#042 How can a Neuropsychologist help my gifted child? With Dr Marnie Cumner
What is a neuropsychologist and how can they help my gifted child? We talk to Dr Marnie Cumner about neuropsychology and dive into how a neuropsychologist undertakes a holistic assessment of a child. In this episode, she talks about her strengths-based model of understanding both strengths and challenges and the whole child. These niche psychologists approach assessment differently and it is great to learn more about this process and how they might help a family looking for answers.
We’re hugely grateful for Dr Marnie Cumner for taking the time to introduce neuropsychologists!
Hit play and let’s get started!
“I think what’s useful with doing an assessment of the child’s strengths and challenges is what you said there about the building the bridges of that connection and understanding and empathy for parents because often parents are feeling really frustrated by certain behaviours or by certain little idiosyncrasies.
And it’s so powerful to be able to say. Actually, this is not mischief or maliciousness or being naughty, or they need to pull up their socks. It’s none of that. There’s a genuine difficulty with XYZ and that’s why this is coming out in this behaviour. And I can see that parents sometimes just need to have that context to go ah, right, okay.
And a few parents have said to me in the past that they feel like they can be empathetic with their child’s experience in that moment, knowing that they’re not just doing it, they actually are really overwhelmed and struggling with whatever that might be.” – Dr Marnie Cumner
- Nav Neuro – a podcast that dives into what neuropsychology is all about
- Dr Marnie Cumner‘s Sunshine Coast Office
- Australian Psychological Society resources on a variety of topics
Dr Marnie Cumner is a Clinical Neuropsychologist on The Sunshine Coast, with specialised training in understanding how brain function affects our everyday thinking and behaviour.
Paediatric Neuropsychology is a professional speciality, which focuses on understanding how the development of a child’s brain relates to their cognitive (thinking), behavioural, social and emotional functioning.
Marnie provides assessment services for children and adolescents to better understand their individual strengths and difficulties. She investigates thinking skills, such as, memory, attention, language and problem-solving, as well as social-emotional functioning, academic performance and behaviour.
Marnie uses the child’s individual profile of strengths and difficulties to provide tailored recommendations for improved learning, behaviour and emotion regulation. She uses a strengths-based model, which focuses on using a child’s strengths to minimise their difficulties.
[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: I’m delighted today to be talking to Dr. Bonnie cabana all the way from the sunshine coast in Australia.
[00:00:05] Is it sunny there? Because in Adelaide, November is surprisingly wet and cold at the moment.
[00:00:11] Dr. Marnie Cumner: It’s actually over. And she made, I feel like the humidity is about 90%. Hence the hair
[00:00:19] Sophia Elliott: I grew up in Queensland. I do not miss the humidity at all. Very hot today. Yes. Everyone needs to move to Adelaide money.
[00:00:27] Thank you for joining us. You’re a clinical neuropsychologist. And so with particular interest in pediatrics, first of all, tell us a little bit about what you do and who you serve.
[00:00:40] Dr. Marnie Cumner: Okay. Uh, I’m a neuropsychologist which comes under the umbrella of psychology, but neuroscience, which I’m going to call them from now on because it’s far too long.
[00:00:49] Neuroscience have additional specialized training in how the brain works. So in my pediatric arena, that tends to be children who have got neuro developmental differences are in Euro. Diverse might be. Children who’ve had a brain injury or have epilepsy, anything that affects the brain is where you’ll find me.
[00:01:11] Sophia Elliott: And so. Uh, on the sunshine coast and do, is all of your work in-person or do you, are you able to do over zoom, which is always a good question,
[00:01:22] Dr. Marnie Cumner: I guess that’s true. Mostly it’s in-person I sometimes would do the initial meeting with parents or the final feedback session via telehealth, but the actual assessment of the child’s cognition and their behavior and their regulation.
[00:01:37] It’s. That does not translate well to tele health. I feel like I really need to see them in
[00:01:42] Sophia Elliott: person. Yeah, absolutely. There’s something about being in the room with someone and just picking up on all the little things and spending some time with them.
[00:01:49] Dr. Marnie Cumner: And they like to see them over a few different appointments because it just gives me a sense of, often kids are shy the first time they come and then they loosen up a bit and you start to get to know them over those few appointments, which.
[00:02:01] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And we were talking earlier, you talked about having that holistic kind of view of the child, so you definitely need them to loosen up a little that’s
[00:02:12] Dr. Marnie Cumner: right. That’s right.
[00:02:13] Sophia Elliott: And so how did you get into this kind of work or with your particular interest in giftedness?
[00:02:21] Dr. Marnie Cumner: So I did my neuro-psychology doctorate in Melbourne.
[00:02:25] And then I worked in pediatric populations down there, mostly with children and young people who also had mental health complexities. And then I moved up to the sunshine coast and started a practice in Noosa and Started to see more of the neurodiverse sort of referrals. So ADHD, ASD learning disorders, and also giftedness as there are a couple of gifted kids.
[00:02:52] And then as I said before, the, the parent grapevine it, it moves fast. And so then I started to seem more and more, um, gifted kids and actually see quite a few of them now, particularly twice exceptional. And so I guess it’s been a fairly organic move to the gifted area, but one that I’m really grateful for.
[00:03:11] Fascinating. Yeah. Yeah,
[00:03:13] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. And so you’ve got some personal experience with giftedness as well, which I think is always interesting. You can’t swing a cat in the gifted community without someone going, oh, well, they’re obviously gifted, but oh yeah.
[00:03:25] I’ve got a gifted kid or a gifted grandkid as well. Yeah, that’s
[00:03:29] Dr. Marnie Cumner: right. So my personal experience, is so I had already been seeing gifted kids for assessment in my private practice. And then when my first daughter came along she was, as we said earlier, kind of the, in your face, obviously.
[00:03:47] Spoke very early and at great length and complexity had an absolute fascination with space at the ripe old age of three, came up with a theory of gravitational waves, her own personal one, that about four. So she was really, really quirky, obvious Lynn different child. And. So Anna, you know, she’s been going along just fine, but because of my professional interest in this area popped her off to have an assessment, which I just think is fascinating.
[00:04:15] I mean, why would we not want to know more about our children’s strengths and challenges? I just see useful information.
[00:04:22] Sophia Elliott: I agree. We had our first assessed and we were hooked. We were like, wow, this is fascinating. And at that point, I think anyone else in the family would be gifted, but we were like, we’re, we’re, we’ll get our others assessed because it’s just, just to get that kind of insight.
[00:04:40] So, so interesting.
[00:04:42] Dr. Marnie Cumner: I mean, I’m clearly biased, but I do think that everybody would benefit from this sort of assessment. It just, when it comes to learning it’s I think it’s. It’s hard as adults, but certainly hard as kids for them to understand that you can have a strength in one area and a challenge in the other area.
[00:04:58] And that doesn’t not, that doesn’t mean that you’re not good at everything. It just means that you’ve got a fairly normal human profile of strengths and challenges that we all have. So I think it’s, it is fascinating to find out more about them. And so of course my, my youngest also went off the assessment just this year.
[00:05:14] She’s very different very different in her presentation. So a lot more kind of neuro-typical doesn’t stand out as the quirky, mad scientist locker system. But knowing that IQ points amongst siblings are often very close and also she starting to express a bit of bore boredom and school reluctance this year.
[00:05:34] I thought item, I get her assessed as well to see how best to accommodate her learning differences.
[00:05:41] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, a fascinating journey to go on. And of course, if we’re talking about strictly an IQ test, it’s not without its challenges, but Yeah. Even that I think is quite insightful event kind of understanding.
[00:05:54] And we’ve had that experience in our household where an IQ test hasn’t really gone. Right. And even understanding why is that? It gives you all of this information about where that child is at and their strengths and weaknesses and areas that they might need support.
[00:06:10] Dr. Marnie Cumner: And it isn’t all just about.
[00:06:13] The cognitive assessment is it is. So that’s a moment in time where we tried to capture something very fluid and interesting, that is a child’s functioning and intelligence. And I think, we have to look much more broadly than just an IQ test and look at, social, emotional wellbeing behavior.
[00:06:30] The developmental history that their friendships, their family, it’s, it’s really, they don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re, they’re a part of a, a context center and, uh, an environment that’s is important to know all about in order to draw appropriate supports and strategies from
[00:06:49] Sophia Elliott: absolutely.
[00:06:49] It’s really refreshing to hear you say that because so often. Yeah. As a parent, your scrambling to find someone who can help you and tell you, or give you some direction of what is going on and you often get the little narrow view. Little pieces of the puzzle. So it’s refreshing to hear you say, well, you’re looking at the bigger picture there.
[00:07:11] So tell us a little bit about what you do look at in an assessment. Are those different areas or tools or
[00:07:17] Dr. Marnie Cumner: strategies you use? Yeah One of the, there some overlap with, I think previous podcasts there where you’ve looked at the whiskers are really sort of gold standard battery for looking at thinking skills.
[00:07:30] Certainly most neuroscience would always like to use at one of the gold standard batteries, but then additionally, we’re also looking at things that the WISC doesn’t include which are things like memory, attention, new learning ability. Executive functioning social communication and motor skills.
[00:07:50] Sometimes it’s, as simple as a fine motor issue that’s throwing someone off of tracking class. Developmental history, all these sorts of things. Also their sensory perceptions of sensory sensitivities, this, all these little pieces of the puzzle that make up the child and often children will come to me and they have had have seen other professionals, so you also can take into account all the medical aspects there, their audiology and the vision, and in any relevant medical history, all of these things are imperative to take.
[00:08:22] To take into consideration because the mind and body are, they are not neatly defined towers that are separate, they interact and, uh, complex.
[00:08:31] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. And even what comes to mind, there is one of my children. Uh, has a speech impairment, but what we figured out over time is that it wasn’t a delay.
[00:08:47] It wasn’t just you know, Certainly have other children who have had the typical glue ear and which has caused a bit of a delay. And sometimes that’s, in one child that was a quick fix in another child that we’ve needed to support that with speech therapy. But. The third child we figured out over time, the speech impairment was actually because of that communication between the brain and the muscles and the mouth, and actually needing to learn to make the sounds.
[00:09:16] And it was when we were actually at swimming one day. She was having swimming lessons. I could see her getting really upset with the Instructure instructor. And I noticed that the instructor is just trying to get her to blow bubbles, like above and below the water. And I’m watching her and she’s really getting distressed.
[00:09:35] And first of all, I’m thinking like, just stop his child’s obviously not happy, but then I have this aha moment and I, and I. I gesture to the instructor and I say, well, my child has this sort of speech impairment. I don’t think she can blow the bubbles. I think you need to show her how to blow the bubbles.
[00:09:55] So it fascinates me how one thing might impact another, or a lot of people will experience. Like sensory or extreme sensory input, which can affect, how they can think. And, uh, And you’ve mentioned as well. You take some sensory kind of concerns into account as well. So what are some of the tools or ways that you
[00:10:23] try and tease out what’s going on in there. I’m really curious.
[00:10:28] Dr. Marnie Cumner: So the, obviously the initial appointment is with parents only, and that’s how I can take a really thorough developmental history and really talk to them about what their current concerns are. Well, the child’s strengths are what their passions are, their interests and hobbies.
[00:10:45] And also things like any behaviors that they’re wondering about any kind of quirky, little sensory things. We talk about their friendships. We talk about how they relate to other people. So that’s a very content heavy appointment where I’m just want to find that as much as I can about. The child’s development, but also their current presentation, what are they going well in?
[00:11:06] What do they need a bit of help with? Parents often will bring along a whole bunch of reports or previous documents for other professionals or a letter from the school teacher. And then I get the child in and we have a good old discussion about what they love, what their strengths are, what they finding tricky at school.
[00:11:23] And then we get into our assessment side of things. I get the parents to also do a number of questionnaires. So things that are looking at, um, formalized Questionnaires with psychometric data that allow me to go, well, this is average for this age group. This is above, this is below. So we consider that how they’re going across different areas in like so executive functioning, which is you know, planning, organizing, working to a deadline, regulating your emotions and your behavior.
[00:11:49] So I get the parents to fill that out and usually the teacher as well. Defense, depending on the referral question, I’m also get them to fill out a questionnaire. That’s very focused on learning more about their attention or maybe their impulsivity and every dialogue again, parent and teacher fill that out.
[00:12:05] I get PA I give parents a lot of homework fill out a questionnaire about anxiety, so, and really specific to different types of anxieties that children experience, because that is probably the number one. Most common co-occurring thing that I see with giftedness and with the two kids is that anxiety and then the child.
[00:12:27] And I also do a questionnaire together about their anxiety or self-report that is really useful because it it’s sort of, is a platform for more discussions about what their experience. On top of that, I also would talk to teachers. If there’s any other health professionals involved, I get in touch with them.
[00:12:43] So I’m really throwing my net wide to try and gather as much information as I can about this little post.
[00:12:52] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, that sounds really interesting. And are you like mentally taking notes when you meet the parents as well? Because the apple doesn’t fall from the three, which is what I’m learning quite
[00:13:01] Dr. Marnie Cumner: frankly.
[00:13:02] Yes, definitely. Definitely. And I think sometimes it’s not uncommon to have a feedback session with parents and be saying, look, they’re really fast learners. They’re going to have to really accommodate that, but they’re having difficulty regulating their attention, maybe there’s.
[00:13:14] Uh, diagnosis here in for parents, uh, all look at the other one and go, ah, yes, I thought so. And they recognize, or that resonates with their own personal experience, lot of parents are not, I mean that generation not typically diagnosed or or accommodated as well as, as our kids often.
[00:13:34] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. One of our kids had an auditory processing assessment fairly recently. And in that outcome, one of the challenges is in that scenario, we’ve got all the background noise and you’ve got to narrow in and listen to someone. And I was like, oh my God, that’s a thing. I’m, I cannot talk to a person like at a bar or, or networking.
[00:13:58] It’s just so hard to listen. So. Wow. So that really. Oh, it hit you. It really hit me. And it was a funny thing was that they recommended some software as a bit of brain training, which can be helpful. And the the audiologist was like, yeah, you get that software actually, like we could have three users, you could do it.
[00:14:20] Totally going to do that. Yeah, definitely. So did it help? We haven’t done it yet because we’re all just a bit naked and what we’re going to. Early next year. So I’m curious to see how we all go.
[00:14:33] Dr. Marnie Cumner: I think it’s really interesting as a parent and you’ve been through it and I’ve been through it too, to be on the other side.
[00:14:40] Of the fence and go, oh wow. This is really interesting to learn more about yourself or learn more about your children. Yeah. And it is
[00:14:47] Sophia Elliott: because I think it gives you a place of connection with your child. And, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last year of talking to people during this podcast is as a parent shifting from that place of.
[00:15:01] I don’t know the best way I can describe it is we’re all in our silos, parents and kids, and actually finding those bridges where we can start to connect with the other person’s lived experience of something. And I think that’s particularly strong for us at the moment, in terms of understanding, understanding our individual lived experience of the world, according to our Sensi sensitive.
[00:15:28] You know, awareness and the way we relate to the world, let alone just cognitively as gifted and what that means. And I think for me that’s probably. Where, whether it is almost needs to be that big shift is kind of shifting into that place of understanding. Individuals actually have a different lift experience because I remember doing a questionnaire earlier in the year as a part of my own assessment.
[00:15:56] And. I wish I was writing notes on this, ticking the boxes and just like, well, doesn’t everyone do that? Doesn’t everyone do that? What do you mean people don’t do that? Like it blew my brains to think that not everyone, uh, did these things that I would do. And so when I think about my kids they’re just assuming everyone is the same as them or.
[00:16:19] Or what they experience is normal or typical, so it can make it hard to articulate then, oh, actually I am struggling with noise. And that’s causing me to melt down when actually you just assume everyone has the same experience.
[00:16:37] Dr. Marnie Cumner: That’s right. That’s right. So, and particularly, I think also with. Two E kids.
[00:16:43] So kids are gifted on the spectrum that difficulty with perspective taking in theory of mine would mean that you assume how you perceive the world is how other people perceive the world, which is exactly what you’re saying. So maybe not something worth remarking on that, that it’s too loud in the classroom, or there’s too many bright pictures near your desk because you’re assuming everybody else feels the same.
[00:17:05] And so. Yeah. It’s not worth noting. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It can be. That’s part of, I think what’s useful with doing an assessment of the child’s strengths and challenges is what you said there about the building, the bridges of that connection and understanding and empathy for parents because often parents are feeling really frustrated by certain behaviors or by certain little idiosyncrasies.
[00:17:32] And it’s so powerful to be able to say. Actually, this is not mischief or maliciousness or being naughty, or they need to pull up their socks. It’s none of that. There’s a genuine difficulty with XYZ ed and that’s why this is coming out in this behavior. And I can see that that’s parents sometimes just need to have that context to go.
[00:17:54] Ah, right. Okay. And apparent a few parents had said to me in the past that they feel like they can be. Impacted with their child’s experience in that moment, knowing that they’re not just doing it, they actually are really overwhelmed and struggling with whatever that might be.
[00:18:11] Sophia Elliott: Yes, absolutely. I think it helps shift in that perspective.
[00:18:16] Yeah. And. And even, even like what you just said there, that shift from all, they’re just being naughty. You know, you’re not firm enough with them or like you said, they have to pull up their socks. You know, that’s almost like a generational shift to sort of more, I dunno if current modern parenting is quite the right way of putting it, but you know, we’re starting to understand that behavior.
[00:18:44] Uh, for a reason. And actually we need to understand the underlying reason to to fix that rather than just squished down the behavior
[00:18:53] Dr. Marnie Cumner: or, yeah. And I think, sometimes people ask what’s what would be the value in making a diagnosis here and actually formalizing a label. People are concerned, rightly concerned about stigma and stereotypes in my mind, I think.
[00:19:09] That is where the value of a diagnosis would lie is that it provides a context for understanding a particular set of strengths and challenges and really being able to support them in quite a targeted way. Again, it’s almost like a shorthand to say, well, this is, you know, they’ve got ADHD.
[00:19:27] They need help, uh, regulating that, regulating their attention. And that’s how they’re wired. That’s and that’s okay. And I think that context can really be. A massive shift, like you saying, people’s perception and accommodation of that child. Yeah,
[00:19:44] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. So a wonderful process there of assessment, like you said, casting your net wide in terms of gathering that information, often pulling pieces of other reports together to see how they connect.
[00:19:58] And I absolutely see. The benefit in that. And I wish I had found you here in Adelaide years ago, quite frankly, because it sounds amazing. And it’s, it’s so hard to get someone to look holistically at your child and help you and put all those different pieces together. I noticed that one of the questions frequently asked questions on your website was actually around.
[00:20:24] Trauma. And so it’s, what is the impact of early psychological trauma, such as abuse or neglect on my child’s development? And I guess I want to ask that question by also kind of what to say and ask about when we think of trauma. Often we think of really big, ugly things that are obviously very traumatic, but my understanding of.
[00:20:47] What might constitute trauma and therefore have an impact on a child can actually be a lot more subtle than that and about just kind of meeting needs and things like that. So I thought it’d be helpful just to have a little chat about first of all, what might trauma look like and what impact might that have?
[00:21:09] Dr. Marnie Cumner: Yeah, so I think like you say, there is That is the sort of perception that people have when they hear trauma or maltreatment adverse childhood experiences, that sort of thing. And that stems from my work in Melbourne with children in the foster care system. And there is huge literature on the impact of those sorts of adverse experiences on neurodevelopment.
[00:21:33] Uh, child is. I child is living in an unpredictable kind of unsafe environment. That means that they have to be on the lookout for danger all the time which raises their cortisol, their stress hormone. And that can have a significant effect on brain development. Often children who have had that sort of really significant trauma will look like they have got ADHD cause they’re hypervigilance and they’re inattentive.
[00:22:00] Cause we all know it’s hard. It’s hard to pay attention when you’re. Anxious and looking out for the danger and problems so they can be quite complex presentations, but I think you’re right too in that trauma is a, that that’s a big umbrella term. It covers a lot. So sometimes we have children who’ve experienced sort of one.
[00:22:22] Case of really significant adversity. And sometimes we have kids who, and they, and I guess temperament weighs into this as well with how children manage and move on, because sometimes you’ll see children with a significant trauma history who are going along just fine. And then other children who have much less have had what appears to be much less of a significant trauma.
[00:22:49] Hugely effected by it and really functionally impaired wise. So I think the range of experience, like you say, can be vast experience and outcomes. Yeah.
[00:23:00] Sophia Elliott: Because gifted kids, uh, so much more sensitive you know, there’s the research from the. Organization in the U S gifted research and outreach that has looked at the brain and there.
[00:23:16] And what they talk about is that giftedness being, you know, the lived experience, being experienced through that lens of emotion and, and empathy. So making our gifted kids very sensitive to the world. And, and when you’re that sensitive you know, I guess you’re not necessarily got the resilience to bat things away.
[00:23:42] There’s potentially more that might, create harm or end up in anxiety and stuff like that. Would that be
[00:23:49] Dr. Marnie Cumner: relatively? Absolutely. And I think the interesting thing there too, is that there. So the experience of anxiety in itself often, I mean, obviously distressing, but it also the cognitive effect of anxiety is that it very much derails attention.
[00:24:08] If you think about the last time you felt worried or anxious about something, it’s very hard to focus, it’s almost impossible to learn and retain something new if you’re in that heightened state. You know, we know that when kids are anxious, they’re, they’re. Hi, critical functions, basically just go offline and they got move into that fight or flight fight flight flight, or freeze response.
[00:24:29] And in that moment, when they’re heightened and distress, they’re actually really not taking anything in they’re just in survival mode. And so as you say, when we’ve got gifted kids who maybe have got sensory differences who are very, in a distress state in the classroom often I hear kids kids.
[00:24:45] On the spectrum who have a great deal of difficulty understanding what is expected on a task, particularly if they have to infer any type of meaning into it, it’s just, it’s not clear and concrete. There’s that immediate sort of stress and anxiety response. And then of course they don’t get their work done.
[00:25:03] Well, they look like they’re daydreaming out the window or things, take them ages to complete. So I think there’s the cognitive effect. Anxiety, which is, is often overlooked. Yeah,
[00:25:17] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Yeah. I find that really interesting because, oh, uh, just the number of gifted kids I know who also have those anxiety challenges is, is huge and yeah.
[00:25:34] And that I’m very aware of. It’s like you say, when you’re in that survival state where you can’t learn, you can’t be creative. You’re too busy in that moment, just surviving. And we can’t underestimate uh, I guess the impact of that, or what might have led to them being in that state, not necessarily having to be.
[00:25:53] You know, the awful things that we, one tends to imagine when we talk about trauma, but like a lot of gifted kids. Certainly, um, I usually, I, I don’t like to make general statements and I’ll say anecdotally, but do you know, I know so many gifted kids and families who have just quite frankly been traumatized by the school experience of not fitting of then.
[00:26:19] Uh, getting that constant feedback because that they’re bad or naughty because they’re not doing the right things and families hitting their head against a brick wall because they’re just really struggling too with that communication piece, with the school and. And then when that child does finally get into a place where they are able to meet those needs, actually taking quite a long time to rebuild that trust and move out of survival mode into a place where they can learn again.
[00:26:48] Uh, so yeah, so I think I bring that up because I think it’s something. That can present in, in a lot of different ways and really have a big impact. Yeah,
[00:26:57] Dr. Marnie Cumner: very true. And I think, like you say, when once, once you feel like the child has moved to a system or an environment where their needs are being met, it’s not just, it’s not always just an instant learning.
[00:27:10] Confidence goes up, resilience improves. It does be can take a while because children need to feel. Safe and they need consistent, predictable retains in their lives. That’s how children thrive. And so when you are in a school system that you maybe not quite understanding, and that doesn’t understand you, that can feel very, I imagine that can feel very unpredictable and chaotic.
[00:27:36] Sophia Elliott: Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that reinforcement, I think. Because it’s not working for you, therefore you’re broken, you know, in itself. And the damage that that can do is if it’s kind of scary to think about.
[00:27:51] Dr. Marnie Cumner: Yeah, I think the, one of the things that I have learnt professionally and personally is. That the school and education system has got a long way to go.
[00:28:02] So a lot of very nice documents, policy documents out there about meeting, learning differences, no matter what end of the bell curve they may fall on butts. It’s certainly the gifted kids that I think are highly, highly underserviced And that can be hugely disheartening for them and their families.
[00:28:23] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. Certainly our personal experience. And like you say, also of all the people that I talk to it’s, it’s, it’s not to say that there aren’t schools out there trying to do their best and teachers, but I think as we talk about a lot, it’s that. Education and awareness just isn’t there within the system, and, and hopefully that gets better over time, but in the meantime, got a whole bunch of kids and families who are really struggling.
[00:28:51] Dr. Marnie Cumner: It’s it’s a wider issues. And then I think you have to roll it right back to um, university degrees, teaching, teaching giftedness. Yeah. I’ve certainly had teachers say to me, it’s not even, no, not even part of the uni curriculum that may have changed, but no,
[00:29:07] Sophia Elliott: well, it hasn’t, there might be one or two I’m aware of.
[00:29:12] Uh, one I’m aware of two universities that have started to like, and I think it’s like one elective. But at least it’s something, but by and large, yeah. Our teachers are still not being trained in it, which is obviously it’s not helping them when they get to the classroom to understand what’s going on with their students, a hugely difficult position to be put in.
[00:29:35] Absolutely. And so.
[00:29:37] Parents often, I imagine they land on your doorstep. They are having all sorts of challenges. And a lot of that I think as parents, it’s the behavior that really gets our attention that we struggle with. And so it’s good to know that That neuro psychologist like yourself, particularly in the pediatrics is going to take that kind of holistic look at a child in terms of brain function and potentially pick up on a range of different possible challenges.
[00:30:11] So perhaps, if you going to I don’t know, provide some advice to parents. who are in the midst of figuring their kids out, what might that.
[00:30:21] Dr. Marnie Cumner: I think that’s, it’s, it’s always useful to be talking to their teachers and to be asking for where, how they’re going against benchmark levels, just to get that idea, but also then asking about the social, emotional behavioral side of things at school.
[00:30:39] If if there are concerns, you know, a referral onwards for an assessment. I always think is hugely helpful. Whether there’s a diagnosis in the mix or not being able to know what that probably most importantly, what needing, knowing what that child’s strengths are and their interests, and being able to really bring them into their curriculum, wherever possible is so important for learning engagement and confidence.
[00:31:06] So I think, being able to have, uh, an assessment of. I would like to say neuropsychology assessment, but given that we are somewhat scarce breed, it might not always be here, but certainly with a psychologist with experience in assessment, who will look at the, the whole child context. Because like we said before, it’s emotions, cognition, behavior, environment, they are, they’re very Ever changing landscapes that interact with each other.
[00:31:37] I think it’s also useful for parents too, to learn more about what they’re concerned about. So getting on various waste resources and websites I can share a couple of those links with you, actually, if you’d like, that’d be great. You know, knowledge is power, right? Then the more, you know, there’s a lot of when you know where to look, there’s a lot of very good resources out there on how to support different areas of strength and challenge, you know, kids.
[00:32:03] And that’s another really important avenue for parents to S
[00:32:07] Sophia Elliott: to follow up. Absolutely. And I love that you’re talking about strength and challenge because we can, I think the model has been very much deficit focused. It’s all about the challenges without really acknowledging and supporting and helping the strengths to build.
[00:32:24] Dr. Marnie Cumner: So that’s important. And I also always make sure, so depending on the age of the child, sometimes they come along to the feedback session and we really talk about their strengths and what’s going on and just validating the challenges can be so powerful for them. They can’t always come while they’re a bit young.
[00:32:39] And so I usually also write the. Uh, feedback letter addressed to them. That’s just very simple, plain language about, pitch to their age, but what their strengths are. And I might say, you told me that you’re having trouble paying attention in class even, and we get it, we know you’re trying your best, but it’s still hard.
[00:32:57] That’s okay. Just means we’re going to give a little bit of extra help here. So trying to say. W please remember that you’re good at all these many, many things, and it doesn’t have to be thinking skill strengths. It might be, they have a brilliant verbal memory or whatever, but it might also be they’re brilliant at Hamble or playing the guitar.
[00:33:14] So I put them in as well. But then equally just validating their concerns. We don’t want them to feel that we didn’t hear anything that they’re having trouble with. And I think that’s important because it, No matter their age. I have put a lot into this assessment. It’s, it’s some hard work, kids are curious to know what it all meant and, and what’s next.
[00:33:33] So I think it’s important for them to get feedback as well.
[00:33:37] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. I just think that’s totally beautiful because I think often in these processes, the kid doesn’t get taken into account, let alone. Their own sort of feedback. So I’ll probably go for doing that. That’s really beautiful. It makes me feel a bit teary because so often, yeah.
[00:33:56] Those strengths can get overlooked and this is expectation that everyone has to be good at everything. And like, that’s just that, you know, in no world, is that the case, it’s okay to go through school. Even for a neuro-typical kid, some subjects you’re better at, than other subjects. Let’s, you know, that needs to be the new normal.
[00:34:19] Yes, absolutely.
[00:34:21] Dr. Marnie Cumner: I definitely don’t want them. Cause you think about that medical model, like you say, it is, it’s very deficits focused. You go to see a doctor when something’s not going well. Yeah. I definitely don’t want them to leave my office thinking they came to see me because there’s something wrong with them.
[00:34:34] I want, so I say, when parents say. What should I tell them about why they’re coming to see you? I say, well, the nutshell version is it’s my job to find out how they learn best. Yeah. And that actually, if you boil it all down, that kind of is my job. And so I want to know what are they good at? What are they having trouble with and what are we going to do about it?
[00:34:54] And kids are like, oh, okay. That’s that seems fine. I’ll come along. Yeah.
[00:34:58] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. That’s okay. There’s something in that for me that could work. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Oh, that sounds really beautiful. Thank you so much for talking to us today. I feel like I know a whole lot more about a breed of psychologist.
[00:35:11] I’m not even sure I realized existed and. And certainly wish I had found you a couple of years ago just to get that beautiful, positive strengths and challenges, holistic look at kids who needs a more in-depth understanding because they’re so complex and there’s so much going on. And, uh, yeah, I thank you so much.
[00:35:36] I really appreciate you spending this time with us to.
[00:35:39] Dr. Marnie Cumner: It was a pleasure. Thank you for having
[00:35:41] Sophia Elliott: me. Yeah. No, thank you