Interview with Marina Barber, psychologist

We often have issues related to the development and learning of our children, if in the day to day we realize that there is a problem at home, at school … Is he a child moved or has a disorder? Should I seek psychological help? Do you need support at school? Also in the case of children with psychological difficulties doubts are very present and a professional opinion is indispensable.

To answer these and other questions, we speak today with Marina Barber, psychologist and coordinator of the Child Development and Early Care Unit (UDIAT) of the Vithas Virgen del Mar Hospital (Almería), specialist in Psychopathology of Language and its rehabilitation, expert in Psychomotor and Early Care, with extensive experience in the field of general child and adolescent health psychology.

To what extent does early attention influence the improvement of the child’s development with cognitive difficulties?

When any type of learning difficulty is detected at an early age, that minor must immediately be referred to Early Care. Early intervention is essential to alleviate possible deficits or even correct them.

What signs can make parents think that a child needs pedagogical or psychological attention?

The warning signs in development are very diverse. They can be observed in a specific area (social, communication, perceptual-cognitive, personal or motor autonomy) or in several areas at the same time. Some of the developmental warning signs that a family can observe at home are:

  • Delay in the acquisition of motor items. For example, a baby who, after 18 months has not started free walking.
  • Difficulty establishing eye contact, imitating another (child and/or adult) and following the instructions given.
  • Do not start your first words around the year and, as time goes by, do not progress favorably in vocabulary acquisition. We must not get carried away by the popular phrase “will speak.”
  • Feeling that when the child speaks to him, he does not understand us or does not hear us well, even when we know that he has no hearing deficit.
  • Difficulty acquiring basic concepts such as colors, shapes …
  • Behavioral rigidity always wants to play the same activity or with the same toy and, when we try to modify it, has tremendous tantrums.

In general, if we observe that our child shows a lag with respect to what other children his age do, that child is likely to be valued by an Early Care team. Our pediatrician can make this referral.

What is still unknown about autism spectrum disorders?

Despite the great advances produced, there are still many data that remain unknown. Biological, environmental and genetic factors are those involved in the presence of this disorder. There is currently no definitive medical test that diagnoses an ASD. Thanks to the awareness campaigns that are carried out from the different associations and autism federations, the different myths that circulate around this disorder are diminishing. One of these myths is that there are treatments that cure it, currently, autism is a lifelong disorder.

How is the diagnosis of autism made? Has progress been made in recent years in this field?

The advances in autism, thanks to recent and multiple investigations, are spectacular. Progress has been made not only in establishing the diagnosis but in terms of the causes of the disorder and the educational intervention models.

It is a complex diagnosis that requires a multidisciplinary team composed of professionals with extensive experience in this field. In the absence of any medical evidence that can establish it, we must rely on the observation and evaluation of behavior. The process consists of several phases, the process of collecting information from both the family and the environment, direct observation of the child and application of standardized tests. After obtaining the results of all these data, we can formulate a diagnosis which should be followed immediately by a complete action plan.

How can children with Asperger syndrome be helped at home? And at school?

Of special relevance is to provide the family with strategies and tools that allow them to act properly both at home and in certain social situations. Some basic recommendations that we can carry out are:

  • Establish routines that help them control the environment and prevent what will happen next. Communication panels and visual agendas are helpful.
  • Starting from the interests of the minor to carry out tasks in a way that he feels motivated to carry out.
  • Avoid confrontations, be patient as this can produce even more inflexible behavior in the person with Asperger.
  • Adapt language so that it can be understood by everyone. Dodging literary figures and double meanings that lead to confusion.
  • Promote their participation in group activities in a progressive manner, without causing emotional states of anxiety.

In the school, it will be the Orientation Teams that assess what kind of school needs each child requires and provide teachers with strategies to solve possible conflicts that may arise in the classroom in relation to the students that Asperger presents.

How can we tell when a child is “moved” and when he has an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Is it possible to do it in the domestic sphere?

As if we have severe pain in a knee we consult with a traumatologist, if we observe that the child presents difficulties, we must consult with a psychologist among other specialists

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. When our child shows this type of characteristics and these influence the child’s daily life and their environment in a negative way to the point of not knowing how to control them, it is when we should consult with a specialist.

The problems that a child may have in school, can children hide with high capacities? How to differentiate these children?

The child with high capacities will present in the first courses some skills superior or very superior to the rest of the partners, quickly learning, for example, processes such as literacy. If these minors are not detected on time, there may be cases of lack of motivation and, therefore, a poor academic performance that can lead to a lack of self-esteem and motivation for learning. The detection of these children should be done at an early age to avoid further school failure. Some of the signs that can be observed are precocity in the psychomotor and language field, low tolerance for frustration, great memorial skills, preference for games of a cognitive nature such as puzzles or predilection for topics that are not common in children, among other general characteristics.

Do you think that the current education system has sufficient resources to serve children with special needs? What lacks exist?

No. I think that the education system, in general, requires a great reform, and in the field of special needs in particular, schools should be provided with much more material and professional resources. As for the shortcomings, highlighting the deficit of professionals who care for children, for example, the same teacher of hearing and language can be shared by several centers so that a child can receive only half an hour of weekly support and, in addition in a group way. Another fact to take into account is the quality of the training of professionals working in this area, we need professionals well equipped with strategies in all areas and, above all, with a great vocation for the work they perform, so that Current form of access to this type of work I think is not appropriate. So far the interview with the psychologist Marina Barber, to which we appreciate her willingness to answer our questions and hope that she resolves the concerns of many parents.

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