Celina D'Alto is our new intern this summer! She is an upcoming senior at The College of New Jersey. She is studying to get her masters in special education and her bachelors degree in psychology with a specialization in clinical and counseling psychology. She works as a child care taker during the school year. Celina enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, and loves to travel. She is excited to be working with us!
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Psy.D.
You may find your anxiety is being triggered by the day’s events, or what you still need to accomplish before the day’s end for yourself, your child, your job, or all 3. That anxiety experience is real and it sometimes triggers a more intense anxiety response when something isn’t going as you planned. And let’s face it, there are a lot of variables that can go out of whack at any given time!
Or, maybe there is really no reason at all and you are feeling triggered and are struggling with low mood, low energy and just an overall wanting to withdraw and hide. So now what?
When feeling distressed, sad, anxious, or generally unhappy, acknowledge your feelings and don’t try to deny, distract or run away from them. Embrace how you are feeling even if there is no real identifiable source for your feelings. Today, your trigger may have been a sudden flashback, a scent, or sight, or a feeling.
It’s okay. Be aware of what and how you are feeling, first and foremost.
Give Yourself a Break
If you are at work or an event, it’s okay to leave the situation you are in and take a break. Take a half-day or a sick day if you are at work. Do not force yourself to stay or handle a situation when your tolerance and resources are at a minimum. Find a quiet place, make a cup of tea and allow your body to process your emotions and come back down from the roller coaster ride you were just a part of.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Psy.D.
You’re a parent of a child with special needs. You have a diagnosis, you’ve sought treatment and you’ve been doing this for a couple of years, or maybe longer than that. As your child grows and his needs change, so does your stress and distress. You now know enough about your child’s triggers that you survey the environment and sit in anticipation of a potential meltdown. Or, you are managing the medical implications that come with your child’s diagnosis such as medication, ventilator, feeding tube management, and specialist consultations and check-ins. Or, you are thinking about the future and your child’s care as she becomes older; her education, her need for greater care when you can’t be the one to do it anymore.
You’re on the edge, often. You aren’t very good at ‘letting go’ because you don’t know what you have to accommodate, or change in your house, what you need to make sure you have with you when you leave your house in an effort to keep your child safe, regulated and calm. You are likely thinking about the future care of your child, and you’re just not sure what the game plan is going to look like.
Written by: Dr. Rick Manista, Psy.D.
An Autism diagnosis can have various challenges for children. Social skills is one of the main deficits children with autism can experience. They have a difficulty reading and interpreting social cues. This can cause them to withdraw from social situations or engage in inappropriate behavior. One of the hardest times of the day is recess. Recess is the time where most social opportunities take place. Here are some ideas to help improve social skills during this time.
Children are Motivated
Locke, Shih, Kreutzmann and Kasari (2015) conducted a study comparing the playground habits between children with and without autism spectrum disorder. The results indicated that children with autism did spend majority of their time engaging with another student. Though the students may not be communicating and relating to each other on the same level, there is motivation from the students with autism to socialize.
Four Steps of Communication
One important strategy to teach students is the four steps of communication. Created by Winner (2000), these steps break down social interaction more concretely for students. Step 1 is to be aware of others and our own thoughts. This is the time we want to make sure we are on the same topic of conversation. Step 2 is to make a physical presence known. We have to approach the group or wave to initiate conversation. We just cannot get too close that would invade their personal space! Step 3 is to use our eyes to read others emotions and monitor how the person is reacting. The final step is use language to convey our thoughts. This can be done by asking questions and sharing thoughts. These steps can help students with their interactions.
Engage teachers and aides
The hardest part about social skills is the students generalizing their skills in different environments. Winner and Crooke (2016) stress the importance of having teachers and aides be apart of the students’ “social team”. Not only do teachers and aides directly observe what is happening on the playground, they can help guide play, reinforce social stories and vocabulary. One of the most important skills to teach children with Autism is observation. When you observe a social cue, you can interpret the most appropriate response. While this can be done in therapy rooms, the playground offers more opportunities for students to observe social cues. Naturally, this skill is difficult for students to do on their own. Having teachers help reinforce the concept of observation to students could improve their social skills.
Pair with Peer Models
Another common strategy is to utilize peer mentors. Higher functioning students can help guide students in need. These students would need to be trained on how to respond to children with Autism and on the nature of the condition. Most schools have a similar model for peers to help others. The one challenge to this strategy is peer pressure: often the mentors might face exclusion and stop helping. Teachers would still need to be closely monitoring in effort to ensure the success of the approach.
