Why Our Kids May Actually Be Okay in Fall 2020

The parts of COVID-19 quarantine that may actually benefit our children.

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured on Psychology Today

Although I am dreading this back-to-school season because it won’t look like anything we’ve seen or known before, my three kids are surprisingly not as anxious as I thought they would be. In fact, they seem to be okay with the proposed hybrid plan that is planned to start in only a few weeks.

I’m sad that we won’t have our traditional stand-by-the-school-bus and take pictures, that we won’t take our traditional walk up to school on the first day, or spend the morning saying hello to parents who we haven’t seen while we went into our summer hibernation. So many things that I will miss, but that makes me realize a few things as a parent and psychologist that may comfort you as we get ready to enter a fall that will be unfamiliar and will go down in our personal history books.

Image by pexels

Back to School Summit, 9/1-9/4

I’d like to invite you to the 2020 Back to School Summit hosted by Rachael G of the Experienced Graduate!

From September 1 – 4,  Dr. Craig Springer and I are joining over 20 educators who are going to share all they know about helping your child, teen, or student learn and improve their academics and grades. We’re gonna be talking everything from homework routines, schooling during a pandemic, battles to improving their study skills and more!

This event is featuring experienced teachers, tutors, school counselors, Doctors, parenting experts, academic advisors, and other expert educators.

But here’s the thing…

You have to be registered for the summit to watch the expert interviews! Click the button below to register now and get on the list so you can receive all the links you need to watch the interviews!

  https://gumroad.com/a/564753523

Enjoy!

6 Back to School Fears You’re Not the Only One Having

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis for The Mighty

Traditionally, September marks a ton of back to school jitters, new pencils, backpacks and the promise of another year of growth for our children. Each year, I prepare blogs about how to transition out of the summer sunsets and into the September school groove. But not this year. This year comes with a newfound level of anxiety and questioning, with the main question being, “Should I send my kids to school in September?”

We have been living with the fear of the coronavirus for almost five months. Five months?!? Our new normal has set in and many of us find some glimpses of our old lives and relish it. I will never take any part of my freedoms to leave my house, vacation or socialize for granted. Ever.

Many of you have expressed concerns and worries over your decision to send your kids to school or to opt for virtual learning only. And as a parent myself, I realize that the plans being made right now by our school districts are subject to change again and again, and possibly again.

You’ve shared your questions and concerns and I hope this helps you to see that you are not alone. There is no right or wrong on this. It’s going to look and feel different no matter what.

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Annual Review Meeting: 3 Questions to Ask

Annual review meeting season is upon us, and it’s time to start thinking about your child’s program for next fall. Based on the information you will be gaining from your child’s teachers, case manager, and related service providers, you and the team will be able to make an assessment of the level of support your child needs across his classes, the type and amount of therapy, as well as supplementary services.

Annual Review Meeting Question #1
​Have my child’s goals been achieved? 

If your child has a pull-out resource program in any of her subjects or has been placed in a self-contained class, goals were established at your last Annual Review meeting. Based on progress reports from the last year, feedback gained during parent-teacher conferences, and your observations, assess if your child has made adequate progress with her goals.

If she has, it may be time to create more challenging goals in particular areas of growth. If your child has not made progress, it may be time to assess why that is the case and decide if your child needs greater support in that particular subject or area of development.

Annual Review Meeting Question #2
Does my child’s program need to be more or less restrictive? 

Depending on where your child is making progress or needs greater support, this is the time to decide where your child’s academic program needs to be more or less restrictive. In other words, does your child need more or less support in each subject? If your child needs the curriculum to be modified because there is a gap in certain skills, then your child’s program may need to be more restrictive with the help of a pull-out resource program. If your child is needs accommodations but is able to keep up with the general education curriculum, then your child may need a less restrictive program with the help of an in-class resource program, or in-class assistance program.

Annual Review Meeting Question #3
How is my child progressing behaviorally, socially, and emotionally? 

Although this is not a discussion strictly about academics and homework or the ability to take a test, this area of development is equally as important as the conversation about the type of program your child needs to learn and succeed. In my experience, if a child does not have the emotional stability to manage the demands of being a member of the classroom, receiving academic instruction will be very difficult.

