The Inaugural Australasian Conference for Neuroscience, Learning and Well-being
25 & 26 March 2019 - Melbourne, Australia
Ms Karen Ferry
Counsellor, Educational Consultant, Certified Neuropsychotherapist
DipEd. B.Ed, MCoun, IAAN Certified
Karen Ferry is an educator with experience in both primary and secondary classrooms. Her roles have included classroom teaching, administration and working with families in home education environments. She has provided professional assistance to educators in Australia and in many countries around the world. Karen is also a Counsellor (Master of Counselling, University of Queensland) and a Certified Neuropsychotherapist. She now works in her own clinical practice in Melbourne, specializing in the well-being of young people, particularly those who have experienced loss, grief, anxiety and trauma.
Her work also includes assisting school staff with strategies to reach students who struggle behaviorally and find school challenging. Students who have adopted patterns of behaviour detrimental to their well-being. She has a passion for enriched environments that inspire, challenge and empower students to reach beyond their perceived abilities; school environments where every child experiences the reward and excitement of learning because they are free of anxiety, threat and fear.
Karen has presented at conferences, community groups, schools and youth groups. Her studies into brain science and neuropsychotherapy has enabled her to incorporate excellent educational practice with the neurobiological evidence behind why certain strategies are effective and other approaches can be detrimental to student learning.
Karen believes that an understanding of the brain, it’s development and environmental influences, provides the lens to view current school strategies, facilitate change if necessary, and empower teachers, support staff and administrators, so that the school environment can provide a safe and highly effective learning experience for all children.
When life throws curve balls! An educators guide to assist children who have experienced situations of loss.
Life doesn’t always go as planned! Unfortunate and sometimes tragic situations happen and children are often caught up in extraordinary events that are frightening or perhaps even life-threatening. Many children can maintain a relatively stable equilibrium, make healthy adjustments to situations of loss, with seemingly no adverse effects. Other children suffer mild to acute distress and can adopt trauma-related behaviours as a result.
Our brain is continually processing incoming sensory signals, forming memories which are pivotal in behaviour development and the way we adapt to our environment. Experiences that are painful or frightening are encoded, and highly memorable, due to our brain being primed for protection and survival. Subsequent reminders of a traumatic event are likely to bring about the same physiological and psychological fear reactions as when the event first happened. As a result, we find children commonly disconnecting and withdrawing, adopting behaviours of protection in order to manage the grief they are experiencing.
Children, particularly younger children, tend to express their grief behaviourally rather than emotional, so it is not surprising when negative or impulsive behaviors arise. These behaviors are commonly directed towards learning and the school environment and can be misinterpreted as the child having a difficult attitude or behaviour problem, whereby they are often reprimanded and punished accordingly.
Neuropsychotherapy provides a framework to address situations of loss. It is based on a ‘bottom-up’ approach where the limbic system is calmed, and stress is down-regulated through a safe and supportive educational environment. Emotional safety is essential for effective patterns of neural firing to begin, therefore understanding and not overlooking a child’s situation of loss is important for future well-being and learning to occur. Teachers and school staff are in a position to assist a child when loss occurs. They can be highly influential in promoting and encouraging behaviours that help a child connect, rather than adopting avoidance behaviours. Teachers and school staff, have the opportunity to move a child forward and change a trajectory, even after sad, distressing or tragic circumstances have unhinged and destabilized a child’s life.
This presentation will provide guidance for principals, teachers and school staff who are faced with the unexpected, sensitive and very difficult area of loss within the school community.