By: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
As a Psychologist, I am in the business of receiving phone calls from parents worried about their kids with disabilities. During that initial phone call, parents give me a quick run-down of their child’s symptoms, the struggles the family at large is facing, and the specific goals they would like to work towards.
During that initial phone call, I’m often left thinking, “How are you, as the parent, doing?” Parents are often surprised when I ask that question during the intake. Several parents have responded with silence, a confused, “Fine,” or “No one has ever asked me how I’m doing.” As a parent of a child with disabilities, the process of gaining a diagnosis and then figuring out life and supports and medical conditions can be overwhelming and often traumatizing. In my experience, many parents of children with disabilities and other medical needs are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How Does a Parent Develop PTSD?
For the parent, the initial trauma can come from realizing that “something isn’t right” with their child, researching, and ultimately gaining the diagnosis. This trauma is perpetuated when a parent begins to mourn and grieve the loss of the child they thought they would have. The next phase is accessing medical supports or services and not being entirely sure how it will work and what the outcome will be. Then, adolescence hits and some children with disabilities develop anxiety or depression.
For example, for some parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, their children may become aggressive. Some kids have been aggressive all along. As a result, parents are often concerned about safety, often hiding bruises or staying at home to protect their child so that others don’t witness the physical aggression. This becomes even more complicated when there are other children in the home and parents struggle to give them attention, nurturance and time, something they often can’t do successfully because taking care of their sibling can sometimes be a 24-hour, 7 days per week job.
Raising a child with disabilities can also take a toll on a marriage. Parents care for their kids leaving little time for themselves as a couple. Finding someone else to care for the child can be difficult. That caretaker or babysitter needs to be trained and OK with possible meltdowns, behaviors or medical needs. And the icing on the cake is that some families become one income households so that one parent can take care of the multiple needs and therapies for the child, meaning that money can be tight, which is another source of distress for parents. Sometimes the marriage doesn’t survive due to the stress and lack of supports.
Parents are also left anticipating what might trigger their child and are constantly accommodating and modifying the environment to help their child stay calm or regulated. For some children, as they become older and their needs become more complex, some parents have to make a tough decisions about whether or not to find a residential program. Throughout this process that takes place over years and years, parents can become burned out, distressed, anxious, depressed and sometimes even feel hopeless and helpless.
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Escrito por: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
Nota del editor: ¡Gracias por leer The Mighty! Por ahora, como te darás cuenta, la mayoría de nuestro contenido está en inglés. Estamos empezando a cambiar esto porque, aunque estamos ubicados en los Estados Unidos, nuestra comunidad es global. De cualquier manera, ahora mismo puedes publicar en nuestro sitio o hacer preguntas en español — o en cualquier idioma que desees — para conectarte con otras personas en nuestra comunidad. Y no olvides seguir nuestra página en español!
Como he dicho muchas veces, tener hijos es un trabajo difícil. Es el trabajo más exigente, implacable e ingrato que he tenido. Como madre de tres niños muy diferentes, necesito criar a cada uno de manera diferente debido a su edad, sus necesidades y su personalidad.
Soy una persona ansiosa. No vine al mundo como una persona ansiosa, pero esta vida me ha convertido en una. Solía ser una niña despreocupado, feliz, sin preocupaciones del día a día. Tenía fe en que todo estaría bien. Y la vida pasó. A mi padre le diagnosticaron cáncer cuando yo tenía 11 años. Luego con cáncer nuevamente cuando tenía 14 años. Finalmente, falleció cuando yo tenía 20 años. Mi vida se derrumbó y nunca volvió a ser la misma. La ansiedad se instaló y nunca me dejó.
Después tuve a mi segunda hija. Una niña fuerte, terca, ruidosa y persistente. Ella necesita mucho y no tiene problemas de decirme lo mala que estoy para satisfacer sus necesidades. Sip. Buenos dias, amor.
Ansiedad — es lo que siento cada día. Cuando no puedo evitar que el ciclo gire, me atoro mental y emocionalmente. El miedo y angustia por las cosas que van a suceder, las cosas que pueden suceder y las cosas que no han sucedido. También es el temor de que cuando las cosas van bien, no se mantengan así.
