Friday, July 22, 2011

ADHD Coach Perth: Children's Mental Wellbeing Produces Academic Success

A recent PhD study conducted at the Flinders University in Australia examined  a programme to promote mental health in primary school children and its effect on academic performance. (Dix et al, Implementation Quality of Whole-School Mental Health Promotion and Students' Academic Performance. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 2011). The study found that schools which implemented the KidsMatter mental health programme well achieved better academic outcomes in students, equal to 6 months or more of schooling by year 7.

 KidsMatter is an Australian mental health early intervention initiative. It was designed to involve all members of the school community, including  students, parents, teachers & principals. The programme had 3 aims: (1) to improve the mental health & wellbeing of students; (2) to reduce mental health problems among students, and: (3) to achieve greater support for students experiencing mental health problems.  In order to achieve these aims it provided: (1) a positive school community; (2) social & emotional training for students; (3) parenting support & education, and: (4) early intervention for students with mental health difficulties.

NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) results were cross-referenced with results from the KidsMatter Primary Evaluation data. Socio-economic factors and family circumstances were controlled so as not to influence the results. The study has limitations. But as an initial exploration of this issue it highlights what other researchers have previously noted, namely, that there are strong links between student behaviour, academic achievement, and social & emotional development. In the words of one principal: 'We found that happy kids and contented kids, and kids who know how to interact better with one another are much better learners'

Is your child's school looking after their social & emotional wellbeing as well as their learning needs? In my experience there is often a willingness on the part of teachers to support children in every way, but they don't always know how to do it. Schools are always open to suggestions. In my next blog I'll suggest some strategies you might want to pass on to your child's school.

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