Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D.
Summer, summer, summer time! We have waited a long time for the weather to get warm, for the sun to shine and for school to be over! For our kids with special needs, summer time represents another transition, and transitions (even good ones) are hard to handle. In fact, they stir anxiety and, perhaps, a ton of questions.
For me, this is the time of year begins summer camp for my 3 children. Despite the fact that it’s all fun and games, my children become anxious and meltdowns are very common right now. That is, until we have established our new routines, my children are still adjusting to a new camp begin and end time that is different from their usual school schedule, and new items to make sure they have in their bags.
So, how can we prepare our kids and help them through this time of transition? Or better yet, how can we prepare our children for any upcoming transition, whether it be a change in who will greet your child from the bus after school, to a business trip that will leave your child with grandma for a few days? Read on!
Summer Transition Tip #1: Give Notice, But Not Too Much Notice
Children who are anxious like to “know” what’s to come. But sometimes, that “knowing” creates questions, more anxiety and even anger. With that said, when giving your child notice about an upcoming change, think about what will work better for your child – lots of notice so your child has time to process and accept, or a little bit of notice so that there isn’t too much time to process? You may decide that letting your child know about what’s to come later on in the day in the morning is more than enough. For another child, one day’s notice is needed. Assess your child’s needs and give notice in advance, but not too much in advance!
Summer Transition Tip #2: Create a Visual Schedule
By schedule I mean, create a calendar showing the upcoming transition with a countdown, especially if it’s a positively anticipated transition such as a family vacation. An upcoming pleasant trip or relative coming to visit is exciting but can also result in the experience of anxiety and agitation as there will be a change in where family members are sleeping and the daily flow of the day.
For an upcoming event where your child is nervous about the change, create a list of events, with pictures and words, that will show the series of events that will take place. For example, if grandpa is going to pick up John from school instead of Mom place a picture of grandpa and John on a piece of paper with the time and OT with Miss Samantha on the refrigerator for your child.
Written by: Rachael Berringer, LAC
Many learning environments today do not provide our neurodiverse children with opportunities to tap into their unique strengths, but rather unintentionally create barriers and obstacles for our students to learn and flourish. We are all uniquely wired and sometimes our children need a little extra help finding their gifts and tools to chanel them appropriately. It’s important that we stop pathologizing and looking for “cures” and start celebrating neurodiversity and the unique differences that make our children who they are. Shifting the way we think about our children’s innate characteristics may help us see the whole child and start to uncover unlocked potential, or “superpowers.”
The strong-willed or bossy child as determined and courageous. We want our children to grow up to be strong, independent thinkers. Often times, these children are self-motivated , inner- directed, and may be prone to power struggles. This is because they are experiential learnings and like to “ do” for themselves. Providing choices within a boundary, actively listening, providing opportunities for independence, and setting up consistent rules and routines are all positive ways to help promote growth without breaking their will.
The distractible child as creative and imaginative. The current standard seems to place value in students being seated, attending and looking straight ahead in a learning environment. This is not how many of our children learn. It’s important that we tailor the way we teach to meet the needs of our children’s unique learning styles. Using children’s passions as a way to enter into their world is an effective tool for growth and engagement. Children need to learn in environments that facilitate their unique talents in order to strengthen their self- esteem and foster their creativity. Plus, how boring would life be if we didn’t have individuals who thought outside of the box?
The Overly-sensitive child as perceptive. Often times, highly sensitive children may be viewed as emotionally-intense and demanding or on the other end of the spectrum, calm and introverted. This trait can be wonderful and valuable. Sensitive children can be extremely intuitive and empathetic. It’s important that we help to provide an outlet for our children to explore identify, understand, and express their emotions early on. Validation is key in helping our children navigate emotional situations and maintaining self- esteem.
The Impulsive child as spontaneous or energetic. Who wouldn’t love a ton of energy and to be a bit more spontaneous? In a classroom environment, this may be disruptive and off-task if not planned for proactively. It’s important that our children have positive outlets to exert their energy effectively. We also want to help our children see the power in completing a task of high motivation and translate those skills into completing non- preferable tasks as well. After all, even successful entrepreneurs have to complete parts of the job that may not highly motivating to create a successful business. Giving our children ample opportunities to express their creative thoughts and ideas will help strengthen their executive functioning skills.
There are many celebrities who publicly discuss growing up with different “diagnoses’ that have turned their challenges into strengths and are doing pretty well for themselves today. I personally love the child mind institute's #MyYoungerSelf campaign where a prominent public figure shares messages of hope and wisdom in order to end the stigma around mental health. In sharing his story about growing up with ADHD, Ty Pennington states,
“Your confidence is not at an extreme high right now, but things are going to change. You’re going to realize that you have an amazing talent of creativity and that you can use your hands, and that’s going to lead to you believing in yourself, and when you believe in yourself, the whole world changes.”
