An Important Note From Alive and Free

An Important Note From Alive and Free

Parents pay attention to your options and have your teenager listen to this program

How can we make police and community relations better? We’ll dive into this topic on Street Soldiers Radio this Sunday night during a LIVE town hall discussion including the following panelists:
Allwyn Brown, Chief of Police Richmond
Capt. Ersie Joyner, Oakland PD
Jennifer Tejada, Chief of Police Emeryville
Toney Chaplin, Interim Chief of Police San Francisco
Over 40 youth and staff members from local organizations East Oakland Youth Development Center, Mo’ Magic, Ryse Center and Bay Area Peacekeepers
I hope you can tune in! Here are the ways you can listen this Sunday night:
Tune in to 106.1 on your radio from 8-10pm
Download the iHeart Radio app and listen from your smartphone
Livestream from your computer from 8-10pm
Listen anytime next week on iTunes Podcast
Dr. Marshall

Dr. Joseph E. Marshall Jr. | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR


Bullying and Suicide

Bullying and Suicide

I have had many teenagers and children talk about being bullied at school. I have seen them cry and talk about how bad their lives are because of the bullying. Sometimes they even talk about killing themselves. This is really hard to hear a child at 10 years old saying their life is so bad due to the bullying that they want to kill themselves.

I offer to help and often the kids say there is no point – no one will help. The sad thing is many times the children are right. I tell the parents who contact the school, but the school does nothing. Often the school doesn’t take it seriously or they claim both children are at fault. Other times they talk to the bully which makes the bully mad and the bullying increases. The problem is the school never follows up on what happens after they spoke to the bully. They assume the problem is solved.

If the parents go back to the school the school often claims they have done all they can do. We encourage the child to tell the teacher, the yard duty or the principal about the bullying. An adult is supposed to help. However, many times the child claims he is ignored and no one listens to him.

What can happen at this point? The child becomes so depressed they think of suicide. They feel death is better than the teasing they have to endure daily. We need to remember that suicide is the third leading cause of death for children. So when a child talks about suicide, they often are serious. This is why we must act to stop bullying.

Read a suicide note from a 13 year old boy who could no longer tolerate the bullying he was experiencing. Read it and learn what bullying can do to a person & why it must be stopped. The life you save might be the life of your own child, you never know.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 19 years experience and is considered an expert in treating suicidal children and teens. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page

Parents information about IEPs

Parents information about IEPs


Dr Michael Rubino

School is starting soon and many parents may need to decide between an IEP or a 504 plan for their child. Parents here is important information about Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 agreements. Besides ensuring that your child receives a good education, you do not need to pay for items such as special computer programs that the school district should be paying for not you. If your child has an IEP the school district is responsible for most educational expenses even a private school if necessary. Please read this article so you understand your rights and your child’s rights.

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. Besides the mad dash to get ready for school and schools are going to start assessing students to determine if they qualify for an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). I am already hearing from parents how school districts are misleading them and pressuring them to sign an agreement for a 504 before the parents clearly understand the difference between an IEP and 504 plan. The definition for both is further down in this article. An IEP and 504 are not the same. An IEP is legally enforceable and has legal guidelines and time frames. An IEP follows a student from school to school or state to state. A 504 is not legally enforceable and doesn’t follow a child nor are there legal guidelines.

An IEP will not stop your child from getting a job or from getting into college. In fact and college because they still would be entitled to assistance and the State of California may pay for their books. Also educational records are confidential therefore, no one would know your child had an IEP in school.

Many schools say your child must be two grades below in order to qualify for an IEP. If you said your child had a math or reading disability this is true. However, if they have ADHD, Bipolar, school anxiety etc. they can qualify under OTHER HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS. All your child needs is a diagnosis such as ADHD which would interfere with their ability to fully benefit from their learning experience in the classroom. The 2 grade below level qualification doesn’t apply to this category.

Also if you have a child in private school and they would benefit from additional assistance, contact your child’s public school district. Even though they attend private school the public school district is legally obligated to provide your child with services.

One more issue, never pay for outside testing before the school district tests your child. They have the right not to accept any outside testing until they test the child. If you disagree with the district’s testing then you can request an objective testing from an outside professional and you can request that the school district pays for the testing and you can select the evaluator.

