Helping Teens Use Social Media Responsibly

Helping Teens Use Social Media Responsibly

Here is an article that can help a a lot of parents. It helps you educate your teens about how to use social media in a healthy way. How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2019/How-to-Have-a-Healthy-Relationship-with-Social-Med

How The Stigma Associated with Mental Health is Preventing People from Receiving Mental Health Care

How The Stigma Associated with Mental Health is Preventing People from Receiving Mental Health Care

A great article showing how the stigma regarding mental health can isolate people. We must realize mental health is normal and we must stop shaming people who need help. How Stigma Can Lead to Isolation | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2019/How-Stigma-Can-Lead-to-Isolation

Ways for Parents to Cope with School IEP Meetings

Ways for Parents to Cope with School IEP Meetings

The school year is coming to a close soon. Therefore, students with IEPs or 504 plans must have their yearly review deciding if a child still qualifies for an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) or a 504 plan. Also for parents who requested their child be evaluated for an IEP, they will soon be having their initial IEP meeting to determine if the child qualifies for an IEP. I have posted this article before, but it appears I need to post it again. Once again, I have been hearing from parents all over the country who are afraid about lies they are hearing from their child’s school. Many of these parents are panicked and overwhelmed. They know their child needs help at school, but they do not want to ruin their child’s future. Additionally, many parents do not know what their child is legally entitled to and the school districts take advantage of this fact.

The issue that parents are feeling confused about is should their child have an IEP or a 504 plan. An IEP is for children who are having difficulty learning subjects in the classroom. They do not have an IEP because they are not intelligent. They have an IEP because they have a different learning style. I have seen numerous parents and received numerous emails from parents stating their child’s school has told them an IEP would mark their child for life as unintelligent and possibly bankrupt the school district. None of these remarks are true.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting into a college or getting a job as an adult either. Not having a decent education can stop your child from getting into college or getting a job. Therefore, if your child needs an IEP and not a 504 Plan in order to benefit from their education, not having an IEP could stop your child from getting into college or a job because they failed to receive a proper education.

Also think about when you applied for college or a job, did they ever ask for your middle school or elementary school records? The answer is no. Therefore, there is no way for a college or job to know if your child ever had an IEP unless your child volunteers the information when they apply for college or a job. Once again, colleges and jobs never ask an applicant if they ever had an IEP. Actually, an IEP can help students receive additional time taking the SAT and ACT and assist them in college if they need it. So actually, it can help a child applying to college.

As for the idea that an IEP will bankrupt the school district, this is absurd. The school districts have plenty of money to provide children who need an IEP with an IEP. A 504 plan costs the district nothing and if the district fails to comply with the 504 plan, you really have no legal recourse. However, an IEP is a legal agreement and the laws governing IEPs are the same in every state in the United States. Also if a school doesn’t comply with an IEP, you have a number of options including legal options.

Also parents please do not pay to have your child psychologically tested or undergo any educational testing by a private mental health clinician. Legally, the school district does not have to accept these tests results. The school has the right to do all testing first. If you disagree with the school’s tests results, you can contest the results and request that your child be re-evaluated by an independent clinician. If you request an independent evaluation, you can select who does the testing and the school district must pay for the independent evaluation not you.

The only testing schools currently are not doing are assessments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Too many children were being diagnosed with ADHD and now these assessments need to be done by a mental health clinician in private practice. These evaluations you do have to pay for.

Another issue I am receiving a large number of emails about is that the school is not doing anything. Parents are saying they are hearing from the school that their child is distracted in the classroom and not doing well on tests or homework. However, the school is not doing anything. If you feel your child needs to be assessed, you need to submit a written letter requesting the evaluations to the principal. Requesting it verbally does nothing. Legally you must submit a written letter to the school principal in order to start the IEP process.

