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Professor Linda Wilmshurst authors new textbook

How do you teach future child psychologists and counselors about the problems young people can face? Linda Wilmshurst, an assistant professor of psychology at Elon, offers answers to that question inAbnormal Child Psychology: A Developmental Perspective, a new textbook she has authored for upper undergraduates and master’s-level students.

Linda Wilmshurst, an assistant professor of psychology, authored her fourth book this fall.

Divided into four parts, the book looks at mood and anxiety disorders, behavioral problems, learning and eating disorders, and specific learning disabilities, among other topics.

What makes her work stand out, however, is the approach she encourages students to take. She outlines through the pages that psychological disorders until now have been viewed primarily as either/or conditions. A child either had a problem, or he didn’t.

But children exhibit problems that are varying degrees off a "normal" course of development, she says, and psychologists should use that approach for diagnosis and treatment. While the use of a continuum isn't itself revolutionary, few academic textbooks directly incorporate that philosophy into their lessons.

Wilmshurst organized the book around five themes: the predictability of normal development, maladaptive behaviors as deviations from the norm, severity as a continuum, the nature of internal and external influences, and the use of several theoretical perspectives.

"A child depressed at 5 years of age looks much different than a depressed 11-year-old, who looks much different from a depressed adult," she said. "Some textbooks in the field miss that or don’t emphasize it as much."

The book, published by Routledge, contains case studies drawn from Wilmshurst's own experience in the field. The characters cited in the studies show how disorders manifest themselves in a child's behavior at different stages of development.

Abnormal Child Psychology marks Wilmshurst's fourth book. Previous works include A Parent's Guide to Special Education: Insider Advice on How to Navigate the System and Help Your Child Succeed; Essentials of Child Psychopathology; and Child and Adolescent Psychopathology: A Casebook.

"This was definitely my biggest challenge. It was a lot of work," she said. "It's very research-oriented, so pretty much every second sentence has a study to support it."

Wilmshurst earned her undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology from the University of Windsor and her doctorate from the University of Toronto. She is a diplomate in clinical psychology (ABBP) and a licensed school psychologist.

"Linda came to Elon with an already well-established and active scholarly record, and she has maintained that quality since joining the faculty," said Steven House, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. "Her most recent book demonstrates her expertise in this important field."

In the past, her research interests have focused on developmental psychopathology and community based treatment alternatives. She is currently mentoring a number of student research programs investigating the nature of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in college students.

As a result of increased educational awareness and opportunities, the number of students with ADHD who gain college admission has increased significantly in recent years, and yet very little is known about the implications of having ADHD within this context.

"My interest and commitment to exploring the nature and course of disorders that manifested at an early age, like ADHD, is a natural off shoot of the reading and writing process," Wilmshurst said. "In preparing the textbook, I have truly come to understand that the more you know, the more you understand how much there is that is still unknown."

Eric Townsend,
11/5/2008 3:37 PM