Como padres, nos preocupamos. Nos preocupamos mucho. Nos preocupamos por el pasado, el futuro y el presente. Nos preocupamos todos los días. Nos preocupamos por las pequeñas cosas y las grandes cosas. Nos preocupa que no estemos haciendo lo suficiente, o que estemos haciendo demasiado, o que estemos esforzándonos demasiado, o que no lo estemos haciendo lo suficiente — todo en el mismo día o incluso en el mismo momento.
Nos preocupa haber ofendido a alguien con nuestra pasión por darles a nuestros hijos las terapias, el apoyo y los servicios que necesitan en la escuela y en la comunidad. Nos preocupa decir sí o decir no. Nos preocupa no haber investigado lo suficiente o tal vez hemos investigado demasiado y ahora nuestro cerebro nos duele.
El ciclo es interminable y no me gusta.
Imagen viene de: GettyImages
Children as young as two are developing mental health problems because of smartphones and tablets, scientists warn.
Just an hour a day staring at a screen can be enough to make children more likely to be anxious or depressed.
This could be making them less curious, less able to finish tasks, less emotionally stable and lowering their self-control, the DailyMail reports.
Although teenagers are most at risk from the damaging devices, children under the age of 10 and toddlers' still-developing brains are also being affected.
But research shows 'zombie' children spend nearly five hours every day gawping at electronic devices.
Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia say time spent on smartphones is a serious but avoidable cause of mental health issues.
"Half of mental health problems develop by adolescence," professors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell said. "There is a need to identify factors linked to mental health issues that are [able to be changed] in this population, as most are difficult or impossible to influence. How children and adolescents spend their leisure time is [easier] to change."
Parents and teachers must cut the amount of time children spend online or watching television while they're studying, socialising, eating or even playing sport.
Professor Twenge said her study, one of the biggest of its kind, backs the American Academy of Pediatrics' established screen time limit – one hour per day for children aged two to five. It also suggests a similar limit – perhaps two hours – should be applied to school-aged children and adolescents, she added.
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By: Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
These days, putting the news on can be a daunting task. Negative news centered around shootings, a divisive political landscape and ongoing mental health challenges are sure to saturate the content being shared with us. It's no secret that children are like sponges, soaking up what they see and hear. Having these kids exposed to this content without taking some steps to support them can cause them to struggle with feelings of anxiety and fear. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the damaging effects of the media on your children.
1. Engage them in conversation
From a young, but developmentally appropriate age, set the tone that there can be an ongoing conversation that occurs between you and your children. Regularly check in with them if you know they have been nearby while you have the evening news on. Children are extremely adept at picking up on things, so the approach of avoiding the topic all together, even if the news is bringing up difficult feelings for you, will most likely not be effective. It's okay to admit to your child that something on the news made you feel sad. Engage them in a discussion on what feelings it may have brought up for them and then discuss healthy ways of coping with sadness.
2. Answer questions -- to a degree
This is where you must use your judgement to determine what your child can or cannot handle. There are also times where there simply is no logical answer. It's okay to admit to your children that you don't know why something was done or why someone did something. Providing them with developmentally appropriate answers to other questions is okay. There is no need to include graphic details of certain situations, but again, this is a case by case basis and you must use your judgement.
3. Offer your ongoing support
Remember that your child may not be ready to have this conversation. Offer them your listening ear but do not force them to talk about it. Remind them that you are available if needed and validate their feelings when and if they do approach you. Remind them of all of the safety measures that exist to keep them safe. It also may be helpful to take a proactive approach and tell them that they may see or hear things in the news or on the internet that makes them sad or scared or uncomfortable. Share with them that you are available if they ever come across anything that makes them uncomfortable.
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Dr. Liz Matheis, PhD reviews "Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families" by Jolene Philo and Gary Chapman:
"Jolene and Gary have prepared a thoughtful book that truly looks at the struggles of the family with a special needs child or children. The relationship, within a special needs family, between husband and wife has additional stressors that often dissipate once children grow older and more independent. Jolene tenderly has shared her personal experiences which is brave and comforting to the reader. Filling each other's love tank in the family by understanding each individual family member's love language is invaluable. Even as a Psychologist who understands relationships, this book has offered me new insight into the communication patterns and needs between parents, parents and children, and children and children within a family. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I need this book in my library!"
