Up-Close … with educational psychologist Patricia Gabriel-‘All kids are different but I think consistency is the key’


07-August-2012

Patricia GabrielWith a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Surrey and a Masters from British Colombia in Canada, Patricia is no doubt an educated woman.

What struck me the most about her, however, is her empathy and sincere compassion for the children she come across through work.

A school psychologist, Patricia says she has always been a fan of psychology.

“Have been since I was at the Polytechnic,” she says. “Before going for my degree I was sent to teach and this is where I found I had an interest in those children who seemed to have greater difficulty adapting to their surroundings, be it because of behavioural or learning problems.”

“After that, I discovered educational psychology and decided it was what I wanted to specialise in,” she says, clasping her hands to her knees.

Challenges
Patricia lets her eyes wander around the room for a bit before saying, “You know I think the problem really with what I do is that there are so many children with issues but not enough specialised psychologists to deal with them”.

“You find yourself in a situation where you want to do more, want to give more but it’s just not possible with the limited amount of resources and perhaps awareness of specific problems in schools,” she says, looking frazzled for a second.

Autism awareness
As a school psychologist, Patricia says she has come across many children showing signs of autism throughout the spectrum and says she has a great interest in being part of bringing awareness of the state to the public and parents who may be facing a hard time.

“Autism is a condition where the brain has been affected in a way where the end result is difficulty in three main areas in life – one, in communicating effectively (verbally or non-verbally).

The second is having difficulty with interacting with others and thirdly most of the children affected with autism tend to have repetitive behaviour and their interests are rather restricted – they also tend to function with set routines and any changes to that could affect their moods or how they react,” she explains emphatically.

She notes however that the severity of the condition is measured on a spectrum and not all autistic children necessarily have the symptoms at one go.

“One child may speak but still have issues with routine and repetitive behaviour where another may not speak at all and communicate through drawings, so it depends. It’s a tricky thing to diagnose if you don’t have the right tools”.

Patricia says however steps are being taken to bring awareness of the condition to the public as well as make moves toward better diagnosis and treatment.

Separating work from home
“I try not to analyse my children too much,” she says laughing. “The job has definitely helped me become more aware of their development however – what is acceptable, what isn’t and what is normal at which stage in their lives – so it’s definitely a big help.”
“Like all mothers I also had to learn how to understand my children. All kids are different but I think consistency is the key.”

At home
“I’m a homebody,” she smiled. “I’m completely involved with my family and try to spend as much time as I can with them – especially my two kids – and making sure they are well catered for.”

Patricia says even during her allotted spare hours, she makes time for her children.

“We’ll go to the beach or just spend time together as a family. I think it’s important.”

The future and a little advice to parents having a hard time
“I still see myself involved in child psychology five years from now,” she says. “I love it and I learn new things all the time.”

“To all parents out there having difficulty understanding your children my advice is talk. Talk as much as you need to with them, with people close to them, and even a professional if you have to. Communication is the key.

“Besides, parenting isn’t – as some may think – second nature to us at all. We still need to learn to deal with certain situations and there is no shame in asking for professional help.”
Patricia lives with her husband and two children at Beau Vallon.

 

By Rebecca Belle

Print