Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S
As 2018 comes to a close, it is a time for reflection and a time to set new goals for the upcoming year.
What is your resolution?
This is a perfect time to make yourself a priority. Yes, you, fellow mamas. In today’s busy society, I juggle working two jobs and being a chauffeur to my four kids to numerous activities, sports and clubs; all while being kept in the loop with my iPhone attached to me!
My main resolution is taking care of myself! Yes, making me the mom a priority is my goal for 2019. Here is how I am going to do it;
First, my goal is for myself is to exercise as a way to manage physical stress and stay healthy. This still needs to be a priority as I face my changing body due to age (I am sure many can relate with me on this!). However, for me, I need to find a way to exercise at home instead of donating money to a lucky gym!
Finding a realistic goal for yourself- you know yourself the best! For me, the resolution of running a marathon is too high and I will abandon shortly into 2019. However, my goal of walking three times in a week for thirty minutes is still challenging but an achievable goal that will greatly alter my life for the good.
Exercise makes you physically feel better with many health benefits (I need to lower my cholesterol). Exercise also benefits your brain and can give us that clarity that we so very badly need in the midst of the “mom brain fog”. Your mood will be lifted as endorphins and other neurotransmitters are released.
In reflecting on 2018, I want to continue my quest to focus on mindfulness. Truly this was the best gift I gave myself this past year. Whenever I feel lost twirling in the tornado of life, I stop and give myself a moment... you will find yourself in the “Eye of the Storm” of calmness. It doesn’t stop the storm or our crazy life, but it does give you the tools to stay calm and enjoy the moments. I also been practicing self compassion for those moments when I can’t help but get swept into the storm before being able to ground myself again. It is a process and this is my journey that I will continue to work on in 2019.
My third resolution is to unplug with taking breaks from technology and putting down the iPhone. Learning to connect more in the moment with the people in the room verse feeling connected to those that are afar. Technology has so many benefits, but finding my balance is my goal for the new year.
Technology can be a slippery slope. For me, I find that I spent an exorbitant amount of time on social media. I know I’m not alone. In an effort to decrease my time spent on Facebook or Instagram, I stopped posting and disconnected from groups as well as friends I follow. For 2019, I want to unplug more and create more family time. We all struggle to leave work at work and set more distinct time for work and family. I will be defining my time and sticking with it for 2019!
My last resolution is to play more! Play heals the soul. Be silly. Enjoy life. I want to connect with my kids while also re-connecting with my inner child. With unplugging, I plan on starting family game night (my kids don’t know it yet but they will have a resolution of unplugging too)!
I’m looking forward to the new year, and hope that you will join me on making YOU a priority in 2019 with these New Year Resolutions:
Exercise - build a healthy body - externally & internally.
Mindfulness - building an appreciation for the moment.
Mindfulness will keep you grounded, focused and calm.
Unplug - taking breaks from technology and finding balance.
From all of us at Psychological and Educational Consulting, we wish you and your family a Happy New Year 2019!
Photo from: Pexels
Written by: Chrissy Perone-Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC
Not all colleges are created equal when it comes to accommodations for students that have learning disabilities. When your student is in high school, they are protected by their IEP Plan. When they make the transition from high school to college, there are a few things you should know. While the protection of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is no longer available for college students, they are still able to receive appropriate academic accommodations via Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Before your student decides on the right University for him it’s important to do research and find out if the school has a solid program to provide necessary service and accommodations in academics, the residential experience, and campus access.
Every postsecondary institution by law should have a program on campus, but some are more established than others. Some offer a continuum of comprehensive services while others barely offer extended time on tests. Some schools may offer workshops to help students develop study and time management skills. They may have learning specialists with whom students can meet once a week in a one-on-one setting. They may provide more targeted academic advising than students’ regular academic advisor can offer. These services are above what the law requires, so while some schools provide these for free, others incorporate them under a well worth it special fee-for-service program.