Another suggestion, parents before you panic or feel guilty about not signing that you agree with the assessments by the school because the school is pressuring you to accept their recommendations, stop and think. Look at the proposed plan and decide do you think this is really what your child needs or is the school bullying you into signing their proposed plan. If you have doubts, don’t sign the agreement and seek a second opinion. You are the one in charge not the school. The school district cannot do anything until you sign the agreement. I have seen many parents made to feel guilty if they do not sign the school’s plan. You are not a bad parent if you do not sign right away, you are a cautious parent. If you do not agree with the proposed IEP plan, you can sign that you disagree and do not accept the proposed plan. There is a space on the form for you to do so. If you reject the plan, you will not ruin your child’s education. If you reject the plan, it simply means the school district needs to do more work to develop an acceptable plan. However, I have seen many school districts doing what is best for them financially not what is best for your child and making parents feel guilty. There is no need to feel guilty if you do not accept, the first option presented. Think about it when you are selling or buying a house, you do not automatically accept the first offer and you do not feel guilty.

If parents are divorced, you face some additional challenges especially if you are having difficulties co-parenting with your ex-spouse. Some districts have called the parent who is more willing to sign and gets them to agree to sign and close out the IEP. I have also heard stories where the district encourages the arguing between the parents to get the parents to drop the process or for one to become so angry the parent signs the IEP to irritate the other parents. Yes it sounds unbelievable, but I have seen it happen many times.

I encourage any parent dealing with the IEP process or a 504 plan to take things slow. Ask all the questions you need and seek a second opinion if you feel you need one. You do not have to sign any documentation right away. Remember, you can sign that you do not agree and need more time. School districts are going to push you to sign right away, but legally you have every right to take some time and consider their proposal. Please do not be afraid to assert your rights. You are doing what best for your child’s education and future by taking time to review everything.

For more information about IEPs and 504 plans visit the website http://www.lucascenter.org.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist and has worked with children and families for over 20 years. He also worked as an Intern at AB3632 for 2 years. AB3632 is a California program that provides counseling services for children in Special Education. They also participate in IEPs on a regular basis. Dr. Rubino has been an IEP Advocate for over 20 years. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.Lucascenter.org.

Understanding Teenage Grief

Understanding Teenage Grief

In our society we have difficulties dealing with emotions, especially grief. This can be very difficult for teenagers and families. We continue to have school shootings, where students and teachers are killed, and the suicide rate for children between 10 years old and 18 years old is at an epidemic rate. In addition, teenagers are dying at epidemic rates for overdosing on drugs. Therefore, many teens and families are dealing with grief on a fairly regular basis, but have little support or education about grief to help them. I see this quite often in my psychotherapy practice.

It’s important to remember that grief is a very unique and individual process. There is not a right way or wrong way to grieve. When someone is grieving it is very important to allow them to grieve how they need to and provide support to them as needed. It is appropriate to offer support, but do not expect someone to grieve the way you would. It may not help them and may create additional problems.

Lauren Hershel posted on Twitter an analogy to help explain grieving. I think it is a good analog so I am repeating it in this article.

Lauren stated, after what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. I saw a lady who reminded me of my 92 year old grandma, who even in the early stages of dementia, completely understood that my mom died.

I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Doctor told me

So grief is like this:

There is a box with a ball in it and a pain button. In the beginning, the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting.

Sometimes it seems unrelenting in the beginning because the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting.

Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day easier. But, the downside is that the ball randomly hits that button when you least expect it.

For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was giant. I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.

I agree I think this is a good description. Often I have teens that I am working with in therapy who worry or are afraid because they think they are grieving wrong. I explain there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is important that they grieve how they need and ask for help when they need to.

When I was an intern, a supervisor described grief to me as an ocean wave. You know a wave will come in but you never know when, how big or for how long. She said all you can do is your best to roll a long with it and not fight the emotion. You cannot control the wave, but you do know as sure as it came in, it will go out too. Initially the waves will be frequent and then they start to subside and you learn to cope with the grief. Just like with the ball analogy, the waves usually do not disappear. However, it is alright that they do not. It is natural when you think of the loved one you lost that you will feel some sadness. It is a normal reaction.

Given the amount of grief teenagers are having to cope with due to what is happening in our world, it is very important that we provide better access to mental health care. Also at home and at school we need to be teaching children about emotions too. They are a very important part of life and if they are going to succeed in life, they need to learn how to express emotions in a healthy manner. We need to focus especially on boys. I would estimate that 98% of the boys I treat think that emotions are weak. They go to desperate means not to cry or look sad. This is why many boys and men have problems with anger. Socially we accept boys getting mad, but not crying.

