Friday, June 15, 2018

Family Resource Packs

About ten years ago I attended a session at the Virginia School Counselor Association Annual Conference by an elementary counselor who took duplicate and donated books on some common topics and created Parent Packs that were like a folder with two books. She tried to find one book for parents and one book for children.  I brought that idea back and expanded upon it to include a binder with an overview of the topic, lists of books, websites/bogs, and later added Apps and other resources like DVDs to some of the Pack. We try to include a couple of books for children (spreading them out usually by developmental level or variations of the issue).  We have found tote bags work well to contain the binders and books. The packs used to hand on racks in my office but they took up valuable space and the weight of the books frequently weakened the bags. Now they are in 6 large tubs in our Teachers Lounge. Each pack contains a simple evaluation form for parents and another one for the child to complete before the pack is returned. The packs are checked out by the counselor and generally returned to the front office. They are signed out in a book and if they don't come back in 3 weeks we send an email. Parents LOVE these packs and sometimes end up ordering the books so they can keep them. Many families have borrowed 3 or more of the packs. They save the counselors lots of time sharing information and resources about topics we encounter in parent consultation.  This year we created 11 new packs including ones on Grief (Suicide), ASD - high functioning, and Gender Identity. We also add new books on topics as we find ones that are more up to date or helpful.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Annual Nottingham School Counseling Report

This is the overall program report I share on my school blog to summarize what services were offered by the counseling program.

2017-2018 Program Report
This report highlights some of the services provided by the Nottingham School Counseling Program during the 2017-2018 school year.  These services meet the program’s mission of helping all students establish their unique academic, career, and personal/social goals so they can reach their maximum potentials. To meet the needs of the whole child, counselors help all students overcome challenges that interfere with their learning and development. Through advocacy and fostering of a safe and inclusive school climate, counselors ensure that all students have equity and access to a challenging curriculum, needed resources, and support. By collaborating with staff, families, and community members, the school counseling program prepares all students to be successful lifelong learners, effective problem solvers, and responsible global citizens in a changing society.
Classroom Lessons
The counselor taught the following number of lessons: sixteen 20 minute lessons in kindergarten and first grade; and ten 30 minute lessons in grades second – fifth.
Small Group Counseling
The counselors lead a variety of social/emotional and academic groups and the school psychologist and social worker each led one group. There were 54 small groups conducted averaging 8 sessions each; 261 students participated in groups. Groups delivered by grade level were: Kindergarten 14, 1st 11, 2nd 10, 3rd 8, 4th 7, and 5th 4.  In addition, all kindergarten students participated in 2-3 lunch bunch sessions with a counselor.
Individual Counseling
The counselors meet with students one-to-one to discuss issues related to academic success as well as social emotional concerns. Number of students seen individually: 80 Average number of sessions per student: 6. Number of students needing risk assessment: 7.  The top 3 reasons for referrals for counseling were: Social skills/peer conflict; 2) Self/Emotional Regulation; 3) Bullying. Anxiety decreased from the top reason for referral to #6 (415 decrease due to more classroom lessons and groups on topic). Social skills/peer conflict referrals increased 100%.
Enrollment for K-5 was 526 students. Nottingham had 1.2 counselors with a ratio of 1:438. Direct services are in-person interactions between school counselors and students. All students were taught the school counseling core curriculum. Over half of students were seen in individual and/or small group settings. The counselors provide a range of indirect services including consultation with parents/guardians, collaboration with staff, and referrals/consultation with outside mental health service providers. They also run a highly popular lending library of Family Resource Packs for families.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

End of the Year Data Reports

It is very important in running an ASCA Model School Counseling Program to collect, analyze, and share data. I log all students referred for individual counseling (those seen 3 or more times that I get permission to see); I do not log every child who stops to ask me questions or is upset about a playground disagreement with a friend. If you log the details of referrals by date, grade, reason for referral, etc and do an intervention a change in referrals can be outcome data. For my SMART goal for my own teacher evaluation I was trying to get a reduction in the number of students I needed to see for individual counseling for anxiety. I did classroom lessons at two grade levels and groups for emotional regulation in grades 1st - 5th. Anxiety went from being the number one referral reason to number six and the data showed a 41% decrease. I log my individual referrals EVERY DAY before I leave the building. I look at the data at the end of each quarter to determine what interventions the counseling program should be offering. I share this data with staff, parents, my advisory council, and other elementary counselors in my district. Data is a great way to show how students are different as a result of a comprehensive, data-driven counseling program.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Resources for Gender Identity

Gender identity is how someone describes their own gender. Generally this is one’s sense of being male or female, but gender identity and expression are fluid and intricate, with many variations. To learn more go to Although it's not really known how many children identify as transgender, advocates surmise some are now more likely to "come out" and transition at younger ages than in years past because of greater public awareness of the issue. There are also transgender teachers and parents so counselors need resources for this issue. These resources are primarily for children and parents but counselors may increase their own sense of how to support children regarding gender identity from The Gender Identity Workbook for Kids: A Guide to Exploring Who You Are and The Conscious Parent's Guide to Gender Identity: A Mindful Approach to Embracing Your Child's Authentic Self (The Conscious Parent's Guides)  The picture books support teaching children about the fluidity of gender and the importance of acceptance. Also check out

Sunday, June 10, 2018

ADHD Resources

As school counselors we work with children with ADHD every day. We do lots of consulting with parents of children with ADHD helping them know what to do and supporting them in doing it. I admit I am biased in favor of Mindfulness but research shows it is an effective intervention for ADHD. Bertin's book points out that mindfulness aims to build various traits that make the ups and downs of life easier to handle Mindfulness can help both the parents and child manage ADHD. Mindfulness can give both the child and parents skills in coping with the stress that surrounds ADHD. This book is written in an easy to read style with examples and steps to follow. I will be sharing this book with families. I also always encourage parents to check out and join the local chapter and attend their support group meetings.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Sensory Processing

Beck's new Handbook for those living with, teaching, or working with children with sensory needs
explains the sensory system puzzle and the who and what of a sensory diet.  The thoughtful tools in this book provide intervention strategies to support and challenge the sensory systems through meaningful and authentic sensory diet tactics based on the environment, interests, and sensory needs of each individual child. The data collection sheets, screening forms, checklists, and schedulers in this book provide a blueprint for weaving sensory diet strategies into sensory-filled days.
As counselors we see children with a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) that have often been getting Occupational Therapy (OT) since preschool.
There is a significant over-lap in symptoms in what is now called “Misophonia” and SPD Sensory Over-Responsivity (SOR). Misophonia describes a neurologically based disorder in which auditory stimuli (and sometimes visual) is misinterpreted within the central nervous system. Individuals with misophonia are set off or “triggered” by very specific patterned sounds, such as chewing, coughing, pencil tapping, sneezing etc.
Sensory processing challenges are also co-morbid conditions for students with ADHD, ASD, and Explosive Disorder. One small-scale study suggested that as many as five to 16 percent of school-age students have these challenges; therefore, as counselors we need to stay up on a school sensory diet and what can help families send their children into school in the morning well regulated. I always inquire about sleep hygiene and offer suggestions to help with sleep and bedtime routine which are covered in this book.
I collaborate closely with my school OT because many of the children referred for tier 2 groups are on her case load. The high percentage of these kids in our school is another reason I requested dynamic flexible seating from our PTA (e.g., therapy balls).
I will be sharing this Handbook with parents in the new Family Resource Pack I created this spring. It also contains Making-Sense-Your-Senses-Processing

Friday, June 8, 2018

Happiness is a Choice

"Happiness is a choice. Be happy." That's the essential message of Yabuki's picture book.  To illustrate life's struggles and the actions that can help them seem less daunting, she presents a series of photographs featuring a small, whitish rock named Ishi, with dot eyes and a mouth that changes to reflect its mood.This book encourages others to choose and share happiness. This book can be used in a variety of groups such as emotion regulation or social skills. After reading and discussing mindfulness the story, group members can make their our own rock friends that could remind them to be happy and spread kindness. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What Ifs

The hallmark of anxious thoughts is imagining al the "what ifs" that could possibly go wrong. The Key message of this children's book is "Remember to not believe all that you think, and slowly those fears will begin to shrink." Anxiety can confuse kids because it is a false prediction. Their brain is tricking them to believe something (that is dangerous) is present when it is not. It is hard to retrain a child who has chronic worrisome thoughts. This book encourages focusing on what is good and talking to a trusted adult. The books uses the metaphor of an umbrella to keep the stormy thoughts away. This book can be used in individual counseling, in an emotion management group, or sent home as a resource to families.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Celebrate Colors!

This new book is a great nonjudgmental exploration of stereotypes. Pink is for Boys byRobb Pearlman celebrates all colors being for everyone and many things. It is a great inclusive message to give ALL children. This book offers a great way to promote diversity in your school especially in the early grades before stereotypes get so strong they are hard to overcome. If you need resources on diversity education for your school check out diversity-toolkit

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Hunter New and Improved

Some of the signs of self-regulation difficulties in children include ongoing struggles with concentration (e.g., being unable to listen in a group lesson), looking sad and bored in daily activities (e.g., playing with others), or becoming easily upset and anxious so they are unable to move on. My second graders in self-regulation groups love "Hunter and His Amazing Remote Control". The story book has been around awhile but it has been redone and now includes a complete self-regulation program with a CD to reproduce all pages, as well as a kit and poster.

Hunter's Amazing Remote Control buttons include:

Channel Changer - Filtering out distractions
Pause - Stopping to think relax and create a plan
Fast Forward - Thinking before acting
Rewind - Shifting focus from past failure to future change
Slow Motion - Slowing down and managing stress
Coach - Problem solving
Zapper - Recognizing and rejecting negative thinking
Way to Go! - Using positive self-talk 

The guide has discussion questions to go along with the book and creative activities to introduce, teach and practice the strategies. The guide has 10 units, it begins with "Our Amazing Differences, then has a unit for each button, and ends with "Self-control." The Remote Control can be adapted (I only introduce 6 in grade 2) and children can add their own based on their individual needs. I highly recommend this set of materials for self-regulation

Monday, June 4, 2018

Grief Resources

These are my top 3 children's books about grief.  Kids who experience loss appreciate a book that helps them understand their feelings and how to move on without their love one being physically present. I like  wordens-four-tasks-of-mourning/ especially the idea that they can come in any order. Grief is unique, not only to the person, but also to each loss. I remember working with three children in one family who lost their mom to cancer. Each child handled the loss differently and needed different types of support. The one thing they had in common was they did find reading about loss helped them process their own grief. I loaned their dad one of our Family Resource Packs and they kept it for 1-1/2 years. He said the kids kept going back and reading the books so he did not return it until they said they did not need the books anymore. I wish I had had these 3 in the pack back then, but I am glad to have them available now for the next child that is grieving. I always encourage families to consider making a memory box so I was very glad when The Memory Box was published and we added it to the counseling resources.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Ricky, the Rock that Couldn't Roll

The company newpaigepress was founded by author and entrepreneur Jay Miletsky, who came up with the idea for his first children's book, Ricky, the Rock That Couldn't Roll, while reading to his daughter, Bria Paige, one night before bed. Bria has cerebral palsy. According to Miletsky, "By dealing with issues metaphorically, we can create books that developmentally typical kids and their families can enjoy and take something positive from, while at the same time giving kids with developmental challenges, and their families, a strong yet subtle message of hope without highlighting or even mentioning a disability." The author actually funded the book through a Kickstarter.
This book has darling illustrations by Erin Wozniak and a simple story line. The rocks spend their days rolling down the hill while enjoying the company of other rocks. The main character is Ricky, and he has a difference that keeps him from rolling down the hill. Rather than his friends leaving him out, the rocks and pebbles band together to help him be included.
All elementary counselors should have access to this book. It would be a perfect read aloud to a class about including students that are different in some way (IEPs, 504, and ELL). It could also be used in a friendship group to teach the idea about including everyone in games at school or problem solving.
Finally, it could be recommended to parents of children (ages 4-8) with some obvious difference or parents of typical children trying to figure out how to include a peer (or sibling) with special needs.