There is no federal regulation indicating what type of documentation the college has to accept to prove that your student has a diagnosed learning disability. Some colleges, may require a diagnosis described in a detailed letter from a pediatrician or psychologist or an IEP or 504 plan. Some schools might ask that the student's treating professional complete a form.
Do your research.
Before you set up your tour, I recommend going on the University’s website to find out what type of accommodations are offered. If you are not able to locate the accommodations on-line you can call the department directly. The name may not be obvious. Below are some of the names schools’ call the office that administers accommodations:
Equity Learning Center
Access Academic Center
Access & Equity Learning Support
Diversity Academic Support
Learning Disabilities Special Programs
Learning Resource Center Academic Success Center
Click on the link below and check out some colleges that have well established programs for students with learning disabilities.
Photo from: Pexels
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: The Mighty
Like I’ve said before, parenting is a tough job. It’s the most demanding, relentless, thankless job I have ever had. As a parent of three very different children, I need to parent each one differently because of their age, their needs and their personalities.
I’m an anxious person. I didn’t come into the world as an anxious person, but this life has turned me into one. I used to be a carefree child, happy, not really worried about the day to day. I had faith that it would all be OK. Then life happened. My father was diagnosed with cancer when I was 11 years old. Then with cancer again when I was 14 years old. Eventually, he passed away when I was 20. My life crumbled and was never the same again. Anxiety set in and it never left me.
Let’s fast forward to having my second child. A strong-willed, stubborn, loud, persistent child. She needs a lot and has no problem telling me how bad I am at meeting her needs. Yup. Good morning, sunshine.
Anxiety — it’s what I feel each day. When I can’t stop the cycle from spinning, I become mentally and emotionally stuck. The fear and dread over things that are going to happen, things that can happen and things that have not happened. It’s also the fear that when things are going OK, they may not stay that way.
As parents, we worry. We worry a lot. We worry about the past, the future and the present. We worry every day. We worry about the little things and the big things. We worry that we are not doing enough, or we are doing too much, or we are trying too hard, or we are not trying hard enough — all within the same day or even moment.
We worry that we have offended someone with our passion to give our children the therapies, supports and services they need in school and in the community. We worry about saying yes or saying no. We worry that we haven’t researched enough or maybe we have researched too much and now, our brain hurts.
It’s endless and it sucks.
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
Anxiety doesn’t have a look. You can’t see it, but for the person who is anxious (like me), it’s like your mind slows down and speeds up all at the same time. It’s like your thoughts are running and frozen. It’s like your body is moving quickly but it hasn’t gone anywhere.
The stomach acid churning, the shallow breathing, the sweating, the light headedness, the clenched fists, the teeth grinding. It’s not being able to think but processing everything all at once. It’s wanting to hide but not wanting anyone to know anything is wrong.
And we can all relate to the before bed run through of the day that turns into the, “I didn’t do that correctly today. I didn’t say that well. I should have said this instead. I should have done this today. I didn’t do enough. I am not a good enough person.”
Little Ability to Believe in Others
Anxiety means that you may not have the belief that things will work out because you’ve had enough experiences where they haven’t. It’s sometimes not believing that another person will be able to help you or that you can find solace and protection in another person.
Little Ability to Believe in Yourself
Anxiety can also be the residual message that “you can’t” even though you can and you have. It’s that message that automatically is negative, intimidating and belittling. That internal voice that says, “That’s too much! You can’t get that done. You can’t say that. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.”
Be Kind To Yourself
The holiday season is a tough one with all the lists of “shoulds” and things to get done because of a ton of self-imposed rules. And as a parent of a child with disabilities, you may feel the need to follow in certain traditions that are really causing more stress and distress for everyone in your family. It’s OK to let something go.
Be kind to yourself. Scratch off a few of those list items. Let it go. Give yourself time and space to recuperate physically and emotionally. Create new traditions that work for you and your family. It’s OK if you do things a little differently this year. As a parent of a child with disabilities, each day may come with a plan, but sometimes, it’s OK to abandon that plan and just wing it.
