Strategies for the Under-Aroused Nervous System

A child who exhibits low arousal symptoms, may have difficulty staying focused on a task. They may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, have a hard time getting started on homework, and can be very unorganized. This child may also become easily irritated with others and show signs of being quickly displeased at the smallest request.  A sensory plan typically targets a child’s ability to engage and participate in everyday activities, such as maintaining attention to a task, playing appropriately with others, participating in self-care tasks and transitioning from task to task. The Following Are Strategies To Assist In Increasing Your Arousal:Crunching on food such as dry cereal, chips, crackers, nuts carrots, applesListening to fast, loud music when getting ready in the morningBouncing on a therapy ball ex. while doing homework or table tasksJumping on a trampolineJumping rope prior to an activity that requires focus and concentrationTaking several movement breaks during a taskChewing gumDrinking cold liquids, eating popsiclesHeavy work. ex. pushing and pulling activities, carrying heavy or weighted objectsPlaying “hot potato” with a ball or bean bagAnimal crawlsAromatherapy, (peppermint, citrus)Brain Gym, (cross crawls, crazy eights) Copyright ©2011 Healing Hearts Family Counseling Center. All rights reserved. 

Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew About Adoption

by Sherrie Eldridge​  I suffered a profound loss before I was adopted. You are not responsible. I need to be taught that I have special needs arising from adoption loss, of which I need not be ashamed. If I don’t grieve my loss, my ability to receive love from you and others will be hindered. My unresolved grief may surface in anger toward you. I need your help in grieving my loss. Teach me how to get in touch with my feelings about my adoption and then validate them. Just because I don’t talk about my birth family doesn’t mean that I don’t think about them. I want you to take the initiative in opening conversations about my birth family. I need to know the truth about my conception, birth, and family history, no matter how painful the details may be. I am afraid I was given away by my birth mother because I was a bad baby. I need you to help me dump my toxic shame I am afraid you will abandon me. I may appear more “whole” than I actually am. I need your help to uncover the parts of myself that I keep hidden so I can integrate all the elements of my identity. I need to gain a sense of personal power Please don’t say I look or act just like you. I need you to acknowledge and celebrate our differences. Let me be my own person….but don’t let me cut myself off from you. Please respect my privacy regarding my adoption. Don’t tell other people without my consent. Birthdays may be difficult for me. Not knowing my full medical history can be distressing at times. I am afraid I will be too much for you to handle. When I act out my fears in obnoxious ways, please hang in there with me and respond wisely. Even if I decide to search for my birth family, I will always want you to be my parents.  Article from the book, “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wished Their Adoptive Parents Knew” by Sherrie Eldridge. Used with permission. Copyright © 1999 Sherrie Eldridge​ 