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D
#AskMe about managing your mental health as a parent
I’m Dr. Liz, a Clinical and School Psychologist in private practice in New Jersey. I am also a mom of three kids, and one of them has disabilities. I am also a mom who struggles with anxiety. Personally, and professionally, I strongly believe that our own mental health -- as parents -- is a topic we have not given enough attention to, and the time is now! This week, I will be answering your questions
“My child’s needs won’t go away. What can I realistically do to work on my own mental health?”
When we became parents, our children became the center of our universe. Our own self-care became secondary. This is especially true when we have a child with disabilities. Our child’s needs become primary, but one thing I know is that by not taking care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your child.
How many times have you thought, “I should read/sing/talk to my child because it’s good for her,” even when you really don’t want to?
You may be experiencing some burnout. That is, you feel like you are tired — tired of thinking about what’s next, what if, what will I do when… and you’re managing all of these thoughts while trying to hold on to the guise of being a woman or a man, a wife or a husband, a daughter or a son, a brother or a sister and a friend. If your head is spinning, I understand. I hear you and I feel you.
I know when I get to the point where my head is going to explode with the constant running lists, when I’m checking those lists on my phone and I’m adding more “things,” I know I am good to nobody. Not my kids, not my husband, not my patients; no one, nowhere.
I know it’s really hard, and I combat the feelings of guilt of wanting to run away and hide in a corner for a few hours right along with you. I crave silence in my head, even when the room is quiet. I crave not having my name called for the 523.67th time in the past hour. I want to owe nothing to no one.
That’s just plain old burnout in its truest form.
When I get here, I know something has to give. I know I have to change my mindset and my routine in order to survive.
Shifting your mindset
I have always felt the strong urge to “do the right thing” by everyone in my life, but especially with my children. I want to make sure that I am providing them with every opportunity for them to be happy and achieve their potential. I strive to keep my home clean, prepare a health dinner, have healthy snacks in my pantry, and to provide experiences that are educational and enjoyable.
Big goals that serve as big a pressure, and that are also highly unrealistic.
It has taken two years in therapy for me to come to terms with the idea that I cannot give 100 percent in every direction of my life because at the end of the day, I only have 100 percent to give, not 10,000 percent.
I am embracing the idea that I can still be a “good” parent to my children while not checking each one of the items from my mental checklist I just mentioned. On some days, it’s OK if their primary form of entertainment is the TV, their phone or iPad. It’s OK if I order in or we eat a bunch of frozen meals that have been sitting in the freezer for… I don’t know how long! It’s OK. It’s really OK. Your children and my children will not suffer.
Sometimes, it’s OK to be good enough. Give up the guilt and, in the wise words of Elsa from the movie “Frozen,” let it go!
Makes sense? What are some other ways you can shift your mindset?
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
A child with special needs (or as some parents and children would rather call it: a disability) can be a very demanding job for parents. Throw into the mix a sibling or two and now you are managing several different worlds of need. Oh, and a spouse or partner – now it’s a party but without the disco ball!
Now let me change the perspective: what it’s like to be the sibling of a child with special needs. In my house, my daughter can be exceptionally demanding and difficult on most days. These are the days when I find myself drained and unable to respond to my other two children with patience or just plain old consideration.
When I sit with my thoughts at the end of the day – the daily day-in-review beat down you are all familiar with – I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve cheated my two boys. I feel like I didn’t connect with them about their day’s struggles or celebrations. I feel like I became consumed by the intense emotion that gets riled up in me and that I work so hard to manage.
Every few months, my older son will confide in me that he needed something from me but didn’t tell me because his sister needed me more. He doesn’t ask for help or vent especially on the days that my daughter is especially difficult because he can see I’m exhausted. I understand why he does what he does but I’m also sad that he feels like he has to wait.
