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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Novelist Sally Gardner's Poem for Dyslexics Everywhere

The brilliant Sally Gardner is an award-winning British children's novelist. She's written Coriander, Maggot Moon, I, The Silver Blade and more... and she is severely dyslexic. 
Growing up as the child of two lawyers in London, she couldn't read until age fourteen. Her teachers repeatedly told her she would never make anything of herself. She turned to art and spent many years as a theater set designer before returning to her original love: writing.  
For Dyslexia Awareness Week in early November of this year, she put together a poem for dyslexic children and adults everywhere.
Disobey Me, a poem by by Sally Gardner
They told me I was dyslexic
it didn’t describe me
belonged in the library
of words I can’t spell
no matter how many times they tell
you just try harder sound it out
simple when you think about
To keep reading this moving poem in its full form, click here.
Sarah Forrest is a Reading Specialist for the Easyread System, an online program for children struggling with reading and spelling. Get a free 10-day trial at www.easyreadsystem.com

Saturday, November 22, 2014

5 Steps to Setting Limits with Your Children

In my last few posts, I’ve been sharing some of the skills involved in filial therapy, including structuring, empathic listening, and imaginary play. Today I’ll discuss the last skill involved, limit setting. 

Why Set Limits?
In thinking about setting limits, the “why” seems like an obvious question. Limits help to keep children safe by protecting the child from dangerous choices. When a child feels safe, they tend to also feel less anxious because they know that their parent is helping to make sure they are safe. However, it can be difficult to know when to set the limits! It’s a fine line to provide enough freedom for a child to explore, but also enough limits to protect the child. In Filial Therapy, parents are asked to set limits only if there is a safety concern, such as hurting someone, breaking a toy intentionally, or running out of the room. 

How to Set Limits: 

  1. Once you’ve asked yourself if the limit is necessary (and have decided that it is), the first step is to check and make sure you feel calm. An important key in limit setting is to stay emotionally neutral, using a matter of fact tone. 
  2. Get your child’s attention by stating their name. You might also put a hand up if there is an imminent safety concern, such as an item about to be thrown. 
  3. State the limit clearly. “One of the things you can’t do is throw that marble at me. But you can do just about anything else.” Notice that in this example, the adult did not suggest other choices. The reason for this is that in this method, you really want to teach your child to problem solve. By leaving the solution up to the child, they must then think about their other options and decide on the best one, which essentially takes them through the problem solving process. 
  4. If the limit is about to be broken a second time, I suggest a three strike policy. That is to say, you would remind the child of the limit and then explain the consequence that will happen if they try again. In this example, the adult would state (in that same matter of fact tone), “Remember how I said that you can’t throw the marble? If you choose to try it again, you’re choosing not to play with marbles today.” The consequence will be most effective if it is a natural consequence that is easily connected to the infraction. The child will not clearly learn the lesson if the consequence were, for example, to lose TV for a week after throwing a marble.
  5. If the limit is broken again, follow through with the consequence. This is key to limit setting! It lets your child know that you mean what you say, and teaches them that next time they really need to follow directions within the first two tries. 
Setting limits consistently helps your child understand that you mean what you say and that you’ll work to keep him or her safe. Using a matter of fact tone, especially during the first two infractions, helps to prevent the child from reacting to an emotion rather than the limit, which tends to lower everyone’s emotions in the situation. Furthermore, having a system will help to reduce your energy expenditure during the situation, as it will become automatic over time and therefore less emotional for you as a parent or caregiver. 

Emily Herber McLean, LPC is a child and family therapist at The Center for Psychological Services. To learn more about her practice, visit www.centerpsych.com.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Frustration is FRUSTRATING! Simple ideas to combat frustration.

It’s hard to know what to say or do 
when someone is frustrated!

This emotion gets in the way of progress in school, social encounters and the quality of interactions as a family. Often times, as parents, we understand a reason for being frustrated but agreeing with the frustrated person doesn’t change the problem. It's well, SO FRUSTRATING!!!

So what do you do about frustration when it rears its head in family life? People with learning disabilities feel frustration perhaps more often than their counterparts with out LD. Knowing how to use a couple simple tools will help with the frustration while building life skills and supporting confidence and self-esteem.
Always speak the truth: Your child or young adult needs to hear the truth; empty praise or pacifying wont cut it! Praise the effort invested even though the situation may have created frustration.

Don't engage in comparisons: Discourage comparisons with others! We are all individuals on different paths and celebrating that is important. Guiding a young person to use strengths to overcome weaknesses can be a way to focus on the individual instead of comparing to others.

Increase overall understanding of a situation: use the SLOW methodology to remove confusion, hopefully breaking down the frustration.
o   S – Stop: the conversation or action and take 3 breaths! This creates a little space to decide what comes next.
o   L – Look: around and take note of what is happening all around you. Everything that is going on can provide you with information.
o   O – Overview: to create a better understanding of all parts of the situation. How do all the different parts of a situation come together to create the frustrating situation?
o   W - WHAT: Ask the “What” questions to find a path forward. What is important? What do you want to have happen? What does how you are acting have to do with the frustration? What next steps do you need to take?

Create a Frustration signal: Sometimes recognizing you are frustrated is part of the problem! Create a secret signal so a parent can signal that frustration is present. This brings the frustration out in to the open and it can be dealt with.
Another helpful trick is to have a mantra that is repeated to create focus on problem solving instead of letting stress and frustration build. An example could be to use the word “SLOW” to remind you of the steps above.

Frustration is a part of life and people with learning disabilities know this better than most! Use these tips and tricks to increase the feeling of being in control even when frustration is present. 

Let us know how these work for you!
Becky Scott

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Children: To Hold on or Let Go?

My mother once told me, when I was in my thirties I might mention, that she found it far harder to parent grown children than younger ones. The reason, she explained, is that as your children grow older you have less control over what they do and with whom they do it.  Being a mother myself by then, this comment resonated with me.  It has proven to be a challenge that I see parents working to manage every day in my office.

Essentially, I tell parents, the parent/child dynamic needs to go like this:

Your children’s job is to push the limits. Your job is to maintain them.

But first you have to know when and how to set limits

When your children are little you can pick them up and put them where they need to be, remove a dangerous toy from their hands, feed them what you choose, set and enforce their bedtime, put them in timeout.  Then they get older, and darn it if the little buggers don't start to assert themselves, expressing their own opinions, desires, and even perspectives in a way that you can't bypass, ignore, or disregard.  

You have to start listening and even more so, you should.

One of the most central internal conflicts your children experience (and it is ongoing until they are fully cooked sometime in their twenties) is the tension between the need to be dependent and the need to be independent.  You see this in your toddler who has learned to say "no" (and practices that new word a lot!), but won't let you out of his sight from the sandbox. You see it in your 8 year old who wants to set his own bedtime, but still insists on being tucked in--multiple times!  The struggle becomes particularly profound in adolescence as your child begins to move away from you and ever more towards his or her peer group.  Insistent on greater autonomy in their use of social media, establishment of privacy, and resistance of whatever limitations you set.  Yet at the same time they need to know that you have their back, that you will catch them if they fall.  That they are not truly on their own just yet.  

The challenge to you as a parent comes by way of determining where and when to set the limits and what those limits should be.  They are ever-changing and continually demand that you be flexible and wise in choosing your battles.  For the little ones this is not easy, but it is simpler as the boundaries for behavior and parent/child roles are more concrete.  Many parents don't realize it but as your child grows older your job is actually to pull back, to allow for greater problem solving and self-determination on their part. You essentially have about 18 years to get this person ready to go out into the world and be okay, which translates into being able to pick themselves up and dust themselves off when they fall, which they will…repeatedly.  They are supposed to.  For goodness sakes, you want them to!  

It's in the falling down that your child learns to be resilient, to bend with life's challenges,
and to cope with what this world throws at them.  

If you hold them too close or set limits that are too firm or inflexible they never get the chance to acquire these skills.

So therein lies the balance. 

Here are some tips as to how you let go, while holding on just enough....
  1. Hold them close enough to keep them generally safe from the really dangerous stuff, but let them venture far enough way to learn how to handle dangerous situations. 
  2. Find the balance by listening. Let your child assert their wishes, discuss them, and never reject them out of hand. 
  3. Always show your child that you value their opinion, and by extension that you value them, by listening and engaging in discussion with them that takes their desires and your own into account in equal measure. 
  4. Above all, negotiate. Together find a compromise. Never negate their wishes or needs, instead always find a way to give a little--unless their safety is at risk.
Be Well,

Jennifer Jackson Holden, Psy.D. is managing director of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office of the Center for Psychological Services. www.centerpsych.com drjenniferholden@gmail.com