Counting Miracles

How does one count miracles?

All kinds of ways.

The last day had several, some in quite unexpected places.

This is how it went:

An unattended backpack led to a delay in a race where thousands prepared to run. The delay resulted in a bomb that was intended to explode during the race, blowing up in glorious isolation and hurting no one. No one. It also exploded only partially. This bomb was RELUCTANT to hurt anyone, me think.

Another bomb did explode, this time on a busy street that very night: a beautiful Saturday night in NYC, many people out and about. While 29 people were hurt, and undoubtedly many got frightened, there was only one significant injury, and all the wounded have already been discharged from the hospital the very morning after.

Windows shattered by the powerful bomb, stuff flew about, a steel dumpster got bent out of shape … but no serious structural damage to buildings or subways or thoroughfares took place.

The bomb had been left next to an institute for the visually impaired. More people could’ve gotten hurt by the bomb, tripped by not being able to see the debris. But the place was closed for the weekend.

The response of NYPD and FDNY was swift and remarkably efficient. All hands on deck in coordinated help. Knowledge that grew out of years of terror attacks against Israelis, saves lives now: The first responders knew to search for additional bombs. Indeed, a secondary device was found, unexploded, and was removed safely by the brave bomb squad without harm to anyone. Another RELUCTANT bomb, me think. Didn’t want to participate in any premeditated carnage, this one.

 

So, you see, the person or persons who’d left these items of ugly destruction–whatever the dark soulless ‘reasoning’ they might’ve made themselves believe justified it–meant to sow terror, to spread pain, to create panic.

They wanted devastation.

Instead, we got several miracles.

May all evil minds be foiled.

Amen.

miracle-einstein

New Beginning: Habit & Opportunity

opportunity

“He still won’t read.”

The mother’s voice held disappointment and frustration. Her son struggles in school and was required by teachers to read every day over the summer, but hadn’t.

“I did read!” he protested, pouted. Hurt. “I read two whole books!”

“Only because we made you read!” She retorted and turned to me. “Every day is a new excuse. He’s too tired, the book is boring, it’s too hard, he’ll read later, he hates reading, it is stupid … He’ll do anything to avoid it.”

He stomped to the chair. Sat dejectedly. I patted his arm. “I’m glad you read two whole books,” I said. “Which ones?”

He brightened. Threw a “you see?!” look at his mom, and told me. We discussed what he liked about the stories, what he didn’t. What was hard, what wasn’t. We then went over a list of possible titles to follow.

I scheduled a time to speak with the mom. Her frustrations need venting, and she needs solutions, but we can talk about her disappointment without him needing to be present.

♦♦♦

Every child is different but the complaint is not unique. Children and parents rarely battle over things that are fun and easy. It is the stuff that’s hard, confusing, boring, tedious, or appears to be of import to one side but feels less so to the other … where lines get drawn in the sand and stubborn frustration ensues.

Parents cajole. They threaten. They withhold privileges. They might use shame as ‘motivator’ by characterizing the child as lazy or ungrateful, oppositional, immature …

Not surprisingly, these tactics rarely work to ‘motivate’ learning. Nor do they solve whatever problem underlies a child’s reluctance to read: difficulty decoding, difficulty comprehending, delays in language and learning, issues with processing and retrieval, attention issues, stress and overwhelm …

A new school year is seen as opportunity for new ways of learning, new progress, new habits. Parents expect their children to enter school with gusto after a summer’s break and to give it their all. They often expect improvement of whatever issues may have been present the year prior. They verbally and otherwise communicate their expectation that the child prove himself or herself as mature and hardworking, and overcome whatever habits held them back.

A new grade and new beginning indeed offers much new opportunity for doing things differently. However, for that to happen we cannot fall back on failed methods or less-than-helpful habits. If children knew to do better on their own, they would do so already. No child wants to fail. No child enjoys the negative attention of reproach if they can get the positive attention of pride and praise.

♦♦♦

“So what am I supposed to do?” the mother asked when we met. Exasperated.

“You did the best you could last year, and this year we’ll have to work together to do better,” I replied.

She was taken aback. She didn’t expect me to include her in the assessment of last year’s difficulties …

I did not mean blame, but I did mean accountability. Parents often do the best they know, but they are often overextended themselves, and some don’t quite follow through. They may want to follow suggestions but only do so sporadically, or expect the child to take full responsibility for remembering new tasks that they themselves forget … then feel pressed to blame or require … They may get discouraged at the first sign of difficulty (not unlike the child, maybe …) and not continue to work toward new habits when the implementation hits a bump or scheduling needs to be adjusted. They may balk at taking on more responsibility in a life that may already feel too stressful (again, not unlike the child…).

Parents deserve guidance. Shame does not work any better on adults than it does on children … Parents can use encouragement, not blame. Many can benefit from reminders and a pathway to setting new habits. It is not a weakness or poor parenting to make errors or get frustrated or not follow through. People aren’t perfect. We all need help in some areas.

♦♦♦

For this boy, now in mid-grades, and often argumentative and quite fed up with “everything being too difficult”–new habits will (hopefully) include less fighting and more working together, less demand and more playfulness, less critic and more problem solving, less rigidity and more predictability, less shaming and more understanding.

Practically speaking?

  • Setting a weekly schedule where one of the parents reads TO him every night or almost every night (on the benefits of reading check: How early? For how long? ).
  • Separating the child’s own reading for decoding and school, from the parents reading TO him for literary exposure and pleasure.
  • Taking care to not make a parent’s reading time an opportunity for ‘testing’ vocabulary or memory about the story (talking about the story is fabulous, quizzing is not).
  • For books mandatory for school (but too difficult for the child’s reading level), using audio books as accompaniment to printed/electronic book. This helps the child follow the written word and assist him with decoding and comprehension.
  • Placing reminders for reading-time and having a timer he can set to ensure he is reading long enough and can do this independently.
  • Scheduling daily reading (for school and book logs) at a time that is realistic, rather than opportunistic.
  • Providing assistance with homework and/or test preparation, so that the child is not left to manage what is too difficult on his own, and ends up too stressed and exhausted to optimally process information.
  • Incorporating narrative into the day to day and offering modeling of narrative instead of requiring the child to constantly answer questions.
  • Offering a model for making time for reading. Adults who read are more likely to have children who enjoy reading.
  • Setting the child up for success, not failure: rather than focusing on a day he didn’t read or what he isn’t doing well yet, offer praise when he does do his reading without arguing; remind the child what worked before and what he can try to do again; offer solutions, not reprimand.

♦♦♦

In this new school year, what old and less than desirable habits can your child replace with brand new opportunity?

What steps can you take to help?

If you need help to formulate a plan–it is okay to ask for it. That, too, is an opportunity.

reading-extinction-buzzfeed

from Buzzfeed.com

 

 

Heat-wave

Met a neighbor downstairs yesterday. She was sitting on the stoop with her dog by her feet. My neighbor is usually quite peppy. She looked wilted and a little green around the gills. Sweaty. Bleary eyed.

I asked it she was okay, and she shook her head.

“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” she said. “Got dizzy. Maybe it’s the heat.”

I gave her a cold water bottle. Asked the café next door for a towel moistened with ice-water and wrapped that around her neck. I’d have helped her to my air-conditioned apartment but I didn’t think she should climb several flights of stairs.

She didn’t want me to call 911. Said she’d just sit on the shady (but steamy) stoop and rest. I offered to help her into the café next door instead. Had her sit down in the air-conditioned space. The dog could not enter but the waiter understood and let us sneak the leash out through a crack in the door so she can still keep hold of the pooch.

I asked again if to call 911. Didn’t want to scare her, and indeed it could be heat-exhaustion, but heart-attack in women rarely displays the classic ‘clasp your chest’ as in men. It could be something else …

She shook her head. “I don’t need 911. I’m taking this new medication and maybe it made me more sensitive to the heat. I think there was something about it on the label. I’ll be okay.”

She said the cool air already had her feeling better. So we sat. I watched her, ready to call 911 if she got worse. She didn’t. She took small sips of her water. The waiter brought another cool rag to replace the one that already warmed. She took deep breaths.

Her coloring improved. The dog, who’d been standing vigil by the door and anxiously observing her, finally lapped the water we’d placed for him, then lay down with head calmly on front paws. His reaction reassured me. It reassured my neighbor, too. She smiled and took a deeper breath. The dog lifted eyes to her and his tail slapped the ground in return greeting. Both relieved.

We sat a little longer. When my neighbor felt like herself again, we thanked the café workers and I walked her home. She was going to take it easy the rest of the day. Hydrate. Stay indoors.

Summer is lovely, but it can be tricky for many. Medications are often not taken into account, yet should.

I can be a certifiable momma hen … so, bear with me. … It’s been hot yesterday and it is hotter still today. A heat index of 109F or so. Life doesn’t need to stop, but know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Don’t ignore them. Take precautions, check your medications for heat-sensitivity warnings, and take good care of you, of young and old or people who are in any way infirm or vulnerable to heat. Be mindful of pets, check on neighbors. Keep hydrated. Keep cool. Keep well.

SacramentoReady.org heatstroke

Stressful Situations Simulation: A resource

Below is a good resource and simulation of stressful situations that can be immensely helpful to parents and caregivers. I especially recommend the ones involving “Family Support”: “Calm Parents, Healthy Kids” and “Building Family Bonds.” These scenario simulations inform, teach, and actively guide parents and caregivers through various scenarios of interactions with toddlers in commonly challenging situations.

The resource can be invaluable information for parents and caregivers who are inexperienced and/or may have had less than good enough parenting themselves, and who may not know how to facilitate clear, supportive interaction with their own children, especially under stress. The simulation is presented in a non-shaming, educational way, and provides the participant with an active role in choosing different ways of responding … and being able to see the possible reactions to them … It also allows the participant to ‘re-do’ situations so they can experience how better choices can bring better results …

Practicing is important for any skill, let alone for skills one needs to apply in stressful situations. The very way our brain processes information is affected when we’re stressed, so it helps to already know what to do beforehand. Also, our own stress and how we manage it gets communicated and passed onto children in our care. This makes it doubly important to learn and practice (and then be able to model) new skills when one is calm and in neutral situations–as this simulation allows one to do.

Calm, informed caregivers help raise calm, healthy, competent kids. This can help!

I highly recommend you take a look and see:

https://conversationsforhealth.org/#conversations

bubble happy

 

Pictures on Pavement

Shirley Baker children draw on pavement France 1960

Shirley Baker children draw on pavement France 1960

 

Find time for drawing

Pictures

On the pavement of your mind.

Remember

The dry feel of chalk on fingers

The odd satisfaction in

Colors

Merging in the rain.

Put aside the rush of feet

The soles of to-do lists

The pressures of perfection.

Pavement pictures do not require

Standards

Other than imagination and

A bit of emptiness,

A soft rock,

A hand.

Make room for pavement pictures

On the pace-space

Of your mind.

Let the squiggles free

So the sketch

You never knew was there

Could stretch

A doodle

To the sun.

Mothering

tender care

Thankful

For mothering

In all its forms:

The immediate, the early, the continuous, the delayed;

The biological, the fostered, the adopted, the periodical, the incremental and the unusual;

To mothering by women, by men, by friends and neighbors, co-workers and teachers, siblings and relatives, by the kind smile of a stranger and moments of shared understanding;

To mothering by nature, by pets, by ocean waves, by breath and life’s constant flow and ebb;

To Mother Earth and Mother Moon;

To mothering of self, by self, by growth, by age and lessons learned and known …

To all of this, and more;

Thankful for mothering.

In all its forms.

tenderness

love2tree

Note: all photos are taken from Pintrest. If you know their original provenance I’ll be happy to add specific credits!

Communication and Collaboration

Upcoming Webinar!

Communication and Collaboration: Multidisciplinary treatment of traumatized/dissociative children

Friday, May 20, 2016
2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern Time

Registration now open! (please see disclaimer in bottom of post)

spacornerJuly12no5

Photo Credit: A.A.

Abstract
Treatment of traumatized and dissociative children is most often discussed in the context of psychotherapy. However, traumatized and/or dissociated children often come into contact with additional professionals. Like all youngsters, traumatized children need to manage everyday interactions with caregivers, educators, and routine childhood medical and dental care. Yet many also face clinical interactions with speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, medical professionals, and more. This is because trauma places children at a high risk for developmental issues, and because children who already have developmental and/or health issues are highly vulnerable to trauma. In addition to clinical care, many traumatized children encounter legal personnel, forensic evaluators, child protective services, foster care staff, etc.

Posttraumatic and dissociative reactions are not limited to the therapist’s office. Just as communication issues aren’t segregated to speech-language pathologist’s office, asthma to the doctor’s, or sensory integration issues to occupational therapy. Various issues can complicate children’s presentation and behavior, and traumatized youngsters are often judged as difficult, aggressive, manipulative, immature, unpredictable, and inattentive. This can result in painful consequences (e.g. loss of placement, shaming, treatment failure), which further increase stress and reinforce the need for dissociative coping. In addition, caregivers routinely face challenges that can affect course of treatment, and professionals do not always ‘speak the same language’ when it comes to describing, assessing, and treating the child (and/or family). Even when professionals are trauma-aware, coordinated care is not always easy to achieve … and yet is essential for effective stabilization, minimizing compartmentalization, and carryover.

This webinar will look into the often complex realities of caring for traumatized/dissociative children and adolescents, the tapestries of clinical encounters many face, and how these may shift throughout infancy, childhood, and teen years. The challenges (and potential) of coordinated care and communication will be discussed, as would logistical and ethical limitations and suggestions for managing them. Clinical vignettes will serve as a window into ways for improving communication among child/family professionals, and will provide examples for practical solutions for increasing regulation and decreasing posttraumatic activation in all involved. The role of caregivers and the child as part of the team will also be examined.

Objectives
Upon completion of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the connection between trauma and care utilization in children and adolescents.
  • Describe three challenges to coordinated care
  • List five strategies therapists can apply to improve communication and coordination in the multi-disciplinary treatment of traumatized/dissociative children

For more information and to register

Disclaimer: I volunteer my time and expertise for this webinar, and do not receive any financial gain from it. Registration fees are collected by ISSTD, which hosts the webinar, is responsible for all fees and/or refunds, and provides an option for CEs for attendance.

Find Freedom

freedomdoor
Photo: http://www.countryliving.com/gardening/garden-tours/

 

Find freedom in whatever small measures of peace you can.

It is yours for the freeing, yours for the making, your for the taking:

Freedom from stress, from strain, from hand-wringing worry;

Freedom from old tapes and older boxes;

Freedom from stale words and staler habits;

Freedom from harsh realities;

Freedom from histories repeated;

Freedom from bloated egos, punctured dreams, blame, sorrow;

Freedom from more-to-do-than-possible; unrealistic expectations;

Freedom from judgment–inside and out and in between;

Freedom from hate–it is not of you, never was.

Find freedom

In each breath. Each perfect petal of a flower, each song of bird;

In every new life born; all promise, all potential;

In everything you are, and everything you always had been,

but maybe forgot.

Find freedom in whatever small measures of peace around you.

It will grow.

For freedom expands like light in a mirror; multiplied.

You know.

spacornerapril12no1

Photo Credit: A.Asif

 

“Communicating Trauma” on the Virtual Book Club!

I am so very excited to have my award winning book offered on the ISSTD Virtual Book Club for eight weeks, starting April 25 (what a pretty flyer, too!! Thank you Mary Pat!)

Working with children?

Working with adults who used to be children? …

Come and join us!

Yehuda Spring 2016 Vitual Book Club