Child Trichsters And School
Perhaps the biggest problem with school for trichsters is not the social anxiety which sometimes is a symptom of the disorder, but more the organizational challenges the trichster faces. Will he or she have the right equipment and homework, or even arrive on time, to the right place?
Most children with Trichotillomania have problems in school, which seem not to be related to the disorder. However, trichsters are very sensitive individuals, not best suited to large groups of children. The change from a small junior school to a big high school, is often when pulling begins.
Your child may have learning difficulties which are difficult to detect. He or she may have problems concentrating for long periods of time, and medication commonly handed out for trichotillomania DO make these attention problems worse. If your child has been diagnosed as having ADHD AND Trichotillomania, this could be an example of the clinician not understanding the complexities of Trichotillomania and its attention related problems.
It is a good idea to tell your child's school, although we suggest you obtain the child's permission. Ask which teacher they trust, and go along together, to talk to the school. Show your child that asking for help can be beneficial and is not a sign of weakness. Ask the teacher to look out for your child in particular, because they will need extra support. If the teacher says they don't believe in treating children differently, explain that your child IS different and needs appropriate care. Be prepared to stand your ground and direct the teacher to the teachers' pages on this website regarding trichotillomania. No teacher should EVER draw the class's attention to a child's pulling, and if they do, this is grounds for complaint not only to the head teacher, but higher if necessary.
Try to alleviate stress for your child as much as possible, listen to after school stresses and ask, "What's the best thing you could do to resolve that?" so that you show faith in the child's ability to solve problems for herself. Show trust and make sure your child has a variety of interests and people around.
Some trichster children may be more susceptible to bullying because they’re usually sensitive and may be quiet. If you suspect your child is being bullied, look out for signs, bruising, lunch money disappearing and particularly persistently lost or broken belongings.
Notice changes in social behaviour within the family – increased anger usually comes out at family members, but often remains suppressed at school.
Emotional withdrawal is often a good sign, but there are a million different forms of stress response, so watch out for any maladaptive behaviour including increased hair pulling, refusal to eat (bullies often call perfectly normal weight children “fat”, as well bedwetting, sleeplessness, waking at night and generally fearful behaviour.
Bullying can also take place by Email, internet chatrooms and texts so monitor messages sent electronically to your child. It’s generally good practice to ask your child to leave their mobile phone with you when they go to bed anyway, so that they get a good night’s sleep.
If your child has sleep problems, try not to tell them to just lie down and close their eyes. An anxious child will have a hard time with this as the anxious mind is more active when the body is inactive. Maybe give them a story tape or a meditation type CD to play at night, to keep the mind harnessed and not wandering off to thoughts of distress.
Always ask about school, even if you always get the same answers. Notice how your child responds facially when asked, and if the response changes, try different methods of talking about it, such as “Pauline told me little Matt has been having a difficult time at school – what do you think he might be having problems with?”
Reluctance to attend school should always be talked through. Often, there are alternatives. Schools are not the greatest places for sensitive children so be willing to consider a much smaller school, or home schooling.
If your child is being bullied, there may be other behavioural changes such as obsessions arising in a desperate attempt to control something.
Comments which indicate negative self-image, such as “I wish I was dead” or refusal to accept compliments, should be followed up, not by invalidating what they’re thinking, but asking “Why do you think that?” and then gently reminding the child of positive things they add to your life.
Bullies instil shame, and your child may not want to tell you everything in case you find out that what’s being said is true. Your child doesn’t know that the things others say about them are often just the product of fertive imaginations. It can be deeply upsetting when someone calls you a slag just because your breasts are developing faster than the other girls’ – so if your child is reluctant to tell you what is happening at school, it may be that she’s believing what the other kids are saying.
Don’t wait for your child to tell you about nasty words the other children use about them, they’re likely to be ashamed. Explain that children use comments like “Gay”, “slag” and ”tart” not because they’re true, but because they’re expressive and get a strong response.
Avoid advice such as “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” as this invalidates the child’s feelings. Names DO hurt and kids like to know that it’s ok to feel upset if they’re treated badly or called horrid names. They also like to be told that they’ll know in their hearts how best to deal with it.
Never use the words “too sensitive” or “too” anything, because that will be taken as a criticism, but more importantly, the negative words you use to your child form a subtle hypnosis and you can make your child over-sensitive just by telling them that they are.
Explain to your children, whether they’re being bullied or not, that children use words sometimes just because they have an effect. Try not to tell your child to “just ignore it”, but instead listen to their feelings and ask what they feel they can do to make things easier for themselves. Give them a sense that you trust their decisions.
Even children have their own answers within.
Kids use words with sexual overtones because they seem cool, but that doesn’t make them fit the child they’re used against. Having words used against you like “bitch”, “gay” or “wanker” can be devastating.
Encourage your child to express negative feelings to you, and let them know it’s ok to be upset.
If your fears are confirmed, and you find that your child is being bullied, get in touch with the charity Act Against Bullying telephone 01344 842243 www.actagainstbullying.com
The Kidscape helpline number 08451 205204 is available 10 am to 4 pm Mon to Fri – www.kidscape.org.uk
The charity Bullying Online www.bullying.co.uk can be particularly helpful with cyber stalking and text problems.
Do not ignore the bullying. Your child will remember your response to this as representative of whether you are on their side.
Write to the head teacher. Letters have to be dealt with, while a phone call can be forgotten about.
If the problem has not been solved a month after you’ve written to the head, write to the chairman of the governors, local councillors and even your MP.
Contact the educational welfare officer through the school.
Warn your child that the bully may falsely accuse them of being the problem and that you can get through it together.
As well as action to deal with the bullying though, it’s good to promote your child’s talents. Find somewhere that your child can make new friends. Drama or art groups are very helpful.
Exceptionally clever children can have learning difficulties, but it’s easy for them to remain undiagnosed.
Around one in six children has special educational needs …and these needs are usually very varied, with most children being gifted in some areas and needing assistance in others. Many children with trichotillomania need extra support in school because of organisational challenges and sometimes attention problems. They may be very well behaved in school and particularly because they don’t disrupt the class, attention problems may not be picked up.
Trich is now widely becoming known to have long-term connotations for organisation and time management, impulse control and (for some) misfiring memory and even possible motor response impairment.
Don’t rely on the schools to diagnose learning difficulties – particularly if the child is quiet – it’s your place to point out possible pitfalls to their education and ensure they get all the help that’s available.
I’d urge you to speak to the SENCO (Special Needs Coordinator) at school and ask that any special needs be identified.
If the child with trichotillomania is not the only child in the family, make sure everyone’s tested for learning difficulties as these may be genetic and do not have to be in yours or your partner’s family, for the combination of genes to result in them occurring.
Your trichster child may have difficulty controlling their motor responses and impulses. The SENCO can arrange tests to help you identify this.
Ask to see your child’s school’s special needs policy. Don’t be fobbed off with the teacher’s opinion that your child doesn’t need testing … insist on tests for all areas of learning difficulties, because this can mean all sorts of concessions available to your child in the future, from extra time in exams to free laptops and acceptance by the best universities who have to take a quota of special needs cases.
The Educational Services really are very understanding towards trichotillomania nowadays and you want your child to have everything that’s available. Yes, it does mean labels will be attached, such as attention deficit or dyspraxia but you can explain to your child that these labels just mean that when they are under lots of stress, they might not function as well as other times, when they’re feeling relaxed and happy.
Encourage them to talk about times they felt relaxed and happy.
Listen to tales of woe for a certain time and then ask, “And what happened today that was good?”. Empowering questions are the key … so “What do you think you can do to resolve that?” is much better than “Just ignore him”. It subtly empowers the child by indicating you believe your child has the power to resolve it.
If your child has obsessions, encourage obsessions about things which other children are interested in, such as popular music or computers and game consoles, as this will help them to feel confident when talking about these things.
Practically speaking, poor impulse control might mean your child isn’t always truthful and it can be hard to know when (or whether) to punish them. As a general rule, we advise that parents use positive programming wherever possible, which means praising the good behaviour and withdrawing attention when the child lies or misbehaves. Behaviour is not always easy to control for a child with trichotillomania and the child usually feels badly enough about themselves when they’ve let you down, so there’s usually no need to punish them because their own self-punishment will just get worse if you do.
Find something your child is good at and nurture and praise this – it does wonders for a child’s self esteem to know that they excel at something.
Children with trichotillomania often realise very early that they’re not functioning in the same way as others – this doesn’t make them good or bad, because they have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else, but in different, distinct areas.
This feeling of being different can affect self esteem, especially if the child is also being bullied, which is ofen the case as children with trichotillomania can often be quieter than their peers.
It really helps to boost self esteem by valuing the child’s talents and arranging opportunities to meet others with similar strengths. When your child says “I’m hopeless at this”, tell them “Maybe you’re not so strong at it, but you’re great at …..”
Many children with this disorder are truly gifted, and it can be remarkable how they blossom when their gift is found and nurtured.
The trichster child can experience difficulties with concentration, impaired memory functionality and difficulties in organising their belongings, tasks and time. Parents can naturally become frustrated when faced with children who can’t find anything, forget instructions and don’t remember to pass on messages from school. The child is not deliberately ignoring your request … she is just overwhelmed by all she has to remember.
It’s important not to assume that because your child could handle something easily at one time, they can handle the same types of things easily at any time. This is a disorder which comes and goes and doesn’t always appear to follow a pattern. Something your child could do perfectly yesterday, may cause real problems today.
Communication and social skills may not come naturally and sometimes need encouraging. ADISS provide suggestions of how to minimise family stress in a very useful leaflet here.