Written by: Eva Benoit
Are you ready to revamp your work life for the sake of your emotional well-being? There is no mistaking the stress that can come with major job changes, but according to some studies, staying in a job that doesn’t suit you can be particularly damaging. If you’re looking for a healthier situation, a venture in the gig economy could be the perfect solution.
As Medium.com points out, the gig economy offers some unmistakable benefits in the right situation. The flexibility alone opens a world of opportunity for people who otherwise struggle with traditional employment situations. It opens the door to setting your own hours, choosing with whom you interact, and working from home. These aspects can be the keys to improved mental wellness for many people.
Set up a Space
Being able to work from home in and of itself offers a number of key benefits. You can save the time and hassle of a daily commute, reduce gas expenses, and lighten your wardrobe outlay, and you become eligible for certain tax breaks on your workspace. With that in mind, aim for an arrangement that helps you thrive.
Angie’s List notes it’s helpful to set up your home office away from interruptions and distractions. To maximize productivity, invest in some quality equipment that ensures you’re readily in touch with clients and employers. Consider your perspective and comfort as well; set up your desk in an area with abundant natural light so you can take advantage of its mood-boosting qualities. Also, invest in an ergonomic chair to ease the strain on your back and joints.
It’ll feel great knowing you have a space designed by you and for you. Even if you decide on an endeavor that isn’t office-oriented, like dog walking, the space you establish will help you concentrate on bills, navigate arrangements, and promote your services to potential customers.
Pick a Great Gig
Deciding exactly what you want to do in the gig economy might be very straightforward to you, or you might not have any clear idea what direction you want to go. Do some soul-searching, and contemplate things you enjoy. Think about gig opportunities that match your skills and interests, and that promote your well-being. For instance, dog walking is a source of exercise, it gets you into the outdoors, and allows you to spend time with canine companions — all aspects with the potential to improve your mental health, reduce stress, and boost your mood.
You can explore websites that link job seekers with gig employers mesh openings with your interests and abilities. If you’re still at a loss as to what to do, you can take an online quiz to help sift through choices, or get in touch with a career counselor therapist, which is a mental health professional who can help you sort details to choose a healthy path.
Market Your Gig
Whatever avenue you choose, you’ll want to promote it to an appropriate audience. This can be done in a number of ways. If you’re working through a platform, there will be a place for you to set up a page of information about your credentials, specialized skills, and so forth. Wise Bread notes that there are other great ways to market your product or service as well. For instance, through social media, you have the potential of reaching thousands of people with the click of a mouse. A website of your own can also be a plus, and with good work, you’re likely to build your customer base through word of mouth as well.
Don’t underestimate the value of customer relationships. Building a great reputation and positive experiences means they will not only tell others about the good work you’re doing, but it also means they will repeat their business with you. Besides, it feels great knowing you’re doing something well and people are pleased with you.
If you’re ready for a position that promotes your mental wellness, the gig economy offers ample opportunities. Consider what you enjoy, set up a great space, and market your work. It’s a chance to feel better, and you deserve it.
Image from: Pixabay
Written by: Rachael Berringer, LAC
With the increase in screen time, social media pressures, school violence, and hyper-focus on academic achievement among children today, it is important now more than ever that we support our children’s social and emotional wellbeing at home. What better time to start than now, with sunshine, grass underneath our feet, and fresh air! While academic achievement plays an important role in helping our children live successful, fulfilling lives, helping them build emotional intelligence to better understand themselves, navigate social interactions and build meaningful relationships is key. Building social and emotional competence can seem complex, but here a few simple ways to help raise emotionally healthy children:
Play allows a child to navigate strong emotions and situations in a safe setting. Play is essential to development and promotes healthy social and emotional growth. Students have less opportunities to play at school and lack of play affects emotional development, leading to issues with attention and self control. Play is the language of a child. Playing with your child can better help you enter their world and understand their thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. With our hurried lifestyles, play can seem unrealistic and overwhelming for parents, however, even twenty minutes per day of uninterrupted play can promote connection and emotional regulation. Play provides our children with important experiences to help them learn about their emotions, problem solve and develop the skills necessary to become confident and competent adults.
