Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Shield HealthCare
Asperger’s Disorder is what we used to call a ‘milder’ form of Autism. That is, the young man or woman has developed language and can use it effectively. However, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition), it is now known as High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1. These are our children who have developed language and can communicate their thoughts clearly. They are bright and can develop high level skills in areas of interest and strength.
When it comes to social development, over time, we develop a skill known as pragmatics or social language. That is, the signs we have grown to understand as non-verbal communication or social nuances. How do we know when a person is no longer interested in our conversation? He looks away or checks his watch. How do we know when a person is interested and flirting? When there is lots of smiling, giggling, tilting of the head and when two people are standing closer than one arm’s length away from each other. What makes us want to spend time with a friend again? When we enjoy her company because of an emotional connection or having a common interest with which you don’t have with your other friends...
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: PsychologyToday
Yes, you heard me correctly. Path of Least Resistance. I often associate that concept with being conflict-phobic, passive, and trying to keep other people happy. But when I think about the work that I do with parents (in Parent Coaching), I am seeing a parenting approach where parents are afraid of setting limits. Parents are afraid of claiming their position of authority, afraid of setting boundaries, and afraid of creating a hierarchy within the family.
Many families now have an open system where children and parents are on the same level. I know we didn’t grow up with this type of family system. Our parents were in charge, they set rules and we followed them or else, we were "in trouble." Our children don’t have the same healthy fear of us as their parents. They feel like they can negotiate, they can tell us what they want or think and we will change our minds and adjust based on their preferences.
This becomes especially true when we have a child with special needs. We feel the need to make life a little bit easier because of their struggles. But, I argue that this doesn’t help us to build resilient kids. Children, special needs or not, have their strengths and weaknesses, and using the path of least resistance does not serve you or your children in the long run.
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Written by: Amanda Morin @ Understood.org
I have three children. Two of my kids have autism, two have learning and attention issues, and one has neither. That sounds like the beginning of a brain teaser or a logic puzzle, but it’s not. It’s just my reality.
Recently, my younger son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in addition to his ADHD and sensory processing issues. I’m still in shock from Benjamin’s autism diagnosis. And my shock surprises me. That’s because he’s not my first child to receive an autism diagnosis.
My other son, Jacob, was diagnosed the other way around--Asperger’s syndrome first, and then we learned later he has executive functioning issues, too. I didn’t struggle with Jacob’s autism diagnosis. In fact, I was relieved when he was finally diagnosed.
Before Jacob was diagnosed we didn’t have a way to frame his struggles. It was a years-long process of evaluation and of him struggling in school before we had some answers. So I was relieved that Jacob could finally get the supports and services he needed.
I was also relieved because none of us had to feel so alone anymore. There was an entire community of parents like us and kids like him.
Why was I relieved with Jacob’s diagnosis, but now reeling with Benjamin’s?
Prepares by: Chrissy Sunberg, M. Ed., AAC, Executive Functioning Coach
If you have a child with ADHD or weak executive functioning skills, you know how difficult daily functioning can be whether your child is in elemtary school, middle school, high school or even college. What we think are simple daily tasks, such as getting ready for school, making a bed, making a sandwich, or cleaning up their bedroom or dorm room can be incredibly frustrating for your child and for you... to watch!
What ends up happening, as the parent, is we take care of these multi-step tasks for our children (adolescents and young adults) to minimize the distress, anxiety, frustration and anxiety that they end up feeling. We ‘fix’ it for our children without realizing that we are , indeed, leaving our kids unequipped for life’s demands to be able to manage time, plan ahead, organize life and school’s materials amongst the many other Executive Functioning skills we need to develop in order to manage our lives.
As an Executive Functioning Coach, I’m going to share with you the tools that I use with my students and my very own children to help build the skills needed to manage school and life tasks. Here are a few of my favorite tools to help students to begin a task (initiation), manage time and maintain attention in order to complete a task (sustained attention).
All of these items can conveniently found on Amazon (feel free to click on the link below):
Time Timer MOD (Charcoal), 60 Minute Visual Analog Timer, Optional Alert (On/Off),…
Does your child, adolescent or young adult have a hard time getting out the door each day? For the time challenged, the Time Timer can help get you out the door on time!
