CREATING METHODS OF HAPPINESS, PEACE & SUCCESS

Topics for the ‘Teens’ Category

 

Behaviors that might suggest a teenager is experiencing difficulties



Parents often worry about their teens behavior. It is the norm for teenagers to sometimes appear withdrawn and moody and in their own world, but this shouldn’t last for a long time or interfere with their functioning.

We all have needs, such as feeling safe, liked, understood, and supported and they show up in different ways. There are times, however, when mental health issues can arise when things don’t seem to be going as expected. Your child may be experiencing lack of confidence, anxiety, perhaps even being bullied. Talk to them and help them express their feelings and come up with solutions.

The following is a list of behaviors that might suggest a teenager is experiencing difficulties.

If you are concerned about any of them, talk to your child and get professional help.

  • Becoming withdrawn and losing interest in friends, sports or favorite activities.
  • Having changes in sleep patterns such as not sleeping or sleeping for long periods.
  • Avoiding food, overeating or exercising excessively.
  • Seeming to be preoccupied or obsessed over a particular issue.
  • Having a change in mood such as becoming hostile or having feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Having a sudden drop in schoolwork.
  • Doing things that don’t make sense to others.
  • Seeing or hearing things that nobody else sees or hears.
  • Being excessively tired or neglecting personal hygiene.
  • Wearing long sleeve clothes in hot weather. It may suggest they are hiding signs of self-harm.

How to talk to your child about traumatic events



Part of parenting is protecting your child and helping them navigate difficult situations, organize their thoughts and express their emotions. One of the most challenging conversations a parent can have with their child is one that involves tragedy. In this digital era, children are exposed to everything. It is no longer an option to hide the ugly happenings in the world from your child. The images and the news is everywhere. There is no easy way to talk to your child about traumatic events but there are things you can do to help them cope with what they are seeing, hearing and feeling.

Here are some tips to facilitate conversation:

  • Keep in mind your child’s developmental stage and personality when exchanging thoughts and information. Elementary school children do not need elaborate explanations. They are looking for simple answers and reassurance that they will be safe. High school kids on the other hand may want details, facts and explanations and a space to vent safely.
  • Listen first, ask questions later. Give them the opportunity to express their concerns and feelings about what has occurred. Respond with empathy. Don’t make assumptions. Answer their questions honestly, even if that means “I don’t know.” And remember to ask them how you could help?
  • Validate their feelings. Let them know it’s ok to feel the way they do. Normalize their feelings by saying, “ It’s normal to feel sad, angry or scared when tragedy occurs.“
  • Don’t obsess about talking about the tragedy. Let them know that you are available to listen and answer any questions as they arise.
  • Balance grief with positive memories.
  • Assure them that there are good people in the world working hard to keep them safe and fix the problem.
  • Empower them to speak up to teachers, legislature, peers. Remind them that their voice and feelings matter.
  • Encourage self care and model it. Self care can include meditating, yoga, journaling, expression through art, exercising, eating healthy, sleeping well and focusing on the positive.

Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your child.

What is a psycho-educational assessment?



 

What is a Psycho-educational assessment?

 

A psycho-educational assessment provides estimates of the client’s intellectual, or cognitive, abilities and educational achievement levels. It also yields recommendations relevant for educational planning.

Sources of assessment data include background information, educational history, and records and data from tests of intelligence and educational achievement and, at times, ratings tests of attention, behavior/emotions, and adaptive behavior.

A psycho-educational assessment is designed to answer these questions: Does the client have a learning disability(ies)? Mental retardation? Attention problems? What are the client’s academic and cognitive abilities, strengths, and weaknesses? What are appropriate educational recommendations? Accommodations?

While learning, not emotional problems, is the focus of psycho-educational assessment, behavior/emotional and medical issues may need to be addressed in psycho-educational assessment. Compiling, integrating, and analyzing all assessment data yield educational and other relevant recommendations.

 

Components of a psycho-educational assessment include:

  •   Referral question(s)
    Referral source
    Background information
    Assessment procedures
    Relevant test procedures
    Assessment results
    Interpretation of results
    Summary and recommendations

An important part of the psycho-educational assessment is the educational recommendations section. In this section the clinician will make recommendations to help strengthen the areas of weakness. This may include suggestions for accommodations in the academic setting as well as additional support.

 

Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests are commonly referred to as IQ tests. The most common IQ tests in current use are the Wechsler intelligence scales and Woodcock-Johnson.

The Wechsler scales yield:

  • Full-scale intelligence quotient (IQ): overall, composite measure of intelligence
  • Verbal IQ: estimate of verbal comprehension and expression
  • Performance IQ: estimate of visual-spatial reasoning.
  • In addition, there are supplementary indexes that include measures of Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Organization, Processing Speed (a measure of information-processing speed), and Working Memory (a measure of short-term memory and attention).

