By Davy Guo, Counseling Psychologist
In March, my colleague Joanne and I went to an international school in Qingdao to work with some of their staff to find the best ways to support one of their students who was exhibiting social-communication difficulties.
We had a prior relationship with the school through previous collaboration. Prior to determining whether a trip was necessary, I had a Skype meeting with the child and her mother. After that, it became clear that an in-person visit, as well as an observation and being able to work directly with the staff, would be enormously beneficial to the child and family. We were in Qingdao for two days, during which time we conducted a classroom observation and provided consultations and recommendations for the child’s parents, teachers and head of the lower school concerning providing appropriate support for the child.
The staff we worked with at the school were very helpful. They worked very hard to foster the best environment for us to conduct our observation. They also seemed to be very eager to provide the best support for the child. They were proactively changing their own practices to meet the child’s needs, coming up with ideas based on our recommendations. The whole experience was very friendly, professional and collaborative. I felt that everyone involved really wanted to find the best ways to support the child and meet her needs.
Though the teachers were quite knowledgeable, they needed more specific expertise to come up with concrete ways of supporting their student. Since professional support like ELG is rare in Qingdao and elsewhere in China, we were not surprised that the school did not have the in-house resources to understand a child with different needs, and the ways to support her. Another way we were helpful was by playing helping the school communicate with the parents – I think that often having a third party really helps.
The child’s parents were initially a bit lost and it seemed that they felt a little helpless, a normal reaction in such situations. Through our interaction with them, we helped them to validate some of their assumptions and also reject some of the rumors they had heard about special needs. I hope that with further interaction, we can support their growth and understanding better.
I found that, when conceptualizing how to work with families and schools who are far away, I have to work on the support system surrounding the child, rather than working with the child directly. Since we are not able to provide consistent support due to the obvious geographic issue, one of my main roles was to educate the teachers and the parents to provide more appropriate support. Just as I previously learned, professionals and parents in areas such as Qingdao need a lot education to have a better understanding of psychological and developmental difficulties. I thoroughly enjoyed going there and being able to support children, families and educators in areas where my area of expertise is not otherwise available. And I would go gladly again if there is a need.
Davy is a Counseling Psychologist at The Essential Learning Group with an extensive experience working with people that have a wide range of mental health difficulties. He also provides group therapies and psycho-educational workshops and he is also currently a member of the British Psychology Society.