Set the Time Timer a minimum of 20 minutes before you have to leave, place it in a prominent place, and the visual nature of this timer will let you see exactly how much time you have left before it’s time to leave.
This tool is also helpful for completing homework assignments or for studying for tests. Set the timer for the duration of your attention span and complete homework assignments or studying for an upcoming test or quiz. Whether 30, 45 or 60 minutes, once that timer rings, stop and take a break. Set the timer again for 5, 10 or 15 minutes so that break time doesn’t extend for too long.
For many students, sitting down to complete homework or study for an undefined amount of time can be discouraging and overwhelming. Setting this timer will keep the amount of working time finite and do-able. Feel free to set the timer when taking a shower, tidying up their living space.
TimeCube Plus Preset Timer with 4 LED Light Alarm for Time Management,
A similar option as The Time Timer is the Time Cube. You can set a start time and an end time. You can flip the cube over and set another timer that can be used to take a break. It’s simple, concrete and tangible!
Your child can set the timer and then use the time to focus on one activity at a time. This allows for your student to also divide their work and breaks into manageable time, which is helping to develop your child’s sense of time, prioritizarion, and planning ahead. The cube has 4 different time options that can be used.
AT-A-GLANCE 2019 Desk Calendar, Desk Pad, 21-3/4" x 17", Standard, Ruled Blocks (SK2400)
Simple but practical is the desk calendar that we all know and have seen over many years. The benefit of desk calendar is the ability to look ahead easily as well as being able to visually see time while you plaing your long-term assignments.
For example, your student can write down the due date of a test or project and then work backwards. That is, he may want to plan how many days an assignment will take to complete by breaking it down into smaller assignments. He can then take the number of smaller assignments and ‘assign’ himself one task per day. Break the assignment up into clear and manageable tasks to start and finish your assignment makes long term or multi step assignments that may initially seem daunting feel doable!
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: The Mighty
“Time. It’s of the essence.”
I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I know I always feel like I don’t have enough of it. I feel stressed and anxious when I wake in the morning because I know what my schedule looks like and the number of things that need to happen between the time I open my eyes and then shut them again (well, I hope I can!). I worry about time, I worry about not having enough of it, and not being able to meet deadlines — mine and my children’s. Then, when I should be sleeping, I’m thinking about how much time certain appointments or tasks will take and when I’ll be able to fit things in.
All three of my kids had the flu this past week and a half. That threw me off entirely. I had to shift my schedule and the time I had allotted to complete certain work or house related tasks was gone… just like that! I’m still trying to catch up, but that’s the story of my life.
As an anxious mom and as a mom of a child with disabilities, balancing time and meeting everyone’s needs is overwhelming and sometimes downright impossible. I know I’m not alone. There are many of you out there who are thrilled to have a moment to shower without someone knocking at the door and asking questions from behind the door, or better yet, the small face pressed up against the shower door! And self-care, down time, time to reconnect with my husband? What’s that? Maybe when they’re older, I think.
In an effort to cut down on the running around like I have no idea what I am doing, not being able to keep up with the daily demands, and feeling like I’m just making it each day, I am vowing to make a few changes, and I encourage you to do the same.
The idea of saying no makes me anxious. It has been from the time I can remember at 5 years old. I didn’t want to upset anyone. I wanted people around me to like me, so I said yes. Yes, yes, yes. Well, that “yes” often means there is no time for me. No time for me to do the things that I like or need to make me less anxious for the next day, next week or next month.
I thoroughly enjoy putting together digital scrapbooks for each year, documenting all the things we have done as a family. I love pictures so this is a nice way for me to keep and treasure all of the snapshots that I am constantly taking. I also love to make jewelry. Nothing too fancy — stringing beads or making earrings. This gives my creative energy an outlet. A place to play and admire my work. I need that. I need that for my mental health so that I’m not just work, work, working all the time.
Well, when I say yes to other things that I could say no to, this is the time that suffers the most for me. So, with that said, I am learning to create a bigger goal and then ask myself if saying yes to something keeps me aligned with that goal. My bigger goal is to create more quiet time where I can let my mind and body unwind. My goal is also to create time for us, as a family, to have the day or a few hours to decompress quietly so that the internal chaos doesn’t persist from day to day. Yesterday, as a family, we all had our quiet time to watch a show, play a game, catch up on work or stuff around the house. By the end of the night, my children seemed more relaxed and settled. They were able to get into their beds and fall asleep with greater ease. I also felt ready for the week.
So the next time that I’m asked if I want to join a “Board of This or That” or take on a task for a PTA related event, there is a very strong chance that my answer will be, “No thanks.”
2. Speak slower; speak lower.
I know that when I’m anxious, I speak quickly and I overwhelm myself, and I especially overwhelm and trigger my daughter. She tells me that I’m saying too much that she can’t understand, and that she can’t do all of these things that I’ve now spoken aloud. I get it, I would overwhelm me, too.
This past weekend, I was in my usual panicked mode when I was hosting my son’s birthday party at a local gymnastics studio. I was moving quickly, speaking quickly, knocking things and children over. If I could have watched me, I think I would have thought, “Wow, she’s a hot mess.”
I didn’t want to feel or look like this anymore, so I experimented (quickly). I decided I was going to move slowly and when someone asked me a question or said something to me, I spoke at a slower pace and at a lower volume. This forced me to slow down my mind, my body, my worries, and actually get to process what was happening in the moment rather than living in my head, as I usually do.
I continued to experiment with my kids over the remainder of the weekend. Each time they asked me a question, I paused first (I never pause!) and then I answered after actually thinking about my response. I also spoke slower and at a lower volume. Their response was somewhat surprising in that they were calmer overall and there wasn’t that sense of urgency that I often hear in their voice. But then again, they may be mimicking the urgency in my voice.
It’s given me a little bit of time to reflect on how often I feel rushed, harried, and how much I convey that in my body language and in my tone to my children and to the people around me. Well, now that I have had this successful experimental experience, my goal is to keep speaking slower and lower!
3. You are in control of your time.
When I think about time, it feels like it’s out of my reach, out of my control. It feels like someone else or something else has a handle on it, but that’s not me. I admire people who can stick to their daily schedule and get to the end of their “stuff” without being bombarded and thrown off by the rest of the “stuff” that each day brings.
The key difference between me and that person that I admire is the fact that when things pop up, they don’t respond right away. I usually stop what I’m doing to tend to that other thing right away, like it’s life or death. But it’s not. That sense of urgency is self-created and to my own detriment. It’s OK if something my children are asking for doesn’t get handled or satisfied right away. Some non-urgent things can wait until I have a moment to do it, like maybe tomorrow or three days from now. Each time I respond immediately, I gain the instant gratification of meeting another person’s needs, but then I begin to feel resentful when my original tasks or goals for the day are thwarted.
With that said, I am setting a few target goals for the day and I keep those items prioritized. That is, when another “thing” pops up, I set that at the end of my list, under the items I have deemed important to be completed for the day. Once my items have been checked off, and if I have time for them, then I will conquer those next items. I have found that when I do this, whatever that thing was that needed to get done “right now!” isn’t as urgent. Sometimes, my kids and I realize that we really don’t need to do this (whatever it is) at all. Instead of instantly gratifying my kids, I am delaying the process which is making it easier for my kids to wait and assess if it is a need or a want, and if it is truly that important. Sometimes it still is; sometimes it’s not.
As parents of children with disabilities, we all desire more time. More time to get things done and find time at the end of the day for self-care. Truth is, an extra hour or two won’t make that happen. We make it happen when we make the choice to make it happen.
Written by: Delaney Ruston @ Screenagers
Last week I was sitting in a cafe working and at the table next to me were three tween girls. Two were 12 and one, a little sister, was 10. One of the 12-year-olds had a smartphone. We chatted a bit and soon I was sitting with them at their table as we discussed lots of things about social media. I asked the other 12-year-old if she had a smartphone and she said yes but her mom had taken it away for the time being. She soon confessed to me that she had lots of workarounds without her phone, such as using SnapChat and Instagram on her iPad. This got me thinking that it was time to get clear about what can be used on what devices and to share with you today.