Preparing for Success as School Ends​

Often children who have experienced multiple moves and placements fear the end of school. They have lost so many relationships that the end of the school year is a trigger the relationships that were established this year will end. They often are unable to believe those relationships can and will continue after the summer. In order to decrease reactivity and trauma triggers, the following is recommended.  1. Kindergarten practice. I have found that having the child spend time in the classroom where he will be placed next year decreases anxiety about moving forward. I often recommend developing a systematic plan of introducing the new teacher, eating lunch with the children, and spending time in the new classroom helps decrease ambiguity about what the child will expect in the year to come. Often this type of “hand-off” allows the child to learn to develop a new relationship while simultaneously maintaining an existing relationship. 2. Many children truly desire a positive relationship with their teacher. I often recommend connecting with their previous teacher over the summer. Some students have such positive relationships that they meet for ice cream. Even if teachers cannot connect personally, I recommend that teachers send a postcard to these children indicating they are thinking of them. 3. When the child enters school the next year, they will need to maintain a relationship with their previous teacher. Often I recommend the child having lunch or calling their former teacher a few weeks into the new school year. This allows the child to learn that even though he begins a new relationship, he does not do so at the loss of others. Furthermore, doing so gives the child the former teacher’s “blessing” that he can move forward and will not lose her in the process. 4. Field trips have many variables that scare children who need consistency. School itself is very difficult for some of these children but field trips remove the safety of the structure their school provides. Some children work well if they are in a group with their teacher, their parent, or their aide. If they are not able to stay with an adult trust, I recommend these children have a “safe” buddy who can be with them the entire time. If designating a safe person is not enough to calm his fears, it may be best for that particular child to stay home on days that deviate from his schedule. 5. Unfortunately, two very emotionally charged holidays fall during this time of year, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. For those of us who have positive relationships with our parents, the holidays are a day of thanking and remembering. However for many children with multiple placements, it often just reminds them they do not have a family, were not wanted or loved, and will never have the relationship with their biological parents that they so deeply desire. When planning such holidays, please keep these deep feelings in mind. Maintain an open dialogue with the child about how other children feel when such holidays exist. If the child exhibits behavioral issues or is withdrawing, ask him if he is thinking about certain people. “I notice you have been pretty angry lately. Mother’s Day can be pretty hard for some people because they have two moms in mind; their foster mom (adoptive mom, etc.) and their biological mom.” For some children, such holidays are just very difficult. For those children, I recommend creating a new holiday that changes the focus from what the child doesn’t have or is missing to something positive. A family can create a new holiday around that time such as “celebrating the flowers that will bloom” or a family can even determine that on the same day each year they will all get a kite and fly the kite as a family. Often changing the focus of the holiday helps the child to have a different focus that does not trigger deeper emotional issues. 6. I often recommend these children take a disposable camera to school. With the direction of the teacher or aide, they should take pictures of teachers, their locker or desk, and important things and people. They should then make a small book with the pictures. This will help them to know the adults understand the importance of their transition and value what is important to them. 7. I often notice my clients deteriorate during the end of the school year. This can also be because teachers are “winding down” and are not as structured as they are during the year. If you sense the school day cannot be as structured and the structure is negatively impacting your child, it may be best to shorten your child’s days or prepare for their school year to end before the last day of school. 8. Some children like the structure of school so much that their behavior increases as soon as school ends. If this resembles your child, then prepare a structured summer schedule for him. I often recommend the child begins a summer program focusing on improving social skills, improving relationships, improving coping skills, or other areas or deficits he may exhibit. 9. Some children thrive once school ends. They often are relieved not to worry about the variables they face on a daily basis. If you sense this is your child, talk with your child once school ends about how you notice a difference when he is in school and when he is out of school. Start to identify why school is so stressful and what you can do as a family and team to help school feel safer for him. Copyright ©2011 Healing Hearts Family Counseling Center. All rights reserved. 

Do Seclusion & Restraints Effect Children at School?​

School can be a very scary place to a child with attachment and trauma disorders. Such children tend to have social, emotional, and developmental delays that cause problems in negotiating social situations, determining whom they can trust, and identifying which person in the school could cause them harm. Developing secure relationships at school allows the child to feel safe and thus access deeper issues needing to be addressed in therapy. When I work with a child who continues to do everything possible to avoid school, I look to identify possible trauma triggers that I could be missing. I have recently learned some families are not being informed when seclusion and restraint are used with their children in school. When a child’s parents are not informed of their perceived traumatic experiences, the family is not able to make sense of the child’s behavior, the child remains in fight, flight, or freeze, and the attachment between the parent and child is strained and possibly nonexistent. It has been about six years, until this past month, that I last heard of a child from my clinic being restrained or secluded at school. When the child was restrained six years ago, the school and I corresponded with a few emails and a school meeting. The school made changes and the child no longer felt threatened. The school’s response was amazing. They looked into the child’s triggers. He soon felt understood. School became safe and he was finally able to build relationships with teachers. Furthermore, his behavior and relationships with his parents drastically improved.

The Special Needs Of Adopted Children​

In the book, “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew,” author Sherrie Eldridge outlines The Special Needs of Adopted Children. The special needs are imperative to understand the child with which you are working or you are parenting. The challenge of both parenting and therapy is to first identify the special need that has arisen and then help the child verbalize that need. Working through these issues gives the child some sense of mastery and control over something that feels out of his control. These special needs must be incorporated in therapy. The needs should also help teachers and parents better understand the inner beliefs of such children which could be motivating behavior. Emotional Needs: I need help in recognizing my adoption loss and grieving it.I need to be assured that my birth parents’ decision not to parent me had nothing to do with anything defective in me.I need help in learning to deal with my fears of rejection-to learn that absence does not mean abandonment, nor a closed door that I have done something wrong.I need permission to express all my adoption feelings and fantasies. Educational Needs: I need to be taught that adoption is both wonderful and painful, presenting lifelong challenges for everyone involved.I need to know my adoption story first, then my birth story and birth family.I need to be taught healthy was for getting my special needs met.I need to be prepared for hurtful things other may say about adoption and about me as an adoptee. Validation Needs: I need validation of my dual heritage (biological and adoptive).I need to be assured often that I am welcome and worthy.I need to be reminded often by my adoptive parents that they delight in my biological differences and appreciate my birth family’s unique contribution to our family through me.  Parental Needs: I need parents who are skillful at meeting their own emotional needs so that I can grow up with healthy role models and be free to focus on my development, rather than taking care of them.I need parents who are willing to put aside preconceived notions about adoption and be educated about the realities of adoption and the special needs adoptive families face. I need to hear my parents openly express feelings about infertility and adoption, thus producing a bond of intimacy between us. I need my adoptive and birth parents to have a non-competitive attitude. Without this, I will struggle with loyalty issues.  Relational Needs: I need friendships with other adoptees. I need to be taught that there is a time to consider searching for my birth family and a time to give up searching. I need to be reminded that if I am rejected by my birth family, the rejection is symptomatic of their dysfunction, not mine.  Spiritual Needs: I need to be taught that my life narrative began before I was born and that my life is not a mistake. I need to be taught that in this broken, hurting world, loving families are formed through adoption as well as birth.I need to be taught that I have intrinsic, immutable value as a human being. I need to accept the fact that some of my adoption questions will never be answered in this life.  Used with permission. Sherrie Eldridge Copyright ©1999 

How Can Neurofeedback Help My Child?​

Neurofeedback is known as EEG Biofeedback or Neurotherapy. It is direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function more effectively. Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation. It is simply biofeedback applied to the brain itself. Self-regulation training allows the system (central nervous system) to function better. Seigfried Othmer, Ph.D., Chief Scientist of the EEG Institute indicated application of Neurofeedback as being helpful in the following conditions: “Attention Deficit Disorder, the Anxiety-Depression spectrum, seizures and addictions. At that time, 2003, he found applications to be effective with Oppositional-Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder; the Autism Spectrum and Asperger’s; Bipolar Disorder; Specific Learning Disabilities, including Dyslexia; sleep disorders; Traumatic Brain Injury and Stroke; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; women’s issues such as PMS and menopause; issues of aging such as Parkinsonism and dementia, and Age-Related Cognitive Decline; and, finally, pain syndromes such as migraine, as well as the management of chronic pain.” (Overview of Neurofeedback Mechanisms: Setting the Agenda for Research, October 2003).  Neurofeedback addresses the “broad functional dysregulations that are part and parcel of all clinical syndromes in mental health, and accompany organic brain disorders as well. The training can moderate our fears as well as regulate our drives such as appetite, thrill-seeking, and drug-seeking. Most importantly, the training can confer essential stability on brain function, which heightens the threshold to such conditions as seizures, migraines, panic attacks, and bipolar excursions.” (Overview of Neurofeedback Mechanisms: Setting the Agenda for Research, October 2003). Furthermore, Neurofeedback has been known to help with birth trauma, acquired brain injury, bed wetting, sleep walking, sleep talking, teeth grinding, nightmares, and night terrors How does this work? Electrodes are applied to the scalp to listen in on brainwave activity and the signal is processed by computer. Information is extracted about certain key brainwave frequencies. (All brainwave frequencies are equal, but some are more equal than others….) The ebb and flow of this activity is shown back to the person, who attempts to change the activity level. Some frequencies are wished to promote. Others are wished to diminish. This information is presented to the person in the form of a video game. The person is effectively playing the video game with his or her brain. Eventually the brainwave activity is "shaped" toward more desirable, more regulated performance. The frequencies targeted, and the specific locations on the scalp where listened to on the brain, are specific to the conditions which are being addressed, and specific to the individual. Please be aware that certain training protocols have been developed for certain classes of problems such as attention, anxiety and depression, seizures and migraines as well as cognitive function. If you have a child with attachment issues, make sure your Neurofeedback provider has been trained with the national protocol used for attachment and trauma disorders. Treatment with the wrong protocol can have an adversarial effect on your child.