What Every Parent Needs to Know about IEPS and 504 plans

What Every Parent Needs to Know about IEPS and 504 plans

It appears to be getting close to the beginning of the school year. However, with the Coronavirus still around and a threat and for some areas the Shelter in place order is still in effect, we do not know how the school districts are planning to operate school this year. Even though we don’t have an answer regarding how school districts plan on operating, I have been getting questions about IEPs (Individualized Educational Plan). Parents are having difficulties arranging meetings and getting specific answers what will be included in their child’s IEP or is the school going to offer them a 504 plan instead. The IEP process is difficult under normal conditions. When we are in the middle of a pandemic it can become very overwhelming and confusing. Additionally, many parents do not know what an IEP is or what a 504 Plan is in regards to a child’s education. Also many parents are not aware of their rights or their child’s educational rights. I receive numerous emails from parents anytime I write about IEPs. Therefore, here is an article describing IEPs and 504 plans for parents. Hopefully this will explain the differences between an IEP and 504 plan and help parents understand what their child is legally entitled to regardless of what the teacher is trying to make you believe.

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 http://www.rcs-ca.com. 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 Centerwww.ed-center.com/504This 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 20 years experience working with children and teens. He also has over 20 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 http://www.rcs-ca.com or his website that deals specifically with IEPs, lucascenter.org or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

These last couple of weeks there have been numerous protests regarding how African Americans are treated by police and by society in general. The point that has been being made over and over is that African Americans are not treated fairly in our society. Many people felt that with the election of President Obama that racism was over. Many people felt if a Black man could be elected President, how could our society be racist?

However, the racism and prejudice still continue. The death of George Floyd was a prime example that racism continues in our society. Additionally, the protestors are not just talking about obvious racism, they are protesting institutional racism which exists at many levels in our society. One place in exist is in our schools. Children and teenagers are not born with racism and prejudice, but we teach it to them as they grow up. We need to change how children are raised if we want to eliminate racism and prejudice.

One example is Jill Elliot’s blue eyed/brown eyed exercise. The day after Martin Luther King assignation’s, she put her third grade class through this exercise. At first she told her class research showed that Blue eyed people were better and made all the brown eyed children wear a necklace identifying them as brown eyed people. Within a couple of hours these third grade students, who they day before were treating each other as equals, were putting down the brown eyed children. The next day she said she had been mistaken and Brown eyed children were better so all the blue eye children needed to wear the necklaces. Again within a couple hours all of the Brown eyed third graders were forming prejudice attitudes about the blue eyed children and treating them according to these prejudice attitudes. This amazing exercise demonstrated how easily prejudice and racism are taught and how easily children will adapt to and treat others with the prejudice attitudes they have been taught by society. This was a very bold step for Mrs. Elliot to take, but it taught us a lot. Her exercise still works today. Oprah had Mrs. Elliot on a show and put the audience through the same exercise and 50 years later the results were the same. The thing many of us have found so amazing about this exercise is that with very little information prejudice and racism can take hold of people very quickly without people being aware of what is happening. In the original third grade class you had best friends stop being friends due to eye color. Thankfully the results were not long lasting. On the third day when Mrs. Elliot explained what she did the children stopped treating each other differently. However the point was clearly made how easy it is to teach children to be prejudice and how easy it is to keep prejudice and discrimination going.

The 1984 movie, The Breakfast Club, is another excellent example of how we teach children to be prejudice and to discriminate. In the movie five teenagers representing the common high school stereotypes, the rich popular kid, the jock, the nerd, the weirdo and the juvenile delinquent, are all together having to serve Saturday school for various mistakes they made at school. The teacher overseeing the Saturday school reacts to the teens according to the stereotype the fit. He asks them to write an essay describing themselves.

At the beginning of the movie the teens treat each other according to the stereotypes. As a result, they are rude to each other and put each other down when ever they can. They never stop to think how they are making each other feel even when it’s obvious they are hurting someone’s feelings. It’s all part of the stereotypes they have learned so it’s alright. In other words, they are already operating from a point of view that some people matter and other people do not matter. If they don’t matter you can say or do whatever you want to them and not feel guilty or any remorse.