Create Structured Activities
Students with Autism tend to work in isolation with repetitive, predictable tasks. There are various activities that can meet their interests and help them socialize. The monkey bars, see saws, and swings often lend to pairs playing together. Alternate activities such as side walk chalk or scavenger hunts are predictable but increase participation. Indoor recess has easier options to structure. Art activities, Lego buildings and board games lend themselves to cooperative play. Another important strategy is to allow the students to bring toys from home. They can use this opportunity to share with others and make potential friendships.
Practice In the Classroom
The classroom and therapy room is a vital place to work on recess goals. This is a time where social skills can be taught and practiced. Teachers can instruct students on games they can play, the rules and expectations of the game, and why people like this game (Lucci, 2019). These are concepts that are hard for children with Autism. Videos showing recess activity and games help students see a clear picture of what will happen. Reinforcement systems in the classroom can motivate students to interact in an appropriate manner. Our goals for students is to feel connected with others during social times. These strategies can help students build successful peer relationships.
Locke, J., Shih, W., Kretzmann, M., & Kasari, C. (2015). Examining playground engagement between elementary school children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 20(6), 653-662. doi:10.1177/1362361315599468
Lucci, D. (n.d.). Helping students with Asperger's make sense of recess. Retrieved May 11, 2019, from https://www.aane.org/helping-students-aspergers-make-sense-recess/
Winner, M. G. (2000). Inside out: What makes a person with social cognitive deficits tick?: The I LAUGH approach: Asperger syndrome, high-functioning autism, non-verbal learning- disabilities (NLD), pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), hyperlexia. San Jose, CA: Michelle
Garcia Winner. Winner, M., & Crooke, P. (2016, September 21). 9 Strategies to Encourage Generalization of Social Thinking Concepts and Social Skills. Retrieved May 12, 2019, from https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=9
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Psychology Today
I have always been drawn to working with teenagers. They are goofy, funny, and their blooming personalities are fun to watch and experience. I bond well with teens, professionally, and feel that I can reach them. Perhaps because I am a first-generation Egyptian in not only the United States, but New Jersey nonetheless: I felt very torn between being an Egyptian and an American. I struggled to blend my two worlds and figure out who I was in the midst of it all.
My mother and father maintained a circle of friends who were also immigrants to the United States. We attended an Egyptian church weekly, and this was a large part of our social life. Our friends were other Egyptian-American teens and each week, we gathered together and shared our stories about our parents’ "ridiculous" views while our parents shared their favorite meals and nostalgic stories of the motherland. I had no idea where I fit in and how to balance and manage the expectations of our culture, religion and our life in a non-Egyptian community. I wish I had someone to talk to. Someone to validate the angst I felt well into my late 20s.
Now, let’s blast forward to the present where I am waiting for my son while he gets his hair cut. He’s darting looks at me while sending a text, “Don’t come near me.” Just to make this visual complete, I am sitting about 10 feet away from him. But he waves me over and asks, “What do you think? Short enough?”
I’m so confused.
That’s my boy: He’s in the midst of a time of physical growth, emotional chaos, social changes (constantly), insecurity, and trying to figure out his identity. He’s not alone. Adolescent boys and girls everywhere struggle with anxiety, and so is my adolescent boy...
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Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S.
As I travel through this parenting journey, I find myself judging myself compared to this preconceived notion of “shoulds”. As I try to be mindful and find balance, I,too, still can get sucked into the vortex of “shoulds”.
When thinking of forging your own path, I can not help to look at the Royal family. Meghan Markle and Prince Henry welcomed their son this week. I was so impressed on how they broke the “shoulds” and royal customs. Meghan has started her motherhood journey on her own terms. Abandoning a birth picture dressed to the nines only hours after the birth, Meghan remained behind private doors nuzzling her son. Bravo for breaking free of not only “shoulds” but royal customs and pressures of the media.
So what does relinquishing the “shoulds” do for you:
Now, how do you do it?!
Step 1: identify. Began to take notice of when you apply a “should to your thinking”. Awareness is the first step to change!
Step 2: Challenging Thoughts- develop a script to shift the power and your mindset -
(As we eat our fast food dinner) “I am teaching my kids how spending time having a (fast food) picnic in between soccer practices that we can still make family time and connect!”
