Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a topic that comes up frequently throughout my week; as a school psychologist in an elementary school, teachers often refer students for suspected problems with attention and concentration, hyperactivity, and impulse control difficulties. In my outpatient practice, I’m on the ‘other side’ of this equation, meeting with families often referred from school teams for suspected problems of this nature. Typically, these referrals seem appropriate and everyone is on the same page. Occasionally, the members are not. As in, ‘my child’s teacher told me my child has ADD and needed accommodations! Now what?!’ It gave me pause and consideration for this weeks blog. Just who can and can’t diagnosis ADHD ? What might an assessment for ADHD include? Should school staff be bringing this subject up to parents to begin with? And, is it ADD or ADHD ?
How long has it been since you last “dated” your partner or spouse? I’m not talking about going out to eat or to the cinema, but actually doing some type of activity together to get to know them? If you’re like most couples, you’ve probably succumbed to the requisitions of life like a thriving professional career, the squatters who keep calling you “Mum” or “Dad”, or the pursuit of higher education. Let’s face it, the demands of life are all vying for your precious time and it can be difficult to maintain the balance necessary not to forget your significant other in all of it. Here are three helpful tips to enrich your relationship and remind you of why you chose your sweetheart to accompany you in the beautiful chaos that can be life. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Cindy sat in my office, seeking relief from the intense psychological anguish that she had been experiencing for the several months since having survived a fatal head on collision with an SUV. The driver of the other vehicle was intoxicated, swerved into Cindy’s lane of traffic and impacted her vehicle head on. That driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Since that time, Cindy had been experiencing insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks and difficulty functioning – classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
From a neurological stand point, her brain was essentially “stuck” in a primitive survival mechanism known as “fight or flight” – a protective measure that is designed to identify a dangerous situation and put the entire system on the defense at warp speed, all in an effort to ward off any threat to survival. Fight or flight is a mode of defense that operates on a “better safe than sorry” mentality. In Cindy’s case, even though the threat to her safety had ended months ago, her system was still stuck in that defensive posture “just in case” the threat, or anything like unto it, resurfaced. Although Cindy understood on a rational level that the threat had long since passed, her neurology was reluctant to let it’s guard down in the event that there was a mistake and the danger had not really passed. Scenes from the event were relived again and again in her mind because literally that memory had been loaded into her neurological network in a manner that caused the rewind button to be continuously pushed by anything in her environment that even slightly resembled the near fatal accident – riding in a moving vehicle, the sound of a car’s engine, sirens in the distance, flashing lights, etc….
“We need to talk.” These are possibly the most frightening words for a man to hear, but the most exciting for a woman!
Research has been done into the phenomenon: Why is this four word phrase is so difficult for men? The findings are actually quite interesting. This phrase triggers the fight or flight response in a man’s brain. Essentially, it signals DANGER! More specifically, “what have I done wrong this time?” Or, “how have I failed as a husband?” Women may think this is a little dramatic or hyperbole, but it is merely a physiological response.
This is the same reaction that a father would have when he finds out that one of his children is in danger, or there is a problem that needs to be solved at work. Metaphorically, a man is gearing up for battle when there is a perceived problem and they are wired to go and conquer the enemy. So, it becomes more understandable, that if a man can’t go and fight the problem that is presented by his wife, he will at least want to give suggestions and advice so that his wife can.
5 Tips for creating emotional security and safety for your children when they are away from home.
It is often discussed how to create a loving home that encompasses safety, love, and security. We validate, empower and create open dialogue, encouraging our children to have voices amongst other things. However, the world and especially school environments can be very different from home. There are different elements to consider and prepare for to assist in creating a feeling of safety and emotional security for our children while in these environments outside of home.
