I remember the day I decided to become a school psychologist, it was when I read Jonathan Holt’s book “Why Children Fail”. In my 45 years working in schools and with gifted educators, from whom I have learned a lot, I have committed myself to helping the adults in schools help the students with the biggest problems and most especially those who have behavioural challenges.
My professional journey has taken me West and North and then back South and East – first to rural Manitoba, then to northern Saskatchewan where I worked in indigenous communities in remote villages, to Yukon where again the communities were small and isolated, and finally back to my home-town of Montreal. It didn’t matter where I was, small town, northern hamlet or urban centre, there were students and their educators who were struggling. I soon discovered that the “tricks of the trade” of a psychologist really were not that helpful for these students. And the ones who did best were lucky enough to have adults in their lives who were creative and caring and found ways to make the days bearable for the most challenging students.
Having children of my own (I have two, a girl and a boy) was a wonderful and humbling experience. Both of my children let me know very clearly that there are no easy answers for managing behaviour. Finally, I stopped asking, “What can be done to change this behaviour?” and started asking, “Why is this child acting this way?” Just this shift made all the difference.
Then I met Dr. Gordon Neufeld and studied his attachment-based developmental paradigm. The pieces fell quickly into place. Understanding that children are beings in the process of maturation, that they can be overwhelmed by too much vulnerability and that their primary need is for a safe and caring attachment relationship, helped me to better understand the behaviours that students were manifesting and why some interventions worked and others did not.
Since 2001 I have been using the Neufeld paradigm which is based in neuroscience, and the knowledge of the effects of trauma to create interventions that can be used in regular classrooms and schools and in specialized settings. These interventions are attachment-safe, developmentally friendly and trauma responsive. They are not quick fixes, but they are effective over time. The students change, and even more importantly, the adults working with them who use this knowledge, insight and these interventions feel like they are making a real difference in their students’ lives. The hard work pays off and everyone benefits from using this approach.
Eva de Gosztonyi, MA, psychologist, OPQ has worked for over 45 years in schools across Canada. For the past 20 years she has worked as the provincial resource person for the English School Boards of Quebec as the Coordinator of the Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Management, helping adults in the school setting provide effective developmental interventions for students with behavioural challenges. As a developmental psychologist she believes that we must value the natural maturational processes of our children and youth, respecting their immaturity and vulnerability and understanding that safe and caring attachments with adults are essential for their optimal growth.
Her understanding of child development is primarily informed by the attachment-based integrated developmental approach of Dr. Gordon Neufeld. The interventions that she suggests are guided by neuroscience, are trauma-informed and trauma-responsive, and are attachment-based and developmentally friendly. Eva is on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute and is an authorized presenter of the Neufeld paradigm. Her aim to help all adults make sense of the children in their care in so they can create the conditions in which all children can thrive.
Eva is a dynamic presenter and effective teacher. She has worked extensively in schools and school districts in both urban and rural settings, including indigenous communities in Saskatchewan and Yukon. Grounded in a robust theory, the interventions that she recommends are practical and doable in all settings and go deeper than just managing symptoms. Her interventions are being applied in regular school settings, regular classrooms and also specialized classrooms and schools with great success. Many attest to the long-lasting changes that can happen when they understand the “why” behind the behaviour and respect the child’s developmental needs in their interventions.
THE NEUFELD INSTITUTE
The Neufeld Institute provides education and training to adults involved with children and youth based on the attachment-based, developmental model created by the psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld. The populations served are parents, foster parents, educators, and helping professionals in English, French, German, Hebrew, Spanish, and Swedish. The educational material is delivered through personalized study programs as well as through presentations, seminars and courses, including video courses.
Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author (Hold On To Your Kids) and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm. While formerly involved in university teaching and private practice, he now devotes his time to teaching and training others, including educators and helping professionals. His Neufeld Institute is now a world-wide charitable organization devoted to applying developmental science to the task of raising children. He is a father of five and a grandfather to six.