Step 3: Appreciate your efforts and allow for improvement with judging yourself!
This is my Mother’s day gift to myself !
Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day living without the “shoulds”.
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Written by: Eva Benoit
Running a business is hard work, whether you're the owner, the second in command, or a rising manager. This is particularly true when finances become tight. Thankfully, there are strategies you can employ to make things easier and boost your energy to keep your career accelerating.
Ease Money Worries
Unfortunately, the state of our finances can lead to a buildup of stress and anxiety. To help reduce this burden, see where you can lower the overhead costs of running your business. One way to do so is to put together a home office, rather than leasing one separately. Just ensure that your workspace is distinct from the living areas and has a comfortable chair and desk. You can further prune back expenses by going paperless and seeing what labor you can cut back on or outsource. However, you could make surprising savings by investing in an accountant to find out the areas upon which you can improve.
Know Your Budget and Goals
Another tactic to keep yourself from being overwhelmed is to develop a fool-proof budget and outline your goals. Without a budget, you can't know precisely where your money is going and if your return is as high as you think. To start, add up your fixed and variable expenses to know what you're spending each month. From there, you can establish what your profits are and which goals can help you grow them. You need tangible goals as well as those for financial growth. Decide what percentage you want to increase by, and when, to fuel your motivation.
Up Your Energy
When you lose sleep, live in a state of stress, and eat a poor diet, your energy and productivity suffer. Your work and your personal life cannot flourish if you don't take care of your physical needs, so invest in your health by getting eight hours of sleep and eating nutritious meals. You can sleep better by creating a nighttime ritual away from work. That means no tech in the bedroom, and going to bed at the same time every night. Furthermore, stock your kitchen full of healthy choices to prevent yourself from eating junk when you've had a hard day; these should include fresh fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants and omega-3s. Fortunately, you can buy things already prepared so you don't need to worry about that hassle yourself.
Take Needed Breaks
Working, even if you are sitting the entire day, is taxing on the mind and body. It drains our energies and exhausts us, especially when things are tense. To counter this, we need to take frequent breaks. It doesn't need to be much, but aim for a break every hour or so. That could involve standing up and stretching for a few minutes, or going to get a fresh glass of water — but do something to take your mind off of work. This way, you can come back to any tricky issues you need to resolve with a fresh burst of energy.
Having clutter where we work does not lead to us being productive. It negatively impacts our moods and work morale by creating a chaotic environment. Yet, by having a home office that is well-thought out and organized, you can not only have pleasant surroundings but encourage your own productivity. Whenever things get chaotic, look at what you can get rid of, and which storage systems can prevent piles from building up again.
Plan out your business and see what adjustments you can make. You may need to set new goals, create a better budget, and be sure you're properly looking after yourself. Being an entrepreneur can be stressful, but you don't need to feel bogged down every day.
Photo from: Pixabay
By: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Phase2Parenting
As a parent, we’re often troubleshooting challenges as they happen. So when you suspect your child may have a learning disability, it can be overwhelming to know where to start and how to obtain the resources to best support your child. To help streamline your next steps, we spoke with Dr. Liz Matheis, a licensed Clinical Psychologist and certified School Psychologist who specializes in assisting children and their families with Autism, ADHD, Anxiety and learning/behavioral disorders. Check out her interview below:
What are some of the common learning disabilities that you see amongst the tween and teen age groups?
Often, learning disabilities can go unnoticed in children who are shy or anxious or withdrawn. For tweens and teens, I'm finding learning disabilities in math, reading, reading comprehension, and written expression. The learning disabilities are also comorbid with ADHD and anxiety, which can distract a learning disability diagnosis.
What are the steps that parents should take if they think their child may have a learning disability?
I encourage parents to gain feedback about their child's progress based on baseline and mid-year assessments completed by the public school. By the middle of kindergarten, parents can have a good idea of how their child is progressing in terms of academics, behavioral and social progress, and where he/she is in comparison to same aged peers.
If the child is struggling in reading, writing, spelling or math, parents can request Basic Skills Instruction. I believe that after 3 months of consistent instruction, the parent will be able to tell if the child is making progress. Basic Skill Instruction provides repetition of lesson as the idea is that the child may need the skill presented several times again in order for it to become learned.
