Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Ideal School Counseling Program



This graphic really sums up the goals of my ideal school counseling program.  I also recently finalized a program brochure in order to better publicize what I do at Crossroads Academy-Central Street.  Look for it in the office next time you come in!


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Be Mindful!

This is a great brief video clip that I recently showed to a 'Yoga and Mindfulness' Extended Learning Group for Middle Schoolers. 

AnneMarie Rossi is the founder and director of Be Mindful, a non-profit association of mindfulness instructors dedicated to making the practice accessible to all. They currently teach in Denver Public Schools, St. Vrain Public Schools, Urban Peak Youth Homeless Center, and through the Red Cross. While recently completing her undergraduate work at the University of Colorado Denver, she won the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Grant to complete research on the impacts of mindfulness instruction on 4th grade students in a Denver Public School. 

I think she really sums up well for young people why working to build self-control is an important step towards life success.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Introducing...The Zones of Regulation!!

The Zones of Regulation curriculum is a comprehensive system to teach self-regulation skills by identifying different levels of emotional arousal, and teaching strategies to make conscious decisions about behavior in each zone.  

 "The Zones curriculum provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of, and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, managing their sensory needs, and improving their ability to problem solve conflicts."

Through classroom guidance lessons, small group and individual sessions, I will be introducing the idea this month that all of us have feelings that may fluctuate, but it is a life skill to be able to recognize how we are feeling and take care of ourselves without getting into trouble. For students who struggle with this skill, the program teaches the difference between expected and unexpected behaviors and reiterates the importance of Green Zone Expected Behaviors in order for optimal learning to occur.




The goal is for students to be able to:
  • Identify what zone his/her feelings are in 
  • Use the tool-box system to make good decisions about his/her behavior before (s)he engages in escalated behavior    (i.e., “It is okay to have Red Zone feelings, but Red Zone behavior is unexpected and disruptive to others.”)

Above and below are two examples of the excellent visual materials that help students to learn to self-regulate.
As a school, we are encouraging students to use BIST and Mindfulness practices when needed as "Tools" that they can use to get back to Green Zone.  

Please let me know if you would like more information about the Zones of Regulation curriculum or materials to have at home to reinforce this strategy with your scholar.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Teaching your scholar healthy sleep habits

Did you know that an estimated 73% of  U.S. 9- to 10-year-olds aren’t getting enough sleep?  

The same study found that 80 % of U.S. 13- to 14-year-olds are sleep deprived.


Many families have busy schedules, and it’s easy to overlook sleep. But a primary consequence of poor sleep among children and adolescents is impaired learning and school performance, so please talk to your scholar about the importance of getting a good night's sleep.

The general guidelines outlined by the National Sleep Foundation are as follows:
Age —————————- Sleep Needs
Newborns ——————— 15-18 hours
1-12 months —————- 14-15 hours
1-3 years ——————— 12-14 hours
3-6 years ——————— 11-13 hours
7-12 years ——————- 10-11 hours
12-18 years —————— 8-10 hours

Here are some things your child can do to help get a good night's sleep:


  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.  This will increase the quality of your sleep by letting your body enter a rhythm, something that particularly benefits children and adults with ADHD.  


  • Have a bedtime routine.  Do the same relaxing things before bed each night, like taking a warm shower, reading, or listening to quiet music.  Your body will know it is time to get ready to sleep.


  • Keep TV, computers and electronic devices out of the bedroom, and cut off screen time at least an hour before bed.  Better be safe than sorry- have your student turn in their phone or other devices to you each night.  (Many students have shared with me that they are staying up late texting and on the internet until as late as 2:00 AM...)
  • Exercise during the day. Running and playing at least 3 hours before bed helps your body get ready for sleep. Students who have difficulty getting to sleep may not be getting enough physical exercise during the day.


For more info, feel free to read What Every Parent Should Know about Sleep from the Huffington Post or check out www.sleepforkids.org.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

What is Mindfulness?


The following is an article excerpt:

The Power of Mindfulness

How a meditation practice can help kids become less anxious, more focused

"Teaching mindfulness to children and adolescents is a growing trend—in private practices as part of therapy and increasingly as part of the curriculum in both Special Ed and General Ed classes throughout the country. “We’re at the beginning of a movement,” says Megan Cowan, co-founder and executive director of programs at Mindful Schools in Oakland, California. “Jon Kabat-Zinn’s (the father of the Mindfulness movement) work really set the stage for mindfulness to be visible on a mainstream landscape. I think we all have the sense that society’s a little out of control. Education is a little out of control. We’re all looking for a way to change that. This is meaningful to almost everybody.”                                        -Juliann Garey, ChildMind.org
This is a great clip I use with middle schoolers:
Even young children can be taught mindfulness by taking time to teach them how to still their minds and focus on taking slow, deep breaths. I have begun using a great book, Master of Mindfulness, with our younger CAKC scholars.  Here is a video overview of how this book came to be:
I am also excited to begin using the MindUp curriculum school-wide to strengthen our scholars' understanding of the power of self-regulation and assist them in practicing these crucial skills.  And, of course, being able to respond rather than react is a skill for parents and teachers too! :)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Helping Scholars to Embrace Challenges

I am honored to be able to work with your children everyday in building resilience, and handling discomfort, as they navigate their world.  I know from experience that, as parents, our first instinct is often to act to protect our children from stress, but managing stress and working through discomfort is actually a very important part of their development as strong, capable individuals.  

Encouraging a "Growth Mindset" (in which we can learn from and adapt to hardship), as opposed to a "Fixed Mindset" (in which we are fixed and helpless in our present reality) is an important task for parents and teachers.  The following visual was created by Steve Haffenden, a JIRA Software Lead Developer, and shared on his blog.
Please reinforce with your scholar that he or she can stretch and grow to face challenges and learn from difficulties! 

Feeling overwhelmed by an assignment, or left out by a clique, is uncomfortable but not insurmountable.  When your child shares a concern or complaint with you, please make every effort to encourage them that he or she is indeed capable of handling this challenge. Ask for his ideas in how he is going to solve the problem, and encourage him to work at it even when it feels uncomfortable.  Of course, you can reassure your child that you are there for him or her every step of the way, but also make sure to convey that struggle is part of growth and you have faith in his or her ability to tackle this challenge.

The following image is borrowed from a wonderful website, The Healing Path with Children, created by Mary Determan, a social worker and therapist:



The more we as parents and teachers are able to respond to our scholars with the message that they are capable, the more they will begin to believe it. 


Check out www.mindsetworks.com for more information about how we as parents can encourage a growth mindset.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Best Practices for Parents

This a powerful message I have excerpted from a Victoria Prooday, yourOT.com, recent blog post:

"I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses. 

Today's children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction.

Here is why:
1. Technology

Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner.  We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want it

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions -- to make our children happy -- but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.
The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

3. Kids rule the world

"My son doesn't like vegetables." "She doesn't like going to bed early." "He doesn't like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time.  Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

4. Endless Fun

We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

5. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!
The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!
You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally
  • Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
  • Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games in my previous blog post), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening
2. Train delayed gratification
  • Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
  • Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
  • Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
  • Limit constant snacking
3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!
  • Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
  • Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.
  • Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
  • Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games
4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”
  •  Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
  • Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.
5. Teach social skills
  • Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others , using “please and thank you”
From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting.  Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!"