young age (what is broadly termed 'early intervention'), when the neuroplasticity of the brain is at its highest level, we give our children a better chance to thrive.

Using a combination of cognitive and behavioural interventions early in life is the best way to address attention issues and improve positive outcomes.

This is what we do at TALi.      

How a brain develops hinges on a complex dance between the genes you inherit, and the life and education experiences you encounter from a young age. These interactions not only establish the context with which children understand and adapt to the world in which they live, they directly affect the way our brains are wired.

16 Nov 20202-minute read
Schools

We’re proud to announce that TALi is partnering with Thrive by Five, an initiative of Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic organisation, Mindaroo Foundation, to help campaign for a high-quality and universally accessible early learning system for children in Australia.

We’re proud to announce that TALi is partnering with Thrive by Five, an initiative of Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic organisation, Mindaroo Foundation, to help campaign for a high-quality and universally accessible early learning system for children in Australia.

28 Oct 20202-minute read
Healthcare

Growing the reputation and program uptake with healthcare professionals is a major ambition of TALi. We know that early intervention is not only important but, in some cases, critical to a child’s ability to achieve gains in a variety of cognitive developmental milestones early on in life.

Growing the reputation and program uptake with healthcare professionals is a major ambition of TALi. We know that early intervention is not only important but, in some cases, critical to a child’s ability to achieve gains in a variety of cognitive developmental milestones early on in life.

24 Jul 20202-minute read
Parents, Healthcare

Children are innately equipped with resilience, to work through challenges and cope with stress. It’s not something that kids either have or don’t have; it’s a skill that kids can strengthen as they grow.

Children are innately equipped with resilience, to work through challenges and cope with stress. It’s not something that kids either have or don’t have; it’s a skill that kids can strengthen as they grow.

24 Jul 20202-minute read
Parents

Children are innately equipped with resilience, to work through challenges and cope with stress. It’s not something that kids either have or don’t have; it’s a skill that kids can strengthen as they grow.

Children are innately equipped with resilience, to work through challenges and cope with stress. It’s not something that kids either have or don’t have; it’s a skill that kids can strengthen as they grow.

18 Jul 20202-minute read
Parents

“As mother to a child with ASD (Autism), the challenges have been enormous and mentally exhausting,” explains Amy*. “Having to advocate for my son on a regular basis and educate others has been an ongoing battle.”

“As mother to a child with ASD (Autism), the challenges have been enormous and mentally exhausting,” explains Amy*. “Having to advocate for my son on a regular basis and educate others has been an ongoing battle.”

11 May 20205-minute read
Parents

Monique Cain is a mother from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula who drew from her experiences as a parent of two children with Autism to give voice to the Autism experience and help unravel the mystery of Autism for others, particularly young children.

She created The Everyday Autism Series – a series of children’s books that uses easy-to-understand language to explain how the world looks through her daughter Madi’s eyes. With Madi as the storyteller (and sometimes her son, Thomas), teachers, parents and children have been able to gain a greater appreciation of what Autism really means.

We spoke with Monique Cain to find out more about her revelatory books.

TALi: Did you have any experience in writing before jumping into the book series?

I had absolutely no previous book writing skills or experience. I had written a few good stories at school, journaled from time to time over the years and casually appreciated rhyming poetry.  I began writing more regularly as a form of therapy after both of our two children were diagnosed with Autism (ASD). I couldn’t talk to anyone about our kids without breaking down, so I began to express my thoughts and feelings on paper instead. 

TALi: So then, what prompted you to turn your writing into books?

One morning, a little boy at kinder said to me that Madi was dumb and didn’t know anything. I honestly didn’t know what to say, especially to a five-year-old, so I said, “Madi is not dumb – she just doesn’t talk very much.” Shortly after that experience, a poem I wrote turned into a story that I then turned into a book with photos of ‘Madi At Kinder’ for the kids and teachers to understand her more.  

After an overwhelming positive response, I continued writing about more of our life experiences. I had a collection of books illustrated and published in simple and entertaining language for both children and adults to gain an instant understanding about ASD. I began to strongly feel like this was the path I was destined for and must follow – to, literally, give our children and others alike a voice and help explain their behaviour. 

TALi: What’s your process and how has this experience with the series affected your life?

I love writing traditionally with a pen and paper, and then transfer my words to laptop and edit as I go. The illustrations were created from family photos and our experiences relating to the appropriate pages of each book and drawn as identical character images. 

