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New Year, New Year’s Resolutions?

As the new year dawned earlier this week, many of us used it as a time to reflect on 2018 and make resolutions for what we want to change in the coming year. Maybe we want to lose some holiday weight, get a better grip on our finances, improve ourselves by learning something new, or change our career/life path. Admittedly, all admirable aspirations (as demonstrated by the fact that these are a few of the most common resolutions…year after year). However, as the shininess of the new year starts to wear off and the doldrums of February start to set in, we lose motivation and nearly 80% of us that made resolutions will have given up, according to U.S. News and World Reports. Yep, 80% will have thrown in the towel by Valentine’s Day! Then why do we keep making New Year’s resolutions year after year and how can we be part of the 20% that makes it past the middle of February?

The connotation of the word resolution is negative to a lot of people, something to be solved or fix. Thus, how many of us are looking at our resolutions as a way of fixing something that we perceive is broken about us? Instead of highlighting the potential for growth and positive change we are starting out focusing on the negatives that we see in ourselves. Whereas the word goal has a much more positive connotation, it’s defined by Oxford’s dictionary as an aim or an object of person’s ambition or effort. A goal is something that we work towards, we aim to achieve unlike a resolution that is putting an end to a problem. Funny how our minds can differentiate subconsciously, and our reactions are influenced by the distinction. How can we make goals that we can stick with for longer than six weeks? Breaking them down into smaller, more manageable goals that allow us to feel successful. That’s right, setting yourself up for success can be key to achieving your goals. Let’s break down one of the more common resolutions of “being healthier”.

Not too General- the goal needs to be specific, “being healthier” is rather vague and ambiguous. State your intent in more specific terms, “I want to be healthier by eating more vegetables.”

Objective- the goal needs to be measurable and trackable. In our example, the word “more” can be construed as subjective. More as compared to what exactly? We can refine the goal further to make it easier to quantify and measure, “5 servings of vegetables a day”.

Achievable- remember we are setting ourselves up for success with our goals, we want to meet them, so we must make sure we are setting reasonable expectations. What if you hate vegetables and never eat them outside of french fries? Is our goal of 5 servings of vegetables a day attainable? Maybe, maybe not. You can refine the goal even further to make it more manageable, “Eat 1 serving of vegetables with lunch and 2 servings with dinner.” Remember if you feel successful you are more likely to be motivated to continue expanding and working toward higher goals.

Lifetime/Lifestyle- is the goal something that you can continue doing indefinitely? Maybe for the rest of your life? Lasting change is about creating new processes of how we think, feel, and react to stimuli so if we have a “diet” mindset then we are constantly looking forward to being done with the “diet”.

By breaking down goals into manageable pieces we are telling ourselves that we want to be successful and that we can do the things that we set our minds to. Start 2019 by setting a goal to ditch the resolutions of the past and succeed in achieving your goals for the future. Happy goal setting!

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Testing Students for a Learning Disability

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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.

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