Archive for September, 2011

Difficult Teenagers: How to Motivate & Understand Them

September 30th, 2011

Guest Article by Dee Mason

‘I don’t know what to do with this kid. He’s got to go!’ This was my introduction to Matthew, a difficult teenager who was driving his teachers mad. No one could cope with him and almost all of his teacher/pupil relationships had broken down. When he wasn’t chatting he was distracted. His lies were works of art. He was likeable, with blonde spiky hair and vivid blue eyes, full of intelligence and guile. He seemed more mature than the other seventeen year olds. He didn’t have an agenda; he just tried to get through every day by lying, ducking and diving, doing the minimum to stay on the course and the maximum to fuel his enjoyment of life.

My Job
My job at that time was to take on the most difficult teenagers in the college, befriend them, and help them be successful. I knew it would be a challenge, and I was up for it. I came to see that these students were Mavericks and they respond well to slightly maverick solutions!

My Room, My Rules
I had very, very few rules.
Rule One: No Sniffing
I provided tissues. “Arrrrgh….I can’t stand it!” I’d say, handing them the box. This was a) true but b) I came to understand that it was also an act of ‘mothering’ that the teens didn’t mind at all. I realized that teenagers are still very much living with one foot in their childhood. The ones that were failing just needed a little more time to move on. I brought in bags of sweets often. They loved to feel they were special and a little bit spoiled. After all, everyone else in the school was shouting at them. These small acts of mothering seemed to give them a feeling of security and helped build trust.

Rule Two: Right! Work now!
I always let my growing band of outlaws chat away about their issues for a while. We talked about boyfriends, and parent’s divorces, and peer bullying. But there was always a moment in their hour and a half session time when I would say ‘Ok, time for work! Half an hour. Go!’ Because they had been able to talk and relax they never seemed to mind. After half and hour (or longer if they were happy to continue) we broke and chatted again. It worked well, and slowly their grades crept up.

Rule Three: Working In Silence

This was really important. Kids seem to be bombarded with noise all the time. I failed to see how it could help easily distracted teenagers in this crucial period of their education. I did not allow iPods. I wanted concentration. Peace. Silence. It worked like a charm. It was such a novelty to these children to spend half an hour with their own thoughts. “I got more done in the last hour than I did in the whole of last week!” Often they came from chaotic homes where they were forced to do homework in the corner of a living room surrounded by piles of baby clothes and magazines, with TV and younger siblings all vying for their attention. I truly believe that experiencing silence and focused concentration showed them something they did not know they were capable of, thinking.

Rule Four: Organization

When a student was referred to me I would always ask them ‘What do you want to do? What is it you really want to happen?” Often it was a simple wish to be able to finish their studies and get a job, or go to University. It was a sincere wish. Kids don’t turn up to school day after day to experience failure and feel anxious. Why would they? They keep coming back because they want to succeed. We looked at their messy notes and put them in order. We got a list of targets to work towards. We made lists and ticked thing off. I stuck a long sheet of paper on my wall, showing the weeks till exam time, with a movable Monty Python-style ‘Finger Of Doom’ which crept along the line, week by week, as a visual reminder.

Why Did It Work?

It worked because it was theirs. They felt part of a gang, one that defied everyone’s expectations. The gang that had their own place in the school. They were respected by me, and respected me in turn. They trusted me, because they knew I cared. One of the greatest tensions when working with children is the extent to which you show them, and admit how much you genuinely care for them. I was never afraid to own those feelings. They knew it. And because they knew I’d go the extra mile for them, they went the extra mile for me.
And Matt, the boy they were about to exclude from college? I asked him “What’s it like being you?”, and it all tumbled out. I decided that he needed an immediate assessment for ADHD. He was off the scale. No-one had picked it up in 17 years. Listening to what children say is the very first step in helping them. Not many people really listen to children, even ones whose job it is.
We worked with it, and around it. With a huge amount of patience and a lot of laughs we made it. He got his exams and went to University. No expulsion. His last email to me said, “If I could share it with you I would”. That last smile he gave me was reward enough.

