Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Shield HealthCare
Asperger’s Disorder is what we used to call a ‘milder’ form of Autism. That is, the young man or woman has developed language and can use it effectively. However, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition), it is now known as High Functioning Autism (HFA) or Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1. These are our children who have developed language and can communicate their thoughts clearly. They are bright and can develop high level skills in areas of interest and strength.
When it comes to social development, over time, we develop a skill known as pragmatics or social language. That is, the signs we have grown to understand as non-verbal communication or social nuances. How do we know when a person is no longer interested in our conversation? He looks away or checks his watch. How do we know when a person is interested and flirting? When there is lots of smiling, giggling, tilting of the head and when two people are standing closer than one arm’s length away from each other. What makes us want to spend time with a friend again? When we enjoy her company because of an emotional connection or having a common interest with which you don’t have with your other friends...
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: PsychologyToday
Yes, you heard me correctly. Path of Least Resistance. I often associate that concept with being conflict-phobic, passive, and trying to keep other people happy. But when I think about the work that I do with parents (in Parent Coaching), I am seeing a parenting approach where parents are afraid of setting limits. Parents are afraid of claiming their position of authority, afraid of setting boundaries, and afraid of creating a hierarchy within the family.
Many families now have an open system where children and parents are on the same level. I know we didn’t grow up with this type of family system. Our parents were in charge, they set rules and we followed them or else, we were "in trouble." Our children don’t have the same healthy fear of us as their parents. They feel like they can negotiate, they can tell us what they want or think and we will change our minds and adjust based on their preferences.
This becomes especially true when we have a child with special needs. We feel the need to make life a little bit easier because of their struggles. But, I argue that this doesn’t help us to build resilient kids. Children, special needs or not, have their strengths and weaknesses, and using the path of least resistance does not serve you or your children in the long run.
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Written by: Amanda Morin @ Understood.org
I have three children. Two of my kids have autism, two have learning and attention issues, and one has neither. That sounds like the beginning of a brain teaser or a logic puzzle, but it’s not. It’s just my reality.
Recently, my younger son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in addition to his ADHD and sensory processing issues. I’m still in shock from Benjamin’s autism diagnosis. And my shock surprises me. That’s because he’s not my first child to receive an autism diagnosis.
My other son, Jacob, was diagnosed the other way around--Asperger’s syndrome first, and then we learned later he has executive functioning issues, too. I didn’t struggle with Jacob’s autism diagnosis. In fact, I was relieved when he was finally diagnosed.
Before Jacob was diagnosed we didn’t have a way to frame his struggles. It was a years-long process of evaluation and of him struggling in school before we had some answers. So I was relieved that Jacob could finally get the supports and services he needed.
I was also relieved because none of us had to feel so alone anymore. There was an entire community of parents like us and kids like him.
Why was I relieved with Jacob’s diagnosis, but now reeling with Benjamin’s?
Prepares by: Chrissy Sunberg, M. Ed., AAC, Executive Functioning Coach
If you have a child with ADHD or weak executive functioning skills, you know how difficult daily functioning can be whether your child is in elemtary school, middle school, high school or even college. What we think are simple daily tasks, such as getting ready for school, making a bed, making a sandwich, or cleaning up their bedroom or dorm room can be incredibly frustrating for your child and for you... to watch!
What ends up happening, as the parent, is we take care of these multi-step tasks for our children (adolescents and young adults) to minimize the distress, anxiety, frustration and anxiety that they end up feeling. We ‘fix’ it for our children without realizing that we are , indeed, leaving our kids unequipped for life’s demands to be able to manage time, plan ahead, organize life and school’s materials amongst the many other Executive Functioning skills we need to develop in order to manage our lives.
As an Executive Functioning Coach, I’m going to share with you the tools that I use with my students and my very own children to help build the skills needed to manage school and life tasks. Here are a few of my favorite tools to help students to begin a task (initiation), manage time and maintain attention in order to complete a task (sustained attention).
All of these items can conveniently found on Amazon (feel free to click on the link below):
Time Timer MOD (Charcoal), 60 Minute Visual Analog Timer, Optional Alert (On/Off),…
Does your child, adolescent or young adult have a hard time getting out the door each day? For the time challenged, the Time Timer can help get you out the door on time!
Set the Time Timer a minimum of 20 minutes before you have to leave, place it in a prominent place, and the visual nature of this timer will let you see exactly how much time you have left before it’s time to leave.
This tool is also helpful for completing homework assignments or for studying for tests. Set the timer for the duration of your attention span and complete homework assignments or studying for an upcoming test or quiz. Whether 30, 45 or 60 minutes, once that timer rings, stop and take a break. Set the timer again for 5, 10 or 15 minutes so that break time doesn’t extend for too long.
For many students, sitting down to complete homework or study for an undefined amount of time can be discouraging and overwhelming. Setting this timer will keep the amount of working time finite and do-able. Feel free to set the timer when taking a shower, tidying up their living space.
TimeCube Plus Preset Timer with 4 LED Light Alarm for Time Management,
A similar option as The Time Timer is the Time Cube. You can set a start time and an end time. You can flip the cube over and set another timer that can be used to take a break. It’s simple, concrete and tangible!
Your child can set the timer and then use the time to focus on one activity at a time. This allows for your student to also divide their work and breaks into manageable time, which is helping to develop your child’s sense of time, prioritizarion, and planning ahead. The cube has 4 different time options that can be used.
