Yes, You can Take Your IEP to College

Yes, You can Take Your IEP to College

Working with children and adolescents I have had many parents ask about 504 plans and Individual Educational Plans (IEP). Parents tend to focus on the assistance their child may need in elementary or high school due to a learning disability or mental health issues. Working over 20 years as a psychotherapist, what I have observed is that children who need assistance in elementary and high school typically need assistance in college. However, many students are not aware that they are entitled to assistance in College too. Now that schools and colleges are reopening many college students are planning on returning to campus and high school seniors who are graduating are preparing to leave for college. Parents are trying to anticipate what their child will need at college, such as laptops etc. However, do not forget their Individual Educational Plan (IEP) so they can arrange for accommodations at their college.

From my experience, most families assume there is no assistance in college. However, typically if a child has an IEP, they are also entitled to assistance in college. Most colleges in their Counseling departments have people and programs designated to help disabled students. A student with a physical or learning disability or mental health issue such as ADHD or depression would qualify for assistance by the Disabled Students Program at a college. I have recently been receiving many questions from Parents about what happens to their child’s IEP when the go to college and questions from parents who have college freshmen asking about their child’s IEP. Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to provide information about how IEPs are handled by colleges. In addition to an IEP, any student with a learning disability or mental health issue is entitled to accommodations by their college because they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.

Additionally, if you live in California and you have a physical or learning disability or a mental health issue and if you had or did not have an IEP while in school, you may qualify to be a client of the California Department of Rehabilitation. This Department is responsible for assisting people in California, with a disability, find a job and get the education they may need to find a job. The Department may assist their clients by providing tuition assistance for community or state colleges and provide financial assistance to buy text books and school supplies. What they are able to do depends on the State budget.

This is another reason for parents to insist when their child does need an IEP that the school district places the child on an IEP. The lies schools tell parents that an IEP will prevent their child from getting into a college, the military or getting a job are not true. Another reason to insist on the IEP, if your child qualifies for an IEP, as a result of having an IEP, your child can be granted accommodations on the SAT or ACT. These are tests seniors typically need to take when they are applying to four year universities. The common accommodation most students require is additional time to complete the tests. I have had many teens with ADHD come to me seeking accommodations on the SAT or ACT. A common requirement that the testing boards require is that a student needs to have had an IEP if they are seeking accommodations on these tests.

Therefore, many students who have disabilities or mental health issues can receive assistance in college. While many people may be surprised, it is true. However, for many college students finding the assistance can be confusing and overwhelming. For a Freshman in college, dealing with heath or mental health issues, the confusion and embarrassment the feel at times because of society’s stereotypes can cause students to give up. The best place for a college freshman to start is the student counseling center. They can then direct them to the correct department and they can avoid some of the embarrassment and confusion.

Also I was contacted by bettercollege.com with a resource guide they developed for college students with mental health issues. While their guide was created for students with mental health issues, it can also be used as a guide for students with physical or learning disabilities. This guide can help a student not feel so overwhelmed or embarrassed too.

Since I feel this is a valuable guide to Freshman students and their families, I am including a link to this resource guide below:

Guide to College Planning for Psychiatrically Impaired Students – https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/college-planning-with-psychiatric-disabilities/

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and college students. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit one of his web sites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

As Schools Reopen the Issue of Bullying Returns Too

As Schools Reopen the Issue of Bullying Returns Too

As more people in the United States are vaccinated for the Coronavirus, we are seeing the number of cases and deaths significantly decline. While we have not over come the Coronavirus yet, we are able to start to resume many everyday activities. One of these activities is reopening schools and children and teenagers returning to school.

Before the pandemic most kids and teenagers complained how they hated school and wanted to stay home. However, after a year of remote learning most kids and teenagers want to go back to the classroom and also see their friends again. However, as kids return to school a common issue will return. The issue is kids being teased and bullied. In the 21st century bullying doesn’t just happen at school it now occurs on line and via texting too.

Often when a child is being bullied they do not say anything to their parents until the bullying is really bad. They are afraid, especially boys, that you will see them as weak. They are also afraid that you will be disappointed in them for not defending themselves. Parents it’s important that you understand that you have not said anything or done anything to create this feeling in your child. Our society teaches children these messages, especially boys. Children receive these messages about being strong and solving their own problems from television, music, and video games. This is what the documentary “The Mask You Live In”, is trying to address. It is on Netflix and it might be helpful if you watch it.

It is very important to take bullying very seriously these days. It is no longer just one kid calling another kid names. The bullying today occurs at school and may include threats of being killed and it goes beyond school. Now bullies can continue their bullying via text messages, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. So the bullying becomes non-stop. It can really make someone feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. One example of a child being overwhelmed by bullying is a 13 year old boy, on the east coast, who committed suicide because he could not tolerate the bullying any longer. The boy committed suicide to escape the bullying. He is not the first child to commit suicide due to bullying. One 15 year old girl committed suicide due to bullying and she left a note to be placed in her obituary. In the note she asked kids to be kind to each other. Some kids are turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and we are seeing a significant number of accidental overdosages resulting in teenagers’ deaths. We assume they were accidents, they could also be suicides staged to look like accidents. Also suicide has recently been moved from the third leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old to the second leading cause of death for kids. Therefore, if kids have been commuting suicide to escape bullying, the rate of bullying has most likely increased significantly.

Bullying is not just an elementary school issue. It occurs in High School and College too. A few years back a college student committed suicide because his roommate secretly filmed him in his dorm room with another guy having sex. When the tape was posted on the college’s email for others to see, the boy was so ashamed because he had not made it publicly known that he was gay. He was so upset and humiliated that he ended up committing suicide.

As the rates for bullying in middle schools increase so do the number of suicides and drug use increase. However, this issue also occurs in elementary school and elementary students are committing suicide or starting to use alcohol and marijuana. We know it is a very serious problem in Elementary schools because suicide it is no longer the third leading cause of death for 10 year old children. Suicide is now the second leading cause according to the CDC statistics. Also fifth graders are beginning to use alcohol and marijuana.

Additionally, I am seeing more and more elementary students in therapy because they are being bullied on line or at school as schools reopen. Many of these children are embarrassed because they feel they should be able to stop the bullying. They are also embarrassed and often don’t want me to tell their parents because they believe they must of done something to deserve being bullied. I explain to them they do not deserve it and they should not have to stop it on their own. I also explain that their parents would want to know so they can help them. I need to emphasize that Mom and Dad won’t blame you or be ashamed of you. It is amazing to see how relaxed these children become when I tell them this about their parents.

What should a parent do? One thing is parents should watch for the following warning signs that your child is a victim of a bully:

Avoiding activities they used to enjoy

Loss of friends or avoiding social situations

Problems sleeping

Complaining of stomachaches or headaches

Loss of appetite

Declining grades

Missing or damaged clothing or belongings

Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home

If you notice any of these or just have a sense something is wrong then talk to your child. However, when you talk to your child reassure them they did nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong with them and you are not upset or disappointed with them. Try to develop a game plan of how you are going to deal with it together and ask how you can be supportive. Also ask your child to promise you if they feel really sad like they want to hurt themselves that they will talk to you before they do anything. You may think this is ridiculous, but I use a no suicide contract with many children that I work with and they honor it. The contract lets them you know that you care about them and it is okay to talk about their feelings.

The other thing you can do as a parent is go to your child’s school and ask what is the school’s policy on bullying. You can also ask how the school watches for bullying, how is the policy enforced and what is being done to prevent bullying. You may ask the school to contact or you can volunteer to contact a group such as Challenge Day. This is an international organization that addresses bullying and they are located in Concord, California. I have seen their work and it is fantastic and kids love it.

Another thing you can do as a parent is start talking to your child about bullying on an occasional basis. This gives you a chance to let them know it’s not their fault and to develop a plan of action if it does occur. You should also discuss drugs and alcohol at the same time. I work with kids all day long and at times I am still shocked at how young kids are when they are starting to get involved with drugs and alcohol.

Keeping an open line of communication with your child is very important if you want them to come to you. Research still indicates that children are more likely to turn to their friends when they have a problem. This is good that they have this emotional support, but their friends don’t have the answers or solutions that they need. Remember it is best to speak to your child when you are in a calm environment and no one else, such as brothers or sisters, are around. Also remember the word HALT. It stands for:

Hungry

Angry

Lonely

Tired

If you sense your child is experiencing any of these feelings it is not a good time to talk. When you talk with your child you want it to be productive and for your child to feel like they are not being judged. Therefore, sometimes it is better to put off a conversation so you don’t end up in an argument. This is more likely to close the line of communication with your child.

I have mentioned several times that being bullied is not their fault. What I have seen from working with children who are bullies, abusive men and reviewing the research is that bullies really have very low self-esteem. In fact many times they lack a sense of themselves. The only way the feel important or alive is by putting someone else down. They do this because they are afraid the other kids might be able to figure out how lousy they feel about themselves. It is often said the best defense is a good offense. They hope that by acting like the big guy on campus that other people will see them as the big guy and they are able to keep their secret. Kids usually do this because it was done to them too.

Therefore, we need to remember the bully is usually a kid who has been abused too and is crying out for help. If we are going to stop the problem of bullying we need programs to help the bullies too. They are only repeating what they have been taught.

One last comment, I saw a school install a “buddy bench.” If anyone had been bullied, having a bad day, feeling lonely, all they had to do was sit on the buddy bench. Another student or teacher would then go over and ask how they could help. There was no shame associated if you sat on the buddy bench. It was presented as a brave choice. The school was using it as part of their program to stop bullying at school. This fantastic idea came from a 10 year old student. Children often have fantastic answers and we need to listen.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience working with children and teens especially those who are victims of trauma. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rubinocounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Teenagers are Using ADHD Medications to get High

Teenagers are Using ADHD Medications to get High

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 drugs or alcohol, they are concerned about their teenager becoming addicted. Besides marijuana and alcohol, parents are concerned about methamphetamines and heroin. Currently there is an epidemic of teenagers addicted to methamphetamine, heroin and opioids in the United States (CDC). While parents worry about opioids, methamphetamines and heroin addiction in teenagers, there is another drug parents need to be concerned about. Parents need to be concerned about the drugs children and teenagers take for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

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 www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.

The Pandemic can Cause Children to act like they have ADHD

The Pandemic can Cause Children to act like they have ADHD

Many schools are starting to reopen. Also there are still schools operating remotely still. Either way many parents are tired about fighting over homework or telephone calls from school that about the fact that their child is not doing their homework again. As a result, some schools and family members may be suggesting to parents that their 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. Additionally given everything children have been through with the pandemic and remote learning, we need to be very careful about labeling a child with ADHD. There are a number of other options such as depression, anxiety and boredom.

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. According to the CDC 15.9% of boys and 5.6% of girls have ADHD. 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. It’s important to get them the accommodations they need. Children who have ADHD, but do not receive accommodations tend to show signs of low self-esteem around the fifth grade. These 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 www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Today’s Teenagers Need to feel Loved

Today’s Teenagers Need to feel Loved

I have many teenagers who see me for therapy believing that no one loves them and that they are worthless. They tell me their parents don’t love them, their siblings don’t care about them and no one at school cares about them. They feel they are unloveable and no one cares if they live or die. Because they have this belief, they don’t care about themselves. They don’t care how they are doing in school and they see no future for themselves. As a result they don’t care what happens to them either.

There are many reasons why children have this feeling about themselves. For some their parents were drug addicts, for some were sexually or physically abused, some have gone from foster home to foster home their entire lives. As a result, they see no hope and no future for themselves. The most important point is not why teenagers have developed this attitude about themselves, it’s that they have this attitude. We need to look at what this belief will do to these teenagers and their lives.

Many teenagers who feel unlovable turn to drugs or alcohol to numb these feelings. Some turn to self-mutilating behaviors, such as cutting, again as a way to numb these feelings or as a way of punishing themselves. Often teenagers become sexually active at an very early age. They equate sex with love. Also many of these teens become involved with gangs and bullying. The gangs serve as a psedufamily for the teenagers. In fact, gangs consider their members as family members. The play West Side Story is an excellent example of how a gang acts like a family for teenagers. Also the play and movie Grease shows how gangs are like families. Bullying is another way teens numb out their pain. They believe by making someone else look weak that it makes them look strong and people will respect them and love them. Also they can it is a way they feel they can hide from other that they feel worthless.

The above stated behaviors are a few ways that teenagers deal with feeling unlovable. However, the number of teenagers who feel this way are creating numerous problems for everyone. As a result of teens feeling unlovable, we have a severe drug problem in the teenage population. Teenagers are dying from accidental drug over dosages at an epidemic rate. According to the CDC the number of teens using drugs, such as heroin and meth, is at an epidemic rate. Cutting, suicide and being murdered are all at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). All because many of them don’t feel loved. These numbers from the CDC were before the Coronavirus. Since the Coronavirus, these numbers have significantly increased because many teenagers do not see a future for themselves. A family’s love can help them not get so depressed and to keep their hope a live.

We are receiving this message in many ways that teenagers need to feel loved. In Disney’s movie, Frozen, they mention that people make poor choices and do hurtful things because they feel unloved. The movie goes further to say that if people feel loved you would be amazed at how they can change. Oprah in her last show commented on one thing she had learned from her show was that everyone wants to know that they are important to someone and that someone sees them and cares about what they say and do. Challenge Day, a program designed to work with teenagers, believes all teens deserve to feel loved and cared for by people. I have worked with Challenge Day and I am amazed every time that this big, tough teenager ends up crying on the floor when he realizes that someone cares. Teenagers are trying very hard to let us know they need to be loved when they act out. I have teenagers telling me they are willing to take a chance of overdosing just so they can escape the pain of feeling abandoned and unloved. It is heartbreaking to hear a teen tell you this as they try to hide the fact that they are crying.

We know love makes a difference to many people so why not teenagers? The teenagers I work with don’t really want to be the tough guy. They want to know that they are loved. When I tell a teen I’m working with in therapy that they deserve to be loved, they think I’m crazy. They test me in numerous ways to get me to throw them out of my office. They are testing the point I made that they are lovable. They try everything they can think of to prove me wrong. However, in reality they are hoping to fail and prove that I am right that they are lovable. So, I hold strong and tell them I won’t change my mind and I will not give up. I will not throw them out of therapy. If they decide to walk out that is their choice and I can’t stop it, but I will not throw them out because I know they are worthy of being loved. I also let them know if they do walk out that my door will always be opened to them.

After testing me, many of these teens decide they are worth it and decide to make a future for themselves. It is amazing to see and it is very nice to see. However, there are those teenagers who walk out and that is very disappointing. It’s not disappointing because I lost it is disappointing because the teenager will continue to live in pain.

The main point is that Challenge Day, Alive and Free (another program for teens) and other therapists like myself cannot be the only ones trying to help teenagers. We need everyone to help. Parents, teachers, physicians, psychotherapists, the juvenile justice system and our communities. We need to let children know from the day that they are born that they deserve to be loved and that they are important members of our society. We cannot continue to wait until these children are teenagers to tell them they are lovable. Waiting until they are teenagers may be too late and the teen may not believe you. If we start when they are babies, they will grow up with a sense that they are important and deserved to be loved. This could help reduce how many teens turn to drugs or violence.

So, think about how you can show a teenager that they deserve to be loved and that they are important. If everyone starts with one teenager, you would be surprised the changes we can make in someone’s life and the world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years experience treating teenagers. If you want more information about Dr. Rubino visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Autism and The Holidays

Autism and The Holidays

Typically during the Holidays many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this year the Holidays are going to be significantly different due to the Coronavirus. In addition to the Coronavirus, the Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. However, due to the Coronavirus most families will not be having big gatherings, but they still will be having smaller gatherings. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them. Additionally, changes that need to be made due to the Coronavirus can upset children and teenagers on the Spectrum.

The Holidays, as I said above, are supposed to be a happy time. Therefore, when parents, who have a child on the autistic spectrum, see their child getting upset or agitated, it is difficult for them. Additionally, many parents who have children on the spectrum worry about how other people will react or judge their child.

All of this worry for the parents and change for the kids can make the Holidays a stressful time for autistic children. Also as I stated above, we will have significant changes to our Holidays in terms of how many people will be there and having to change some long standing Holiday traditions, such as Midnight Mass. While researching this issue, I did read a very good article by Lori Lite which has good ideas for parents to use during the Holidays. These ideas can help make the Holidays a happy time for your child and for your family. I would suggest trying these ideas and not worrying how other people may or may not judge your child. Being Autistic is nothing to be ashamed about. I treat many autistic children and they are usually very caring, smart children. We need to change our views regarding autism. It is a medical condition like diabetes or being blind. We make accommodations for children with these issues so we can make accommodations for a child with Autism. Therefore, try some of these ideas to help you and your child enjoy the Holidays.

Get Ready: Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings: Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing, and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner: This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.

Don’t Rush: It’s simple; none of us are very good at rushing in a relaxed way. The two just do not go together. It is impossible for children or teens to rush without getting angry. Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the journey and avoid meltdowns. Children with special needs should be given notice of transitions.

Write Things Down: Getting the constant chatter and lists out of your head decreases stress and anxiety. Kids love making lists. Give them a clipboard or dry erase board. Help your child make a list of what they want to do for the holiday. It might be helping decorate or what to pack for self-care relaxation bag. This will help you relax and help your children feel involved. Encourage them to add happy words like laugh or draw a smile face on their list.

Schedule Downtime: Don’t overbook your children. It’s important to use holiday time for relaxation. Try staying in pajamas till noon. Pop your favorite popcorn and watch a movie when you wake up. You’ll be surprised how an hour or two of relaxation can rejuvenate your children’s bodies, minds, and spirits.

Shopping: Avoid taking your children shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your child is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping you can select a few gifts and bring them home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your child. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.

Be Flexible: Relax your expectations and definitions of what a fun experience is for your children. Most of us do not need the full blown exhausting experience of holidays to reflect that we had a good time. A few positive minutes is worth a lifetime of memories!

Let The Children Participate: Let your children do one thing for the holiday that makes them feel proud. Kids can collect acorns or place a few jingle bells into a bowl for a beautiful stress free centerpiece.  Children can fold the napkins or put the forks out. Let them draw a special picture to place on your guest’s chair. Be prepared to accept their participation as perfect and wonderful. Restrain for correcting or straightening out the napkins and enjoy the holidays with your special needs child!

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. Many of these children and teens are on the Autistic Spectrum. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

Helping Teens and Families Cope with The Current Coronavirus Wave

Helping Teens and Families Cope with The Current Coronavirus Wave

The pandemic has reached a very frightening point. Over 250,000 people have died from the coronavirus and daily we are setting new highs for how many new cases are diagnosed. We are also running out of hospital beds and the CDC is preparing us for a massive number of deaths over the next few weeks and the Holidays. As a result of the current situation, California is implementing shelter in place orders again.

Today’s teenagers have access to all this information via their smartphones. News updates pop up on their phones and once again their lives have been turned upside down due to the shelter in place orders. Teenagers are losing hope and wondering if their lives will ever return to normal. Teenagers are feeling overwhelmed and very stressed about how their lives have changed. Many college students and high school students are having to attend school remotely. Additionally, events such as sports, the prom and graduation ceremonies have already been cancelled. The high school experience they have heard about and have been waiting for no longer exists. Many teenagers are feeling depressed and angry about how their lives have changed. Furthermore, they have no control over the situation and have no idea what to expect from life.

Prior to the pandemic depression and anxiety rates were increasing for teenagers (CDC). Additionally, the suicide rate for teenagers had gone from the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Since the pandemic and shelter in place orders depression and anxiety has reached epidemic levels for teenagers (CDC). The number of teenagers cutting (self-mutilating behavior) has increased significantly because they feel out of control and are having significant difficulties processing all the feelings they are experiencing. Also suicide rates and drug overdoses have increased in teenagers. Again because they feel helpless and are having significant difficulties processing their emotions.

Furthermore, besides their school experience changing significantly and not being able to hang out with friends, many are living in families who are worrying about paying the rent or having enough money for food. Unemployment is at a record high so many teenagers are living in a family where both parents have lost their jobs. This is a huge amount of stress for a child or teen to experience and have to cope with daily.

As a result, many teenagers are severely struggling with mental health issues due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, the Mayo Clinic has been studying the impact that the virus and quarantine have on us and our mental health. Here is what they found and their recommendations:

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges daily, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.

Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.

Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.

When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it’s time to ask for help.

Get help when you need it

Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to:

• Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.

• Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.

• Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional.

• Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.

• Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for help and guidance.

If you’re feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

Continue your self-care strategies

You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won’t disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life’s ongoing challenges.

In addition to the facts above, people who have had the virus have been reporting feeling anxious and depressed. They have also reported the virus has impaired their ability to make decisions. This is being referred to as “the long haul syndrome.”The bottom line is the virus is creating mental health issues for those dealing with the quarantine, first responders, medical personnel and people with the virus. We are focusing on getting the virus under control which we must do. However, as we struggle to get control of the virus, we also need to address the mental health issues created by this pandemic. At this point, we have no idea how many will need mental health care and for how long. Therefore, as we focus on finding a cure, we may want to start to prepare for the mental health issues which are occurring and will after the quarantine.

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

Looking at Autism Realistically

Looking at Autism Realistically

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many children and teenagers who happen to be autistic. Often their parents are very worried. They worry about their child’s future and how people will treat their child. They have this concern because society tends to treat autism like some terrible disease. Many people assume that someone with Autism will never have a future or decent life. Additionally, many parents have difficulties with schools because many public schools find working with students on the autism spectrum difficult. At times it may be difficult, but my experience has been if the schools try slightly harder students on the Spectrum do fine. No one should decide that because someone is on the Spectrum that they cannot do well in school.

Unfortunately, many of these children on the Spectrum are teased at school. It appears that boys seem to be teased more than girls. In my experience this is because boys on the Spectrum tend not to comply with the typical outdated male stereotype. They tend to express their feelings more and they tend to be more accepting of others who are different. As a result, the other boys see them as easy targets to tease. This tends to really hurt their feelings and confuse the boys. They don’t understand why the other boys are being mean to them because they would never treat them the way the boys are treating them. Therefore, my experience has been overall boys only the Spectrum are more sensitive and caring. However, many parents are children will see them as inappropriate and they worry how they might treat their children. All of this is due to a stereotype regarding Autism.

However, this has not been my experience. The children and teens I have had the pleasure to work with who have autism are caring, smart, decent people. When they are given a chance, they can achieve a great deal. Many teenagers on the autistic spectrum are able to go to college, get a job, have a family and be productive members of society. However, for this to occur we need to eliminate the negative stigma associated with autism and mental health. We also need to provide them with the mental health services so they can succeed. They should be able to access these services without being judged. However, many children with Autism are teased at school and many insurance companies refuse to pay for psychotherapy. Autism is not a disease and you cannot catch it. Also people with Autism having feelings and being teased at school does a great deal of damage to their self-esteem. Children and teenagers need to be treated with respect meaning schools need to eliminate the teasing they endure at school. Insurance companies need to pay for psychotherapy so they can develop their abilities to express their emotions and so they can interpret social cues. If we do this, a child with Autism can achieve a lot in their life. The show the Good Doctor, shows an autistic young man who became a doctor. This is not a fantasy. There are several physicians with Autism who are perfectly capable of working as doctors and do.

I saw a video of a teenager talking to a judge. This teen with autism shows why we need to eliminate the negative stigma associated with mental health and provide access to services without judgement. Also he shows why we should not judge people or label people. Watch how impressed the judge is by this young man. He is very mature, acts appropriately, has a plan for himself and not ashamed about being autistic. People can surprise you when you don’t judge them https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:ugcPost:6507566653688160256.

If we provide other teens who are on the autistic spectrum or are depressed with the appropriate services, you would be amazed at what they can do. I have never met and worked with a child or teen on the autistic spectrum who has not impressed me with what they can do once they are given a chance.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers many have been on the autistic spectrum. For more information regarding his work or private practice practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Thanksgiving Stress during the Pandemic

Thanksgiving Stress during the Pandemic

The Holiday Season is coming up fast and for many people instead of a happy time it is a very stressful time especially this year with the Coronavirus. Typically the Holidays can bring up family issues that have not been resolved and these issues can make everyone uncomfortable. First since you may need to limit who attends Thanksgiving dinner this year due to the Coronavirus, if you state the guidelines regarding why certain people were not invited can make life easier. There are also the family issues which are like elephants in the living room that no one discusses which adds to the stress. Another issue is that everyone is trying so hard to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day and no one enjoys the day. However this year there is the added stress of do we get together, do we do Thanksgiving by Zoom and finally if the family is getting together what safety precautions do you take so no one gets the coronavirus.

Thanksgiving is coming up first so let’s deal with that day.

Thanksgiving dinner with multiple family members can create chaos and stress. Again this year you may need to reduce who comes to dinner due to the Coronavirus. This adds to the Holiday stress. If you’re having a get together having a Thanksgiving plan can reduce anxiety, decrease the likelihood of arguments and increase the likelihood that everyone has a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving that they were expecting.

Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Thanksgiving stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Thanksgiving Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of Thanksgiving. Ask them what they would like to bring to the table. Let them bring it.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Cook with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family on this Thanksgiving Day.

Since the day can be stressful, it can lead to anger and arguments. Another acronym you can use to help with stress and anger is H-A-L-T. Here is what Halt stands for:

H – Hunger, if someone feels hungry they are more likely to become stressed or angry.

A – Anger, if someone is already angry, they can easily become stressed or have their anger increased by some small event because they are already agitated.

L – Lonely, if someone is feeling ignored or left out of the group, this lonely feeling can turn into anger or stress.

T – Tired, if someone is tired, their defenses are down and they can become agitated or angry very easily.

If you remember HALT and monitor yourself for these feelings or if you notice these feelings in someone else, you can try to do something for yourself or someone else to change the situation creating this feeling and hopefully avoid an angry incident.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using these acronyms in your daily life. It may seem simple, however it may be harder than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general. Therefore, these acronyms may be helpful in your daily life.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things occurring in our lives. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This can create stress and disappointment because we miss important family time. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for many people. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day we planed as a happy day can become a day of anger and disappointment easily.

Therefore, in order to avoid this possibility try using the acronyms GRATEFUL and HALT following the guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple or Audible.

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

Teenagers Texting during the Pandemic

In today’s world texting has become a very common way for people to communicate with each other, especially for teenagers. Before the Coronavirus, when I would go to a baseball game or the theater, I would see adults texting the entire time. I have even seen people fired via text. We also have a President who makes major announcements via Twitter. His actions make teenagers feel Texting is normal. Additionally, it’s no surprise teenagers today feel texting is the normal way to communicate because they grew up with it. Any teenager today is part of what I refer to as the IPhone generation. Since these kids were born there have been Smartphones that they have been using. Therefore, texting or having instant access to information via the internet is normal to them. They never have seen an encyclopedia or a card catalog at a library. The teenagers I currently see for psychotherapy, use texting as their primary way of communicating with each other. Besides texting by Smartphones, teenagers also now text each other as they play video games oline. Try removing a teenager’s Smartphone or gaming console so they cannot text, many teens become very upset and some even become violent. Additionally many parents don’t feel texting is really communicating, however adults need to pay attention to how often they text people.

While technology is advancing at a fast pace, our laws and ethics are having a difficult time keeping up with the latest advances. However, when laws are passed or ethical standards set, many teenagers and adults are not aware of the new laws. This is creating a tremendous problem for teenagers and their families. I have worked with many teenagers who are struggling with an issue, such as being accused of threatening someone via text, but they had no idea they were doing anything inappropriate.

Additionally now we have the Coronavirus pandemic and teenagers are having to attend school remotely and are not able to hang out with friends like they did before the pandemic. Therefore, for many teenagers texting has become their lifeline helping them stay in touch with their friends. Again these teenagers have grown up with texting so it’s normal to communicate via text. Many parents don’t understand how texting is the same as talking to another person. However, remember when you were in High School most teenagers spent hours on the telephone because we couldn’t text.

Something that it is important for teenagers to remember is that any time you post something online, tweet or text, it is on the internet forever. Some teens will say when they text it’s just from phone to phone. However, it remains on the phone forever and also on the server that provides your cellphone service. In other words, someone can get your text history from Verizon. This is why many celebrities have won very large monetary judgements against people who have posted false or embarrassing material on the internet. You can remove it from the site it was posted to, but it still can found on other sites. Therefore, if a teenager post something, they need to think about the fact that it will be out there forever and anyone can see it. This may lead to embarrassing situations.

Most teens worry about their grades and after school activities because they do not want to wreck their chance of getting into the University of their choice. However, many teenagers are not aware that many colleges check social media sites and the internet when they apply. The schools search for the applicant’s sites but also search to see if the applicant is on friend’s sites. They look at your pictures and opinions and decide do they feel they want you representing their school to the world. They can get your text history depending on how closely they choose to examine your background.

Let’s consider the most common problems that teenagers encounter with texting. The first one is texting sexually explicit photographs to their boyfriend/girlfriend. At the time they think it is no big deal. However, high school romances typically do not last. If one of the individuals feels hurt, they can post that sexually explicit picture all over the Internet. It can be sent to their families and friends. In fact, their entire school could see it. This would be extremely embarrassing. Even if the person who posted the picture is punished, the picture is still out there and the damage is done.

Additionally, teenagers fail to think about the fact that they are under 18 years old. Therefore, they are violating child pornography laws by texting the picture or by receiving it and having a copy on their cellphone. In fact, Congress is trying to pass stricter laws regarding teenagers texting sexually explicit picture. Therefore, besides being very embarrassed, the teenagers involved might find themselves facing legal charges for violating child pornography laws.

The second major issue is harassment. Friends get mad at each other or often one teenager is singled out and they become the object of numerous texts telling them they are ugly, no one likes them etc. These texts can be sent so often and by some many other teenagers that the teen who is the target commits suicide. There are numerous examples of this and a common one is accusing a teenager of being gay. This is not harmless teenage game playing. This harassment can be vicious. They are also cases where the teenagers sending these texts have been charged with stalking or more serious charges if the teenager committed suicide.

When this occurs, the teenagers are shocked. They think they were just teasing another kid and it was harmless. They have no idea what this teenager is already dealing with in their life or what it can be like to have numerous classmates texting you every day all day long. It is not harmless teasing, but because technology has increased so quickly it is not the same teasing that use to occur at school. We have not had enough time to think about this point.

Another major issue is that texting is an excellent way for schools or police to arrest teenagers for dealing drugs, buying or using drugs. I have worked with many teenagers from numerous schools where the school catches someone using or selling marijuana on school grounds. The school then checks the student’s cellphone and looks at the text history. The school then starts calling in the student’s on the text history and asking about drug use or selling. One teenager getting caught at school can result in ten teenagers being expelled. The teenagers are usually in shock. First, they never thought they were doing anything wrong and they never thought a text could get them in trouble. However, it can and it does. I have seen many teenagers for psychotherapy because of a text found by the school.

Finally, new research is showing that texting is increasing the rate of depression in teenagers. Texting creates more access in some ways, however, it is isolating too. When you text you lose the personal interaction which is very important. People do need personal interaction for their mental health. When teenagers text they miss out on the personal interaction. This can and does at times lead to a lonely feeling. If a teenager is already having a hard time and then they experience of feeling isolated too, this can lead to depression. Research is showing an increase in teenage depression and I am seeing an increase in the number of teenagers I am seeing for depression. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at teenagers and texting.

So we are facing a difficult situation. Teenagers today tend to use texting as their primary way of communication. Given the pandemic we are dealing with at this time it makes sense for them to text each other. However, our ethics have not kept up with technology and there are a number of ways teenagers can get into trouble texting. Additionally, research indicates that texting can increase the feelings of isolation and depression in teenagers. Feeling many teenagers and trying to avoid during the Coronavirus pandemic. One way they feel that helps them is texting friends. However, this maybe incorrect according to the research. Therefore, parents are facing a difficult situation when it comes to their teenagers texting each other.

At this point, my professional opinion is that parents sit down with their teenagers and discuss the pros and cons about texting and that parents limit texting to an hour everyday. Additionally, you may want to set up an agreement where your teenager allows you to monitor their texting in away that is comfortable for you and your teenager. Remember to be patient during this conversation because everyone is dealing with stress due to the pandemic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience working with children and teenagers. He also treats Internet addiction. For more information on Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.