About the Integrated Kids Model
So what exactly is an "integrative approach"? How does it work? Let's take ADHD as an example:
Research now understands ADHD as a dynamic phenomena which occurs when particular combinations of genes are exposed to a range of environmental inputs or "triggers". The genetic potential must exist; only then can environmental factors bring it into play. This combining of genes + environment (G+E) as a process is explained by the science of "epigenetics", an exciting and fast growing field which is revolutionising modern biology, neuroscience and healthcare. If you've come across the term: "genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger" - that's epigenetics! While it's undoubtedly a complex field, we believe epigenetics creates enormous opportunity for supporting ADHD (and other mental health issues) because it provides additional points at which we can target treatment - going way beyond traditional pharmaceutical and behavioural approaches.
The vast number of possible G+E combinations which may present as ADHD, results in children who have different collections and levels of symptoms and who suffer different levels of overall impairment - they are never the same! We therefore undertake comprehensive and individualised evaluation and treatment planning, in consultation with the young person and their key caregivers. The different areas we consider are represented by the 4 quadrants of the Integrated Kids heart:
Identify strengths & challenges. Working with thoughts and emotions.
Psychological: our inner or "mental" world.
The realm of traditional psychology: how a person thinks and processes information, their executive function or "thinking" skills. How a person "feels": their ability to recognise and manage stress and strong emotions, their ability to control impulses. We provide support building critical skills in both of these areas.
How do they view themselves as a person? What "self-concept" do they hold? How is their self-esteem? (often quite low and fragile in those with ADHD). We focus on strengths - every person has strengths! Interestingly, folk with ADHD often outdo neurotypical kids in one or more areas of executive function. It's critical to help identify these strengths, to not only boost self confidence but also to build upon to scaffold other areas of relative weakness.
Working with physical and lifestyle factors as possible points of intervention.
Biological: our body's physiology.
The realm of traditional medicine and physical health. We consider critical factors such as: how much sleep a child is getting, whether they're getting appropriate nutrients for optimal brain function (yes, the food we eat can have a major impact on our psychology!). The amount of physical activity, any toxic exposures that may have impacted psychological function (e.g., lead) and a number of other factors which all can increase or reduce ADHD symptoms, to different extents in different people.
These "low hanging fruit" can often be simple, points of intervention that may turn down the volume on some of the ADHD symptoms. There is an abundance of new epigenetic research supporting work in these areas with ADHD that we bring to our clients.
Building skills to support key relationships. Support for family members.
Social: our connections and relationships.
Relationships are often under additional pressure with ADHD. Poor concentration, low impulse control and other ADHD symptoms can promote frustration, anger and hurt for the person as well as the family of those with ADHD. We help identify and build skills to support key relationships: this includes family relationships, school relationships, other friendships and connections within the community.
Within this quadrant we also work closely with primary caregivers, usually mum or dad, but often foster parents, grandparents and other family members. Our message is simple: oxygen masks on parents first! Caring for a child with additional needs can be overwhelming, exhausting and incredibly lonely at times. Looking after the support needs of caregivers is an essential part of our focus.
Identifying and navigating external stressors and resources.
Culture & Systems: external systems and factors impacting our lives.
The culture and systems in which we exist, has a direct impact on mental health. For example, the "fit" of a child’s school, knowledge of funding sources and community programmes as resources to tap into. We help parents and caregivers create routines and resources which can make navigating these challenges far more manageable and be a key differentiator between struggling and flourishing.
Additionally, macro-level factors like COVID19 and increased world stress. These frequently impact more sensitive folk to a greater extent because they feel things more deeply. Educating families around increased nervous system sensitivity and how to discuss these global issues appropriately can go a long way to restoring a sense of safety.
Food for thought...
Your brain is an organ that’s connected to everything else happening in your body. A healthy brain starts with a healthy body: optimising inputs and taking out the bad influences. Many of us get too little healthy nutrients, sunlight, fresh air, water, sleep, exercise, community and love. Think of these as fertiliser for the brain.