If the child is not making progress, I encourage parents to reach out to the Guidance Counselor and request an I&RS plan (Intervention and Referral Services Plan). Strategies are documented and the time line is 4-8 weeks. I recommend that parents schedule a follow up meeting in 6 weeks to assess the efficacy of the plan. If a child has a learning disability, the progress will be limited, thus indicating the next level, which is…
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Sonicalert.com
Sleeping with ADHD, Autism, and Anxiety
Sleep. It’s that ever elusive kudo that comes at the end of each day. For some of us, it happens quite easily. For others, it’s a process that may or may not end up in sweet dreams. For our children with ADHD, anxiety, or autism, sleep is truly of the essence. It’s needed to maintain focus, to regulate mood and allow for learning. Without it, we see our children struggle with more anxiety, more restlessness, more inattention, more irritability, and more difficulty learning. Over time, we, as their parents, become unsure of which came first and we have a vicious cycle that can become hard to break or remedy.
How Much Sleep Do We Need Each Night?
According to Tuck.com, the numbers of hours of sleep needed each night (optimally) is based on age. The following is the breakdown:
Infants Under 1 Year 16-20 Hours
1-2 Years of Age 14 Hours
3-4 Years of Age 12 Hours
5-12 Years of Age 10 Hours
13-19 Years of Age 9 Hours
Adults and Seniors 7-8 Hours
ADHD and Sleep
Children with ADHD often struggle with sleep. CHADD.com says the most common sleep problems for children and adolescents is difficulty fall asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty waking up. Children and adolescents with ADHD also struggle with sleepwalking, snoring, breathing difficulty, restless sleep, and nightmares. When children are prescribed medication, parents and teachers see an improvement in a child’s ability to maintain focus; however, the stimulant component can also negatively impact a child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep each night.
The National Sleep Foundation states children with ADHD who don’t sleep enough hours each night may be even more fidgety, restless, impulsive, and even irritable and aggressive. Children who do not sleep well during the night may struggle socially to interact with their peers and pick up on social cues, understand a lesson presented in class, be able to follow directions given by a teacher when transitioning, for example. Ultimately, this leads to a child who can become ‘tired and wired’, and can become stuck in a non-sleeping pattern for months.
A study completed by Golan, Shahar, and Pillar (2004), showed that there is a high comorbidity between AD/HD and disordered breathing as well as restless leg syndrome. It was recommended that parents discuss these possibilities with the child’s pediatrician in order to gain treatment for these conditions that could be disturbing sleep cycles and contributing to an exacerbation of symptoms...
Written by: Jennifer Mandato
Passion is a word used so freely. “I have a passion for running.” “ I am passionate about hockey.” It is something, for the most part, we do not give a second thought to. Many of us go to work every day to do something we love.
Finding a passion for a teenager with special needs isn’t always as simple. How can we help our kids find their passion? Throughout our lives, we have many opportunities to discover and experience new things. For a teenager with special needs these experiences can be limited. Families may be fearful of how others may react to their child, keeping them from learning new hobbies. Families can start with events and outings that will be sensitive and welcoming to the special needs community. This will allow the teen to familiarize themselves with the community and the events that interest them.
Continue to enrich their lives with experiences. Explore their interests and see where that can take them in life. Talk to their teachers, counselors, or transition coordinators. Learn about the opportunities that are available in your community for your child to discover. If they like board games or helping others, can they volunteer in a retirement community? Is your child a great organizer, can they work doing inventory for a store? If they really like cooking they can look into classes at a local community college.
Ask your child what they like doing. They may tell you something so simple but it will be worth exploring. In working with teenagers, I have had many conversations about what they see for themselves after they finish school. Some will have a clear picture of their next steps, others a little more unsure. Some teens may find their passion by participating in a school event or internship. Let’s not limit our teens to what we think they should be doing but allow them to try a variety of options to see where they want their life path to take them.
As adults, it is our job to empower our teenagers to try their best and pursue their passions. Always allow them to dream knowing they have your safety net to catch them. The pride of success when they achieve something they have set their mind to is priceless.
Helping our children with special needs find their passion is essential. It helps their teacher to guide lessons with that in mind, and offer incentives based on the topic that makes our children want to jump out of their seats!
