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!
Image from: Pexels
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.
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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.
Not Sure What To Do Once Camp Is Over?
We've Got an Answer for You!
Sign up for our Social Skills Groups
August 19-23, 2019
9:00a-11:00a (ages 7-9)
- or -
12:00p-2:00p (ages 10-12)
*we will match children according to their developmental levels as well as chronological age.
older or younger children can be considered.
Building A Self and Emotional Regulation
&Social Thinking Tool Box!
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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
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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.
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We are happy to announce that we will be running
2 Social Skills Groups during the week of
August 19-23, 2019
The focus will be on Self and Emotional Regulation
& Social Thinking
Seats are Limited - Sign Up Today!
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D. and featured by: The Mighty
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.
Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S.
As we wrap up another school year, I bask in glory of summer with relaxation and fun. As a mother of four, we just celebrated my oldest son’s major milestone of 8th grade graduation. High school, here we come!
As the madness of the spring is starting to quiet down, I find I have been sitting with a series of questions lately. As parents, our goal is to teach our children skills so they can navigate into adulthood with confidence. The question I ask myself often is how, in this journey of childhood to adulthood, am I going to find balance of teaching my children responsibility and equip them as they mature?
With the pressures of school and sports, I tend to ask very little of responsibilities on the home-front. I want to nurture and take care of my kids but am I, at the same time, becoming a hinderance for my children?
I know I am not the only mom who is mindful of trying to find the balance of giving my children a childhood, but also building up their skills, their resources, their abilities as they approach into adulthood. These are not easy questions to answer and this balance is not easy to find either.
Recently, I was recommended this book by a great local special education teacher, “How to Raise An Adult” by Julie Lythcott- Haims. The author challenges parents to empower children for adulthood. Working at college admissions, she began to see the detrimental effect of helicopter parenting leaving college age students still needing their parents to navigate the world. The “we” unit of a child and parent had not separated, and she found that college-aged adults did not know how to handle the multiple demands and responsibilities of living in a dorm, going to class, managing time, while also building new relationships with professors and peers.
When our children are born, they need the “we” to survive. As we know, babies are completely dependent on us and we anticipate and translate their sounds and facial expressions to needs, and we satisfy them. Over time, and perhaps as much as we don’t want our kids to separate from us too much, it is our job to give our children permission to explore and separate. Our goal is to help our children develop language to communicate their needs, their feelings so that we don’t have to guess.
Isn’t it our job to slowly shift and increase their independence and competence through different developmental stages?
So with a high school aged young man in my house, I have to think of my part...
I also know you can’t re-vamp your entire system at once. In my family, we will be taking baby steps to allow my kids to better more confident and become more self -sufficient. We are revamping our chores and opening checking accounts with debit cards. The “mommy bank” will become a tougher place to get “free money!”
Happy Summer and I wish you balance in coaching your children of basking in the joy of childhood yet taking this time to teach them skills needed for adulthood!
Image from: Families for Life
Written by: Gabriel Merchan
Most of us know that there are times in our lives when we need some help in the form of therapy. It could be a result of a break-up, the end of our marriage or just some issue that we need to work through with the help of some counseling.
While most of know about the traditional therapy session with either a psychologist or a psychologist in their office, there are now other services offered that are very convenient.
In fact, online therapy has proven to be a very popular alternative to the traditional therapy sessions.
There are many benefits of online therapy and below are just 6.
1. Convenient Setting
Online therapy is very convenient as both the patient and the therapist can schedule the sessions any time of day. With having sessions from your home, you are also in a very comfortable setting and can have sessions at night, weekends, or whatever times work for you.
Online therapy is much less expensive than traditional therapy and is a great option for those whose health insurance doesn’t cover therapy. However, many insurance companies will offer online therapy. Make sure to contact your insurance company to see if this is an option.
3. Physically Impaired have easier access to therapy
Online therapy is a great alternative option for individuals who are either house bound or disabled. Those who are unable to leave the house due to physical or mental illness will not only be able to receive therapy but will be much more comfortable doing so.
4. Great Option for those in remote environment
For those who live in a remote area, online therapy is a great way to receive therapy. For those who live outside a city location, it can be very difficult for them to drive to the city for a one hour therapy session. And there is a good chance there might not be a therapist office in their location.
5. Takes the Stigma Out
Some individuals who want therapy but are uncomfortable either going to a traditional office setting would do well with online therapy. In fact, if the person who is seeking counsel isn’t comfortable speaking face-to-face with someone, he or she would do well with this form of therapy.
Further, some individuals might not feel comfortable if they saw other patients when either waiting for counseling or entering the office. And on-line counseling is an excellent alternative for this scenario.
6. Many Forms of Communication
With on-line therapy, you can get therapy via email, texts, a quick phone call or video. The choices of communication are much more convenient.
When Online Therapy Isn’t Appropriate
We all know the importance of keeping our personal information private. With online therapy, anything written by email or text during these meetings can be either leaked or get out. Of course, this could be said of anything on-line, but is something to consider.
Those with Serious Psychiatric Illnesses
Online therapy can be very helpful in a variety of situations, but if someone has a serious mental health issue, the traditional setting would be much more effective. Of course, this is also the case for those who have a more complicated set of issues.
A few final things to consider:
Online therapy can be a great alternative for the convenience and access. As with any form of therapy, the most important thing that needs to be addressed is comfort level.
To learn more about on-line therapy and the best companies that offer therapy, this guide can provide you will some helpful and important information.
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