AT-A-GLANCE 2019 Desk Calendar, Desk Pad, 21-3/4" x 17", Standard, Ruled Blocks (SK2400)
Simple but practical is the desk calendar that we all know and have seen over many years. The benefit of desk calendar is the ability to look ahead easily as well as being able to visually see time while you plaing your long-term assignments.
For example, your student can write down the due date of a test or project and then work backwards. That is, he may want to plan how many days an assignment will take to complete by breaking it down into smaller assignments. He can then take the number of smaller assignments and ‘assign’ himself one task per day. Break the assignment up into clear and manageable tasks to start and finish your assignment makes long term or multi step assignments that may initially seem daunting feel doable!
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: The Mighty
“Time. It’s of the essence.”
I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I know I always feel like I don’t have enough of it. I feel stressed and anxious when I wake in the morning because I know what my schedule looks like and the number of things that need to happen between the time I open my eyes and then shut them again (well, I hope I can!). I worry about time, I worry about not having enough of it, and not being able to meet deadlines — mine and my children’s. Then, when I should be sleeping, I’m thinking about how much time certain appointments or tasks will take and when I’ll be able to fit things in.
All three of my kids had the flu this past week and a half. That threw me off entirely. I had to shift my schedule and the time I had allotted to complete certain work or house related tasks was gone… just like that! I’m still trying to catch up, but that’s the story of my life.
As an anxious mom and as a mom of a child with disabilities, balancing time and meeting everyone’s needs is overwhelming and sometimes downright impossible. I know I’m not alone. There are many of you out there who are thrilled to have a moment to shower without someone knocking at the door and asking questions from behind the door, or better yet, the small face pressed up against the shower door! And self-care, down time, time to reconnect with my husband? What’s that? Maybe when they’re older, I think.
In an effort to cut down on the running around like I have no idea what I am doing, not being able to keep up with the daily demands, and feeling like I’m just making it each day, I am vowing to make a few changes, and I encourage you to do the same.
The idea of saying no makes me anxious. It has been from the time I can remember at 5 years old. I didn’t want to upset anyone. I wanted people around me to like me, so I said yes. Yes, yes, yes. Well, that “yes” often means there is no time for me. No time for me to do the things that I like or need to make me less anxious for the next day, next week or next month.
I thoroughly enjoy putting together digital scrapbooks for each year, documenting all the things we have done as a family. I love pictures so this is a nice way for me to keep and treasure all of the snapshots that I am constantly taking. I also love to make jewelry. Nothing too fancy — stringing beads or making earrings. This gives my creative energy an outlet. A place to play and admire my work. I need that. I need that for my mental health so that I’m not just work, work, working all the time.
Well, when I say yes to other things that I could say no to, this is the time that suffers the most for me. So, with that said, I am learning to create a bigger goal and then ask myself if saying yes to something keeps me aligned with that goal. My bigger goal is to create more quiet time where I can let my mind and body unwind. My goal is also to create time for us, as a family, to have the day or a few hours to decompress quietly so that the internal chaos doesn’t persist from day to day. Yesterday, as a family, we all had our quiet time to watch a show, play a game, catch up on work or stuff around the house. By the end of the night, my children seemed more relaxed and settled. They were able to get into their beds and fall asleep with greater ease. I also felt ready for the week.
So the next time that I’m asked if I want to join a “Board of This or That” or take on a task for a PTA related event, there is a very strong chance that my answer will be, “No thanks.”
2. Speak slower; speak lower.
I know that when I’m anxious, I speak quickly and I overwhelm myself, and I especially overwhelm and trigger my daughter. She tells me that I’m saying too much that she can’t understand, and that she can’t do all of these things that I’ve now spoken aloud. I get it, I would overwhelm me, too.
This past weekend, I was in my usual panicked mode when I was hosting my son’s birthday party at a local gymnastics studio. I was moving quickly, speaking quickly, knocking things and children over. If I could have watched me, I think I would have thought, “Wow, she’s a hot mess.”
I didn’t want to feel or look like this anymore, so I experimented (quickly). I decided I was going to move slowly and when someone asked me a question or said something to me, I spoke at a slower pace and at a lower volume. This forced me to slow down my mind, my body, my worries, and actually get to process what was happening in the moment rather than living in my head, as I usually do.
I continued to experiment with my kids over the remainder of the weekend. Each time they asked me a question, I paused first (I never pause!) and then I answered after actually thinking about my response. I also spoke slower and at a lower volume. Their response was somewhat surprising in that they were calmer overall and there wasn’t that sense of urgency that I often hear in their voice. But then again, they may be mimicking the urgency in my voice.
It’s given me a little bit of time to reflect on how often I feel rushed, harried, and how much I convey that in my body language and in my tone to my children and to the people around me. Well, now that I have had this successful experimental experience, my goal is to keep speaking slower and lower!
3. You are in control of your time.
When I think about time, it feels like it’s out of my reach, out of my control. It feels like someone else or something else has a handle on it, but that’s not me. I admire people who can stick to their daily schedule and get to the end of their “stuff” without being bombarded and thrown off by the rest of the “stuff” that each day brings.
The key difference between me and that person that I admire is the fact that when things pop up, they don’t respond right away. I usually stop what I’m doing to tend to that other thing right away, like it’s life or death. But it’s not. That sense of urgency is self-created and to my own detriment. It’s OK if something my children are asking for doesn’t get handled or satisfied right away. Some non-urgent things can wait until I have a moment to do it, like maybe tomorrow or three days from now. Each time I respond immediately, I gain the instant gratification of meeting another person’s needs, but then I begin to feel resentful when my original tasks or goals for the day are thwarted.