Emotions All Day Long
It’s important that children learn that all emotions are okay ! It’s crucial that we validate when our children are feeling all different emotions. The younger that we teach our children about their emotions and build their emotional vocabulary, the less overwhelming they will become as our children get older. Understanding and accepting our emotions is foundational to being able to manage them. It’s important to demonstrate a curiosity for our children’s feelings so we are better able to help reframe their behavior in the moment.
Reflect On Your Experiences, Emotionally
Regulating our own emotions in order to co-regulate with our children is important! Its unrealistic to think we’re never going to be angry or upset in front of our kids. Process with your child afterwards so when they experience it themselves, it’s not as scary or overwhelming. Observing your child’s experiences as well as the experiences of others around them and commenting in a non-judgemental manner will help our children to identify emotions in themselves as well as develop empathy.
We all bring with us different experiences to our parenthood journey. Some of us may have been raised to cover or hide our emotions. Emotions can be overwhelming for all of us. Pay attention to what’s happening to your own body when you experience different emotions. Does your heart race fast, do your palms become sweaty? Emotions are actually a label for physiological changes that happen in your body. Identifying these cues will help you to be able to recognize the physiological changes that happen in your body and create strategies to help you regulate. By simply paying attention to our triggers, we will become more mindful and less reactive when interacting with our children.
Regulate and Co-Regulate
We constantly hear about self- regulation in children, however, what we need to first talk about is co- regulation. Our children are not innately born knowing how to self - regulate. We all want our children to have the skills to manage strong emotions, but young children may not be developmentally capable to manage their emotions independently. They need us as parents, to be their copilot to navigate the flight of emotions they experience on a daily basis. However, it’s sometimes easier said than done as our own bodies Fight or flight response may become activated when our children are having a strong emotional experience. All children ultimately want to feel safe, secure, and loved. By being mindful and reflective of our own emotions, we are better able to regulate ourselves in order to provide a calm environment and a strong foundation for healthy emotional development.
Image from: Pexels
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D. and featured by: The Mighty
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.
Written by: Susan Hogan and Meredith Royster
Many college students are turning to pills instead of caffeine to get them through all-nighters, in what’s being called a crisis on campus.
Three recent college graduates agreed to talk to News4 anonymously about their illegal use of ADHD drugs when the pressure was on them.
They said the drugs aren’t hard to get and only cost, $5, $10 or $20 per pill.
“Through a friend who I knew had a prescription, and I would ask him or sometimes I would get it as a gift from somebody if they knew I had a large deadline,” one of the grads said.
“It basically made me feel like I was able to accomplish things I normally wouldn't be able to, and it also made me extremely hyper-focused in the moment,” he said.
“I think it allowed me to manage that schedule in a way that I would've really, really struggled to otherwise,” another grad said.
Prescription drugs for ADHD are known to improve mental function. Adderall is one of the most common treatments for the disorder, but there are a number of other medications that work in similar ways.
The reputation of the so-called "smart drugs" led to a massive illegal marketplace on college campuses nationwide. It's estimated that one in three college students illegally possess ADHD medication.
Dr. Gretchen Watson, a clinical psychologist and a leading researcher in the abuse of ADHD drugs on campuses, believes the abuse is a crisis for colleges.
Image from: Pintrest
Written by: Jennifer Mandato
How many times a week does your child ask you that question? Our kids can be so overwhelmed by homework and flyers that they are unable to keep track of their important papers. They are pressed for time in between school bells, that while the intention to remember where they belongings are is there it is a challenge for them. This can also then lead to a battle between you and your kids. Finding small ways to help your child organize can help alleviate some of the stress not only on you but for them.
Designing a designated work station
When setting up a designating working area for your child it is important it has minimal distractions to help keep them focused. Have them work in the same area to ensure all the supplies they need are readily available to them. This area can be equipped with visual schedules and reminders for them to stay on task and focused. Including checklists for supplies they will need to include in their backpack each day is also helpful. When they are taking breaks be sure that it does not include screen time as that can be a distraction to getting on task and remembering their work. Your child should attend to this area before the start of the school week to ensure they have packed everything and at the end of the week to clean out their folders and backpack to rid them of unneeded papers.