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Rachael earned her master’s degree from Montclair State University. She is a Licensed Associate Counselor and has worked as a school counselor for the past 8 years. She has worked in the field of special education for over 12 years. Rachael completed post-graduate training in play therapy, AutPlay therapy, DIR/Floortime, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, family trauma models, children’s yoga, social thinking , nurtured heart and mindful parenting, and executive functioning coaching.
Rachael currently works at a school for children with special needs where she provides individual and group counseling as well as parent support. She also works with parents to provide behavioral strategies and interventions in the home.
Rachael is the proud of mother of 2 children (ages 4 and 2). In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her boys.
Contact Rachael: RBerringer@psychedconsult.com
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Shield HealthCare
Annual review season is here, and your child’s meeting is probably already on your schedule. As a former School Psychologist on the Child Study Team (CST), I know that annual review meetings are coming, which means you need to get ready to make the most of this important Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting.
For some, this provokes a great deal of anxiety. The worry of:
Before I dive in to the topic, let me review the different types of IEP meetings that you can have:
An IEP annual review is your yearly meeting when you sit down with your case manager, general education teacher, special education teacher, and related service providers in an effort to review your child’s program as it has been set for the last year, and to decide what your child’s program will look like for the upcoming year.
A re-evaluation eligibility meeting is one you will with your Case Manager, general education teacher, special education teacher and related service providers every 3 years in order for your child’s continued eligibility for special education and related services to be reviewed. That is, your child will be re-evaluated (psychological, educational assessments, as well as necessary related service therapies) so that you may review your child’s progress. During this time, you can bring forth any diagnoses that your child has that were made by private professionals (e.g., ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyspraxia, Central Auditory Processing Evaluation, etc).
Sometimes, your case manager may decide that there is enough data from your child’s teachers that shows that your child continues to be eligible and requires the program that has been established. As a result, your case manager may ask you to waive testing and re-convene in 3 years.
An initial eligibility meeting takes place after you or your child has requested a CST meeting in order to review your child’s learning needs in an effort to gain testing. The eligibility meeting occurs when all testing has been completed and eligibility is being determined...
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Written by: Gail O'Connor and the Editors of Parents Parents
Not so long ago, a friend asked me whether I plan to send my youngest child, my third, to kindergarten on time, or if I would be choosing to hold her back. The question didn't surprise me. "Redshirting," or delaying entrance to kindergarten by a year, is not uncommon where I live, and my daughter would be making the cutoff in our district by a scant five days. That made it likely she'd be the very youngest in her grade, something I've come to see could actually be a positive thing academically.
But the timing of my friend's inquiry did throw me a bit: My daughter was just 2 ½ years old. Surely that should have bought us some time to decide whether she'll be ready at almost-5 for kindergarten.
Still, you can't blame parents of children on the younger side for their grade for worrying early and often, particularly when we have to suffer through anxiety-inducing commercials for websites and other wares peddled to get our kids prepared for kindergarten, which sounds increasingly like an intimidating, unforgiving place rather than the warm welcome to education that it used to be.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from interviewing moms who've already made the decision of when to start their child in kindergarten:
Know your state's kindergarten age rules.
According to Superpages, an online source of local information from across the country, a total of 32 states in the United States require that a child be 5 years old on or before September 1 in the year he or she starts kindergarten, with 11 states having a cutoff date between September 1 and October 15. There are also 7 states that offer local schools the option set their own required dates for when children should start school.
You can start by finding your state's rules here, but it's still worth a call to your school district's office as these rules can change. You can also find out if special exceptions can be granted by the school principal, as was the case for one of the moms Parents interviewed...
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Shield HealthCare
Change, change, it’s the season for change! Well, change is inevitable at any time of the year and in any phase of our life. If you have children, double the amount of change!
Our year is filled with them – September, the holidays, winter break, the return to school in January, spring break, returning after spring break, the end of the school year, and the beginning of summer.
For some children, even daily transitions are difficult to process and are faced with much resistance. So, how do you as a parent help your child with an upcoming change in routine, travel or even the start of a new activity? Anticipate and plan ahead, which will lessen the severity of the change and make it easier to accept.
Keep it the Same… As It’s Becoming Different
When you anticipate an upcoming change, the goal is to either create a routine or maintain it, with little or no deviation. The thought behind this is as a change is coming, the other parts of life stay the same. When you know your child doesn’t readily accept change, you may be very tempted to extend bedtime or to give them an extra dessert because you feel badly about the upcoming change or because a change has happened. But, don’t. This actually creates more anxiety instead of normalizing the change.
With that said, when you are expecting an impending change in your schedule, stick to your routine so that your child can rely on the familiar amidst the unfamiliar. Making a change to your routine takes another element of your child’s life and makes it even rockier. Don’t feel badly and don’t offer too many exceptions to the rules or special treats to make up for a guilty conscience...
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Written by: Hannah T
Once again, our local Girl Scout, Hannah T from Parsippany, has prepared another blog for us about cyberbullying as she continues to work towards the completion of her Girl Scout Gold Award. The goal of her project is to bring awareness to the issue of social media, internet safety and cyberbullying by creating and presenting on the topic, creating posters, and writing blogs and articles. Her hope is to educate adolescents and their parents about the subtle hazards of social media by also providing strategies when social media gets ugly.
What Is Cyber Bullying?
Bullying is a term that’s been around for a long time. Parents understand bullying to be physical harm caused by one child to another, for some or no reason at all. The intent is to cause harm, fear, or intimidation. Well, let’s fast forward to our present day with Snap Chat, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else that’s here or about to be here. Cyber-bullying is here. What is that exactly? It’s when a child/adolescent is being targeted and harmed by interactions over social media/the internet. However, past this definition, it can make teens feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interest in things they normally love to do. With that said, if your child shares with you that she is the recipient of a rude or hurtful message on social media, you need to know how to mediate these situations.
In the past, before the internet and social media, when someone was bullied in school, when they went home, they were able to gain a break from the bullying. Presently, that barrier doesn’t exist anymore. The bullying persists because of one tap on their phone screen and it’s right there. There is no break of respite from this type of bullying, and it is vital for parents to step in.
What Should Your Child Do?
If your child comes to you with an instance of cyberbullying, whether it be a conflict they had with a friend through text messages, a post directed at him on Instagram, or someone posting pictures of him on Snapchat without permission, the very first thing to do is make sure your child takes a screenshot (picture) of the text, photo, and comments. If the other child chooses to delete her texts or conversations, you still have a copy of the content.
Even more importantly, make sure that your child does not reply to the messages in any way since this will just give the bully the reaction he or she would like. If your child has already replied, still screenshot the conversation, but your child will also then be partaking in cyberbullying, even if they did not act first.
Next, you’ll want to have your child block the person the cyberbullying is coming from, so this doesn’t continue to happen. Also, don’t just have your child block them on the site where the bullying is taking place, have your child block them on all social media platforms where they can possibly be contacted. This will truly ensure the bully won’t be able to contact your child any longer.
What Should I Do?
You should probably keep a close eye on your child’s phone and social media accounts, just in case the bully finds another way to contact your child. If you feel as though the situation is not handled, bring the screenshots/pictures of the cyberbullying to your child’s school principal, and they have to act on the messages they see. Finally, make sure to be comforting and uplifting to your child.
Being cyberbullied makes kids feel helpless, inferior, alone, dissatisfied with themselves, and many other awful feelings. Instead of making your child feel punished by taking her phone, just establish that if anything else happens, she needs to come to you first. Depending on the severity of the cyberbullying, your child may also need to be comforted as well. If your child is highly distressed, you may want to seek counseling.
Remind your child that people only bully others when they aren’t happy with themselves and that the bully’s messages are meant to create fear, panic, and hurt self-esteem. Additionally, try to spend more time with your child, or set limits on phone use. When teens are off their phones and having fun with their friends and family, problems over social media seem less impactful to them, which is what your goal to be as a parent in this situation; help your child realize that the bully is insignificant and shouldn’t be allowed to take over their mood and happiness.
Overall, teens who are being cyberbullied need guidance and support during this time. Bond with your child, listen, offer advice, and sympathize. Seek private counseling if the impact of the cyberbullying is pervasive and begins to negatively impact the ability to attend school, maintain friendships, engage with family members, complete homework, and study for tests. The ultimate goal is to not become punitive but rather to sympathize and problem solve together while maintaining general life activities and family time.
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We are conducting a survey about the experiences of siblings of individuals with disabilities. By taking this survey, you can help us learn more about needed supports for siblings of individuals with disabilities. This online survey will take no more than 20-30 minutes to complete.
You are eligible to take this survey if: you are over the age of 18 and you are the sibling of a person with a disability.