It’s not his job but I realize that there is a unique dynamic that happens in the home of a family with a child with special needs. When I think about my own children’s’ experiences as well as the experiences of the children with whom I work professionally, there are a few things to note about their day to day.
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By: Jennifer Mandato, LAC
For a child with ADHD, navigating the school environment can be a scary place. Everyday tasks such as organization, time management, peer interactions, and remembering to visit the school nurse can be a struggle. Often they are faced with many new battles throughout the day.
Unfortunately, mental health diagnoses, including ADHD still have a negative stigma attached to them. In reality all it really means is their brain works differently and they will need extra support. Along with school accommodations, medications are also sometimes used. This is not without its own negativity; it can subject not only the parent but child to bullying. Parents can be seen as not knowing how to handle or discipline their child. In turn, many parents do not confide in family or peers for support. For the child, it can result in being teased for the struggles they have and “fake” friends using them for access to medications.
For a child with ADHD, sustaining attention is a constant challenge. Their impulsivity may cause them to be disruptive to others. This can make navigating peer relationships difficult. They may not understand the social boundaries which can push peers away. They may talk over or interrupt their peers and their peers may find this annoying and begin to separate from them. Peers may tease them for their loud tone or their inability to engage in a conversation with them.
How can we help?
Keep the dialogue open with your child. Talk to them about school, their teacher and their friends. Be mindful of any changes in their demeanor or avoidance of the topic when you bring them up. If they go from being enthusiastic about school to changing the topic when it is brought up, inquire deeper. If they express to you something is happening at school or you suspect something, reach out to their counselor or teachers.
Involve them in social skills groups. Working with peers their own age with similar challenges will help normalize their experience as well as know they are not alone in this world. These groups will help guide them through social boundaries and interacting with peers.
Work with an executive function coach to help them with their school work. A coach can assess their executive functioning profile and see the challenge areas to work on. This can include giving them an organizational system for school, time management or study skills.
We are happy to welcome Amanda Marshall, a doctoral student from Fordham University as our extern for the Fall 2019 semester!
Written by: Liz Matheis, PhD
I recently took a trip to Ireland for a week and it has given me immense perspective on motherhood and parenting. I am in the process of releasing years of baggage, so for me, this is mind-blowing. I didn’t see moms who had all sorts of contraptions for their children, for their safety or enrichment. What I did see is parents talking to their children, walking with them, hand in hand, younger and older. I didn’t see an emphasis on a ton of extra-curricular activities but rather the time to unwind at the end of the day and time for holiday (i.e., vacation).
As parents, we have created a lifestyle and mindset where children are the center of our universe. Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, states that there has to be a balance in our families where parents are at the top of the hierarchy and children are on the lower end of that hierarchy. When children gain that authority in a family, the balance is off and children become empowered and ultimately, anxious.
We establish our (daily, weekly, yearly) schedule around our children's preferences, and then consider our own at the very end. Most of the time, our preferences don’t make it to the table because our children will protest… loudly! With that said, we are sometimes surprised at how vocal and opinionated our children can be. Well, we gave them a voice and so they are using it.
We all struggle with the internal battle of “Am I doing enough for my children?” I struggle with that question too. Am I providing enough educational, cultural, social, family experiences to make my children well rounded enough? Then I started thinking, “Well rounded for what? College? Life?”
Live in the Now
Rather than constantly thinking about the future, I am choosing to live in the present with my children. I am going to enjoy the present moment and the joy it brings here, now, today.. but not tomorrow, when they’re in college or when they are adults. I know we all plan ahead, but sometimes, it’s okay to just be in the moment.
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Written by: Michelle Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S.
As the summer winds down, many feelings begin to swirl around! Excitement and anxiety begin to peak especially for Kindergarten, for both parents and child.
Working to make a child’s school experience transition successful, here are some tips to help ease anxieties and build success.
Drive by the school your child will be attending to familiarize them. Stop and play on the playground! This is a great way to build excitement as well as prepare them. They will have an pre-existing level of comfort that will build confidence for those first few days.
I also recommend lunch rehearsal. Pack their lunch and have them practice independently taking it out, opening their lunch containers, and even how to heat up, if needed. All schools have lunch aides to assist but creating opportunities for independence so your little one who may be to shy to ask for help yet or does not have to wait too long for that help.
