Laura Newman is a Speech Therapist and Child Behaviour Specialist who set up Connected Child in Portugal one year ago.
Connected Child is an independent family support service that is aimed at supporting and empowering parents to raise their children to reach their highest potential, specialising in children and young people of all ages, with difficulties in speech and behaviour. Here she tells Tomorrow Magazine more about herself and her work.
Please tell us about yourself now?
I’m a full blown capricorn: cycling on the coastal paths, playing in the waves and discovering new places in the mountains to walk. I love learning portuguese, talking to shepherds, eating raw food and watching good movies that make me laugh or cry. I love to see my daughter growing and blossoming in this environment.
How did you end up in Lagos?
I moved to Portugal 2 years ago with my daughter after living in England, Florida and Brazil, enjoying but not settling. Visiting my friend in the Algarve was set to change my life; my ‘impulsive’ gene was already excited.We moved to Sintra in the Summer and quickly relocated to the Algarve after the Winter clouds started to invade my house. ‘Damp’ doesn’t begin to describe it! I followed the Steiner Waldorf education system to the Lagos area.
What is your professional background?
I have degrees in Biology, Speech Therapy and a masters degree in Human Communications (my boyfriend called me The Three Degrees!) I worked with special needs children for 20 years in the UK. In 2002 I certified as a Health Educator and since becoming a parent I have been engaged in ongoing trainings in Developmental Attachment-Based Parenting with The Neufeld Institute. Learning never stops.
What are your areas of expertise?
Childrens’ communication challenges, including autism, stammering, speech disorder, delayed language development, dyslexia.
Childrens’ behaviour challenges, including sibling rivalry, aggression, anxiety, fussy eaters and poor sleepers.
Childrens’ learning challenges, including under-achievers, literacy issues.
Parents who would benefit from effective tools and emotional support.
How did you get into working as a Parent Consultant?
I found it tough from the start, being a single parent and not knowing how to manage with 3 years of sleep exhaustion! Her need for connection and her immature behaviour pushed me to the edge. It forced me to look at myself and work on my emotional triggers and find an approach that really worked for me. When I saw the amazing results, in her and in myself, I started to shared this with my friends and community. It was a natural progression to integrate this into my work as a therapist.
Why was this something you wanted to do?
I feel passionately about children getting the best in life, having their emotional needs met, and being able to communicate clearly and with full expression. Being a mother is the most challenging work I have ever done and what I need most is good information and support, so naturally I want the same for other parents. It is inspiring working with children and parents who are engaged in the process of change.
What are the main challenges facing parents today?
In terms of childrens’ development, it is digital devices, the erosion of extended families and ‘peer orientation’, connecting more with their peers than their parents.
The desire to connect is the strongest force in nature; if children are not developing deep nourishing relationships with their parents, their desire connect typically finds attachment with digital devices and peers. The result is that ‘immature brains’ are raising each other and children are staying at that level of immaturity, resulting in a host of behaviour issues and a nightmare for parents.
Please tell us about what services you offer?
I offer individual and group support for parents and professionals in my areas of expertise, through school/home visits and online support.
I welcome new enquiries from parents and professionals, with a free initial consult which can be scheduled directly via my website and fb page. This year will see the start of Listening Circles for Parents in Lagos and online.
What are Listening Circles for Parents?
A confidential space for parents to feel deeply supported in their unique parenting journey, to be able to think clearly and intuitively, and discover the answers to their parenting challenges. Learning to listen and be listened to is one of the most transformational skills for any social human being.
Can you share how you have worked with a client?
My first client in the Algarve was a 3 year old boy showing many signs of autism. He used short repetitive phrases, parroting rather than communicating. His parents were distraught with his behaviour. I worked with the boy in play and taught the parents how to talk with him. But the real key was supporting the parents in dealing with his behaviour. When they stopped reacting to his frustration and dealt with their own, his learning took off. Within one month he was starting to communicate in a more developmentally appropriate way.
What difference does your work make in peoples’ lives?
My aim is to help parents make sense of their children’s behaviour and learn how to raise a child in optimum emotional and physical health; to make sense of their own emotions and embracing the parenting journey; to teach children to overcome their communication issues and expressing themselves to their fullest.
My client summed it up when she said: “Laura was expert in seeing my situation with great depth and brought me valuable insight and clarity, marrying intuition with logic.” Anna Freedman. I have other testimonials on my Facebook page and website.
Can you sum up the top three things that parents can do to help their children.
First, parents can de-schedule childrens’ lives and spend more time together as a family; nourishing those family connections and giving children opportunities to engage in real play.
Second, parents can listen to childrens’ feelings without consequence and see what happens to their behaviour. See through their behaviour and see the child, who is immature, frustrated and needing their attention.
Third, focus on their children’s connection with them and keep that relationship safe, no matter what, even if they have to put themselves in time out sometimes.