IEPs and 504 plans Exist with Remote Schooling Too

IEPs and 504 plans Exist with Remote Schooling Too

While most of the schools in California are using remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) and 504 plans are obsolete. In fact, due to remote learning and the pandemic many students are experiencing increased problems with learning and need IEPS and 504 plans as a result. Unfortunately I have been contacted by many families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Additionally, some children who didn’t have difficulties when they were in class are having difficulties with remote learning and increased anxiety due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed. Legally the school districts must complete a student’s IEP. The pandemic does not allow them to legally abandon IEPs and 504 plans. Also until they finalize the new IEP, the district legally must comply with the existing IEP on file. Furthermore, for parents who have children who need an IEP due to the remote learning or anxiety due to the pandemic, you can still legally request an IEP for your child. Additionally, school districts must comply with the existing IEP guidelines and laws. The pandemic does not allow a school district not to comply with the IEP and 504 laws.

It should be a straight forward process if your child needs an IEP, but many school districts play games with the process because it cost them money. However, they have enough money for IEPs. It comes down to a school districts priorities and how they choose to spend their money. Therefore, don’t be afraid to demand what your child is entitled to.

In order to help you understand how severe the schools play games with the process, here is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?

Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites www.RubinoCounseling.com or www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.

Teenagers Encourages Us to Accept Our Differences

Teenagers Encourages Us to Accept Our Differences

We have many stereotypes about groups, such as people who enjoy sports, and about people from different ethnicities, financial status and education status, such as did they go to college or not. Most teenagers have been taught these stereotypes and feel that they need to conform to the stereotypes even if they disagree with the stereotypes. However, many teenagers also feel and believe that these stereotypes are wrong. As a result, they ignore the stereotypes they were taught and treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of the person’s ethnicity or financial class. I have many teenagers asking me during their sessions how they can ignore the stereotypes without getting into trouble. They can clearly articulate why the stereotypes are wrong, but they know many adults strongly believe in the stereotypes and if they ignore the stereotypes, they could get into trouble with the adults who believe the stereotypes. They know taking a stand could create problems with parents, extended family and teachers just to name a few. However, they feel if they are going to be true to themselves, they must take the stand regardless of the cost.

We are seeing that the teenagers born after the year 2000, tend to have these beliefs and tend to act on them. As I have said before, the teenagers born after the year 2000 are a unique group and have different ideas and beliefs based on the many things they have experienced that no other group have kids have ever experienced. Remember these kids were born primarily after the 9/11 terrorist attack and have grown up with warnings about terrorist attacks and increased terrorist attacks around the world. Additionally our Country has been at war since they were born too. They also lived through the great recession and many where impacted by it. Finally, they have grown up with mass school shootings which around 2018 were occurring daily. Also because of this fact, they had mass shooter drills not fire alarms. All of this will impact how they see and react to the world.

Another thing these teenagers were exposed to were messages via movies and non-profit groups who work with teenagers and children that there was hope for the world and they were the hope. The children and teenagers were hearing they had the ability to change the world through their actions and by voting. Many children and teenagers have paid attention to these messages and believe them. As a result, they are trying to change the world.

Disney provided many movies with positive messages for children and teenagers. Beauty and the Beast taught children not to judge by appearance. You need to look inside the person to get an accurate view of their heart and beliefs. The movie, Frozen, taught children that it was alright to disregard the typical male stereotype. The movie said boys do cry and it’s normal. Finally, the movie showed that love is more powerful than hate. You can get more done and live a happier life by loving those around you instead of hating people. Finally in the High School Musical movies, children were taught that it’s normal for people to have different interests and the stereotypes could be wrong. In these movies you had a hispanic teenage girl as the lead and in the movie she was the smartest person and should how you could expect others without judging. You also had a white, overweight cheerleader, a black girl who was extremely intelligent and you had a black basketball player who also liked to cook. All the characters violated the ethnic stereotypes and all the characters were very good friends. In fact, the final song discusses how we are all in this together and need to work together and accept each other just the way we are. There was no need to judge and it was alright for people to have differences. A very powerful message. This message was also highlighted in the movie The Greatest Showman, a movie about P.T. Barnum. The newspaper critic provides the message of the movie, “putting people together of all different sizes and colors could be considered a celebration of humanity.” Again another message to accept people as they are and it’s alright for people to have differences. In fact, we should accept and celebrate our differences.

Children and teenagers watched these movies and paid attention to the message these movies were delivering. In addition to these movies you also have groups, such as Challenge Day, working with teenagers. These groups educate teenagers it’s alright to be different and the stereotypes regarding men and women are outdated. They are educating teenagers that everyone has the right to be accepted and loved just the way they were born. Additionally, teenagers are receiving the message they are the future and they can change the world. Teenagers are listening to this message and also starting to act.

A great example of how teenagers have listened to these messages are the teenagers from the high school in Parkland, Florida. These teenagers had to endure a horrific experience with a mass shooter at their high school. Typically after a shooting everyone discussed how changes need to be made. However, changes never seem to occur. However, these teenagers decided to take action. They formed a group to meet with politicians and demanded changes. These teenagers formed the group March for Our Lives and have established satellite groups in most states of the United States. They are still meeting with politicians but now all over the Country. They are also protesting and educating the public using social media.

Black Lives Matter is another great example. Teenagers are tired of seeing people being discriminated against because of their ethnicity. They feel everyone is equal it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown or asian. We are all equal and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The teenagers are willing to put their beliefs into actions. They are willing to hold peaceful protests and to educate others about how society needs to change and accept everyone. They are determined to give meaning what is in scribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” This statement implies that we all need to be treated equally. It also indicates our Country world eliminate systemic racism and discrimination.

Our Country is facing numerous issues regarding race and ethnicity. I think we need to remember what is on the Statue of Liberty and we need to pay attention to what the teenagers are pointing out and requesting our Country to do. The time has come to address systemic racism and discrimination in this United States. If we do, we will make life better for everyone in the Country. A very common mistake is this systemic discrimination only impacts people of color, however as the Disney movies point out is the systemic discrimination impacts people who are white too. Think about it because it does have an impact on our lives. A negative impact. The movies, novels and history have shown us that hate is toxic and love sets you free and improves your life. Listen to the teenagers and choose love.

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

Teenagers Playing a Deadly Game with Benadryl

Teenagers Playing a Deadly Game with Benadryl

Teenagers will find ways to get high because they believe that it is fun. However, many teenagers are not aware that the ways they are choosing to get high can cause serious health risks even death. Teenagers were using the cough medicine, Robitussin, because it contains DMX an provides an easy high. Well teenagers are now using another allergy medication. Teenagers are now using the medication Benadryl made by Johnson and Johnson.

Many parents are familiar with Benadryl. It is a common medication pediatricians prescribe to parents when their children have allergies. This medication is considered safe for young children and parents can purchase it over the counter. Additionally, many pediatricians suggest that parents use this medication when children are having difficulties sleeping. Besides being a safe allergy medication for young children, it also has a tendency to make children and adults drowsy. Most people fall asleep after taking Benadryl.

Now the app TikTok has found away to abuse this medication. People who use TikTok have issued a challenge to other TikTok users. The challenge is to take as many Benadryl pills as they can so they start hallucinating and experience a high. Therefore, we have teenagers across the country taking dozens of Benadryl pills. Teenagers are able to get Benadryl easy because it is sold over the counter and is considered a safe allergy medication by most people. Therefore, most parents won’t suspect anything if their teenager tells them they are taking Benadryl for their allergies.

However this challenge posted on TikTok is dangerous and deadly. Johnson and Johnson has stated that Benadryl was not designed with the intention of taking dozens of Benadryl pills at a time. At this point a 15 year old girl has died from taking too many Benadryl pills. Additionally, three 15 year old teenage girls in Fort Worth, Texas are in the hospital because they took too many Benadryl pills. Johnson and Johnson has stated that if you take to much Benadryl it can cause seizures and serious heart problems. The company has the guidelines on the bottle regarding what is an appropriate dosage of Benadryl for different ages and weights. Johnson and Johnson is warning parents about this TikTok challenge so parents can address it with their teenagers.

Parents TikTok is very popular with teenagers right now. Teenagers are not thinking about how dangerous this challenge can be and that people can die. If your teenager uses TikTok discuss this challenge with them and watch to see if your teenager has any Benadryl. If they use TikTok and have Benadryl take the medication away from them. You may be saving their lives.

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

Am I a Second Class Citizen because I’m Black?

