Groundwork: Coaching Families with Special Needs-Guest Post

Early Behavioral Theories

By Deborah Beasley

The groundwork that laid the early theories for our current understanding of treating, and parenting children with emotional, psychological, and developmental disorders is about 60 years old. [ctt template="5" link="9SWqh" via="yes" ]In the last thirty years, research in the areas of trauma, stress, PTSD, and the child’s developing brain has intensified through the dedication of the superstars of the world of trauma, children, and affect-regulation @parent_coach[/ctt]

Noteworthy names include:

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, for their work in early parent child attachment. (Download John-Bowlby link for PDF.)

Allen Shore for his extensive contemporary work in affect-regulation

Peter Levine, Bruce Perry, and Bessel van der Kolk for their unstoppable research and discovery in the effects of trauma on the neurobiological and social-emotional development of children.

Their collective, groundbreaking, work is the sound philosophy of this training, backed by the science of neurobiology and neuropsychology.

[ctt template="5" link="RK_37" via="yes" ]We now know that the healing path for children and families with emotional and behavioral difficulties rests on the firm foundation of these principles: @parent_coach[/ctt]

 

1. Healthy relationship and attachment between the parent and child as its pivotal point.

2. Understanding affect-regulation and brain development as the fulcrum of healing in the family.

Our relationship-focused model combines the best strategies and methods of all other approaches. The results we seek in this coaching/parenting model are

• To support and maintain a healthy relationship between the parent and child and unity in the family.

• To respect the unique cultural differences in family composition, and

• To identify and build upon the individual strengths and qualities of parent and child.

This model uses the best practices of current behavioral, cognitive, sensorimotor and interpersonal approaches, as well as traditional wisdom and related modern science, to create a path to healing which best fits the circumstances and behavioral needs of individual families. We use what is usable within the context of a healing relationship and discard the rest.

Are you a kind of person who wants to help families with special needs by becoming a parent coach but you don’t know how to become a parent coach?

Register for our coaching families with special needs course and become a certified parent coach.

coaching families with special needs course

 

Behavioral Regulation-1-Through-Family-Play

“Play is a uniquely adaptive act, not subordinate to some other adaptive act; but with a special function of its own in human experience.”

Johan Huizinga

Families with children with behavioral disorders...

...may not remember how to play, have fun, and spend peaceful times with each other. Rather, energy is spent in repeating relationships.

When I step in to coach this type of family, who have forgotten, the concept of joy and family time is often painfully absent. Rather, focus is shaped amidst the turmoil and enormous energy spent caring for a child with difficult behaviors.

As parents practice new skills to calm their internal landscapes as well as the environments of their homes, they must also re-learn how to have fun. A vital part of healing the family is reintroducing fun, connective activities, joy and humor into the schedule. A new module in the Coaching Families With Special Needs In Behavioral Regulation provides practical information to help coaches and parents co-create a plan for repairing relationships through family fun.

The other day, when I was in town, I witnessed a shocking event. A funeral procession was slowly making its way down Main Street.. The hearse appeared to have engine trouble at the top of the hill. Suddenly, the back doors of the hearse burst open, and the coffin flew out the back of the vehicle! A few people screamed as the coffin skidded down the street and crashed into a pharmacy at the bottom of the hill. Remarkably, it came to a stop right in front of the pharmacist’s desk. In a flash the lid popped open, and the guy inside asked the pharmacist, “Doctor, doctor! Can you give me something to stop this awful coffin?”

NOTE: What just happened in your brain and body?

Some significant processes occurred in your neurophysiology that have the power to alter not only the way you feel, but also your perception and outlook on past, present, and future situations.

How does the joke relate to self-regulation and repairing family relationships?

[ctt template="5" link="ueYc6" via="yes" ]Laughter IS the best medicine. No, really! It’s true. We had a decent laugh over the joke I just told, and each of you are still benefiting from its effects. @parent_coach[/ctt]

Laughter and humor cause the brain to release ‘feel-good’ endorphins that flood  bodies and minds with well-being. Laughter causes us to breathe deeper and fills our lungs and bodies with stress busting oxygen. The wonderful combination of endorphins and oxygen culminates in a feeling of happiness.

Studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic as recently as 2013, show that laughter and smiling relieves depression, anxiety, and helps the body to produce natural painkillers. Additionally, positive self-affirming thoughts, release neuropeptides that improve our immune systems and help us fight stress. This strikes at the heart of our topic.

Neuropeptides make it easier for us to cope in difficult situations. Here are the chemical reactions we WANT to occur more regularly in the brains and bodies of disorganized and dysregulated families and children. This is just the prescription families need to coax them back to emotional balance and relationship; only, they do not know if you are a parenting coach, who arrives to model and teach this concept.

[ctt template="5" link="bza94" via="yes" ]Now, here is the challenge. How do you coach the long-suffering, overwhelmed parents to initiate a plan to have fun while they are still suffering the after effects of secondary trauma and high stress? @parent_coach[/ctt]

 

Here are some of the challenges you face.

  • Some parents do not believe they will ever have fun or smile again.
  • Others ache to smile light-heartedly and long to regain some of their previous carefree lives.
  • Some parents have convinced themselves that a strict schedule where the child accounts for every minute of the day is the only sane way to keep their child on the straight and narrow; therefore, they do not have time for fun.
  • Others are resentful and angry because of the extreme difficulties a behavioral child brings to the family dynamic, resulting in radical changes in lifestyle.
  • Parents, brothers and sisters have learned to live compartmentalized and disjointed lives in the chaos and conflict that sometimes ensues when living with a child with disruptive behaviors.

All of these caregivers may believe the simple pleasures of life are long lost. It is likely that none of them know how to break current ingrained negative patterns of interacting and bring family together again in playful ways.

Been There Too!

Referring to my personal experience, I recall feeling old, tired, depleted, and played out. (No pun intended!) However, the words of George Bernard Shaw are appropriate here:, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

We know that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and this is true for parents and kids alike. The ramifications of a life without the emotional glue of experiencing happiness, love and joyful interactions with those persons who mean the most to us are profoundly limiting.

So, how do we draw our hard pressed and pressured caregivers out of their old paradigms and beliefs and into the lighter side of life? Here is the four step secret formula to help families begin to have fun together, even while dark clouds linger.

  1. Administer fun in small measured daily doses.
  2. Monitor frequently for signs of heightened stress or conflict.
  3. Troubleshoot prevention, intervention, and exit and salvage strategies with parents should activities show signs of spiraling downward.
  4. Reflection of the effects on each family member is encouraged.

See also Behavioral Regulation 2 and Behavioral Regulation 3

 

Enroll Now in Coaching Families with Special Needs in Behavior Regulation

When It’s More Than Teen Angst: Differentiating Between Situational and Clinical Depression

"Teenagers are known for their angst and moodiness. You really can’t blame them with all that’s going on in their lives from physical changes and peer pressure to academic expectations and the formation of relationships."  Tyler Jacobison (Twitter | Linkedin

Feeling moody and grouchy once in a while is normal. Trouble begins when these feelings become more intense, persisting for weeks, months or even longer. Teen depression is an uncomfortable reality in our society and it’s up to parents to support and help their affected teens.

Situational vs. Clinical Depression

You can help your child by first identifying the difference between situational and clinical depression, their causes and treatment methods.

Situational depression (also known as adjustment disorder) occurs in the aftermath of monumental or traumatic changes in an individual’s life. In teens, situational depression can be triggered by parents’ divorce, a breakup from a romantic relationship, death of a loved one, academic struggles or even moving to a new area. Keep in mind that situational depression is temporary and things should go back to normal once the stressors are removed or your teen learns to cope with them.

In the meantime though, their symptoms are very real and are similar to those of chronic depression. They include:

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness or hopelessness.
  2. Changes in sleeping patterns –either difficulties in falling asleep or oversleeping.
  3.  Changes in eating patterns, loss of appetite and weight changes.
  4.  Loss of interest in hobbies, studies and life in general.
  5. Persistent lethargy and fatigue.
  6. Difficulties concentrating, making decisions or remembering tasks.
  7. Self-harming or suicide attempts.

 

Clinical depression, on the other hand, is more severe and is thought to be caused by a complex mix of brain chemical imbalances, genetic factors and social situations. It causes major long-term depressive symptoms that are pervasive enough to interfere with your teen’s daily life.

Different Treatment Approaches

The treatment your teen requires depends on the type of depression they have.

Managing Situational Depression

● Urge your teen to continue pursuing their hobbies and other leisure activities.
● Also, encourage them to eat a nutritionally well-balanced diet and get regular exercise to stimulate the production of dopamine to boost their mood.
● Joining a support group or talking out the situation with close friends and relatives can also help.
● If all else fails, seek the help of a trained psychotherapist.
Managing Clinical Depression
● Psychotherapy is a crucial part of helping your teen deal with clinical depression. Get feedback on their progress to ensure that the therapist you engage is the right fit.
● Appropriate medication in tandem with therapy will provide the best outcome for your teen. The medication might be for short or long-term use depending on the diagnosis.
● Hospitalization in a psychiatric facility might also be necessary especially if your teen is self-harming, suicidal or showing signs of delusion or psychosis.

With proper coaching, parents can learn responsive parenting skills that will help them discern behavioral issues that may predispose their teens to depression as well as learn how to assist their children to get over rough patches in their lives.

GUEST AUTHOR: Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn

 

Mindset Matters 2 – Control Mindset and Emotions

Mindset is about how you think and use your mental focus. The term emotions refer to your feelings, and each affects the other. -Emotion intertwines with moodtemperamentpersonalitydisposition, and motivation.

Emotions and Strength

Want strength, then rile up your emotions like Norse warriors of long  ago. The warriors were so called because they created fist of anger before entering the battlefield. They caused adrenaline to pump to prepare to win a war. In this agitated state, they felt  invulnerable and accomplished feats of incredible strength.

Under extreme stress or emotional overwhelm,  your body produces excess amounts of testosterone, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase you heart rate, focus, awareness and muscle tone for the extra strength.

Use Your Emotional Strength for Calm, Collected Focus

Calm, collected focus is about creating and being in a "flow state."

 We also call flow by several descriptors:

  • Being in the zone or fully immersed mental state.
  • Feeling of energized focus
  • Full involvement
  • Complete absorption of in what one does
  • Results that are focused, engaged, maybe losing track of time.

A flow state is a feeling of calm, focused bliss, like in extreme sports when athletes persofrm effortlessly.Or like in music where the melody or the rhythm moves a person to sing or to dance.

No fear. No doubt. No bursts of anger or unwanted emotion.

You do your best work in a flow state. This is when we are happiest.

Do you try to live your life as much as possible. The problem is that you may have anxiety or stay overly  busy with chores and things we need to do. These limitations leave you stressed, anxious or busy and they take you out of the moment. You face a challenge when your body and mind  cannot possibly be in-sync when you are worrying.

Entering flow means being in the moment which not only makes you happy and confident, it also makes you unstoppable. You take control over your emotions.

Taking Control Through Full Wave Breath

So how do you take back control over your emotions?

  1. Check into how you feel, especially if your energy is low,  or you you are distracted or even in a bad mood. 
  2. To change your mood, I suggest Full-Wave Breathing to change your physiology in the literal sense. 
  3. If you learn to breathe correctly (using belly breathing to fill the lower portion of the lungs, then the upper portion). If  you use slow, controlled breaths, then you will be able to lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and calm your entire body.
  4. This will change your parasympathetic tone, taking you out of ‘fight or flight’ and into ‘rest and digest’. Try it the next time you feel overly stressed, overly competitive or worked up after an intense workout – your heart rate will slow and your mind will grow calmer.
  5. For your mental framework, another tool to use is called CBT---‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ and this is a popular form of psychotherapeutic intervention used to treat phobias and other anxiety disorders.Take the intention of CBT strategies to look at the content of your thoughts. The self-talk that you give yourself to work yourself into a panic, or to calm yourself down. If you are thinking things like “I’m worried I might fall off that ledge” then of course you are going to be scared. If you think things like “I’m grateful for my friends” then you will be less likely to feel unhappy with where you are in life. You can use CBT to challenge long-held beliefs and to break negative self-talk habits by challenging your thoughts and testing your hypotheses. This is called ‘cognitive restructuring’.
  6. In the short term, you can use CBT techniques in order to more honestly assess your state of mind and your emotions and to then change the way you feel about a situation.So if you were stressed that you had a deadline you couldn’t meet and it was ruining your evening, then you might use cognitive restructuring in order to assess the thoughts making you stressed and replace them with more productive ones.For example, you might consider:
    • What is the point of being stressed? Will it make matters better?
    • What’s the worst case scenario? Would it really be that bad to tell the boss you can’t finish work on time? Are they expecting too much of you anyway?
    • When was the last time you did this?
    • Are there other ways you could lessen the blow?
    • What would you rather pay attention to right now?

    Combine this with controlled breathing and bring your focus to the thing that is most useful to you right now.

    In the long term, you can use CBT in order to bridge the gap between your thoughts and your physiology. You see, your physiology and your emotions are designed to drive you toward desirable states: sex, food, shelter, love, success, social acceptance.

What Is Your Coaching Mission With Special Needs?

As a parent-family coach or coach for special needs families, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help parents in similar situations find clarity, hope, and greater functionality in their family. With your help and guidance, parents will

 

  1. find their center of gravity,
  2. push past their feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm,
  3. begin restoring regulation and resilience in their children with behavioral disorders through securing the child-parent relationship.

One agency director informed me that she regularly uses my daughter’s case for training of her new case managers and therapists. It does not give a parent the warm fuzzies to hear repeatedly from mental health professionals, whom you look to for help, that your child’s case is the most difficult one they have ever seen. [ctt template="5" link="cjUt1" via="yes" ]This is the child I have. This is the child I love. @parent_coach[/ctt] These sentiments are my personal reflections and a parent, a parenting coach, and a training professional. The sentiments also match the experiences of some of the parents you will coach…parents, who struggle to move forward after facing the reality of one or more diagnoses like ADHD, Autism, Conduct disorder, or Bipolar disorder. The effects on the family are the same. [ctt template="5" link="9Dqc5" via="yes" ]It triggers a parent’s worst nightmares. Concerns, fears, sleepless nights, and the search for answers begin. @parent_coach[/ctt] This is how a parent enters the world of mental health and special needs…a world where terminology is confusing and diagnoses sound like the unending combinations of an alphabet soup. If care is not taken, a parent or teacher might begin to refer to the child by the labels of their diagnosis, and see in the child’s behaviors, both positive and negative, only as symptoms of the same. As months or years of struggle pass, parents don’t differentiate which part of the behavior belongs to their child’s temperament, and which part is a symptom of the diagnosed condition. Amid the onslaught of doctors, neurologists, medical tests, and therapists elucidating the deficits in their child’s development, parents easily lose sight of the child and concentrate on what they see most, the disorganized and dysregulated behavior. The question that brings this home is simple:

Which child do you see…one with special needs or one who is just plain special?

Twice we prepared to send our young daughter  to long-term residential on the strong advice of doctors and psychiatric nurses working with our daughter. The first time she was four years old. The second time she was nearly seven.

Ultimately, we decided it was not something we could live with, nor did we believe it was in the best interest of our daughter.

It is your mission: to understand the unbelievable, heart-wrenching choices some parents face as part of everyday life. We believed we had tried everything to help change our daughter’s behavior. Nearing the edge of hope, we came to the realization that something had to give. It would either be our child, or us parents and we didn’t want it be either. However, this is not the end of the story…merely the beginning. Information from neuropsychology, trauma, attachment, and relationship, the same information you will learn in course, Coaching families with Special Needs,  We discovered choices and options that allowed us to regain personal and family balance and hope for the future. We changed and improved our parenting skills, and developed a positive healthy plan to parent our daughter. [ctt template="5" link="s01ji" via="yes" ]The information was a revelation that allowed a welcome return to my original parenting philosophy with new knowledge and understanding about raising children with love, compassion, empathy, and relationship. @parent_coach[/ctt]

  • Both negative and positive reactions, actions, and attitudes of caregivers significantly impact the child, and hinder or support the development of secure attachment.
  • Environment, temperament, trauma and stress, is relative to reactive behavior, and internal organization and regulation.
  • Parents can learn to manage, diminish, eliminate, and contain even the most severe behavior.

Finally, we had something to DO. We were no longer on the fringe of being powerless to help our daughter. We devoured and assimilated the information, because we had a lot to lose. We refused to cry uncle! We resolved to be committed! We did not hold back! We completely transformed our outlook, honed our philosophy, strategized our plan in every minute detail, and changed our lifestyle. It was not ever easy, but it was easier than what we had been doing and how we had been living for so long. Let me share who the unruly, dysregulated, and unattached little girl became. She became our mission possible.