An IEP or an Individualized Education Plan is a document that outlines the specialized education services that a student will receive due to their disability. It ensures the student will receive the assistance necessary so they will receive an education.
When most parents hear disability, they usually think of a person in a wheelchair or a student wIth a learning disability. There are various condItions that can qualify as a disability. Depression, Bipolar Disorder or even diabetes. The disability is any condition that will interfere in the student receiving the same education as other students. The students who qualify for an IEP need accommodations which meet the criteria of needing specialized education. As I stated above their are numerous conditions which may qualify a student for an IEP.
if a student does qualify for an IEP, they also qualify for Special Education. Many parents hear this and are afraid or embassies. There is nothing to be afraid of or embossed about. If a student qualifies for Special Education, if the student needs speech therapy or special computer programs, the school district is obligated to provide the services to the student at no expense to the student’s family.
There is also an option called a 504 Plan. This was established in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The 504 plan ensures that a student with a disability will receive accommodations so they will receive the same education as other students. However, the 504 plan does not qualify a student for Special Education services and It is not overseen as closely as an IEP plan.
Currently, many districts are telling parents that their child does not need or qualify for an IEP and a 504 plan is just a good. This is not true. Many school districts are telling parents that their child does not qualify for an IEP because the IEP is more expensive for the district and most districts are trying to save money.The districts take advantage of the fact that as parents, you do not know all the differences between an IEP and a 504 so they can talk a family into a 504 plan easily.
If you find that your child is having difficulties at school due to a learning disability, health issue or emotional issue, consult an outside professional before you automatically assume that the school is giving you the appropriate recommendation.
I see many parents who have been told that their child is better with a 504 plan and that is not the truth. You can consult an educational consultant or a therapist who works with children. You can contact me at via my website I help many families at their child’s IEP meeting. The main thing is, do not be afraid to ask if your child should have a 504 or an IEP. Also don’t let the district make you feel guilty because you want time to think and investigate the options. This is your child and you should never sign anything until you are sure it is in your child’s best interest.
I have added a link to a chart that will help you compare the two and understand the differences.

504 Plan vs. IEP – Education pages lists the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan.

I have also added a link to a video which helps to explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 19 years experience working with children in Special Education and was an Intern for the AB3632 program which works with children in Special Ed and IEPs. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s practice visit his website at or his new website that deals specifically with IEPs,

Head Injuries in Teenagers

Head Injuries in Teenagers

Parents are learning that Concussions in teenagers are more common than people think and can create more problems that people think. A concussion can cause physical impairment such as not being able to walk or emotional issues such as a teenager suddenly having anger problems or depression. This can result is teenagers turning towards drugs as away to self-medicate or suicide due to the depression they are experiencing.

We have been hearing more and more about concussions in professional sports in recent years. We have also seen professional athletes walk away from their careers because they are not willing to risk the after effects of multiple concussions. A fact that some in professional sports do not want to be publicized. Will Smith stared in a movie regarding a professional football player and how his life significantly changed after several concussions. The National Football League tried to stop this movie from being made and shown, but they lost.

However, we do have examples. Mohammad Ali is the most notable example of how multiple concussions can change a person and leave them disabled. Also a news anchor for ABC News documented how his life changed after receiving a traumatic brain injury while covering the war in Afghanistan.

Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries also occur in teenagers. Teen athletes such as football players routinely suffer concussions. Many of these athletes suffer permanent brain damage such as difficulty remembering things or emotional issues such as mood swings. Also a number of high school athletes do die from concussions every year.

High school athletes are not the only teenagers at risk for concussions. Teens in general are at risk because teens are willing to engage in risky behavior such as jumping off something or racing cars. Many teens feel they are safe. They hear about these issues but think it would never happen to them. However we never know who it will happen to. Therefore, parents you need to educate and monitor your teenager’s behavior. If you have a teen athlete, you may need to make the decision to stop them from playing a sport if they have suffered a couple concussions. This is not easy but you must think of their lives after high school.

I have included a link to a YouTube video where a physician describes the basic information about what happens to a brain during a concussion and the process of recovery from a concussion. This is a must see for any parent

In addition to this video I have included a fact sheet from the CDC regarding information about concussions for you to review

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teenagers and their families. For more information on Dr. Rubino or his work please visit his website at or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

The Deadly Teenage Heroin Epidemic

The Deadly Teenage Heroin Epidemic

ABC 20/20 did a very good show the other night about the epidemic of heroin use in the United States. If you did not see it, you can probably find it on their website. Parents this is a show you need to see because many teenagers I work with are not afraid or concerned about how dangerous heroin can be.