Photo from: Pexels
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas from Psychological & Educational Consulting! May your belly be filled and your face hurt from too much smiling!
Photo from: Daria Shevtsova on Pexels
We are sad to say good-bye to our therapist Miranda Dekker, LCSW, who is leaving us to pursue a new career opportunity.
We are thankful for her expertise in providing our children, adolescents, young adults and their families with excellent care.
We wish her the best of luck in the next chapter of her career!
Written by: Nicole Filiberti, LCSW
Modern technology has brought along with it convenience and a wealth of information in our pockets. We live in a world where we can ask Siri and Alexa questions and receive instant answers, sometimes without even lifting a finger. With this increase in accessible information comes its own challenges and struggles. As our youngsters utilize electronic devices more and more, technology can become problematic during homework time. Devices can be distracting, cause students to rush through homework in an effort to gain access on their device quicker, and can cause homework to drag out longer than needed if they are checking their phones every 5 minutes.
Develop a Device Plan
Consistency and predictability are your friends! Coming up with a plan for devices is a key piece of the after school routine. Developmental age is important here, as your routines will differ based on age. Allowing some down time after school with devices can help students unwind from the school day before starting homework. Setting a timer and clearly explaining to your kids what the routine will look like is important here. Describe what the transition off of the devices will look like. After the timer goes off, children should promptly power down their devices and place them in a pre-determined location. Some parents may find it helpful to have their kids' devices, specifically if they are adolescents, placed in a bin that is clearly in their sight. This way, the kids know their device is safe and not being used by anyone else, allowing them to focus on their homework.
If you think that your child will struggle a lot with powering down their device for the entire time they are completing homework, why not schedule in technology breaks throughout their homework time? The exact minutes will depend on your child's age and functioning, but it could help to have your youngster work on homework for 20 minutes, and then earn a 5 minute technology break. They will then return to 20 minutes of homework before earning another 5 minute technology break. The goal here is to alleviate some device anxiety they may be having, constantly feeling the need to check their phones.
What If My Kids Need Their Devices for Homework?
Between YouTube and Google, a wealth of information is available for anyone struggling with chemistry facts, to historical figures, to math operations. If a device is needed for a homework related question, it is important that it is used just for that purpose, and then promptly put away. Another helpful tip is to go through an assignment and complete all of the questions that the student does not require technology assistance with, and then go back to complete any questions that remain.
With a plan in place, devices do not have to totally interfere with homework completion time! Their benefits can be used in a way that helps homework time run smoother instead of totally derailing focus and attention.
Written by: Dr. Rick Manista
While the holidays with family bring us times of warmth, gift giving, celebrations, and memories the holidays also give us plenty of yelling, blaming, passive aggressive comments, and sometimes four letter words. Conflict is at an all time high during this season. While we can always joke about the petty drama, these arguments can linger and create uncomfortable environments. With the new year, we can use this time to reset and use some new strategies to prevent family arguments from occurring.
When we are upset about something, it is hard to find the right time and place to express ourselves. Instead of bottling it up inside and exploding later, create a time once a month for a family meeting. Check in with everyone on how things are going for them: school, chores, friends etc. Give everyone an opportunity (including parents!) to say something is wrong and problem solve around this. This can prevent an issue blowing up later.
No Cross Talk
The most important rule when having a family meeting or mediating a conflict is not to interrupt each other. Cross talk is when we start to speak over each other, and escalate the situation. When starting a meeting, be firm with this rule. This helps control the meeting and makes it productive. Sometimes kids respond well to “speaker power” turn taking objects such as stick. When someone has the object, only that person is allowed to speak. This can be hard to enforce, but it prevents a war from occurring!
Resist the Blame Game
Brene Brown’s (2015) research found that blame has an inverse relationship with accountability. While we are expressing hard feelings, we are not taking responsibility for a situation. Which can be hard, since many situations we cannot control! Instead of blaming, focus on what we can do to make the situation better. Once we start to break the “blaming” habit, we can have more productive conversations.