Therefore, this is another very important area for you and your child’s annual review team to assess by asking a few more questions. Is your child able to be in a class with other students of varying skill abilities and still comfortably perform at his level? Is your child able to develop and maintain friendships? How does your child respond to feedback? Is your child able to handle disappointment? Can your child handle a change in the routine without becoming too upset?

Annual review season can be a stressful time of the year as you think about and plan ahead for the next school year. But by assessing your child using these questions, you will be able to make decisions and advocate for your child’s program and related services at the annual review meeting and beyond.

Click Here for the Original Article

by Dr. Liz Matheis

3 Tips for Creating a Positive Home Environment

The new school year is well underway and I want to start and keep a positive space in my home after school. This is a big task, but I am ready to take it on.At the end of my work day, I need time to decompress just as much as my kids need time to decompress from their school day. We are all happy that the day is over, but soon thereafter is when the grouchies kick in for everyone and it’s never pretty, especially in my house. And with everyone hustling to get homework started, finished, shift to activities, dinner, and bathing, it’s hard to keep a smile on your face and a positive tone in your voice.

I also know that my when I’m anxious, tired or overwhelmed, my children comply less with their routine and we all end up yelling or just feeling down right unhappy. Who wants that? With all the hustle that goes on each evening, how do you create a positive home environment that makes it so that everyone wants to come home? Well, here are a few ways to do this without needing to plan ahead…well, not too much!

Smile and Say Hello
I know it sounds silly, but once you are home, look your child in the eye, smile, and say hello. If you’re feeling really ambitious, give your child a big hug and kiss (as is age appropriate)! You’re reconnecting with your child after a long break from each other. By doing this, you are non-verbally saying, “You are important to me and I am happy to see you.” This satisfies your child’s need to be acknowledged by you each and every day.

Before bed, make sure you give your child your uninterrupted attention (that means no multi-tasking!) and say good night. Simple, do-able, and effective.

Discuss the High Points of Your Day
Dinner time discussion is a healthy and safe place to bond with your family members and talk about your day. Ask the question, “What was the best/favorite/highest point of your day today?” All family members are encouraged to answer that question. You can also ask the question, “What was your least favorite/worst/lowest point of your day today?” Once again, everyone gets the chance to answer. This will initiate asking questions and engaging each other about time spent apart. As a parent, this gives you an idea of your child’s strengths and struggles during the day. This will help you to ask more specific questions or gain information from your child’s teacher if you are hearing a consistent complaint about a relationship with another child or a class subject.

Please and Thank You
Manners, manners, who doesn’t love manners? We all insist that our children use their manners, but are we, as the adults, also using our manners? Our children learn to interact with each other, their friends, and with us by watching us. That means that when we are speaking with our children, instead of using a loud tone, use a quiet one, smile and keep it positive. Next time you speak with your spouse, remember to say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’ for helping each other out and remember to use a pleasant tone. Our kids hear the tone and see our body language as well.

These are three small changes you can make to your daily routine to help make your home environment a positive one!

Image provided by: Shield Healthcare

by Dr. Liz Matheis

A Parents Cheat Sheet to the August Jitters

A new school year is approaching and for many students with special needs, the anxiety is likely growing. As a parent, you begin to notice this pattern each summer and you may not know exactly how to soothe your child other than to say, “You’re going to be fine,” which is nice, but just not enough. You may notice a general level of agitation, argumentativeness, restlessness, constant chattiness about school, or avoiding the topic of school all together.

How can you help ease your child’s anxiety about going back to school?

Take a field trip….to school
Everyone loves a field trip, so pack the kids in the car with a snack because we’re going to school! It may sound silly but take your child to his school and walk around the playground, the main door, and the door at which your child will wait in the morning. If your child takes the bus, review the routine: “The bus stops here. You come out here and walk to over there.”   If you drive your child to school, show her where you will drop off and the path that she will use to go to her waiting area until the bell rings.

Play on his playground so that your child develops a sense of comfort after a long summer break. If the school building is open, take a walk around the area and hall where your child’s class is likely to be.

Even though this may be your child’s 3rd, 4th or 5th year in the same school, visiting the school building while it is empty may help your child to feel like the school building and playground are not as intimidating as she imagined them to be.