Dee Mason is a freelance writer and proud parent of two. She specializes in the arts and travel, and writes on behalf of Adams Kids in the U.K


Child Depression: 3 Creative Art Therapy Coping Strategies to Help Your Child with Depression

September 22nd, 2011

Children with depression: art therapy can help!

As featured on  PBS This Emotional Life

Depression in children and adolescents impacts 11.2 percent of children 13 to 18 years of age in the U.S. according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and 3.3 percent have experienced seriously debilitating symptoms of depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 3.7 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 15 have a mood disorder, with girls being diagnosed more frequently than boys and that treatment works for depression.

Children’s depression can look different than adult depression. Depression in children Symptoms of child depression: your child is not acting like him/herself, if he/she is lethargic and have lost interest in activities that once made them happy, if he/she is overly clingy, frequently reporting feeling sick, refusing to go to school or get in trouble at school, sleeping excessively or is excessively moody, there may be something more happening with your child.

So what course of action or treatment should you take if your child is suffering from depression? The Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study evaluated the effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). The latest research suggests therapy and medication may be the most rapid form of effective treatment for childhood depression, although over time therapy alone is just as successful.

The Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study evaluated the effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) therapy alone, medication alone, combined medication and cognitive behavior therapy treatment and placebo (sugar pill) treatments for adolescents 12 to 17 with depression. The combination of medication and therapy worked the most rapidly, although therapeutic treatment alone over months has a similar impact to the combination of therapy and medications. 

What is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) evidenced-based mental health treatment for children? How can it help your child to overcome the challenges of depression? CBT treatment for depression is a therapy that teaches an individual how to manage their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings through education while testing new behaviors and assumptions. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, treatment may include learning how to set realistic and positive personal goals, encourage participation in pleasant activities, discourage negative thoughts, solve social problems, negotiate and compromise when conflicts arise, and foster assertiveness.

If you feel that your child is just starting to demonstrate signs of depression and you’d like to begin the process of helping them manage their feelings, try any of these three art therapy coping strategies. Depression is serious, so consult a professional if your child is exhibiting signs of depression.

1. Design a creativity journal. Go shopping with your child and pick out a journal they like, or go to the arts and crafts store and find a blank artists journal and create an individualized cover using magazine images, old greeting cards, wallpaper samples, or scrapbook papers. Embellish with unique words and images that represent your child. Let your child know this is a safe place for them to express their thoughts and feelings without feeling like they have to censor words and images.

2. Create a feelings box. Something as simple as a shoebox can be decorated with images or words that feel empowering. Allow your child to use the box as a safe place to put their worries, anger, anxiety, fears, and frustrations. Cut up slips of paper and add words or images of things that bother your child, and then have your child add these to their feelings box and “close the lid” as they let those feelings go. This teaches your child to respectfully acknowledge their feelings and let them go.

3. Make a mask. Go to the arts and crafts store and find a papier-mâché mask, or for younger children you can use a paper plate or craft paper and cut out a mask shape. Ask your child to create an art image of what they choose to show other people on the outside of the mask, and what they keep to themselves in the inside of the mask. Younger children may need to have this modified by asking them to create on the inside of the mask what makes they sad or choose a color that represent how they feel when they are sad and on outside of the mask choose images or colors of feeling strong, brave, or happy.

Often children and teens feel like they have to mask their feelings so they do not upset others. Allow your child to create their masks without censorship. Ask your child to tell you about it if they choose to, then listen without judgment.

Seeking professional help is essential for a child who is experiencing depression. As a parent look for therapists who specialize in working with children and adolescents, and who utilize cognitive behavioral therapies that teach your child appropriate ways to positively express their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Children and teens respond positively to art therapy and an art therapist can help your child manage their depression, especially if they use cognitive behavioral therapy in art therapy. If your child is depressed and you are in need of child therapy in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Venice Florida, art therapy can help. Schedule your complimentary Support Consultation here.