Practice the school schedule! Yes, that means those summer lazy sleep in days (at least for my children) need to start getting their school sleep schedule back on rhythm. I can thank high school’s summer sport schedule for kick starting me and my high schooler with early morning wake ups, but now I have to shift my elementary kids back to earlier bedtimes and earlier wakes up times as well.
Books- setting the tone!
Books are great emotional tools that helps prepare for the upcoming transitions as well as the emotions with change.
For working on parent attachment and being able to successfully separate, I recommend:
Attachment & Separation
Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
This book establishes a loving gesture that helps an child detach successfully. This is an easy quick routine to add to your morning send off!
Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson
This book highlights all different adventures while the parent will be there at home waiting for the child. The message of independence with comfort of a waiting parent will help the kindergarten be ready to “leap” to school!
The Invisible String By Patrice Karst
This book is a fantastic metaphor of how love connects us even when we are not together. I like to pair this book with a small physical transitional object like a ring, necklace, string bracelet etc...
I Love You All Day Long by by Francesca Rusackas
Another simple book that reassures a child of their parents’ love which helps with separation.
Here are books that will help set the tone and ease anxieties. When we know what to expect, the unknown becomes less scary!
Managing Your Own Anxiety!
Last but not least, how we, as parents, feel! I know I struggled when my babies went to kindergarten. I still remember happily waving goodbye to my kids oozing confidence for them to absorb. Then, after the school bell rang with all the school children tucked behind the doors as parents shuffled to their cars, I balled crying. I share my story as an example of how it is important to set the tone for our children. If we show anxiety and showing uncertainty, our children will read this and increase their anxieties. So, as Dr. Liz’s says, “Fake it, Until You Make It”. Of course, it is ok for both to be nervous, but this is the time for you to be their rock. And if anyone wants to cry together, I will be balling as I send my oldest to his first day of high school, we can meet up after that bell!
Happy First Day of School!
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Written By: Heidi Borst
As the carefree vibe of summer transitions into the pandemonium of back-to-school season, even the best of us can get trapped in a perpetual state of chaos. And as hectic as things get, each and every moment (even a messy one) is an opportunity to create a beautiful memory. Will you really remember spilled cereal or a late bus 20 years from now? Putting those moments into perspective will help keep you calm on frenzied, overscheduled days. The next time you feel like all the juggling is making your head spin, follow these expert tips to summon your inner Om.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS EVERY DAY
Maybe you’ve got the basics of self-care covered: You eat healthily, stay active and prioritize sleep. Or maybe not so much. Either way, there’s an oft-overlooked and extremely effective way to stave off stress and stay calm: mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness is easy; just slow down and enjoy the moment.
“Living mindfully means leaving the past behind and not worrying about the future—just being here now,” says Leo Aristimuno, a certified positive psychology life coach based in Montclair. “It means letting go of complaints…to embrace the surprises, marvel at the discoveries, nourish the connections and revel in the small joys hidden in every moment.”
Aristimuno suggests practicing controlled breathing to exercise the mindfulness muscle and create a relaxation response. “Sit comfortably and allow yourself to close your eyes for two minutes. Breathe in to a slow count of five…then breathe out to a slow count of ten…Repeat this for two minutes, controlling your breath…Your breath relaxes you as you settle into the moment, exactly as it is.” Your best bet: Try incorporating brief moments of meditation into your daily routine.
MEDITATE FOR A FEW MINUTES EACH DAY
Meditation is an important way to combat stress. Starting the practice doesn’t require a big commitment. Aristimuno recommends trying to work in five-minute breaks of quiet meditation whenever possible. The key: Keep it simple and put down the electronics.
“The beautiful thing about meditation is that it’s not about stopping our thoughts. It’s also not about being completely still,” Aristimuno says. “Instead, meditation invites us to settle, observe, accept and return. We may discover things we never noticed before, like the sound of silence, the gentleness of the breath, how tired our bodies are, the fact that right now, at this moment, I’m alive. I’m breathing, here I am. Breathing in, breathing out.” Relax, observe and breathe. Doing this for a few moments is a great way to decompress and re-center.
