Monday, November 20, 2017

Self-Regulation for Young Students

My school is loaded with young students who need help with self-regulation. We work on it in classroom lessons with Second Step which fortunately our district bought for all our schools. A less expensive alternative is the self-regulation materials from  You can buy just the Curriculum Guide but I highly recommend purchasing the kit. The materials in this kit can be used in classes by teachers and counselors and especially our teachers who work with students identified as needing special education. It is recommended that this be used over 8 weeks and taught on two different days of the week (Tues and Thurs). The only place that can happen at my school is for students with an IEP that includes social skills.
I was thrilled to obtain this kit because even though it says "Preschool" I am using it in my psycho-educational  self-regulation groups with kindergarten and first grade. The kit has 40 lessons, games, and activities. The Curriculum Guide by Brad Chapin (with Lena Kisner and Brooke Stover) follows the same structure as his other manuals for older students. It is based on cognitive-behavioral psychology and addresses three areas: 1) physical; 2) emotional; and 3) cognitive. There is a regulation poster for each of the 3 areas. There are also core lesson image cards to use with lessons. There are core lessons for each of the three areas. For my groups I select 2-3 lessons from each of the areas. My students enjoy singing the "Safe and Calm Song." They are entertained by the book "The Horsefly Sigh" that teaches a fun relaxation breathing technique and thy like to practice it and go home and teach it to a family member. They love the "Calming Skills Block Game" using the cube that is provided in the kit. Students in self-regulation groups need activities that build in movement, throwing, practicing!
There is a CD which has all the forms for printing. There are great resources for counselors like a Sample Parent Letter and Self-Regulation Teacher Rating Scale. These are very helpful if you are using a self-regulation group for your teacher evaluation SMART goal or collecting data to RAMP. If you need other resources on self-regulation click one the labels on the right of my blog to see what else I use to address this critical need for students.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Teaching Children to Apologize

Here are 2 excellent books to anchor a class lesson or small group session on this important social skill. Start With Sorry by Finch is perfect for Pre-Kindergarten to grade 1. Zach Apologizes by Mulcahy is good for grades 2 and 3. Mulcahy teaches a 4-part apology strategy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

National Adoption Awareness Month

As school counselors we need to be very aware of adoption and how children process being adopted at various developmental levels stages We also need to educate our staff in the use of positive adoption language. This article does a good job explaining the preferred terminology my-forever-family My go to resource and referral agency is The Center for Adoption Support and Education (CASE) My children are both adopted and I sent our oldest to CASE for a group in the upper elementary years. It was very helpful for her to be with other children who were adopted and share stories and learn strategies. I have run groups for adopted children at both the school. I have worked at but generally there are not enough children in a single grade level to offer an in-school group.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spread the Word: Branding and Marketing Your School Counseling Program

A few years ago my part-time counselor and I presented on branding and marketing a school counseling program at our state SCA conference. Here is a link to our PowerPoint
Spread the Word We chose the iHelp logo because that was the year our school began the one-to-one imitative giving iPads to all students. We continue to use the iHelp logo on our materials. Pictured above is my office door. The students think the see through (window) labeled "Live cam" is very funny. Public relations for counseling programs is an ongoing responsibility. Every year we have new staff and students who need to be informed about what we do. Despite all our efforts, not a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a parent that begins with a phrase like "I don't know if it is appropriate to ask you for this kind of help..." We also do LOTS of online marketing especially via our Blog and Twitter feed. We are beginning the process to lobby our school board to reduce our counselor:student ratio, hoping to eventually get to 1:250 at all levels. Please think about how you can promote school counseling programs and join ASCA and your state SCA so they can lobby for more school counseling positions! Follow me on Twitter @mbmccormac

Monday, October 30, 2017

Is it ADHD or Trauma?

Symptoms of child traumatic stress could be mistaken for ADHD and that the risk of misdiagnosis is high. This is because there is an overlap between ADHD symptoms and the effects of experiencing trauma. Unless symptoms are examined closely, the profiles of child traumatic stress and ADHD can appear to be similar. For example:
 Young children who experience trauma may have symptoms of hyperactivity and disruptive
behavior that resemble ADHD.
 Trauma can make children feel agitated, troubled, nervous, and on alert. These behaviors
can be mistaken for hyperactivity.
 What might seem like inattention in children who experience trauma might actually be
symptoms of dissociation (feelings of unreality or being outside of one’s body) or the result of
avoidance of trauma reminders.
 Among children who experience trauma, intrusive thoughts or memories of trauma (e.g.,
feeling like it is happening all over again) may lead to confused or agitated behavior which
can resemble the impulsivity of ADHD.
Overlapping symptoms can make it difficult to obtain a correct diagnosis, which can complicate both
assessment and counseling.
Read more about this adhd_and_child_traumatic_stress

Sunday, October 29, 2017

ADHD Self-Regulation and Executive Function

ADHD is the most common disorder in children. The percent of children estimated to have ADHD has changed over time and can vary by how it is measured. The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013) that 5% of children have ADHD. However, other studies in the US have estimated higher rates in community samples.

As school counselors it is important to know a lot about ADHD because students with this disorder are frequently referred for small groups. Learn more about ADHD from the best adhd
Here is an article from ASCA on collaborative classroom and behavioral evidence-based strategies that counselors can recommend to teachers and parents Students-With-ADHD The government suggest counselors assist these children by providing teacher training on effective practices eric.ed

School counselors also offer small groups for students who need self-regulation and behavioral support strategies-for-students Counseling is an effective intervention for ADHD because it addresses behavior modification. Children with ADHD can have a difficult time regulating their emotional and behavioral response to situations. Learning effective coping strategies is one way to gain control over symptoms. Counselors can also help with the development of a plan for organization and prioritization, key areas of difficulty for those with ADHD. Goal setting, reward and consequence, and emotional regulation are other areas that are addressed during counseling groups.

I do not like to run a group of all students with ADHD unless I have at least one role model. I also never name a group anything that makes it obvious a difference the members may have so I call them names like Remote Controllers, Super Selfies, Turtles. The group sessions need to be very active and engaging. In my groups for younger kids I focus on regulating their bodies and feelings. A good resource for activities for groups in grades 3-5 is Caselman"s Teaching Kids Impulse Control.

Friday, October 27, 2017

More Self-regulation Resources

This pack of large cards from  yoga4classroomsactivity-card-deck have great movement and breath work activities that are perfect for small groups and could be used with individuals and class lessons too. They promote self-awareness and if you go to the site you can receive 6 free downloads if you subscribe. I really like the "Peace Crawl" because in addition to using bilateral movement it has a chant that goes with the movement. I think chanting while moving further calms the brain and reinforces helpful behaviors that promote self-regulation. Conductor breath is great because it incorporates gross motor movement of large muscles in tune with the breath. I find that students self-regulate better when they learn to do helpful gross motor movement much faster than just giving them a fidget which is only going to use small muscles.