Don’t be a Child’s Emotional Blanket!

Image result for Anger

All children worry to a degree. Some worry about what to eat, others question why things happen and if these things can hurt them and still others worry if you will forget to pick up a treat you promised. Occasionally, they may need you to stay with them a little longer in their room or they may want to sleep with you because they had a bad day or a bad dream. However, there are some children that are highly sensitive and experience feelings and worries more so than others. These children cry very easily when another person gets hurt or even just imagining someone is going to get hurt. Children who are emotionally sensitive worry about everything around them.  They analyze and reanalyze situations. These children do not easily forget unpleasant experiences, nor do they easily let go of hurt feelings. They do not like changes and get easily confused withdrawing if too many changes occur around them.

Raising an emotionally sensitive child requires patience and compassion. Parents and professionals may feel as if nothing works to improve temperament. Parents or care providers can become emotional support and go to people for emotional needs.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of becoming an emotional blanket. Emotionally sheltering children can be good occasionally, but emotionally sensitive children also need to be taught to respect other’s emotional boundaries. These children need to learn, respect and to value their emotions in order to create a sense security. Teaching emotionally sensitive children your emotional boundaries allows them to understand and learn about their own emotions. It teaches them a sense of emotional safety. Emotional safety is our ability to think, identify, manage, and respond to our emotional needs. Children, who are emotionally sensitive, appear to have difficulty feeling emotionally safe.  In some ways these children may read too much into situations or misinterpret the emotional safety of a situation. They need to be taught ways to regulate their emotional needs.  To “regulate” an emotion does not necessarily mean to make it disappear. Rather, it means to learn skills that will help one safely manage his/ her emotions and responses to these emotions.

A good place to start with a child is to teach him/ her the language and meaning of his/ her feelings.  As a speech pathologist, my clients are often emotionally sensitive and have a limited emotional vocabulary. We work on bad feeling words and good feeling words. We work on sharing things that happened to make us have that feeling.  With some children, especially very young children with language delays or disorders, I might start with teaching emotional vocabulary and using pictures to help them understand emotions. We also create our bad feeling words. We scale the feelings and work together to find the right level for these feelings. We use a feeling scale as shown below to understand support needed.

For young kids, we draw pictures of familiar people who have had similar feelings and experiences. We use questions to understand how to solve the emotional difficulty. For example,

  • “What will mommy think and do about the problem?”
  • “Can mommy fix the problem?”
  • “What would your friend _____________( friend’s name) think about the problem?”
  • “How would your friend solve the problem?”

Occasionally I use their favorite animal character, “What will the bear think of the problem?” We then decide based on the concept of ‘big, medium or small’ who can solve the problem. When it is a small emotional problem the child is encouraged to solve the problem.  Big emotional problems are solved by adults and medium emotional problems are solved by both the adult and the child working together.

With older children I use concepts of “Thinking Zones”.  With my older kids I have our emotional vocabulary, feeling vocabulary and Opinion versus Facts vocabulary. I direct the child to create thinking  questions regarding emotional problems. We then look at  Opinion versus Facts regarding the problem. We use these questions to address our emotions:

  • What will______,
  • What if_______,
  • How does_____________
  • What would _________
  • Why is __________.

As mentioned in my previous newsletter, Frozen as Ice means you cannot think, so wait until you begin to melt. 

We should never completely ignore children’s feelings nor force them to share these feelings.  Rather, we need create ways to help children that are emotionally sensitive learn to cope and manage their feelings. We need to empower them to own and recognize what and how of their emotions work. Remember the following rules:

  1. When teaching these kids start with tiny steps.
  2. Start by teaching the child about your feelings. Label and name your feelings about similar situations.
  3. Tell the child what you did to help with your feelings in a similar situation.
  4. Model good feelings by staying calm.
  5. Practice regularly and create a feeling story book (for younger children).
  6. For older children encourage the creation of a feeling journal or dairy.
  7. Teach ways to relax and stay calm.  Example, “Let’s take, deep breaths,” or “Lets take a walk and think of happy feelings.”
  8. Give the child two simple choices. Whatever happens please don’t become impatient or punish the child as their feelings are not intentional.

It can be draining dealing with children who excessively worry and will not attempt new experiences without emotional support. You may feel the need to shelter and protect them. It is okay to seek outside support to learn ways to better support the child. It is also okay to get counseling support for yourself and your child.

Disclaimer: I have over 20 years experience working with children, especially children with social emotional difficulties. I am not writing this article as an expert in the field of child counseling.

fun 2015-01-21 022Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

Tools for All Angry Sams’

Have you ever met Sam? Sam is very playful and kind most of the time. People are often amazed by how sweet and kind Sam can be… except, when things do not go Sam’s way. The first time I witnessed Sam’s outburst was when we had to cleanup and transition to meet Sam’s parents after finishing therapy.  As with most clients, I gave Sam 5 minutes to finish playing with Thomas the Train.  I said, “Sam when the timer goes off, it will be time to cleanup and go see your mommy.” Sam looked at me and said, “Okay Ms. Udie.” I sat back and began writing Sam’s homework. Without any warning, Thomas the train flew towards my head and I ducked. Thinking it was an accident, I bent down to retrieve the train and next the table was knocked over. Followed by verbal outburst, “Stupid, stupid. I hate you. Your toys are dumb!” Wow! I did not see that coming. I managed to calm Sam down. Talking to Sam’s parents they shared that it was an ongoing battle to get Sam to use nice words and not throw things when angry.

I am not sure what caused the outburst I witnessed during our first session but, in time I got to know Sam and discovered that Sam’s language processing disorder and poor problem solving skills made it impossible for Sam to share feelings. Sam needed language tools and positive support to learn how to cope with frustrations and also needed support for his language processing difficulties. If you know any Sam, help him learn socially acceptable power words and phrases when angry or frustrated. Power phrases are phrases that we teach children to use to positively express their needs.  Simple daily goals like the one below can help any child having difficulty expressing frustrations:

  1. ____use 3 positive power words or phrases to share his needs during difficult situations with some support from an adult.
  2. ________ will use positive anger words as modeled by an adult or when he is given choice words and phrases on a choice board.

How it works

  • Create 3 simple visual reminders of power words and phrases you want the child to learn to use.
  • Start simple by modeling  one or two of the phrases during challenging situations.
  • Practice the phrases or words with the child by role playing.
  • Setup some rewards to encourage the child to use the power phrases
  • Let the child know that you will help during tough times as long as the child uses the power phrases.

Sample Power Phrases:

  • I am not done
  • Don’t put away the toys
  • Please stop
  • I need more time
  • I don’t want to go
  • I feel sad
  • I want to play a little longer
  • I am mad

The great thing about this list is that the child gets rewarded every time the child uses power words or phrases. When I work with a Sam, I also make a conscious effort to create my power phrases to encourage a positive outcome from Sam. I write these power phrases on sticky notes for Sam to find in his treasure box.  Below are some examples of my power phrases that Sam finds weekly in his treasure box:

  • I really had fun playing with you today.
  • I liked it when you smiled at me.
  • You were awesome playing today.
  • Thank you for using your nice words. ( with older kids I use positive anger words)
  • Keep up the good work.
  • Keep smiling it makes me smile too.

Pretty soon my Sam started using some of my power phrases on me and trust me, I was charmed. Try it and let me know how goes.

staff_54_2223410517My name is Uduak Osom-Richardson, but most call me Udie. I enjoy reading and writing. My passion for writing started at a very young age, but like most along the way I got lost in the forest. I recently rediscovered my passion and mission.  My passion has always been to write, but my mission is to impact lives. You are welcome to share any article you find interesting. My only request is to like us and share about our work. Give credit were credit is due!

Change your teaching not the child…

Change your teaching not the child…

Image result for childrenEducators are the most influential role models for students regardless of their learning differences. They do not  just impact their academic lives, they also impact the students’ well-being both inside and outside.  An educator is like a student’s guardian angel in the classroom.  A great educator understands that all kids learn the same, but master the curriculum through different learning styles.  An educator that allows accommodations or changes to his or her teaching style to match the child is forging a strong future for that student.