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Written by: Rachael Berringer
Executive functioning skills (EF) are the cognitive processes that assist us in regulating our emotions and behavior, making decisions, as well as setting and achieving goals. They can be viewed as our “air traffic control tower” in everyday life. They are our ability to think, plan, and prioritize.
Think about EF as the skills that we want our children to begin to develop in different phases of their development. These skills are also referred to as:
Looking closer at our children's EF skills will help us better understand our child’s areas of strength and weakness, which will ultimately help us as parents to better be able to effectively communicate and advocate for our children in school. In the book, Smart but Scattered, Dr. Peg Dawson and Dr. Richard Guare beautifully outline 11 sub-skills of executive functioning:
the ability to think before we act.
the ability to hold information in memory while performing complex tasks. It incorporates the ability to draw on past learning or experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future.
the ability to manage emotions in order to achieve goals and complete tasks.
the capacity to revise plans in the face of obstacles, setbacks, new information or mistakes. It relates to adaptability to changing conditions.
the capacity to maintain attention to a situation or a task in spite of distractibility, fatigue, or boredom.
the ability to begin projects without undue procrastination, in an efficient or timely fashion.
the ability to create a roadmap to reach a goal or to complete a task. It also involves being able to make decisions about what’s important to focus on and what’s not important.
the ability to create and maintain systems to keep track of information or materials.
the capacity to estimate how much time one has, how to allocate it, and how to stay within time limits and deadlines.
the capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of the goal and not be put off or distracted by competing interests.
the ability to stand back and take a birds‐eye view of oneself in a situation. It is an ability to observe how you problem solve. It also includes self-monitoring and self‐evaluative skills. This is a higher-level skill that we try to build with our teens and young adults.
the ability to thrive in stressful situations and to cope with uncertainty, change, and performance demands.
Let’s be very clear - children are not born with these skills, nor do they develop as part of regular growth and maturation. These skills are learned and develop with practice.
As their parents and teachers, we can set the framework to help build these skills by setting routines, breaking big tasks into smaller, attainable chunks, and creating activities to improve impulse control and emotional regulation.
Children with delayed executive skills may display challenging behaviors and parents may find themselves in a reactive pattern. Executive functioning coaching can help families better understand their child’s unique profile as well as develop a plan to strengthen these capacities in order to build self -esteem and raise independent thinkers capable of regulating their emotions and reaching their fullest potential across environments.
Dawson, P., & Guare, R. (2009). Smart but scattered: The revolutionary “executive skills” approach to helping kids reach their potential. New York: Guilford Press.
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D. and featured by: Shield HealthCare
A new school year is approaching and for many students with special needs, the anxiety is likely growing. As a parent, you begin to notice this pattern each summer and you may not know exactly how to soothe your child other than to say, “You’re going to be fine,” which is nice, but just not enough. You may notice a general level of agitation, argumentativeness, restlessness, constant chattiness about school, or avoiding the topic of school all together.
How can you help ease your child’s anxiety about going back to school?
Take a field trip….to school
Everyone loves a field trip, so pack the kids in the car with a snack because we’re going to school! It may sound silly but take your child to his school and walk around the playground, the main door, and the door at which your child will wait in the morning. If your child takes the bus, review the routine: “The bus stops here. You come out here and walk to over there.” If you drive your child to school, show her where you will drop off and the path that she will use to go to her waiting area until the bell rings.
Play on his playground so that your child develops a sense of comfort after a long summer break. If the school building is open, take a walk around the area and hall where your child’s class is likely to be.
Even though this may be your child’s 3rd, 4th or 5th year in the same school, visiting the school building while it is empty may help your child to feel like the school building and playground are not as intimidating as she imagined them to be.
Get Ready Together
Use the month of August to buy school materials instead of rushing during the last week or few days before the first day of school. That makes a parent anxious which makes a child anxious. Instead, take your time and browse around for the ‘perfect’ lunch box, backpack, sneakers, etc. Let your son or daughter think about the character he/she wants or the color or pattern. Turn it into an exploration mission if you need to! Also, pair up your shopping trip with a fun picnic lunch or a play date. The more positive the association, the better!
