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    Why is your bright child not coping at school?

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What is ILT?

If you are reading this, the chances are that you have a child who is struggling at school. Maybe he or she is finding it difficult to master skills such as reading, writing, maths or spelling. Maybe he or she can do all these things but comes home with reports about unfinished work, or work left at home.

The teacher complains about her being disorganised, untidy or even aggressive towards other children. Or maybe she is described as being unfocused and a daydreamer who never seems to listen. And maybe you agree with the teacher because you see the same behaviour at home.

Labels such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Problems, Sensory Processing Disorder are mentioned. What’s going on?


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  • Stress in children – recognize the signs

     

     

    It is very unusual for children to be able to verbalise feelings of stress.  Instead, they show unhappiness or stress in their behaviour.  Such behaviours aren’t always the expected ones, like illnesses and depression, but can range from throwing tantrums and telling lies to stealing. Here are some signs that may alert you to stress in a child:

     Stressed children may complain of physical discomfort, for example, headaches and tummy aches. If doctors find nothing wrong, do consider fear and anxiety being possibly part of the reasons for these complaints. For example, Jan began to refuse to eat breakfast and said that he didn’t want to go to school.All of this started when his father left to work overseas a month or so ago and the stress of the separation caused his symptoms.

    • Boys especially may show disturbed and disruptive behaviour.Adults may label his actions as being naughty or undisciplined but it is worth looking for other causes too.
    • Other children may react to stress by withdrawing and being quiet.Their stress is difficult to spot because even their parents may not notice they have problems.
    • Most children have difficulties talking about their mental stress. They don’t have the vocabulary or the ability to translate strong feelings into words.Conflicting emotions and thoughts make it even harder for them, for example, when they experience anger, jealousy, hostility and unhappiness with their parents, siblings or other people.
    • Sometimes the cause of stress in children may be the parents themselves.These days, children are aware of the high rates of divorce so parental conflict may make them scared of a parent leaving them.  While it may be healthy to argue superficially in front of your children (and so model conflict resolution), personal attacks on each other should be avoided and conflict over parenting styles or how to care for children should be private.  For example, Bettie’s parents often quarreled over her upbringing and schoolwork.  She resorted to stealing sweets from the local café in an attempt to distract her parents from their frequent arguments. Unfortunately, they misinterpreted her behaviour and punished her severely.

     It’s natural for children to show emotional disturbances or behaviour difficulties from time to time.  They suffer fears at certain ages that may be stressful for them; toddlers do throw temper tantrums that have nothing to do with real stress; teenagers commonly show defiance at some stage or another.  But do be on the lookout and seek professional help

     When your child is doing something that is not expected for her age and circumstances

    • If the child is causing or experiencing suffering or a period of distress in his or her life
    • Should you notice that the child’s ability to lead a healthy, normal life has been affected.

     Stress in childhood can create much distress for not only the children but also for those who care for them.  Severe stress left untreated can delay their physical, psychological, social and intellectual development.  This in turn affects their ability to function in their daily life and may lead to underachievement at school and beyond.

     

    Content of this post was based on information in the book ‘Help your child to cope’ by Dr C Yiming & Dr D Fung.

  • Raising readers

     

     

     

    There’s no doubt that children who enjoy reading have an advantage at school.  Good reading skills simply make learning that much easier.  Enjoyment of reading, however, is difficult to achieve – especially in this day of high amounts of visual input from media devices.  Some children may resist reading instruction and consequently fall behind.

    In addition, the Education Department is compelling schools to start the teaching of reading at Grade R level, which might be a little young for some children.

    The result may be the development of reading anxiety, leading to less than competent reading skills. This in turn may lead to underachievement.

    Dr Sylvia Rimm is an internationally respected psychologist who specialises in underachievement.  She shared tips to reduce reading anxiety in her book entitled ‘Why bright kids get poor grades: and what you can do about it’.  The following summarises her work: 

