Dr. Liz has recently joined the News 12 Education Ambassador Board. The purpose of this board is to offer multiple perspectives from individuals and professionals within the community involved with parenting, education, medicine, and mental health. The goal is to offer information and to help all of us see that we are not alone during these tough times.
A Psychologist and a Special-Needs Teacher’s Tips to Help Kids With Disabilities Learn at Home
by Murphy Moroney
Featured on PopSugar
For parents of kids with disabilities, virtual learning presents a new set of challenges. Because many students receive additional attention and hands-on support from their special-education teachers, emulating that environment at home is nearly impossible. In the US, 7.1 million kids have individualized education programs (IEPs) — a document developed for each public-school child who is eligible for special education — which may make staying on top of your child’s workload more complex. To help parents and caregivers who may be feeling frustrated with virtual or hybrid learning, we asked experts for their best tips for helping students with disabilities learn at home.
Cooking Up Some Love During Quarantine
By: Heidi Lynn Borst
I watched my friend grab a piece of pizza from its cardboard box and pass it to my 7-year-old. Noticing the long strands of melted cheese dripping off both sides, I presumed he would reject it, which he confirmed in perfect synchronicity with my assumption. “I don’t want pizza, mom,” Brody said. I knew this wasn’t exactly true; he wanted pizza, just not that particular piece. I rescued the cast-off and put it on my own plate, cutting a new slice in its place. This time, I was careful to ensure the edges were harmoniously even, and my son took a bite, giving an enthusiastic thumbs-up of approval. This scenario is typical for us, and if I come across as a pushover, trust me- it’s a bit complicated.
More Than a Picky Eater
I’ve always loved to cook and bake, testing out new techniques often. Putting my personal spin on recipes is a great outlet for my creative side. Trying new, yummy foods is an obvious perk, but most of all, I love the act of feeding people, because it’s a meaningful way to express affection and appreciation for my loved ones. Since my kid turns up his nose at pretty much everything I make these days, I don’t experiment as often as I’d like; I stick with the tried and true foods he actually consumes.
Brody is not just a picky eater; he has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Kids with SPD can be oversensitive to different elements of their environment, for example, noise, clothing, and food. Among other things, Brody has an extreme sensitivity to food textures. As a result, he prefers foods that are predictable and uniform in consistency, like crackers, chicken nuggets, peanut butter, and applesauce (when he started eating quesadillas and turkey sandwiches a few months ago, it was a really big deal). He’s becoming more adventurous over time, but more often than not, he involuntarily gags when tasting something new. Brody turns down any food he judges atypical or malformed, be it a misshapen berry or even a pancake with slightly asymmetrical borders. For this reason, expanding my son’s palate is a herculean task.
The Film Bao and My Impending Empty Nest
When it comes to introducing new foods, I’ll take the smallest window of opportunity and run with it. Recently, Brody and I watched Disney Pixar’s “Bao,” a short animated film in which a Chinese mother, whose adult son has moved out on his own, imagines the bao (dumpling) she’s about to eat comes to life. Bao quickly becomes a replacement for her grown child, transforming into a most cherished companion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rspQR7rhf0.
I originally viewed “Bao” some time back at the theater, prior to the feature presentation we’d gone to see, but, being distracted with the more pressing job of pouring m&ms on my popcorn, I didn’t pay much attention. This time around, I was fully present, and with emotions ripened by pandemic stress, my eyes quickly welled up with tears. I recognized the metaphor in the story of Bao, a beautiful rendition of the inevitable transition from childhood to adulthood. Bao, once lovingly attached to their mother, eventually grows up, pushing boundaries tentatively at first, then enacting a full-out rebellion, finally fleeing the safety nest of home in quest of independence. With this new perspective, I appreciated the parallel to my own life held within Bao’s story. My child still adores me and craves time together, but I know that ultimately, one day, he will leave, ready to spread his wings and fly. I accept and encourage this passage, yet my heart can’t help but ache in silent trepidation over the changing dynamic that is motherhood.
A Lasting Moment to Savor
After the film, my son found a recipe for bao buns (courtesy of Pixar) and asked if we could make them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2DbCilk8oA.
I was over the moon to share this cooking experience with Brody, plus it was a fun way to encourage him to eat something new. After gathering the necessary items, we measured out each ingredient, letting the dough rise in our pantry while we mixed together pork and cabbage filling. Brody helped eagerly with each step of the dumplings’ construction, a process that was easy to follow, but time-consuming. I relished each moment of the bao-making process with my son, contentedly rolling out dumpling after dumpling while he scooped small rounds of filling into each. We steamed batches of bao in a bamboo basket specifically purchased for this purpose. The finished product was delicious, a hit with everyone (the recipe yields 30-40 jumbo-sized dumplings).
More than a mere culinary adventure, this day spent in the kitchen with my son was a precious moment in time I will savor for many years. I know the day will come when I find myself navigating an empty nest of my own, and this memory will carry me through.
Fun in the Sun
Written by Jennifer Mandato, MA LAC
Let’s face it, 2020 has been a whirlwind of events and emotions. Most of us are reaching the point of the year where we have become just a little stir crazy sitting in our homes. Our kids have been home for months with everything being closed and not much besides their screens to occupy them. As we are in the heat of summer we are seeing more things open up, giving us a few more activity options we can do with our kids safely. Below are just a few ways to enjoy some family fun this summer into fall. As always, safety first! Remember your masks, hand sanitizer, wipes and maintain social distancing!
Enjoy your local parks
Local recreational parks as well as county parks are now open where you and your family can enjoy the outdoors at a safe distance.
Discover a new hiking trail. This could also be another opportunity for family conversation either while walking or while having lunch in the park. Here is a resource to help locate trails in your area: https://njtrails.org/
Have a daily family walk. This is a great opportunity to talk about everyone’s day.
Take a family bike ride
Have a family picnic in the park.
Explore local farms
Many area farms have pick your own seasonal fruits and vegetables. Their websites allow you to make reservations to purchase tickets in advance. This allows them to limit the number of families they have at their farms at one time. You can then take these items home and prepare these foods with your kids in the kitchen.
Create in your own backyard
While it is not always possible to bring your kids out to engage in activities every day, they always have access to their yard. I have noticed in my neighborhood kids having front yard social distance picnics with friends or create obstacle courses around their house. These allow your kids to be social, active and safe. Plan a campout on a clear night and observe the stars and tell stories. Don’t be afraid to get messy in those rainy day puddles! Plant a garden for your children to tend to and watch grow. Plan a family game day tournament.
Whatever it may be that your family enjoys, take this time to savor every minute!
Join Kathy & Sarah Mulcahyof Oliver’s Nannies, Dr. Liz Matheis of Psychological & Educational Consulting, LLC, & Dr. Nick Matarazzo in a discussion regarding maintaining child wellness during COVID-19.
Welcome to our practice! We are happy you are interested in learning more about Psychological & Educational Consulting. We are a group practice specializing in the child, adolescent, and young adult with special needs, and their family. Watch the video below to find out more!
Conscious Parenting: Staying Sane Through COVID-19 Summer
Dr. Liz Matheis, and Samantha Feiner and Casey Schmalaker of New Frontiers Executive Functioning Coaching discuss conscious parenting and ways to get through COVID-19 summer with sanity.
Students with learning disabilities often have trouble with study skills like getting and staying organized—a crucial executive function skill—and remembering what needs to happen and when. We have researched and/or tested the following apps, and found them especially helpful. We know that every person has slightly different needs, but it’s worth taking the time to find out which apps work for your child.
Here are some apps that may be helpful to you and your family:
This app is a great for students, teachers and parents. It helps you stay on track by scheduling your appointments and reminding you of deadlines. Its features may be more intuitive for high school and college students.
Nicholas Campestre, LCSW is a Certified NJ School Social Worker with over 20 years experience working with adolescents, young adults and their families. Nick’s experience includes being the Coordinator of School Based Youth Services for a public school district and the Coordinator of Adolescent Partial Care at a major medical center. He provides group, individual and family counseling to address a myriad of challenges that adolescents and young adults face, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, autism, and behavioral issues.
Contact Nick: NCampestre@psychedconsult.com