 

Woodcock Johnson Test also includes supplemental information that includes:

  • Auditory processing: discrimination, analysis, and synthesis of auditory stimuli; perception and discrimination of speech sounds despite interfering background noise
  • Phonemic awareness: manipulation, analysis, and synthesis of discrete sounds
  • Visual processing: (includes visual memory) perception, analysis, and synthesis of visual stimuli; storage and memory of visually presented stimuli; mental manipulation of visual patterns
  • Long-term retrieval/memory: storage and retention of information with ability to retrieve it at a later time.
  • Short-term memory: processing and holding auditory information in awareness, then manipulating it within a few seconds
  • Processing speed: rapid cognitive processing without higher order thinking; attentiveness and fluency of simple information processing
  • Verbal reasoning: reasoning and comprehension when using language, verbal expression, vocabulary
  • General information/knowledge: acquired knowledge, long-term memory
  • Fluid reasoning: inductive and deductive reasoning, problem solving, and concept formation on novel tasks that are nonverbal or limited in language demands
  • Quantitative ability: understanding mathematical concepts and relations.

In addition, often implicated in learning disabilities are the areas of auditory processing, phonemic awareness, processing speed, short-term memory, and long-term retrieval. Because traditional IQ tests yield measures of only some of the above abilities, a good psycho-educational assessment should supplement a traditional IQ measure, such as the Wechsler, with additional measures from the Woodcock-Johnson or other batteries.

 

Educational/Achievement Tests

Educational testing, typically referenced as achievement testing, is an important component of psycho-educational assessment. Assessment of achievement is an important part of assessment to rule out/diagnose learning disabilities and mental retardation. In addition, attention problems are often related to achievement problems. In most cases, poor achievement is what triggers the referral for assessment.

 

Learning disabilities

Learning disabilities are a pattern of scores representing unevenness in intellectual and academic abilities and skills. While all people have some strengths and weaknesses (e.g., stronger in quantitative than verbal skills), a person with learning disabilities has significant variability in both intellectual/cognitive abilities and related academic variability. The most common example is reading disabilities. These are usually associated with deficits in auditory processing, processing speed, and/or phonemic awareness; but the essential component is unexpectedly weak reading skills.

Federal law defines the seven areas of learning disability as

  • basic reading (includes phonetic decoding and sight word recognition)
  • reading comprehension
  • mathematics calculation
  • mathematics reasoning
  • written expression(includes basic writing skills, spelling, and composition)
  • oral expression
  • listening comprehension.

 

Giftedness

Each state and school district is required to develop and implement a system to identify students that are thought to be gifted and in need of specially designed instruction. Mentally gifted generally includes a person with an IQ score of at least 130, but gifted criteria is not based on IQ score alone.

 

Dual Exceptionalities

Dual exceptional, also known as twice exceptional applies to students that demonstrate both superior intellectual ability and specific learning problems or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These students do not fit neatly into the gifted or learning disability category and are often the most challenging for educators. It is important for educators to tend to both the giftedness and the disability.

 

Mental Retardation

Mental retardation is typically defined as significantly below average intellectual/cognitive functioning (approximately two standard deviations below the mean) and significantly weak adaptive behavior.

 

Measures of Adaptive Behavior

State and federal laws require that a measure of adaptive behavior (i.e., domestic, daily living, social and functional academic and communication skills) must be obtained in making a diagnosis of mental retardation.

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

There is no single test for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, there are several behavior ratings and tests of attention; most provide measures of hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattentiveness. Parents and teachers will complete rating scales as part of the assessment. In addition, behavioral observations will be made by the clinician.

 

 

Note: Generally, a full scale IQ over 130 is considered gifted and an IQ below 70 may classify as mental retardation but a single IQ score alone does not determine this criteria.

 

IQ Classifications in Educational Use

Wechsler, David. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third edition

Psychological Corporation, 1997

Classification IQ Score Percent Included
Theoretical Normal Curve Actual Sample
Very Superior 130 and above 2.2 2.1
Superior 120-129 6.7 8.3
High Average* 110-119 16.1 16.1
Average 90-109 50.0 50.3
Low Average* 80-89 16.1 14.8
Borderline 70-79 6.7 6.5
Extremely Low*  ** 69 and below 2.2 1.9

 

 

 

 

Source: Keys to effective LD practice, University of Tennessee

How to help your angry child



  • Deep Breathing: Focusing on your breath is key in controlling how anger shows up in your body and your mind. Teach your child some deep breathing exercises when they are calm and remind them to use their breath to manage their anger.

 

  • Monitor their self- talk: It’s easy to feed into anger and let it escalate based on the story you tell yourself. Self-talk has a huge influence on your feelings and can make yourself feel better or worse on any given situation. Help your child choose different thoughts when they are faced with an upsetting situation.

 

  • Using I-statements: I-statements help a child communicate effectively without being disrespectful or aggressive. They allow a child to describe what happened, how they felt, why they felt that way, and what they would like to happen instead. For example: I feel… when… because…. I wish….

 

  • Remind them they have alternatives: Help your child let go of anger in safe ways. For example, if they tend to express anger and frustration in a physical way, they can kick a ball against an outside wall, punch a pillow, rip up newspaper, stomp on bubble wrap, go for a run or squeeze a stress ball.

 

  • Feelings are ok: Feelings and emotions form an essential part of our lives and well-being. Help your child identify and develop a vocabulary of feelings so that they can express themselves openly.

 

Parenting a child who struggles with anger can be exhausting. It is often an opportunity to learn more about yourself as a parent and how you respond to big emotions. Support your child emotionally and they will feel safe with their feelings. Take care of yourself, teach through love and hold a space where your child’s positivity can flourish.

 

 

 

Deep Breathing



Proper breathing helps your body break away from the “fight or flight” response. When you are stressed, your breath becomes more rapid and shallow. Deep breathing allows the body to return to a state of calmness and delivers oxygen throughout the body as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system.

Deep breathing is a technique that can be used anywhere and anytime. It is best to practice it in a calm state so that when you are stressed, the technique can be easily implemented.

 

Belly Breathing

  • Lie on your back. Put your hands on your belly.
  • With your mouth closed, breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of 4 as your belly expands.
  • Hold the breath for a count of 2.
  • Slowly exhale the breath though your mouth as your belly retracts.
  • Repeat several times.

 

Making it fun for children

  • Blowing a pinwheel
  • Blowing a feather
  • Blowing bubbles.
  • Placing a stuffed animal on their stomach, while lying down and watching it rise and lower with each breath.
  • Add imagery while inhaling, such as a colorful balloon filling up with air and then letting the air out of the balloon upon exhale.
  • Add a phrase, such as “ breathe in the good, breathe out the bad.”

 

 

Your First Counseling Session



 

Going to therapy for the first time takes some courage. You talk about very personal things with someone who is a complete stranger. What can you expect?

 

  1. First of all, many people feel nervous and uncertain about their first visit. It’s ok. This is a common feeling in psychotherapy.

 

  1. Before you come into the office, you will have to fill out some paperwork. You will receive a written description of my practice and you will need to sign an informed consent form. Additionally, you will fill out an intake form as well as a form giving you information about how your records are safe-guarded and the extent to which those records are confidential.

 

  1. Your first counseling session is called the intake. I will be gathering a lot of information about you, as part of the getting to know you process. During the intake session, I focus not only on what has brought you into my office, but also the things that are going well for you- supportive family and friends, talents, passions. These things play a big part in your feeling better.

 

  1. This is your time. You can use it as you wish to talk about anything you like, but to make our time together more effective it helps to have a general idea of what you would like to talk about prior to coming into the office. Jotting down topics or thoughts often helps.

 

  1. I will likely have some questions for you. Your background is important, as well as the concerns that exist in your life and your perception of the problem. At the end, I may offer you a different perspective to your problem as well as some brief homework to help with goal setting.

 

  1. I will not pressure you to talk about topics that are too uncomfortable for you. You have control over the progress of each session. Psychotherapy is a process and change takes time, it rarely occurs in just one visit. I generally find that it takes three or four visits to feel comfortable and attain clarity about yourself and the choices you can make to improve the quality of your life.

 

  1. At the end of the first session you should feel relief and a sense of hope. The frequency of your sessions will depend on your particular needs. Some clients prefer to come weekly while they are addressing a problem in the early stages and then schedule less frequent appointments to maintain gains or even just have an occasional “touch up” session.

 

Maybe you’re ready to take the next step and set up your first appointment. Feel free to give me a call at (305) 446-0333 or send me an email at info@marthaalvarez.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise Your Brain



Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Regularly exercising your brain with mentally stimulating novel activities helps brain function (thinking skills and memory) and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The best brain exercises challenge you to try something new and develop new neural pathways.

There are many ways you can exercise your brain. You could try:

  • Attending lectures to learn something new.
  • Playing board or card games.
  • Enrolling in classes in your local adult education center.
  • A hobby such as painting, carpentry, sewing etc.
  • Reading different genres of books or magazines.
  • Learn to dance, play a musical instrument or speak a new language.
  • Join a club or community group.
  • Find a volunteer position that allows you to meet new people and experience new situations.
  • Create a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Perform a task with your non-dominant hand.
  • Change your routines. This will help you refocus your attention.
  • And of course, continue your physical exercise. Exercise improves circulation and sends oxygen to your brain.