Establishing clear rules around screen time is, of course, the first step. Yet managing the limits often zaps our energy and results in power struggles, arguments, and grumpy kids. Another problem is that while the kids may have put their phones away or turned off the Xbox, they can turn on their tablet, Chromebook or MacBook to do “homework” and continue using social media apps and games. I have broken down what popular apps and games work on which devices, so you can be better prepared to stop workarounds. And… be sure to look at our resource page on apps that help you manage screen time at https://www.screenagersmovie.com/parenting-apps/ .
Written by:Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
The internet can be a wonderful resource for many different things. The convenience of online shopping, research for your son's science project, and the ability to connect with people from your past through social media accounts...what's not to love?! Though there are many benefits to the internet and having such easy access to these things, there are also some significant safety risks that come along with its usage. This is especially important for parents with sons or daughters who use the internet. Here are a few tips for ensuring that you and your family are using the internet safely.
Keep An Open Line of Communication
Engage your kids in a conversation about the internet on a regular basis. Review what the right steps are if they were to ever see anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. By creating an open dialogue such as this, you are showing them that you are there to help them if they ever come across anything inappropriate. Also, engage them in a conversation about cyber bullying and how they should speak up if they see anything like that happening on the internet.
Make Your Expectations Clear
Tell your kids that they are not to give out any personal information online. Tell them they are not to send pictures to others and absolutely are not to make plans to meet up with anyone they speak to on the internet. It is also helpful to have computers in a common area of the house, instead of in children's bedrooms, where you can more closely monitor their online activity. With smartphones and other devices, use your judgement on whether or not to allow your children to use their devices by themselves.
Model Appropriate Internet Behavior
Be sure you are not saying one thing to your kids and then doing the opposite. Take time to go on the internet together with your children and show them appropriate internet safety practices. Use this time to show them how you would not download anything without first knowing what it was. Show them how you are mindful about what you may chose to post on your social media accounts, since once things are posted there is no taking them back.
By following these tips, you will be proactively taking the approach of safe and productive internet use. The internet can be an extremely useful asset in many ways, but it has to be used appropriately. Keep an open dialogue and tell your children that it is okay for them to speak up if they come across anything concerning.
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Psychology Today
I’m sitting here, reflecting on the piece that Claire Cain Miller prepared for The Washington Post, entitled, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting” (Miller, 2018). Claire, you couldn’t be more on, and I don’t mean that strictly from a psychological/parenting perspective, but also from a personal perspective. I have written several blogs on parenting and how our parenting style is extremely different than our parents’ which is resulting in a generation of children with a whole lot less resilience and a great deal more anxiety. We have a generation of young adults deemed “failure to launch” because they don’t have the skills to fly out of the nest, or better yet, launch out into adulthood.
Even though we have the best of intentions in giving our children attention, listening to their thoughts and opinions, and validating their experiences – all things that our parents did little of for us – the pendulum of parenting has swung in the opposite extreme. Unfortunately, this parenting approach has contributed to a generation of children who have a strong sense of entitlement, a low sense of motivation or internal drive, a high sense of anxiety, and a low sense of self efficacy.
Our modern-day parenting styles have become less focused on the adults being the center of the family to now, our children and their needs are the center of our universe...
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Written by: Dr. Rick Manista
One of the most common concerns of parents is that their kids spend too many hours playing video games. Often this leads into battles over homework and meltdowns trying to get everyone to bed. With Fortnite becoming then main social media for children to connect, it is hard trying to find a balance with gaming privileges. Here is a breakdown of the costs, benefits, and how to balance gaming.
We all see our kids screaming at the screen and becoming more defiant after playing video games. This is because the reptilian part of their brain is being activated. This is the part of the brain that activates for survival responses, when perceived danger is sensed. This causes us to get aggressive (Dunkley, 2016). This means when kids are playing Fortnite, their pretend combat play causes their brain to think it is real! And gives them a boost of energy.
The other downside of gaming is that with all this energy, there is less time spent sleeping. This can lead to other problems as well. Studies have found that the more time spent playing video games, the more likely kids would have behavior problems and have poor social skills (Mozes, 2013).
Even though there are a lot of studies showing video games can create sleep loss, meltdowns and poor social skills, there is not a lot of evidence that video games promote antisocial or violent tendencies. Since video games have been around, violent crimes in the United States has dropped. In 1991, there were 25,000 murders while in 2016 there were 17,250 (Lazurus, 2017).
