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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dr. Jonathan Jenkins to Join NESCA in September


August 27, 2014

We are very pleased to announce that Jonathan Jenkins, Psy.D. will join NESCA in September as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Neuropsychology.

A Natick native, Jenkins was a three-time All-Academic Old Dominion Athletic Conference lacrosse player at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., where he studied Health Sciences and Psychology. He holds his Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.) from the University of Denver.

Dr. Jenkins previously served as the Postdoctoral Fellow in Clinical Psychology with a Focus on Autism at The Help Group of Sherman Oaks, California where he engaged in individual psychotherapy and psycho-educational assessment for children and adolescents with cognitive and developmental challenges.

In addition to his responsibilities at NESCA, he will also hold a position at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the Child and Adolescent Outpatient Department, where he will provide psychotherapy and participate as a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty.

Dr. Jenkins recently authored a therapeutic book, “Wednesday Afternoons with Dr. J.,” which chronicles a child’s first interactions with his new therapist so as to help familiarize children with what to expect when in therapy.

 Dr. Jenkins’ past professional clinical work includes his pre-doctoral internship at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, MA, where he provided both psychological assessment and outpatient individual and family psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and adults.

He also completed the prestigious Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship, a program sponsored by UMass Medical School and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center focused on public policy initiatives and advocacy related to those with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Can Mindfulness Help Mothers of Severely Disabled Children?

From Greater Good
The Science of a Meaningful Life

By Summer Allen
August 25, 2014
A new study suggests a way to help the parents of children with autism and other developmental disorders.

Parenting is hard work, but having a child with a severe disability takes an extra toll. Mothers of children with autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders report high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. This, in turn, can negatively impact how they care for their vulnerable children.

Many studies have focused on therapies for the children, but the serious issue of parental stress has been largely overlooked—until now. A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that both mindfulness and positive psychology techniques can reduce mothers’ stress.

 In their study, Elisabeth Dykens and her colleagues randomly assigned 243 mothers to a six-week group treatment program that employed either mindfulness techniques, like deep-belly breathing, or positive psychology exercises designed to foster virtues like gratitude and patience. Trained mentors who also had children with disabilities led the weekly hour-and-a-half sessions.

The mothers completed mental health assessments before, during, and up to six months after the study.

At the beginning of the study, 85 percent of the mothers reported significant stress levels. Many also suffered from mental illness—41 percent had anxiety disorders and 48 percent were clinically depressed. The researchers expected that certain mindfulness and positive psychology techniques would significantly improve their stress levels and mental health; similar interventions have been successful in other group treatment studies.

With the mindfulness group, mentors employed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program to teach mothers breathing, movement, and meditation techniques. Specific techniques included breathing exercises, self-observation without self-evaluation, loving-kindness meditations, and Qigong (gentle movements), among others.

The positive psychology group learned evidence-based techniques that focused on dealing with feelings of guilt, worry, and pessimism, mainly by identifying and developing character strengths, doing exercises designed to foster “gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.

Participants from both groups practiced their techniques as homework and shared how these exercises worked for them with their respective groups.

More on Mindfulness

Both treatments worked. They led to fewer feelings of anxiety and depression and fewer dysfunctional parent-child interactions. On average, mothers slept better and had greater life satisfaction during treatment.

Even better, the mothers either maintained these improvements or continued to improve six months after the group treatment sessions had ended.

But in this study, the mindfulness group showed more immediate improvement than did those in the positive psychology intervention, reporting less anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

The researchers suggest that the greater effects associated with mindfulness techniques may be due to “the immediacy of physiologic relaxation responses incurred in mindfulness practice, including strengthened attention to bodily sensations, and less reliance on rumination or other automatic emotions.”

In contrast, the positive psychology interventions were more cognitively focused and required more time and reflection. However, six months out, the positive psychology group saw greater improvements in life satisfaction and depression compared to the mindfulness group. Because both groups saw such significant improvement, future work will integrate both meditation and positive psychology techniques.

“This study helps bring these mothers into the research limelight and justifies future efforts to promote their well-being and long-term caregiving abilities,” write the authors. Their work shows that a relatively short-term, easy-to-implement group intervention program can having a lasting impact on stress reduction, likely reducing downstream health problems and positively influencing family dynamics.

Could this study have further implications? “This approach meets urgent calls to improve global mental health by training non-specialists to address unmet mental health needs,” they write. Indeed, these techniques could be integrated into basic healthcare for all parents and caregivers—not just mothers and not just those whose children have disabilities.

About The Author

Summer Allen, Ph.D. is a science writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. A graduate of Carleton College and Brown University, Summer now writes for a variety of publications including weekly blog posts for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also very active on twitter: follow her, or just reach out and say hello!

Friday, August 29, 2014

NEW! Saturday Morning Therapeutic Yoga Sessions with Ann-Noelle McCowan, RYT


August 27, 2014

NESCA Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Ann-Noelle McCowan will be offering yoga-based therapy for individuals and small groups on Saturday mornings starting in September. If your children have anxiety, ASD, ADHD or other behavioral self-regulation issues and might benefit, seriously consider enrolling them!

Please call 617-658-9800 for additional details.

Therapeutic yoga uses movement, breathing, mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques to bring children to an awareness of what is happening in their bodies and minds and to provide them with specific tools they can use to regulate themselves. Games, music and other fun yoga-based activities are incorporated to engage children and teach targeted skills.

Many children respond better to the body-based approach used in therapeutic yoga than to traditional talking-based therapies. This approach can be especially powerful for kinesthetic learners and those with language processing difficulties.

Gifted – or Just Privileged?

From GreatSchools.org

By Gail Robinson
August 25, 2014

Some say gifted kids are a national asset – others argue they’re just the rich kids getting spoiled. Where do you stand?

Since her oldest daughter started kindergarten, Jennifer Glover’s* life has revolved around finding suitable schools for her two gifted children, Lauren, 15, and Emma, 10. She saw them get easy A's with almost no effort, she moved them to different schools, she confronted teachers, she watched as her daughters struggled to make friends in schools filled with less atypical kids. At one point, Jennifer quit her job as a social worker just so she could take Emma to school in a different district.

While the pursuit of positive educational experiences for unchallenged children like Glover’s are taking place in communities across the country, the plight of the gifted child is still a battleground of opinions. With no agreed upon standard or definition for giftedness parents, educators, and politicians debate whether gifted children need special programs or whether the very idea, particularly in a time of tight resources for public education, smacks of elitism.

Myth: The Gifted Kids are Alright

According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), the number one myth about the gifted is that highly intelligent students don’t need extra help. "There's an assumption … that gifted children left to their own devices will rise to the top,” says Mariam Willis, NAGC parent outreach coordinator, “and that is absolutely, positively not what happens."

Because gifted students learn quickly or are already ahead of the curriculum, says Willis, “their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits." And though no one has precise figures, an estimated 5 percent of gifted children drop out of school.

Failing to meet the needs of gifted children, some argue, hurts us all. "The gifted are our country's most neglected resource," says Joan Franklin Smutny, founder and director of the Center for the Gifted in Glenview, IL. "These kids need to be challenged; they need creative activities, strategies, materials."

Raising Expectations, Without Tracking

But some education experts suggest the solution isn’t creating new programs for gifted children, but raising the bar for all students."If schools had higher standards and were more challenging, you wouldn't need [special programs]" — at least not for moderately gifted children, says Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College.

In New York City, some parents of gifted children agree. A number of the city's best public elementary schools do not offer gifted programs, yet many parents choose these top schools for their gifted children. Back in Northern California, Jennifer has high praise for a charter — not designated as a gifted school — where both her daughters ended up. The school serves only fifth and sixth grades, and all the teachers have been trained on offering differentiated learning. They provide the depth and complexity Jennifer found lacking at her local district school.

Only for the Affluent?

The entire gifted industry has come under fire as a bastion of elitism and privileged helicopter mothers gone wild. The makeup of gifted programs only fuels such charges. While 8 percent of white students and 13 percent of Asian students were in public school gifted programs in 2006, only 3.6 percent of blacks and 4.2 percent of Hispanics were.

Tests to assess giftedness come in for even more criticism, often because tutoring programs — like the $1,300 tutoring "boot camp" that preps 4- and 5-year-olds for New York City public schools' gifted program admissions test — are beyond most family budgets. In fall 2012, the city announced plans to change its test program to try to make it more equitable, but few expect it to work. As soon as the new program was announced, parents went into a frenzy, enrolling in test prep programs and buying test prep booklets for the new exam, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Indeed, many experts question the value of such early screening. "I do not recommend testing very young children," child clinical psychologist Deirdre V. Lovecky, director of the Gifted Resource Center of New England and a panelist for the Davidson Institute for Talent Development has written. "Under about age 4-and-a-half, scores are exceptionally unreliable... Some kids are just too immature to assess at all."

Overusing the G Word

Although experts believe only 2 to 5 percent of the population is gifted, seven states placed more than 10 percent of their students in gifted programs in 2006. In affluent Montgomery County, MD, about 60 percent of white and Asian students qualified for gifted programs, according to the Montgomery County Education Forum, but only about one fifth of all black and Hispanic students did (though that’s still a staggeringly high percentage compared to 2 to 5 percent).

The Montgomery County Education Forum is seeking to stop labeling students “gifted” before third grade. Instead, they want more rigorous learning for all students. "Our philosophy is to make every school a high quality school," says Ana Sol Gutierrez, a former school board member who now serves in the Maryland House of Delegates. "You recognize low-income kids are coming in with a disadvantage … and help them catch up. … We don’t deny that there's a difference, but we want to provide rigor and challenge for all students."

Some areas are like Lake Wobegon, where all children are above average. As Devra Renner, coauthor of Mommy Guilt, wrote "The word 'good' is like the new 'bad.' Why settle for even 'smart' when you could instead call your child 'gifted'?"

Other Kids Left in the Cold

Controversy also stems from the process by which school districts determine giftedness. Many rely entirely or in part on an IQ test, but experts caution that many tests for giftedness have serious limitations. At best, they provide a snapshot — a rather fuzzy snapshot at that — of the child on the day of the test. Most tests do not measure artistic or social abilities and may give short shrift to a child with extraordinary math abilities, but ordinary talents in other areas.

In addition to tests, schools may use classroom observations, grades, and samples of work. The more subjective judgments can lead to biases — a teacher may not consider a child who constantly acts out or one who does not speak fluent English gifted, regardless of how smart she is.
No standard approach

Even for those parents and educators who find value in the gifted label, the current system leaves a lot to be desired. Many schools lack programs for gifted students and when they do exist, they vary widely in quality. The majority of states do not have a full-time person working on education for the gifted; and twenty-four states require no specific training to teach in gifted programs, according to the National Association for Gifted Children. Twenty states don’t bother to monitor gifted programs.

And the classes themselves, according to the association’s 2010-2011 State of the States report, represent "a crazy quilt collections of services and inconsistency from district to district and even school house to school house."

No one model has emerged as the standard for gifted education. As a result, parents find their choices limited by what is available in their community and their own resources. But finding the right program — whatever it is labeled — does make a difference, parents say.

Jennifer Glover quickly saw the change once she put Emma in the charter school. "All of a sudden, my child is thriving academically and socially. She's finding kids who are in the same mindset," she says. Emma's classmates at the public school considered her a "weirdo" for playing the cello, Jennifer says – but at her new school, there are many "highly imaginative, quirky" kids with similar interests. "Every day, I could almost cry seeing the welcoming committee of her friends."

*The family's names have been changed.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

50 Apps for the New School Year

From eSchool News

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor

August 11, 2014

Apps for productivity, travel, geography, and more can help teachers and libraries use and share new resources.

As some schools welcome students back and as others gear up to do the same after Labor Day, teachers and librarians have a chance to become familiar with apps to help their productivity and increase the resources they’re able to share with students.

In many cases, apps intended for personal use help educators stay organized, manage expenses and tasks that are associated with school, and more. And when students use a wide variety of apps, their knowledge increases, as do the skills they’ll use in college and the workforce.

Not all schools have one-to-one programs or are ready to implement such programs, but because mobile devices are so prevalent among today’s educators and students, apps are some of the most impactful and easy-to-access tools, said Michelle Luhtala, head librarian at New Canaan High School in CT.

“We’re not all ready to launch into one-to-one, and not every school is ready for one-to-one,” Luhtala said during an edWeb presentation. “But with testing, more schools are looking at one-to-one, or certainly more mobile technology, because testing is going to be computer-based, and we’re scrambling to come up with resources to meet those needs.”

She said that often, schools launch mobile technology but don’t necessarily follow up with training for teachers.

“[Here is an] opportunity for you to take the device you have today and start thinking about it as a computer,” she said, noting that the majority of people have access to smartphones.

Luhtala reviewed 50 apps that can help teachers and librarians organize materials, locate information and resources, and more. Her entire presentation is available here, and resources found in that presentation are available here (free registration is required in both cases).

Twenty-two apps are included below, and you can locate the rest via the two links above.


Airdrop: Users receive a notification that someone wants to share something, they accept, and the resource is shared wirelessly.

Airplay: A neat AirPlay function is mirroring, in which users can take what they do on their phone and display it on a computer. If you add that with a screencasting tool, Luhtala said, you have fabulous tutorials that you’ve made on your phone.


Google Sheets (iOS and Android): Create, edit, and collaborate with others on spreadsheets from your device with the free Google Sheets app.

OneReceipt: Store receipts in the cloud, automatically pull in eReceipts, organize spending, and scan receipts to enter electronically. A useful tool for teachers to keep track of school spending, and a nice way for students to learn about budgeting.

Information Management

Feedly (iOS and Android): Feedly is an RSS news reader re-imagined for mobile devices. It makes browsing faster and more fun: the content of your rss feeds, news sites and blogs are transformed into pocket-sized cards which load very fast and are easy to browse.

Flipboard: It’s a single place to discover, collect and share the news you care about. Add your favorite social networks, publications and blogs to stay connected to the topics and people closest to you.

News360: News360 is an app that learns what you enjoy and finds stories you’ll like around the web.

Pocket: This app helps people save interesting articles, videos and more from the web for later enjoyment. Once saved to Pocket, the list of content is visible on any device–phone, tablet or computer. It can be viewed while waiting in line, on the couch, during commutes or travel–even offline.

Pearltrees: Pearltrees is a place for your interests. This free app lets you organize, explore and share everything you like. Add web pages, files, photos or notes and organize them naturally. Explore amazing collections that relate to your interests and subscribe to their updates. Access your account anytime and share anything from your computer, mobile and tablet.

LastPass: LastPass is a password management app that saves your passwords and gives you secure access to them from every computer and mobile device. With LastPass, you only remember one password–your LastPass master password. LastPass will fill your logins for you and sync your passwords everywhere you need them.


Google Maps (iOS and Android): The Google Maps app for iPhone and iPad makes navigating your world faster and easier. Find the best spots in town and the information you need to get there.

Museum Finder: This app quickly identifies your location and lets you choose the nearest museum. When you select a listing, you can see the museum’s location on the map, the address, telephone number, and the distance from where you are. You can also call the museum directly by tapping on the phone icon on your iPhone.

World Explorer Gold: With more than 350,000 locations, it’s like having a professional tour guide always by your side. Using the speaker or headphones, listen to explanations about locations and resources. The app also has augmented reality features.

LibAnywhere: The library catalog is now available for your mobile phone! Search, discover, and interact with participating libraries–anywhere you are, right away.

History Pin: This app reveals photos near your current location and allows you to view them layered over the modern scene in front of you. You can also explore collections of some of the best old photos from around the world, wherever you are.

What Was There: This app will detect where you are and show you any historic photographs that were captured nearby, plotted on a map. Switch into Camera view for an augmented reality experience of the history that surrounds you. If you’re at a location where a historic photo was taken, enlarge the photo to full screen mode to use your camera and the on screen fader to transition between past and present.

FieldTrip (iOS and Android): Field Trip can help you learn about everything from local history to the latest and best places to shop, eat, and have fun. You select the local feeds you like and the information pops up on your phone automatically, as you walk next to those places.

Field Trip runs in the background on your phone. When you get close to something interesting, it will notify you and if you have a headset or Bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you.


iStopMotion Remote Camera: iStopMotion Remote Camera allows the use of the camera as a remote camera for iStopMotion running on an iPad (2 or newer, incl. iPad mini) or iStopMotion 3 on a Mac. The remote camera is connected via a WiFi connection.

iTimeLapse Pro: Create stunning time lapse and stop motion videos straight from any iphone, iPod, or iPad 2.

Strip Designer: Use this app to create your own personal comic strips, created on your iPad, iPhone or iPod, using photos from your photo album or iPhone camera.

Fuse: Get photos and videos from your mobile device to your favorite TechSmith desktop products. Import an existing photo or video, or capture something new using the app’s built-in camera. Then, send your video to TechSmith Relay, or use the editing power in Snagit and Camtasia to create custom, shareable content.

Twister: Take photographs, enhanced videos and panoramas in a snap. Watch your iPhone rotate automatically when you put it on a flat surface.

Fantastic Opportunity at MIT for Individuals with Disabilities to Help Design Their Own Custom Assitive Technologies!

From Mass. Institute of Technology

August 25, 2014

"Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology" is an assistive technology design class at MIT that has run since 2011.

We are looking for 10-15 individuals with disabilities who may be interested in working with MIT engineering students as project clients, to create a piece of assistive technology that will improve their quality of life. Some project examples can be found on the class website.

Clients should preferably be:
  • willing to educate students about their life and challenges related to living with a disability 
  • adventurous/willing to try new things 
  • available to meet with students 
  • local (1h away from Cambridge by T) 
Some important details for potential clients:
  • The first client-student meeting will be the week of Sept 22, 2014.
  • The last client-student meeting will be the week of Nov 24, 2014.
  • A team of 2-3 students would likely meet with clients about once a week for 1-2 hours 
  • Students are responsible to coordinate a time to meet with clients.
  • Here is an agreement that details the expectations of both students and clients. This would be signed at the first student-client meeting, if everyone is amenable to it.
  • Students usually have mechanical or computer engineering backgrounds.
  • Students have formal labs, lectures and mentoring sessions, outside of client meetings.
  • Although it is rare, there is a possibly that some clients will not be matched with any students. If this happened, clients would be notified by Sept 15, 2014. 
Clickable Web Links
  1. http://courses.csail.mit.edu/PPAT/fall2014/index.h...
  2. http://courses.csail.mit.edu/PPAT/fall2011/handout...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Transitioning a Child with Special Needs from Summer Relaxation to School Routines

From The Washington Post's Blog "On Parenting"

By Mari-Jane Williams
August 22, 2014

Just as parents of kids with autism and other special needs have gotten them used to being on a more relaxed summer schedule, it’s time to head back to school. That means more transitions: New supplies, new clothes, new teachers and sometimes a new school. Parents are also trying to ease their children into earlier bedtimes (and wake-up times) and slowly returning to the structure that the school year brings.

While that structure can be welcome for children with autism and other special needs, transitions are also tough. The anxiety of a new situation, whether it’s a school or just a classroom or teacher, can be overwhelming.

I recently spoke with Piper Phillips, the head of PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families, a group that operates two public special-education day programs in the D.C. area. She shared ways parents can help children with special needs get ready to head back to school:

Take baby steps. Instead of exposing your child to the change all at once, Phillips said, break it down into small pieces so she has more time to adjust. Slowly introduce your child to the new school, teacher or routine. Start by looking at a picture of the outside of the school, then try to find a map of the building online so you can talk about where the classroom is and where she will have lunch. Drive by the school to show her where she will be dropped off each day. Try to arrange a time to visit the school when it’s not crowded, to meet the teacher and see the classroom.

Follow successful outings with a treat, such as a trip for ice cream, so your child will associate the stress-inducing trip with a pleasant result, Phillips said. Try to be matter-of-fact about the whole process. If you make too much of a fuss about it, or talk about the change too much, Phillips said, it can increase the child’s anxiety.

Another option is to create a picture or social story for your child, using photos from the school, of what to expect, Phillips said. The Web site Child-Autism-Parent-Cafe.com offers instructions and free templates to help you build a story to fit your child.

Involve the child in the planning. Children with autism and other disabilities often struggle with executive function skills, or the ability to focus, get organized and manage their time. There’s a lot of planning involved in school, from getting ready and out the door in the morning to getting the homework done in the evenings. There is no one size-fits-all routine or organization system, Phillips said. You have to figure out what works best for you and your child.

Sit down with your child and ask what he needs to be successful, so he’s invested in the schedule and system. That will make him more likely to go along with the plan, Phillips said. Then set up a reward system so if your child gets ready and out of the house on time three or four out of the five days, he gets a treat.

It’s also important to recognize that while certain tasks, whether it’s packing a backpack or turning in homework, come easily to some children, they are much more challenging for others. Take that into account when you are setting expectations and defining success in meeting them, Phillips said.

When it comes to homework, ask your child if he wants you to set a timer for breaks, or just give verbal warnings, Phillips said. Some kids respond well to timers; others find them very stressful.

Take care of yourself, too. It’s easy to lose sight of yourself in the shuffle to get everyone else taken care of, but if you don’t do it, no one else will, Phillips said. So while you’re thinking about what your child needs to get ready for school, think about what you need, and treat yourself well.

“You’re going through this and you have the extra burden of working with a child who is not as flexible about schedule changes,” Phillips said. So it’s important to know your limitations and what triggers your frustration.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed yourself, ask for help from your spouse, partner, family or friends, and take a break. Or seek help from a professional who can help you or your child better cope with the stress.

You might also like:

Special Education Advocacy Training: FCSN Parent Consultant Training Institute

From FCSN.org
The Federation for Children with Special Needs

August 19, 2014

Are you interested in learning more about special education law and process? Have you ever thought about how you can brush up on your special education advocacy skills? The Federation for Children with Special Needs will be offering several sessions of its popular Parent Consultant Training Institute program during this upcoming school year.

This program is an 8 week course that covers a wide range of special education related topics including special education law and process, understanding the IEP form, writing measurable IEP goals, assessments and evaluations, 504 plans, school discipline, CBHI services, supporting students with complex healthcare needs, basic advocacy skills, dispute resolution options and more!

Workshops are presented by Federation staff members, distinguished attorneys and other professionals, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA).

If you are interested in learning more about this exciting opportunity you can visit the Federation’s website at http://fcsn.org/pti/advocacy/become_a_parent_consultant.php, or contact Laura Yellick at lyellick@fcsn.org.

Registrations for the fall sessions being held in Boston and Dalton, MA are being accepted now!

Boston Fall, 2014 Location

Federation for Children with Special Needs
529 Main Street, Suite 1M3
Boston, MA 02129
Time: 9:30 - 3:30 each day
Session Dates: Thursdays (October 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th, November 6th, 13th, 20th and December 4th)

Dalton Fall, 2014

Location: Berkshire County Arc
65 Depot Street
Dalton, MA 01226
Time: 9:00 - 4:00 each day
Session Dates: Mondays (September 29th, October 6th, 20th, 27th and November 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th)

Boston Winter, 2015

Location: Federation for Children with Special Needs
529 Main Street, Suite 1M3
Boston, MA 02129
Time: 9:30 - 3:30 each day
Session Dates: Tuesdays (January 27th, February 3rd, 10th, 24th, March 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th)

Western MA Spring, 2015

Location: TBA
Time: TBA
Session Dates: Tuesdays (April 7th, 14th, 28th, May 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th and June 2nd)

Summer, 2015

Location: TBA
Time: 8:30 - 4:30 each day
Dates: Monday - Friday ( June 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th)

For additional information, please contact Laura Yellick, PTIC Training Coordinator at the Federation for Children with Special Needs, by calling 617-399-8315 or email to lyellick@fcsn.org.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back-to-School: Four Sticky Situations…and How to Handle Them

From NCLD.org
The National Center for Learning Disabilities

August 22, 2014

You and your child are gearing up for (or have just started) the new school year, and it’s probably an exciting but somewhat anxiety-ridden time for both of you. Rest assured that this is true for most families dealing with the challenges of LD.

Certain scenarios can create unusually sticky situations, but you can navigate them if you’re armed with knowledge, a proactive spirit and a can-do attitude.

Here are some examples of sticky situations, as well as steps you can take to create a better outcome for your child:

Concern: Your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) but is in a new school (or simply a new grade level) this year. You’re worried about how well the IEP will make the transition along with your child. Will the new school and/or new teacher honor it?

Take Action: If your child is moving to a new school but you didn’t have a “transition meeting” with your child’s IEP team at the previous school, request a meeting to take place before the start of the school year and no later than the end of the first week of school.

If you’ve moved to a new state, your child’s new school district must provide an education comparable to that of the previous district until a decision is made to adopt your child’s IEP from the previous school district, or to develop and implement a new IEP that meets the applicable requirements pursuant to IDEA and your state’s special education rules.

(Learn more about your child’s rights if you move to a new school in the same state or to a different state.)

Even if your child is moving to the next grade level at the same school—and will have a different teacher—you may be concerned. Academic pressures increase from one grade level to the next, and teachers have different attitudes and approaches to teaching. In this case, be proactive and set up a meeting with the new teacher(s) early in the school year.

Together, you can review your child’s IEP, you can explain what helps your child learn best, and answer any questions the teacher has. Depending on your child’s age, you might include him or her in the meeting. After all, the new teacher will now become a member of your child’s IEP team too!

Concern: Your teenager insists on handling his own IEP meetings and decisions.

Take Action: Your teen’s independent spirit is a good thing since a teen with an IEP should be advocating for his own needs and leaning less on his parents. That said, few teens (with or without disabilities) have enough knowledge and maturity to handle important decisions independent from adult input—particularly from their parents. Try to gain your teen’s trust and convince him that you can help guide him in managing his IEP.

Back-to-School Tips From a Teen With LD

A Florida teen with dyslexia says it pays to be proactive with her teachers from the very beginning of each new school year…because it can help prevent some sticky situations. Here’s how she starts the school year:
  • I write a brief email to all of my teachers the first week of school, explaining that I have dyslexia, what it is, and strategies that will help me succeed in their classes.
  • I arrange to meet with all of my teachers to discuss what I could improve on and what they can do to help me succeed in their classes.
  • I talk to my teachers one-on-one after class about difficulties I’m having understanding the curriculum, asking them to explain things I don’t understand in class.
As a result, she says, “My teachers have told me that doing these things has helped them better understand me, my dyslexia, and how we can work together.”

Concern: Your child is worried about being teased, rejected, and bullied by kids at school. She wants to make friends and stay safe from bullies, but lacks the confidence and social skills to do so.

Take Action: Take your child’s concerns seriously. Children with LD often need extra help learning social skills, just as they need special help with academics. Not only do they miss or misread social cues, they can be easy prey for bullies. If your child expresses social anxiety, learn how to help her develop social skills and be well-informed and proactive in working with your child and her school to prevent bullying.

Concern: Your child attends a private school and has a new teacher who refuses to learn about your child’s LD and how to address it.

Take Action: If you haven’t already done so, put together a packet of information to share with the teacher, including articles like, What are Learning Disabilities?, Learning Disabilities: What They Are, and What They Are Not, and Learning Disabilities: Sorting Fact from Fiction. You might also go to your state’s department of education website and look into the teacher’s certification/endorsements. If you can’t find a teacher’s profile, call the department of education directly and ask to speak to an employee in the Office of Professional Development/Teacher Verification. (Use our Resource Locator to find the contact information for your state department of education.)

Understanding the teacher's training can help you understand where he’s coming from, what you may want to educate him on regarding your child’s needs and how they are best addressed. Before you approach the teacher and school administrators to advocate for your child, make sure you know about special education options for students in private schools.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parenting, Brilliantly

From The Brilliant Report

By Annie Murphy Paul
August 18, 2014

The end of summer is when I finally get to catch up on the reading I've been wanting and meaning to do. In case you missed them, here are the posts I've written for Motherlode, the parenting blog of The New York Times. Happy reading!

Harry Potter Casts A Spell for Tolerance

Parents often seek diversity in their children’s classmates and playmates, and with good reason: The most direct way to discover that members of other groups are people just like us is to spend time learning, playing and talking with them. But there’s an additional, more subtle way of getting the same message across, by cultivating what might be called a diversity of the imagination. We do it whenever we read the Harry Potter novels with our kids. Read more here.

And the Moral of the Story Is . . . Keep It Positive

The slower pace of summer means more time to tell stories to our kids, whether it’s around a campfire or in a car on the long, long trip to our vacation spot. We tell these stories for many reasons: to entertain, to pass the time, to share adventures from our own past. And sometimes we tell stories in order to make a point. Parents, teachers, and other adults have employed moral parables for thousands of years (Aesop’s fables date to the sixth century B.C., and we’re still telling kids who are slow off the mark about the tortoise and the hare).

The lessons of these stories are so clear, their meaning so unambiguous, that we rarely stop to wonder if they’re having the effect we intend. That’s what psychological research is for. Read more here.

We Tell Kids to "Go to Sleep!" We Need to Teach Them Why.

We tell children why it’s important to eat their vegetables. We tell them why they need to get outside and run around. But how often do we parents tell children why it’s important to sleep? “Time for bed!” is usually the end of it, or maybe “You’ll be tired tomorrow.” No wonder children regard sleep as vaguely punitive, an enforced period of dull isolation in a darkened room.

But of course, sleep is so much more, and maybe we ought to try telling children that. Sleep, scientists have discovered, not only restores and renews the body, but it also performs maintenance on the mind. Read more here.

Thirteen in Years, but 10 or 15 in Thoughts and Action

Gather together a random assortment of 13-year-olds, and you’ll likely find yourself looking at a group of people who have only their age in common. Some will be way into teenage culture, into hanging out and hooking up, even into alcohol and drugs; others will be little changed from the children they were at 12, 11, even 10 years of age, still singing the songs and playing the games of children.

The wide spread in young people’s rates of social and psychological maturation has led some researchers to propose that we think about adolescents not just in terms of their chronological age, but also their subjective age: how old they feel and act. Read more here.

When the Teacher Is Depressed

The toll that a mother’s or father’s depression takes on children has been well documented: Children of depressed parents may become anxious or withdrawn, may have trouble regulating their emotions or dealing with challenges, and may develop behavior problems or even become depressed themselves.

But mothers and fathers are not the only adults who spend significant time with kids. What happens when the teachers of young children are depressed? That’s what Lieny Jeon, a researcher at Ohio State University, and two O.S.U. colleagues set out to investigate. Read more here.

Reading Experience May Change the Brains of Dyslexic Students

Among the many challenges faced by children with dyslexia (and by their parents and teachers) is the nagging fear that their difficulties with reading are entirely hard-wired: predetermined by their genes and impossible to change. Recent research offers a balm for that fear. It suggests that experience plays a big role in dyslexia, both in exacerbating reading problems and, potentially, in easing them. Read more here.

Kids Need More Structured Playtime, Not Less

Lauren McNamara, an assistant professor of educational psychology at Brock University in Canada, has studied what goes on among children during unstructured playtime. In an article in a scholarly journal documenting her research, she writes:

“There appears to be an assumption that recess is a delightful moment in our children’s day when they are free from their academic restraints to burn pent-up energy, to laugh, and to play. And it is for some, perhaps. But we suspect many of our students are challenged by the lack of structure, the social awkwardness, the conflict, the lack of equipment, and the absence of organized activities."

In interviews, students told her the social struggles they experienced: “Some kids get real aggressive when the teacher is not looking.” “I wish there was less bullying and exclusion.” “We need help out here." Read more here.

The Dumb Jock Stereotype Can Be a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Social scientists know that in research studies, minority and female students appear to be vulnerable to the phenomenon called “stereotype threat.” Aware that the group to which they belong is often stereotyped as intellectually inferior, their anxiety that a poor showing on a test will confirm the stereotype actually depresses their performance on the test, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, new research suggests that stereotype threat is experienced by student-athletes, too. Conscious that they may be regarded by professors or other students as “dumb jocks,” they do less well on a challenging test when they’re reminded of their student-athlete identity beforehand. Read more here.

Students Reading E-Books Are Losing Out, Study Suggests

Could e-books actually get in the way of reading? That was the question explored in research presented last week by Heather Ruetschlin Schugar, an associate professor at West Chester University, and her spouse, Jordan T. Schugar, an instructor at the same institution. Speaking at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Philadelphia, the Schugars reported the results of a study in which they asked middle school students to read either traditional printed books or e-books on iPads. The students’ reading comprehension, the researchers found, was higher when they read conventional books. Read more here.

Research on Children and Math: Underestimated and Unchallenged

We hear a lot about how American students lag behind their international peers academically, especially in subjects like math. In the most recent Program for International Student Assessment, commonly known as PISA, students in the United States ranked 26th out of 34 countries in mathematics.

On the surface, it would seem that we’re a nation of math dullards; simply no good at the subject. But a spate of new research suggests that we may be underestimating our students, especially the youngest ones, in terms of their ability to think about numbers. Read more here.


I love to hear from readers. Please email me at annie@anniemurphypaul.com. You can also visit my website, follow me on Twitter, and join the conversation on Facebook. Be brilliant!

Fall, 2014 After-School Programs at Merrimac Heights Academy

From Merrimack Heights Academy

August 20, 2014

Merrimac Heights Academy has some excellent after-school programming to offer to students aged 12 and over:

Relationship Readiness Class

Ages 16+
$320.00/8 week session
Wednesdays 5:00 - 6:00; starting September 17th

Are you struggling with helping your adolescent deal with their raging hormones? This class will give your child the tools to forge healthy relationships, and to navigate the "dating scene" in socially acceptable ways.

This class will be run by a male and female counselor in order to provide a balanced perspective on healthy relationships.

Social Skills Group

Ages: 12+
$240/6 week session
Tuesdays 5:00-6:15; starting September 9th

Does your child struggle in social situations? This group is for students who wish to enhance their interpersonal skills with both peers and adults. Working to increase social cognition and social skills, this group engages teens with a variety of topics in a safe, supportive and enjoyable atmosphere. This group will be facilitated by a counselor.

Driver's Education

Ages: 15.5+
Cost: TBD
Date and Time: TBD

Driving is a key component in the path to independence. many students with learning differences have difficulty accessing the driver's education program. This class will be co-taught by a driving instructor and a special education teacher at a slower pace with ample repetition to ensure understanding of rules and concepts.

Tutoring/SAT Prep

Ages: All
Cost: Sliding Scale

Tutoring in reading, writing and math is available and scheduled as per the student's needs. Tutors are highly qualified in their area of expertise. Individual and small group sessions for SAT prep will be scheduled in blocks culminating in the SAT exam.

For more information, please contact:

Lygia Soares, Ph.D., Executive Director
102 West Main Street, Merrimac, MA 01860


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back-to-School Anxiety: Going to a New School

From the Mayo Clinic News Network

By Dana Sparks
August 7, 2014

It's back-to-school time and while some children might look forward to returning to the classroom with friends, others can feel anxious. A little anxiety is normal, but sometimes worries might get out of control. That can be especially true for kids who are starting a new school.

Mayo Clinic Children's Center psychiatrist Stephen Whiteside, Ph.D. has some tips on how to help your kids manage back-to-school stress and when you should seek professional help.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School (Already???)


August 9, 2014

In just a few weeks, school will be back in session. The folks at the Federation for Children with Special needs have thoughtfully pulled together some back-to-school resources to help you and your kids get organized and mentally geared up for the new school year. Many thanks!

Advice For Dating With Asperger's: Don't Call 100 Times A Week

From NPR's Health Blog "Shots"

By Nancy Shute
August 9, 2014

You think it's romantic. She thinks it's creepy
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Dating isn't easy, and it's even less so when you've got Asperger's, an autism spectrum disorder that can make it hard to read social cues.

Jesse Saperstein knows that all too well. In his new book, "Getting a Life with Asperger's: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood," the 32-year-old tells his fellows on the spectrum that they need to be up front with potential dates that they have Asperger's. And he says they also need to realize that what feels to them like sincere interest can all too often be perceived as creepiness. This is an edited version of our conversation.

You say that some of the traits common in people with Asperger's can make social life especially challenging. Why is that?

I believe my peers and I, we achieve great things by being unrelenting. We don't know when to stop. We can go after things for years. But that relentlessness does not work with humans and human emotions. In adulthood, that translates to full-blown stalking. Sometimes there are legal consequences that could be avoided when the intent is harmless.

Have you been accused of stalking?

You have no idea. I have definitely been accused of that many times. In college I would try to win people over by giving them long hand-written cards. I continued this into adulthood, but it wasn't considered cute. It was considered disturbing.

What did you do to fix that?

Now, I tell you, 'I have Asperger's, and this is how I communicate. If this bothers you, you just need to tell me so I'll do better in the future.' Ninety-nine percent of the time that works. I sure don't want to miss the people who would love a hand-written card.

The purpose of my book is to help people shave off experiences that cause damage. So they'll know from my experiences that if you call someone 100 times in a week, it may work in the movies but it most likely leads to disaster in reality.

You said online dating was tough to figure out. How so?

It was hard for someone who is not able to let go easily. Online dating is all about letting go, and a lot of hidden signals. You can let go and definitely not get what you want but avoid a lot of consequences.

What kind of consequences?

One of the golden rules is not to invest a lot of money the first or second time you meet someone. I used to think that if I spent a lot of money on a Broadway show or a four-star restaurant it might not make a woman fall in love with me, but it sure would help. That is erroneous.

I think that is one of the things that contributed to my $25,000 credit card debt.

I kind of did it to myself, but at the time it did seem like a really good idea.

How do you deal with rejection?

With dating it does not matter how cruel or sudden the rejection is, when someone demands to be let alone you have to respect that. I'll tell people, contact this person only once a year and see what happens. That may not be appropriate, but it's a lot better than being relentless.

Are you dating someone now?

I'm seeing a woman right now who's a few year younger than me. It's hard due to our very hectic schedules; she's still going to school. What helps is her bringing issues to my attention instead of sitting on them, so I can work through them.

What's the message you want people to remember from your book?

Success with autism or any kind of challenge comes from knowing you have incredible things to offer. Mistakes don't mean you're a loser.

Kids Build Pro-Social Brains Through Play

From KQED's Blog Mind/Shift
How we will learn.

By Jon Hamilton
August 7, 2014

“The function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways.”

Deion Jefferson, 10, and Samuel Jefferson, 7, take turns climbing and
jumping off a stack of old tires at the Berkeley Adventure Playground.

When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.

“The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain,” says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. “And without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed,” he says.

It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis says. So play, he adds, is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.

But to produce this sort of brain development, children need to engage in plenty of so-called free play, Pellis says. No coaches, no umpires, no rule books.

“Whether it’s rough-and-tumble play or two kids deciding to build a sand castle together, the kids themselves have to negotiate, well, what are we going to do in this game? What are the rules we are going to follow?” Pellis says. The brain builds new circuits in the prefrontal cortex to help it navigate these complex social interactions, he says.

Learning from Animals

Much of what scientists know about this process comes from research on animal species that engage in social play. This includes cats, dogs and most other mammals. But Pellis says he has also seen play in some birds, including young magpies that “grab one another and start wrestling on the ground like they were puppies or dogs.”

For a long time, researchers thought this sort of rough-and-tumble play might be a way for young animals to develop skills like hunting or fighting. But studies in the past decade or so suggest that’s not the case. Adult cats, for example, have no trouble killing a mouse even if they are deprived of play as kittens.

Panksepp has studied this process in rats, which love to play and even produce a distinctive sound he has labeled “rat laughter.” When the rats are young, play appears to initiate lasting changes in areas of the brain used for thinking and processing social interactions, Panskepp says.

So, researchers like Jaak Panksepp at Washington State University have come to believe play has a very different purpose:

“The function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways,” Panksepp says.

The changes involve switching certain genes on and off. “We found that play activates the whole neocortex,” he says. “And we found that of the 1,200 genes that we measured, about one-third of them were significantly changed simply by having a half-hour of play.”

Of course, this doesn’t prove that play affects human brains the same way. But there are good reasons to believe it does, Pellis says.

For one thing, he says, play behavior is remarkably similar across species. Rats, monkeys and children all abide by similar rules that require participants to take turns, play fair and not inflict pain. Play also helps both people and animals become more adept socially, Pellis says.

And in people, he says, an added bonus is that the skills associated with play ultimately lead to better grades. In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade was a child’s social skills in third grade.

Another hint that play matters, Pellis says, is that “countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try

From the HuffPost Parents Blog

By Renee Jain
August 6, 2014

As all the kids line up to go to school, your son, Timmy, turns to you and says, "I don't want to take the bus. My stomach hurts. Please don't make me go." You cringe and think, Here we go again. What should be a simple morning routine explodes into a daunting challenge.

You look at Timmy and see genuine terror. You want to comfort him. You want to ease the excessive worry that's become part and parcel of his everyday life. First, you try logic. "Timmy, we walk an extra four blocks to catch this bus because this driver has an accident-free driving record!" He doesn't budge.

You provide reassurance. "I promise you'll be OK. Timmy, look at me... you trust me, right?" Timmy nods. A few seconds later he whispers, "Please don't make me go."

You resort to anger: "Timothy Christopher, you will get on this bus RIGHT NOW, or there will be serious consequences. No iPad for one week!" He looks at you as if you're making him walk the plank. He climbs onto the bus, defeated. You feel terrible.

If any of this sounds familiar, know you are not alone. Most parents would move mountains to ease their child's pain. Parents of kids with anxiety would move planets and stars as well. It hurts to watch your child worry over situations that, frankly, don't seem that scary. Here's the thing: to your child's mind, these situations are genuinely threatening. And even perceived threats can create a real nervous system response. We call this response anxiety and I know it well.

I'd spent the better part of my childhood covering up a persistent, overwhelming feeling of worry until, finally, in my early twenties, I decided to seek out a solution. What I've learned over the last two decades is that many people suffer from debilitating worry.

In fact, 40 million American adults, as well as 1 in 8 children, suffer from anxiety. Many kids miss school, social activities and a good night's rest just from the worried thoughts in their head. Many parents suffer from frustration and a feeling of helplessness when they witness their child in this state day in, day out.

What I also learned is that while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety, there are a plethora of great research-based techniques that can help manage it -- many of which are simple to learn. WAIT! Why didn't my parents know about this? Why didn't I know about it? Why don't they teach these skills in school?

I wish I could go back in time and teach the younger version of myself how to cope, but of course, that's not possible. What is possible is to try to reach as many kids and parents as possible with these coping skills. What is possible is to teach kids how to go beyond just surviving to really finding meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives. To this end, I created an anxiety relief program for kids called GoZen.

Here are 9 ideas straight from GoZen that parents of anxious children can try right away:

1.) Stop Reassuring Your Child

Your child worries. You know there is nothing to worry about, so you say, "Trust me. There's nothing to worry about." Done and done, right? We all wish it were that simple. Why does your reassurance fall on deaf ears? It's actually not the ears causing the issue. Your anxious child desperately wants to listen to you, but the brain won't let it happen.

During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions executed in your body for survival. One by-product is that the prefrontal cortex -- or more logical part of the brain -- gets put on hold while the more automated emotional brain takes over. In other words, it is really hard for your child to think clearly, use logic or even remember how to complete basic tasks. What should you do instead of trying to rationalize the worry away? Try something I call the FEEL method:
  • Freeze -- pause and take some deep breaths with your child. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
  • Empathize -- anxiety is scary. Your child wants to know that you get it.
  • Evaluate -- once your child is calm, it's time to figure out possible solutions.
  • Let Go - Let go of your guilt; you are an amazing parent giving your child the tools to manage their worry.

2.) Highlight Why Worrying is Good

Remember, anxiety is tough enough without a child believing that Something is wrong with me. Many kids even develop anxiety about having anxiety. Teach your kids that worrying does, in fact, have a purpose.

When our ancestors were hunting and gathering food there was danger in the environment, and being worried helped them avoid attacks from the saber-toothed cat lurking in the bush. In modern times, we don't have a need to run from predators, but we are left with an evolutionary imprint that protects us: worry.

Worry is a protection mechanism. Worry rings an alarm in our system and helps us survive danger. Teach your kids that worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us, and everyone experiences it from time to time. Sometimes our system sets off false alarms, but this type of worry (anxiety) can be put in check with some simple techniques.

3.) Bring Your Child's Worry to Life

As you probably know, ignoring anxiety doesn't help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it like a real person can. Create a worry character for your child. In GoZen we created Widdle the Worrier. Widdle personifies anxiety. Widdle lives in the old brain that is responsible for protecting us when we're in danger. Of course, sometimes Widdle gets a little out of control and when that happens, we have to talk some sense into Widdle. You can use this same idea with a stuffed animal or even role-playing at home.

Personifying worry or creating a character has multiple benefits. It can help demystify this scary physical response children experience when they worry. It can reactivate the logical brain, and it's a tool your children can use on their own at any time.

4.) Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective

Remember, worry is the brain's way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we're really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it's accurate thinking. Try a method we call the 3Cs:
  • Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble (like what you see in comic strips). Now, catch one of the worried thoughts like "No one at school likes me."
  • Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Teach your child not to make judgments about what to worry about based only on feelings. Feelings are not facts. (Supporting evidence: "I had a hard time finding someone to sit with at lunch yesterday." Negating evidence: "Sherry and I do homework together--she's a friend of mine.")
  • Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to teach your children to have a debate within themselves.

5.) Allow Them to Worry

As you know, telling your children not to worry won't prevent them from doing so. If your children could simply shove their feelings away, they would. But allowing your children to worry openly, in limited doses, can be helpful. Create a daily ritual called "Worry Time" that lasts 10 to 15 minutes. During this ritual encourage your children to release all their worries in writing. You can make the activity fun by decorating a worry box.

During worry time there are no rules on what constitutes a valid worry -- anything goes. When the time is up, close the box and say good-bye to the worries for the day.

6.) Help Them Go from What If to What Is

You may not know this, but humans are capable of time travel. In fact, mentally we spend a lot of time in the future. For someone experiencing anxiety, this type of mental time travel can exacerbate the worry. A typical time traveler asks what-if questions: "What if I can't open my locker and I miss class?" "What if Suzy doesn't talk to me today?"

Research shows that coming back to the present can help alleviate this tendency. One effective method of doing this is to practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness brings a child from what if to what is. To do this, help your child simply focus on their breath for a few minutes.

7.) Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety

Do your children want to avoid social events, dogs, school, planes or basically any situation that causes anxiety? As a parent, do you help them do so? Of course! This is natural. The flight part of the flight-fight-freeze response urges your children to escape the threatening situation. Unfortunately, in the long run, avoidance makes anxiety worse.

So what's the alternative? Try a method we call laddering. Kids who are able to manage their worry break it down into manageable chunks. Laddering uses this chunking concept and gradual exposure to reach a goal.

Let's say your child is afraid of sitting on the swings in the park. Instead of avoiding this activity, create mini-goals to get closer to the bigger goal (e.g., go to the edge of the park, then walk into the park, go to the swings, and, finally, get on a swing). You can use each step until the exposure becomes too easy; that's when you know it's time to move to the next rung on the ladder.

8.) Help Them Work Through a Checklist

What do trained pilots do when they face an emergency? They don't wing it (no pun intended!); they refer to their emergency checklists. Even with years of training, every pilot works through a checklist because, when in danger, sometimes it's hard to think clearly.

When kids face anxiety they feel the same way. Why not create a checklist so they have a step-by-step method to calm down? What do you want them to do when they first feel anxiety coming on? If breathing helps them, then the first step is to pause and breathe. Next, they can evaluate the situation. In the end, you can create a hard copy checklist for your child to refer to when they feel anxious.

9. Practice Self-Compassion

Watching your child suffer from anxiety can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. There is not one parent that hasn't wondered at one time or another if they are the cause of their child's anxiety. Here's the thing, research shows that anxiety is often the result of multiple factors (i.e., genes, brain physiology, temperament, environmental factors, past traumatic events, etc.). Please keep in mind, you did not cause your child's anxiety, but you can help them overcome it.

Toward the goal of a healthier life for the whole family, practice self-compassion. Remember, you're not alone, and you're not to blame. It's time to let go of debilitating self-criticism and forgive yourself. Love yourself. You are your child's champion.


Watch Renee's video diving deeper into these ideas and other techniques for anxiety relief for children here. Find more of Renee's work and programs at www.gozen.com. Follow Renee Jain on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@renjain