However during the course of the day, they begin to notice and learn things about each other. They start to learn that they are not as different from each other as they thought. They begin to identify things they have in common and notice they have the same feelings as each other. Once they remove the stereotypes they started to see how similar they were to each other. However, then the question came up, what happens when they return to school on Monday? Could they maintain the friendships they made that day? Finally one person speaks up and says no due to the peer pressure. They felt they would have to continue to follow the stereotypes at school if they wanted to keep their other friends. Even though they had learned how wrong the stereotypes were and the friendships they were missing out on, they felt no one else would understand and accept what they were doing. Since this was a movie they were able to discuss the price they were paying conforming to the stereotypes and the friendships they were losing. At the end they decided to abandon the stereotypes and take the risk of no conforming to the norm, so they could maintain their friendships. Exactly what we need teenagers to do if we are going to eliminate racism and discrimination.

As for the easy, they wrote a group easy for the teacher. They realized that no matter what they said the teacher would still see the stereotypes; the princess, the jock, the nerd, the weirdo and the juvenile delinquent. I find the closing line very interesting because they state what they discovered during the day was each of them had parts of all the stereotypes as part of their personalities. Therefore, no one was better or worse, they were all equal and deserved to be treated equally. They also felt no need to explain themselves to the teacher because in their opinion he was going to continue to see what he wanted. It would not matter to him what they said. He already made up his mind about them.

This movie does an excellent job showing how teenagers learn to conform to society’s prejudices and discrimination. However, it also provides hope that if we take down the preconceived ideas that we may discover the similarities we share and celebrate the our differences. Wouldn’t the world be boring, if we all were the same? Also the United States has always been referred to as the great American melting pot. The meaning is clear our Country was suppose to accept all who want to join and contribute their unique cultures. When did we forget this point?

The children and teenagers are the future of our Country. We need to listen to them and we need to allow them to have experiences like the Breakfast Club. There is a group Challenge Day that does provide this opportunity for teenagers. As adults we need to be honest with ourselves about the prejudice attitudes we teach children. Parents demand that your schools make Challenge Day and other programs like it as part of the school’s Curriculum. We need to end racism, discrimination, people not being given a fair chance to succeed and especially people being killed.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is a founding member of the national Street Soldier Advisory Board and has worked with Challenge Day. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Dads Help Children Mature into Adults

Dads Help Children Mature into Adults

We have all heard very often how important a mother is to a child especially a young child. While this is true Dads are just as important to children and young children. I say Dad because any man can father a child, but it takes work to be a Dad to a child.

Because of the stereotype we have about men in our culture, Dads are often not considered to be important in children’s lives. We tend to focus on mothers and what they provide children. Also because men tend to work a lot and have a tendency not to express emotions, many people assume Dads are usually not emotionally available to children.

However, if we look at the stereotype it also demonstrates why Dads are important. Dads are the male role models to their sons. Dads teach their sons how to treat women, their wives and their children. They teach their sons how a man is supposed to act in relationships and react to people in general.

Dads are also role models for their daughters. Their daughters see how their Dads treat their Moms. This is the first example girls have of how they should be treated in an intimate relationship. If their Dad is verbally and physically abusive, they will most likely expect their boyfriend or husband to treat them that way. Additionally, if girls are exposed to a Dad who is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive, they are more likely to have low self-esteem as adults and be bullied as a child. Boys also are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and be bullies, if their Dad is verbally, emotionally or physically abusive.

Additionally, boys tend to look for validation from their Dads that they are doing a good job developing into an adult man. If their Dad is not emotionally available, many boys interpret this as they are a failure to their Dad and they become hurt and angry. Since men and boys tend to have difficulties expressing their emotions, because men don’t express sadness or similar emotions, they tend to express these emotions as anger. In other words, boys and men tend to project their pain onto others.

If we change our mind set and see how valuable a Dad is to kids then may be Dads can start meeting the emotional needs of their children and families. However, this requires men to stop living up to the stereotype society has about how men are supposed to act. Since men tend to focus on the stereotype about male behavior, they tend to pass this stereotype on to their sons.

I have a friend who was able to ignore the male stereotype and write a wonderful poem to his son. He wanted his son never to doubt how he felt about him and he wanted to make sure he shared it with his son. What a tremendous gift he gave to his son! Also what a fantastic role model he is being to his son about how to be a Dad.

I asked for his permission to print it here and he graciously said yes. I hope other Dads will read this and share a gift like this with their son or daughter. Also I hope it helps to eliminate the false stereotypes we have about Dads.

I never want this to go unsaid, about my son,
So here in this poem, for all to hear
There are no words to express how much you mean to me,
with a smile upon my face, and warm feelings in my heart, I must declare!
A son like you, always polite and full of joy,I thought could never be.
Since the day you were born, I just knew you were like a mini me,
from your first breath I knew,
God sent me a blessing- and that was you.
For this I thank him every day,
You are the true definition of a son, in every way.
Your kindness and caring with love for all,
you give my life meaning, for us to share.
Becoming your father has shown me a new sense of being.
I want you to know that you were the purpose of my life,
Turning everything I ‘am – into a happy place.
Always remember that I know how much you care,
I can tell by the bond that we share.
For a son like you there could be no other,
And whether we are together or apart,
Please do not ever forget-
You will always have a piece of my heart.

This is a fantastic example of a Dad!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years experience working with children & teens. He is an expert in this area of treatment. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Facebook http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Raising Children without Prejudice

Raising Children without Prejudice

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has created a number of protests, conversations and people using his death as an excuse to commit crimes and cause damage. What I want to focus on is that his murder has shined a spotlight on the fact that Black Americans and other minorities are not treated equally in the United States. An issue we have ignored for a long time. Unfortunately, Mr. Floyd’s death gives us a chance to change this fact. It also provides us a chance to change how children are raised in the United States so hopefully we can eliminate prejudice regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, mental health issues and financial status just to name a few issues.

Some people may ask who am I to address this issue. I am a white man, who has a physical disability, but my status of being white provided me the chance to an excellent education, I was able to go to the best schools, and I was able to earn a doctorate degree. It also gave me the opportunity to open my own business, live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, to have very nice clothes, a nice car and plenty of food to eat. Additionally, I have access to excellent medical care when I need it. Therefore, being white and working hard has provided me with a number of advantages. The way my family raised me and what I was taught by the Christian Brothers is the more you know the more you owe. In other words, since I was fortunate enough to have all these advantages, I have an obligation to speak out for all those people who are not as fortunate as me. Something I am able to do because I am white. Because I am white with a doctorate degree people are more willing to listen to me than a Black man on the ground saying he cannot breathe.

A Black man made a YouTube video about who he is as a person. Please take the time to watch this video by this black man. As he describes himself, I do not see a big difference between him as a person and myself except he is black. The color of his skin should not make a difference in how I treat this man, in my opinion. Watch it for yourself and see what you think https://youtu.be/oGu_xGBekpo.

In order to address some of the issues people are protesting about those of us who have the privilege and power, we need to look at ourselves and how we have benefited from the privilege and power we were born into. As a result of this power, we have the ability to try to change the way things work in the United States so everyone is treated fairly. Being treated fairly means treating people for who they are not based on race, religion, sexual orientation or physical disability or mental health issues. Michael Jackson said it perfectly, in my opinion, in his song, “The Man in the Mirror.” He describes how the privileged act and how we discriminate against and ignore minorities, the poor and those with disabilities. His challenge to us is do we have the courage to look at ourselves and make real changes so everyone is treated equally. I have included a link to the lyrics of that song. Please review them and look at how they apply to today’s world and ask yourself do you have the courage to really change yourself? https://youtu.be/j2mJZwOMLdQ.

After we have made the appropriate changes then we can teach our children not to discriminate and to treat everyone fairly. Yes, it’s seems impossible, but this is the United States. If enough of us decide to make these changes and work together, we can make these changes. Or maybe we need to let the children teach us. A year ago a video went viral of two preschoolers who were best friends and not afraid to hug each other. They did not care that one boy was white and the other was black. They did not care because they were not yet taught about prejudice and discrimination. I have included the link to that video too https://youtu.be/M68evpsDC8M. These two boys are very happy and very good friends. Wouldn’t it be nice if as adults we could be so nice to each other? Maybe we need to watch the innocent children so we can learn how to unlearn the prejudice thoughts that we have all been raised with by our society. When I see we I mean we. Whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, rich people, poor people, educated and uneducated people, we all have our prejudices and ways we discriminate against each other. However, in order for us to really make a change, white people need to take the first step because we have the majority of the power. However, if we are going to make a permanent change, black people, hispanic people and asian people need to take steps at the same time. We all need to work together if we want our children to have better lives and not have to continue to live with prejudices and discrimination.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenagers Growing up with Racism

Teenagers Growing up with Racism

This week our nation witnessed another senseless tragedy the murder of George Floyd by the police. Is this the first time that a Blackman or another minority has been mistreated by the police or society no! However, what are we teaching our children with the violent protest that have been occurring all over the Country.

Our children have grown up with chaos. They were first exposed to 9/11, then terrorist attacks, a war which has gone on for 17 years, mass shootings at their schools and finally being in quarantine for 2 1/2 months due to the Coronavirus virus. This is a lot for a child to comprehend. They already believe they won’t live past 30 because of the violence in the world. What will these violent protests do to this belief?

Is there a reason for the protest? Yes. We all saw a man brutally murdered for no reason by the police again. Are minorities treated fairly in our Country, No. I am a psychotherapist who has over 20 years experience working with teenagers. Many of the teenagers I have worked with have been on probation, expelled from school or picked up by the police for walking around our city treats. I have also went to Juvenile Hall many times to continue a teenager’s therapy or to complete a Court Ordered assessment. What I have seen over and over is that minority teenagers are not treated the same as Caucasian teenagers. Minority teenagers always receive the tougher punishments while Caucasian teenagers walk away with a warning. However, financial class makes a difference too. If you are a poor Caucasian teenager you are treated like a minority. One judge even referred to one poor white teenager’s family as “trailer trash.” The teen was devastated but no one in authority gave it a second thought.

What we need to do for our children is elect leaders who will demand a change in the system. The President encourages this discrimination. He called the people “thugs” in his tweet and uses other racial statements. Anytime there has been a racial issue he tends to ignore it choosing to focus on how he is mistreated. Also look at his history of how he has referred to people of color, women, people with disabilities and people who live below the poverty level. He makes fun of them and blames them for the problems in our Country. We can change this with our votes.

However, if we are going to really address the issue we must all look at ourselves. Listen to Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Miroor.” He states, “I’m going to make a change and I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” We have all been brought up in this society where minorities or anyone who is slightly different is not treated equally. Every person wether you are white, black or brown has some racist attitudes. Therefore, to eliminate the inequality in our Country, we must address our issues first and then teach our children about these issues. Burning a building or breaking car windows will change nothing. The Mayor of Atlanta said it best last night. I have included a link to her speech. I encourage each and every one of you to listen to it and apply to your own lives. Give our children a chance at a better life by having the courage to face your racism https://youtu.be/BVs8JXqLPs8.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Returning to School during A Pandemic

Returning to School during A Pandemic

We hear the government talking about reopening the economy and also reopening schools. However, since there is still a lot we have to learn about the Coronavirus, we do not know exactly how school should reopen and when. There has been discussions about options, but no one can make a firm decision yet. Therefore, we have to wait to find out how and when schools will reopen. Since there is no definite plan yet, this creates anxiety in children and parents.

Many of the children and teenagers, I treat, are asking about returning to school and what changes are going to be made at school. When I tell them that there is no definite plan yet, they are not surprised but you can also hear the anxiety it their voices. We have to remember that these kids have been living under quarantine orders for over 2 months now. Also during that time there have been few concrete answers for these children about the virus or returning to school. Furthermore, before the quarantine, these children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis and mass shooting drills. This was another situation they had to endure with no reasons as to why the shootings were occurring or when they would stop. Therefore, we have an entire generation of children and teenagers who have had to adjust to living with uncertainty about their safety.

Many parents are wondering how to handle this uncertainty about returning to school. Well one thing we can do to help children and teenagers is to validate their feelings. Instead of just telling them everything will be alright. We need to acknowledge that it makes sense that they are feeling anxious and uncertain about the future and going back to school. We have no answers and it’s natural to be anxious under the present situation. Therefore, instead of telling them their feelings are wrong or they are over reacting, validate their feelings. This will help them cope with their feelings and help them not to feel like they are crazy for feeling the way they do.

Also explain to children and teenagers that we are living in historic times. Inform them that the last time there was a pandemic was 100 years ago. We did survive that pandemic and we will find away to survive this one. It may take sometime but we will find a solution. However, while we are looking for answers, they are living history. When they are older and their grandchildren ask about the Coronavirus pandemic, they will be able to provide first hand answers because they lived through the pandemic. This may help with the uncertainty and provide your child with a different perspective they can use as they view the current situation.

Also reassure them that you know while we search for answers that this can be scary and confusing, but as their parent you are going to watch out for them. As soon as you hear news about what the plans are for school, you will share the information with them. Also reassure them you will not place them in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. If you do not feel comfortable with the plans for returning to school, you will look at alternatives such as home schooling. Remind them that as their parents you can make different plans for them if needed.

However, while we wait for the plans assure them it’s okay to feel anxious or nervous. Also let them know you want them to share their feelings with you so you can help. There is no reason to be embarrassed about the feelings they are having or needing to talk about the feelings. Also explain you understand that sometimes it’s hard to talk to your parents about certain feelings. Reassure them that if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you that you will understand and make arrangements for them to talk to someone where they will feel safe.

The most important thing to remind children is they have been living with a great deal of anxiety and fear for a long time. Therefore, it’s only natural that they may need to talk about their feelings. It’s normal and a healthy thing to do and you are there as their parent to help them in any way they need.

Another thing that can help is to encourage your child to talk to their friends and their feelings too. They can use FaceTime or Zoom. By sharing their thoughts and feelings with their friends about returning to school, they will see they are not alone. Hearing that their friends have similar feelings can help them relax and not feel so strange about their feelings. It is also an excellent support group for them. If they start talking now about their feelings, it will make it easier to talk about their feelings as they get older and life gets more complicated. Also by talking about their feelings, it also hopefully keep the door open so they continue to talk to you too.

The idea of returning to school will create anxiety when they think about having to wear a mask and other possible changes. However, if we acknowledge the anxiety is legitimate and if we attempt to work with the children and their feelings, they should have less anxiety and an easier transition back to the new normal for schools.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino please visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety during the Pandemic

Anxiety is a common issue for children especially during the quarantine and having to attend school from home. Remember children’s imaginations are very active. During the last few months we have had little to no information about how the Coronavirus works. Therefore, there has not been a lot to explain to children and they have heard a lot on the news. Many parents tell me they have limited the access to news but with their IPads, phones and friends, they hear more than we are aware of. Also don’t forget, prior to the pandemic the children were dealing with mass shootings on a daily basis. Therefore, there is a lot going on to cause anxiety in children.

According to the CDC and what I have seen in my office, anxiety is at epidemic levels for children. The most common reason children are coming into therapy right now is anxiety or depression. Many parents want to know what they can do in between therapy sessions to help their child with their anxiety. I ran across an acronym by Lori Lite that is designed to help children who are anxious. The acronym is ASSURE. I will explain what is stand for and how to use it below.

A – Align with your child
 with their body language
 with their tone and volume of speech
 validate their feelings
S – Share your experience
your feelings in stressful moments
mistakes you’ve made and how you emerged from them
how you cope with stress in day-to-day situation
perspective you’ve gained from seeing “this too shall pass”
S – Skills-training
give them words for feelings and worries
get them involved in appropriate exercise and activities to release stress
teach and model coping strategies like visualization, deep breathing, positive imagery
U – Uncover stress-related signs and symptoms
body aches – head, stomach
irritability and mood change
appetite change
sleep changes
R – Reassure them
that they’ll come through
that you’re there for them
that you’re proud of the effort they’re investing in calming and coping
things will normalize – recall examples
E – Engage the topic when they’re calm
listen to what they say and don’t say
respect their process in overcoming stress and worry
brainstorm options while they’re calm, since that’s when the “thinking” part of the brain is turned on.
This may not eliminate their anxiety all together, but it should help reduce their anxiety. Also remember if their anxiety is severe also seek psychotherapy for your child with a therapist who specializes in treating children. Psychotherapy can now be done via telemedicine so there is no risk of exposing them to the virus. Between the mass shootings and the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, our children are living through historic times. We have never experienced events like we currently are experiencing so there should be no surprise that children may need psychotherapy at this time.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. His practice does offer telemedicine. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Teenage Suicide During the Quarantine

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? This concern has increased since the CDC no longer ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death and now rates it as the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine has been in place, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine, parents were worrying more about suicidal teenagers as we learned more about suicides of survivors involved in mass shootings. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they feel their teen is suicidal. Parents are aware there is a teenage suicide epidemic, but have no idea what to do or how to get help.

A successful suicide attempt is definitely a tragedy for the entire family. However, an unsuccessful attempt can be a tragedy for the child and the family too. Depending on the method used, a child who has an unsuccessful attempt may have to live their entire life with major medical complications. They can cause brain damage which may cause them to lose the ability to speak or the ability to breath on their own. Therefore, they may spend the rest of their life on a ventilator. Guns are one of the top three ways teenagers attempt suicide. However, teenagers are not aware that guns jump when fired. Many teens who use a gun do not kill themselves, but they do shoot off their face. The result is they have to have numerous surgeries to reconstruct their face, but their face and life are never the same.

I read this very good article describing what to do if you think your child is suicidal. It provides the steps you need to take in a non-threatening manner. It also addresses issues parents often may not think about, if they are concerned about their child being suicidal. The most important step is don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling suicidal. It is a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal that you will cause them to become suicidal. In fact, you may save their life by asking them if they are suicidal. By asking you let them know it’s ok to talk about their feelings. Also by asking you reassure them there is nothing wrong with them and that you are emotionally strong enough to cope with the situation. Therefore, you may save their life by asking, if they are feeling suicidal.

Another reason many parents do not ask their teenager about suicide is the negative stigma associated with suicide. Often when someone dies of suicide the family will give another reason. Many families also request suicide not be listed as the cause of death. The Lighthouse Project conducted at Columbia University is attempting to remove this stigma. The Project has also developed questions that family members, friends and first responders can ask a person who they think might be suicidal. The questions have shown to be very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal and having the person to get help. I am including the link to the Lighthouse Project so you can learn more about it and download the questions that are most appreciated for you, if you feel someone in your life maybe suicidal. http://cssrs.columbia.edu/. It is a very good list of questions and the research shows that the questions are very effective at identifying someone who is suicidal.

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter.
Bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on an attempt, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Why Are We Ashamed of Mental Health?

Mental health is a topic we tend to avoid in our society. We avoid it so much that the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Many people are afraid that if other people know they are feeling down or anxious that people will think they are crazy. Many people think of someone living in the streets when you mention mental health. This is not reality. This negative stigma makes it difficult for adults to seek help for mental health issues. This negative stigma also makes it very difficult for children to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. They are afraid their friends won’t understand and won’t want to be friends with them. They are also afraid their parents will think they are crazy and be disappointed with them. These ideas are incorrect, but if mental health is overwhelming for an adult, imagine how it can be for a child.

It is very important that children and teenagers do ask for help when they are experiencing mental health issues. The CDC estimates 1in 5 children need psychotherapy for a mental health issue. Furthermore, the CDC has stated that Suicide is an epidemic for children between the ages of 10 and 18 years old and is the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Cutting, self-harming behaviors, are also now at an epidemic rate in children. Most teenagers I work with, as a psychotherapist, have had suicidal thoughts and have cut before starting therapy with me. They also tell me about many of their friends who are feeling suicidal and cutting. According to the CDC, the Suicide rate and the number of teenagers engaging in self-harming behaviors has been increasing every year for the past twenty years.

While the need for teenagers needing psychotherapy is increasing, the reluctance to attend psychotherapy is increasing. Most teenagers I see for psychotherapy are afraid that their friends would stop being their friends if they knew they were going to therapy. They are afraid it makes them crazy and nothing will help because they are weak. They blame themselves for the feelings they are having. They are shocked when I explain that they are not weak and it is not their fault.

We need to change this stigma associated with mental health. Mental health should be treated the same way a physical health because they are the same. Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. If some one is diabetic, do we call them crazy or weak because their pancreas is not producing the correct level of insulin? No we do not. Therefore, when we have numerous research studies which show a link between physical health and mental health, why do we continue to view mental health so negatively? By doing so we are causing a number of teenage deaths. Suicide use to be the third leading cause of death for teenagers, however now according to the CDC it is the second most common cause, as I stated above. Many teens also die every year from eating disorders. Eating disorders occur in both girls and boys despite the belief girls only have eating disorders. Bullying is a severe problem and many teenagers are opting to commit suicide rather than discuss the pain and torture they are experiencing due to being bullied. This does not make sense that teenagers should be dying because the teen or their family are embarrassed to seek treatment.

I was researching this subject and found a video by the Anna Freud Institute. It is called, “We all have mental health.” It is a short video directed at teenagers and middle school students. It discusses the issue in a very relaxed manner and provides teenagers with options for how they can talk about their own feelings. I encourage parents, teachers and anyone who deals with children to watch this video. You may want to watch it with your teen and begin a discussion about feelings. The link to the video is https://youtu.be/DxIDKZHW3-E.

We need to start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health. Besides causing the deaths of teenagers, this stigma effects an entire family. A death impacts everyone in a family. Not being able to talk openly about a death because it was related to a mental health issue, creates more problems for the survivors. Nothing will change until we start to approach mental health differently. I also encourage you to look at the foundation started by Prince William and Henry, Heads Together. It provides a number of ways we can start to change the negative stigma associated with mental health and save lives.

Furthermore, at this time in our world, when we are in the middle of a pandemic which besides killing thousands of people daily, it is creating mental health issues for those in quarantine, those with the virus and our first responders. These issues will not disappear quickly just like the virus will not disappear quickly. As a result, we will have even more people needing mental health care. How will they receive it if they feel ashamed for needing treatment or if we continue to treat mental health as a disease? Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, when will we treat them equally?

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

Mother’s Day Is A Difficult Day for Some People

Mother’s Day Is A  Difficult Day for Some People

Many people assume Mother’s Day is a happy day for people because they can honor their mother. However, for some adults, it is not a happy day. For some people their mother may have died when they were children. For some people their mother may have left them when they were children and they had to live in foster care. For others, their parents separated and their father raised them and they rarely or maybe never saw their mother. Therefore, Mother’s Day may not be a happy day. Also for children who were raised in foster care all their lives, today typically is a very difficult day.

While this may not be a happy day for adults, it also can be a very difficult day for children too. Some children may be dealing with the death of their mother. As I stated above, some children may have a mother who left the family and are not involved with them any longer. Seeing the television commercials or having other family members tell them that it still can be a good day can be difficult for them.

Additionally, this year we are under quarantine. This may make it more difficult for people to visit their mother or grandmother. If someone has been exposed to the virus or if their grandmother is over 70 and has other health issues visiting mom or grandma may not be possible. However, you can use Zoom or FaceTime, but this Mother’s Day will be different and some people may have a hard time accepting it.

I work with many of these children, I described above, in psychotherapy. Many don’t express their feeling, but they tend to deal with the emotional pain by acting out. They may be very oppositional during the week and the day as away to express their feelings. Other children may isolate and not want to be involved with anything having to do with Mother’s Day.

I have had parents ask me how they should handle Mother’s Day when a parent has passed away or left the family. They understand that it is a difficult day, but they do not know what to do in order to help their children.

My recommendation is let the child cope with the day in the way they need to. Try not to make an issue about the day. The other thing I recommend to a parent is to talk to their child. Acknowledge that Mother’s Day may be difficult but it is just one day. They may have a rough day today but tomorrow is another day. I also recommend to a parent, when a parent has passed away, to ask the child if there is anything they may want to do. A child may want to release a ballon with a note, they may want to visit the cemetery or they may want to do something for an aunt or another female role model in their life. If they do have an idea, go with what they want to do. If they don’t have an idea, let them know that is okay. If they come up with an idea then you can do it. If they do not have an idea, then remind them it’s just one day that you all need to get through and tomorrow will be better.

This approach can help children whose mother has left the family. Many children may believe their mother will return one day. Confronting this belief around Mother’s Day is not the time to confront it. However, if they have an idea regarding how they want to honor their mother, allow them to do it.

Hopefully this will help parents understand the issues their children may be dealing with on Mother’s Day and make it easier for everyone.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.