By Helen Shelter
Attention-deficit disorders are getting a lot of press right now. The number of children in America diagnosed with these disorders is growing at an exponential rate – and it seems to be a peculiarly American problem. Arguments over whether the issue is biological – i.e. an issue caused by the chemical and physical properties of the child’s brain – or behavioral – i.e a situational disorder caused by underlying psychological issues which should be treated through therapy rather than drugs – rage back and forth. Some argue that ADHD doesn’t exist at all, that it’s a doctor’s get-out clause covering a cluster of other conditions, that it’s a convenient excuse for poor parenting and badly brought-up kids, that it’s a symptom of our over-protective, over-medicated society. Meanwhile, parents whose children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorders struggle to contend with all of this stigma while simultaneously dealing with problematic children. Whatever the truth of the issue, families afflicted with ADHD clearly deserve help and support – and that is precisely what KidsPeace exists to provide.
The Impact of ADHD
The trend in America is to treat ADHD as a biological disorder, which should be treated with medication. Elsewhere in the world, it is considered to be a psychological disorder brought on by things like inadequate boundary-setting in early childhood, lack of exercise and the domestic situation. European guidelines advise against medicating children with ADHD and focus instead on therapeutic approaches. The American way is to give the affected child drugs like Ritalin. Both approaches appear to have a degree of success, rendering the ultimate cause of the disorder (or disorders) something of a moot point. What is clear, however, is that ADHD causes an immense amount of suffering to both the affected children and their families. They symptoms of ADHD cause children (and adults) to behave in a manner that society considers unacceptable. All sorts of negative labels, such as ‘flaky’, ‘procrastinators’, ‘unruly’ and ‘disruptive’ are applied to ADHD sufferers. These make it very hard for the affected child to get ahead in life. Making friends and prospering at school is nearly impossible with ADHD, which is stressful for the child and upsetting for the parent.
The parents of children with ADHD, however much they love their offspring, frequently find themselves frustrated. Studies show that the ADHD ‘mindset’ and the way in which children with ADHD are treated by society may influence criminal behavior, which begins as worrisome childhood disruptiveness. Parents of kids with ADHD learn to be incredibly in tune with their child’s moods and emotions, but the highs and lows of attention-deficit disorders take a huge toll on many parents’ patience. You have to develop an immense amount of tolerance and understanding for children that just can’t seem to grasp the basics of acceptable behavior, while simultaneously consistently following through with any rules you lay down for them. It’s a big ask, especially when you may have a job and a marriage to hold down, and/or other children to concentrate on. Furthermore, everyone else is either an expert on what you should be doing to tackle the condition, or thinks that your child’s behavior is your fault. Little wonder that so many parents slacken off in their efforts, or get frustrated and take it out on the child. These parents may need help even more than their suffering offspring.
KidsPeace provides breathing space – a much needed chance for children with ADHD to be somewhere non-judgemental, and get the help and support they need from trained professionals. It also provides a degree of validation for parents – reassurance that it’s completely normal to feel frustrated, it’s how you deal with that frustration which makes the difference. KidsPeace does not judge or denigrate you, and does not refer to your child as a ‘problem.’ Instead, they accept children for who they are, and try to help them adjust to a world which may not be quite so understanding. Most importantly of all, they help parents to understand that they are not alone, that there are others out there suffering like them, that they can help each other and that there is a lot more support and love out there for them should they need it.
By Caren Chaffee
Each year, the televised airing of the Super Bowl is as much about the commercials as it is about football. Super Bowl XLIX was no exception to this; however, this year, viewers noted a definite shift in paradigm. While over the years, Super Bowl commercials have garnered attention through comedy, slapstick and adult innuendo, the 2015 commercials tended to evoke more poignant emotion from its viewers. In addition to marketing for the typical snack foods, candy, beverages and vehicles, there were also an array of commercials that addressed more serious topics: cyberbullying, domestic violence, the roles of fathers and mothers in their children’s lives, safety, friendship and meaningful relationships.