A Spanish study found that children who played video games had enhancements in their skills, particularly reaction time and fine motor coordination. However, this is if they played for a max of 8 hours per week. The study found that more than 8 hours, the children had behavioral problems (Mazes, 2013).
We are always asked, “why do they like these games so much?” The reasons revolve pretty much around social needs. Video games provide consistent positive reinforcement: receiving points and awards for all of the player’s efforts. This is something we do not always get in our daily lives. Games are also a social opportunity for children to connect with their friends out of school, and to have a common topic to talk about.
The social world is very abstract. It is hard to figure out what we are supposed to do in different situations. Video games provide a structure that the social world does not have. Many children love that video games are linear, with a clear path to gain achievement. This becomes a relaxing escape from the real world.
All of the studies suggest that 8 hours or less is a healthy amount of gaming for a child (Mozes, 2013). This would be the ideal time to enforce. Create rules on times and days video games will be allowed. Many people find limiting them to the weekends, after homework, and ending one hour before bedtime as the most effective rules.
Visual timers can help set limits for gaming as well. With the visual, there can be a clear understanding on how much time is left, and less arguing! Alternative activities to video games may need to be provided, such as card games, crafts, and sports. With a limit of 8 hours or less, kids can have have the benefits and release of video games, without the behavioral problems.
Mozes, A. (2013). How much video gaming is too much for kids? Retrieved January 25, 2019,
Dunkley, V. L., M.D. (2016, September 25). This is your child's brain on video games. Retrieved
January 25, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/
Lazarus, D. (2017, November 10). Are video games bad for your kids? Not so much experts say.
Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
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Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S
Family Game Night. It’s on! We all love to spend quality family time with our children – whether they are younger or older or anything in between. Game night is a fun way to bond, be silly, and come out of the ho-hum of the daily routine. But did you know it is also a great opportunity to take everyday games and weave in social and emotional lessons for your kids?
I find my kids are more responsive to an indirect teaching and modeling. Using board games is a fun way to incorporate this!As you may know already, I am a mom of 4. My goal right now is to focus on challenging my kids’ negative thoughts and bringing out more of the positive ones. This is an ongoing battle that impacts their self-esteem and increases their anxiety.
Starting young, I play Sunny and Stormy Daysby Peaceable Kingdom. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary. This game encourages “sharing from the heart” to build communication. I really like that we all have parts of our day that can be “sunny” and parts that are “stormy”. I use this to help my kids fine the good part of the days because even if it was a bad day, there is always a piece of it that was ok or even great. It’s very easy for our children to have a difficult moment and generalize it to the entire day. That’s what the stormy moment of this day emphasizes – it doesn’t have to define our child’s whole day.
For a spin on the Classic game of Chutes and Ladders, I use this to help teach frustration tolerance and dealing with set backs. Model for your kids by verbalizing the feelings “oh no... down the slide I go”. Model positive thinking after like “it’s ok, I’ll try to find a ladder and catch up.” Simple externalizations of your own feelings and thoughts builds an internal dialogue for the future in your children.
Children need to experience all ranges of emotions and failures .... sometimes that chute really sets us back. This is a great way to teach emotional regulation and focus on having fun together. Winning is not always going to happen. This game of chance really tests everyone’s ability to deal with outside influences that are out of our control
Last, I have the Mad Dragon game (well, I am a therapist after all!). This card game is more directive on teaching anger management triggers and strategies. It allows for a back and forth discussion as well as self-reflection. It’s a game that’s played like Uno, but with the numbers, there are also questions. This is a great tool to talk about which situations or outcomes push your child’s anger buttons. Best of all, you are doing this at a time when your child is calm and regulated, so that back and forth can be really enlightening for you and your child. He may have not really talked about how losing a game can make him really angry. But now that he’s said that out loud, he knows… and so do you! My kids are not immune to experiencing and struggling with emotional regulation either. So I use this as a fun way to learn a little more about them and also help them build skills for the future.
All these games are from my private family collection and not part of any endorsement. I wanted to share a few games that I thought you could can find (if you don't have them already) and play with your kids that encourage discussion as well as fun. Here’s to an awesome family game night!
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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