Archive for January, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Recognizing the symptoms of hyperventilation

One of the main symptoms that occurs when a teen or adult has a panic attack is hyperventilation. There are basically two kinds of hyperventilation-acute and chronic. Acute hyperventilation is when you start gasping for breaths of air when you are having a panic attack and chronic hyperventilation is much more subtle and occurs when someone is overbreathing. Up to 80 percent of those who hyperventilate tend to sigh and yawn frequently. In addition, they are usually mouth breathers. Breathing through the nose seems to take more effort especially for those who are panicky.
So what are the signs to look for to know whether you are hyperventilating:

frequent sighing, gasps, yawning, coughing, or clearing of the throat
breathing through the mouth
you are taking eighteen or more breaths a minute when you are relaxed
shortness of breath
giddiness
lightheadness
heart palpitations

Some other symptoms are:
tremors, chest pain, dry mouth, clammy hands, swallowing difficulty, sweating, weakness and fatigue, and numbness or tingling sensations.

Hyperventilation as seen in panic disorder is usually brought on as an emotional reaction to stress. However, hyperventilation can also occur as the result of poor breathing habits. Breathing retraining is highly recommended in order to bring the symptom of hyperventilation under control. Consult a mental health professional if breathing retraining or breathing exercises to promote relaxation are needed.

PostHeaderIcon How Domestic Violence effects our kids

Our culture unfortunately already seems to encourage that boys/men act aggressively and show their power in a physical manner. Women are perceived as weak oftentimes and are easily preyed upon by abusers. Currently, our culture encourages women to act in a submissive manner and to accept male domination. Unfortunately, it is these very values that increase the likelihood that some men will become abusive to their wives and also their children.

Even in today’s times, society will often encourage girls no matter the extent of the abuse, to stay with their abusers. Society often expects men to use physical means to control their surroundings and this includes their wives/girlfriends and their children. With all this said, where does this leave the children who are witnessing these learned abusive behaviors in their home or are being abused themselves.

First and foremost, children that are in an abusive environment almost always suffer from low self-esteem. They often have cognitive or language delays, delays in their overall development, and stress-related problems. These kids are without a doubt the most stressed out children that are seen for psychological treatment. They either are very angry; belligerent and exhibit acting out behaviors or they are quiet; withdrawn and are willing to say very little out of fear of reprisal. These children often feel guilty for not stopping the abuse and younger children often do not understand the abuse and they take responsibility for the abuse occurring to their mother or to themselves.

Children that witness domestic violence seem to live in a constant state of extreme anxiety and their school work and their social relationships really suffer. The boys that witness this abuse often become abusers themselves and the girls are often battered in their own relationships as an adult. Because the old addage really applies here, you do what you know or what you are familiar with. These children struggle in school and problems academically due to lack of concentration and frequent absences from school as a result of stress-related illnesses such as constant headaches, stomach problems, or difficulty sleeping at night.

Whether or not a child is witnessing abuse in their home or is a victim of the abuse themselves, the psychological effects are often the same, these are children that are traumatized for years to come. Anger and violence play a very negative role in the overall development of a child. Mental health treatment with abused children tends to be long and arduous as a result of the damaging effects. As always, if you suspect that a child is living in this kind of environment or is being abused themselves, please contact your local abuse hotline.

PostHeaderIcon Ways to Praise our Kids

Positive parenting and positive interactions are the key to not get caught in the trap of negativity and yelling that seem to permeate many of today’s homes. A wonderful exercise that promotes praise and increases parents and children’s skills on using “verbal” rewards is Ways to Praise our Children.

The way to start this exercise with your family is to ask each family member to come up with as many ways as they can think of to say, “great job” or “well done.” Verbal acceptance or praise is such an important component in our daily interactions with our children and promotes and increases their self-esteem. Too often, all of us get into a pattern of scolding or yelling at our kids for what they have done wrong, that we forget to praise them for what they have done right.

Each family member should write down on small sheets of paper the ways to praise and be enthusiastic and model it for your kids. Ask each member of the family to keep a note of how many times they have heard someone praise someone else in the family. The goal of this exercise is to get all family members in the habit of taking responsibility for providing positive feedback to their parents and to each other.

Some suggestions for ways to praise are:
Well done
Great
What a great helper!
I love it when you …
You have done really well
I am so proud of you
You have made my day
That is fantastic

and so on and so on. You can make up as many of these as you want and make it fun for your family by being silly and exaggerate your tone or make funny faces, whatever you have to do to make it work for your family. For families that have gotten into a negative way to dealing and talking to others, this exercise will be much more difficult and awkward to complete. When your list is done, post it in a prominent place in your house such as on the refrigerator so there is a constant reminder to everyone that verbal praise should be given regularly.

PostHeaderIcon How to develop an IEP for your child

You might be saying, what in the world is an IEP. Parents with kids that have special needs need to know about an IEP or an Individual Education Plan. An initial IEP meeting is a time and place to develop a document with your child’s educators at school in order to develop a learning plan for your child. Children with special needs usually require having a modified curriculum (ie… allow additional time to complete assignments, reducing distractions in the classroom to learning, visual vs. auditory learning assignments depending on the child’s learning style) that is tailored to how they learn and the necessary changes made in order to accomodate their special needs.

An IEP meeting includes your child’s educators as well as the parents and parents or guardians should participate in developing any special needs or considerations that need to be made for your child. A list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses should be addressed as well as a list of your child’s needs and how to address them. The IEP meeting should not be a time where everyone in the meeting discussing a child’s behavioral or emotional problems, rather this meeting is a time to focus on the issues that your child is having whether they are academic, behavioral, etc.. and how they need to be addressed in school.

The next step to having an IEP is to develop goals that are specific to your child’s strengths an needs in order to be able to track your child’s academic progress in the school environment. Goals should always be realistic and be able to be achieved by your child. If the goals are not realistic, then your child will be discouraged and this will not encourage them to learn and they will become more frustrated. IEP goals should be specific to your child and should be identified in a sequence. For example, if a child with Asperger’s has a specific goal at school of mastering the computer than a sequence may look like this:
1.) the child will learn how to turn on the computer, sign into the internet, learn all the functions of a computer, how to use the keyboard, etc…
2.) the student will learn higher functions of a computer such as how to create documents and save information in the computer
3.) the student will learn how to use their e-mail or different programs such as Excel, Word, etc… on the computer.

The goal here is to have specific steps for your child to reach the goal which are achieveable and a date of completion should be included on the IEP document. The IEP includes the projected date for implementing the services, the duration of the services, and any revision dates. The document should also include how the school plans to report IEP goal progress. Lastly, an IEP should address how the current IEP represents that least restrictive environment as opposed to having your child have an alternative placement elsewhere.