News | Wednesday, 18th September 2019
New animations created to help adults care for children who hear voices
Researchers create vital framework for parents, teachers and healthcare practitioners to support misunderstood childhood experiences
New animations have been created to provide important information for parents, teachers and healthcare professionals on their vital first response if a young person confides in them that they hear voices.
New research, part of The Young Voices study, has highlighted the importance of the response from adults when children first say they hear voices – it can even influence whether children perceive the voices as good or bad.
Hearing voices is a lot more common in young people than many expect. It’s estimated that one in 12 persistently hear voices that others don’t and that 75% will have a one-off experience of seeing, hearing or experiencing something others haven’t during childhood.
Researchers estimate it is nearly as likely in young people as having asthma or dyslexia, yet it is not widely known that this can be a harmless part of a child’s development.
The Young Voices study, led by clinical psychologists at Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester, explores the experiences of young people aged 10 to 18 who hear voices as well as their parents or carers.
Led by Dr Sarah Parry, Associate Clinical Fellow and Clinical Psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan, the study found many young people who have shared their experience with an adult were first met with confusion, disbelief or fear.
These negative reactions can affect how young people feel about themselves, the voices they hear, and sometimes influence whether the voices are positive or negative and harmful.
The way young people make sense of the voices they hear plays a key role in any distress or comfort they may feel. Adults, particularly those in positions of authority or care, are particularly influential.
A series of three-minute animated films has been created by researchers to help parents, teachers and healthcare practitioners respond if a child tells them that they hear voices.
The videos are a collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester University and Voice Collective, a UK charity that supports children and young people who hear voices, see visions or have other ‘unusual’ sensory experiences or beliefs.
Dr Sarah Parry, who is principal researcher on the study, said: "It’s normal for parents to be concerned or worried about their child’s wellbeing when first hearing of a sensory experience such as voices, although it’s important to remember that this is very common and isn’t necessarily problematic.
“The way young people make sense of the voices they hear plays a key role in any distress or comfort they may feel. Adults, particularly those in positions of authority or care, are particularly influential. An initial reaction can be crucial to a young person’s acceptance, curiosity and hugely important to shaping their voices as a source of support and positivity, rather than something they feel they need to control or feel ashamed of.
“We created these videos to assist adults in how to support young people choosing to confide in someone, who may be anxious or reluctant to share their experience.”
Some of the advice offered to parents, teachers and carers includes:
- Respond calmly and reassure them that hearing voices is very common
- Be interested in what the young person and their voice(s) are saying, ask them what they’re hearing and what they find helpful
- Let them know they can confide in you if they have any questions or experiences they want to share
- Discuss with the young person possible benefits of talking with someone they trust in their family for further support and signpost to reliable points of information so they can learn more about their experiences.
Follow the Young Voice study on Twitter: @youngvoicestudy
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