If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Meghan Burke at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-300-1226
Written by: Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
Among the many other things parents can help instill in their children, a healthy diet could easily rank as one of the most important habits. Healthy diets have many positive effects on both physical and mental health. Starting some habits for children to learn when they are young can set the tone for their entire lives. Here are some tips to utilize:
1. Variety is the spice of life! Don't be afraid to try new fruits and vegetables. You can even have your children each pick out one item from the produce department and then find out how to prepare it. Let them be part of the process and show them that trying new things can be fun and rewarding!
2. Keep the house stocked with healthy items. You don't have to totally avoid buying processed foods, but try to keep a lot of whole unprocessed foods, such as nuts, fresh fruit and carrot sticks with yummy dips easily accessible in the house. For children, seeing these items regularly and having access to them helps foster healthier choices.
3. Be a role model. Remember that our kids are like sponges, absorbing our habits and routines whether you realize it or not. Show them that it is good to be open minded about food and to try new things. Eat a variety of healthy food and set the expectation that they will do the same. Keep a positive attitude about food and diet. Remind your children about the connection between what we put in our mouths and the state of our health.
Use these tips to foster some life long healthy eating habits in your children. Food is something that affects our every day lives, so sticking to certain habits in this area is significant. With some effort on your end, having children who pick nutritious choices is certainly possible.
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: The Mighty
When you are a primary caretaker of a child with a disability, often your needs become secondary, or even tertiary, to those of your child, teen or young adult. In the process, you may find that your ability to handle the day to day gets harder and harder. You may be experiencing trauma yourself, but continue to chug along so that you can keep the train moving.
So the glaring question becomes this: when do you know that you need to do something for yourself?
When you are not able to maintain your roles in your life, and when it becomes more difficult to function on a day to day basis, it’s time.
Let’s break it down…
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Written by: Rebekah Immitt
Wouldn't it be great to be able prevent temper tantrums and power struggles!?
Did you know that power struggles are part of normal development for children? It’s how our children learn to be in control of their actions and emotions. For many parents, this can feel like an overwhelming time where there is a rise in new behaviors that you haven’t seen before, such as falling to the floor, screaming, shouting ‘no’, and making unreasonable demands. Yup, you have arrived!
It’s a Matter of Control
First let’s talk about CONTROL. Think about control as a beach bucket. Each time you ask your child to do something or follow a direction, (e.g., “It’s time to go,” “Grab your shoes,” or “Come to the table to eat dinner,” etc.) you are adding one scoop of sand into the bucket. Before you know it, that bucket will overflow, and your child will feel a loss of control and a rush of emotions. Think about how many directions you give your child in one hour. That will fill up the bucket quickly, which can s be overwhelming for your child. Result: temper tantrum.
To prevent the overflow, you must take scoops out of the bucket throughout the day, or in other words, give your child a sense of control. Here’s an easy way to give your child a sense of CONTROL (works for any age).
Offer your child simple choices continuously throughout the day.
By offering your child choices, it counterbalances the directions and demands. With that said, this gives your child that sense of control so her “bucket” doesn’t overflow, which means fewer temper tantrums.
Let’s take this strategy one step further and use it as a form of correction. Imagine your child is about to throw the TV remote out of frustration. As a parent, the temptation is to shout "NOOOOOO!" or "Put that down!”
Instead, give her a choice. "Do you want to put that in my hand or on the couch? If your child does not independently make your choice, you can help him pick one by guiding his hand. Double win for you, the parent! You have deflected a power struggle AND taken a scoop out of the bucket at the same time!
Next let's talk about EMOTIONS.
A child learns appropriate emotional behavior and communication from our interactions while speaking and reacting to them. We help our children learn how to manage anger, disappointment and express their wants and needs. When a child speaks or expresses himself rudely or inappropriately, be proactive before reacting. Model how you want the child to speak or act.
Here are a few examples:
6-year-old: “I’m the worst at writing”
Dad: “I feel frustrated when I write so much and have to erase it too.” It’s not easy for me either.
Dad is recognizing the emotion behind the behavior and validating the child’s emotion. By modeling an appropriate statement this will teach the child how to express feelings instead of acting out the emotional frustration.
3-year-old: “I don’t want those!” as he throws crackers on floor.
Mom: "No thanks, Mom” and she demonstrates placing the crackers gently on the table, instead of giving an angry reaction.
2-year-old: Grabs toy from brother’s hand and says “Mine!” using a loud and mean voice.
Dad: “Brother, I do or my turn?” (as Dad gently places toy back in the brother’s hand).
Again, instead of Dad grabbing the toy back from the 2-year-old and shouting “Don’t grab!” he modeled the appropriate way to react when he wants to use the toy.
Most of the time, your child will mimic your language and emotion. You are modeling an appropriate emotional response and preventing a power struggle. If parents answer children when they use a rude tone or are upset, children will learn that their communication was effective.
* Putting more work in upfront will prevent temper tantrums and teach appropriate communication.
*Don’t react! Instead, model what you would like to hear instead of stating what the child is doing wrong.
Rebekah Immitt is a Developmental and Behavioral Specialist who specializes in assisting parents, teachers, and professionals to understand behavior as a form of communication. She also helps children learn how to regulate their emotions and communicate more effectively with adults and their peers. To learn more, visit: www.babiestobackpacks.com
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Written by: Dr. Rick Manista, Psy.D
We are always asked, “what makes children more successful in school?” “How do I raise a healthy child?” “How do we help children emotionally and socially?” The answer research shows us might be a surprise. Children need limits.
Part of the process of growing up is understanding boundaries between yourself and others around you. Children struggle to understand boundaries because their brains are not fully developed. If there is not clear structure and limits, children can become anxious and have a hard time regulating themselves. This can later turn into mental health problems. Setting limits is a common struggle among parents. Here are some tips for setting limits:
The Crisis Prevention Institute (2019) emphasizes that limits need to be enforceable. When we are setting limits or giving a consequence, we are often angry and can make empty threats like “You will never have tv ever again”. Since this is unrealistic and not unforeseeable, children know it will never happen! We want to make sure that any consequences we set, we can carry out.
One of the reasons for limit setting is to teach that our actions will have a cause and effect. Children then learn that if they control themselves, they can influence the world around them. One simple way to do this is with natural consequences. These are negative consequences that the action would create. For example, if a child made a huge mess, the natural consequence would be for them to clean the mess. If the child refuses to wear a jacket, the natural consequence may be that they become cold. These are teachable moments that help children understand how they impact the world around them.
Less is more
A common mistake with limit setting is that adults do too much talking! We often lecture children on what they should be doing. Children cannot focus for a long period of time. After about ten words, they stop listening. Being as concise as possible helps this. One recommendation is using statements like “When/then” and “If/Then”. “When you do your homework, then you get video game time”. “If you eat your vegetables, then you get ice cream”. This helps us be concise when delivering limits.
When you are giving a limit, you are going to be angry! This can make children more stressed and reactive. Kathy Gordon from “Hand in Hand Parenting” recommends being as silly and playful with limits as you can be. A “Mary Poppins” tone often works well with children. One strategy is the “new rule”. When children start misbehaving and not see a limit we missed, act like you are playing a game and announce “new rule”. Children who are interested in sports respond particularly well to this.
Another mistake adults tend to make is to lecture and yell at children when they are in the middle of a tantrum. Siegel and Bryson (2012) studied brain scans and found that when children are having a tantrum, their fight or flight mode is activated. When parents set limits during this time, children did not remember them. But when parents debriefed with them after they calmed down, children remembered the limit! The brain scans showed that debriefing after a meltdown helps build neural synapses in the brain, which means they will have long term learning. Always debrief and set limits when children are available to learn and listen.
Cause and effect
Children with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis often have a harder time with limits because the concept of cause and effect is too abstract for them. Winner (2007) created a strategy called Social Behavior Mapping. This explains to children that if they do “expected behaviors”, others around them will feel comfortable and give them positive reinforcement. Such as, if we do our expected behaviors in school, the teacher will give us good grades. When we do “unexpected behaviors”, others feel uncomfortable and may not give us what we want. For example, if we are unexpected in class, the teacher may not give us a good grade. Winner has visuals and “think sheets” for students to fill out to reinforce this idea. The more structure and limits we can give our children, the better they can understand boundaries.
2019 CPI Instructors' Conference in Scottsdale, AZ July 14 - 19, 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from.
Gordon, K. (n.d.). 4 types of limits that children need. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child. London: Constable & Robinson.
Winner, M. G. (2007). Social behavior mapping: Connecting behavior, emotions and
consequences across the day. San Jose, CA: Think Social Pub.
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Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles