Tag Archives: school

School, bullying and mental health

School. Some of us fondly remember our days in school as ‘some of the best days of our lives’.

School is an important step in all children’s lives and is where most of us spend a significant amount of time throughout our childhood and adolescence. It is a place where we are taught academic skills which can help us achieve and pursue the careers we choose for ourselves later in life. It is also a place where we are encouraged to step outside of our social comfort zone and to socialise with other children and adults outside of our immediate family.

Whilst some people would agree their memories of school are positive, others will remember school as a daily challenge to conquer. The demands put on children when they go to school, whether that be academically or socially are significant. The pressures on students to achieve the highest grades seem to be evermore increasing and throughout life in school, children must continually negotiate their social environment to ‘fit in’ with their peers to make and sustain friendships.

Academic attainment and peer acceptance are both challenges that all children face during their time at school, however school can be a particularly demanding place for children with genomic disorders.

Genomic disorders, such as 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, are caused by changes in a person’s chromosome (their DNA). Genomic disorders are commonly associated with complex physical, developmental and psychiatric problems. Therefore, many children with these conditions present differently to their peers in physical appearance, social skills and their educational and mental health needs.

As such, children with these conditions may be perceived as different from the rest of their peers and may often become ‘easy targets’ of bullying. Additionally, some parents report that their child’s schools do not have the resources or expertise in their child’s condition to accommodate their child’s needs. An unsuitable school environment and bullying are both factors which can contribute to a child’s adverse experience of school.

Adverse experiences in childhood, including bullying, are significantly associated with poor mental health outcomes. Research has also shown that certain genomic disorders increases the risk of developing mental health problems, such as anxiety, Autism Spectrum Disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and psychosis.

However, because not all children diagnosed with these genomic conditions develop mental health conditions, it is believed that both environmental and genetic factors contribute to the increased risk of poor mental health in these children. Therefore, much about the environmental risk factors, including school experiences, that children with genomic conditions encounter remain to be explored in order to understand how mental health conditions develop in this group.

I have just started my PhD project at Cardiff University, in which I will be exploring school experiences of children diagnosed with certain rare genomic disorders to answer the question ‘do adverse school and bullying experiences of children with genomic disorders contribute to their increased risk of developing mental health problems?’

To answer this question, I will be exploring school and bullying experiences that children with genomic disorders encounter and then I will investigate if and how these experiences differ from the experiences of their peers. I will then look at the effect of these experiences on the mental health outcomes of children with genomic disorders.

To explore these areas, I would like to speak to children diagnosed with certain genomic conditions, as well as their parents and teachers to gather an understanding about their experiences of school. For this project to successfully address the areas of interest and concern of parents, I would like these conversations to explore topics and issues that children and parents feel it important to investigate.

Therefore, if you or your child has received a diagnosis of a rare genetic condition, and you have any thoughts about this research, comments for specific topics you think it would be important to investigate, or if you would simply like to share your child’s experiences of school, I would love to hear from you with your suggestions. Additionally, if you would like to get in contact to ask questions about the project, please do.

By understanding the risk factors associated with poor mental health outcomes in children with genomic disorders, we can inform intervention strategies to reduce these risks and ultimately improve children’s outcomes and quality of life.

Thank you for reading and I hope to hear from you!

Lowri

If you would like to get in contact with Lowri to hear about your experiences, please email [email protected].

(Some of the rare genetic conditions Lowri will be exploring for her PhD include: 1q21.1 deletion/duplication, 2p16.3 deletion (NRXN1), 3q29 deletion, 9q34.3 deletion (Kleefstra), 10q23 duplication, 15q11.2 deletion/duplication, 15q13.3 deletion/duplication, 16p11.2 deletion/duplication, 17q12 duplication, 22q11.2 deletion/duplication syndromes).

Returning to school: A teacher’s guide for pupils with brain tumours, during and after treatment

This publication aims to guide teachers and schools faced with the task of supporting a pupil with a brain or spinal tumour who may be absent for some time, or who may have sporadic attendance with a very serious illness and potentially devastating long term effects.

It explains what the pupil may be going through both medically and psychologically. It offers practical strategies for ensuring supportive re-integration back to school. Suggestions are given for how teachers, assistants and SENCOs can provide sustained and targeted support for pupils who face extended treatments, devastating long term side effects or an uncertain future.

BMA Patient information awards_highly commended

Highly Commended in  Special Award-NHS Trusts in the BMA Patient Information Awards 2016.


Factsheet: Recommended teaching strategies for pupils with a brain tumour

This factsheet gives information on how a school can assist a pupil with a brain tumour. In particular it pinpoints a number of different strategies to use as memory and cognition in some, but not all, pupils with a brain tumour can be seriously affected by their treatment.

Download 'Factsheet: Recommended teaching strategies for pupils with a brain tumour' PDF


Infographic: What to do when a child is diagnosed with a brain tumour

Marsden diagnosis infographic

A child with a brain tumour will be encouraged to return to school as soon as possible after initial diagnosis and treatment, even if only for a few hours or half days per week. Here are some tips for the time when the pupil is away from school having treatment and following their return to school.

Download 'What to do when a child is diagnosed with a brain tumour' infographic PDF


Infographic: What to do if a pupil with a brain tumour become palliative and may die

Marsden palliative infographic

This infographic provides information on how the school community can create a climate where the pupil’s independence, hope and dignity are respected, and consideration given to how siblings, other pupils and members of staff may also be feeling.

What to do if a pupil with a brain tumouor becomes palliative and may die' infographic PDF

All information on this page first published 2015. This edition 2019. Review date 2022.


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Autism at school: seven questions for parents

autismatschools2We are pleased to share a short article written for parents by Prof Richard Hastings (Cerebra Chair of Family Research at Warwick University) about autism and school.

The article is an attempt by Richard to make more accessible the sorts of questions that are important when considering whether school based interventions/supports are suitable for children and young people with SEN, autism and intellectual disability.

Richard suggests that the questions parents should ask are:

  • What are the needs of my child and my family at this time?
  • How will the intervention suggested address these needs?
  • How is the intervention meant to work?
  • Has the intervention been fully described and written down?
  • Is there evidence the intervention is effective?
  • Is there any evidence the intervention is effective in the real world?
  • Will the school be able to show you whether the intervention is working for your child?

To read the article please click here.

We would add one further question to the seven suggested by Richard and that concerns information sharing and communication between the school and other agencies (health, social care) that may be involved in the child/young person’s overall support.  Its important that the overall package of support ‘fits’ together.  So parents need to question this and how communication between the school and these other agencies is going to be managed.

Additionally you might like to look at the ‘What’s the Evidence’ summaries written by another Cerebra centre, PenCRU, and also Cerebra’s Guide on Decision making, Confidentiality and Sharing Information.