In order to raise confident children we need to be reflective of our own experiences. What is your unique superpower and how did you channel it successfully? What would the younger you want to share with your own child ? Children will flourish in environments that afford them the opportunity to display their superpowers. As practitioners, diagnoses can help us communicate effectively with other professionals and provide a common language, however, they shouldn’t be limiting. They should serve as a starting point for us to work together as a team to create a toolbox to help our children find and grow the superhero that lives inside all of us.
Image from: Pexels
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D. and featured by: Yahoo Lifestyle
Last month, actor Gillian Anderson posted a video where she openly shared she lives with anxiety and depression, and that it should not be a source of shame or belittlement. She also gives advice to her younger self in that although she has anxiety, it doesn’t mean she can’t live a peaceful and beautiful life.
I am so thankful that a prominent person like Gillian has been so forthcoming about her experiences. It’s very easy to think — “You’ve got it all, Gillian. What are you anxious and depressed about?” But the truth of the matter is, anxiety doesn’t know your socioeconomic status or your profession, and it doesn’t care. Many of us are either born with a genetic predisposition or we were raised by our anxious parents, who communicated to us life’s experiences and events are dangerous. Many of us may have had life experiences that have shaken or shattered our sense of safety and trust in the people and the world of which we are apart. Regardless of how you’re here, you are here.
As a psychologist, I often sit with young adults who mirror my experiences as a younger version of me. I hear myself saying or thinking, “I feel like I’m talking to my younger self.” Watching Gillian’s video really hit home for me as I often wonder how differently my life paths and choices would have been if I had acknowledged my anxiety and had not been so shameful of my thoughts, feelings and choices. I often wonder if I could have lived more in the present and less in my head, what my life would have looked now. I wonder. I also wonder what I could have said to my younger self that would have made a difference in my experience of anxiety. I wonder.
I know I’m not alone with my regrets, my hindsight and regular bombardment of “what if’s.” But that’s anxiety too. That’s the all-consuming nature of anxiety that continues to take me away from the present and keeps me living in the past. It hurts to think that my life could have looked different, possibly even looked better or more relieved.
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Written by: The Understood Team
ADHD can affect how kids use technology. See how common problems like too much screen time or too little sleep can affect kids with ADHD—and get practical tips on how you can help.
Many kids have trouble managing screen time and knowing when it's time to unplug. But ADHD can make it harder for kids to make good decisions about technology. Learn about common trouble spots and ways you can help.
Common Trouble Spots:
How can you help?
Look for natural stopping points
Create a screen time contract
Be a role model
Photo from: Pexels
Written by: Jennifer Mandato
Skills to work on before graduation
Planning for the future can be very daunting and while it is a great big world out there, it is best to start small. One of the first questions a school will ask is how independent is your child? What can they do on their own? While your child is still in high school it is important to collaborate with their IEP team on fostering their independence. This doesn’t just include academic independence but life skills as well. It isn’t just about remembering to study for the test but can they get themselves lunch if they forgot it at home? As parents you can help prepare your child by giving them more responsibilities and chores at home, this is very important if they are going to a program with a residential component. Campuses will have Residential Assistants or Mentors for support but the majority of the work will fall on your child. The more they do at home before living away the more prepared they will be!
Advocating for supports
Once your child moves on to post-secondary education they move into the world of eligibility. In the school system they are entitled to many accommodations and supports that after graduation will unfortunately fade away. At the college level it will be up to your child to advocate for their needs. If during the application process your child does not state they have a disability, they may not be able to get the supports needed for their classes. When visiting colleges ask questions about: campus size, number of students in each class, testing accommodations, note taking supports, audio books, seating accommodations or other supports you think your child may need. This will be helpful in narrowing down programs you and your child that will best suit their needs.
Degree or Certificate
As your child moves on to their next stages of life what do they want to do? Are they looking for a two/four-year program or a certificate? This decision stems from the big question “What do you want to do with your life?”. This is possibly one of the hardest questions for our kids to answer. Do some research with your child, see what they are good at, what do they enjoy doing? Is this something they can get a certificate and find a job or will they need an associates or bachelors degree? A great resource to research what would work best for your child is Think College. This site offers family resources, trainings, college searches and so much more. https://thinkcollege.net/
Some programs to look into:
Vista Vocational https://www.vistalifeinnovations.org/
Centenary University Project ABLE
College Steps https://www.collegesteps.org/
Beacon College https://www.beaconcollege.edu/
East Stroudsburg Career and Independent Living and Learning Studies
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D. and featured by: Shield HealthCare
Over the past century, societal family roles have undergone a gender-related shift. For many past generations of parents, a larger percentage of women stayed home after childbirth to manage both their children and the household, while their partners supported the family financially. In some families, both parents worked – yet the expectation remained that women would come home and still tend to everything in the house and related to the children. Well, it’s time to step away from that mindset and get our significant others involved.