Feelings and Needs
All developmental theories states we have a series of needs we need to fulfill in order to reach our full potential. This can be safety, love, independence or expression, just to name a few (Luquet, 2017). If we do not get one of these needs met, we have bad feelings. When we see someone is upset, we can ask ourselves “what need are they trying to fulfill?”. This helps us stay out of judgement, and problem solve. Often in therapy, our goals with our clients are for them to identify their feelings and needs, and express them appropriately. This can be easier said then done.
One game that helps with this is Grok cards. Similar to Apples to Apples, one player tells a story with no feelings, while the other players choose feelings and needs cards that could best represent what the story teller was feeling. This helps kids create an emotional vocabulary and develop empathy. Grok cards can be found on Amazon.
When talking with family, it is important to use the format of an I statement to express yourself. “I feel __when you __, because I need __” (Burr, 1990). The format is simple but it helps make the situation more concrete for everyone. It also keeps us out of blame and has us express feelings appropriately. After doing this, it is easy to problem solve situations. This can be used as a script during family meetings.
One simple but effective strategy is to paraphrase what another person said. When we do not feel validated, we tend to escalate the situation. Paraphrasing helps communicate validation. It also gives us space to make sure we understand exactly what the other person is feeling. It is important to have all people involved in a conflict paraphrase each other. It reduces the anger and increases empathy.
Like all strategies, these have to be practiced and used for a period of time before any changes can be seen. With practice, these strategies can help transform any messy family drama into an opportunity for connection.
Brown, B. (2015). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms
the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Penguin.
Burr, W. R. (1990). Beyond I-statements in family communication. Family Relations, 266-273.
Luquet, W. (2017). Imago relationship therapy. In Behavioral, Humanistic-Existential, and.
Psychodynamic Approaches to Couples Counseling (pp. 160-189). Routledge.
Written by: Psychology@Pepperdine Staff
Psychology@Pepperdine, the online Master's in Applied Behavioral Analysis program from Pepperdine University
"Does your child get distracted easily and need to be repeatedly reminded to complete a simple task? Does their room look like it’s been hit by a tornado and they are constantly misplacing personal items? Do they have emotional outbursts when plans suddenly change?
For parents, many of these behaviors may seem familiar. But many typically developing children are able to improve their self-management skills, or executive functions, as they grow older and take on more responsibility. Some, including children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury and other learning disabilities, have a harder time and may face executive function deficits."
Today's blog defines emotional regulation and executive functioning. Furthermore, it discusses how teaching children with special needs emotional self-regulation skills can help them better manage emotional responses, and contains strategies to help your child enhance their emotional regulation skills!
Written by: Dr. Rick Manista
No one wants their child to be sad. We can see them not engaging with peers, not doing well in school, or even not eating the same foods. This can be more complicated with a diagnosis of Autism. It becomes hard to separate the diagnoses and identify what is the main need for the child. Factors of social communication, sensory processing and mood can look similar, understanding the differences helps us create a plan to best support the child’s needs.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) relate to a wide range of symptoms. The most important is the brain’s inability to perceive social situations and communicate (Gargaro et al, 2011). Often this is the inability to read social cues. This causes children to think in literal “black and white” terms. Abstract thought and imaginary play are very challenging for a child with an Autism diagnosis. While typically developing children can learn social skills through observation, children with Autism cannot learn that way and require social situations to be taught didactically and often repetitively. Because of this, children on the Autism Spectrum miss developmentally milestones.
Children with Autism can have sensory issues as well. This occurs when the brain has difficulty processing information from the five senses (Hofmann & Bitran, 2007). Children may be sensory seeking where they fidget often, gets distracted or constantly touches objects. Children may also be sensory avoiding where they would refuse to go to loud areas, refuse to wear certain clothes based on the material and refuse to try new food of different textures. This may cause them to become overly excitable, angry, silly or nervous in a given situation. In these situations, a sensory diet created by an occupational therapist can help.
Depression is diagnosed by a constant low mood and loss of interest in activities. Often children with depression experience sadness and hopelessness, but in some cases children have anger outbursts. This becomes diagnosed when the behavior interferes with school, family and social activities. Other symptoms may include changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, physical complaints (such as stomach or headaches) and inability to concentrate. Children typically show different symptoms in different settings. Depression can be caused by a combination of factors including life events, genetics, physical health or environment. Often treatment consists of counseling and sometimes an antidepressant.
How Autism and Depression Differ
Depression can often be misdiagnosed in children with Autism. Symptoms of Autism include having a flat affect and not interested in social interactions. Although this may look like depression, these symptoms are common with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Children with Autism avoid social situations because they have no interest in them. Often they prefer repetitive, concrete tasks. Depressed children avoid situations because of underlying feelings of sadness.
Autistic children also avoid situations because of sensory overload. This causes them to have changes in sleep patterns. This can also cause them to stay away from certain foods because of the textures. Depressed children would have trouble with these activities because of their mood.
One main area to differentiate Autism and depression is with social skills. Children with Autism would show more progression in social skills, changing behavior such as social interaction, interpersonal skills, self-regulation and perspective taking (Garcia-Winner & Crooke, 2015). Children with depression would not progress in such a setting, but would progress with counseling and medication. On the other hand, Autistic children would not progress from typical counseling approaches alone.
While children with Autism may appear depressed, their behavior is a result of social difficulties that can be helped through social skills. Children with depression suffer from underlying sadness that can be helped with counseling and medication. Understanding both diagnoses can help us differentiate and identify wait the main need is.
Garcia-Winner, M., & Crooke, P. (2015, September 18). Updates on the social thinking's cascade of social attention: A conceptual framework to explore a system's approach to social communication. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Updates on Social Thinkings Cascade of Social Attention
Gargaro, B. A., Rinehart, N. J., Bradshaw, J. L., Tonge, B. J., & Sheppard, D. M. (2011). Autism and ADHD: how far have we come in the comorbidity debate?. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(5), 1081-1088.
Hofmann, S. G., & Bitran, S. (2007). Sensory-processing sensitivity in social anxiety disorder: relationship to harm avoidance and diagnostic subtypes. Journal of anxiety disorders, 21(7), 944-954.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: The Mighty
The birds and the bees…oh geez, do we really have to go there? Yes, we do. Our pre-teens or teens with disabilities, like all their peers, are going to have questions about their changing bodies and about sex. That need may be delayed or even come early, but the need is still there and we, as their parents, need to monitor what information they are seeking and how much to give them, just like we would for any child.
When your child is showing obvious signs of puberty: deepening voice, breast buds, body hair, body odor and an intense interest in the opposite gender, it’s that time to start planting the seeds for that conversation.
Several years ago, I worked in a private school for children on the autism spectrum. Many of our adolescent boys and girls were frightened by their changing bodies, and the feelings that came when a handsome young man or lady walked by. They didn’t understand what was happening, and it felt strange.
Keep it Simple
During that time, we engaged our school nurse to give simple lessons on body changes to our adolescent boys and girls separately. As a staff Psychologist, I read books about adolescence and created social stories specific to their areas of question or concern. We validated that these feelings were normal, these bodily changes were normal, and that other kids also went through these changes.
In our group, we had to bring up the topic of masturbation. More books, more social stories about this natural urge, and where and when it was appropriate (in the bathroom, in their bedroom, behind a closed door).
Parents were engaged to continue the discussion, emphasizing a few key points, but only when there was a need. We answered only their questions as they were asked. Two sentences, then stop. For our students who were shy, they wrote down their questions and we discussed together one-on-one or responded back in writing.
Wait for the Question
Instead of initiating a conversation about the birds and the bees, wait for your child to ask the question, then answer it. By that point, you will have provided a good amount of information leading up to this question, and so it will naturally flow. For example, you will have already had conversations about female and male anatomy and how it changes, the physical urges, masturbation, menstrual cycles, breasts and pubic hair. This process may be slow and can take up months or even a year. It’s OK — no need to rush. Just answer the questions as they arise.
Remember, just answer the question and build on information slowly, and follow your child’s lead!
Written by: Miranda Dekker, LCSW
Speaking with children about divorce can be a difficult undertaking. Parents and family members are sometimes conflicted with how much information they should provide the child and what type of information is important to share. Many children experience divorce, but how they react to the news and adjustment depends on their age, personality, and the circumstances of the separation and divorce process. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind when approaching your children about your divorce.
Don’t hide the truth from your child
We don’t give children enough credit for their accuracy in decoding parental issues and understanding complex feelings. After the parent has come to an agreement and a plan has been set in place a child should be made aware. Many parents do not tell their children about the separation and divorce until days or weeks after one of the parents has moved out of the house. There are many difficult and confusing feelings which will come up for parents, but keeping your children in the dark about the plan or your feelings will leave them feeling betrayed and deceived. It may also leave them ill prepared for other major life events. Child development experts agree that withholding the truth about their parents’ separation and divorce does not protect children.Children always do better in hearing the truth than in hearing a lie or misleading information from a parent. Furthermore, deceiving your child in this way may influence the trust dynamic you once had or it may result in your child feeling anxious during certain situations. It is not the parents’ job to protect their children from truth. Rather, parents should give accurate and truthful information, and then help their children deal with the feelings that are generated.
When telling your children about your separation and divorce it is important to take in to consideration their level of understanding and the way in which they interpret situations. What you many tell your six year-old will sound very different from your fifteen year-old. Both parents should come together before a discussion with the children in order to tailor the story so that both of them are on the same page. Divorce and separation is complex, multi-layered, and sometimes messy, but for the younger children these concepts are difficult to process. Children believe there is only one truth in any given situation. The idea that there may be multiple truths is beyond the grasp of most children, since it requires a level of abstract thinking of which children are not yet capable. Thus, in order to help children come to terms with the fact of their parents’ divorce, it is most helpful for them to hear only one mutual and consistent story of why their parents split up. However, when it comes to teenagers, your story can be a little more detailed and expressive. Remember that children should always be aloud to ask questions and express their feelings. This is also a good learning opportunity for children to see their parents manage a stressful situation and deal with difficult emotions.
Even after parents have done the work of explaining the separation, what may even cause more apprehension are the questions that may follow. First, parents must recognize their son or daughters feelings, reassure they will always be safe, and that Mom and Dad love them no matter what happens. Children and even teenagers need to feel a sense of security. Sometimes parents struggle with how to respond to children’s questions if they come up. Discussing questions that may come up for your children prior to the reveal of the separation will be beneficial. Remember that children are typical focused on their "little bubble." They will want to know how this divorce will affect their daily lives. If there is a question you are unsure of how to answer say that you are not sure and will talk more about it with mom/dad and find an answer. Your children will find comfort in seeing the two of you remain civil and working together still.
Dealing with a divorce is never an easy thing, but remaining involved and consciousness of your child's needs during this life transition will be paramount. Take the time to develop your story and remember to practice questions before the conversation. Be honest and remind your children that they will always be loved no matter what!
Once again, we are thrilled to be your NJ Family Favorite Kids' Doc 2018! Thank you for your votes, and your positive and kind feedback. We are blessed to work with your children, adolescents, and your families.
On a side note, we did not make the deadline with our new address.
As you are aware, we are now located at 513 West Mount Pleasant Ave, Ste 212, Livingston NJ. All of our contact info has remained the same.
Many, many thanks!
We are super happy to announce that Psychological and Educational Consulting has officially moved to: 513 West Mount Pleasant Ave, Ste 212, Livingston! As of today, our sessions will be held in our new location. Come on by and say hello 👋
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