Prepare your children for various encounters, The world can be a tricky place to navigate. Even for adults, we encounter social situations that can be tough to navigate, and know how to react. Helping your children to understand the various encounters they may have while outside your home can help reduce anxiety, and prepare them to handle these encounters with confidence. How to interact with the bus driver, the teacher who may scold you, the children in the class who may have buddied up, the adults at church that say hello, are all wonderful encounters to prepare your child for. Help them with ideas for these types of scenarios based on your families ideals and personal values.
Role Play. Don’t let the classic “What would you do if?” questions disappear into he closet with your past! These are still present and relevant questions to present to your child. What would do if you were left out at school? What would you do if you were being treated unkindly? What would you do if you saw someone being unkind? Role play situations like these and others with your child. It will not guarantee your child handles every situation perfectly, but it will offer them some experience and ideas to better handle situations that may present themselves when they are away from home.
The way you talk to yourself matters. The thoughts we indulge in dictate how we feel. When your mind is spinning in negative self-talk and pessimistic views of life events, it makes perfect sense that you would feel defeated, depressed, or anxious. Trouble is, negative or critical thinking is a powerful habit that feels to happen TO us. That is actually not true, we have power over what we think. But, the thoughts can become automatic and difficult to avoid when it’s been our way of viewing the world for a long time. It’s often been taught to us in our family of origin since we were very little, and we may not have ever known how to have a positive or optimistic thought!
But research has shown again and again that happy people have inner dialogues that are optimistic and self-compassionate, even in difficult or embarrassing circumstances. Research has also shown that we have power to improve the quality of our thoughts. I believe it is a fight worth under-taking. It is never to late to work on your thinking and improve your base level of happiness day to day.
We can pretend our painful feelings don’t exist. We can ignore them. And so many of us do, because we think that this will soften the blow. This will help us bypass the discomfort of our hurt, sorrow, agony, anger, anxiety. We assume the feelings will just go away (and they might, but only temporarily).
Click the link below to read what Monette Cash, LCSW has to say about handling painful emotions.
Having been in school about 2 and 1/2 months, my mailbox at school is getting busier with referrals. As the school psychologist in an elementary building, there’s been ample time for teachers to identify concerning students, try individualized interventions, and monitor their progress. For some of those students who are still struggling, it’s time for including the school psychologist for some discussion with the parents: should we be considering testing?
How and when should parents and teachers begin to consider a child for testing?
What should you expect if you decide to move forward with testing?
As my well trained teachers know, lack of sufficient growth to grade level instruction can be an early indication, along with insufficient rate of growth despite individualized intervention. Because of changes in the law that governs special education and testing, most school districts require some period of intensive, individualized interventions either prior to testing or as part of the evaluation. This is called ‘response to intervention’ or R.T.I.Throughout this time period, the expectation is that the student’s response to the intervention (progress) is monitored and documented. This is an important concept to keep in mind and to consider prior to initiating the testing process or, at the very least, to understand once testing is underway.
Fall time is upon us! There are so many things that make fall a great time of year. The food, the smells, and the holidays are all things to look forward to. However fall also marks a difficult time for many people. Our days become shorter, which mean we do not have as many daylight hours. For some this transition only marks the beginning of a season change, while for others it marks a significant change in their mood.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is a common problem that numerous people struggle with. Many people have symptom onset in the spring time, however the majority of people notice their symptoms start in the fall and continue through the winter months. Researchers speculate that the lack of sunlight during these months cause a change in important chemicals like melatonin and serotonin that affect our mood, appetite, and sleep. As a result we become more likely to exhibit depression like symptoms during months where we do not receive enough sunlight to regulate these chemicals.
Shame has been a popular psychotherapy topic in social media lately and due to its fame it is frequently on my mind. Today I’ve been thinking specifically about shame-based families and how this toxic feeling is often handed down through generations.
Shame can be passed through a family in myriad ways. A common path is for it to travel through family rules. With some prompting, maybe you can recall some of your family’s rules. What rules did your family have about touching and sexuality? What were the rules regarding marriage, money, vacations, religion, socializing…?
In John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You he outlines 7 rules that are maintained by shame-based families.