According to ABC 20/20, 129 people die every year from a heroin overdose. A majority of these deaths are teens and people in their twenties. Heroin is used by people in the lower income level and by people who are the wealthiest in the country. It is used by whites, blacks, Hispanics basically every ethnic group. It is also used by males and females. Therefore, for the families in Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Danville who say we don’t have that problem here, yes you do. Also for parents and educators who think that if their child is in a private school they are less likely to use, you are wrong too. Heroin crosses all ethnic and economic boundaries. The epidemic is so severe some schools are teaching children in the 6th grade how to use Narcan. This drug can reverse an overdose of heroin if administered in time.

Therefore, parents in the Bay Area, you need to pay attention to this issue and these facts. You might be saving the life of your child or someone else you love.

As stated Heroin use to to be a drug of the past but it is now very popular with teens. Heroin is a cheaper alternative to many other drugs. For $10 a teenager can buy a capsule of heroin. This is much cheaper than other drugs.

Heroin is still mainly snorted or injected. Because it is injected teens are exposing themselves to HIV and Hepatitis C. Both are life threatening conditions with no cure. Also many girls who use heroin get pregnant but don’t realize they are pregnant until the 4th or 5th month. The girls stop but it is too late. The babies will be born drug addicted and if they live through withdrawals, these children will have on going health issues and learning disabilities. In addition to exposing themselves to diseases most teens use Heroin with other drugs such as alcohol. This makes the probability of overdosing on Heroin even higher. Heroin lowers a persons breathing rate and the drugs they are combining it with lower the breathing rate even more making an accidental over dose more likely. The rate of overdosing from Heroin has quadrupled over the years.

Why is Heroin coming back and very popular with teens? Heroin is very similar to the Opioid based pain killers that teens have been using for years. However, with the cost of pain killers rising on the streets and becoming harder to get due to new prescription laws, heroin is easier to get and cheaper. Also teens tend to like the high better. It is not uncommon for someone to get addicted after using heroin one time.

In the last few years heroin use has doubled in teenagers. What teens are at the highest risk? Those who have been using Opioid pain killers, those abusing marijuana and males. Remember it is very common for teens to combine heroin with other drugs and they are unaware of the impact it has on their breathing. They may collapse and not know why and by the time their friends get them to an emergency room it’s too late. Also teens may go to sleep after using and their breathing rate is so shallow they never wake up.

This is a very dangerous drug. If it doesn’t kill when the teen uses it the drug can kill when the teen contracts HIV or Hepatitis C. The rate of teens using this drug has doubled and the amount of people dying from an overdose has quadrupled over the last few years. Again, parents you cannot ignore this issue. Heroin is being used by upper class children and poor children, athletes, and all races. So it is impacting all teens.

The other major issue with this drug is stopping. Someone cannot just go off heroin. People can die from withdraw. However, finding a treatment center that is affordable or with an open space is very difficult. They may have to wait four months to get into a rehab center. This is very dangerous. When someone decides to stop heroin, they need to enter rehab immediately. If they have to wait even 2 days, they may not make it because they cannot stand the withdrawal symptoms.

If we get involved we can hopefully stop teens from using this highly addictive killer. I have attached a link to a handout by the CDC with facts, warning signs and suggestions to help your son if you think he is using heroin.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who has been working with teens for over 18 years and he is considered an expert in this field. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino and his private practice visit his website at

Ideas on how to help you child start school

Ideas on how to help you child start school

Advice for School Starters – Smoothing the Transition

A teacher reads to schoolchildren in a primary classWith the beginning of term fast approaching, parents and children will be facing the start of the new school year with a whole range of emotions. The thought of a new class, new teacher, new subjects or even a new school might be exciting, nerve wracking, confusing or a mixture of all 3 emotions with many more besides. Whether your child is starting nursery, a new school or a new class within a known school, here are some top tips to consider when trying to ensure that the start is as smooth as possible.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings
With thousands of children starting school or nursery /changing class across the country, it is easy to down play what a big deal this is for your child. It might be their first step away from you and into a more formal educational setting, or it might be a move to a new teacher. Whatever the transition is, it is likely to be huge for your child. It will be a new environment, with new staff and possibly different peers. All of the constants that help your child feel secure might have been taken away to be replaced by unknowns. Imagine how anxious you might be when starting a new job – where do you sit? What are the rules around breaks? Where do you get your lunch? What happens if you don’t know what to do? As adults, we have the ability to reflect on these questions and form plans to deal with them (what is known as executive functioning), children don’t have this ability until well into middle childhood and sometimes later. Instead they are just left with a general sense of unease and emotional upheaval. It is a big deal. Being able to listen to your child’s worries, naming them and talking about them will help. Also recognise that their behaviour might become unsettled during this time. Remember that all behaviour is a communication – what is your child trying to tell you about how she /he is feeling?
Protect their sense of security
As a parent, you will have spent a long time building up a sense of trust and security between you and your child. By the time they go to nursery or school, they will know that they can trust you, that you are there for them and that you can meet their needs. Imagine how confusing it would be if this feeling was suddenly replaced by anxiety and insecurity by suddenly being left in a new place with no where that you know to be safe and familiar. No matter what advice you are given, it is important that you recognise what your child needs. If they need you to stay a bit longer, then stay, if they need a comforter, allow this. Recognise that the first few weeks of a new environment will be unsettling for a child – what can you do to protect their sense of security (even when others may be telling you to leave them)?
Trust your instinct (and your child)
No-one knows your child like you do. You are the expert in what your child needs to feel safe. If you feel that your child needs you to stay to help them settle in, then do this. If you know that your child will settle better with you remaining at distance, then this is fine too! Children are not all the same and just as each of us need different things in our adult lives, then this applies to children too. Yes, nursery or school staff may have years of experience in settling children into their new class, but they have no experience of what your child needs. This is where working in partnership with the school or nursery really needs to take place. If your instinct is telling you that your child needs something other than what school or nursery are suggesting, talk to them! Recognise your absolute expertise in knowing what your child needs.
Giving your child a sense of predictability is important when it comes to change. Most of the things that we find anxiety provoking are to do with not knowing what to expect. Younger children will often work through these anxieties through play if they are given the opportunity to do this. Play is a non threatening way to explore different scenarios and difficult emotions. If your child is starting school, is there a way that you can help them role play this either with toys or with you / older siblings? Can you set up a pretend classroom? Other effective ways of helping prepare children for school might be to think about visual timetables/cues – the simple act of looking at photographs together of their new environment will be helpful in lessening any anxiety. Talking to your child about the day to day detail of what will happen will also be helpful.
Give your child control
The feeling of not being in control when starting something new is the one that can create the most anxiety, and for some children, the most challenging behaviours. Think about any way that you can give your child an appropriate sense of control over what is happening. Simple things like picking their bag, clothes etc can be helpful, but don’t limit this to just thinking about school related things. Are there other points in the day where you can give your child a sense of control?
Transitions can be very exciting but are a time of great change for both parents and children. Be kind to yourself as you go through this time, you both deserve it!
by Dr. Sarah Hulme

Steps towards using gentle parenting

Steps towards using gentle parenting

Six Steps To Work Towards Gentle Parenting

Woman reading book to young girl in bed smilingThe following six steps can help you to transition to more gentle parenting:
1) Resolve to respect your children
As adults we command respect from our children, and other adults, on a daily basis. We expect to be treated in a certain way, we expect others to take our thoughts, rights and beliefs into account in all dealings with us. If a child in particular shows us a lack of respect we are quick to pull them up on it (especially if they are tweens or teens!), yet do we afford our children the same priviledge?
If we respected our children we would listen when they woke crying in the middle of the night instead of returning them to bed with minimal eye contact or conversation. If we respected our children we would not force them to eat the untouched brocolli on their plate that they beg us to leave. If we respected our children we wouldn’t say “because I said so” or escalate into yelling at tweens and teens. If we respected our children we would not ignore their overwhelming emotions when they tantrum in public. If we respected our children we would never consciously hurt them emotionally or physically.
If we respected our children they would respect us and not feel the need to display half of the behaviours listed above.

2) Resolve to empathise with your children
Children have bad days just like us, some days the world is overwhelming, some days they are scared, lonely, confused, anxious or angry. Some days they need duvet days, hugs and for us to listen to them. How would you feel if you were treated in the same way that you treat your child?
If we empathised with our children we would not leave them crying alone in their crib at night – even if it is for only 5 minute intervals. If we empathised with our children we would never make them sit on a naughty step or put them in ‘time out’. If we empathised with our children we wouldn’t yell at them and we would never intentionally hurt them. If we empathised with our children we would listen to them more and speak at them less.
If we empathised with our children they would grow to be empathic towards others, including their parents, and would not feel the need to display half of the behaviours listed above.

3) Allow your children to have their own opinions and make their own choices.
For some reason many adults seem to believe that children are incapable of making their own good choices and need steering as much as possible, similarly we often punish a child who holds different opinions to us. We do however aspire to raise children who are thinkers, confident and assertive and questioning of the world – how do we expect them to be so if we take such control over their lives?
Children need to make mistakes, the best way for them to learn what is a good and what is a bad choice is to let them experience the natural consequences of their actions. The best way to raise a child who respects the opinions of others is to respect the child’s individual opinions ourselves. That also means allowing them to make age appropriate decisions as much as possible. If they are not of an age where they are capable of making a big decision about their lives – then we owe it to our children to not make that decision for them unless it threatens their physical health or psychological wellbeing.
If we allowed our children to make mistakes and valued their opinions they would grow to respect the opinions of others and know the value of good and bad choices at an age when they need to the most.

4) Reset your expectations to what is age appropriate and normal
Much parenting angst stems from our skewed perceptions of what is and isn’t normal when it comes to babies and children. From night waking to naps, eating to behaviour, our perception of what is normal and what is “a problem” is usually far from the truth.
It is normal for babies to wake regularly throughout the night well into their second year, it is normal for toddlers to bite, throw and hit, it is normal for preschoolers to not want to share, it is normal for a 5 year old to not understand – or care – how their actions can upset another and it is normal for a tween or teen to have uncontrollable bouts of anger that result in door slamming or wall punching. All of these behaviours are related to brain maturation (or rather the lack of), they are not behaviours that mean you are raising a monster they are just a relection of biology.
Make a resolution to understand the normal physiology and psychology of children, particularly the same age as yours and throw out any books or magazines that are ignorant to this knowledge and stop visiting parenting websites that are full of forums and advice article that promote otherwise.
When we reset our expectations of our children based on biological fact it is easier to be kind to ourselves as well as our children and will also result in more respect, empathy and allowance of control too.

5) Take time to nurture yourself
Parenting is really hard, particularly in the times that we live in. We are not meant to parent alone, we are meant to do it as part of a group – who provide emotional and physical support. We are not meant to parent and take a full time job, parenting is a full time job. We are not meant to worry about our physical appearance 3 weeks post partum.
As parents today we have so much added stress that we forget to see parenting for what it is – the most important job in the world. If you spend all day doing nothing but cradling a fractious newborn, bouncing a teething 6 month old or laying with a poorly toddler you haven’t “failed” or “done nothing” – you have done everything, and then some.
We get so frazzled as parents – with money worries, relationship issues and work concerns, we are exhausted dealing with all of the sleepless nights alone and our stress rises. We become so full of our own overwhelming emotions that we are unable to ‘hold’ any from our children. So we snap. We shout at them, we send them to their room when we know what we really should have done is talk. We leave babies to cry themselves to sleep because we just can’t face another night with no sleep. These problems though are ours, not those of our children. They don’t need fixing – we do.
Taking care of yourself as a parent is not a luxury or a bonus if you have a spare 5 minutes, it’s is a vital part of who you are and what you do. When you nurture yourself in body and soul you will have more patience, more respect, more empathy and more understanding of your children and your increased ability to deal with their issues as well as your own, will mean you will have far less of their issues to deal with.

6) Give them your attention.
Many ‘parenting experts’ comment that babies and toddlers only behave in a certain way in order to elicit the attention of their parents, like this is a bad thing. Parents are advised to ignore the attention seeking behaviour, when what they really need to do is to see it as a need that should be met.
Our lives are so busy, so full of screens and half hearted “in a minute honey” and “that’s nice dear” comments, so full of rushed bedtimes, meals on the run, clubs, classes and playdates. Our lives are so full of ‘stuff’ – toys, apps and equipment – that our children are growing up ‘stuff rich’ but ‘attention poor’.
If children persistently act in ways we do not like in order to get our attention – be that hitting, biting, throwing, crying, tantruming, door slamming or sulking – by far the easiest way to distinguish the unwanted behaviour is to give them our undivided attention. Not only does this have untold benefits for our children – but for us too, for it means we slow down and begin to see the wonder in the world once again.