With that said, I am setting a few target goals for the day and I keep those items prioritized. That is, when another “thing” pops up, I set that at the end of my list, under the items I have deemed important to be completed for the day. Once my items have been checked off, and if I have time for them, then I will conquer those next items. I have found that when I do this, whatever that thing was that needed to get done “right now!” isn’t as urgent. Sometimes, my kids and I realize that we really don’t need to do this (whatever it is) at all. Instead of instantly gratifying my kids, I am delaying the process which is making it easier for my kids to wait and assess if it is a need or a want, and if it is truly that important. Sometimes it still is; sometimes it’s not.
As parents of children with disabilities, we all desire more time. More time to get things done and find time at the end of the day for self-care. Truth is, an extra hour or two won’t make that happen. We make it happen when we make the choice to make it happen.
Written by: Delaney Ruston @ Screenagers
Last week I was sitting in a cafe working and at the table next to me were three tween girls. Two were 12 and one, a little sister, was 10. One of the 12-year-olds had a smartphone. We chatted a bit and soon I was sitting with them at their table as we discussed lots of things about social media. I asked the other 12-year-old if she had a smartphone and she said yes but her mom had taken it away for the time being. She soon confessed to me that she had lots of workarounds without her phone, such as using SnapChat and Instagram on her iPad. This got me thinking that it was time to get clear about what can be used on what devices and to share with you today.
Establishing clear rules around screen time is, of course, the first step. Yet managing the limits often zaps our energy and results in power struggles, arguments, and grumpy kids. Another problem is that while the kids may have put their phones away or turned off the Xbox, they can turn on their tablet, Chromebook or MacBook to do “homework” and continue using social media apps and games. I have broken down what popular apps and games work on which devices, so you can be better prepared to stop workarounds. And… be sure to look at our resource page on apps that help you manage screen time at https://www.screenagersmovie.com/parenting-apps/ .
Written by:Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW
The internet can be a wonderful resource for many different things. The convenience of online shopping, research for your son's science project, and the ability to connect with people from your past through social media accounts...what's not to love?! Though there are many benefits to the internet and having such easy access to these things, there are also some significant safety risks that come along with its usage. This is especially important for parents with sons or daughters who use the internet. Here are a few tips for ensuring that you and your family are using the internet safely.
Keep An Open Line of Communication
Engage your kids in a conversation about the internet on a regular basis. Review what the right steps are if they were to ever see anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. By creating an open dialogue such as this, you are showing them that you are there to help them if they ever come across anything inappropriate. Also, engage them in a conversation about cyber bullying and how they should speak up if they see anything like that happening on the internet.
Make Your Expectations Clear
Tell your kids that they are not to give out any personal information online. Tell them they are not to send pictures to others and absolutely are not to make plans to meet up with anyone they speak to on the internet. It is also helpful to have computers in a common area of the house, instead of in children's bedrooms, where you can more closely monitor their online activity. With smartphones and other devices, use your judgement on whether or not to allow your children to use their devices by themselves.
Model Appropriate Internet Behavior
Be sure you are not saying one thing to your kids and then doing the opposite. Take time to go on the internet together with your children and show them appropriate internet safety practices. Use this time to show them how you would not download anything without first knowing what it was. Show them how you are mindful about what you may chose to post on your social media accounts, since once things are posted there is no taking them back.
By following these tips, you will be proactively taking the approach of safe and productive internet use. The internet can be an extremely useful asset in many ways, but it has to be used appropriately. Keep an open dialogue and tell your children that it is okay for them to speak up if they come across anything concerning.
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Psychology Today
I’m sitting here, reflecting on the piece that Claire Cain Miller prepared for The Washington Post, entitled, “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting” (Miller, 2018). Claire, you couldn’t be more on, and I don’t mean that strictly from a psychological/parenting perspective, but also from a personal perspective. I have written several blogs on parenting and how our parenting style is extremely different than our parents’ which is resulting in a generation of children with a whole lot less resilience and a great deal more anxiety. We have a generation of young adults deemed “failure to launch” because they don’t have the skills to fly out of the nest, or better yet, launch out into adulthood.
Even though we have the best of intentions in giving our children attention, listening to their thoughts and opinions, and validating their experiences – all things that our parents did little of for us – the pendulum of parenting has swung in the opposite extreme. Unfortunately, this parenting approach has contributed to a generation of children who have a strong sense of entitlement, a low sense of motivation or internal drive, a high sense of anxiety, and a low sense of self efficacy.
Our modern-day parenting styles have become less focused on the adults being the center of the family to now, our children and their needs are the center of our universe...
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Written by: Dr. Rick Manista
One of the most common concerns of parents is that their kids spend too many hours playing video games. Often this leads into battles over homework and meltdowns trying to get everyone to bed. With Fortnite becoming then main social media for children to connect, it is hard trying to find a balance with gaming privileges. Here is a breakdown of the costs, benefits, and how to balance gaming.
We all see our kids screaming at the screen and becoming more defiant after playing video games. This is because the reptilian part of their brain is being activated. This is the part of the brain that activates for survival responses, when perceived danger is sensed. This causes us to get aggressive (Dunkley, 2016). This means when kids are playing Fortnite, their pretend combat play causes their brain to think it is real! And gives them a boost of energy.
The other downside of gaming is that with all this energy, there is less time spent sleeping. This can lead to other problems as well. Studies have found that the more time spent playing video games, the more likely kids would have behavior problems and have poor social skills (Mozes, 2013).
Even though there are a lot of studies showing video games can create sleep loss, meltdowns and poor social skills, there is not a lot of evidence that video games promote antisocial or violent tendencies. Since video games have been around, violent crimes in the United States has dropped. In 1991, there were 25,000 murders while in 2016 there were 17,250 (Lazurus, 2017).
A Spanish study found that children who played video games had enhancements in their skills, particularly reaction time and fine motor coordination. However, this is if they played for a max of 8 hours per week. The study found that more than 8 hours, the children had behavioral problems (Mazes, 2013).
We are always asked, “why do they like these games so much?” The reasons revolve pretty much around social needs. Video games provide consistent positive reinforcement: receiving points and awards for all of the player’s efforts. This is something we do not always get in our daily lives. Games are also a social opportunity for children to connect with their friends out of school, and to have a common topic to talk about.
The social world is very abstract. It is hard to figure out what we are supposed to do in different situations. Video games provide a structure that the social world does not have. Many children love that video games are linear, with a clear path to gain achievement. This becomes a relaxing escape from the real world.
All of the studies suggest that 8 hours or less is a healthy amount of gaming for a child (Mozes, 2013). This would be the ideal time to enforce. Create rules on times and days video games will be allowed. Many people find limiting them to the weekends, after homework, and ending one hour before bedtime as the most effective rules.
Visual timers can help set limits for gaming as well. With the visual, there can be a clear understanding on how much time is left, and less arguing! Alternative activities to video games may need to be provided, such as card games, crafts, and sports. With a limit of 8 hours or less, kids can have have the benefits and release of video games, without the behavioral problems.
Mozes, A. (2013). How much video gaming is too much for kids? Retrieved January 25, 2019,
Dunkley, V. L., M.D. (2016, September 25). This is your child's brain on video games. Retrieved
January 25, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/
Lazarus, D. (2017, November 10). Are video games bad for your kids? Not so much experts say.
Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
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Written by: Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S
Family Game Night. It’s on! We all love to spend quality family time with our children – whether they are younger or older or anything in between. Game night is a fun way to bond, be silly, and come out of the ho-hum of the daily routine. But did you know it is also a great opportunity to take everyday games and weave in social and emotional lessons for your kids?
I find my kids are more responsive to an indirect teaching and modeling. Using board games is a fun way to incorporate this!As you may know already, I am a mom of 4. My goal right now is to focus on challenging my kids’ negative thoughts and bringing out more of the positive ones. This is an ongoing battle that impacts their self-esteem and increases their anxiety.
Starting young, I play Sunny and Stormy Daysby Peaceable Kingdom. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary. This game encourages “sharing from the heart” to build communication. I really like that we all have parts of our day that can be “sunny” and parts that are “stormy”. I use this to help my kids fine the good part of the days because even if it was a bad day, there is always a piece of it that was ok or even great. It’s very easy for our children to have a difficult moment and generalize it to the entire day. That’s what the stormy moment of this day emphasizes – it doesn’t have to define our child’s whole day.
For a spin on the Classic game of Chutes and Ladders, I use this to help teach frustration tolerance and dealing with set backs. Model for your kids by verbalizing the feelings “oh no... down the slide I go”. Model positive thinking after like “it’s ok, I’ll try to find a ladder and catch up.” Simple externalizations of your own feelings and thoughts builds an internal dialogue for the future in your children.
Children need to experience all ranges of emotions and failures .... sometimes that chute really sets us back. This is a great way to teach emotional regulation and focus on having fun together. Winning is not always going to happen. This game of chance really tests everyone’s ability to deal with outside influences that are out of our control
Last, I have the Mad Dragon game (well, I am a therapist after all!). This card game is more directive on teaching anger management triggers and strategies. It allows for a back and forth discussion as well as self-reflection. It’s a game that’s played like Uno, but with the numbers, there are also questions. This is a great tool to talk about which situations or outcomes push your child’s anger buttons. Best of all, you are doing this at a time when your child is calm and regulated, so that back and forth can be really enlightening for you and your child. He may have not really talked about how losing a game can make him really angry. But now that he’s said that out loud, he knows… and so do you! My kids are not immune to experiencing and struggling with emotional regulation either. So I use this as a fun way to learn a little more about them and also help them build skills for the future.
All these games are from my private family collection and not part of any endorsement. I wanted to share a few games that I thought you could can find (if you don't have them already) and play with your kids that encourage discussion as well as fun. Here’s to an awesome family game night!
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Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Psychology Today
College is coming. You’ve known that it’s coming. You’ve visited colleges, you’ve created a list of potential schools, you’ve filled out applications, and you’ve completed personal statements. Now, the wait is on. Once you and your college-bound child begin to hear about acceptances and rejections, decisions will be made, and a wave of relief will come over all of you. Phew!
Both you and your child will be able to enjoy all the celebrations and field trips that come with being a high school senior with an acceptance letter in hand, and a hoodie that proudly marks the college mascot with which you will both begin to identify. It’s an exciting time that culminates in a graduation ceremony where you will think about how quickly time has passed from your child’s birth to now, how proud you are of your child’s accomplishments, and how hard you will all celebrate. It’s an exhilarating time for all of you. Enjoy every morsel and every moment of it. You will have all earned it by June,
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Written by: Colin Guare, Janice Rodden, Dr. Liz Matheis, Randy Kulman, PH.D. and Featured by: ADDItudemag.com
Resistance is futile; the future is digital.
Statistics from Common Sense Media show that more than 30 percent of children in the United States play with mobile devices while still in diapers. More than one-third of third graders own a phone. Tweens spend up to an hour a day texting. High school students spend 8 to 11 hours each day with digital technology, if you include multitasking. And, according to Pew Research Center, nearly 75 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds have smartphones they use “almost constantly.”
“Boys actually spend an hour more than girls on technology, especially in middle school,” says Jodi Gold, M.D., author of Screen-Smart Parenting: How to Find Balance and Benefit in Your Child’s Use of Social Media, Apps, and Digital Devices. “That’s mostly related to video games.”
Screens are a part of our children’s lives, and always will be. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Technology offers a lot of benefits, but the fact is that — when left unsupervised and unlimited – it can also get in the way of exercise, in-person relationships and social skills, good eating habits, effective study habits, self-care, and more. What’s more, kids with ADHD are at greater risk of becoming over-stimulated by violent media and games; they’re hyperfocus can also make video-game addiction a real threat.
A 2009 study at Iowa State University identified a link between “video game addiction” and attention deficit disorder. The study was published in Psycho- logical Science and reports that 8 percent of American children between the ages of 8 and 18 who play video games fall into the category of “pathological” gamers. Pathological gamers spend an average of 24 hours a week playing video games — more than twice as much as non-pathological gamers — and received poorer grades in school.
They were more likely to be boys, and two times as likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD. The lead researcher on the study, Douglas Gentile, concludes, “One could interpret this finding as a predictable type of comorbidity, given that many addictions are comorbid with other problems and that ‘Internet addiction’ has been previously found to be correlated with attention problems.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children age 6 and older consume no more than 2 hours of screen time each day. As your child grows and gains independence, this limit may feel impossible. But many families are able to set and live within healthy limits on video games and apps. “The goal is to have consistent technology rules, but also be flexible and individualized to the needs of that child,” says Dr. Gold.
Use these strategies to help your family strike a reasonable balance between the need for rules and the needs of each family member:
The Positive Side
Many of us worry that electronics are a distraction for our children. Criticism of the effect of screen time on children is everywhere, but little research focuses on the positive influence of technology on the lives of kids with ADHD.
“Digital technology in moderation improves cognitive abilities in school-aged children,” says Dr. Gold. “Digital technology can actually make your kids smarter, if it’s used wisely and it’s used in moderation. There are lots of good studies to support this.”
Dr. Gold feels technology is an asset for middle-school students, in particular. At that age, they stop imaginative play – they put away the toys because it’s no longer cool to play with LEGOs, even though they still have a desire for it. By playing online games such as Minecraft, they get to continue building and being creative and imaginative. There are certainly healthy places for play online.
Liz Matheis, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist, advocates harnessing the iPad’s appeal and turning it into a tool for success. “Your child with ADHD loves his tablet, so why not use it to help your child achieve the very goals most important to his success at school – getting organized, remembering assignments, and handing in homework!”
When schools allow tablets as an assistive technology, children and adolescents can use them successfully to:
A Healthy Play Diet
Balance video games with other types of play – that’s the advice of Randy Kulman, Ph.D., founder and president of LearningWorks for Kids, an educational technology company that specializes in using video games and interactive digital media to teach executive-functioning and academic skills. Rather than viewing video game playtime as negative, consider it part of a healthy “play diet.”
If your child is spending a substantial proportion of his time engaged in outdoor exercise, socializing with friends, and completing his homework, then spending some time playing video games is not a bad thing. Video games can give kids things to talk about with their friends, sharpen their digital skills, and improve some critical thinking skills, as long as they don’t overdo it. Conventional wisdom calls video gaming a distraction that gets in the way of learning. But for tweens and teens with attention deficit, it may actually offer a way to enhance executive function.
Though many parents will argue that video games are distracting, and an obstacle to learning, research suggests otherwise. In his book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, James Paul Gee, Ph.D., notes that what makes a game compelling is its ability to provide a coherent learning environment for players. Not only are some video games a learning experience, says Gee, but they also facilitate metacognition (problem solving). In other words, good games teach players good learning habits.
Many video games that offer your child or adolescent the chance to have fun and to polish his executive skills at the same time. Here are four that are popular, entertaining, mentally rewarding, and cool: Portal and Portal 2, Starcraft and Starcraft II, the Zelda franchise, and Guitar Hero.
Kulman recommends Bad Pigges, Roblox, and Minecraft to help kids with ADHD improve focus, concentration, and planning skills. “Watch your child play for a few minutes,” says Kulman, “and you’ll see that he plans, organizes, and problem-solves while engaged in a video game — skills we’d all like our ADHD kids to develop.” Those game-playing skills can transfer to everyday tasks, by helping your child identify the thinking and problem-solving skills that are necessary to play the game, and by talking about how the skills they use in the game can be used in the real world.
Minimizing screen time increases a parent’s responsibility to devise other activities. This is tough for those juggling jobs, two or more children, or the zillion other daily tasks that make life the pressure cooker it can be. But Kilcarr sees a developmental advantage in cutting out TV and screen: Children get the chance to use time on their own. Getting to this point may take a while and it may require some prodding, but, ultimately, your child will develop ways to entertain himself. Everyone benefits.
As ADHD awareness increases and research into the effects of screen time on children progresses, experts may indeed find more definitive links. In the meantime, it’s essential to exercise caution where screens and kids are concerned. You may be surprised at just how little your children really miss the screens if you help them fill their time with more interesting activities that speak to their passions.
Strategies to Minimize Screen Distractions During Homework
By Randy Kulman, PhD
1) Ask your child to voluntarily to give up her cell phones for a set amount of time when engaged with homework. I actually learned this strategy from teens, who recognized that checking their texts and social-media feeds disrupts their focus and attention while doing homework. Once these teens recognized that it took them far longer to complete their homework with distractions, they became willing either to shut off their cell phones or to hand them to their parents. I typically suggest a 30- to 60- minute “handoff,” after which time your teen can check his phone for messages and then return to homework if necessary.
2) Keep computers and other technologies in public areas. This can make teenagers more aware of staying on task because others may see them goofing off. This approach is similar to sitting at the front of the classroom in an effort to be more focused on tasks.
3) Focus not on shutting down Minecraft, but rather on developing basic time-management skills. I encourage teenagers to read the time-management chapter from my book, Train Your Brain for Success: The Teenagers Guide To Executive Functions, and for parents to review some of our articles to learn more about time management.
4) Develop expertise with apps that help with focus and time management. Two of my favorites are “Timer Plus,” which gives a pre-set amount of time to complete a particular activity, and “30/30,” which creates categorized tasks and helps users keep track of how long they have dedicated to a particular project.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Shield HealthCare
You’ve heard about the I&RS Plan and the 504 Accommodation Plan as well as the IEP, but what are these documents? How are they different? When are they relevant to your child? And most importantly, how do you get one if your child needs one? We’ll take a look at the I&RS vs. 504 Accommodation Plan vs. IEP.
Within the public school environment, when you begin to notice that your child is struggling and needs accommodations, you can request an Intervention and Referral Services Action Plan (I&RS). As you begin to have more data, you can request different plans, but let’s start with the I&RS Plan.
Intervention & Referral Services Action Plan
Based on the NJ Administrative Code (6A; 16-8.1; Establishment of Intervention and Referral Services) all school districts are required to have an I&RS committee available for students who are struggling with a learning, behavioral or health issue. The I&RS team is typically composed of the Principal, Guidance Counselor, teachers and the I&RS Coordinator. Other members, such as the Reading Specialist, Occupational/Physical or Speech therapist, and School Nurse can also be members.
An I&RS plan is developed and implemented within the school in order to provide accommodations and support to the student. This plan is created by the I&RS team in conjunction with the student’s parent(s). Accommodations are based on teacher observations and interventions already used. No testing is required.
The types of accommodations that can be a part of an I&RS plan range from preferential seating, extended time on assignments or tests, providing a bathroom or snack break, providing verbal and non-verbal cues to help re-focus, and providing study guides. This plan is reviewed every four to six weeks with the intent to remedy the situation and eliminate the plan.
Although this plan provides supports, the ultimate goal is to find solutions to the issue at hand. The belief is that the area of difficulty is short-term and by implementing a few strategies, it will be resolved.
The 504 Accommodation Plan
The 504 Accommodation Plan is guided by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that a student with a disability has access to accommodations to improve academic functioning, as the disability affects the student’s ability to access the general education curriculum, perform academically and make progress.
In order to qualify for a 504 Accommodation Plan, a student must have a diagnosis; however, a diagnosis does not ensure that your child will be granted a 504 Accommodation Plan. The diagnosis can include a physical or emotional disability, recovering from a chemical dependency, or impairment (e.g. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), a food allergy, a concussion that restricts one or more major life activity.
A document is created that specifies the disability as well as the accommodations needed by the student. Accommodations can consist of: moving a child’s seat, permitting a child to have frequent snacks or drink in the classroom due to a diagnosis (e.g., diabetes, etc), providing extended time on tests or assignments, modifying test questions, and/or providing statewide testing accommodations. Other accommodations include a personal aide to ensure safety around food allergies, or modifying the duration of a day for a child who has suffered a concussion.
Note that a student is not able to receive specialized instruction (e.g., In Class Resource program or Out of Class Resource Replacement) through a 504 Accommodation Plan.
The Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
An IEP is guided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is a plan and program that provides special education and related services to a student who is identified as having a disability that negatively impacts ability to receive academic instruction. A student who receives special education services is entitled to modification of curriculum, classroom accommodations, specialized instruction, and related services such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and/or counseling.
An IEP is a comprehensive and legal document that incorporates a student’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance (PLAAFP) in which each teacher/therapist provides feedback about the student’s performance within the subject area and related service. Information from the PLAAFP guides the goals and objectives, which are specific identification of skills and areas that will be addressed through the IEP program. Goals and objectives are also ways of measuring growth within those areas over the course of the school year.
A child who is referred for special education and related services is tested by the Child Study Team. These evaluations can consist of the following: Psychological Evaluation, Educational Evaluation, Social Evaluation, Speech Evaluation, Physical Therapy Evaluation, Occupational Therapy Evaluation. Other evaluations, such as a Central Auditory Processing Evaluation, neurological exam, or psychiatric evaluation are often conducted by professionals outside of the school. Parents can request that the school cover the cost of these evaluations, or pay for them privately. Note that a parent can also gain an independent evaluation (Psychological, Educational) on a private basis, and submit these reports for the Child Study Team to review.
A student with an IEP is re-evaluated every three years to determine continued eligibility. However, a parent can request a re-evaluation sooner than three years, but not less than one year. An IEP is also reviewed annually; however, a parent can request a review of the child’s program as well as related services at any time.
I&RS vs. 504 vs. IEP
To clarify things a little better, an I&RS plan is what you can seek when your child needs formal accommodations, but does not have a documented disability (learning, behavioral or emotional).
You can request a 504 Accommodation Plan when your child has a diagnosed disability and requires classroom and statewide testing accommodations.
You can request a Child Study Team evaluation for a potential IEP when your child has a disability (learning, emotional, medical or behavioral) that requires the modification of curriculum and other special education programs, related services, and classroom and statewide testing accommodations.
I hope this has taken the mystery out of which plan is right for your child! If you still have questions, feel free to email me: email@example.com.
Written by: Don Meyer @ Sibling Support Project
In the United States, there are over 4.5 million people who have special health, developmental, and mental health concerns. Most of these people have typically developing brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters are too important to ignore, if for only these reasons:
Sibling Support Project
A Kindering Center program 6512 23rd Ave NW #322 Seattle, WA 98117 206-297-6368 firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Chrissy Sunberg, M. Ed., AAC
The winter has finally arrived. For some families this time of year is welcomed and for others it can be dreadful. As for my family, we welcome it with open arms. It gives us a chance to slow down and relax on a Saturday afternoon. If you know me, you know that I love Netflix. There is nothing better than enjoying a good movie with my family, making popcorn and sipping hot chocolate. This has been a family tradition for us since my kids were younger. I think we had the opportunity to view every age appropriate tv show and movie. Comedies, dramas and educational shows/movies. I’m excited to share with our readers educational tv shows for children that have learning challenges and for the families that support them. Enjoy!!
First, I want start with my favorite web-site about movies, tv shows, books and so much more, www.commonsensemedia.org. This site provides reviews on movies from parents and kids, tips for parents on watching age appropriate movies, tv shows, books and video games.
Oldies but goodies:
Another thing I want to mention is that certain tv shows can promote learning and social skills for children that may have a hard time reading social cues, understanding sarcasm and reading a room. I suggest sitting with your child and making the learning experience more interactive. While watching you may want to discuss with them how to read facial expressions and explain what each situation means. Some questions you can ask are:
Photo from: Pexels
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis and Featured by: Shield HealthCare
A child with special needs (or as some parents and children would rather call it: a disability) can be a very demanding job for parents. Throw into the mix a sibling or two and now you are managing several different worlds of need. Oh, and a spouse or partner – now it’s a party but without the disco ball!
Now let me change the perspective: what it’s like to be the sibling of a child with special needs. In my house, my daughter can be exceptionally demanding and difficult on most days. These are the days when I find myself drained and unable to respond to my other two children with patience or just plain old consideration.
When I sit with my thoughts at the end of the day – the daily day-in-review beat down you are all familiar with – I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve cheated my two boys. I feel like I didn’t connect with them about their day’s struggles or celebrations. I feel like I became consumed by the intense emotion that gets riled up in me and that I work so hard to manage.
Every few months, my older son will confide in me that he needed something from me but didn’t tell me because his sister needed me more. He doesn’t ask for help or vent especially on the days that my daughter is especially difficult because he can see I’m exhausted. I understand why he does what he does but I’m also sad that he feels like he has to wait.
It’s not his job but I realize that there is a unique dynamic that happens in the home of a family with a child with special needs. When I think about my own children’s’ experiences as well as the experiences of the children with whom I work professionally, there are a few things to note about their day to day.
They Feel Like the 3rd Wheel
We all do this. We know our child’s needs and we anticipate, accommodate and plan ahead. We wake in the morning with a plan in mind for the day’s activities or schedule and we know what to avoid or how to make it easier or more pleasant for our child with special needs.
We don’t think in this same way about our neurotypical children. We think that they will adapt and be ‘okay’ because, for the most part, they can, and do, just go with it. Well, at least much better than our child with special needs. And when they resist, we push back… harder… because we know we can get them to agree.
But, the truth of the matter is, they feel like the third wheel. They know they are here for the ride but that the focus is on their sibling. They know that their parents will jump on the need of their special needs sibling, quickly. They know that their needs may have to wait. They see their parents’ distress, they see the tantrums, they see the doctor’s visits. They see it. They see it all. And they feel the need to ‘be good’ so as not to create more demand on their parents.
They Become Another Adult in the House
Although it may not be said that the sibling of a child with special needs has to help out, they know and we need their help. We need them to do their homework, to know when to take out the trash, to leave parents alone, to get ready for the next day, and stay on top of their school work.
We need them to delay gratification. We need them to know when to intervene with their sibling and when to leave the room. Sadly, they become another adult in the house, even when we, as their parents, don’t expect it or even want it. They just take on additional responsibilities and become little adults.
To Help, Validate and Celebrate Often
Although it is very easy for the moments to become days and the days to become months and the months to become years, as parents of our neurotypical children, we need to stop trying to get through the day. Instead, I encourage us to set a reminder to take a moment to ask about our child’s day – ask about that Math test, the drama within their friend group, and remember what is important to them. To remember to celebrate a good grade on a test or project, or getting a part in the school play. And to comfort them when things just didn’t work in their favor. To acknowledge that they too are an important member of the family.
We may know this logically, but we may not be conveying it clearly and often enough.
Let’s make it a point to validate and thank our neurotypical children for what they do for our families, emotionally and physically. To recognize that our child with special needs is indeed demanding, difficult and needy and that there is a special place in the family and family dynamic for everyone.
Make statements like, “I know that it’s hard to live in this house sometimes, but thank you.”
“Thank you for doing your homework without being asked.”
“Thank you for helping me out when I didn’t even ask you.”
“ Thank you for being patient. Thank you for being tolerant.”
“Thank you for being sympathetic.”
Find the Time to Be One-On-One
I know it’s easier said than done, but in the same way we make time for our child with special needs, we need to set aside time for one-on-one time, out of the house, with our neurotypical child. Set aside time once every two weeks and put it on the calendar. Go out for a walk, a mani/pedi, dinner, lunch, a movie, or a stroll in the mall. Whatever is interesting for your child and gives the two of you uninterrupted time to bond. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day care of your child with special needs, but setting aside the time (and treating it like a doctor’s appointment for your special needs child) will get that time on the calendar. Treat it as a sacred appointment and try not to postpone or reschedule.
My fellow parents of special needs children, I see you, I hear your struggles. I know this is a big balancing act in managing everyone’s needs. I’m not asking you to do more, but I am asking you to disperse your energy a little differently.
Written by: Dr. Liz Matheis
Featured by: PsychologyToday
Finding and maintaining your co-parenting alliance
Parenthood. It’s a journey that, when we enter into it, we’re not exactly sure what to expect. For many of us, it’s a bumpy journey with some smooth roads along the way. We get onto the parenthood road thinking it will be exactly like our idyllic own childhood—or nothing like it, if ours was rocky—while integrating our presently held values.
Many parents—though certainly not all—split parenting duties with a spouse or long-term partner, ex-partner, or another adult. When you take the experience of parenthood and multiply it by two, you can end up with either alignment or misalignment. That alignment is known as the co-parenting alliance (Abidin & Kobold, 1999). Misalignment in any parenting relationship can be downright ugly—but when a child with special needs is involved, it's even more critical that parents align themselves effectively to ensure the child is getting the care and support they need.
The Co-Parenting Alliance, Defined
Let me begin by defining the co-parenting alliance. In essence, it’s how parents split up the responsibilities of the home as well as the care-taking. In some homes, moms may tend to the inside of the house, as well as manage homework, doctor’s visits, and play-dates, while dads tend to the outside of the house and take the lead on sports and extra-curricular activities, maybe even finances. These more "traditional" configurations are not as common as they once were, and there are countless other configurations that are possible as well. But however the responsibilities are split, parents are aligned when they talk about and agree on household rules, expectations for behavior, school performance, consequences, and household finances.
Photo from: Pexels
Written by:Nicole Filiberti, LCSW
Planning an activity for your family to enjoy is no easy feat. Moods and irritability levels can change by the minute, sibling rivalry can take its toll, and unexpected changes in plans can all cause even the most well-intentioned plans to end in frustration and stress. When you add special needs into this mix, such as individuals with an Autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, behavioral challenges and more, another level of complications arise that require additional planning. Here are some ideas for family activities that cater to individuals with special needs.
Trampoline parks have been popping up in many towns lately. A lot of them have special sensory hours regularly built into the schedule. Check your local trampoline park's website or give them a call to find out if they offer this option. Very often, sensory hours include more staff supervision, limits on the amount of people allowed to jump at once, and a more quiet environment.
Another family activity could be enjoying a music class together as a family. Many music therapy offices offer ongoing classes or special events in which youngsters with special needs can connect and express themselves through the use of music. This can certainly be an event that the whole family could enjoy together, creating special memories.
Connecting to nature is another great option for a family to enjoy together. When the weather is nice, heading to a local park to explore and have a picnic can be a very enjoyable activity. There are plenty of sensory things to explore, touch and see. Other than park rules and regulations, you won't have to follow a whole lot of strict rules and can leave whenever you need to leave, staying for as little or long as your schedule and needs dictate.
Engaging in various activities as a family is a fun way to connect and create memories. For your children with special needs, making an effort to keep active as a family can help their social skills, increase self-esteem, and build life skills. There are plenty of resources listed on the internet and the next time you are at a skating rink, museum or gymnastics class, ask the staff if they offer any special programming for individuals with special needs. You just may be surprised by the options available.
Photo from: Pexels
Written by: Judith Orloff, M.D. and Featured by: Psychology Today
Learn differences, similarities, and areas of overlap on the empathic spectrum.
As a psychiatrist and an empath, I often get asked, "What is the difference between empaths and highly sensitive people?" Following are the similarities and areas of overlap. (I also devote a section of The Empath’s Survival Guide to this important distinction.)
Empaths share all the traits of what Dr. Elaine Aron has called “Highly Sensitive People,” or HSPs. These include: a low threshold for stimulation; the need for alone time; sensitivity to light, sound, and smell; and an aversion to large groups. It also takes highly sensitive people longer to wind down after a busy day, since their ability to transition from high stimulation to being quiet is slower. Highly sensitive people are typically introverts, while empaths can be introverts or extroverts (although most are introverts). Empaths share a highly sensitive person’s love of nature and quiet environments, their desire to help others, and their rich inner life.
However, empaths take the experience of the highly sensitive person much further: We can sense subtle energy (called shakti or prana in Eastern healing traditions) and actually absorb it from other people and different environments into our own bodies. Highly sensitive people don’t typically do that. This capacity allows us to experience the energy around us, including emotions and physical sensations, in extremely deep ways. And so we energetically internalize the feelings and pain of others — and often have trouble distinguishing someone else’s discomfort from our own. Also, some empaths have profound spiritual and intuitive experiences — with animals, nature, or their inner guides — which aren’t usually associated with highly sensitive people.
Being a highly sensitive person and an empath are not mutually exclusive: One can be both, and many highly sensitive people are also empaths. If you think about this distinction in terms of an empathic spectrum, empaths are on the far end; highly sensitive people are a little further in; people with strong empathy who are not HSPs or empaths are in the middle; and narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths who have “empath-deficient disorders” are at the far opposite end.
The Empathic Spectrum
Narcissists Loving empathic people HSPs Empaths
The gifts of sensitivity and empathy are precious. We want to keep opening our hearts and break through to new heights in the empathic spectrum. We need these gifts now more than ever.
Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide
Photo from: Pexels
Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles