Middle School in the 21st Century

Middle School in the 21st Century

As a psychotherapist who treats adolescents who are in high school, I often hear parents concerns about what teens face in high school. For example, many parents worry about drugs and alcohol. There are numerous other issues too. The parents do need to be concerned because these are issues in high school. If they have a child in middle school too and I mention they need to address theses issues with their child in middle school, many parents look surprised.

I hear parents say every day that they don’t need to worry about drugs or alcohol with their child in middle school because their child is too young for that right now. Well the reality is that Middle School Students are drinking, using drugs and having sex. Many parents are unaware of what is happening in Middle Schools these days. Drugs and alcohol are just the tip of the iceberg. Children that are in the age group of middle school are now involved numerous dangerous activities such as selling drugs.

To begin with, most campuses are better pharmacies than your pharmacy. I have had middle school kids say they can get Vicodin, Concerta, Ecstasy and of course weed and alcohol on their school campus. Some kids use at school and some use after school and on the weekends. More and more middle school kids are deciding to experiment with drugs and alcohol due to the pressure to feel successful as a teenager and so they fit in with friends.

Also many middle school kids are sexually active, but they don’t think they are sexually active. They think because they are not engaging in intercourse and they are engaging in oral sex that it doesn’t count. The kids say they are just “messing around” with each other and do not consider this sex. They also have no idea about sexually transmitted diseases or how to protect themselves for STDs or getting pregnant. However, the number of middle school kids engaging in oral sex and intercourse has increased significantly over the last few years. The rate is now high enough that some middle schools, such as the San Francisco School District, are providing condoms to middle school kids. Yes, Middle Schools are giving condoms to children in the sixth grade. These kids are only 11 years old.

Another common issue in middle school is bullying. However, we are not just talking about one kid teasing another kid at school anymore. Today there is for a group of kids teasing one kid and it is not just at school. Now kids are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and texting by cellphone to tease and harass other kids. And as many of you may recall there have been a number of kids who have committed suicide due to the teasing at school. I recently wrote an article about a middle school girl who committed suicide and in her obituary she left a note to the other students just asking them to be nice to each other. Another issue with teasing, is that a number of middle school students have been arrested for photos they text and for harassment. Besides teasing, texting a nude photo of a student in middle school means the middle school child violated child pornography laws. Something many parents and students are not aware of is that when a child texts a nude photo of a middle school student, who is under 18 years old, it violates child pornography laws and the child who texts it and received it can both be arrested.

Also many kids in middle school, especially boys, don’t feel safe and are afraid of someone trying to beat them up before or afraid school. They say they have to fight because other kids are recording it and posting it on YouTube. Boys are bragging about their fights on YouTube and comparing how many people have watched their fight with their friend’s fight. Therefore, boys feel they must fight, otherwise if they don’t fight the other kids will think they are a “whimp” so they have to fight. Due to this fear many middle school students carry knives, metal pipes, guns or anything they can think of to protect themselves. This is very sad that kids have to live in fear for their lives and safety at school. Also parents and students don’t realize, if a student is caught with any of these items on campus they can be removed from their entire school district and required to go to continuation school. In addition, the school can have the student arrested. Due to terrorist activities, schools take anyone possessing items that can severely hurt someone very seriously.

These are just a few of the issues that are occurring at all middle schools and they are very serious. Your child is not going to come to you to ask about these issues or tell you about them because they feel embarrassed and they are afraid of getting in to trouble. So parents even though you may feel embarrassed or awkward discussing these issues with your 11 year-old child, please do so. If you notice anything about your child’s behavior that seems different to you and you feel a sense of concern, ask your child about what is happening at school and with friends. Mention they are getting older so are the issues in their lives and mention drinking, sex or being teased and ask if they need to talk about it. You may be saving their lives because they are dealing with things they know nothing about and these things can kill or have life long effects.

Here is a YouTube video that might help:

Dr Michael Rubino is an expert dealing with adolescents and adolescent issues. He has over 20 years experience treating adolescents. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s practice check his website http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3.

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Understanding ADHD in School Children

Understanding ADHD in School Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gifted Children May Have Learning Disabilities too

Gifted Children May Have Learning Disabilities too

Many parents are very happy to hear that their child has been classified as “gifted.” They assume that their child will do very well in school and have a very bright future because they are “gifted.” While “gifted” children may excel in certain academic areas, often they have difficulties in other social situations or academic areas. These children are called twice exceptional children. Research by John Hopkins estimates that one out of five children are twice exceptional or 2E which is a more common term. Therefore, John Hopkins estimates that there are approximately 700,000 2E children in the United States.

Wikipedia defines 2E children in the following way:

A 2e child usually refers to a child who, alongside being considered gifted in comparison to same age-peers, is formally diagnosed with one or more disabilities. Although 2e can refer to any general disability, it is often used to refer to students with learning disabilities, although research is not limited to these areas, and a more holistic view of 2e can help move the field forward. The disabilities are varied: dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, autism, Asperger syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, or any other disability interfering with the student’s ability to learn effectively in a traditional environment. The child might have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or diagnoses of anxiety or depression.[6] Often children with 2e have multiple co-morbid disabilities than present as a paradox to many parents and educators.

Many people may find this hard to believe, however, as a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers, I have seen many “gifted” children who do have the disabilities listed above. A common issue I have encountered is that “gifted” children often have difficulties making friends and dealing with social situations. If they had not been classified as “gifted”, parents would see that they do meet the criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome. Another common issue I have seen in psychotherapy with “gifted” children is that they have difficulties organizing their ideas and maintaining sustained attention. These children meet the criteria for ADHD.

One of the primary difficulties for these children is since they have been classified as “gifted,” many schools do not want to offer support services for a “gifted” child who has ADHD or a processing problem. Because they are not receiving the academic support they need, many of these children suffer with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. These children often become very frustrated and start to act out at home and at school. They are trying to tell the adults in their lives that everything is not okay and they need help. I have seen this many times with “gifted” children that I see for psychotherapy. It also creates a great deal of stress for the parents. They can see their child is having difficulties and the child is complaining about difficulties, but the school tells the parents the child is doing fine because they are “gifted.”

The research from John Hopkins University shows us that the two are not mutually exclusive. A child can be “gifted” in one area and have a learning disability in another area of life. Therefore, a “gifted” child may need a 504 plan or an individualized educational plan (IEP). Therefore, if you are the parent of a 2E child and you notice that your child is having difficulties at school, do not be afraid or nervous to advocate for your child. To make this easier, I have included a link which discusses misconceptions about 2E children, 7 Myths About Twice-Exceptional (2E) Students http://u.org/2hp0dNU. I am also providing a link to a newsletter for an organization which helps parents with 2E children and advocates for them, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwiv8PmrxYDYAhUH6oMKHbmyD10QFggiMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.2enewsletter.com%2Farticle_2e_what_are_they.html&usg=AOvVaw35GmKdn_P9FJzqMBPkMMrD.

If this sounds like your child do not panic. Arrange to have your child evaluated by a mental health clinician who is familiar with 2E children. They can help you develop a treatment plan and let you know if your child needs accommodations at school. If your child needs accommodations at school do not pay for any psychological testing for your child. According to California law, the school district has the right to test the child first. They do not have to accept outside testing, if the district has not tested the child. If you disagree with the school district’s testing, say so and request a second evaluation. This evaluation is completed by a professional not associated with the school district and the school district pays for the testing not you.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. In fact, he specializes in treating children and teenagers. If you want to know more about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, http://www.LucasCenter.org or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com\drrubino3.

A Year After Parkside, What Have We Learned?

A Year After Parkside, What Have We Learned?

This week will mark the one year anniversary of the Parkside High School shooting in Florida. Additionally, this year it will be the seven year anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary school where many children and adults where senselessly killed. Since Sunny Hook more than 500,000 people in the United States have been killed by senseless gun violence.

In reviewing the subject of school shootings, I read an article by Cody Fenwick regarding children and gun violence. His article was very alarming. Since it is the one year anniversary of the Park Side shooting and the seven year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, Fenwick’s article about children and guns is very important. His article also outlines a strong connection to guns and the senseless shootings and to the alarming numbers of teenagers who commit suicide with a gun. The article by, Fenwick, confirmed what I am hearing from teenagers and children in psychotherapy. Additionally, other school shootings, such as the one in Nashville, or the shootings in the Synagogue in Pennsylvania or in the Texas Church, confirm the need for gun control. A point the statistics in Fenwick’s article support.

Many of us feel because we live in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek or Lafayette that our children and teenagers do not have to worry about gangs or gun violence. Unfortunately, this is not the truth. According to a new research study in the Journal of Pediatrics, guns continue to be the third-leading cause of death for Americans younger than 18 years old, killing around 1,300 children and teenagers a year in the United States. In addition, almost 6,000 children and teenagers are injured per year. Many teenagers are permanently disabled from these injuries.

The study examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission between 2002 and 2014. The study found that boys, especially older boys such as teenagers and minorities, were much more likely to be the victims of gun violence. The study did not say anything about where the boys lived. The facts are children who are male and teenagers, are at a higher risk for becoming a victim of gun violence. Therefore, teenagers in our area are at risk of becoming a victim of gun violence.

The study does indicate there has been a decrease in accidental deaths such as boys cleaning a gun. However, the rate as a method for suicide has increased. I have mentioned before in other articles that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10 year old boys. This study confirms that statistic and indicates the preferred method of suicide for boys and teenagers are guns. According to Katherine Fowler, one of the lead researchers at the CDC, “Firearm injuries are an important public health problem, contributing substantially to premature death and disability of children.” Understanding their nature [guns] and impact is a first step toward prevention.”

When we look at these numbers, can anyone argue against taking steps to protect our children? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy using a gun to kill himself? Can you imagine a 10 year old boy feeling that his life is so bad at the age of ten that death seems like a better option than living?

The study indicates that in recent years guns were responsible for a large number of adolescent, males who were murdered. The study documented that deaths in the category of murder for boys under the age of 18 years old decreased to 53 percent. This is a decrease yet the rate is still 53%. The other causes of gun-related deaths include:

• 38 percent — suicides

• 6 percent — unintentional deaths

• 3 percent — law enforcement/undetermined cause

The study found 82% of those killed due to a gun were boys. This means 82% of gun deaths were boys who were children or teenagers. Putting it another way, this means these boys were not even 18 years old yet at the time of their deaths. The study also found that white and American Indian children have the highest rate of suicide using a gun.

We also like to think that the United States in one of the most advanced nations in the world. However, the statistics show that the United States has the highest rate in the world for children under 14 years old committing suicide. Again, the United States has the highest rate of children under 14 years old using a gun to commit suicide. That number scares me and is appalling to me. However, as an adolescent and child psychotherapist, I do not doubt it. I have heard 6 year old boys seriously discussing suicide.

Furthermore, I hear teenagers routinely talking about needing to carry a knife or gun with them for protection. They tell me you never know when you will be jumped and you need to be able to protect yourself. In fact, a few years ago a teenager was shot on his front door step in Danville over a marijuana deal. When I mention to teens the risks they are taking by caring knives or guns, the boys tell me there is no guarantee they will live until 30 years old. They would rather die protecting themselves than doing nothing. Violence in our society has become so severe that many teenagers do not expect to live to the age of 30. Think about that fact.

As a society, we need to look at these numbers and ask ourselves some questions. What are we going to do in order to improve gun safety? Most importantly, why are children as young as 6 years old thinking about suicide? Also what are we going to do so that children who are suicidal have access to mental health care? This is our problem because it does happen in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek and Lafayette. The students at Park Side High School and the Parents from Sunny Hook have marched and petitioned for sane gun control laws. However, nothing has happened so why should children believe us when we say we can keep them safe?

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

Teenage Boys and Cutting

Teenage Boys and Cutting

Last Sunday, I was a guest on the Street Soldier radio show on 106.1 KMEL. The topic was how teenagers are impacted by social media. The topic of depression and cutting came up during the conversation. The adults were shocked to hear about the cutting and the teens tended to feel the cutting was more of an issue for the girls. However, as a psychotherapist who works with teenagers, I have observed the increase in teenage cutting over the years. I have also observed that a behavior that once was believed to occur mainly in girls is also occurring in teenage boys. From what I have seen it appears that just as many boys are cutting as girls.

The first question I often receive when I mention cutting is, what is it? Cutting is any behavior that a person engages in with the goal of self-mutilating. Teenagers cut with razors, knifes, paper clips, staples, using erasers or even scratching themselves. These are just a few ways teenagers have found to self-mutilate themselves. Since this is an activity associated with a great deal of guilt and shame, I am sure there are more ways that we have not learned about yet.

Also because cutting is associated with a great deal of guilt and shame our statistics on how many teenagers cut are not entirely accurate. Most recent studies indicate that approximately a third of all teenagers have tried cutting or actively cutting (CDC). If you noticed the research shows a third of all teenagers, which means boys too. I have more and more teenage boys who say they are cutting, have cut or are thinking about it. Cutting occurs in boys too. We need to be aware of this fact. Cutting can lead to accidental suicide attempts if an artery is cut or permanent damage if nerves in the arm or legs are severely cut. These are things that teenagers and parents don’t think about.

Why do teenagers cut? The reasons I commonly hear is it is easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain they are feeling. Teens who are severally depressed state that cutting reminds them they are alive. They are so depressed that they feel nothing, but when they cut they feel. Also teenagers cut as a way to punish themselves because they are ashamed about something they did or they feel they have let their parents down. Cutting is a way to deal with the guilt and shame they are experiencing.

If we look at how boys are raised, cutting is a good fit for boys. Most boys grow up learning that boys can’t cry and if you express feelings of sadness or disappointment you are weak. Teenage boys are always supposed to look like life is perfect and they can handle anything without help. Cutting allows them to express sadness, fear or embarrassment in private. No one knows they are cutting or how they are feeling. Unfortunately, this leads to a vicious circle where emotions can get out of control and a boy may end up doing something he never indented to do.

At this point, most people working with teenagers consider cutting an epidemic. In fact, the CDC does consider teenage cutting to be an epidemic. Additionally, the little research we have about this behavior supports this idea, but we are unable to determine how severe the epidemic is in teenagers. When I mention cutting to a teenager now, they don’t look shocked. Instead they talk about it like we are talking about the weather. They often tell me about friends who are cutting too. Most teens who cut have friends that cut. Most teenage boys who have girlfriends tend to have girlfriends who cut too. This has been my experience.

Cutting can be a very dangerous behavior and does need to be treated with psychotherapy. If you feel your teen may be cutting, talk to them in an understanding manner. Do not give them any reason to feel guilty or ashamed if they say yes. As I stated above, the teen already feels a great deal of shame and if they feel they will be looked at in a shameful manner or that you will be shocked they will never open up to you. You need to reassure them you love them and you only care about their safety.

I said it needs to be treated with psychotherapy. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in treating teenagers and in treating self-mutilating behavior. This is very important because if the therapist acts negatively or shocked, the teenager will shut down and therapy may not work with any other therapist because the teenager now assumes everyone is judging them. I have had teens test me in various ways because of what a previous therapist said about their behavior or what the therapist said to their parents. They need to feel safe and accepted by their therapist if therapy is going to work.

I have included some risk factors and warning signs for you to be aware of in case you think your teen might be cutting:

Risk Factors

Knowledge that friends or acquaintances are cutting

Difficulty expressing feelings

Extreme emotional reactions to minor occurrences (anger or sorrow)

Stressful family events (divorce, death, conflict)

Loss of a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or social status

Negative body image

Lack of coping skills

Depression

Warning Signs

Wearing long sleeves during warm weather

Wearing thick wristbands that are never removed

Unexplained marks on body

Secretive or elusive behavior

Spending lengthy periods of time alone

Items that could be used for cutting (knives, scissors, safety pins, razors) are missing.

While this is a scary subject, I have worked with many teens who have overcome this issue. The important thing is as parents you are accepting and non judgmental. Also you need to be aware that this issue does exist. My last point is that boys cut too. Girls are not the only teenagers engaging in this behavior.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He has treated many teenagers who cut and is considered an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino visit his websites http://www.rcs-ca.com , http://www.RubinoCounseling.com , or his Facebook page, http://www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3