Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Desensitization for Teenagers

In psychologydesensitization (also called inurement) is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it.

I have the privilege of counseling/advocating for teenage males generally between the ages of 14-25.  I have seen a trend that is quite disturbing and one that few people discuss.  Todays video games are quite violent, especially the war and shooting games.  There is blood, guts, rampant killing, and tons of vulgar swearing screamed at one another over the headphones.  You can violate ALL laws while playing video games.  For instance, I can tell someone "I will kill you" while playing a video game, however in real life this is a felony.  We assume  kids as young as 7 can tell the difference.  I see prepubescent boys playing mature rated games all the time.  I really don't get the parent that allows their child to play a violent video game.  I want to state that a 15 year old should not be playing a mature game, do you allow them to watch mature movies??

I hear politicians want to control guns, I believe we need to start at a much earlier point in time.  Lazy parenting needs to be addressed.  Parents, DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO PLAY VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES!  This is insane, maybe your child can tell the difference, then again maybe they cannot.   For the safety and sanity of the world, why don't we simply avoid this type of escape altogether   Let them play Nintendo games, or sports game, or even games that require mental thought over violence.  Frequent exposure to the violence reinforces the acceptance of killing and violence.  I have played the games and they are adrenaline pumping and unbelievably real. 

I hear all the excuses from parents, all the other kids parents allow them to play these games at their house.  We don't allow this logic when a child makes a mistake, "Tommy always plays in the street"..We say, " if Tommy were jumping off a cliff would you join him?"  Please parents, do not take the easy path...Know what your kids are doing, watch them, monitor them closely.  If the game is for 18 and over, please follow the guidance.. don't be the "cool" parent, be the good parent.

We have to start somewhere, lets promote love and acceptance instead of hostility and aggression in our children.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I just thought of Brad Mercer!  He would have loved this on our church bulletin board
I just thought of Brad Mercer! He would have loved this on our church bulletin board

Monday, June 20, 2011


Just because I counsel and advocate for kids, does not mean that I always do things correctly.  I have to be careful and find a balance in parenting.  The biggest mistake that I make, and I see my clients make, is being too critical.  My kid has done 90% of everything I have put in front of him (I have 4 boys) and I go focus on the 10% that he blew off, or just plain forgot.  I have to remember to praise the 90% and reward his hard work.  If I focus on the 10%, I have set up a case of learned helplessness, this is when the child cannot feel success in anything he does.  When we have learned helplessness, the child will just quit.  Then we get the "hacked off teenager syndrome".  I see this quite a bit in my practice, the parents push so hard, the kid finally gives the parent the finger and is basically done with them. 
Now we have a horrible cycle, the more the kid withdraws, the tougher the parent becomes.  Guess what?  We are not bonding, loving, encouraging, supporting, and most of all enjoying our children.  We are harping, nagging, suffocating, irritating and definitely NOT enjoying our kids. 
If you find yourself in this situation, HIT RESTART!  Tell your kid what you have done wrong.  Then evaluate your motives.  I bet you need to change the way you are motivating your child. 

Next blog is How to Motivate Properly

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Would YOU Like

I am working on the New and Improved web site and it occurred to me -- what would the parent like?  What kind of services would you like to see -- remember this site is intended to be a hub for professional and parents to meet in the middle.  It needs to be a site where parents can get answers, but what are the questions?  Let me know.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Ten Questions to Ask at an IEP