Prevention is the best discipline



Discipline means to “teach”. It is simply a way to guide and manage a child’s behavior.

Behavior is a form of communication. Children often misbehave when they have a hard time expressing their needs. They can get overwhelmed or confused over what to do next or how to handle a situation, thus an inappropriate behavior can occur.

It is much easier to prevent inappropriate behavior than it is to correct it. Creating a positive relationship with your child, one that fosters communication, respect and understanding is the first step in helping your child do the right thing.

Here are some ways you can help your child to behave:

  • Notice the good behavior: it seems simple, but often we forget to acknowledge the good choices our children make. It empowers them.
  • Ignore the little things: concentrate on what you really want to change.
  • Set a few simple, clear rules and enforce them consistently: clarity and consistency are essential.
  • Redirect the behaviors you do not like: get the child interested in positive activities or change the setting.
  • Give children advance notice: don’t leave things for the last minute. Transitions and changes in schedules are often stressful.
  • Keep a positive attitude: your sense of humor can go a long way in helping your child be cooperative and positive.
  • Set a good example: children learn what they live.
  • Get the child’s attention: Say his name, look at him when you talk. Don’t just give instructions from across the room.
  • Spend time with your children: kids need undivided, personal attention from their parents. It will help you bond.

What changes “if any” can you make to teach and motivate your child to make better choices?

3 Tips For Improving Your Child’s Sleep



Child sleepingMany children experience sleep related problems at least a few nights per week. Lack of sleep affects children physically, emotionally and academically.

Here are 3 essential tips to help your child get a better nights sleep.

 

1. Establish a routine – Regular sleep times are an important feature of creating desirable sleep behavior. A regular bedtime and wakeup time should be established and consistently followed.

  • Make the last 30 minutes before bedtime a regular routine. Include activities such as dressing for bed, washing, and reading.li>
  • Keep the order and timing consistent each night (e.g., brush teeth, wash up, change into pajamas, read for 15 to 20 minutes, hug and kiss, say, “ok, it’s time to sleep. Goodnight.”).
  • Don’t include activities that might result in conflict (i.e. picking out clothes for school). Work these into a routine before bedtime.

2. Nutrition and Exercise– how you eat and exercise impacts the way you sleep.

  • Nutrition is important to sleep. In general, a well-balanced diet is related to good sleep. Certain vitamins and supplements may have positive effects on sleep. Talk to your doctor about treating sleep problems via diet and supplements.
  • Exercise can also have a positive effect on sleep. Regular exercise during the day can help promote better sleep. Discourage vigorous activity right before bedtime.

3. The Setting – Turn the bedroom into a sleep inducing environment. Get your child involved in creating an environment that feels best for them.

  • The bed should be associated with relaxation. Try to minimize your child’s playing, jumping, wrestling, eating or homework on the bed.
  • Environmental factors such as light, temperature, comfort and noise should be optimized for sleep. (not too light or dark, hot or cold, or noisy, etc.) Black out curtains, comfy pillows, white noise, tranquil music and aromatherapy can help create a relaxing environment.
  • Some children feel more relaxed, grounded and safe with a heavier or weighted comforter due to the pressure of the touch.

 

Things to Avoid:

  • Avoid watching TV and using electronic devices close to bedtime because it can interfere with sleep.
  • Avoid vigorous activity and unpleasant situations right before bedtime.
  • Avoid extending the time for bedtime – don’t give in to requests for just one more story, or one more drink of water.
  • Avoid caffeine– caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in the body up to 6 hours. In general, drinks and foods containing caffeine, including soft drinks and chocolate, should be avoided in the hours before bedtime.

If your child continues to have sleep difficulties, you may want to consult your physician.

Refusal Skills



text: Just Say No!Kids are exposed to negative influences and peer pressure on a daily basis. Saying “no” to risky situations can be difficult for youth. Situations such as saying “no” to drugs or alcohol or saying “no” to texting while driving or cheating during an exam or doing something dangerous or breaking the law. There are so many choices kids have to make.

Encourage your child to develop and practice methods of saying “No”. Remind them to speak in a clear and firm manner and use confident body language to convey the message.

Here are several ways they can get out of undesirable situations and say “NO” in a more subtle way.

  • Switching topics (No, but hey did you see what happened in the game last night?)
  • Excuse (I can’t. I have to meet a friend in 10 minutes.)
  • Blame (I have a stomachache  or that stuff makes me feel horrible.)
  • State the facts (No thanks- I’ve read about what drugs do to your body.)
  • Give a friend a compliment that might make them think twice about their own risky decision (You’re so smart. Don’t risk hurting yourself.)
  • or, Just say “No”