Get Ready Together
Use the month of August to buy school materials instead of rushing during the last week or few days before the first day of school. That makes a parent anxious which makes a child anxious. Instead, take your time and browse around for the ‘perfect’ lunch box, backpack, sneakers, etc. Let your son or daughter think about the character he/she wants or the color or pattern. Turn it into an exploration mission if you need to! Also, pair up your shopping trip with a fun picnic lunch or a play date. The more positive the association, the better!

by Dr. Liz Matheis, Ph.D and Shield HealthCare

Time Management Tips: Get Organized and Gear Up for School

​As the end of August rapidly approaches, we are reminded that yet another summer is dwindling away… the countdown to a new school year is on.  As a result, children and parents alike experience an array of emotions; exciting as this time of year may be, it’s just as easy to get bogged down by the back to school craze. Instead of becoming overwhelmed and anxious due to the imminence of summer’s end, why not use the occasion as an opportunity to teach our kids important life skills by setting attainable goals for the year ahead?  Read on for top time management & organization tips your family can use today to stay on track.

Consistency is Everything
Stay ahead your game by creating and maintaining routines in the home. Sticking to predictable routines in the morning, after school, and at bedtime will lead to an increase in organization, and also serve to lessen stress and anxiety among the entire family. The more predictable the routine, the better off children will be. Starting in September, lead by example, and show your children the expectation is for everyone to follow their established routines. For younger children, making a visual schedule can be helpful for keeping kids on task.

Visuals Are Your Friend!
Visuals are a great tool to utilize and can be beneficial in both younger and older individuals. Take advantage of planners, agendas, dry erase boards… the possibilities are endless! The important point is to use these tools consistently. Families may find it helpful to have additional visual tools beyond the planner provided by their school. Keeping a weekly calendar in clear view to indicate when homework and other tasks are completed will help students stay on track, not only with upcoming deadlines, but also with extracurricular activities.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Be realistic in your expectations of your children- find what works for your family. Some tactics may work well for one child but would not benefit another, so be sure to tailor goals to each individual. Take some time before school starts to try out many different approaches using a variety of tools, through trial and error. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to admit when something is not serving the organizational needs of you or your child. By staying involved in your child’s academics and promoting regular conversations to check in with them, you’ll bridge the gap between what’s working for your child and what areas they may be struggling with.

Image from: Pexels

by Nicole Filiberti, LCSW

College Accommodations When You Have a Diagnosed Learning Disability

Not all colleges are created equal when it comes to accommodations for students that have learning disabilities. When your student is in high school, they are protected by their IEP Plan. When they make the transition from high school to college, there are a few things you should know. While the protection of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is no longer available for college students, they are still able to receive appropriate academic accommodations via Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Before your student decides on the right University for him it’s important to do research and find out if the school has a solid program to provide necessary service and accommodations in academics, the residential experience, and campus access.

Postsecondary Education

Every postsecondary institution by law should have a program on campus, but some are more established than others. Some offer a continuum of comprehensive services while others barely offer extended time on tests. Some schools may offer workshops to help students develop study and time management skills. They may have learning specialists with whom students can meet once a week in a one-on-one setting. They may provide more targeted academic advising than students’ regular academic advisor can offer. These services are above what the law requires, so while some schools provide these for free, others incorporate them under a well worth it special fee-for-service program.

There is no federal regulation indicating what type of documentation the college has to accept to prove that your student has a diagnosed learning disability. Some colleges, may require a diagnosis described in a detailed letter from a pediatrician or psychologist or an IEP or 504 plan. Some schools might ask that the student’s treating professional complete a form.

Do your research.

Before you set up your tour, I recommend going on the University’s website to find out what type of accommodations are offered. If you are not able to locate the accommodations on-line you can call the department directly. The name may not be obvious. Below are some of the names schools’ call the office that administers accommodations:
 Equity                                                                      Learning Center
Access                                                                      Academic Center
Access & Equity                                                     Learning Support
Diversity                                                                 Academic Support

Learning Disabilities                                             Special Programs
Learning Resource Center                                 Academic Success Center

Click on the link below and check out some colleges that have well established programs for students with learning disabilities.

Photo from: Pexels

by Chrissy Perone-Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC

Social Skills Development

Early on in development, most children learn to coordinate their own body and mind, as well as interpret the words and actions of others to participate with increasing sophistication in order to communicate. As is true with walking, sometimes, the skill needs a little bit more help with its development. The same is true for social skills. Some kids can just do it, and some need some coaching.Social skills groups can offer many benefits for some children. However, sometimes they are not

 the most effective for children. But through individual identification of the different skills with your child’s therapist, different social skills can be worked on and mastered. Sometimes, social skills groups can be overwhelming for a child who is struggling with this area, making generalization of the skills very difficult.

What Are Social Skills, Anyway?
Social skills are those communication, problem-solving, decision making, self-management, and peer relations abilities that allow us to initiate and maintain positive social relationships with others. Deficits or excesses in social behavior interfere with learning, teaching, and social climate. Social competence is linked to peer acceptance, teacher acceptance, inclusion success, and post school success.
Playdates?
Although they sound like a luxury, it’s important It is important for parents to bring their infants and toddlers together with other children. Even though the interactions may seem parallel at first, that’s okay.

As toddlers and up until kindergarten, children gain most of their skills through playing. This is how they explore the world around them and make sense of routines and relationships.  It is up to you as a parent to reinforce those skills by giving your child positive feedback. This helps her feel confident and secure.

Give Those Feelings a Name
We are not born knowing what we feel or what these feelings are called. Even at age one, when your child does not have a big vocabulary, label your child’s feelings and mirror their emotions with your own facial expressions and body language.

Through your discussion of how they feel, they begin to learn words associated with those feelings and can later use those words to talk out their feelings. This will help them transition to talking about feelings instead of acting out their frustrations. To teach emotions, Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking strategy, titled “Zones of Regulation” teaches children to recognize their thoughts and feelings in a given situation.

Michelle Garcia Winner is the CEO and creator of Social Thinking, a program created to help children and well as adults develop their social communication skills. She emphasizes learning effective communication skills by managing multiple systems at once: mind, body, eyes, and language. The importance is simultaneously engaging all these systems and interpret not only our own responses, but interpret the same systems of others as well.

The Four Steps of Communication

Step 1: Think about other people’s thoughts and feelings as well as your own.

To successfully communicate, we have to take the perspective(s) of the other person with whom we are communicating. Effective communication requires all participants to be thinking (most of the time) about the same topic/idea and for the thoughts to stay connected (even if not mutually agreed upon) throughout the communicative exchange.

Step 2: Establish physical presence; enter with your body attuned to the group.

Effective communication typically requires people to not only stand about one arm’s length of each other (physical proximity) but to also have a physical stance/posture that conveys a willingness to interact and an emotional calm.

Many children with a disability enter a social situation with a rigid stance and this is interpreted by others as being unfriendly or uncomfortable when approaching other people. It’s important that we teach not only about physical proximity but also about physical relaxation when communicating with others. Being relaxed is social situations gives others comfortable feelings and good thoughts about us!

Step 3: Think with your eyes.

Teaching eye contact from a purely physical, functional perspective can hurt as much as help children in social situations. Instead, we need to teach students to “think with their eyes” – meaning, to use their eyes enough to monitor how people are feeling and what they may be thinking (based on what they are looking at) during social encounters. Using our eyes can help children understand when and how to approach a conversation with a group of people. If two grown-ups are having a conversation and the child interrupts, it can be helpful to have the child use this technique to understand the social situation. When it is appropriate to engage in conversation, we then watch others’ eyes to gauge conversation direction and flow and follow who is speaking to whom.

Step 4: Use your words to relate to others.

Language is the way we share our thoughts with others. Just as in Step #1 we try to keep our thoughts connected while communicating together, we also must keep our language connected to whatever is being discussed. Those who don’t keep their language “on topic” are considered self-centered, aloof, unfriendly and/or ineffective in their communicative attempts. We must teach students communication strategies such as asking questions, adding a thought, showing interest, etc. based on the conversation at hand and what they think other people are thinking about.

Start to use these basic strategies with your child to enhance their executive functioning and build meaningful connections with others!

by Miranda Dekker, MSW, LCSW
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
- N.L.
"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
- Anonymous
"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
- Anonymous
"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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