Setting up a work system
In continuing to keep your child organized, it is helpful to sit down and talk with them about materials that would be useful in keeping them on track day to day. What will help their time management skills, support them memory and keep them on task. This could be a multi-subject notebook or a binder with dividers and folders. There are a vast variety of academic planners available as well. Plan a trip to the store with your child and take the time to look at the breakdown of each planner to see which would be most helpful for your child. This will help them plan for daily assignments, long term projects as well as scheduled belongings cleanup. Doing them weekly will support them staying on task as well as not accumulating extra clutter.
While we all have meetings with our bosses and co-workers, we do not have weekly check in meetings with our kids. Do we want our kids to be taking ownership of these skills independently? Yes. Yet we must keep in mind their brains are still growing and developing and they need guidance along the way. Once a week, or more if warranted have a sit down check in with your child. During this time provide support and positive feedback on their progress and accomplishments. This will also be helpful when you have to provide constructive criticism for goals they need to improve on or keep working towards. We all work better knowing we are on the right track and it helps us more available to hearing the things we need to work on. Keep it positive!
While these may seem like three small things they are key to helping your child stay organized!
Written by: C.L. Lynch
Everyone knows that autism is a spectrum. People bring it up all the time.
“My son is on the severe end of the autism spectrum.”
“We’re all a little autistic– it’s a spectrum.”
“I’m not autistic but I’m definitely ‘on the spectrum.'”
If only people knew what a spectrum is… because they are talking about autism all wrong.
Let’s use the visible spectrum as an example.
As you can see, the various parts of the spectrum are noticeably different from each other. Blue looks very different from red, but they are both on the visible light spectrum.
Red is not “more blue” than blue is. Red is not “more spectrum” than blue is.
When people discuss colours, they don’t talk about how “far along” the spectrum a colour is. They don’t say “my walls are on the high end of the spectrum” or “I look best in colours that are on the low end of the spectrum.”
But when people talk about autism they talk as if it were a gradient, not a spectrum at all.
People think you can be “a little autistic” or “extremely autistic,” the way a paint colour could be a little red or extremely red.
But autism isn't that simple.
Written by: Natalie Frank
It's a well-accepted principle of that bribing children for good behavior is not a constructive parenting technique. The belief is that bribery is used only by desperate parents, and many consider it is to be “bad parenting." But virtually all parents use it sometimes (maybe in secret), even while publicly agreeing with those who criticise the strategy and who also likely use it in private. After all, sometimes parents just need children to do what they say. The arguments get old, and let’s face it: bribery works. Desperate times call for desperate measures. So why do so many "experts" give the advice to avoid using bribery to get children to comply when nothing else seems to be working?
It's a common belief that bribes are a bad idea, used only by desperate parents. But used correctly in the form of positive reinforcement, this parenting strategy can help children learn what's expected of them and become compliant with parental instructions.
Why Do Some Experts Say Bribing Children Is a Bad Idea?
The basic argument against bribing children that many experts as well as parents make is that children should be internally motivated, not externally motivated by rewards. Many parents believe that children should not be given rewards for doing things they should be doing anyway. This includes chores like making their bed, setting the table, putting their dirty clothes in the hamper or cleaning their room.
Emily McMason, a certified parenting coach, explains it this way:
“We want kids to do things because they know it's the right thing to do and they get satisfaction from conquering something new, or contributing to the family, group or class."
McMason says that while we think that rewarding children’s behavior will make it more likely they will continue to engage in the desired activity, it actually has the opposite effect. She believes that we are teaching children the worth of something such that if they don’t receive the reward in the future they won’t engage in the behavior.
So if we offer a child a scoop of ice cream for reading 100 pages in a book, they will read exactly 100 pages just to get the reward and stop there. They will then resist reading in the future unless they are offered the reward they have come to expect. McMason goes on to say that some children won’t be interested in ice cream or whatever the reward is so they won’t read at all.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D.
This is a question that parents struggle with once they receive an ADHD, Autism or Anxiety diagnosis for their child. For some parents, it is out of the question. For some, they are open to the idea, while others may want more than just medication.
What is the ‘right’ thing to do? Is there a ‘right’ thing? The answer, unfortunately or fortunately, is no. There are several variables to consider when deciding the appropriate course of treatment for your child and your family, as this decision is a family affair.
What is the impact on my child’s daily functioning?
This question refers to how much your child is affected by poor focus, hyperactivity or impulsivity, anxiety, difficulty with transitioning, going to school each day, and ability to participate in daily routines, etc. That is, is your child able to establish and maintain friendships? Is your child able to take in class lessons and learn? Is your child distracting himself or others in the classroom? Is your child able to get to school each day? Is your child able to transition from home to school? From school to activities? Is your child able to complete homework? Is your child able to participate in leisure activities such as birthday parties or family gatherings?
Is your child able to participate in a family dinner at home by remaining seated and following a conversation? Are you able, as a family, to go out for dinner, to the mall, to the movies? Is your child able to play with another child in their home without breaking things/toys? Is your child clumsy or accident prone?
Your decision will be based on how severe the level of impact is on your child’s ability to participate in daily activities and events as an individual, and for you as a family.
Are there other strategies I can use before trying medication?
Yes, of course there are. You can begin to implement behavioral strategies, routines, boundaries and consistency from day to day. For example, you may create a space for your child to complete homework that is not at the kitchen table, as your kitchen is likely the Grand Central Station of your house, as it is in many. It is also helpful to implement a no phone or IPOD/IPAD rule in your house while homework is being completed. You can create a visual schedule of morning, after school and bedtime routines. You can also create a list of household rules and consequences and make sure to implement consequences consistently using a calm demeanor. You may want to implement a ‘quiet time’ each night that is electronic free where your child and family can begin to wind down and decompress before bed time.
You, the parent(s), are also part of the treatment. Parents often find it helpful to work with a therapist for Parent Coaching to prioritize areas of need within the home and assist parents in maintaining a consistent parenting style and finding the strategies specific to their home. If you are an organized person who is able to begin and complete a task without hesitation, you are likely going to struggle in understanding why your child just can’t sit down and complete 3 math problems, or why she just can’t go to school and work through her fears. I’ve seen many parents become frustrated despite being very sympathetic towards their child. However, by providing you, the parent, with small short-term goals for your child and for you as a family, you will experience success as a whole and work towards finding a balance between what your child needs to succeed and what your family needs to function.
Executive Functioning Coaching is another form of support for you and your child where a therapist can offer strategies to help with organization, prioritization, homework completion, scheduling and more. Work is done with the child and parent to identify learning style, natural tendencies and preferences in order to help the student develop self-awareness and ultimately internalize the strategies that work. The goal is to develop a sense of accountability as well as confidence for the student.
There are many strategies to choose from, but the ones that you’ll be implementing will be based on the areas of need for your child and for you as a family. Start small and expand the behavioral expectation as your child is experiencing success.
Written by: Delaney Ruston
Are youth more lonely now than in the past? I often wonder if this is true, especially when you see a group of teenagers hanging out together looking down at their phones.
We do know from Jean Twenge's analysis of past surveys that adolescents' feelings of loneliness increased sharply after 2011, which of course is when screen time was becoming more ubiquitous. And in her paper, Twenge reported that “adolescents low in in-person social interaction and high in social media use reported the most loneliness.”
Twenge is analyzing surveys of teens in 8th, 10th and 12th grades done year after year. In 2011 when asked if they agreed with the statement “A lot of times I feel lonely” 25% reported (the average of all grades combined) that they “mostly agreed or agreed.” Then, in 2015 that number went up to 31%. The 25% figure was fairly constant for the preceding 10 years and the 31% is the highest level since the survey began in 1991.
Loneliness is an emotion, and our emotions exist to teach us things. They give us information about our experience in the present moment. In the best case scenario, they are a buzzer that activates us to make a change. So if we have a sense that we are missing the company of others, i.e. a sense of loneliness, it is a signal to try to do something at that moment to lessen that unpleasant feeling. Maybe it's to make plans or to do something in the future to reduce the feeling. Or, sometimes the best thing to do is just to sit with the emotion because there is nothing you can do about it. It is important that we talk to our kids about these feelings and discuss ways we can gain skills to manage them when they inevitably arise – and also assure them the feeling will pass.
What types of loneliness do you and your kids experience? There are many different variations. Here are some examples.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D. and featured by: Psychology Today
Teens. We love our own dearly. They were once our babies who sat in our arms, fit on our chest, and fell asleep in our arms. When I look at my son, I hear his deep voice but all I see is that little boy who loved to play “mommy-saurus” with me and whose giggles made me giggle in return.
For his upcoming 13th birthday, my son asked to see the Broadway Show, "Dear Evan Hansen." I didn’t know how hard this play was going to hit me. How much the battles of the characters were relevant to me, my son, and the teens that I work with professionally. With almost every scene, the tears just streamed down my face. Each character’s struggles were so real, so relevant, so raw, so honest!
The confusion and the overwhelm that comes with being a teen, trying to figure out who you are, fit in and stand out is real. It’s intense. It’s scary. Our children are practically born with a phone, iPod, IPad in hand and the amount of information they have available is immense, mind-blowing. Whether it’s access to political news, natural disasters, or school shootings, we, as their parents, don’t always have the choice of whether to share or not with our kids because it is all right there. And social media, oh, social media. Our kids know where their peers are, who they are with and what they were not a part of in almost the same minute that social gatherings and events are happening. FOMO (fear of missing out) is also real.
Do you remember how we found out when other kids made plans or had a party? We may have heard about it by chance Monday morning when others were talking about it. We found out about worldly or local events if we read them in the paper or happened to watch the news on TV (with a remote that was connected by a wire, and a TV screen that was not flat!)
Our kids also have access to so much information all the time. About everything, about anything. They don’t really have to seek it out; it’s all right there on social media, on apps on the phone. Let me share another one of my pet peeves. Remember when TV shows were on the television? Remember how we had to turn the TV on to watch the show? Well, my son is watching shows on his phone and IPAD and I’m finding out AFTER he’s seen them. Ugh…
During our kids’ pre-teen and teen years, there are some major changes that we are going to see and feel, as their parents. Let’s shed some light on these impending (or already here) changes, and how we can, as their parents, help out with sympathy, positivity and expressed love for them, even when they are not very loveable!
Photo from: Pexels
Written by: Nicole Filiberti, LCSW
As much as we try to avoid it, failure is a part of life. Making mistakes and being the person who takes a while to learn something are situations we try to avoid as much as we try to avoid catching the flu in the winter! Raising our children to be resilient humans requires accepting our own imperfections and shortcomings as adults. Another important facet of being resilient that has to be mentioned is our ability to bounce back from the difficulties that life throws at us unexpectedly. Allowing yourself the space you need to heal and bounce back is crucial in your ability to be resilient.
According to Bonanno, Masten, Panter-Brick and Yehuda (2014), some of the factors that determine how resilient one can be are rooted in biological, psychological, cultural and social causes. We all have different ways that we react and respond to stressful events. Modeling resiliency for your children to see is a great way for them to grow up as resilient people who are armed with the skills needed to persevere through hardships.
Walk Them Through The Process
Show your kids what it is like to make a mistake and be okay with it. Depending on your child’s age and developmental level, you can break this process down step by step in a clear way for them. Remind your children that they cannot control what happens to them, but can only control how they react to it. Engaging your children in conversations on this topic where it is discussed and processed can be very beneficial.
Maintain a support system and utilize them when needed. Reach out to your friends and loved ones when needed. Keeping yourself actively involved in groups and/or engaged in social relationships can be significant in bouncing back after a hardship. The tricky part here can be reaching out and requesting the help you need. Show your kids that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The more you can normalize for them the act of seeking support through relationships, the more likely they will be to do this when they find themselves in need.
Make Self Care A Priority
Taking care of yourself is not at the top of the list for most parents, many of whom are also juggling the demands of a career and multiple other responsibilities. Keeping a close eye on your own wants and needs, and actually following through with getting yourself what you need, is essential in staying resilient throughout life’s challenges. This could look so different from person to person and highly depends on what is relaxing and serves you.
Southwick, S. M., Bonanno, G. A., Masten, A. S., Panter-Brick, C., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. European journal of psychotraumatology, 5, 10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338
Photo from: Pexels
Celina D'Alto is our 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.
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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...
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