Written by: Nicole Filiberti, LCSW
As the end of August rapidly approaches, we are reminded that yet another summer is dwindling away… the countdown to a new school year is on. As a result, children and parents alike experience an array of emotions; exciting as this time of year may be, it’s just as easy to get bogged down by the back to school craze. Instead of becoming overwhelmed and anxious due to the imminence of summer’s end, why not use the occasion as an opportunity to teach our kids important life skills by setting attainable goals for the year ahead? Read on for top time management & organization tips your family can use today to stay on track.
Consistency is Everything
Stay ahead your game by creating and maintaining routines in the home. Sticking to predictable routines in the morning, after school, and at bedtime will lead to an increase in organization, and also serve to lessen stress and anxiety among the entire family. The more predictable the routine, the better off children will be. Starting in September, lead by example, and show your children the expectation is for everyone to follow their established routines. For younger children, making a visual schedule can be helpful for keeping kids on task.
Visuals Are Your Friend!
Visuals are a great tool to utilize and can be beneficial in both younger and older individuals. Take advantage of planners, agendas, dry erase boards... the possibilities are endless! The important point is to use these tools consistently. Families may find it helpful to have additional visual tools beyond the planner provided by their school. Keeping a weekly calendar in clear view to indicate when homework and other tasks are completed will help students stay on track, not only with upcoming deadlines, but also with extracurricular activities.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Be realistic in your expectations of your children- find what works for your family. Some tactics may work well for one child but would not benefit another, so be sure to tailor goals to each individual. Take some time before school starts to try out many different approaches using a variety of tools, through trial and error. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to admit when something is not serving the organizational needs of you or your child. By staying involved in your child’s academics and promoting regular conversations to check in with them, you’ll bridge the gap between what’s working for your child and what areas they may be struggling with.
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D.
Q: If a friend has child with a disability, especially autism, what is the kindest or most helpful thing anyone can do for them?
A: Thank you for this great question! In order to answer this one, I went straight to the pros – the moms of children with special needs. Their insights about what has been helpful and what others have done for them is great and will help you to be a supportive friend to a parent of a child with special needs.
Here are some of the responses I gained:
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Written by: Erika Szumel
When our NJMOMpreneur of the week Dr. Liz Matheis opened her own psychology and educational consulting practice for children with special needs and their parents, she started running her business from the dining room table of her home in Parsippany. Five years later, Dr. Liz has a team of therapists, employees, her very own office — and a family that could not be more proud of her. Even when obstacles like anxiety, pressure and cultural boundaries tried to get in the way, Dr. Liz never let anything come between creating her dream private practice, Psychological and Educational Consulting of NJ — which still allows for enough time to attend her children’s school affairs, fun moms’ night out events and sneak in all the mom kisses and snuggles, too.
Founder of Psychological and Educational Consulting of NJ & NJMOMpreneur Liz Matheis
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Liz: At Psychological and Educational Consulting of NJ (PEC NJ), I offer services to children, adolescents, young adults, their families and their schools who fall under the umbrella of special needs. I have an awesome team of therapists working with me who are able to provide services like play therapy, art therapy, family therapy and parent coaching. We also provide private psycho-educational evaluations for students whose parents are looking to gain an understanding of learning profile, diagnosis of a learning disability (notably dyslexia), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. I am a certified school psychologist, in addition to being a licensed clinical psychologist, and I worked on the child study team for several years. With this experience, I have been blessed to be able to help parents advocate for support plans, eligibility, appropriate programs and accommodations for their children. Although I used to run the meetings, now I sit on the other side with the parent and we work collaboratively with the school team to create a unique program for any child, adolescent or young adult. Our services are unique in that we focus on the whole child, the whole system and the family as well.
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Liz: My father passed away when I was 20 years old due to lung cancer. My father loved to have in-depth discussions about topics like religion and morality, and he saw that my natural inclination was to fix. So, when it was time to choose a major in college, he insisted on pre-law. I commuted to Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison and Florham Park. I finished up my master’s degree here, then went to the Teaneck campus for my doctorate degree — I was a student at FDU for 10 years. I did end up taking a few pre-law classes, but I didn’t love them so much. We were, however, required to take a general psychology course as undergraduate students— and that’s where I found my calling, after reading the first few chapters of my text book in class. I kept reading and absorbed the chapters like they were nourishment for my soul. I loved the child development theories, and all the personality theories. The world started to make sense and I was finally gaining answers about the ‘whys’ behind human behavior and emotion. Needless to say, I changed my major and that was that.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D.
If you know me or have ever worked with me, you know that this is my phrase: “No child ever wakes up and decides, Wednesday is my day to throw a desk.” That is, no child wakes up and decides to act out. Our children’s and adolescents' behavior is a form of communication when the words can’t be found, and it is our job as the parent, teacher, behaviorist, or psychologist to become the investigators to understand the underlying reason and what our child/student/adolescent is trying to say.
There Are Feelings Behind the Behaviors
Most people see negative or dysfunctional behavior, and the goal becomes to eradicate it. That is, they believe that behaviors are learned and can be unlearned. Well, if we were mice or robots, then that premise would work every time. However, our children are humans, and humans are complex. There is a reason why some of our best interventions don’t work, and that is because the reasons for the behaviors are not often that clear.
The other element that we need to factor into behavior is the adult/authority figure response to the behavior. Stop to think about this—the adult response can change the outcome of a child’s behavior. There are often two possible outcomes when it comes to an adult response to a child/adolescent’s behavior: escalation or moving on. And having a mild response doesn’t mean that you are being “too easy” on the child; it means that you are meeting that child’s needs. So, as much as we take a look at the child’s behavior, we also need to take a look at how the adults around the child/adolescent are reacting, as this can be contributing to behavioral escalations as well.
We can hypothesize that the function of the behavior is to gain attention or avoid or escape a task, but until we gain perspective on the feelings behind the behaviors, even our best of interventions and well-written behavior plans will likely be ineffective.
Written by: MyJobQuote
For anyone who has any kind of disability, there is often a requirement for adaptations to be made to the home to allow for suitable access and usability. This article will be discussing the help that is available, including the adaptations for homes, financial assistance for changes and energy supply support options.
Finding Benefits Available In Your Area
If you want to discuss, in person, about the options that may be available to you in your area, you can visit you local Citizens Advice Bureau. You can find your local Citizens Advice Bureau via the Citizens Advice Bureau website (see the section “Find your nearest Citizens Advice”), or for Scotland residents, via the Citizens Advice Scotland website.
Alternatively, you may be able to find out online about what benefits available in your area via Advice Local.
Housing Adaptations and Support
For all disabled persons there is support available for you to have suitable changes to be made to your home. However, this may vary in terms of scale, payment amounts available and possible limitations, depending on where you live and your specific requirements.
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Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, M.Ed., LCSW
With no ability in art, I still dive into the healing powers of arts and crafts. In my forties, the power of coloring still calms me like no other. I can literally feel my body decompress.
During the summer, I explore arts and crafts with my four children that are engaging and they get them off of their screens while also help soothe their tiny souls.
Here are some of my favorites:
there are so many ways to take this simple activity and elevate it-
· Research different design patterns and try to create it!
· Use colors to represent a feeling and then create!
· Each person gets a color and is responsible for adding their mark on each family members creation!
Rock/shell Painting & Gardens:
As we were down the shore, we collected oracle and shells. On a rainy shore day, we painted and created a unique rock design for each child.
Chalk and Chalk Paint Drawing:
Have fun on the drive way and create scenes with each person adding their own flare for one grand master piece!
My 9 year daughter will spend endless amount of time creating and learning various patterns. This is always a summer joy for her!
Gather a bunch of stones and paint small
Symbols of who, what, where. Then put in a bag and pick 5 to create a story or each family member picks one and adds to the story.
The fun tales that will be created!!
In short, not artist abilities needed to dive into these fun and therapeutic arts and crafts. The joy of specking time together and building stronger connections will be sparked!
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Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles