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Breaking it Down for You and Your child with ADHD

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Let’s be honest, the diagnosis of ADHD has been around for over 40 years. We know what ADHD looks like, and may know a handful of children that “appear” to have symptoms. Twice as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls. While 1in 50 children may be struggling with ADHD. What do children face? Here are a few items:

  • Gets distracted easily
  • Impulsive
  • Difficulty in School
  • Coordination challenges
  • Self Centered Behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention Demanding Behavior
  • Emotional challenges
  • Difficulty following through

While this list feels overwhelming to parents, let’s remember they are “challenges” and they are significant in every setting for the child.

How do we help? Let’s Break In Down!

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‘Help Your Child Thrive in School and Beyond’ – National School Psychology Awareness Week 2015

SCHOOL KIDS

This week happens to be National School Psychology Awareness Week. In an effort to promote our profession and  provide an understanding of what it is that we do – because it seems to be ever evolving, changing, and growing –  each year the national association designates a week in November to present a message to the public about school psychology.

Helping Students and Families Connect the Dots and Thrive in School and Beyond.

School psychologists are trained to support and help students build their strengths, skills and abilities and realize their goals. Specifically, we have the expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children  and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. We help students build upon their strengths, skills, interests, and abilities to ‘connect the dots’ and thrive. This includes helping them identify and plan ways to accomplish short and long term goals, building better relationships, and finding ways to keep going even when things get tough.

As many in our community may wrestle with high emotion and confusing thoughts and opinions related to incredibly important matters of faith, family, belief, and hope for the future, being accepting and loving towards everyone, even those that are very different from us, while challenging, may be more important than ever. Kids in school, especially as they get older, become notoriously peer focused! Who is getting the A? Who has the coolest phone? Who does the teacher call on the most? Who got asked to the dance? Etc. Etc. Supporting our kids to be true to themselves, yet accepting of others can be such a difficult task.

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Social Skills: Let’s Teach Them !

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As this school year wraps up, most students and parents will eagerly, or  for some anxiously, wait for report cards. Progress in reading, math, writing, physical education and perhaps, depending on your district or structure of your school, aspects of learning such as ‘motivation’ or ‘character’ will be indicated somewhere on the document. However, do you know how your child is functioning regarding social skills? Does it really matter?

Research in education today signals a resounding yes. In generations past, children acquired these skills almost exclusively at home and within their families. With increasing negative societal influences and various sources of stress bombarding so many of us, it’s hard for parents to go it alone. Schools can often be an important partner with parents to provide positive social skills development. Yet, what can you do if your child doesn’t seem to be interacting socially in age appropriate ways?

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A Fresh Outlook in The New Year

Wasatch Family TherapyTo be honest, I’ve long abandoned the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Being born with a brain that’s wired for a short attention span and lacking in organizational skills, I am challenged by simple tasks which I resolve to complete on a daily basis: being sure I arrive at appointments on time, having gas in my car, and did I remember to bring my iPad? Additionally, my brain is now deficit in attention and almost 50.   The determination, willpower and stamina involved (or so I would imagine)  in ‘sticking to’ resolutions made on January 1 come January 10th, or 20th or (wow! is it possible!) into February is mind boggling to me. Like space traveling; I know incredible human beings make it happen all the time; how they do so is a true wonderment to me.

For myself, and for some of the rest of us, I would like to propose a change in focus this year, and one that I have come to find very useful. Resolve to focus more on the present and live each day to the fullest.  I could resolve , on January 5th, to exercise for 40 minutes every morning; but how can I know how I’ll be feeling on the morning of January 6th or January 12th? Resolve to live each day in the moment.  Attempting to pre-determine your action/behavior on some future date can be limiting and is often a set-up for failure. I have come to learn that I don’t have to make grand statements or decisions about the future; I choose to focus on the present and live life as it occurring. Taking action based on the here and now, in the present, is empowering. It takes practice for sure and can be scary to think about, but that’s the beauty inherent in the approach. You don’t have to think about it!

Next, consider some of the values that are important to you and then ask yourself,  if someone were to spy on me for a few days, would they be able to identify them? For example, some potential areas might be: having a job and money; loving and being loved; making my own decisions; self-respect; freedom; having no legal problems; good health; religion & spirituality; family; good friends. Let’s say my top two are ‘good health’ and ‘family.’ The spy follows me for 3 days. What he observes is: I eat junk food, I lay on my couch, my mom calls me repeatedly and I refuse to pick up the phone. In this  case, clearly, while I am identifying good health and family as the two most important values in my life, my behavior clearly is NOT in line with what is most important to me.

So, why suggest this exercise?

When we act in ways that are contrary to our core beliefs or values, our emotional systems will often act up in one way or another.  We may begin to feel like something is ‘just not right’  though we’re not exactly sure why or what’s wrong.  At times. we lose sight of the things we truly value. Other demands, pressures, stress, or who knows what pulls us to act in ways contrary from the things that are truly important to us.  This simple exercise is a great little tool to use as a reminder. Use it as a self-check in;  am I using my time in ways that align with things that are truly important to me? If not, adjust accordingly.

 

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Fire Child, Water Child – Cowan’s 5 Types of ADHD

canstockphoto13998194Do you feel that you have a fire child? Parents of children identified as suffering from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) sometimes do. They may wish that their child was more identified with the properties of water – seemingly calm and serene.

Dr. Stephen Scott Cowan, in his book “Fire Child, Water Child: How Understanding the 5 types of ADHD can help you improve your child’s self-esteem & attention” encourages parents, as well as practitioners, to view their ADHD-identified child as one of the “five primal powers described in Chinese medicine as Wood, Fire,Earth, Metal, and Water” (p. v). The first line of the introduction in Cowan’s book, “ADHD is a symptom, not a disease,” sets the tone for the remainder of the book.

He explains that caregiver interactions with children identified as ADHD are less successful when they come from a place of fear.  Fear uses words like “something is wrong with my kid,” or “what can you do to fix him/her?” While Cowan admits that the ability to pay attention in class is definitely a problem, he disagrees that it is the problem and it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with a child. He shares how focusing on the problems a child exhibits will bring up feelings of judgment, guilt, and fear for both the child and the caregivers in his or her life. He instead chooses to direct the reader’s attention to what they ultimately want to see the child experience in the school setting: success. He suggests that we can learn to develop a “sense of compassion for the diverse ways in which we engage with the world” and recognize “the qualities each child has to offer” (p. 1)  in attempts to manage the natural gifts of a child’s personality. When we embrace and nurture these natural gifts, they can become strengths that aid in improving focus for the classroom setting.

What are the natural gifts of a child’s personality? Usually these are the behaviors that teachers observe in the school setting that are discussed in parent-teacher conferences and lead to a visit to the pediatrician’s office for a medical assessment. Behaviors such as being always on the move, active, easily frustrated (wood child); overly social, class clown, mood swings, impulsivity (fire child); worried or indecisive when stressed by the environment (earth child); difficulty shifting out of routine or moving from task to task (metal child); daydreaming, easily distracted and hard to keep on task (water child).

Dr. Cowan maps out the path toward improving attention so that children can enjoy school and function effectively at home. He enlists the support and love of parents and caregivers who have control over the home environment to create the first influences that can be shared with other caregivers and teachers to maintain behaviors in the structured school setting.  Dr. Cowan’s goal to educate and empower parents, caregivers, and teachers to understand the ways of holistically viewing their children through the 5 primal elements is clear – when we validate the qualities that children possess, we can bring them in tune with their world and help them learn the self-regulation skills necessary for success.

Whether your child is diagnosed with ADHD or not, the qualities that make them unique can sometimes contribute to struggles in the school setting. Utilizing Cowan’s 5 Types of ADHD may help you learn to embrace these qualities and identify strategies to nurture them to the benefit of your child’s ability to focus. Additional skills for focusing in the classroom can only lead to good things. As we transition into the end of the school year, this summer may be a great time to tune in with your child and create a path for improved focus and success at home as well as school!

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Top 10 Emotional & Mental Health Articles of 2011

  1. How To Stop Overreacting by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  2. How To Do Your Emotional Family History by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  3. How To Ward Off Emotional Vampires by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  4. Tips From Buddy The Elf To Increase Happiness by Haylee Heyn, AMFT
  5. Pack Rats: Why We Hold On To Stuff & How To Let Go by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  6. How Women Can Benefit From Thinking Like A Man by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  7. How To Assess Your Child’s Self-esteem by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  8. Depression, ADHD, Self-injury, and No One Cares by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  9. Is The Obsession Really About Food? by Julie Hanks, LCSW
  10. Battling Summer Depression by Holly Willard, LCSW

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Ask a Therapist: I Feel Stuck in My Own Mind

Q: I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes trying to formulate my thoughts into a paragraph but I can’t do it so I’m just going to list feeling as they come to mind.
1. I feel nothing on a regular basis.  For example if I got a call saying that my mother died, I don’t think I would even cry.
2. I’m irritable beyond belief.  If someone asks me to do something I get pissed for them even asking me.
3.  I’m not suicidal, but I constantly question why I’m living and try to come up with reasons to continue on.
4.  I don’t see people as individuals.  I see everyone as a mammal, which leads me back to number 3.
5.  I want to ask my parents, or anyone for help, but I’m afraid of being laughed at.
6.  I don’t even try to interact with girls.  I’m not homosexual at all, I’m still attracted to girls, but the effort I need to put in to get an outcome is unbalanced.

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Ask a Therapist: Depression, ADHD, Self-injury, & No One Cares

Hello, I am a 16 year old Sophomore in high school. For the past 5 years I have struggled with addiction to self injury, depression and ADHD. My parents refuse too believe anything is wrong with me and every day scream at me and break things as well as insult me about how useless I am and how I am always ruining their lives! My friends all say that I’m amazing and such a good friend but I have a hard time believing them when my OWN parents seem to hate me…My grades have gotten a lot worse because my parents deny that I am ADHD even though my doctor has said I need therapy and medication.

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Ask a Therapist: My Son’s Illness Is Ruining My Life

Q: My son is now 13 and had been diagnosed ED / ADHD since he was 3. I was a single mom the first 4 years of his life, and married when he was four.I now have two other boys, 2 and 4, and my husband and I are struggling to deal with the oldest’s behaviors. It is actually causing me to be very depressed at times and it is straining our marriage. I’m not sure what I can do, to help him and us. I feel like I’m going to literally lose my mind on a daily basis. I end up snapping at everyone or not dealing with normal issues, because I feel so overwhelmed.


My son’s therapist suggested I see someone, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing I need. Help? I’m afraid of losing my son to his illness, my husband because of the difficulties with son, and my sanity in it all.

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Ask A Therapist: Do I Have Adult ADD?

Q: I’m a student receiving my Master’s degree. Within the past two years I’ve felt my body and mind change significantly in many ways. I feel extremely anxious when doing tasks (even small ones like packing/unpacking a suitcase). This is the same with grocery shopping or attempting my homework. I then push everything aside and get nothing done. My habits of cleanliness such as my apartment have declined because I refuse to motivate myself to clean. I’ll find myself in the kitchen then in the bedroom for some reason the randomly in the bathroom, ultimately accomplishing nothing.

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