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Well-Being and Resilience in Children

Catherine Chong, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech-Language Pathologist
August 8, 2018

A communication disorder can impact a child’s ability to participate in activities and form relationships with others. These difficulties can impact a child’s psychological and social well-being. Wessells (2015) argued that children “are not passive victims but active makers of meaning who interpret adversity using lenses that practitioners need to understand.” Therefore, it is important to obtain the children’s perspectives on their experiences and the impact of their experiences on their well-being.

What is well-being?

Well-being was defined as “feeling good about one’s self, the absence of psychological distress, the presence of positive affective states (e.g., happiness and contentment), and integrating sadness with happiness” (Fattore, Mason, and Watson, 2006). Children and adults have different opinions of what impacts well-being. Children placed the greatest value on relationships with family, friends, and pets. In contrast, parents placed the greatest value on health, ability to express emotions, and school (Sixsmith, Nic Gabhainn, Fleming, and O’Higgins, 2007).

What is resilience?

Resilience was defined as “a process of adaptation when children are exposed to adverse conditions” and has previously been conceptualized in terms of risk and protective factors. Ungar (2015) described resilience within an ecological model which explained that resilience was determined by the capacity of the individual and his or her social ecologies (e.g., school, home, and social contexts). This was consistent with the social model of disability proposed by Thomas (2004), which also discussed the impact of factors at both the individual and societal level.

Risks and strategies

Through interviews with school-aged children who were receiving or had received speech and language intervention, three potential risks to well-being and three potential protective strategies were identified. The potential risks were a communication impairment and disability, difficulties with relationships, and concern about academic achievement. The protective strategies were hope, agency, and positive relationships.

Support networks

Parents, therapists, and teachers form a support system that is crucial to facilitating the development of resilience in children. Therapy can take a strength-based approach and help the child see where they are now and where they hope to be. It is important to help children develop agency and the belief that they can exert control over the environment rather than feeling powerless in difficult situations. By setting up safe therapeutic environments where children can share their experiences and feelings, sharing stories can be therapeutic in its own way.

Well-being in action

When working with any child, it is important to check in about their experiences to identify any negative incidents. By using an ecological framework to conceptualize well-being and resilience, parents and educators can identify protective strategies at both individual and environmental levels that can be reinforced to mitigate negative experiences. This will help the child build confidence to manage challenging situations in the future.

Resources

Lyons, R. & Roulstone, S. (2018). Well-Being and Resilience in Children With Speech and Language Disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61(2), 324-344. doi: 10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-16-0391.

Credit

Photo by Caety Chong, M.S., CCC-SLP

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