by dennise
If your child has an IEP, the following top ten list is comprised of generic questions that all parents should be asking.  This list is not specific to any disability or situation.
10.  How has the School updated the present levels of performance?
The Present Levels of Performance (PLOPs) are crucial to writing a successful IEP.  Since many IEP Teams only perform assessments every 3 years, for the triennial IEP, it’s important to understand how this section is being updated.  “This section forms the basis and justification for all goals and objectives. In turn, the goals and objectives form the basis for all services and placements.” (Brannigan and Margolis, IEP Goals and Objectives are these any good)
9.  Has there been a goal written for all of my child’s needs?  If not, why?
As mentioned above, goals form the basis for all services and placement.  For this reason there should be a written goal for every one of your child’s needs.  The list of goals in the IEP help you obtain the services your child needs to be successful.  It will be impossible to argue for a specific service if that service doesn’t help your child reach one of their goals.
8.  How is the School collecting data to measure progress on goals?
IDEA states that the IEP must have, “a description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals described in subclause (II) will be measured and when periodic reports on the progress the child is making toward meeting the annual goals (such as through the use of quarterly or other periodic reports, concurrent with the issuance of report cards) will be provided.”  Since all goals need to be measurable, parents need to understand how the data will be collected to measure progress on the goals.
7.  What research-based instruction will the School be using to teach my child?
IDEA of 2004 added language that the School must use research-based instruction based on “Peer-reviewed research.”  Peer-reviewed research is a process by which one’s colleagues assess the quality and accuracy of one’s research papers. Peer review is most frequently employed within academia, where professors evaluate each others’ work before it is published in major research journals.
6.  Can I get a copy of my child’s service logs?
When your child is seen by a Service Provider (Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, etc), they need to document each session and provide notes on what was worked on during that session.  This might be known as a Service Log or Service Notes.  Asking for copies of these logs will help you determine, 1) if any sessions have been missed, and 2) what was being worked on during these sessions.
5.  When and where will my child’s services take place?
There are many locations that a child’s services might take place.  These could include the classroom, a resource room, an intervention room or elsewhere.  The IEP should specify the location of the services and at a minimum should state whether the services are push-in where the service provider comes into the classroom or pull-out where the service provider takes the child from the classroom.  Also, when the child will receive these services is important.  For example, if your child is struggling in math he/she should not be pulled out of class for speech during classroom math instruction.
4.  What percentage of the day will my child be removed from the general education setting?
The IEP needs to find the proper balance between providing an appropriate education and keeping your child with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible.  This should be part of the discussion when determining your child’s placement.
3.  How and why have the accommodations in my child’s IEP been chosen?

Accommodations help provide access to the curriculum, but should not be included if they are unrelated to the student learning needs.  The IEP Team should make accommodation decisions based on the child’s individualized needs and include those accommodations that reduce the effect of the disability to access the curriculum.
2.  Is my child on a graduation track or are they working on a modified curriculum?
Modifications actually lower learning expectations and should only be used if this is the only way for the child to be successful.  Parents must understand if modifications to grade level standards are being made their child may be at risk for not meeting graduation requirements.
1.  Can you please explain that again?
The IEP Team members conducting the assessments must be professionally trained and competent.  They also need to be able to explain the test results in language the parents can understand.  If you don’t understand what the team members are saying, it is their responsibility to figure out how to explain it in clear and easy to understand language.  Do not let them off the hook; if you don’t understand ask them to explain it again in layman terms.
Your child’s IEP is a legally binding contract with the School District, so you should have a full understanding of what you are signing!!!

Jun 4, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Employing Helping Professionals

I am really disgusted when I walk into a doctors office and I have to wait more than 15 minutes.  I showed up on time along with 10 other patients all clamoring to be the first to sign in.  What is the deal here?  Lets have all the people show up at the same time and then we will SLOWLY show them to a small waiting room and I will sit for eternity waiting for the almighty doctor to arrive.  Come on -- this is insane!   Show some courtesy.  I understand that you (DR)  want to run a tight schedule all day,  however my time is important too.  Book them every 15 minutes??  We don't like to wait with a screaming baby in the little examination room while you piddle around making notes.  OK - I have complained enough and I am sure everyone know what I am talking about. 
I believe we need to employ quality people that have our best interests at heart. Why do we trust rude and inconsiderate people to help us or our children?  Dentists are getting the picture, they are becoming much more patient friendly and I believe we have an abundance of dentists that need money.  Guess what, they are cordial, nice and for the most part prompt.  The same should be true of all the helping profession, we are not above the people receiving the treatment!
Let me know what you think -- Do you have any questions??? leave them below