Do You Rescue Your Child?

September 20th, 2011

How much support does your child need?

If you have a relationship of any kind, with a spouse, friend, parent, or child, then you have encountered someone else making a decision you would never dream of doing. There is pain seeing that person making a choice your know in your heart is just not the “right” decision for them. Ironically, the closer we are to the person, the more we believe we know what’s right for them, and often we will make comments or demands upon them, based upon our knowing what’s best.

We would never dream of telling our co-worker what they are wearing is wrong and they should change, yet it becomes almost a duty to be hypercritical about what our spouse or children are wearing or doing. Often when tasks that are delegated to those in the household are not completed, we jump in to do it.  Heaven forbid your child wear wrinkled clothes to school because they left their laundry on the floor.

Most parents who rescue fear what others might think or that things won’t get done exactly right, or if they don’t control the situation their child may fail or get hurt.  Most people rescue because they love those around them and they don’t want to see them hurt. However, rescuing sets up a whole new set of problems.  The person you rescue doesn’t get to learn from their actions.  They don’t learn how to self-correct, or make changes when they are off course, since they have had someone doing that for them.  They don’t learn how to overcome obstacles and when they do arise (and they always do) they are unprepared.  I’ve had many young adults in my office who just didn’t know how to handle tough stuff because their parents did it for them when they were growing up.

The question that most people ask is how do they know when to intervene.  The first question to ask, is it a safety issue? Meaning if you don’t intervene will someone get hurt physically?  If it is a safety issue, step in and set a boundary.  All other issues are not black and white. I love to challenging parents to talk out the choices and consequences with their children. For tasks such as homework and household chores personal accountability works wonders.  Have a neutral discussion (without getting emotional about the topic) and develop a contract to help identify what will be done and what are the consequences. Contracts do work, when they are done right, meaning they are respectful of each person’s needs and there is an incentive to change for both parties.

For things such as bullying at school or children who are having emotional problems a more supportive role is necessary.  Parents often step in too early and attempt to stop bullying, which may cause more social problems for their children.  Brainstorm with your child solutions, allow them to test some out before you become involved.  If things continue to be a problem and it becomes a psychological safety issue, there may be a need for more direct involvement.

Encourage your child to take part in choosing their consequences; if they have done something wrong, ask them to come up with the consequences. You’ll be amazed at how they will learn from this, with less tantrums and more personal accountability.

Here’s the important part to remember, those who rescue others become resentful.  They will do, and do, and do, and then finally get upset that everyone treats them disrespectfully and takes advantage of them.  Stop the cycle of rescuing so you don’t fall into this pattern, and you allow others an opportunity to learn.

Here’s a creative activity to help you identify times when you rescue.  Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.  On the left side write the word rescue and on the right side write the word support.  Fill in the page with images and words of times when you rescue (what you say and do) and what it might look like if you supported that person instead.

When you become aware of your tendencies to rescue then you can choose other ways you can support your child and other family members.  If you or your child is in need of more support we can help. Click here to schedule your complimentary support consultation.


What is a child occupational therapist and what are the signs your child may need one

September 16th, 2011

What’s a child occupational therapist and what are the signs your child may need one?  An interview with Michelle Matteoli Adams, licensed
Occupational Therapist and founder of Pediatric Therapy Solutions, Inc. Bradenton and Sarasota, FL.

What’s Pediatric Occupational Therapy?

A child’s occupation is to learn, play, explore, interact, function, and communicate at an age appropriate level so they can be successful both at home and in school. An OT helps children achieve the goals of functioning appropriately at home and in school environments so children can accept and integrate new knowledge and experiences to learn and achieve.

What are the signs that your child may need to be evaluated by an Occupational Therapist?

