The Holidays and Special Need Children

The Holidays and Special Need Children

The Holidays are here and many people expect it to be a great family time and a great deal of fun for the kids. However, this is not true for every family or child. The Holidays can be a very difficult time for a child who has Autism or is on the Autistic spectrum or have other types of Cognitive Disabilities. The noise and having a lot of people being around can be upsetting to them. Also many children on the spectrum are use to a certain daily routine. The festivities of the Holidays can disrupt their routine and upset them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Real Face of Autism

The Real Face of Autism

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with many children and teenagers who happen to be autistic. Often their parents are very worried. They worry about their child’s future and how people will treat their child. They have this concern because society tends to treat autism like some terrible disease. Many people assume that someone with Autism will never have a future or decent life.

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

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

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

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers many have been on the autistic spectrum. For more information regarding his work or private practice practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

The Facts About Teenagers and Post Concussion Syndrome

The Facts About Teenagers and Post Concussion Syndrome

Schools are back in session and many high school students are back playing sports. The main sport at this time of year is football and cheerleading goes along with it. Both football and cheerleading are high risk activities for concussions. Parents are also learning that “basic” Concussion in teenagers are more common than people think and can create more problems than people think. A concussion can cause physical impairment such as not being able to walk or emotional issues such as a teenager suddenly having anger problems or depression.

After a concussion many teenagers develop Post Concussion Syndrome. Teenagers can have violent mood swings, difficulties concentrating and difficulties with memory. This can cause problems at school and with family and friends. I have seen teenagers who get so depressed by these changes that they become suicidal. Post Concussion Syndrome can last a year or more and typically physicians do not warn parents or teenagers about this syndrome. This makes matters worse because they feel like they are crazy because they don’t understand why they have the symptoms. Also these symptoms can create problems at school that the student may need accommodations for in order for the student to understand the classes.

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

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

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

A new research study from Boston University shows that boys who play football before the age of 12 years old are more likely to have memory problems and problems making decisions as adults. This study also shows that boys who play football before age 12 are three times more likely to develop clinical depression as an adult. The study suggests the reason this occurs is because around the age of 12, a child’s brain is undergoing a great deal of development at this age. Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, explained that “the brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life.”

Another MRI study, by the Wakes Forest School of Medicine showed that boys between the ages of 8 years old to 13 years old who played even just one season of football showed signs of diminished brain function.

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

Also boys are not the only ones at risk for concussions. Girls are at risk for concussions too. In fact, some studies show that cheerleaders are at a higher risk of getting a concussion than foot players. Cheerleaders do not use helmets and have no head protection. Also many people assume a child needs to be knocked out in order to sustain a concussion. This is not true. You can sustain a concussion without losing consciousness. So football players are not the only one at risk. Any high school athlete is at risk – boy or girl. Anything that causes a jarring of the head can cause a concussion. Our brain sits in fluid in our skull. Therefore any jarring force can cause the brain to hit the side of the skull and cause a concussion. Also as the brain moves in the skull it can twist causing shirring. When the brain twists microscopic nerves can be severed adding to the concussion. Furthermore, no two brains are the same. This is why it is almost impossible to determine how long it will take someone to recover from a concussion. Two people’s scans may look the same and one may recover quickly and the other may need a long recovery period. There is no way to predict how long the recovery period will be. This is why all high school athletes are at risk for concussions and some may recovery quickly and others do not.

Therefore a concussion or post concussion syndrome can be very serious and impact a teenager for life. For the reason, parents need to be aware of the risks involved and if their child’s school is using the appropriate safety equipment and has a protocol for how they respond to a student with a concussion.

I have included a link to a YouTube video where a physician describes the basic information about what happens to a brain during a concussion and the process of recovery from a concussion. This is a must see for any parent https://youtu.be/zCCD52Pty4A.

In addition to this video I have included a fact sheet from the CDC regarding information about concussions for you to review http://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/schools/tbi_factsheets_parents-508-a.pdf.

I have also included this link from the CDC which helps parents, coaches and schools https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and their families. For more information on Dr. Rubino or his work please visit his websites at http://www.rcs-ca.com, http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

Different types of Neglect

Different types of Neglect

This is a very good way to look at neglect

There are three main ways we can observe neglect:

1. Material neglect involves a child being left without food or clothes or medical attention.

2. Circumstantial neglect occurs when a child is loved by both parents, but is expected to take care of themselves during some part of the day. It’s clear to the child that their parent(s) value attachment behavior, but circumstances such as work prevent them from being around as much as they want. When they are home, though, they offer a secure-functioning relationship.

3. The more disruptive kind of neglect is associated with parenting styles that are dismissive or derogating of attachment values.

These parents can be home physically all the time, but their child will few (if any) have autobiographical memories. An example you might hear would be, “Mom was always home working, she just didn’t like to be interrupted… ever.”

The child generally is expected to perform a certain function for either or both parents, often related to parental self-esteem. Islands (avoidants) tend to report more neglect than do partners with other organized attachment systems.

Abuse Parents Endure When Their Child Needs Special Education

Abuse Parents Endure When Their Child Needs Special Education

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.

Helping Parents with IEP terms

Helping Parents with IEP terms

The school year is starting and so are IEP meetings. An IEP refers to an Individualized Educational Plan that the parents and school agree upon. This plan is a legal agreement which states the school environment and accommodations a child needs in order to benefit from their education. Unfortunately not all schools tell parents about all of their rights they have at their child’s IEP meetings (Individualized Educational Plan). Also they do not fully explain all the terms. This creates a great deal of confusion and anxiety for parents. Typically any time I write an article regarding IEPs, I receive emails from parents across the country asking if they are being treated fairly in their IEP meetings.

A common term that is used at IEP meetings is Least Restrictive Environment. At times this term is used to deny a child services. Parents may be asking about Resource Assistance or a Special Day Class and the school may say the Resource Room is not an option because it is not the least restrictive environment. They may insist that the child be placed in a general educational classroom. In other words, the typical classroom people think about when they think of a classroom. However, placing a child in a general education classroom or school is not always the least restrictive environment. Also schools and at times parents may worry about how much inclusion their child will be receiving with the proposed IEP.

Inclusion refers to providing children, who need special educational services, access to the general educational atmosphere and students. However, this is not always the least restrictive environment for your child. The least restrictive environment is the environment in which your child will benefit the most from their education. This may not always be a general education classroom. Remember, least restrictive refers to the environment where your child has the least amount of difficulties learning so they can benefit fully from their education. Therefore, a Special Educational Classroom may be the least restrictive environment for your child depending on their educational needs. If they will benefit more from their education in a Special Day Classroom then that is the least restrictive environment for your child.

This can be a confusing term to understand especially since most people have been lead to believe that inclusion is the same thing as the least restrictive environment. I have included a link to a video which further explains this term. I strongly recommend you watch it so you have a clear understanding of what least restrictive environment refers to and what inclusion refers to https://youtu.be/I7HFRF8y288.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers in Special Education. He often assists parents with IEPs and school accommodations. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his websites http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or http://www.LucasCenter.org.

Gifted Kids Sometimes Need Special Ed Too

Gifted Kids Sometimes Need Special Ed 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.