Friday, May 27, 2011

Get An Advocate to Look Over Your Situation

Yesterday I had a new client.  As I viewed the Special Education documents I could see why the school had opted to remove the accommodations.  The fourth grader had a 135+ IQ and she was making all A’s.  Along with this very bright brain she had an average processing speed, this caused her to believe she was getting all the material and for her to constantly rush through her work.  She knew she was smart, however she will frequently make silly errors.  She really needs to slow down and not rush -- and if we keep allowing her to do this without consequences, then she is likely to have an entitled attitude when she enters high school and college.  I explained this to the parents and suggested giving her 3 months with no accommodations. Then, we can evaluate her scores and her effort after this trial period -- I will let you know how this ends up.  I think it is important for all advocates to look at the best needs of the child both long term and short term.  Obviously this girl is very bright and has a bright future in front of her, but too many modifications and accommodations can give the student false reason to work less diligently on their academics.  Plus, she will miss the opportunity to learn how to cope with her disability.  Of course we want all the  students on a level playing field.  In addition, we also want them to learn to use their strengths and identify their weaknesses so they can be successful in life.  If she struggles at the end of the trial period, we can place accommodations in slowly to see which ones have the most profound effect.  It would be improper to start immediately throwing all the accommodations possible at the school.  We need to know for sure which ones are helping.

I believe that the parents can use an advocate to see the situation from an unbiased perspective. In this case, a huge fight may be thwarted.  If we need to make changes in her IEP, we will have plenty of evidence to support those changes when we approach the school.

Monday, May 23, 2011

” Article Explains Why Parents Need An Advocate

Special Education To Feel $44 Million Pinch

By Text Size  A  A
Special education programs across the country will be cut by $44 million this year as compared to last, but things could have been much worse, experts say.
With final federal budget numbers emerging after months of political haggling in Congress, it’s not immediately clear how the cuts will impact classrooms since funding has not been broken down to the school district level.
What is clear, however: no education program is going unscathed. Overall, the U.S. Department of Education budget was slashed by $1.3 billion for 2011 as compared to 2010.
“These are cuts we will feel,” says Lindsay Jones, senior director of policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children, a group representing special educators. “When money comes out of these programs it means less money for technology in the classroom, less money for specialists and less money for salaries for special education teachers.”
But she acknowledges the situation could be much worse. Earlier this year, Congressional Republicans proposed a $557.7 million cut to special education, a situation that would have represented a worse case scenario, Jones says.
“As cuts go, they are not as bad as they could have been,” she said. “It’s a harsh environment.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

7 Tips for the Summer With Special Needs Children

   Summer is coming like a freight train and those with special needs kids are dreading it.  Don't feel ashamed to admit it, the summer months are difficult.  The house is a constant wreck, kids are cranky, routines are gone and now we have the big baby sitter coming over--VIDEO GAMES. I have seven tips that may save the day- however they will be tough to put in motion. 
     1.  No shooting video games of any kind.  These games make kids nuts, you might as well feed them crack and barbiturates in the morning, I believe it is less addictive. I have noticed in my practice and also at home, anytime kids play shooting games they get weird- often even mean.  It puts them in a state they are not able to cope effectively.  Say what you want, these games are not healthy -- I have seen the effects.
     2. All chores, reading, everything must be done before any video games can begin.  I call this kid credit -- it is worse than any ones credit score.  How many times have we heard - “mom I will pick up my room after this game,” yea right.  The child might have the best of intentions (or maybe not), however the work rarely gets done, and if they do it you can count on it being a sloppy job! Don't take kid credit.
     3.  Have a routine for everyday!  This will help your child know what is going on and keep them from asking you the same questions everyday -- well, they may ask, but at least you can say look at the schedule and it is the same as yesterday.
     4.  Have a finite time for any activities, do not let the same activity extend for ever and ever, this is especially important for video games. Keep the schedule moving, other wise they will burn out on their favorite games- toys.
        5.  No video games in their room -- this is a place to sleep -- don't confuse the two -- no TV in their room either!
     6.  OK - I know this is going to hurt, however I gotta say it, no more than an hour of video game time a day.  Your child needs to be active and mover a much as possible -- staring at the computer playing games is not healthy.  I know that the kid is quiet and not being a pain when playing, however if you let your kid do this all summer, the price you pay will be later -- as in sleep patterns will be way off.
     7. No caffeine -- duh energy drinks etc -- it stays in your system for up to 10 hours -- it also makes kids aggressive.  It interacts negatively with medications too.
     Sleep is almost as important as food and water.  Have a consistent bed time and wake time.  The weekends are not any different.  If your kid stays up late on Friday night, then wants to sleep in, guess what, you have just flown to Hawaii and back.  You wonder why your child is sluggish and cranky, he has a form of jet lag.  Be consistent. I know these things are hard to follow- but your life will be easier in the long run!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Parents -- Be Aware When:

 I like for things to make sense -- when I am in a meeting and the talk is too coded and the school seems to be ignoring the parent -- it is time to stop the meeting and ask them to speak English.  This is common when the school is up to no good; it is the same feeling I get when I walk into a Chinese restaurant and order off the menu.  The cook is not pleased and the owner is laughing as he speaks Mandarin -- oh no, its going to be a long night!  I always want the plan to make perfect sense -- where is the student going at 1:30?  At Noon?  Who will be teaching him at different times of the day (what is the student to teacher ratio in each class . . . etc)?  When the school cannot tell you and starts speaking a foreign language -- you know you are in for a long year.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

5 Things to Remember in the ARD / IEP Meeting - Special Education Procedures

I get daily calls from irate parents listing all the injustices the school has imparted upon their child.  It can be hard to decipher between fact and reality.  I have noticed that parents will get angry and  paranoid and believe the school is "out to get them."  After calming the parent I remind them of the 5 rules that can save the meeting:
   1.  The ARD meeting is not your time to exact revenge on all the people that have wronged you.  The committee is made up of human beings that have feelings and they are NOT targeting you or your child.
   2.  Let the game come to you.  When in the ARD meeting -- be quiet -- listen -- we were blessed with 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason.  If you are talking all the time how are you helping your child?  Think about the blow hard in your meetings at work -- does anyone really listen to him?
   3.  Bring someone to the meeting that can help keep your emotions in check.  Don't bring someone that is emotional or a know it all.  The calmer you can remain the more you will process.
   4. Do not threaten the committee with lawsuits, due process and/or any kind of litigation.  The school is not scared of lawyers, they have their own.  If you need to sue the school, contact your attorney and do it in a civilized manner.  You come off looking crazy to anyone in earshot and you are only hurting your child's chance of getting the services you believe they need.
   5. Finally, if you feel as though the meeting is getting out of hand -- CALL A RECESS!  Come back in 10 days or less and see if calmer heads have prevailed and you can work through the issues.

I prefer my clients not speak in the meetings.  I know this is difficult, but generally it works out best in the long run.  The goal is to help your child -- Use his or her name as a mantra to stay calm and look at all the issues from both sides.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teachers Are Stuck In the Middle

I have noticed that teachers seem to be fearful in ARD/IEP meetings.  The teacher knows what the child needs academically more than anyone in the committee, however they are quiet and sometimes non responsive -- why is this?  I believe the teachers are somewhat fearful for their jobs.  In the ARD/IEP meeting I know the teacher wants to allow and recommend services, but he/she is stuck.  With the cutbacks in education and the lack of funding I believe teachers are told to keep their mouths shut - either this is implied or even being said directly.  Administrators are pressing to meet budget demands and the special needs student suffers.  If the teacher speaks up, he/she is subject to bureaucratic policy that will include nitpicking anything possible to prevent renewing contracts.  Therefore, my most trusted source of information is now mute-- as advocates for students we must really do our homework and read between the lines.  The answer is  available, it is not as easy to ascertain.  Teachers -- I do sympathize with your position and I will not put you in the middle -- I will dig to find the right accommodations and modifications for each of my clients -- maybe a  phone call or email can help push me in the right direction -- mum is the word!