Unlike the old one-room schoolhouse were students with learning differences or disabilities were taught, more and more students with learning disabilities are taught in regular education classrooms today. Today educators are mandated by law to understand each student’s needs and provide the educational accommodations necessary to make that student successful in the classroom. The regular classroom has to be fully equipped with many educational accommodation options in order to provide a fair and appropriate education for all students regardless of their learning disabilities. Many educators, special and general educators alike need to collaborate and work as a team to provide educational accommodations to students with learning differences.

Educational accommodations are changes to how we instruct students or changes to the learning environment so that students who learns differently can gain access to an appropriate and fair education. Educational accommodations are tools that make learning a skill much easier, otherwise the student is not able to learn the material because of the student’s learning difference or a disability. Currently, about six million children in the US are considered to have some form of a learning disability. Given the number of students with learning differences, educational accommodations are necessary tools, not optional tools in the classroom. Reasonable accommodations such as the ones listed below are not tedious, but provide ample opportunities for a student to access regular classroom curriculum:

Teacher providing notes/outlines,
Providing highlighted text,
Allowing the use of spell-checker,
Daily agenda checks between home/school, additional progress reports,
Preferential seating,
Giving the student permission to leave room if needed without permission,

Using behavior reward system,
Extended time on assignments, shortened assignments, simplification of directions
Allow tests to be read aloud to student,
Accepting verbal response in lieu of written response,
Testing the student in a quiet sound proof environment.
Simply labeling key areas clearly ( main idea and supporting facts on study guides),
Allowing student to use age appropriate and discrete sensory stimulation to distress
Moving closer to a student and then asking them questions,
Slowing down your speech rate,
Sending key questions home with cues to types of questions the child will be asked
Using technology to support the student: Online books, Electronic books, Text reader (Reading Pen, Scan and Read, electronic calculator).

http://www.npr.org/2014/08/19/341674577/whats-behind-the-stark-rise-in-children-disabilities

http://www.specialednews.com/news/how-to-create-an-environment-that-fosters-learning.htm
http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/math-games/calculator/
Franklin Electronics Merriam Webster Speaking School Dictionary
http://www.wizcomtech.com/
Dragon Naturallyspeaking 13- Home speech recognition software
Providing Appropriate Education for Students With Learning Disabilities in Regular Education Classrooms, http://www.asha.org/policy/PS1991-00101/

staff_54_2223410517Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

Dreams, Hopes and Goals…

Dreams, Hopes and Goals… 

My daughter Emma-Inemesit  represents a person that has dreams, hopes and goals. Her hope is to be accepted into an awesome International Relations Program. Her goal is to study hard, get good grades and do well on her SATs so her dreams will can true.  Her ideal dream is to eventually work as a human rights attorney. Right now her focus is on achieving her goals of  maintaining  good grades; improving her skill set and competency. This is a person who understands the differences between DREAMS, HOPES and GOALS.

Many of us have dreams, but we do not have goals and hope of accomplishing those goals. Dreams are ideals of what we love and wish could happen to us or for us. Dreams are  desires that we have, that we are not necessarily accountable for. They can often be defined as ‘wishful thinking.’  Moreover, dreams are things we externally look outside of ourselves for. Whereas, “Hopes” are our feelings and desires for an optimistic outcome of a plan we have put together. Goals are attainable skills that are defined by timelines, priorities and future achievements. Goals are steps or plans that we put in place as an anchor to achieve our hopes. Goals require changes in our thinking and actions. To accomplish goals, we need to change our mind set and manage our expectations very carefully.

Setting up clear goals will mean defining what we want to happen either in the present time or in the near future. It means we are committing ourselves to a timeline and most importantly we are creating an action plan for our timeline. My daily morning goals are usually to go to the gym by 5:00 am, wake my kids up by 6:00 am, send important email by 6:30 and get to the office by 8:30 am to plan my lessons in a quiet environment before all other staff arrive. These simple steps help me stay organize and balance my daily goals of having a relaxed morning.

A simple outline I use to define my goals are: Priority, Compelling evidence (rationale) and Results (PCR). The first step is to create a priority list of what skills sets or tools are necessary to make the dreams we have attainable. Next create compelling evidence for why we must follow the steps we have put together. From the priority list, choose the top 3 or 4 must follow steps/ tools and compare them with our compelling evidence. The Priority list and Compelling evidence must match in order to create a clear picture for our goals. If our PC matches, we will see the importance of our goal(s) and the importance of having attainable time-line.

As a therapist working with children with varying disabilities, I have to adjust my values and beliefs according to individual clients and families. Families walking into our clinic have expectations. They expect we are going to have a solution to their loved one’s communication problems. Like the families, I often dream of making the child’s communication problems vanish immediately, but that is just a dream. The reality is that I cannot control the process, but I can create a sense of hope and balance by creating a PCR. By this I mean, setting up appropriate goals and implementing steps to improve the child’s communication needs. I often share with my clients’ family that we must strive to help the child in the most realistic and compassionate way. We must create realistic goals and hope that through these goals our dream for the child may one day be fulfilled. Having goals will make our hopes become our reality, potentially making our dreams much more attainable. I believe that some dreams can become a reality if we setup clear goals to reach them.

staff_54_2223410517Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

Learning Environment that Mirrors Real Life

Learning Environment that Mirrors Real Life

You can tell from the above picture that Nicole is not very comfortable holding that frog.  When asked why she held the frog,  Nicole responded, “The kids made me do it! That’s the only reason I held it, for the kids to learn.” The joy of seeing Nicole step out of her comfort zone was the encouragement some of the children at the camp also needed to step out of their comfort zone.  Too often we shelter children from situations that make them uncomfortable. Children need opportunities to take risks and learn to solve problems for themselves.

To help children with special needs, we have to factor in real life situations even in therapy. In the clinic we try to encourage and expand on our clients language and problem solving skills using evidence based approaches. For example, we use the Milieu teaching strategy along with other strategies to teach language and problem solving in daily incidents that we create within the clinical environment. Milieu is used  widely in preschool settings, but it can be adapted for children with special needs, regardless of age.  With Milieu teaching, you manipulate tasks in the natural environment to create situations to target the skills you want the child to learn. Using a practice like Milieu you can help children struggling with ASD, Downs syndrome and other developmental delays, learn social relationships and use language naturally in given day to day situations. Milieu approach uses four steps: modeling, mand-modeling, incidental teaching, and time-delay.  Modeling basically means creating situations for you to model and instruct the child on desired behavior or language.  With the Milieu teaching the target behavior must be of high interest to the child and also initiated by the child.  For example, the child performs a task and you reinforce it both verbally while also modeling the desired behavior.  

This approach works great in our Summer Camps, as we have typical peers provide expected behaviors and we then facilitate them.  Manding-model is another step in this approach and it is one we use in our social skills programs.  Once again you wait for the situation to occur naturally and then you facilitate the appropriate response by providing the needed phrases or cues to the child.  With incidental teaching you provide instructions within ongoing typical activities based on child’s interest and motivation.  Incidental instruction is used frequently in our Tweets groups, as we give clients steps, we might pause between step the steps and look expectantly to see if they can problem solve or we need to repeat the directions.  We also incorporate other strategies such as ‘The Thinking Zone’ in the social events.

Uduak Osom, MA. CCC-SLP, created ‘The Thinking Zone’ approach. It aligns with Lev S. Vygotsky’s social cognitive learning development theory that  “Every function in the child’s cultural, development occurs twice”(1978). It first occurs at a social level and later at individual level. ‘The Thinking Zone’ was created to teach reasoning, thinking and problem solving using a language based approach. Like the Milieu approach, all tasks are taught in a naturally occurring environment.  For example, during tasks we encourage the children to create a thinking box to assist in thinking through difficult situations. The therapist or teacher narrates an event occurring during a game or activities, then the students create a thinking box for the event. This we call zone one of our thinking, recognizing that there is a problem.

In zone two we identify the problem and analyze if the problem  relates to our emotional state or if it is just a general problem that does not affect us emotionally.

If the problem impacts us emotionally we use the emotional thinking to create a link of emotions and relationships. Basically, while the person or child is struggling to understand how and why a problem exists, simplifying the magnitude of the problem into smaller units helps the person analyze the problem more independently. It is also important that you know the zones of the  ‘child’s size’  of the problem and the degree as to how independently the child can solve the problem before you assist the child. Give the child choices as shown below and help the child determine the degree of help needed.

  

 

 

In zone four the child is able to define what he or she needs in order to resolve the problem.

         

The student has to use SPACE independently to create the sequence and problem solve, just as you had done when you were introducing the skill. SPACE is a conversational strategy that comes directly from a language technique created by Barbara Hoskins, Ph.D. Research shows that increased generalization of learned skills occurs more often when the person learns to initiate the behavior and solve the problem independently, than when adults directly solve the problem for the young learner. Therefore, we need to provide strategies that encourage children to independently use language and socialize in everyday situations.

References:
http://www.educa.madrid.org/web/eoep.at.colmenarviejo/liberia/33%20Cognitive%20Development.pdf
http://www.learning-theories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html
Conversations Framework: A Program for Adolescents and Young Adults Spiral-bound – February 1, 2011, by Barbara Hoskins (Author), Ph.D. (Author), CCC-SLP (Author), Kristine Noel (Author), M.S
ies.ed.gov/…/pubsinfo.aspubid
staff_54_2223410517My name is Uduak Osom-Richardson, but most call me Udie. I enjoy reading and writing. My passion for writing started at a very young age, but like most along the way I got lost in the forest. I recently rediscovered my passion and mission.  My passion has always been to write, but my mission is to impact lives. You are welcome to share any article you find interesting. My only request is to like us and share about our work. Give credit were credit is due!

Support means Listening without Judgment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ago, a parent asked my permission to yell at her child. I was so taken a back that I responded with,  “Why do you ask?”  She replied, “Because I don’t feel I have the right to yell at him, since he already has so much stacked against him.”  My response was, “Maybe you need to talk to someone.” The look on her face spoke volume, it was as if  she was saying, “Thanks for really listening to me!” 

In our society, especially speaking as a speech pathologist, we are taught not to give personal advice or to give advice that is not within the scope of our license. While it is true that we should not give advice beyond our professional training, I find that too often we don’t want to get involved at all. If we are not sure what to say we give what I call default responses or answers.

When we give default answers or run the mill responses it is sometimes because we are not really listening or understanding what is communicated by a person. If I had truly listened I would have said, “It is okay to feel angry. It is okay that you want to scream at your son. It may seem like there is nothing you can do about this situation, but yell! While yelling will not stop the situation, it will give you a sense of control. However, I do not believe yelling at him is going to help.”  If I had truly listened to her, it would have opened the door for me to share about other professionals without sounding defensive. The simple act of listening without giving default responses is sometimes all a person really needs. I know sometimes I am just asking for a chance to talk, share, or brainstorm without being given the usual run the mill responses.

Listening, while simple,is difficult to do sometimes.  Do you truly listen to the person sitting next to you or are you just agreeing so you can move on to your next agenda? Listening means you have to be present, acknowledge and share that emotion with the person talking to you. Listening takes time from you, it takes caring and it takes being patient.

staff_54_2223410517Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at ussom@pediatricspeech.com.

Innovative Therapy Services- Pediatric Speech and Language Services

We are a group of speech-language pathologists that apply the best practices of our profession in a warm, friendly and motivating environment. We respect each child’s individuality and work with the family and other professionals always with the child’s best interests in mind. Our team are all highly experienced and have all undertaken extensive advanced studies in their given areas of expertise. At ITS we are skilled at blending our professional experiences into practical hands on approach when addressing each individual child’s speech and language needs.

%d bloggers like this: