AUK Conference – a few random thoughts

Finally found some space to sort my notes from Saturday – well I say that and a student turns up for a meeting late. In my 90 minutes of time on a Monday when I meet with my final year project students if they turn up. Always a good time to do stuff like this as I cannot do much else.


I really enjoyed the conference and took away any number of things from it – looking at my notes they go over 9 sides of A4 in my work logbook (only thing I had with me – good thing no one else sees it). I am not going to even attempt to write it all down here – but am going to talk about the things that stood out for me.

Random list of what stood out

  1. The first thing I wrote down from Dr Bruce Perry’s seminar was: ‘the less time you spend with children, the more influence you have on policy.’ Sadly this seems so true and it shouldn’t be – policy about children should come from those who live and work with them – not those who think they know it all.
  2. Human beings are social and rhythmic creatures. The human brain is not designed for the modern world which is relationally poor (children experience 1/20th of interactions today that they did 20 years ago). Thousands of generations lived in small multi-generational groups – today we live in one/two generation very small groups and upto a quarter of adults live alone.
  3. There is a triadic neurobiological link between regulation, reward & relational – our stress response depends on relational response around us. Interactions are important in developing those connections in the brain (majority formed in first 1-2 years of a child’s life) – good interactions (i.e. present caregiver) lead to good connections and a good internal template.  Inconsistency in interactions leads to a negative internal template.
  4. Positive human interactions help us to regulate – whereas negative ones don’t. When does being told ‘don’t’ help regulation. Even a ‘gentle’ warning will not help a child who is dysregulated due to transitions – they are not ‘choosing’ to do what they are doing – they are attempting to regulate themselves much of the time (i.e. rocking, jiggling about etc.)
  5. Brain is very complex – essentially all models are wrong, but some are useful.
  6. Brain development effected by inter-uterine experiences (alcohol etc), developmental trauma/adversity & poor attachment. These can all cause a child to have a higher baseline state (in other words always aroused) due to over (or chaotic) stimulation of the stress response system. In order for the child to be able to learn we have to help them regulate.
  7. Sequence of engagement: Regulate -> Relate -> Reason. Must regulate ourselves & child, then relate to them (connect before you correct) and only then reason with them.
  8. Regulation needs to reach the lower parts of the brain (somatosensory stuff) – this starts in the womb with the mother’s heartbeat. Rhythm is a key way in helping a child (or adult) to regulate.
  9. Must take care of ourselves and ensure we are regulated before we can help our child to regulate. Rhythm+relationship= regulation.
  10. Sometimes lowering voice and backing away from a dysregulated child will help them (their sense of personal space needed is more than for a child from loving background) – as will being in parallel (no eye contact which can be a trigger for traumatised children) .
  11. Key to everything is replicating a healthy attachment & regulation
    1. Be present
    2. Be parallel
    3. Be attentive to them (don’t ask obvious questions)
    4. Let them be in control fo visiting issues & leading conversation
    5. be a reflective listener & mindful of them
  12. Behaviour programmes are constructed assuming that children know right from wrong and are usually regulated so they have a time sense. A child who is a persistant aroused state will have a time sense of minutes so if consequence is not immediate then they will not link it to behaviour.

Ok that turned into quite a random list from my jottings down. So much of what Bruce Perry made sense from what I know of other adopted children. We are so lucky (I say again) in Sqk in that he has a good internal template thanks to a brilliant foster carer who was attentive to his needs and gave him the start hsi brain needed to be wired for healthy attachment. But even he gets dysregulated (he is only 3 after all) and needs our help to regulate. We are slowly but surely starting to recognise his triggers and what he does to self-regulate as well as taking advantage of the fact he can be calmed by being sat on us provided we are regulated ourselves. Running & bouncing are favourite self-regulating mechanisms for him along with chewing when he is really anxious. Music is also a real soother – bedtime at home always includes sitting in a rocking chair singing to him and he sings to himself at times.

All in all a fascinating day and one that was so worthwhile. In addition, I have got DH reading Bruce Perry’s book ‘The Boy raised as a Dog’ (he struggled to put it down last night) and understanding much of what I have said. Does help that like me he has a scientific enquiring mind.

Now to type up my notes at some point (so I can read them in future) and also to find some of the diagrams Bruce used to put into them. That is something for an evening or a weekend job – I really better not take anymore work time as all students been to see me now.

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Adopter with husband T of our son Sqk. Approved at end of July 2013 and Sqk moved in in mid October 2013. Riding the roller-coaster road of adoption although in our case it is not as much of a roller-coaster as it is for many....

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Author: rh

Adopter with husband T of our son Sqk. Approved at end of July 2013 and Sqk moved in in mid October 2013. Riding the roller-coaster road of adoption although in our case it is not as much of a roller-coaster as it is for many....

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