I was extremely busy bringing everything to life on top of my day job and two children with additional needs but it became my passion. I also employed two lovely ladies as my editor and brand manager, who I met through a friend, to help guide me through all the processes. It was a fun, rewarding side project among everything else going on in our lives.               

TALi: Tell us about the response to the books. Did it meet your expectations?

Even before being published, our books exceeded all expectations! After publishing, my initial aim was to see our books considered as valuable resources for teachers in kinders, schools and Autism family homes to promote kindness and inclusion.  

The series has been extremely well-received throughout the entire Autism community. We wholesale to various Autism and early childhood organisations, and I’ve also become a respected speaker and exhibitor at Autism events.  

 

TALi: So, what’s next for The Everyday Autism Series

Well, I was incredibly proud to release our first chapter book last year – Never Give Up: Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster of an Autism Parent – which shares our family’s journey with tips and tricks we’ve learnt along the way to help others. 

Our social media pages – @The EverydayAutismSeries – continue to grow with regular blogging, and the sharing of helpful information that people can relate to. We enjoy communicating with passionate people who are following our journey.      

New opportunities are also always evolving. Further books and products may eventuate in the future but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. I’m already extremely proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and how our little brand and business has developed. You never know what’s around the corner but I’m presently focusing more on our two children and their ongoing development.

TALi: What do you hope your books will do for others living with Autism?

In general, I hope that everyone who reads our books will gain a greater understanding of Autism and become more compassionate towards others. We would like to encourage other Autism parents and families to continually educate themselves and seek assistance from all the various professionals and products available.

Everyone can learn but sometimes it may just take a bit longer, and require extra help and support. We aspire to give hope and inspire other families to follow passions, love unconditionally and ‘never give up’ – as my book title says. 

TALi: Are your own kids aware of the books and what you’re doing with them?

It’s hard to know exactly how much our kids understand but they are aware of their books.  They’re fairly famous within our local community and their school but they don’t fully comprehend the entirety of it all. 

They are our inspiration and the reason our series began. We will continue to advocate for them and all Autism families by sharing our story to help raise awareness throughout the world. 

Find out more about The Everyday Autism Series online

“As mother to a child with ASD (Autism), the challenges have been enormous and mentally exhausting,” explains Amy*. “Having to advocate for my son on a regular basis and educate others has been an ongoing battle.”

Monique Cain is a mother from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula who drew from her experiences as a parent of two children with Autism to give voice to the Autism experience and help unravel the mystery of Autism for others, particularly young children.

She created The Everyday Autism Series – a series of children’s books that uses...

10 Mar 20202-minute read
Parents, Schools

With Neurodiversity Week upon us – 16th to 20th March 2020 – we felt it was important to discuss what neurodiversity actually is, and how it affects children. In a nutshell, neurodiversity is an important aspect of a child’s attention capabilities, which directly impacts how they perform tasks at home and school.

With Neurodiversity Week upon us – 16th to 20th March 2020 – we felt it was important to discuss what neurodiversity actually is, and how it affects children. In a nutshell, neurodiversity is an important aspect of a child’s attention capabilities, which directly impacts how they perform tasks at home and school.

05 Mar 20204-minute read
Parents

The spike experienced in technological advancements across the last few decades means people are still learning how to responsibly (and healthily) integrate the use of technology into their daily lives. This poses an extra challenge for parents – how do we teach our children good technology habits if we don’t know them ourselves?

The spike experienced in technological advancements across the last few decades means people are still learning how to responsibly (and healthily) integrate the use of technology into their daily lives. This poses an extra challenge for parents – how do we teach our children good technology habits if we don’t know them ourselves?

13 Feb 20203-minute read
Parents, Healthcare

If someone mentions a child has a problem with attention, most people’s thoughts turn to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As the name implies, ADHD definitely encompasses an attention component but attention vulnerabilities can appear in a number of different guises.

If someone mentions a child has a problem with attention, most people’s thoughts turn to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As the name implies, ADHD definitely encompasses an attention component but attention vulnerabilities can appear in a number of different guises.

05 Feb 20203-minute read
Schools

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the development and refinement of skills that enable us to build resilience and effectively manage our emotions, behaviours and relationships with others in the world around us.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the development and refinement of skills that enable us to build resilience and effectively manage our emotions, behaviours and relationships with others in the world around us.

13 Jan 20204-minute read
Schools

It’s important to create a space that enables students to perform to the best of their abilities, to amplify their engagement and ensure they get the most from their learning experience.

It’s important to create a space that enables students to perform to the best of their abilities, to amplify their engagement and ensure they get the most from their learning experience.

17 Dec 20192-minute read
Parents, Healthcare

Have your students (or child) been taking part in the TALi TRAIN program, and they’re getting bored or starting to complain?

Have your students (or child) been taking part in the TALi TRAIN program, and they’re getting bored or starting to complain?

04 Dec 20193-minute read
Schools

Teaching children with complex issues is a significant challenge that teachers face, with a number of behavioural challenges presenting in any given classroom.

Teaching children with complex issues is a significant challenge that teachers face, with a number of behavioural challenges presenting in any given classroom.

02 Dec 20193-minute read
Parents, Schools, Healthcare

People perceive paying attention as being focused on something over a period of time without being distracted. It is considered to be a matter of discipline; for example, think of how teachers often demand attention from their students in the classroom – pay attention!

People perceive paying attention as being focused on something over a period of time without being distracted. It is considered to be a matter of discipline; for example, think of how teachers often demand attention from their students in the classroom – pay attention!

11 Oct 20191-minute read
Parents, Healthcare

October is ADHD awareness month

October is ADHD awareness month

17 Apr 20192-minute read
Parents, Healthcare

Representation is everything – whether that’s for newly diagnosed kids so they don’t feel so alone or parents looking for reassurance that everything’s going to be ok. And what better place to start spreading the word about the importance of neurodiversity than with the books we read? We’ve rounded up a few to get you started.

Representation is everything – whether that’s for newly diagnosed kids so they don’t feel so alone or parents looking for reassurance that everything’s going to be ok. And what better place to start spreading the word about the importance of neurodiversity than with the books we read? We’ve rounded up a few to get you started.

05 Apr 20192-minute read
Parents

For parents of neurodiverse kids the school holidays can bring with them a bag of mixed emotions. Time with the kiddos? Wonderful. Filling that time? That’s the tricky bit! However, with a bit of planning and structure school holidays can be a time for families to thrive in each other’s company rather than simply hold on and survive.

For parents of neurodiverse kids the school holidays can bring with them a bag of mixed emotions. Time with the kiddos? Wonderful. Filling that time? That’s the tricky bit! However, with a bit of planning and structure school holidays can be a time for families to thrive in each other’s company rather than simply hold on and...

25 Mar 20192-minute read
Schools

Daisy dozing off? Tom can’t stop fidgeting? We’ve got some tips on how to help them pay attention.

 

1. Set classroom expectations

Kids need structure, it helps them feel in control.

Daisy dozing off? Tom can’t stop fidgeting? We’ve got some tips on how to help them pay attention.

 

1. Set classroom expectations

Kids need structure, it helps them feel in control.

22 Feb 20195-minute read
Parents

When a hug from mum or dad is sometimes all we really need.

You’ve lost your keys, have a looming work deadline and just now your little one has decided to throw their breakfast all over the kitchen, you pull your socks up and get on with it, but you wouldn’t be alone (or the first) in craving a comforting word from mum or dad.

When a hug from mum or dad is sometimes all we really need.

You’ve lost your keys, have a looming work deadline and just now your little one has decided to throw their breakfast all over the kitchen, you pull your socks up and get on with it, but you wouldn’t be alone (or the first) in craving a comforting word from mum or dad.

22 Feb 20194-minute read
Parents

We all know kids can sometimes find it a bit trickier to pay attention and we know what it’s like when they don’t remember to pick up their socks!

We all know kids can sometimes find it a bit trickier to pay attention and we know what it’s like when they don’t remember to pick up their socks!

15 Oct 20182-minute read
Parents, Schools

Attention And Its Impact On Learning Abilities

Are you concerned your child is experiencing learning difficulties? Perhaps they’re falling behind in reading or numeracy?

Attention And Its Impact On Learning Abilities

Are you concerned your child is experiencing learning difficulties? Perhaps they’re falling behind in reading or numeracy?

05 Oct 20183-minute read
Healthcare

What are digital therapies and how effective are they in improving our health?

Picture this: an ingestible pill fitted with a sensor to digitally track medicines being injected; a virtual avatar to diagnose depression; or a smart contact lens in your eye.

What are digital therapies and how effective are they in improving our health?

Picture this: an ingestible pill fitted with a sensor to digitally track medicines being injected; a virtual avatar to diagnose depression; or a smart contact lens in your eye.