Please think about these issues and remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience. He specializes in treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy

Understanding ADHD in School Children

Understanding ADHD in School Children

It is now the second semester of the school year and many teachers may be telling parents that their children are having problems concentrating. Also some parents have been struggling with getting their child to do homework. The school or family members may be suggesting to parents that the child has ADHD and needs medication. Many parents are not sure about the diagnosis and they are concerned about their child taking ADHD medication. I hear this very often from parents and do many assessments on children to determine if a child has ADHD. Yes ADHD is a really disorder, but too many teachers and schools rush to the conclusion that a child has ADHD and needs medication.

According to statistics by the American Psychological Association, five percent of children in the United States have ADHD. It is also more common in males and it does tend to run in families. However, not every child who has ADHD requires medication. Many children can be treated with psychotherapy and behavior modification. Therefore, if your child is diagnosed with ADHD do not rush to medicate your child. There are different subtypes of ADHD and different severities of the diagnosis.

If you child does have ADHD, they are entitled to accommodations such as extra time taking a test. This would be covered by a 504 plan. However, if your child has severe ADHD and needs resource assistance too, they are entitled to an Individual Educational Plan (IEP). Many schools may tell parents ADHD does not qualify for an IEP. This is not true. The severity of the ADHD determines if a child needs an IEP. They would qualify under the categories of Emotional Disturbance or Other Health Impairments.

If you feel your child may have ADHD or their school suggests the idea, make sure you have your child appropriately assessed by a professional who specializes in ADHD. In the past schools would often diagnosis children with ADHD. Schools are no longer supposed to make this diagnosis. If they feel a child might have ADHD, they are supposed to have your child evaluated. Many parents take their child to their pediatrician, however, many pediatricians are not trained in diagnosing ADHD. I would suggest having your child evaluated by a mental health clinician trained in working with children and in assessing for ADHD.

As I stated above, if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, make sure you take your child to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and in doing assessments. The assessment for ADHD is not very difficult and an appropriate evaluation by an appropriate mental health clinician should cost around $250 depending on where you live. I have seen some parents who have spent thousands of dollars getting CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. You do not need an expensive scan of your child’s brian to diagnosis ADHD.

The DSM V, the diagnostic manual that mental health clinicians use, list the criteria needed for the diagnosis. I am including a link to the Center for Disease Control which list the criteria for the diagnosis and other information about ADHD, http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html. Typically the diagnosis can be made by a clinician interviewing the parents, having a play session or two with the child and observing the child at school or consulting with the teachers. However, remember if you are going to have your child evaluated for ADHD, you want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children and assessing children for ADHD. Your child’s pedestrian should be able to refer you to someone or if you call your insurance they will probably have referrals.

Before you rush to have your child assessed, remember some basic facts. Most children between the ages of two to five are very active. They also have very short attention spans. Sometimes you need to give a child some time to mature especially if you have a boy. Remember boys mature slower than girls and tend to be more active than girls. It is important to keep these facts in mind when you are wondering if your child has ADHD.

Now if you child is more hyperactive than other kids his age or his attention span is shorter than most kids his age, there might be an issue. Also if there is a strong family history of ADHD in the family such as his father had ADHD as a child and paternal and maternal uncles all had ADHD as children, there might be an issue. Also if your child was born premature or there were complications during the pregnancy or child birth, there might be an issue. Premature babies or babies with a difficult pregnancy or birth are more likely to have ADHD and learning disabilities.

