Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Anger Management

In my everyday practice, I see a lot of parents who struggle with anger. I don’t blame them. Having a child with special needs is very challenging, stressful and frustrating. But reacting out of anger only leads to more anger. Thus, this made me think about anger management.

We know that anger is a common emotion. Everybody feels angry from time to time. Different situations or people can make us angry. Even when we may not be able to change that situation or person, we can control our behaviors so we respond to the situation instead of reacting out of anger. The goal is to control and express anger in a positive, safe, appropriate and constructive way. Avoiding anger may not be realistic. Managing anger is the solution. 
In order to manage our anger it is important to know what situations make us angry, where the anger comes from, as well as recognize when the emotion is taking over.

Anger can be expressed in a destructive and hurtful way. Relations can be damaged or destroyed.  Jobs can be lost. Lives can be ruined. This is why it is necessary to develop effective anger management skills in order to promote peaceful and healthy environments and teach our children how to manage their anger too.

Identifying “anger triggers” for us and our child allows us to be equipped to respond in a positive manner. Common triggers are:

For us 
- Children's behavior
- Unexpected events
- Traffic jam
- Relationship problems
- Stress at work
- Health problems
- Financial problems

For children
 - Conflict with other kids
 - Peers rejection
 - Not getting their way
- Delaying gratification
- Waiting
- Being scolded or punished
- Being ignored

By paying attention to our body’s signs, we can “cool down” before losing control. Some signs are:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Tense muscles
- Sweaty palms
- Feeling warm
- Destructive thoughts
- Snapping at people
Children need help to understand and recognize their feelings of anger. Some signs are:
- Yelling or crying
- Throwing things
- Pulling out own hair
- Tightening fists and muscles
- Hitting self or others

I would like to share with you some ideas for “cooling down” in healthy ways:
For us:
- Exercising
- Taking deep breaths
- Time-outs: Removing ourselves from the person or situation that makes us angry
- Writing about feelings
- Going for a walk
- Sleeping/resting
- Talking to a friend or a professional

For our kids:
- Talking to an adult about their feeling: Instead of asking them to stop with the behaviors, open the door to talking, so they can learn a way to vent feelings appropriately
- Playing outside
- Removing them from the person or the environment
- Writing about their feelings
- Time-outs as a way of calming down (not as a punishment)

Anger can be expressed with words. Not communicating anger does not make it go away. It might build up and lead to an “explosion” later.
As we teach our kids effective anger management skills, they become more responsible, develop independence, and learn how to solve problems. 

Remember that our children learn by watching us coping with anger. They learn what they see, not what we tell them to do.

Good parenting involves modeling good behaviors. We have to know how to behave, so our kids will too.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA



Monday, March 11, 2013

Autism Screening Quiz

There are many early warning signs and symptoms of autism that can present in babies, some say as early as 6 months to one year old, though most children get diagnosed with autism-like symptoms closer to the age of 18 months when the signs become more apparent. Some of the early warning signs include:
• Impaired social interaction

• Problems with verbal and non-verbal communication

• Failure to respond to name

• Avoidance of eye contact with other people

• Repetitive movements such as rocking or twirling

• Self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging
With autism numbers on the rise (a CDC study shows that as many as 1 in 100 children have autism), it is only natural that paranoia may set in when it comes to signs of this baffling disorder whose cause is so unknown. How many of us haven’t felt that twinge of fear when your baby doesn’t respond to his name, or doesn’t say any words by the age of 12 months? How many parents have woken up panicked in the middle of the night and gone to the computer to Google the signs of autism? If you’ve ever worried that your baby may have autism but did not want to ask your pediatrician for fear of sounding like an over-worried parent, now there is a quiz you can take that will help you know if you really should ask a professional to evaluate your child.  According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, there are a number of things that parents, teachers, and others who care for children can look for to determine if a child needs to be evaluated for autism. This autism quiz asks about 'red flags' that could be a sign that a Pediatrician or other health professional should evaluate a child for autism or a related communication disorder.
But before you panic, keep in mind that other conditions can also cause these symptoms, that you have to consider what your child can do in an age appropriate manner (for example, a 6 month old likely won't respond to his name), and that normal children can have some of these symptoms and behaviors (like being independent, walking on her toes, or preferring to play alone).

Having one or more of these signs, symptoms, and behaviors should prompt a discussion with your Pediatrician to see if further evaluation needs to be done. If you have any doubt, you should never fear asking a professional for help. Countless scientific studies show that when caught at a young age, early intervention using the treatment methods of applied behavior analysis (ABA) are extremely effective at helping a child with autism lead a more typical life.

To start the quiz, click on the link:
Daniel Adatto, BCBA