The first time you hear the term “executive functioning”, you may think it refers to the leaders of a worldwide conglomerate, but nothing could be further from the truth. Executive functioning is actually a life skill we learn in childhood. It forms the basis of the actions we perform every day. From taking a bath and getting dressed, to getting ready for school or doing homework, executive functioning helps us plan things, organize our lives, control our emotions, and learn from our mistakes. It lets us evaluate information, come up with a solution, and carry it out.
Some kids learn executive functioning with ease, but for others, it can be difficult to choose appropriate actions, develop time-management skills, or anticipate the consequences of their actions. Kids who have poor executive functioning often need constant guidance for simple tasks, such as packing their backpacks for school. They may forget to turn in the homework they worked on so diligently the evening before or have difficulty making decisions because they get bogged down in the mental strain of weighing pros and cons. Fortunately, there are ways to help these children acquire organizational skills. Apps, like our Giant Leap app, are great learning tools for, among other things, teaching behavior strategies and generating lists to help kids start and complete tasks.
Executive functioning learning tools help children overcome struggles with organization and follow-through.
Some keys to building executive functioning abilities are:
For children who can’t read (and even those who can), the colorful images on an app can make all the difference. Eye-catching charts and graphics give the child something to focus on. They also make it easier for these kids to understand the bigger picture – for example, by showing when a task needs to be completed or by listing action steps that need to be taken.
Once parents set up their child’s chart, these visual aids help the child see the tasks they need to complete. Additionally, engaging images capture kid’s attention, making it more likely that these visual reminders will instill the routine in the child’s mind.
Some apps, like our Giant Leap app, are customizable. This flexibility allows parents to generate personalized charts with the specific behaviors their child needs to learn. Giant Leap gives children executive functioning issues an easy way to stay organized and can support their unique needs. Additionally, Giant Leap permits parents to update their child’s charts in real time within the app and allows them to print each chart out for daily or weekly use.
Apps encourage consistency and make daily routines easier to set and follow. When a child completes the tasks on their chart, they not only begin to acquire executive functions, they also gain self-confidence. Successfully learning organization skills translates to self-reliant, responsible in kids and gives them the tools they need for future success.
For information about how our Giant Leap app can help your child improve their executive functioning skills, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
The nation has been horrified to hear about another school shooting. For many in South Florida, however, the trauma surrounding school violence has hit particularly hard because this week’s shooting happened right in our own backyard. Many people likely know someone or know of a family with a child who attends the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Because of this, you might find it challenging to deal with your feelings about the event.
Keep in mind that it is normal to experience strong emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness, grief, and shock – even if you don’t know someone who is personally connected to the shooting. You might also have trouble concentrating or difficulty sleeping and you may even feel numb when talking about the incident with others. All of these reactions are typical responses of trauma psychology.
It will take a while to move past this heartbreaking tragedy, but we have some tips for managing your emotions during this horrific time. Following these guidelines can help you build resilience – the inner strength that you can draw on when you’re exposed to trauma or adversity.
*If you can’t move past this school violence or another traumatic event that has happened in your life, it may be beneficial to seek out a support group or turn to a qualified, licensed mental health professional in order to move forward. It is especially important to do so if you are unable to carry out the daily tasks of living, such as sleeping, eating, and other functions.
Our Children’s Center has specially trained clinicians on staff to help those who need help dealing with the school shooting or other traumatic situations. For more information, contact The Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
We’ve gotten through the first month of a new year and many of us have already abandoned our New Year’s resolutions. As adults, we have good intentions about goal setting for things we want to work on or change throughout the year. Stating a goal is easy, however, while actually seeing it through can be much tougher. Goal setting and accomplishing objectives can be even more challenging for kids because they have a much harder time envisioning the future outcome, which makes it difficult for them to keep their eye on the prize. But, what if there was a way to help children learn how to set specific goals and teach them how to attain them? This is where working on SMART goals can help.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
For kids (and some parents), goal setting through the SMART goals method teaches an important life skill that simplifies an ambition and breaks it down into actionable steps, making it more likely to be achieved. The great thing about SMART goals is that this method can be used for any type of goal setting, ranging from something like aiming to read a certain amount of books as a child, to more difficult tasks like paying off debt as an adult – and everything in between.
