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This week, Paul speaks to Elaine Halligan. The London director of The Parent Practice, Elaine has been a parenting facilitator since 2006, teaching parents in the Wimbledon and Clapham centres.
She works in schools and nurseries, coordinates our corporate and business seminar programme and works with special educational needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.
Elaine came into parenting thinking she should instinctively know how to parent. She sought parenting advice when she felt guilty when she thought she had done a ‘bad job’ and ashamed when she saw someone else parenting the way she wished she could. Being a parent is the most demanding job she has ever done but equally it is a role filled with joy.
Elaine has helped hundreds of families to understand their child’s unique temperament and motivates parents to bring out the best in children and teenagers to ensure they have the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives and be able to cope with life’s knocks.
One of the most powerful aspects of the interview with Elaine is when she tells the remarkable and shocking story of her own son’s experience in education. From the moment he entered nursery school, he had difficulties. Elaine had to move him between private and state schools as well as special school settings until finally finding a school which could give him what he needed. He was initially labelled as ‘the naughty one’ and it was a long time before Elaine realised that her son was not the problem – he had problems. He was ‘hard wired’ to get attention from people, which led to some very difficult situation. It was these experiences which led Elaine to leave her job and devote her time and talents to helping her son and his teachers – and then to helping other parents.
“If you have a child who is different, you are judged.”
Elaine also had to cope with a plethora of bewildering diagnoses. She was told her son had all kinds of different conditions:
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Sensory Integration Dysfunction
- Oppositional Defiance Disorder
- Pathological Demand Avoidance
- Pragmatic Semantic Language Disorder
What can teachers do to help?
Eliane explains one of the concepts she thinks is useful in helping children to raise their self esteem – which is based on an understanding of a function of the brain referred to as the Reticular Activating System.
“Once you start looking for the positives, you’ll find them.”
The RAS searches for what you are focussing on. So, when you buy a new car, you see lots of the same model each time you go out. Similarly, if you start actively looking for the positive in learners, you suddenly find you see it all the time. The brain filters out what it sees as unimportant to you. Humans are hard-wired to look for mistakes and point them out but we can subvert this by training yourself to look for positive things.