June 14, 2021

Counseling Today Article on Special Needs Family Therapy

I was interviewed to contribute to October’s cover story for Counseling today. It’s a huge honor and the article is fantastic. Please take a moment to look at it and pass it on to anyone who might benefit from it.

http://ct.counseling.org/2015/09/retaining-family-focus/

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3 tips to ease the back to school transition

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It’s been a good summer.  You’ve had some fun.  Everyone is (hopefully) feeling pretty relaxed. But, now, it’s time to get ready to return to school.  For you, the parent, you are probably looking forward to a little more time to get stuff done without having to manage child care duties.  However, for your exceptional child, back to school means a change in routine and can be a potentially stressful transition.  Bearing this in mind, here are some things you can do to help make things a little easier.

1.     Gradually adjust bedtime.

For many families, summer break is a time of decreased or changed structure. For many of my clients, bed times get a little more lax and are often pushed back.  Try to start nudging that bedtime up a few minutes a night before the school starts.  Shoot for having your child going to bed and getting up for at least a few days (if not a week) before the first day of school.  This will make the transition a little more gradual and help your child to start the first day of school more rested and ready to go.  Starting school is enough of a change without being sleep disrupted on top of everything.

2.     Be positive

Your child may be experiencing some anxiety as they think about starting up school.  This may be heightened if they are making a big jump (say from grade school to middle school or from middle school to high school).  Encourage your kid to talk about and process these feelings, but focus on the positives.  Focus on your child’s strengths and how they are ready to do well.  Remind them of good things to look forward to with the start of a new school year.

3.     Reach out to the teachers

Consider reaching out to the teachers before or at the start of the school year.  Send a brief email introducing yourself and your child. Let the teachers know your child’s likes and strengths.  Don’t count on an IEP or 504 plan to give them the important information they need to work with your child.  Most importantly, stay positive and present yourself as a resource to help them and support them in working with your child.  Make a positive connection and this will aid collaboration as the school year unfolds.

 

I hope these simple tips help you out. Please feel free to share your helpful back to school tips in the comments section below. Also, please share this article with any friends you think might find it helpful.  If you would like to schedule a consultation you can email erik@erikyoungcounseling.com or call 484-693-0582.

 

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ADHD: Disorder or Super Power? Part Four

       I.            Succeed from your strengths!

Partially because I didn’t receive formal therapy, but also because I needed to grow up, I did not get a handle on my ADHD until I was in my 20’s.  What happened is that I became a father.  All of a sudden I was motivated.  I looked at my son and thought “he deserves better than a slacker parent.”  I enrolled in college and started to apply all the study and organizational strategies I’d been taught but stubbornly refused to use in high school.  A funny thing happened, I started getting straight A’s.  In fact, I maintained a 4. GPA for 6 straight semesters in my undergraduate program.  It was hard work at first and I had to be very disciplined, but I didn’t want to let my baby son down.  Over time though, it got easier as I got habituated to doing these things.  Pretty soon I could tap into my super focus whenever I wanted.

Today, I’m still hyperactive (I cannot sit still).  I can be impulsive.  I talk too fast.  I procrastinate.  BUT I can control that when the circumstances call for it.  I run a successful private practice.  I pay the bills.  I have a good life.  As long as I have goals that motivate then my ADHD brain works FOR me rather than against me.

Here’s the bottom line.  If you have ADHD or think you might have ADHD, then here is what you need to do to be successful:

  1. Stop internalizing the bad messages from the world around you.  Stop internalizing the daily little failures as a measure of your self-worth.  It’s not necessary and it just drags you down. You may be forgetful at timesbut so what?  Focus on the positives.  Celebrate your strengths.
  2. Find your passion! Figure what things engage your focus and then work them into as much of your day-to-day life as possible.  This will help make boring activities more engaging.
  3. Always have a goal with firm deadlines.  This will help stave off procrastination.  Don’t just say “I’ll do _____ someday.” Or “I will get to it later.”  Set a day and time and then get it done.  You might do it last-minutethat’s ok as long as you meet your goal.  When you meet your goalset a new goal.  Never be without a goal.
  4. Look for new passions so you can change things up.  Remember, boredom is the enemy!  Keep it fresh.  It’s ok to rotate through interests.  Going through two or three things then returning to the first thing as you feel like it.
  5. Learn how to organize and engage your focus even in low-stim situations.  It’s difficult.  It takes time.  But, sometimes we just have to gut through the boredom.

If you want to schedule a free consultation please call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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ADHD: Disorder or Super Power? Part Three

       I.            Hidden gifts

Having ADHD confers some distinct advantages.  First, lets do away with the myth of the attention-deficit.  The name of this condition is a misnomer.  It’s not that we can’t pay attention, quite the contrary.  We have super, laser-like focus and attention.  The problem is that the cost of entry is very high to engage that focus.

I explain it to my private practice clients like this.  Everyone has a “goldilocks” zone of stimulation.  When the environment stimulation is in this zone then we feel comfortable.  For neurotypical people, the world generally puts us in this comfort zone.  However, for those of us wired for ADHD, our need for stimulation is very highmuch higher than the norm.  Most of the time the world is not giving us what we need.  We are under-stimulated.  So, our brains seek out stimulation to make us feel normal. So, we seem distracted because we are constantly going “whats that!  What’s that!  What’s that!”  seeking normalcy.  Our existence is one long battle with extreme boredom.  However, when our need for stimulation is met, then our focus kicks inand it is much stronger than that of mere mortals.  When I’m doing something that stimulates me and I get in the zone….I lose track of time.  I can get more done in a couple of hours than most people do all day!  The problem is that it can be difficult to access that focus when others expect that of us.

Other good things that come with ADHD:

  • Creativity
  • Energy
  • Sociability
  • Independence
  • Fun
  • Quick thinker
  • Decisiveness
  • Passionate

So, ADHD shouldn’t be considered a disorder.  It’s a rough descriptor of neurology.  We don’t pathologize shorter than average people.  We don’t say they’re broken.  We give them access to stools to reach the top shelf.  Whether or not you need meds.  No matter what behavioral/organizational strategies you need to get through the daythese are simply “stools”tools to help us adapt.

Go to Part Four.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation, please call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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ADHD: DISORDER OR SUPER POWER? Part two

       II.            The problems with the diagnosis

The DSM-V is the official manual of mental disorders.  If you have a formal diagnosis of ADHD (or any other mental health disorder), then it should flow from the criteria laid out in that book.  Here is what the DSM-V says about ADHD.

DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:

  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  1. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

In addition, the following conditions must be met:

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (e.g., at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Just take a look at that.  Pretty dismal huh?  Can’t sit still.  Can’t pay attention.  Can’t control oneself.  Totally out of control.  What a mess!  This is the only picture the mental health community uses to diagnosebut it is a very incomplete picture.  The diagnostic criteria focus on the “negative” aspects of ADHDwhich really revolve around the struggles with school and “typical” work environments (where sitting still and doing seat work are prized).  The definition neglects to look at the positives of being wired for ADHD.  It totally misses the amazing strengths we have.  Thus, we are pathologized and often made to feel inferior when we are simply different.  Allow us to capitalize on our strengths and we can do amazing things and be very successful.

Go to Part Three.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation, please call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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ADHD: DISORDER OR SUPER POWER? Part one

       I.            A confession

My name is Erik and I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Like many people my age (the “wrong” side of forty) I wasn’t ever diagnosed as a child and never received treatment.  As a child I was always on the go.  I learned to run before I could walk… I even have a small calcium deposit bump on my forehead from falling on my face so much during that time.  I had a terrible anger from being hypersensitive.  The most mild name calling would send me into full-out temper tantrums.  By the time I was in middle school, my straight A grades started to suffer due to poor organization, an overwhelming sense of boredom and my insistence that I read my favorite books rather than what my teachers wanted me to read.  I was the poster boy for “he can do the work…”

It wasn’t until I was well into my adulthood and was struggling to make sense of life, the universe, and everything that I finally figured out what was “wrong” with me.  Soon after, I realized that NOTHING was wrong with meI was simply wired a certain way and as long as I was aware of that and made the appropriate adjustmentslife could be amazing.  As a result, I am well-educated, successful and reasonably happy.  In fact, I attribute much of my success to my ADHD.  For me, today, life IS amazing.  I am so blessed.  Let me tell you why…

Go to Part Two

To schedule a free session, call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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Trauma, brain structure and the power of nurturing touch – Video

I’ve spent the past three days assisting with the Theraplay training.  It’s been a wonderful experience.  We had some time and my good friend and mentor, Dr. Rand Coleman gave a talk about trauma and it’s effects on the brain.  I share this talk with you because the information is critical to parents and mental health professionals alike.

 

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Trauma, recovery and addiction — Interviewed by Michele Paiva at the Mind Body Institute

I had the great honor and pleasure to join Michele Paiva on her radio show today.  The topic was addiction, trauma and recovery.  Check it out!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bodymindradio/2013/10/30/emotional-detox-radical-recovery-rethinking-addiction

 

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Site updates and a special offer!

Friends,
I have been crazy busy lately…and this means lots of updates. However, it also means some special opportunities to you.

The Book is out!

First, my book, The Special Needs Parenting Survival Guide, is officially available! You can buy it here. Or you can get it at Amazon.com. If you purchase the paperback version, you can get the kindle version for free.

As a special thank you for your support, I am offering five signed copies for $12 (that’s a 30% discount) to the first five people who send me an email. (erikyounglpc@verizon.net)

Check out the store!

My website now features a store where you can purchase my new line of stress reduction and relaxation audio files.   Learn about diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Also, check back later for video new video relaxation demonstrations.

New Curriculum Certification

I am excited to announce that I will soon be releasing a new on-line certification curriculum based on the principles of The Special Needs Parenting Survival Guide.

The Special Needs Parent Support Specialist (SNPSS) certification will teach parents, teachers, and other professionals the principles behind the social support network system and prepare participants to assist other special needs parents.

I am really excited about this as I hope it will help teach professionals and lay people alike how to recognize the unique needs of special needs parents and create a network of people that can ease the challenges these parents face on a daily basis.

Until next time, remember…Breathe, you got this.

Peace,
Erik

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How to Have am Autism-Friendly Halloween

halloween

 

HOW TO HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN WITH YOUR AUTISTIC CHILD

If your child has autism, then you know how challenging holiday events can be.  With these events, you combine changes in routine with increased sensory stimulation and mix all that up with used-once-a-year social conventions that fly in the face of the day to day rules.  This perfect storm of “wrong” can set the stage for tantrum inducing disasters for many individuals on the spectrum. Despite this, I believe there is no reason that you and your child have to avoid special holiday events, such as Halloween.  It just takes a little planning and preparation for both of you to have a wonderful, candy-filled, spooktacular Halloween.

My Foster Child’s First Halloween

My oldest foster child has autism.  In the run-up to his first Halloween with us (when he was twelve), it quickly became apparent to us that he had never been trick or treating.  We really wanted him to go, but were concerned about how he would handle the event.  Like many autistic children, he is very ridged and does not take to change well.  At that time, he was prone to get upset and bite people when things did not go as planned or if anybody had to tell him “no.”  However, despite our concerns, Lorrie (my wife) and I felt it was important for him to have a shot at experiencing a “traditional” Halloween.

First, we had him look the through the costume store circular.  He chose a cow costume (complete with udders).   Cows are his favorite animal on the planet (why this is the case is a story for another post).  Then, Lorrie went out and found the very costume he picked out.  We then tried to explain to him over the days leading up to trick or treat night what he was going to get to do.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but he simply did not get what we were telling him.

“OK, you are going to put on your cow costume.  Then you are going to go up to houses, say trick or treat and then you will get candy!”

“Candy Candy Candy!”  was his typical reply, followed by confusion as to why the candy was not forthcoming right that second.  ( I tell you, I’m a brilliant therapist at times…)

At long last, the night came.  We put our son into his costume and gave him a pillow case to collect his loot.  He immediately became really uncomfortable.  He did not understand what was happening. We went out into the night and started at some neighbor’s houses that knew us and our children.  The first challenge was to get him to say “trick or treat” after ringing the doorbell (but waiting for someone to answer the door)this came out more like “tickatweesh.”  (Our boy has some language…two to three word phrases but his diction is poor and he is hard to understand.)  The next challenge came after he got his candy.  He immediately tried to run home so he could eat his one piece of candy.  My attempt to stop him and go to the next house almost resulted in a tantrum, but we were able to persevere.

After about three houses, my boy gave me a look that, to this day, I will cherish.  Without saying a word, he looked me in the eye.  The look he gave me basically said “So, I go to houses in a costume.  I say tickatweesh.  They give me free candy.  GENIUS!!”  He was into it after this.  I could barely hold him back.  We avoided a couple of houses where they were doing haunted house/scary things.  I checked in every couple of houses and asked him “do you want to keep going or do you want to go home?”  As soon as he said go home, we headed back.  I didn’t push things.  Once home, my boy got to eat himself into a classic Halloween sugar coma.  It was fantastic.

The best part of the tale came the next day.  Our boy came downstairs after school and handed us his cow costume and said “tickatweesh.”  He wanted to go out again.  We tried to explain that Halloween was overhe asked us every night for the rest of the week before giving up efforts to get more free candy.  It was pretty funny.   We ended up saving and re-using that cow costume for 5 years before we had to replace it.

All in all, a successful outing for all concerned.

Tips for an Autism-Friendly Halloween Night

—   Let your child choose his costume.  Avoid costumes with full face masks, lots of makeup or glue-on accessories.  These can be uncomfortable and take the fun out of the night for your child.

 

— Remember the night is supposed to be fun.  This is not the time to push limits with your child.  All the changes in routine and possible overstimulation will be more than enough for him/her to process.

 

 

—   Start small, just go to a few trusted houses and see how things go.  Then, check in with your child frequently.  Gauge how they are holding up.  You want to be at home BEFORE they are over-stimulated.

 

— It might be a good idea to start your trick or treat route at the furthest point from your house and work your way home (as opposed to the more traditional stat at home and work your way out).  This has the benefit of having you closer to home when your child runs out of patience (as opposed to being at the furthest point from home when he was done…as happened to me one yearnot a fun walk back).

 

 

—  If you are unsure as to whether your child can handle the whole trick or treat experience, explore alternatives such as trick or treating at the mall (a more structured, better lit environment), or attending or hosting a small party where you can get treats and dress up for a little bit.

 

— Spend time before trick or treating explaining the expectations and laying out the “rules.”  Even non-verbal children have pretty good receptive language and will get the gist of what you want.  This helps by giving them some idea of what to do that will reduce the “newness” factor of the event.

 

 

—  Don’t be afraid to abort the event if your child shows signs of not being able to handle it.  There have been years where we brought a child back after a few houses because he was getting too upset and needed to calm down.  One year, one of our kids didn’t go out at all because he was just having a bad day.  It is more important to keep everyone safe and happy than to be slaves to “tradition.”  If the candy is an issue, it ALWAYS goes on sale November 1stdeals are there to be had.

 

— Avoid going to houses that do scary things like haunted houses and such.  Keep things on the low-key fun side unless you are DEAD certain your child will enjoy being scared (my kids simply don’t like that stuff).

 

 

—  Praise your child frequently throughout the event for following rules, being brave, etc.  Cheer him/her onthis stuff is new and hard to do at first.

 

—  If your child LOVES his/her costume… demote it to pajamas or weekend-wear until they get tired of it.

 

 

—  If your child is a very picky eater, buy some treats you know he/she will like and slip them into the Halloween bag.

 

I hope this information helps make your Halloween more fun. If you have other stories or tips for making Halloween more Autism-friendly, please leave a comment. Please feel free to email me aterikyounglpc@verizon.net with any questions or suggestions.

 

Remember, BREATH and DON’T PANIC!  You got this…

 

Visit me at www.erikyoungcounseling.com to find out more about myself and to schedule an appointment.

For more parenting tips, check out the SPECIAL NEEDS PARENTING SURVIVAL GUIDE  available at Amazon and all fine book retailers.

Copyright 2013 Erik Young, M.Ed. LPC

 

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