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Figuring Out Child Behavior: More Than Meets the Eye.

April 24, 2022

The child was almost five. Acting out was an issue. There is much to examine to figure things out.

I wonder about a “nonverbal learning disability.”

While I am no psychologist, kids have their “tells” that can suggest a disorder. If a “tell” is recognized, observed, then it is wise to have the child further assessed.

With parents present and after a period of settling in with the child and the child was comfortable, we played a few games.

One game was the make a face game.

I make a face and the child has to guess what I am feeling. Happy, sad, excited, surprised angry.

Next we played the tone of voice game. Here and with warning, I tell the child I am going to say something and have the child describe what I am feeling.

I have a happy voice, sad, scolding, etc.

A nonverbal learning disorder is about difficulty reading social/emotional cues.

One may see this disorder in kids who play rough or who seem not affected or tuned in emotionally to the feelings or social cues of others.

Although a crude screening exam, this child was well able to identify all feelings and tone of voice. No confusion.

I also wonder about hearing, so I do a rudimentary hearing screen.

It’s simple. Standing in front of me and facing out, I ask to play the hearing game.

I rub my thumb and finger together over the child’s ear at different intensities and ask if the child can hear it.

I next do that to varying degrees off centre from top of head to ask which ear hears the sound.

If I am rubbing my fingers closer to the left ear, but the child indicates hearing it in the right ear, then the left ear may have trouble hearing.

No issue detected with hearing.

We play other games too: the jumping game; the frustration tolerance game; the reading game; the small toy game; the cleaning up game; and others.

Similarly I observe the child at play and parental interaction.

Does the parent guide the play; scold; threaten; cajole; interrupt, explain, nurture… etc.

Prior to having met the child, I had an extensive interview with both parents. I learn about their family, background, living arrangements, quality of life, conflict management, addictions, mental health, physical health, traumatic life experiences, etc. I also learn about the child by taking a developmental history.

Finally after a really good look at the situation from many perspectives, I develop my point of view regarding the child’s behavior and what if any further more indepth investigations may be needed.

Understanding what may give rise to an issue of child behavior is complex.

The above is any just a taste of the many things that can go into figuring out what may be at issue.

A child behavior issue may be the result of any one issue or it may be complex and be the result of a combination of issues.

Understanding what is beneath the behavior is important. It is important because only then can we know how best to address the concerns.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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