There may be delays and the child is not meeting developmental milestones. The child may be struggling in peer groups or at school with emotional or behavioral issues, or a teacher/counselor may notice that the child has delays in development. A child may have sensory issues, they may be hypersensitive (over reactive) or hyposensitive (under reactive) to their environment  and they may react because the environment is too overwhelming.
Some of the common issues children have that suggests they should consult with an OT may include: poor handwriting, picky eaters, issues with potty training, disruptive sleep cycles or difficultly sleeping, bathing/brushing teeth issues, reactive to environment, clothing sensitivities, difficulty self-regulating behaviors and developmental delays such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, walking, bike riding, etc.

Sometimes parents think their child’s problems are just behavioral issues. How do you help them to determine if there is something more such as sensory or processing issues?

With a comprehensive evaluation it is determined and the treatment goals are developed to help best support that child. Let’s say that the issues are sensory related we teach the child and parent sensory protocols, external resources to control and regulate their body. We teach parents how to implement this in the home with what they have, so they don’t have to go out and purchase anything extra. Instead, they can use common household items to help their child calm and attend.  This is often referred to as a “sensory diet.”  A sensory diet includes various sensory protocols such as brushing programs and listening (music) programs coupled with activities that stimulate specific sensory organs that naturally can occur at home with the ultimate goal being to functional appropriately at home/school ready to accept new knowledge and attend and learn and achieve in their environment. Our Pediatric Therapy Services Include:

  • Developmental Screenings
  • Evaluations
  • Treatment Plans
  • Home Programs
  • Speech-Language Skills
  • Fine motor Skills
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Fine motor Skills
  • Visual-Motor Skills
  • Visual Perceptual Skills
  • Handwriting Skills
  • School Readiness Skills
  • Self-Care Skills
  • Oral-Motor Skills
  • Sensory Integration
  • Self-Regulation/ Sensory Modulation
  • Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s)

What are the typical children you see in your Pediatric Occupational Therapy practice?

The ages range from 0-18 years of age. We treat children with Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, children on the autism spectrum (ASD) including those with Asperger’s, children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Also, children with learning disabilities, developmental delays, auditory processing issues, sensory integration dysfunctions, and behavior and self-regulation issues.

What are some of the results parents can expect when working with a Pediatric Occupational Therapist?

Children who attend Pediatric Occupational Therapy often feel better about themselves and their bodies. They are happier and there is an increase in positive affect because their body is able to move in a more controlled fashion. The families learn how to support their child and help them be successful in multiple environments, they function better in school and there is an increase in academic success, better grades, improved attention, and improved sleep patterns and diet.

What other services do you offer?

We also provide speech and language therapy and Interactive Metronome which is an assessment and treatment tool to improve neurological processing, motor planning and sequencing beneficial for those children with ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, non-verbal learning disorders, and auditory processing delays.

Our treatment modalities also include:

  • Therapeutic Listening Program ®
  • Oral Tactile Technique
  • Wilbarger Deep Pressure Protocol
  • Handwriting Without Tears ®
  • How Does Your Engine Run? ®

If a parent has a concern about their child what’s the best way to learn more?

You can go to  http://www.pediatrictherapysolution.com/home.html and download the Free Developmental Checklists. You’ll find Checklists for Fine and Gross Motor Skills & Visual Motor Skills, Self-Care Skills, Speech & Articulation, and Language Skills. You can also contact me at or 941.360.0200 or michelle@pediatrictherapysolution.com to schedule an initial phone consultation.

I appreciate all of your generous information Michelle! Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate together and help children by coordinating our services. Children who come to occupational therapy often benefit from art therapy to reinforce positive expression of their feelings and learn creative ways to manage their behaviors to get their needs met. Many of the children in Art Therapy can benefit from the skills taught in Occupational Therapy. It’s amazing to watch the children and families make remarkable gains when occupational therapy and art therapy are used in tandem!

Thanks again Michelle!!


How do I find a child therapist?

September 12th, 2011

child

Choosing a therapist for your child or choosing a family therapist is a difficult decision. As a parent you want the best for your child and you want to find the “right” person who can help your child be successful in managing their behaviors and expressing their feelings.

Here are my professional recommendations:

  • Ask another parent or professional for recommendations of child therapists in your community. Your pediatrician, school counselor, tutor, or other professional should give you the name of several resources for you to choose from.
  • Find a therapist who understands your child’s issues and your concerns as a parent.
  • Schedule a consultation with a several professionals and ask them questions about how they would best support your child. You’ll learn much about the potential therapist by how promptly they return your call and how they interact with you during the consultation.
  • Do not just rely on your insurance company for therapist referrals. Not all therapists specialize in working with children and many blanket their services as “child, adult, and family”, yet they have no additional training specializing in children’s specific developmental needs.
  • Let your child meet with the therapist and decide if that is the person they would like to work with. Let them know they have to see someone, and you can give them a choice of who they see.
  • As the famous Dr. Benjamin Spock said, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do”. Listen to your intuition and find the right person who respects your and your child and is willing to help you find new positive ways to communicate.

Need some more support to help your child? Schedule a complimentary Support Consultation by clicking here!


9/11: Helping Children Cope with Traumatic Events

September 10th, 2011

Many children today were impacted by the unexpected events of 9/11, and at the time they may not have had the coping abilities to manage their feelings and concerns about an event that felt scary and overwhelming. Children who witnessed the violent act of terrorism of 9/11, either in-person or on television, may have been left feeling confused, unsafe, and worried by their parent’s shocked reaction. Often in a crisis such as a sudden death, natural disaster, or an act of violence children’s lives are uprooted. They are left to processes their experiences while looking to the adults in their lives for protection and safety. When adults are processing their own shock and loss, they are often emotionally unavailable to be supportive of their children during a crisis. This is when support from professional can be most valuable.

Art therapy allows children the ability to process and express their feelings of loss, grief, shock, helpless, sadness, fear and other emotional reactions that arise during a crisis, such as 9/11. When asked to describe their feelings, children who have experienced loss and trauma may not be able to articulate their pain, and art allows a way to process their experiences.

A simple explanation of how brain functioning is impacted traumatic experiences makes the use of art therapy for processing trauma more easily understood. Traumatic experiences impact the brain’s nonverbal, subcortical regions of the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and hypothalamus; rational thinking and reasoning are disrupted. Art therapy provides access to the nonverbal subcortical areas of the brain, whereby emotions and traumatic experiences can be more readily processed.

Here’s a creative activity to help your child process trauma and grief: Create a safety box. Find a shoebox or papier-mâché box. Ask your child to paint it or color it and add images and words that help them feel protected and strong. Inside of the box ask them to make a safe space. They can create any place, real or in their imagination, that helps them feel safe and secure. They can use words or images to make a safe place. Modify what materials you provide to your child depending upon their age or traumatic experiences, as some materials may cause children to respond regressively and too many materials may cause emotional overwhelm. It’s best to contact a trained art therapist to help support your child and provide the appropriate materials to help your child process their emotions therapeutically.

If your child has experienced a crisis or traumatic event, we can help. Learn more: click here to schedule a Complimentary Support Consultation for your child today.


What Kind of Parent Are You and What to Do if Your Partner Doesn’t Parent Like You Do?

September 6th, 2011

Okay, if we are really, really honest with ourselves we realize that at some point in our adult lives we start to take on the characteristics of our parents in our relationships. You may begin to notice you are sounding like your mother or you’re acting like your father (the good, the bad, and the ugly). We are all influenced by our upbringing and experiences, and even if you vowed to yourself that you would never be like your parents you may find yourself acting in the extreme opposite way, still influenced by your upbringing. Egads!

Here’s the good news, you get to choose how you parent. Regardless of your upbringing or circumstances, you can consciously decide how you want to respond to your child’s behaviors.

Read more on how you can choose to be a parent that best helps your child grow into being a responsible and respectful adult without having to resort to acting like your parents.

Parenting camps believe there are three general parenting styles:

  • Authoritarian Parenting: This style of parenting is “old-school” meaning the adult sets the rules and consequences, and the child is expected to obey these rules. This is a restrictive punitive parenting style without discussion and compromise, which may lead to physical punishment as a way for children to obey the rules. Children with Authoritarian parents may develop “learned helplessness”, may act aggressively to get their needs met, or may act out, shutdown or run away.
  • Permissive or Indulgent Parenting: This style of parenting often leads to allowing children to do what they want with minimal consequences and expectations. These parents may be nurturing and accepting and are often hands-off and allow children to behave as they desire. Children with permissive or indulgent parents may develop spoiled behaviors and may engage in risk-taking behaviors.
  • Authoritative or Democratic Parenting: This style of parenting encourages children to be independent and holds children accountable for their behaviors. Authoritative parents hold their children accountable, yet also are warm and nurturing and teach children how to solve their problem rather than rescuing or telling the child what to do. They encourage resourceful creative problem solving and prefer to teach children how to make positive decisions with corrective feedback and consequences when necessary.  Children with Authoritative or Democratic parents tend are believe to have higher self-esteem and are better able to regulate their emotions and behaviors when they encounter problems.

Which parenting style sounds like you and your child’s mother/father? If you are not parenting on the same page take the time to talk with your partner/spouse/ex and decide how you both can change your behaviors to best support your child.

Children are masterful at figuring out at a young age how to get what they want; so if one parent is a Authoritarian and other is Permissive your child will quickly learn that if one parent says “no” the can go to the other parent and get want they want. This creates splitting in the household and teaches your child dysfunctional ways to get their needs met (and causes lots of arguments between parents).

If this is happening in your home it’s time to commit to a change.  If you need help for you and your parenting partner to get on the same page we can help. Schedule a complimentary Support Consultation by clicking here!


Is there something wrong with my child? Does my child need therapy?

September 2nd, 2011

That’s the biggest heartbreaking question a parent can ask themselves, is there something wrong with my child?

You may be wondering about your child’s behaviors or moods, concerned that they are not coping well with problems or relationship issues, worried that they are experiencing problems and you are wondering if your child needs therapy.

A child may go to therapy for various reasons, likely you or someone in your child’s life noticed that your child is struggling and recommend you talk to someone. Often a concerned teacher or adult will recommend seeking help, and you may be reluctant. Don’t worry, not every child who sees their doctor or a therapist needs to medicated. Children can often learn how to cope with their feelings and manage their behaviors in child therapy, without needing medication.

If you are worried ask your doctor, teacher, or other parents to provide you with the names of several child therapists or child psychologists. Call several therapists and find someone you feel understands your situation and can provide therapy for you child or family therapy. Make sure that the therapist you see specializes in working with children, as not all therapists are the same.

Please do not avoid the problem or hope that it goes away. Ignoring your child’s emotional and behavioral problems is neglecting your child’s need for support. Do not worry about the “stigma” attached with seeing a child therapist. These days many children and families come to therapy to improve their ability to communicate, and the therapeutic process is confidential.

Not sure where to start? We can help. Schedule a complimentary Support Consultation by clicking here!


Back to school worry and anxiety? These 5 creative strategies can help!

September 1st, 2011

Maybe your child is heading back to school and they are worried about being in a classroom with kids they don’t know, or they are starting school for the first time, going to a new school, or just plain worried about heading back to school. Here are five creative ways to help your child head back to school with less stress and worry:

1. Use a composition notebook and encourage your child to write or draw out all their worries. Then flip the pages and ask your child to create all the thing they are excited about.

2. Create a mini school out of paper or cardboard and create students out of modeling clay or play-doh. Allow your child to play out their worries without censoring their actions.

3. Play teacher and student. Have your child play teacher and you can be the student and allow your child to teach you something. Your child will feel empowered by expressing what they think their school experience might be like.

4. For older children, ask them to create images about all the things they are nervous or worried about and add them to a worry box. Decorate the outside of the worry box of images and words that make them feel confident and empowered.

5. Create a video of what your child expects from their school year. Allow them to shoot and edit a video (or music video) of their school experiences and what they want from the school year.

Need some more support to help your child be successful? Schedule a complimentary Support Consultation by clicking here!