A goal is an outcome that will make a difference when you achieve it. Measurable goals can’t be too ambitious that they’re out of reach, but they also shouldn’t be so simple that it’s not challenging to attain it. The goal should be realistic, but should require attention and effort to achieve it. That’s one of the reasons goals need to be trackable and time-limited, and why measurable action steps need to be step up. That way, you can keep track of progress and make adjustments to the steps as necessary.
Breaking down each step, here are some SMART goals examples:
The biggest barrier to attaining goals is that they are often too lofty and hard to achieve. By using the SMART goals method of goal setting, you can break your goals down into detailed, manageable chunks and set up action plans and benchmarks that will keep you focused on the end result.
Our Giant Leap app contains customizable charts that give your child a visual reminder of their SMART goals. Eye-catching charts and graphics give kids something to focus on and makes it easier for them to understand the bigger picture – for example, by listing actions that need to be taken. In addition, the app’s colorful images engage and hold children’s attention, which is particularly important for young children who can’t read. For added convenience, Giant Leap lets parents update their child’s charts in real time within the app and allows them print charts out for daily or weekly use, if needed.
For more information, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
As of this blog post, 30 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have all approved the broad use of medical marijuana. In addition, several other states allow limited medical use and 8 states (plus the District of Columbia) allow recreational use of pot. Even though the use of marijuana is becoming more acceptable, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still classifies pot and weed (marijuana) as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is likely to be abused and it completely lacks medical value. Because of this classification, there hasn’t been much research into the efficacy of the drug for medical conditions. In particular, we lack long-term studies that would tell us whether it is safe and/or effective when used over a long period of time.
What we do know is that, in our clinical practice – and in those of colleagues in other practices – we have seen an increase in the number of incidents of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even psychotic reactions since marijuana use has become more mainstream.
Whether it’s used recreationally or medicinally, both forms of pot are the same product. The medical version contains cannabinoids just like recreational marijuana. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals found in the medical form.
Although medical marijuana is used for many conditions (among them: multiple sclerosis (MS), seizure disorders, cancer and glaucoma), its effectiveness hasn’t been proven. “The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity[tight or stiff muscles] from MS,” says Marcel Bonn-Miller, PhD, a substance abuse specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
As we’ve said, right now there aren’t many studies out there on the relationship between marijuana use and mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. However, there was a study done in 2017 which examined marijuana use in conjunction with the depression and anxiety symptoms in 307 psychiatry outpatients who had depression (Bahorik et al., 2017). The results of this study showed that “marijuana use worsened depression and anxiety symptoms; marijuana use led to poorer mental health functioning.” In addition, the research found that medical marijuana was associated with inferior physical health functioning.
A big part of the problem with using marijuana either medically or recreationally is that there is no way to regulate the amount of THC you’re getting in the product, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t oversee it. This means that both the ingredients and the strength of them can vary quite a lot. “We did a study last year [in 2016] in which we purchased labeled edible products, like brownies and lollipops, in California and Washington. Then we sent them to the lab,” Bonn-Miller says. “Few of the products contained anywhere near what they said they did. That’s a problem.”
Another area of concern is that, as we know from regulated psychiatric medications, one dose may affect you differently than it affects your sibling or a friend. People are unique – each person’s reaction to a medication will vary, which is why psychiatric medications are monitored by the prescribing doctor so that the dosage can be adjusted for your specific needs.
In summary, if you choose to use marijuana either recreationally or medically, be careful. Talk to the physician who authorized it, or speak with a mental health professional if you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of depression or anxiety, or if you have panic attacks that begin or worsen while you are using marijuana. Additionally, be sure your doctor knows your psychiatric history before they authorize medical marijuana for you, especially if you have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, experience panic attacks or have bipolar disorder or psychosis.
We can answer your questions about marijuana use and how it affects anxiety, depression, or other conditions. The mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida are here to help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.
Reference: Bahorik, Amber L.; Leibowitz, Amy; Sterling, Stacy A.; Travis, Adam; Weisner, Constance; Satre, Derek D. (2017). Patterns of marijuana use among psychiatry patients with depression and its impact on recovery. Journal of Affective Disorders, 213, 168-171).
Sometimes it isn’t easy to go through childhood. There’s a big, scary world out there and new activities or experiences can often bring up anxiety in children. But, what if there was a way for your child to experience a new scenario in a safe, nurturing way so they could reduce their anxiety before taking part in the activity? Enter virtual reality apps. The growing field of virtual reality therapy is combining cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and in-vivo exposure therapy in a fun way – on a powerful and engaging game-like platform that children can easily relate to.
The Children’s Center’s innovative Giant Leap app is great example of a high-tech solution that gives kids control over their fears. Giant Leap and other VR apps can be used in a variety of scenarios, such as:
For example, one child might be apprehensive about classroom interaction in school, while another may worry about an upcoming medical procedure, such as getting an MRI. Both kids could conquer their fears by watching exposure stories on the app, which will show them what to expect from the upcoming experience.
VR apps can also be used to manage behaviors and teach your child emotional regulation techniques. Featuring customizable avatars that can be configured to match your child’s hair color, style, and skin tone (and can even use a photo of your child), these entertaining virtual reality apps encourage independence and motivate kids through stories, videos, and flexible charts and reward systems.
Studies are showing that virtual reality apps amplify the areas of the brain that are related to attention and control. The result is that children:
Animated stories like the ones provided on the Giant Leap app gradually expose the child, via their avatar, to the scenario they are worried about (for example: visiting the dentist). Kids work through one scene at a time, at their own pace, until they are ready to move forward to the next one on their own. These meaningful, close-to-life scenarios offer immediate feedback, which greatly enhances the child’s ability to cope under stress.
Furthermore, positive behavior can be learned and reinforced through virtual reality apps and tailored to each child’s individual needs. Flexible programs allow parents to customize the app to their child’s specific activities and situations while encouraging routines and building life skills. By motivating and rewarding appropriate behavior, children learn to function independently, and gain powerful tools that lead to future success.
For more information about how virtual reality apps like our Giant Leap app can help with child anxiety treatment, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.
If someone has suggested that your child might benefit from a psychological assessment, you may be confused about the need for one and wonder what takes place during a meeting or evaluation with our child psychologists.
Children may be referred for a psychological assessment for a variety of reasons. Among other things, they may be depressed or anxious, have attention or behavior problems at home or in school, be subjected to bullying, or have a learning disorder. Often when kids are struggling in school or seem to be behind their peers developmentally, a counselor or teacher will suggest the child undergo a psychological assessment.
The results of this type of evaluation will reveal which areas the child is doing well in and which are the ones he or she might need to address (for example: an undiagnosed learning disability). Dr. Ryan Seidman, the Clinical Director here at the Children’s Center notes that, “Having your child evaluated can promote improvement in academic and emotional functioning.”
Assessments are done by specially trained child psychologists who are experts at what they do. These mental health professionals evaluate the child’s strengths and weaknesses, then work with parents and teachers to formulate an approach to help the child progress.
These evaluations aren’t intimidating the way an “actual” test can be. It is best if the child is relaxed during the assessment, so the evaluation isn’t a pass or fail test like the kind you would normally study for.
During a psychological assessment, the child psychologist will:
Psychological testing isn’t a quick evaluation. The assessment often takes several hours to complete and likely will involve more than one session to be certain the psychologist has all the details about a child. By putting all the information together, the child psychologist comes to an understanding of where a child needs assistance and can develop strategies to help the child reach their full potential.
When the testing is complete, the child psychologist will go over the results with the child’s parents. Keep in mind that the outcomes do not reveal 100% of a child’s potential, abilities or skills. Rather, the evaluation is used as a way to learn about the child’s “present functioning level” emotionally, in their school and home environments, how they learn, and their strengths and weaknesses.
The child psychologist will discuss areas in which the child does well and offer suggestions to help them improve in areas that need to be addressed. If the child is diagnosed with a learning disability, or a behavioral or emotional issue, recommendations will be made for ways to help the child manage that specific concern or problem.
By evaluating and understanding where the child has issues, child psychologists can provide positive coping strategies, reduce the child’s stress and enrich their competence and well being.
For more information about how our child psychologists can evaluate your child through psychological assessment, contact the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at (561) 223-6568.