Professor Andrew McDonnell reviews 'Beyond Behaviours' and 'Social and Emotional Development in Early Intervention' by Dr. Mona Delahooke.
It is only relatively recently that my colleagues recommended to me two books by Dr Mona Delahooke, the first being Social and Emotional Development in Early Intervention (2017).
This book predominantly focuses on working with children and young people, primarily from a neurodevelopmental perspective. The chapters contain numerous reflective exercises and examples that would be useful for parents and professionals alike. In Chapter 6, titled ‘New Ways to Understand Challenging Behaviours,’ Dr. Delahooke provides a user-friendly approach that focuses on the stress response. Key to this approach, and indeed the entire book, is the idea that children are trying to cope with the world around them.
This book combines practical ideas and assessments that can be used relatively quickly by people who are supporting individuals who present with behaviours of concern. When reading this book, it is unavoidable for the reader to notice the humanistic and compassionate approaches of the author.
As a practitioner of the Low Arousal Approach, Dr Delahooke’s view on the power of human relationships particularly resonated with me:
‘When we prioritise our own calm and alert state through engagement and relating, we will build everything else we do on a solid foundation.’ - Pg. 154
For those individuals seeking to make sense of supporting children and young people and their families, this book should most definitely be on your Christmas list.
The second book recommended to me was Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children's Behavioral Challenges (2019).
This book describes Dr Delahooke in the context of what can only be described as compassion-focused approaches:
’Dr. Delahooke has dedicated her career to promoting compassionate, relationship-based, neurodevelopmental interventions for children with developmental, behavioural, emotional and learning differences’ – Pg. vii
This book of nine chapters in total is divided into three parts. The first three chapters focus on understanding behaviours. There are fascinating sections in this book ranging from focusing on the autonomic nervous system to the understanding of ‘neuroception.’ The second part of the book is entitled ‘Solutions,’ and focuses on practical approaches to understanding the behaviour of children.
One section provides some simple de-escalation strategies which have a huge overlap with the Low Arousal Approach to managing behaviours:
‘If the child wants physical space, move away slowly and respectfully.’ Pg. 156
‘Limit what you say to the child, and remember that she may not hear you well.’ Pg.156
These statements make it clear to me that Dr. Delahooke is not only an academic, but a practitioner who has clearly walked the walk with young people and their families.
The last part of the book has three chapters which attempt to apply her work, and discusses future developments of the approach. This section is entitled ‘Neurodiversity, Trauma, and Looking to the Future.’ Dr Delahooke addresses a wide range of subjects such as toxic stress and trauma, the problem with rewards and punishments, and ‘hardwiring happiness.’
It is quite rare for me to read a book that I cannot criticise. This is an intense read that certainly ‘packs a punch’ on a personal and professional level. If you are a practitioner, a parent, a psychologist, or anyone who has an interest in understanding a neurodevelopmental approach, this book should be essential and required reading.
Written by Professor Andrew McDonnell,
Clinical Psychologist, Director of Studio III