Bottom line, if someone suggests that your child has ADHD don’t rush to the pedestrian seeking medication. Compare your child’s behavior to other children and consider the risk factors. If your child doesn’t have many risk factors for ADHD maybe wait six months and reassess the situation. The most important thing to remember is if you decide to have your child assessed for ADHD, make sure you go to a mental health clinician who specializes in children and ADHD. You want a mental health clinician who specializes in treating children with ADHD and assessing children for ADHD. Also remember you do not need any expensive scans like a CT scan. There are other treatment options besides medication, so do not rush to medicate your child either. Consider all the treatment options.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and assessing children. He has over 20 years experience treating and assessing children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work visit his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3

Abusing ADHD Medications in High School and College

Abusing ADHD Medications in High School and College

Working with teenagers, I often have parents who are concerned about their teenager using marijuana or alcohol. Besides the concern that their teenager may be using there is the concern about their teenager becoming addicted. Besides marijuana and alcohol, parents are concerned about methamphetamine or heroin. While there is an epidemic of methamphetamine, heroin and opioid addiction, there is another drug parents need to be concerned about.

Methamphetamine is a very popular drug because it is easy to get and there are a number of ways to use it. Also many teenagers like the effect that they receive from methamphetamine. They get an adrenal rush and can stay up for days at times. Therefore, it makes it easier for them to get all their work done. Many teenagers are involved with numerous school activities, trying to maintain a good grade point average and want to spend time with their friends. They often find out that they don’t have enough energy to keep up with their schedule. The boost they receive from the methamphetamine helps them keep up and get everything done. However, buying methamphetamines can be a dangerous thing to do and if they are caught with methamphetamines, they are in a lot of trouble.

Many teenagers do not want to run the risk of being caught with or buying methamphetamines. Therefore, teenagers have found away around the risk, medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Most medications for ADHD such as Ritalin or Concerta are stimulant based. In other words, they contain a form of methamphetamine. Therefore, if a high school student who does not have ADHD takes Concerta, they experience the same effect as if they took methamphetamine such as cocaine. They get a burst of energy and can stay up all night so they can finish their work.

During finals, I hear many teenagers talk about taking Concerta or other ADHD drugs so they have the energy to study. Some teenagers will tell their parents they are having difficulties concentrating hoping their parents will take them to the physician so they can get a prescription for ADHD medication. On the other hand, teenagers who are suppose to be taking medication for ADHD often sell their medication. They can sell it very easily to friends at school and they can make good money too. Many of these teenagers feel they don’t need their medication so they are happy to sell it.

The buying and selling of ADHD medications on high school campuses is a daily occurrence. Most research studies indicate it starts in 8th grade and continues in high school. Many teenagers rely on ADHD medications to help them when they feel they are falling behind in school. Many teenagers see no problem using the ADHD medications because they were prescribed by a doctor. However, they were not prescribed to them. Therefore, the dosage they are taking may be too much for their body. Also I have seen teenagers combine these medications with energy drinks which have very large amounts of caffeine. I have had teenagers report they felt like their heart was going to come out of the chest because it was beating so fast. In addition, they also report not being able to sleep for days because they are wired.

This is a major danger when teenagers use ADHD medications to stay awake. They can become wired the same way as if they used cocaine or smoked methamphetamine. Also taking these ADHD medications opens the door to teenagers experimenting with such drugs as cocaine. They like the effect of the ADHD medication and wonder how other drugs may feel or may be they can no longer get the ADHD medication so they start experimenting. In fact, research indicates that teenagers who abuse ADHD medication are more likely to use methamphetamine or heroin.

In addition to opening the door to other drugs, they are risking their health and life. If they heart rate is racing and their blood pressure is rising they can induce a heart attack. Also parents may notice there is something wrong, but if they do not know their teenager has been taking ADHD medication, there is no way for a parent to tell a physician. Therefore, the teenager may not get the medical help they need. In addition to the physical symptoms, using too much methamphetamine can cause psychotic symptoms and the teenager may need to be hospitalized. The bottom line is just because the ADHD medication came from a pharmacy does not make it safe for everyone. I have included a link for parents which discusses the dangers and symptoms that parents need to be aware of regarding teenagers abusing ADHD medications https://drugabuse.com/library/adderall-abuse/#effects-of-adderall-abuse.

Hopefully, parents can take this information and discuss the situation with their teenagers. Encourage them that if they are feeling overwhelmed by school and life to talk to you not to turn to a drug. A drug will never solve the problem and more likely create more problems. Also let your teenager know all you expect is the best they can do naturally. You do not expect perfection.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. He is a founding member of the National Advisory board for the Alive and Free program. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.