Am I a Second Class Citizen because I’m Black?

As a psychotherapist who works with black adolescents and other minority adolescents, I am seeing these adolescents feel hopeless and angry. Many of these teenagers have dreams of going into the military so they can serve our Country. They are very proud of the United States, but they want to know why the President doesn’t care about them and makes them feel like second class citizens. Many may think these teenagers are overreacting, but if you just look at today’s events it appears they are not overreacting.

Today the President traveled to Wisconsin, even though the governor, the mayor and community felt it was inappropriate for him to visit. He disregarded their requests and made the visit. Now since he went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, you would think that he would mention Jacob Blake or visit Mr. Blake. However, he did not mention Mr. Blake nor did he visit him either. In fact, he has not even called the family yet. His excuse is the family has an attorney. However, he did mention, Kyle, the 17 year old white adolescent from Illinois who decided he had the right to go to Wisconsin because of the protestors in Wisconsin. While he was there he shot and killed two people and seriously injured a third person. The President has sympathy for Kyle and mentioned that case and Kyle has attorneys. However, Kyle is also white and is an outspoken supporter of the President. Additionally, while he was in Kenosha, Wisconsin, two reporters asked the President about systemic racism. He ignored the first reporter and told the second reporter he was asking the wrong question. The President denied systemic racism and did not want to discuss it. He would discuss the violence in Portland, Oregon. He also mentioned a plane full of “thugs” who were going to cause problems in the Country. However, he could not provide concrete details at the moment about the plane. Another scare tactic that he uses so often.

Not mentioning the real victim is not uncommon for the President especially when the victim is a minority. He is on Twitter all the time but never mentioned Jacob Blake. He stated he spoke to the family’s pastor. However, the pastor he spoke to was from Illinois and was not Mr. Blake’s pastor. When George Floyd was murdered by police several weeks ago, again he did not mention Mr. Floyd or Tweet about it. Here is another incident when a black man was killed but the President did little to nothing to get involved or to rectify the problem. However, how can you rectify a problem when you are denying the fact that systemic racism exist. How does this make black teenagers feel? The President address issues when White people are involved but if the victim is black or a minority, he ignores the situation. This makes black teenagers feel like they are not important.

Another fact black teenagers see is that the President wants to protect Confederate statues and military bases and schools named after Confederate soldiers. This is the same President who verbally attacked football and basketball players who did not stand or took a knee for the flag during the National Anthem. These players were protesting the systemic racism in our society. The President attacked these sport stars, but wants to honor Confederate soldiers. The Confederate soldiers destroyed the flag of the United States and they were trying to destroy the United States and they supported slavery. What does this tell a black teenager if the President supports people who advocated for slavery? In my opinion it would tell me, I’m not important to the President.

Why is this important? Currently depression and anxiety are at epidemic rates for teenagers (CDC). Also suicide has moved from the third leading cause of death for teenagers to the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). The terrifying fact is that the suicide rate for black teenagers is five times the rate for white teenagers (CDC). If that is the case, how many black teenagers are we losing to suicide? The teenagers I am working with are telling me based on everything I outlined above, they do not see a future for themselves. They feel hopeless and don’t see any point in trying due to systemic racism. They are even more confused because many of them are wanting to serve the United States. They don’t understand how a Country they want to serve and protect is willing to allow systemic racism to exist. They do know their are many Americans who support them, but when you hear this support for systemic racism coming from the President daily, it gives black teenagers little hope that anything will change.

Because there is a belief that nothing will change, this is why groups such as Black Lives Matter are important to teenagers. Black Lives Matter is focused on changing the systemic racism in our Country despite what other people may think about the group. The group is not racist, it is designed to eliminate systemic racism. This gives black teenagers some hope for their future. Another group, Alive and Free in San Francisco which was founded by Dr. Joseph Marshall also provides black teenagers with hope for their futures and the teenagers need this hope. For this reason I am proud to be one of the founding members of the National Alive and Free Board which connects professionals across our Country to provide teenagers with hope and to work on eliminating systemic racism. Dr. Marshall has helped over 200 black teenagers get into and graduate college. This is what can happen when we remove racism.

Mr. President is urge you to take a deep look into your attitudes and educate yourself about racism. It is necessary if we are going to eliminate systemic racism and also so black teenagers don’t feel like second class citizens in the United States.

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

I Have A Dream but I Am Afraid

I Have A Dream but I Am Afraid

Today was the 57th year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “I have a dream” speech. In Washington D.C. protestors had a protest today to honor the anniversary and to look at how close we have come to meeting the goals that Dr. Martin Luther King set 57 years ago. Unfortunately, it appears we have not made a great deal of progress when it comes time to racial equality. Statistics show this fact and I hear it every day in my office from the teenagers that I work with who come from minority backgrounds. Many of these teens and children are telling me that they do not feel safe in the United States.

One thing that many people ignore is that this generation of teenagers are actively involved in politics and very aware of what is occurring politically in our Country. Teenagers today have smartphones which give them access to everything that is going on in the world and our Country and they are paying attention. They are also very concerned about the possibility that Trump could be re-elected President. They feel if he is re-elected the progress which has been made regarding racism will be erased by Trump. They have a right to feel this way. Trump criticizes sport stars for not standing during the national anthem. He claims they are disrespectful to the United States. However, Trump wants to protect statues of Confederate soldiers. These soldiers did away with the United States Flag and were committing treason against the United States and wanted to keep slavery. Trump wants to honor these soldiers. If I was a black teenager, I would be worried about what Trump might do to my rights if he is elected for a second term. Teenagers are telling me about these fears.

Looking back after Trump was elected it became apparent to me how Trump was making teens and kids anxious and afraid. I had many children who were Hispanic and from other minority backgrounds asking me if they were safe in the U.S. They had heard what the President had been saying about deporting people, they were very afraid that their families would be deported. However, all the kids and their families were American citizens so they could not be deported. However, due to what they were hearing and seeing the President do, they were very afraid for their safety.

This past week provides another example to children and teenagers to worry about their safety. A few weeks ago we witnessed George Floyd, a black man, being murdered by the police. Many of us hoped that this incident would be the trigger for all of us to look at the institutional racism in our Country. However, we were wrong about this being the trigger to make changes in our Country. This last week Jacob Blake was shot seven times in his back and the police officer had the gun in Jacob’s back as he shot. The President never addressed the shooting and we have heard little from the police. However, a white, 17 year old male from Illinois felt it was his duty to go to Wisconsin to protect people. He shot and killed two people and walked down the middle of the street with his gun and the police did nothing. In fact, we are hearing he may have done nothing wrong because he was acting in self defense. However, he doesn’t live in the city and had no reason to take a gun, a gun he had no legal right to own, and go to Wisconsin to protect people. I may be wrong, but I thought that was the job of the police not a 17 year old Caucasian boy. It seems like the two men were treated differently due to their color.

The black adolescent boys all tell me they need to be careful when they are out so they don’t get arrested. Looking at the above example and the statistic that black teenagers are 15 times more likely to be arrested than Caucasian teenagers (DOJ, 2018) helps me to understand why they are so concerned. Also from my own experience working with teenagers on probation, I see the discrimination. I have had white teenage boys violate their probation numerous times and nothing is done. However, a black teen I was working with who was on home arrest had to go back to Juvenile Hall for a month for a probation violation. The reason was there was a power outage on the way home from his appointment with me. Because there was no power the monitor turned off and he was unable to call in because the phones were down. Probation decided he violated probation because the monitor went off and he did not call probation. The probation officer knew the power was off, but charged him with a violation anyway. Why? I also had some black teenagers tell me that at there high school students were using the “N” word and someone left and hanging noose on campus. The black students were assured that the incident would be addressed, but it never was addressed.

I have mentioned before that suicide is now at an epidemic rate and has been increasing every year for the past 20 years now so now it is the second leading cause of death for teenagers (CDC). However, Black teenagers are five times more likely than Caucasian teenagers to commit or attempt suicide. The reasons why the rate is higher for black teenagers seem to be racism and feeling like no matter how hard they try they feel they cannot succeed due to institutional racism (CDC). When I hear how many of the black teenagers I work with are being followed when they go to stores or if they say they want to be a physician or get their doctorate degree that their high school counselors discuss being plumbers or electricians with them instead. These teens are very bright and this must be very discouraging. I was told the same thing in college because I have a neurological disability. I share my story with these teenagers and encourage them to go for their dreams.

57 years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr disgust a dream where racism was not an issue and we were all treated equally. However, if we look at our society, we are very far from Dr. King’s dream. The teenagers who are speaking out and protesting are telling the truth and we need to listen to them. Many people criticize them for protesting during a pandemic, however no one says anything to President Trump about not wearing a mask and holding campaign rallies that violate all the safety guidelines regarding the pandemic. Again a white man is getting a way with exposing thousands of us to the pandemic, yet the protestors who wear masks and try to social distance are criticize. Stop and think about that point.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/drrubino3. or listen to his podcasts on Apple or Spotify.

Teenagers Need to Know They are Important

Teenagers Need to Know They are Important

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. 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.

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.

Seeing No End to the Pandemic more Teenagers are Thinking about Suicide

Seeing No End to the Pandemic more Teenagers are Thinking about Suicide

Many parents ask me, if their child could be suicidal and what to do if their child is suicidal? I have been getting this question even more now that the pandemic has lasted so long. As a result of teenagers and children having to stay in the house for so long and not being able to return to school, many teenagers are feeling isolated and lonely. Suicidal feeling have been increasing for teenagers for several years. As a result, the CDC has moved suicide from the the third leading cause of death to the second leading cause of death for kids 10 to 18 years old. Furthermore, since the quarantine and pandemic have occurred, there has been an increase in suicides and deaths from drug overdoses in teenagers. A recent study by the CDC has found that during the pandemic, the idea of suicide for teenagers has increased. Currently, 1 out of 4 teenagers have been having suicidal thoughts (CDC). Also for adults, the suicidal ideation has increased by 11%. As a result, parents are worrying more about if their teenager may be feeling suicidal. Additionally, before the quarantine and pandemic, parents were worrying more about their teenager being suicidal because a study by the CDC indicated that survivors of mass shootings were more likely to attempt suicide. The issue of suicide is very scary especially because we do not discuss mental health issues in our society. As a result, parents are not sure what signs they should be looking for or what to do if they think their teen is suicidal. This creates a great deal of anxiety for parents because we were discussing the teenage suicide epidemic, but since the pandemic has lasted so long, the number of teenagers thinking about suicide has increased suicide significantly (CDC). Parents have been isolated to due to the pandemic so besides the fact they are dealing with their own feelings of isolation and fatigue, they are faced with trying to decide what is the best thing to do for their teenager.

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

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

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

I have included the link to this article and I encourage parents to read it and to save it. What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide |. https://childmind.org/article/youre-worried-suicide/#.W9PRyfwKel8.twitter. It provides you with symptoms and signs to watch for in teenagers. It also helps you talk to your teen about their feelings and opinions you can use for help. The bottom line, if you feel your teenager is suicidal do not be embarrassed. Remember today’s teenagers have had to deal with a lot over the past couple of years. They had to worry about being shot at school by a mass shooter, bullying has significantly increased so has the pressure to succeed and now they have had to cope with 4 months of being quarantined, their school was abruptly closed and now many are having to return to school remotely. They are all saying the same thing to me, when do I get to see me friends and when will life return to normal. Since many are now feeling life will never be normal, they are feeling suicidal. We need to be there for them and help them through these very confusing times. These times are confusing for adults imagine how they are for teenagers and children. So if you teen or child seem depressed or are talking an suicide make an appointment to have your teen evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in suicidal teenagers. If you walk in on a teenager attempting suicide, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating suicidal children and teenagers. For more information on his work or private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify or Apple.

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

Special Ed & IEPs Still Exist During COVID 19

While most of the schools in California are starting the year with remote learning, it does not mean that Individual Educational Plans (IEP) are obsolete. In fact in some ways the pandemic has created more problems with IEPS. I have already been contacted by several families who were in the process of having their IEP meetings when the schools shut down suddenly due to the Coronavirus. These families have been contacting the school to finish their child’s IEP, but the district continues to postpone. Even with remote learning children are going to need their accommodations listed in their IEPs, but the IEPs need to be completed. Therefore, parents you are correct when you are asking to have your child’s IEP completed.

This is one family’s experience trying to get their child an IEP and how the school district abused the family. The names have been changed for the family’s privacy. However, this same story happens daily to many families and children. In fact, I have three other families I am currently working with where the school district is doing similar things. Instead of decreasing, it appears the abusive behavior by the school districts is increasing every year. Therefore, parents please read carefully because you never know when you may be facing the same issues.

The story of Tara and her daughter Payton is a common story I have heard many times from families who have children who need an IEP. Prior to the age of 4 years old Payton was diagnosed with a speech and auditory processing difficulties. Payton was behind in her speech developmental milestones and attending preschool to address these issues. However, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, what this diagnosis meant or the prognosis. Neither did anyone explain to Tara about the special education services she was entitled to.

Payton started kindergarten and do to her difficulties she needed to repeat kindergarten. Again, no one explained to Tara, Payton’s mother, how this may impact Payton and they also did not explain any other options, Tara agreed. She was not alarmed because Tara had to repeat kindergarten herself.

However, this started a never ending cycle, where Payton was not meeting the standards for her grade level even when she was receiving Resource Assistance. Tara stated some Resource Teachers were great and others knew very little about auditory processing issues so her daughter received no help.

Tara, watching her daughter struggle, decided to do her own research. She found out more about her daughter’s learning disability and that there was a private school which specialized in this learning disability. Mount Diablo School District continued to lie to Tara as she asked more questions. Also the District went to Payton’s father and lied to him. They told him if Payton’s mother was successfully in getting Payton into the private school, he would have to pay upfront. The District said they would reimburse him later. This is a lie. Also it is not uncommon for the school district to take advantage of a divorce situation and play the parents against each other.

This resulted in a long fight with the school district and in the family court. Payton is in 6th grade and after many years and a great deal of time and money, the fight continues. Mount Diablo School District never looked at the price Payton was paying not receiving the education she is entitled to and having to endure her parents fighting each other in the courts.

This could have been handled very easily if someone was honest with Tara and told her what her daughter was entitled to and if the District followed the legal guidelines. However, they lie to parents all the time hoping parents will give up. If they do, then the District doesn’t need to pay anything and can use the money how they want. Tara was a prime target. A single parent who does not have a lot of time or money. Mount Diablo misjudged Tara, she would not give up on her daughter.

Tara also found out something else parents need to be aware of when dealing with the IEP process. The parent liaisons provided by the district are not there to help the parent or the student. They serve as another way to confuse parents by providing incorrect information to parents. Most parents trust these people believing they are on the student’s side, but they really are there to support the District.

As I said, Tara and Payton’s story is not uncommon. I have worked with many other families who have very similar stories. Also as I stated above, the number of families in these situations are increasing not decreasing. Parents tend to believe school districts have the students best interest at heart. This is how it is suppose to be. However, I have worked with families across the United States and what I have seen is that school districts have their best interest at heart not the students. Tara had a very good way of stating the problem, “the child is the one who struggles for not having their needs met academically”.  How many more parents are out there with struggling students who have been given the same bad information?  I don’t know.  But we need to help them help their child, or these children will be at risk of dropping out and struggling the rest of their lives.  The school district is actually helping create children who are unable to get jobs and will be unable to afford decent housing when they become adults.  And that is a very very scary reality, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not their child who is at risk. However, it could very easily be your child. What do you do then?

Parents need to come together and demand that their children be provided the accommodations they are entitled to. Look up the educational law so you are aware of the appropriate procedure and accommodations. Also do not be embarrassed for standing up for your child’s rights. You are just being a good parent. The school districts need to look at how they are treating children. Also when it comes time to elect the school board, research the candidates and elect those who have a history which demonstrates they truly care about children.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating teenagers and children. In addition he has over 20 years experience serving as an IEP advocate for families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org or listen to my podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Spotify and Apple.

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Helping Kids Return to School During A Pandemic

Well it has taken some time, but finally most school districts have decided when school will be starting and how students will be resuming school. This decision has been made fairly late for most students. Many schools will be resuming school in two weeks and several schools that have tried returning to the classrooms have already started, but several are already having to interrupt classes because students and teachers have already tested positive for the Coronavirus, such as in Georgia. The children and teenagers I have spoken with are angry and upset about school resuming. However, most of them are also happy too, but don’t like to admit it. This article will explore how parents can help their children and teenagers resume school in the middle of a global pandemic.

Starting back to school in the middle of a pandemic can create anxiety and fear for some students, since they still are hearing about people contracting and dying from the Coronavirus. Also since most students have been through a great deal of stress prior to the pandemic such as dealing with daily mass shootings last year, schools closing suddenly due to the quarantine and now they are resuming school but have no idea what to expect. Many students are tired of dealing with the unknown and many kids are losing interest in school too. They want their lives to be somewhat normal again. Since most the children and teenagers that I deal with will be returning to school remotely, I will be looking at the issue from that perspective, however you can use many of the same suggestions for children returning to their classrooms for school. In my opinion, remote learning is the best option for this semester, but there are various opinions and parents need to do what they feel is best for their family.

The first thing parents can do before their child or teenager returns to school is explain what to expect at school. Children’s imagination can be very active and often their imagination is worse than reality. By explaining how remote schooling will work you are preparing your child what to expect and they don’t have to imagine what remote school will be like. Also because you are explaining all the details you are telling your child and teenager that you have inspected the plan for school and you are feeling safe enough to allow them to participate. Children know that if their parents felt the situation was not appropriate for them that you would not allow them to be involved in the situation.

The next step for parents is to listen to your child and teenager. Allow them to vent their frustration, their fears and their disappointment and any other feelings they may have about the plan for school. It’s important for them to express all their feelings and concerns so you can address them. Also if they are not allowed to express how they are feeling most likely they will start to feel resentful because they feel like no one cares about their feelings. If this occurs, they could resist participating in the remote schooling. The most common feeling you will probably hear is anger and frustration about not being able to see their friends daily at school and hang out with their friends. Remember, due to schools closing early and quarantine restrictions many children and teenagers have not been able to see their friends for several months now. Yes they understand the need to be careful due to the Coronavirus, but they are also tired of it especially when they see adults not wearing masks and disobeying the guidelines. A good example is the motorcycle rally they are having in South Dakota.

In addition to listening to their feelings, validate their feelings. Let them know they are entitled to whatever feelings they are having and this is not an easy situation for anybody. Empathize with their feelings too. Explain while it’s not easy for anyone it is more difficult for them because they are young and they want to enjoy life. You can understand how frustrating it is with no one being able to give them definite answers about when their lives may return to normal. Reassure them that you have heard all their feelings and concerns and you are going to do your best to help them through this situation.

Another important thing parents can do with their children is to brainstorm. Now that you know their feelings and concerns, you and your child or teenager can brainstorm about how you can address the various issues and concerns they have about the remote schooling. If at the end of last school year the remote schooling was slightly chaotic you can agree to work with them until you figure out the system for this year. If they are missing friends, maybe there is away they can see friends in person but still adhere to the guidelines of wearing masks and keeping appropriate distance from each other. If they are missing working out at the gym or practicing with their team, there maybe a way they can do workouts at home or there maybe coaches offering private lessons. You can also see if the school has developed an answers to these situations. Most importantly let them know you will look at all the options and you may have to consider options outside of the box because of the unique situation with the pandemic. The main point is you will work with them as hard as you can to address their concerns and make their lives feel as normal as you can given the pandemic.

Finally schedule regular check-ins with your children and teenagers. The above steps are a good beginning, however things can change. Therefore, what was working at the beginning of the school year may not be working two months later. If you have regular check-ins and something changes you can catch it before it becomes a big issue. In addition to checking-in with your child, remember to check-in with your child’s school. Ask about how your child is doing and also ask if there are any proposed changes scheduled for the remote learning. Again if there are changes being proposed, you can prepare your child so you can hopefully make the transition any easy one rather than a stressful one.

Finally, remember the children and teenagers of today have been under a great deal of stress due to the mass school shootings which were occurring daily before the pandemic and quarantine. The pandemic has only added to their stress levels. Since the beginning of the pandemic depression and anxiety disorders have increased significantly for children and teenagers (CDC). Anxiety and depression were already at epidemic levels for children and teenagers before the pandemic. Therefore, anything we can do to help reduce anxiety and depression for children and teenagers will help them adjust to the remote schooling. Remember we are all in this together and need to all work together and we will survive the pandemic. If you do notice that your child or teenager is acting more anxious than normal or appear several depressed, make an appointment for them to see a psychotherapist experienced with treating children and teenagers. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if your child needs therapy during this time.

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

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Teenagers May Need more Access to Electronics during the Pandemic

Most middle school and high school students have grown up with smart phones and computers for gaming and texting their friends. This brings up the common argument about how much time teens are spending on line. Many parents have concerns that their teenager is addicted to their smart phones and gaming. Teenagers feel that their parents are over reacting and they can’t become addicted to their devices.

However, due to the pandemic gaming is now one of the few safe activities teenagers can do. Most places such as movie theaters and malls are closed so gamine provides a safe way to hang out with friends. This is very important to their social development at their age. Additionally, research is showing that teenagers who have little access to normal social activities are becoming depressed during the pandemic (CDC). Therefore, we need to re-evaluate the issue of gaming during the pandemic.

While the truth is teenagers can become addicted to their computer devices and gaming. The World Health Organization (WHO) took a step this year and classified “Gaming Disorder” as a formal diagnosis. As I stated, many parents have been concerned about this for years. Also it does not just impact teenagers, as many may think. I have had couples come in for marriage counseling because Gaming was destroying a marriage. For several years the American Psychological Association has said it would be adding Gaming addiction as a formal diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, however, so far the APA has not been able to decide on the specific criteria for this diagnosis. What the WHO has done is they have acknowledged what many parents have been reporting for years and helping us to take a step so it is acknowledged as a diagnosis. While it is a diagnosis according to the WHO, gaming again is one of the safe activities teenagers can engage in during the pandemic. This does create a difficult situation.

The United States appears to be behind other countries in identifying that video game addiction does exist and does create problems for individuals and families. Seoul, South Korea and Tokyo, Japan have inpatient treatment centers for gaming addiction. These rehabilitation centers have been open for years and have treated thousands of people over the years. Therefore, other countries have acknowledged Gaming addiction that United States parents have been reporting for years.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers, I would have to agree with the parents and I say Gaming addiction is real. I have seen teenagers become violent, punching holes in walls or physically threatening their parents, if there video games or cellphones are taken away as a punishment. Teenagers have told me they cannot function without their video games or cellphones and will do anything to get them back. This sounds like and look like a problem to me. A cellphone or PlayStation should not be a teenager’s life line.

However, as I stated above, the pandemic does create a different situation regarding teenagers gaming online with friends. Since this is a safe way for teenagers to maintain social contacts, I think we need to create new guidelines for the pandemic. Parents are aware that teenagers can become addicted, but they can monitor how their teenagers are acting before and after using electronics. Also maybe have a day without electronics, while allowing some extra time on other days. So try to balance out how much time they are on electronics along with doing other things such as going outside for walks to get exercise.

The statement from the WHO states that the Gaming must be interfering with activities of daily life, such as homework, and be present for at least a year. These guidelines seem sensible to me. Also the WHO cautions that issues such as depression and anxiety need to be ruled out before assigning the diagnosis of Gaming Addiction. Many teenagers who are depressed or dealing with severe anxiety do self-medicate with video games. Finally, the WHO states your child needs to be evaluated by a mental health clinician who specializes in treating and assessing children and teenagers. This is very important because typically children and teenagers do not always have the typical symptoms we associate with depression or anxiety. A clinician experienced in assessing children and teenagers can make the appropriate diagnosis. Given these guidelines it appears to me that parents can allow teenagers to use their electronics more during this time of the pandemic. Parents can make sure to balance electronic time with other activities such as exercise. Furthermore, parents need to be observing their teenagers mood on a daily basis. If the teen is looking depressed or acting anxious then the parents need to schedule a time to have their teenager evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in treating children and teenagers.

I have included a link to a segment on Good Morning America which discusses the diagnosis and other issues I have discussed to assist you in understanding what the WHO is referring to with Gaming Addiction, https://youtu.be/axG1tLdutmY.

The World Health Organization has taken an important step in helping us understand and define a problem many parents have been reporting for years. This is not a bad thing. I view it as a positive step. Technology is moving very fast. In fact, it is moving so fast we cannot keep up with all the new issues we need to deal with as a result of new technology. The more we understand this technology the more we all can benefit and avoid potential serious problems.

With that be stated, the Coronavirus pandemic does present parents and teenagers with a entirely new set of issues. If we stay calm and flexible, we should be able to address these new issues without a great deal of stress for parents or teenagers. Remember this is a new situation for everyone and no one has experienced this type of health situation before. Therefore, if we all work together, we should be able to find solutions to the new issues we continue to face on a daily basis.

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