How exactly do you do that? For some of you, you may have agreed that one parent will stay home and the other will work. For others, you may be both working. In either situation, the goal is to get both of you involved in the details equally so that neither one of you can say, “Ask your mother/father” because the other is unaware of things.
Here are a few strategies to get your significant other involved so that there is a more equal distribution of responsibilities in your home, and so you both feel appreciated.
Make a List and List It Out
Together, sit down and make a list of all the responsibilities that need to be tended to in your home and around your children. For example: take out the garbage, mow the lawn, laundry, take the kids to the pediatrician or therapy visits (e.g., occupational therapy, psychotherapy, etc.). Okay, now assess the list for real – how many items are more idealistic and not realistic? Toss them. Now think about each person’s strengths. Are you better at handling the outdoor stuff, like gardening, mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, etc? And is your significant other better at handling indoor stuff like dusting, vacuuming, cooking? Then you’ve found an even way to split the responsibilities. This may sound juvenile, but try to keep the number of things that each of you is responsible for equal, or as equal as possible.
Rotate, Take Turns
Yes, you heard me right! Take turns. Take turns with things like food shopping, taking kids for specialist visits, or taking a day off to engage in a school meeting. This way, neither one of you is always taking a day off from work or is solely responsible for certain things in your home. Of course, there is reality, and one of you may be better able to handle things like doctor or hospital visits, so that may become one of your responsibilities. However, if there are items on your list that both of you dislike, then rotate them so that they don’t always fall solely on the shoulders of one person in the family.
It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Done
Part of this process is letting go. Yes, letting go of being in control of everything, despite how much you might resent being responsible for everything in the home or with the children. What that means is that you need to let go of the standard to which you hold yourself and how things ‘should’ and ‘must’ be done in your house. If one of you folds socks in a particular way, then that’s the way it is. If one of you has a particular routine with your child and the other parent does it differently, let it be… No criticism, no judgment, only appreciation and validation for each other.
Written by: Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
When most people think of arts and crafts, they may think of a creative outlet, a stress relieving activity, or simply something to do to help pass the time. While all of these are true, arts and crafts have tons of therapeutic uses and benefits as well. From young children to adults, arts and crafts can be a significant part of the therapeutic process. They can also be used as educational tools for various reasons. Below are a few examples of some art activities that have some of these benefits.
1. Use Colors
Many people associate colors with certain feelings. Exploring this idea can lead to someone becoming more aware of their feelings and better able to appropriately express these feelings. Incorporating color into an activity that relates to feeling expression and exploration can enhance the therapeutic benefits of it. One example of this type of activity is to draw a circle on a piece of paper. As if it is a pie chart, begin coloring in portions of the circle to demonstrate how much you feel certain emotions. Each emotion should be assigned a different color. Creating something like this can help people understand how they can be feeling multiple emotions at one time, and can also show them how feelings can change. The circle they created one day could look completely different from one they draw on a different day.
2. Self Portraits
Any art and craft activity involving a person using introspection to reflect on themselves can be a very enlightening activity to take part in. It can be very interesting to see how one perceives themselves, physically or not, when asked to create a self portrait. A self portrait project can be a great place to initiate a discussion and exploration regarding one's strengths and weaknesses, as well as to begin to explore any self-esteem difficulties.
3. Keep Those Hands Busy!
In a world where we are so often on our phones, the very act of putting down any devices to pick up art supplies alone can be therapeutic. Whether it's knitting needles, colored pencils, or jewelry making supplies, it can be very beneficial to and anxiety soothing to occupy your hands with a productive activity. There is a reason that adult coloring books have gained so much popularity in recent years. Their benefits are undeniable.
Scientific studies have been carried out to determine just how much of a benefit art activities have on the human brain. Art can also be a significant part of treatment for those who have experienced trauma. A 2015 CNN article details the benefits of crafting, describing the process of becoming more mindful as one is engaging in craft activities as almost entering a meditative like state. (Wilson 2015). Not only are there are many benefits to crafting, but there are also many ideas and projects to try. Taking some time to create something can become the most enjoyable part of your day.
Image from: Pexels
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