Promoting Thankfulness – Sharing my family traditions

I wanted to share two ways I promote being thankful as the focus of Thanksgiving!

In my family we have the thankful turkey which gets personalized messages from each family member.  It serves as a great reminder and our family dinner centerpiece!

You can purchase at Bed, Bath and Beyond if you want to add to your family traditions.

We also start a month long tradition of writing a thankful message for each day of the month and put on our Give Thanks tree.

​This is a great family activity that you can discuss on a daily basis and add to the tree.  It also kicks off a feeling of gratitude before the chaos of December’s holidays!

Whatever tradition you do with your family, we hope you find those special moments to be thankful as we are.  We at  PEC are thankful for all of you and wish you Happy Thanksgiving!

by Michelle Krowiak, LCSW

Summer Fun Arts & Crafts

With no ability in art, I still dive into the healing powers of arts and crafts. In my forties, the power of coloring still calms me like no other. I can literally feel my body decompress.

During the summer, I explore arts and crafts with my four children that are engaging and they get them off of their screens while also help soothe their tiny souls.

Here are some of my favorites:

Tie dye:
there are so many ways to take this simple activity and elevate it-
· Research different design patterns and try to create it!

· Use colors to represent a feeling and then create!
· Each person gets a color and is responsible for adding their mark on each family members creation!Rock/shell Painting & Gardens:
As we were down the shore, we collected oracle and shells. On a rainy shore day, we painted and created a unique rock design for each child.Chalk and Chalk Paint Drawing:
Have fun on the drive way and create scenes with each person adding their own flare for one grand master piece!Friendship Bracelets:
My 9 year daughter will spend endless amount of time creating and learning various patterns. This is always a summer joy for her!

Story Stones:
Gather a bunch of stones and paint small
Symbols of who, what, where. Then put in a bag and pick 5 to create a story or each family member picks one and adds to the story.
The fun tales that will be created!!

In short, not artist abilities needed to dive into these fun and therapeutic arts and crafts. The joy of specking time together and building stronger connections will be sparked!

Image from: Pexels

by Michelle Molle-Krowiak, M.Ed., LCSW

Educational/Therapeutic Arts and Crafts

When most people think of arts and crafts, they may think of a creative outlet, a stress relieving activity, or simply something to do to help pass the time. While all of these are true, arts and crafts have tons of therapeutic uses and benefits as well. From young children to adults, arts and crafts can be a significant part of the therapeutic process. They can also be used as educational tools for various reasons. Below are a few examples of some art activities that have some of these benefits.

1. Use Colors
Many people associate colors with certain feelings. Exploring this idea can lead to someone becoming more aware of their feelings and better able to appropriately express these feelings. Incorporating color into an activity that relates to feeling expression and exploration can enhance the therapeutic benefits of it. One example of this type of activity is to draw a circle on a piece of paper. As if it is a pie chart, begin coloring in portions of the circle to demonstrate how much you feel certain emotions. Each emotion should be assigned a different color. Creating something like this can help people understand how they can be feeling multiple emotions at one time, and can also show them how feelings can change. The circle they created one day could look completely different from one they draw on a different day.

2. Self Portraits
Any art and craft activity involving a person using introspection to reflect on themselves can be a very enlightening activity to take part in. It can be very interesting to see how one perceives themselves, physically or not, when asked to create a self portrait. A self portrait project can be a great place to initiate a discussion and exploration regarding one’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as to begin to explore any self-esteem difficulties.

3. Keep Those Hands Busy!
In a world where we are so often on our phones, the very act of putting down any devices to pick up art supplies alone can be therapeutic. Whether it’s knitting needles, colored pencils, or jewelry making supplies, it can be very beneficial to and anxiety soothing to occupy your hands with a productive activity. There is a reason that adult coloring books have gained so much popularity in recent years. Their benefits are undeniable.

Scientific studies have been carried out to determine just how much of a benefit art activities have on the human brain. Art can also be a significant part of treatment for those who have experienced trauma. A 2015 CNN article details the benefits of crafting, describing the process of becoming more mindful as one is engaging in craft activities as almost entering a meditative like state. (Wilson 2015). Not only are there are many benefits to crafting, but there are also many ideas and projects to try. Taking some time to create something can become the most enjoyable part of your day.

Image from: Pexels

by Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW

Games That Help With Therapy

What comes to mind when you first think of the word “games”? Board games? Perhaps hopscotch or duck duck goose? For some, video games are the first to pop up in one’s head. What if I told you that games are more than just a way to entertain yourself and pass some time, or a recreational activity that can be enjoyable for some people? Games can actually be very beneficial in the mental health world and here are some reasons for that.

1. Games can enhance social skills
When working with those who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and other developmental delays, games provide a fun and engaging way to strengthen social skills. Critical life skills such as turn taking, impulse control, and compromise are all skills to be utilized during game play. There are many teachable moments that can occur through game play. Processing the social implications of cheating in a game or inappropriately reacting to a loss can be impactful moments that are sparked through games.

2. Games provide a device-free opportunity for families to connect
Arranging special time and making it a priority for families to play games together can significantly enhance family communication skills and aide in strengthening challenged relationships between family members. Families who are in therapy can practice any techniques that were addressed in session while enjoying family game time. This relaxed environment provides an excellent opportunity to check-in with various family members and can enhance conflict resolution skills.

3. Games can assist in establishing clinician-client rapport
There are times when establishing a therapeutic relationship with someone can be challenging. Some children may be very anxious and not willing to open up to a stranger. Some may be defiant and purposely holding out on engaging with their therapist. It can be helpful for a therapist to have various games and activities available for use in session, especially initial meetings. Playing a familiar game can be comforting for an anxious child or teenager and may help them feel more relaxed, ready to open up and able to get more out of their sessions.

Games can be a very helpful tool for both therapists and families to use. Games come in a such a wide variety of styles and catered to different age groups, so take some time to find what works for you and your family’s needs. ​

Photo from: Pexels

by Nicole Filiberti, MSW, LCSW

Elevating Game Night!

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!

Photo from: Pexels

by Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S

Keeping the Fun in Halloween for your Child with Special Needs


In theory, it’s a fun day filled with free candy, sugar highs, and running around your neighborhood with your child and his friends. Well, if you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you know that’s not always the case.
Halloween can be tricky for many kids, especially kids with special needs. For some of our kids, going to a stranger’s home and ringing their doorbell is overwhelming. Then, let’s factor in that ringing the doorbell doesn’t mean that someone will come to the door, or that they will come to the door with the type of candy they like. How about that barking dog? Or the scents that come out to greet you once the door is open.  

It’s a lot to process and a lot to make sense of while you’re trying to keep up or hold on to the parts to your costume and keep your candy in hand.  In an effort to setting the stage, let’s talk about some ways you can prepare your child for the BIG day: 
Create a Social Story for Your Child 
Before writing the story, sit down with your child and ask him what they remember from the year before. What did they enjoy? What did they dislike? Factor these variables into your story so that there is the expectation that some houses will have the lights on, but no one will answer the door, or that a dog will bark, etc.  In fact, turn it into a game. Keep a log of how many houses had a barking dog and how many houses didn’t answer the door. 
Keep the Costume Comfortable 
Sometimes, store bought costumes can be uncomfortable, itchy, stiff, and smelly. Find a costume that has some homemade pieces to it – an old sweatshirt, comfortable socks, their own winter gloves.  Don’t want to wear a mask, how about face paint? If face paint is too uncomfortable, use women’s make up. 
Not sure how it will all feel on the day of? Wear it a few times before Halloween to get used to it so that it ultimately feels like another pair of pajamas.  
Create a Plan 
Still not sure of how your costume is going to hold up? Not sure which route to take? Take a walk around your neighborhood with your child in his/her costume and walk up different neighbor’s driveway so they can go through the motions and be super familiar.  You and your child may even want to make a plan for how many houses you want to hit before it’s time to go home and count the loot! 
For younger children, set a time limit and place them in a wagon that you can pull. Little legs fatigue faster which can trigger melt downs as well. 
Eat and Go Before You Go 
Instead of trick or treating on an empty stomach, have a fun meal so that your child is not filling up on sugar and then crashing hard. Have stable blood sugar will also help your child to tolerate the walking around. Hit the bathroom before you make your way out to the streets. Nothing stinks more than having to go to the bathroom and having to leave everyone behind to empty out.  
In the end, practice special Halloween mindfulness.  Soak up the moment and let go of the expectations of how Halloween should be.  Look for the gleam in your child’s eye even if they can only tolerate going to two homes.  Take a moment to be present – feel the chill of the air, the laughter swirling around, the pitter patter of feet to the door before the ding-dong, the shouts of Trick or Treat and finally the sweet taste of a favorite candy that you will indulge on! 
Wishing you and your family a safe and Happy Halloween! 
For free social stories, check out these resources: 
Safety tips for all: 
For children with selective mutism, Dr. Shipon-Blum from the Smart Center shares her tips for you:
by Michelle Molle-Krowiak, LCSW, Ed.S

Lavender slime recipe

Our blog today is from our ADHD In Home Coach, Chrissy Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC.

She has provided us with an easy to make recipe for Lavender Slime, and a video to help you create this wonderful sensory tool!  Slime gives a child something to fidget with when they are disregulated, restless, or anxious.  You may even want to make this with your child and create a quiet corner in your house where your child can go to calm their bodies and minds.  Some parents create a quiet corner using a tent or bean bag, with a few sensory calming tools.

How to Use Sensory Slime:
Sensory Play – squeeze it, poke it & stretch it and have it meet some of your child’s tactile and sensory needs.

What can kids learn from making lavender slime?
As you know, lavender is an essential oil that has powerful properties of tranquility, promoting calmness,  eliminating nervous tension, relieving pain, disinfecting the scalp and skin, enhancing blood circulation, and treating respiratory problems.

Also, your child will gain a tremendous amount of sensory input as they mix these ingredients and watch the transformation of combing multiple ingredients that ultimately turn into this very cool slime. It will also be a time of bonding for you and your child when you take turns adding the ingredients, mixing, and creating together.


Lavender Slime Recipe 
½ TBSP of Baking Soda
1 ½ TBSP of Contact Lens Solution
6 fl. Oz. Elmer’s Clear Glue or any glue will do
3 drops of lavender essential oil
Glitter and sequins
1.  Find a bowl, cup or plate to mix your slime.
2. Pour 6 oz. of the glue into the bowl, cup or plate.
3. Add ½ tbsp. of Baking Soda & mix.
4. Add 1 tbsp. of Contact Lens Solution.
5.Add 3 drops of essential oil to the glue mixture.
6. Mix until slime forms and begins to get harder to mix.
7. Add a pinch of glitter or sequins.
8.Take the slime out and begin kneading with both of your hands.
9. If needed, add ¼ TBSP Contact Lens Solution to make the slime less sticky.

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"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!"
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