The shift indicates several dynamics: First, more than one company thought it was important to communicate with the public on some serious topics. Advertisers pay a great deal of money to get their messages out during the Super Bowl, and the fact that they spent their dollars to make poignant statements about important, serious subjects indicates that they felt it would be a good use of their advertising budgets. Second, as a society, we are impacted by this touch of humanity. In these days after the game, people are still talking about and commenting on some of the most emotional commercials. In a world where we are bombarded by messaging on an almost constant basis via television, radio, the internet and print, we are showing that we are impacted by deep, significant messages. And third, as a society, we are responsive to human need. Even as our communities seem to trend toward less “human” contact and more digital contact, we continue to be moved by and responsive to situations which demand the human touch.
The increase in serious, emotional commercials does not mean that the humor disappeared altogether, however. There were still plenty of opportunities to laugh during the commercial breaks. After all, it has long been known that experiencing a wide range of emotions sets humans apart from other species. In that manner, the 2015 Super Bowl commercials accomplished exactly what advertisers set out to do: Make the television viewers laugh, cry, comment and debate – and keep the important discussions going long after the game clock ran out.
It's Safer Internet Day, the perfect time to take a closer look at what your children are doing online. The popularity of smart phones makes it easy for your teen to stay connected at all times. But while being plugged in can certainly be convenient, even to communicate with mom and dad, it opens the door to many dangers, such as cyberbullying.
Check out the graphic below, submitted by Amy Williams, to get an idea of what your teenager might be encountering online. And take a few moments today to talk to your teen about being safe online, establish boundaries for mobile device usage and maybe even devise a contract about how computers and mobile devices will be used. It is a conversation you can't afford to avoid.
Lehigh County (Pa.) System of Care is partnering with Intermediate Unit 21 and the Safe Schools Healthy Students initiative to offer FREE Youth Mental Health First Aid training.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD) and eating disorders.
If you know of someone who could benefit from this training, please share the information.
Parents, do you know what your teen is viewing online? The Internet is a great resource, and websites like TeenCentral.Net, which offers free, anonymous counseling and peer support, can be immensely helpful for teenagers trying to wend their way through the mire of adolescence. But there are also a lot of dangers online that could have negative ramifications on teenagers' developing minds.
Studies indicate that more teens are becoming addicted to pornography, and the effects are impacting their academic, social and emotional growth. Review the warning signs in this infographic from HelpYourTeenNow, and talk to your teen today, before the problem spirals out of control.
Need more support? Check out our ParentCentral.Net Facebook page, where you can talk to parents just like you and get feedback on tricky situations.
By Dr. John DeGarmo
Being placed into foster care is often a time of great emotion and trauma for a child. Emergency removals often occur late in the evening, with little to no warning, leaving the child and the caseworker unprepared. Foster children leave their homes with a quick goodbye, with only a few articles of clothing and perhaps a prized possession hurriedly stuffed into plastic bags. Before they know it, they are standing in front of people they have never met before. Against their will, they are in a strange place, their new home. With most children in foster care, it is a time of fear and uncertainty when even the bravest are scared. Foster children have no say in where they are placed or when they will go back to their birth families. It is this lack of control that often sends children in foster care spiraling into depression, anxiety or behavioral issues.
Anxiety issues can manifest themselves in a number of ways. Perhaps the one that foster children face the most is separation anxiety. The more a child is moved, the bigger the concern becomes. Children who undergo multiple displacements often create walls to separate themselves in an attempt to not let others into their lives. In attempting to do so, many foster children end up lying to their foster families, as they try to keep their new family at a distance and maintain a sense of personal control.
Many children placed into foster care suffer from mental health issues. A placement disruption may be so severe to the child that it feels as if his entire world is falling apart. Everything foster children know to be true is now turned upside down. Their parents are no longer there to comfort them when they are troubled. The family members they lived with, laughed with and cried with is no longer there to take care of them. The beds they woke up in each morning are now different. For many foster children, the school they went to, the teachers they learned from and the friends they had formed relationship with, have also been taken from them. Instead, these children now live with strange families, wake each morning in different houses, sit in unfamiliar classrooms and are no longer surrounded by those who love and know them best. Children in foster care often struggle to deal with these traumatic events, as they struggle to adjust to new homes and families. The losses in their lives, along with the lack of permanency, can prevent these children from forming secure and healthy attachments with primary caregivers.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 13 years, and he and his wife have had over 45 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several foster care books, including the brand new book “Love and Mayhem: One Big Family’s Uplifting Story of Fostering and Adoption.” Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program “Foster Talk with Dr. John.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, through his Facebook page: Dr. John DeGarmo or at his website, http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com.
This article was contributed by Dave Edwards
Using technology for health and therapy
The growth in popularity of mobile apps and smartphones is providing a revolution in a number of areas, including healthcare and occupational therapy. The app world is making communication easier and the world smaller, as well as ensuring that information is closer at hand than ever before, and there are now numerous websites, apps and downloads to assist the work of practitioners across the country.
Accessing a "pocket therapist"
While the advancements in medical technology are clear to see, including the way appointments are booked, diagnoses made and treatment administered, one subject that gets significantly less coverage is that of mental health and, more specifically, the ways in which doctors and therapists are able to reach patients. More recently, however, there has been a marked increase in the number of mobile apps and downloads that have been created with a clear focus on occupational health and mental wellbeing; improvements to the provision of services will surely follow.
The use of mobile technology in healthcare and therapy reflects changes in attitudes and illness. Many mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression, are often attributed to the pressures and demands of a modern lifestyle, and so it seems fitting that treatment can be accessed with a single swipe on a phone, or the click of a mouse. These new apps are a great way of reaching people from a variety of backgrounds, enabling them to find out about services, trace their own progress and access information online or on their smartphones. This makes treatment, and keeping up with practitioners, easier than ever, and may encourage those who have been too afraid to seek help before to come forward – accessing a network of mobile healthcare can be less confrontational and more convenient than their previous experiences of healthcare.
How mobile technology can help therapists
There are various apps that are regularly downloaded and used by therapists, particularly occupational therapists and those who regularly work with children and their families. These include apps such as MoodyMe, which allows a therapist’s clients to track their mood, diet, exercise, sleep and medication; PTSD Coach, an app designed to support and inspire; PsychDrugs, which can help patients and therapists to decide upon the medication that is best for them; Operation Reach Out, an app designed to identify the suicidal thoughts of patients and encourage them to seek help; Tactical Breather, an app that teaches breathing as a coping mechanism; and a particularly useful tool, Wellbe, which was designed in collaboration with http://worryfreelabs.com and offers patients and their therapists guided CarePaths and care management systems. All of these are beneficial for both therapists and their clients, helping to bridge gaps in communication and hand control of treatment over to the patients themselves. This is markedly better for long-term treatment and coping strategies, and will encourage patients to look after themselves.
There are also apps that can be used specifically by those who work closely with children, tailoring help to suit the needs of younger people diagnosed with mental illness and particular physical and cognitive needs. These include Dexteria, which supports fine motor skills, iWriteWords and iDoodle Card, which can both be used to teach motor and visual concepts, and Cookie Doodle, which can encourage and develop skills through creativity. The examples given here are particularly useful for identifying and treating motor skill issues, as well as boosting confidence and communication skills in children who may suffer from anxiety and low self-assurance.
Revolutionizing mobile therapy
The world of technology is always growing and changing, leading to a constant stream of advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of a number of ailments, including those that aren’t always seen. Mental health is a particular aspect of healthcare that is often left out in the cold, and many people choose to hide their symptoms from those around them. Being able to access easy and immediate treatment is often a lifeline for those who are suffering in the dark, and for the families of children who have recently been diagnosed.
The future holds a number of exciting prospects for therapists, allowing them to chart a patient’s progress and monitor their treatment without the need to see them, and handing control over to the individual. This is particularly useful for those who suffer from anxiety-related illness, and the families of young children who may be worried by frequent face-to-face visits. Soon patients and therapists will have better access to medications when required, be able to access a whole host of resources that were previously unavailable and be able to submit and answer questions pertaining to personal issues. As technology grows in sophistication, the ways in which therapists and doctors can operate will become more sophisticated too.