    • Children shouldn’t be forced to read aloud to their parents at home. This is because some parents are anxious about their child’s reading and may pass this on to the child. When children read poorly, most parents feel tense.Obviously a child who enjoys reading aloud may do so if he or she choose to do so.
    • Parents should continue to read aloud to their children way past the age when they can read for themselves.Sharing the enjoyment of books is important, and there is no reason to stop reading together – even up to Grade 8.
    • Children should be allowed to stay up half an hour later at night if they’re in their beds reading to themselves.They won’t miss out on sleep because they’ll most likely fall asleep with the books on their chests.  Certainly the reading time allowed will be beneficial.
    • Encourage children to read whatever they like during that half hour before sleep.Don’t insist they read school prescribed or grade-level material. Comics, cartoons, sports magazines, easy material and books already read numerous times are all good for reading enjoyment.  The important thing is that they learn to love reading.  Interest in broadening their reading repertoire will happen as their reading improves.
    • Encourage children to read stories while listening to tapes of the stories. Don’t be too concerned if it seems they are not actually reading: they will eventually.
    • Model reading by having books on hand that children see you are enjoying. Newspapers and magazine count as well.
    • Encourage children to read to their younger siblings – as long as the younger children are not better readers than they are! Try to leave the children alone while they are reading/listening. Don’t hover around them.
    • Visit and browse through bookshops and libraries when out shopping.Make sure you have enough time for these visits rather than simply rushing in to exchange books or buy a book. Obviously it’s important that children belong to a library, where they can spend valuable time.

     

  • Be aware of air – Part 2

     

     

    In last week’s post I wrote about the potential dangers to children’s developing brains of air pollution and listed the towns in South Africa with the highest levels of measured pollution.

     

    Most of us lack the freedom to live and work according to our choice. More often we find ourselves in towns and cities because of the nature of our work and the availability of jobs.  If we are forced to stay in an area said to be heavily air polluted, are there ways of reducing the risk that pollution carries to our family’s health – especially our vulnerable children?  

     

    Here are some suggestions:

     

    First and foremost, you need to become an activist in supporting efforts to improve our air quality because you won’t be able to change the situation by yourself.

     

    Improving air quality means replacing fossil fuel combustion (i.e. burning fuel, such as coal, wood and so on) with cleaner sources of energy, including solar and wind.  Support organisations fighting for this.  On a note closer to home, be careful of fires (heating or braai) that are used in areas not well ventilated. Our increasing use of indoor braai rooms may add to the poor quality of air in our homes.

    Green areas, such as parks and trees within towns and cities can improve air quality, so encourage your local municipality to develop green belts and recreation spots. Wherever possible, plant trees and shrubs in your own garden. Our easy-growing plant, the ‘Spekboom’ is a natural supplier of oxygen – every garden should have a few!

    Encourage recycling.  Waste that is burned in the proximity of living areas releases toxic chemicals that can reach children’s lungs.  Although lead in the air has been reduced since its removal from petrol, if car and cell phone batteries are burned, lead can be released into the air.  Use the battery disposal units set up in some of our supermarkets.

    Try to reduce children’s exposure to air pollution.  Wherever possible, avoid travelling at times where roads are congested.  If your home or child’s school is in an area of severe pollution, strenuous activity outdoors should be avoided. In spite of the importance of sport and play, exercise in harmful air should be minimal – especially if your child has a medical condition such as asthma or another respiratory ailment.  Make sure your child’s school or daycare centre has a well-greened play area with trees and plants.

    The quality of air inside school buildings and other community structures can be improved by ventilation and air filtration systems.  Mention this at your school and help work towards implementation of such methods.

    Other indoor air pollutants should be avoided too.  The bad effects of second-hand cigarette smoke on children’s health is well-documented so homes and cars should be smoke-free zones.  Other common sources of potentially harmful inhalants include certain cleaning materials. Use products that are manufactured to be harmless to our bodies and brains.

    Lastly, but by no means the least important, strive to maintain optimal levels of health in your children.  Healthy diets and lifestyles build resistant immune systems and bodies that can help reduce the overall impact of air pollution.  The healthier a child is, the less likely that he or she will develop health complications due to the exposure to air pollution.   This is partly why Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) continually encourages healthy eating patterns and other tried and tested ways of living that contribute to optimal brain development and function.

     

  • Marandi Thomas B.Ed. Hons

    Former Grade R teacher: Milnerton Pre-Primary School

    I am so glad that we were introduced to ILT! Lisa is an ILT practitioner at our school and all the learners that went to her improved drastically in all areas of development. The learners whose parents were hesitant to follow an ILT program and preferred sending their children to either Physio or Occupational Therapy (because they knew more about it) did not even show half as much improvement.  It is AMAZING! One of my boys was clumsy, had a speech problem, could not concentrate for more than a second, etc…and after only two months of following his ILT program with Lisa his speech improved DRASTICALLY, he is able to concentrate, he can do fine motor activities, he is not clumsy anymore…if I did not know that he was following the ILT program, I would have thought it was a miracle. 🙂

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