Services for Children and Teenagers age 12-13+ and their Parents
Parents can feel helpless when their children struggle with learning, social or emotional problems. Children and teenagers with learning difficulties such as ADD/ADHD, Learning Disabilities, and Vision Impairment face more challenges than just poor grades.
Children who face such difficulties frequently experience anger, demotivation, depression and anxiety. The child may suffer from years of bad grades, negative teacher evaluations and parental attempts to help that get interpreted as criticism. The end result can be low self-esteem, poor self-image, further social struggles, getting in trouble with the authorities and increased vulnerability to peer pressure and potential drug and alcohol abuse.
With the right kinds of assessment, treatment, support and guidance, children and teenagers can create happy and successful lives for themselves. "Research increasingly supports the idea that emotional and physical health are closely linked and that psychotherapy can improve a person's overall health. There is convincing evidence that most people who have at least several sessions of psychotherapy are far better off than individuals with emotional difficulties who are untreated. One major study showed that 50 percent of patients noticeably improved after eight sessions, while 75 percent of individuals in therapy improved by the end of six months." (apahelpcenter.org, 2008).
I find that teenagers commonly need help in the following areas:
1. Self-esteem: Feelings of worth and personal value, belief in yourself and self-confidence. Developing insight and learning to use your inherent talents for emotionally reading and interacting with others.
2. Academic: Motivation, organization, and skills to manage ADHD, LD, etc.
3. Maturity: Developing personal responsibility, transitioning from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, earning privileges and freedom.
4. Assertiveness: Effective assertiveness, negotiation, conflict resolution getting needs and wants met (as opposed to meltdowns, anger, storming off, etc).
5. Emotional self-regulation: Managing anxiety and expression, learning to interpret emotions and use them as a source of knowledge and strength. Owning your feelings and increasing your power.
What a parent (often seen by the child as "the bad guy") needs is an experienced, effective guide who has the education, training, and experience to offer concrete, supportive assistance to both parent and child. Such guidance can help parents avoid the 7 Critical Mistakes people make when dealing with learning and performance impaired children.
As a therapist with a doctorate in psychology, a master's degree in education, and years of training and personal experience with facing and overcoming these challenges, I am uniquely positioned to help children, teens and their parents. I offer effective strategies, comforting insights and practical solutions that can help turn things around.
My services and approaches:
2. Coaching & Guidance
3. Self-Esteem Building
4. Teaching methods for controlling anxiety, impulsivity, managing stress and
acquiring emotional self-control.
5. Assertiveness training
6. Conflict Resolution skills development
7. IEP and Education meeting participation
These services are effective, but the secret ingredient is that I understand ADHD, LD, Vision Impairment, Sleep Dysfunction and many of the associated emotional experiences from the inside because I have experienced and overcome many of them myself. Therefore, I can offer children, teenagers, and their parents many of the proven, real-world solutions that have worked for both myself and my clients. In my experience, with the right treatment, almost every child or teenager improves some amount and, in some cases, the improvement is amazing.
What follows is a brief review of some statistics that describe the problems associated with learning disabilities, social difficulties, and related emotional problems. (This information can be found in my dissertation). Lastly, I have included a statement of my personal philosophy that helps to guide my work as a clinician. Keep in mind that LD, or Learning Disabilities, refer to students who struggle with learning for one or more reasons. Vision impairment and ADHD may not technically be counted as learning disabilities, but they probably should be since they can profoundly affect learning and school performance. Similarly, emotional difficulties like anxiety and depression or low self-esteem and perfectionism are not typically considered learning disabilities. However, these conditions definitely affect everything from a child's available attention span and motivation to his or her ability to store and recall information effectively and persevere through difficult work.
What is a Learning Disability?
The term learning disability "is broadly used to describe a heterogeneous group of deficits. Persons with LD have specific and severe impairments in one or more academic areas. Federal guidelines currently recommend that a diagnosis of LD be based on the severe discrepancy between scores that measure ability (i.e., IQ) and achievement in one or more of the following academic areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, math calculation, and mathematics reasoning." (U.S. Department of Education, 1997; Martinez & Semrud-Clikeman, 2004, Paragraph 4). The truth is that most people never outgrow a learning disability; they merely adapt as best they can to lead the best life possible (Psychology Today Staff, 2005). It is estimated that between 2% and 10% of the population are learning disabled (LD) (Gans, Kenny, & Ghany, 2003). That indicates a range of anywhere from 5.4 million to 29 million people with LD in this country alone at any given time.
Education and Life-Success Problems
The educational outcomes of LD students are negative when compared to their non-LD counterparts. More than 27% of children with learning disabilities drop out of high school compared to 11% of the general student population (National Center for Learning Disabilities, 2004). Wagner, Newman, D'Amico, Jay, Butler-Nalin, Marder, & Cox (1991) found that within 2 years of graduating from high school, 14% of LD students had entered post-secondary schooling (schooling after high school) compared to 53% of students without LD. At the 5 year mark, those numbers increased to 31% for LD and 68% for non-LD students. Post-secondary schooling includes a wide array of educational services, including vocational programs, colleges, and universities. When only four-year universities are examined, the rates for LD students drop to between 1.3% and 3% attendance (Hall, Spruill, & Webster, 2002). Clearly, there is a significant gap between LD and non-LD students in the rates at which they succeed in education. The difference in education is huge: The average American with a college diploma still earns about 75% more than a worker with a high-school diploma and is less likely to be unemployed. (From Wall Street Journal, On-Line, July 2008)
Learning impaired children have been found to have problems that extend beyond school performance. (Dyson 2003; Lewandowski & Barlow, 2000; and Pearl & Bay, 1999) found that children and adolescents with LD are particularly vulnerable to having social, emotional, and behavioral problems. In fact, an estimated 40% of DVI-LD individuals experience psychosocial problems (Cosden, 2001; Kavale & Forness, 1995/1996), and children with learning problems typically exhibit a higher rate of psychosocial maladjustment than do their non-learning-disabled peers (Pearl & Bay, 1999; Martinez & Semrud-Clikeman, 2004).
Peer and Social Problems
The phrase "psychosocial problems" is another way of saying difficulties that originate inside the individual and negatively affect his or her interactions with others. Children with LD are frequently described as depressed and withdrawn (Gans, Kenny, & Ghany, 2003). Mishna & Muskat (2004) cite additional studies that indicate that students with LD "report more symptoms of depression and anxiety, lower self-esteem, and greater loneliness" (Margalit, 2003/2004; Svetaz, Ireland, & Blum, 2000, Paragraph 3). Further, that LD students are "over-represented with substance abuse problems (Cosden, 2001)"; that the school dropout rate of students with LD is higher which puts them at social and economic risk; that approximately 25% to 30% of LD students experience peer rejection compared to 8% and 16% of non-LD peers, and that LD students are more likely to be bullied by peers.
More information of the kind described above can be found and all of it demonstrates the reality that children with learning and emotional difficulties are at a significantly higher risk for negative life outcomes than their non-learning or emotionally troubled peers. The bottom line is that struggles at school, home and in relationships leave ADHD, LD and emotionally distressed children and teens feeling bad about themselves. This, in turn, leads to discouragement, negativity, and even the fear of trying new things. The result becomes a self-fulfilling cycle of failure and despair. I work with young people to break this debilitating pattern and help the child develop a forward and upward trajectory.
"My personal philosophy is that ADD/ADHD, learning impairments, anxiety and depression do not have to rule your life. They make many aspects of life more difficult, but they are not insurmountable obstacles. The key is to recognize that while some things come harder for you, you can still succeed by understanding your strengths and using them effectively. Focusing on your strengths, using the supports around you and developing your resiliency can all lead to the improvement you seek. The value of resiliency, or mental toughness, cannot be underestimated. As Bruce Lee once said, "it is okay for a man to get knocked down 8 times as long as he gets up 9." Focusing on the positive qualities of each client is an essential part of treatment. I do my best to help people learn to use their minds and actions to become the positive, successful and authentic people they have always wanted to be. When I see a client's self-confidence rise as he or she accumulates achievements and meets personal goals, I am thankful that this is what I get to do for a living."
Dr. Aaron Goldner, PsyD, LP 2008
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