Wednesday, January 6, 2016

WHAT TO DO IF.....

Welcome to our new blogging series which highlights parent concerns that are commonly brought to school social workers, and offers some tips for effective management of each issue.  Although, just like every child, every situation is unique -- there are approaches to some problems that are tried and true! We hope you find these entries to be helpful...


January, 2016
What do I do if my child does not want to come to school?

Students who consistently try to avoid going to school (either by putting up a big fuss, feigning illness, or any other delaying tactic) are demonstrating school refusal.  Elementary school students may dawdle in the morning, cry and cling to their parent or caregiver, or even actively refuse to move when confronted with entering the school.  Students may exhibit school refusal for many reasons, but the most common is separation anxiety – they do not want to leave the parent or caregiver. 


Students exhibiting school refusal must understand that you as the parent consider school attendance NON-NEGOTIABLE.  If you allow them to stay home one day because they are making a big fuss about going in, they will remember that and put up an even bigger fuss next time hoping it will work again.  This will become very tiresome and frustrating for you!

Here are some important steps to take if your child is exhibiting school refusal:


1. Talk to your child.  


Ask them why they do not want to go to school.  See if you can help them work out a solution to any problems they are facing at school.  If it is a separation anxiety problem, sending your child to school with a special item to remember you by can be helpful (a photo, perhaps).  Work out ways to spend quality time together at home.


2. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO STAY HOME.


Unless your child is sick, we highly recommend being very matter-of-fact about   school attendance and getting them to school on time every day.  Remember, you are the parent and you get to make the rules!  Help your child understand that this is a non-negotiable rule and the law requires they come to school unless they are sick. 


3. Talk to your child’s teacher.


The teacher knows a lot about what is going on in the classroom.  He or she may have some helpful insight.  In addition, the teacher can help with the morning transition and provide lots of positive reinforcement for showing up to school on time.  Some teachers allow students to come in a bit early if that helps with the transition, but not all teachers can offer this.


4. Better late than never!


If you have a hard morning with your child and you’re running late (even by hours!), we still want to see that child in school!  Let your child know that their teacher will be happy to see them, even if they’re late.

If over a sustained period of time your child is being physical (kicking, punching, pushing, etc.) or actively refusing to move, you need professional assistance.  At school, contact the child's teacher and the social worker.  Seeing an outside therapist could also be helpful, and there are programs to assist students exhibiting severe school refusal.

(Adapted from http://westgatesocialwork.weebly.com/your-child-doesnt-want-to-come-to-school.html)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Divorce

Divorce is a difficult time for a family and can impact a student in many ways.  When a family is experiencing change, the student may often internalize their feelings and begin to feel like separation and divorce is their fault.  It's important that the adults around them can listen and validate their feelings, answer any questions, and remind them that conflict between parents is not their fault. Divorce can be a tricky topic to talk about, so I have included a list of books and resources families can use to help their child have a better understanding of divorce and separation.  

Books
PreK - 1st Grade
"Dinosaurs Divorce" (1988) Marc Brown and Laurie Kwasny Brown
"Two Homes" (2003) by Claire Masurel

Grades 2-3
"At Daddy's on Saturdays"  (1987) by Linda Walvoord Girard.

Grades 4-5
"Don't Fall Apart on Saturdays" (2000) by Adolph Moser, Ed.D
"What in the World do you do when your Parents Divorce? A Survival Guide for Kids" (2001) by Kent Winchester and Roberta Beyer.

Grades 7-8 and beyond
"Divorce is not the End of the World: Zoe and Evan's Coping Guide for Kids" (2008) by Zoe and Evan Stern

...Many other titles can be found at your local library.

                                                            Non-Profit Counseling Referrals

Kenneth Young Center
1001 Rohlwing Rd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
(847) 524-8800

Elk Grove Township Youth Services
401 W Golf Rd
Mount Prospect, IL 60056
(847) 981-0373

Omni Youth Services
1111 W Lake Cook Rd
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089

Maine Center
819 Busse Highway
Park Ridge, IL 60068
(847) 696-1570


Other potential sources for referrals:
You may choose to consult with your child’s physician.
You may choose to consult with your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if offered at your place of employment.




Friday, December 12, 2014

Anxiety and the School Age Child

     Anxiety in children is common and can at times, be very difficult for families to navigate.  As adults, we often believe children should be at a worry-free stage in their life where they can make friends, negotiate play and relationships, and just simply enjoy school.  With the ever increasing demands of academic rigor as well as numerous extra-curricular activities, it's no wonder some of our children experience some social emotional difficulty as a result.  
     Recently, I happened upon an interesting article endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists on anxiety in children.  I have provided some of the highlights of the article below.  
     Huberty defines anxiety as: "Apprehension or excessive fear about real or imagined circumstances. The central characteristic of anxiety is worry, which is excessive concern about situations with uncertain outcomes. Excessive worry is unproductive, because it may interfere with the ability to take action to solve a problem. Symptoms of anxiety may be reflected in thinking, behavior, or physical reactions (2004)."
     Anxiety affects people of all ages and can manifest itself in different ways depending on the individual and their specific circumstance.  In order to understand anxiety, it is important to recognize the developmental stages in which anxiety is considered a developmentally appropriate part of growth.  The following table contains data adapted from the aforementioned article by Huberty (2004).


Child’s Age
Type of Anxiety Observed in Children of Typical Development
Seven to Nine Months
Stranger Anxiety - Where the child is observed as becoming upset in the presence of a lesser known adult.
12 to 18 Months (usually resolved by age 2)
Separation Anxiety - Where the child will become upset when the parent leaves, if even for a short while.
Preschool (Ages 3-4)
Fear of more concrete subjects such as: animals, the dark, imaginary figures (monsters under their beds), older children and adults.
School age (8 to 11)
Fear of more abstract topics such as: grades, peer reactions, coping with a new school, and having friends.

     When anxious symptoms become a regular pattern, are experienced at less developmentally appropriate stages, and are affecting our children in various areas of their lives (school, home, relationships etc), it is important to access support from your school social worker and/or your outside supports (such as a pediatrician or other community mental health professional).  Please don't hesitate to contact your school social worker or community mental health professional if you are seeing a long term pattern of one or more the following behaviors (adapted from kidshealth.org):

1) School refusal/resistance 
2) Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness. Their worries might cause them to miss school or avoid social activities. 
3) Excessive preoccupying thoughts about school, the health and safety of self or family.
4) Difficulty socializing with peers or speaking in front of a group due to the feeling of intense fear.
5) Panic attacks - sudden and intense physical symptoms that can include a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, or tingling feelings.

6) Post Traumatic Stress - Recurrent nightmares, flashbacks and/or avoidance of traumatic events that cause initial anxiety. 

For full access to these articles please visit 

For additional information on how to help your child conquer worry please visit 


Thank you! 
Mrs. Impastato



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Relationship Curriculum in Foundations!

Dear Parents and Guardians,
This fall, we are implementing a new program in our Foundations’ classes!  This program is called “Circles: Intimacy and Relationships Level 1.”  This program is video based and designed to teach our students about a variety of topics related to social skills and relationships.  It is our goal in Foundations to create a common language across classes and grade levels to help students identify different types of relationships, define appropriate actions and greetings for each relationship group, and help our students learn to tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. 
This program will be taught in each Foundations classroom as a whole group lesson as well as in smaller groups for the students who benefit from additional pre-teaching and practice.  Some topics have been modified to reflect age appropriateness (ex: removal of the handshake circle and the “sweetheart/boyfriend/girlfriend” lesson).

The system is broken into two parts:
1) Social Distance and 2) Relationship Building.
‘Circles’ includes the following colors:
·      Purple – My Private Circle. I am important. No one but me is in this circle.  No one is allowed to touch me without my permission. I am encouraged to say “Stop.”
·      Blue Hug Circle – My family.  Touch, Talk and Trust is reviewed.  In this group, my family might hug or kiss me.  My family will talk with me about my feelings and I may share thoughts with them that I may not share with anyone else.  I trust my family because they listen to me and care about me.
·      Green Faraway Circle - This circle is for friends.  I can give a “faraway” hug on special occasions.  These friends are not in my Blue Hug Circle.  Students at school are in my Green Faraway Circle.  I can ‘high five’ my friends.
·      Orange Wave Circle - This circle includes acquaintances who are too far away to ‘high five.’  Sometimes children may want to hug or kiss you, but you can say NO.  It’s best to wave to children.  They may not know as much as you so you have to show them what to do.
·      Red Stranger Circle - This circle includes people I don’t know.  Some people stay strangers forever.  You may talk about business with a stranger.  Other strangers do not talk to you or touch you.
                       
                                                    
Please talk to your children about the Circles.  As an at home activity, you can name people in each circle and how you should greet them.   For more information please visit their website at http://www.stanfield.com.

Sincerely,
Jamie Impastato, LSW
School Social Worker

Windsor School

Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year!!


Hello and welcome to a new year!! 
I hope you had a wonderful summer!
We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of students this Monday, August 25th.  We are looking forward to a new year that will bring new challenges to overcome as well as successes to celebrate.  With the start of a new year, he first thing that comes to my mind is student anxiety.  It can be tough to come back to school after a long and fun summer!  The schedule can be long and tiring, the work can be challenging, the friend groups are changing--it's no wonder our students can get so nervous!

Here are additional tips to help parents prepare their children for going back to school:
• If attending a new school, try to visit your child's school at least one week in advance. Let your child get familiar with classrooms, hallways and important offices such as the principal and the nurse.
• If possible, find out if there are any friends, relatives or neighbors in their class. Knowing a child and creating a buddy system makes the transition to move more smoothly.
• Do your homework: If possible, talk to the teacher, the nurse, the guidance counselor and the principal in advance. Show both your interest and your goodwill. Tell them of any concerns you have in regard to your children's health, and apprise them of any learning problems in advance.
• Start a bedtime schedule one week in advance of school so that your child gets at least 10 hours of sleep at night. As an adult, we know how cranky we get when we are tired, and so do our children. Remember that they don't have our coping skills.
• A 'safety first' attitude is a very important part of preparing for the first day of school. You want your children to know traffic safety as well as physical safety. Young children should know their name, how to spell it, their telephone number and the number of a safe and responsible adult that is designated by their parents. Teach your child the proper way in advance to deal with bullies by reporting them to either a teacher or counselor.
• Talk with your children about their feelings and invite them to participate in a conversation that gives them some sense of control. Never embarrass, discount or demean your children's feelings. Ask them how they would like to be helped in this transition -- what things parents can do and they can do as partners to make the first day of school a pleasant beginning. This is called the empathic process, and if you invest children in the discussion, they are more likely to follow a smooth outcome and go happily to school.
A little preparation before the big day can go a long way in easing your child's transition back to school. It is important to be honest with your children and tell them you will miss them too -- and that they will like school because it will give them new and exciting experiences. Be empathetic, be compassionate and be firm. Nurture your children, meet their needs and be reliable. You can't spoil your children with love.  (adapted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/backtoschool-preparation-tips_b_3654582.html).

If you find that your child is experiencing symptoms beyond the usual first day jitters, please do not hesitate to contact your child's teacher or myself for support.  We want the school experience to be a positive and successful one!  

Thank you and I am looking forward to working with you all!!

Jamie Impastato, LSW

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Summer is around the corner.....

Hello parents! 

With summer break approaching, I would like to pass on some ideas to keep your kids engaged with social emotional learning.  The summer can feel like a long time for kids, so why not incorporate some fresh ideas while promoting the emotional intelligence of your child.

1) Go to the library. There are so many books on social emotional topics such as identifying emotions, coping with feelings, problem solving peer conflict, bullying, self-esteem and so on.  If we keep our kids interested in stories that promote social and emotional growth, they will experience even more success in the fall when school starts again.  Some of my favorites are: The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz, When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really Really Angry by Molly Bang, and Hands are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi.  Check out the Arlington Heights Library for chapter books on social emotional topics for the older grades.


2) Talk to your kids every day.  Ask them to identify the "peak and valley" of their day either verbally or through drawing/writing.  These are highs and lows they can identify and share with you regarding their experiences that day.  Don't be shy to come up with yours as well.  Children need to see how adults react to both happiness and to stressful situations as well.

3) Get your kids involved. There are so many programs in the area you can look into for a variety of structured and social activities your child can participate in.  Day camps, sports, art classes, dance, music etc can really motivate your child and help them cultivate their talents/explore new things.

4) ...But don't involve them too much.  I realize this is contradictory, but it is important to maintain a balance.  Kids need to be kids - which means they have to learn how to entertain themselves when they are bored.  Down time is essential for brain and body growth.  

5) Countdown to school.  When August hits, prepare your child with how many weeks/days they have until school begins again by using a calendar.  Talk with them about their favorite things about school and what friends they will see.  When they are excited, they may be less nervous when the first day comes.

Happy Summer! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Everybody Counts Week!! Feb 18-21

Today, Julie Silva, Communications Social Worker, and Jamie Impastato, Windsor/Foundations social worker and co-facilitated the Communications & Foundations Parent Group today at Windsor.  Today's topic was about "Everybody Counts" week which takes place the week of February 18th.  Members from the PTA joined us as we discussed the purpose of "Everybody Counts" and ways to update the program to coincide with student needs.  On February 12th, the "Everybody Counts" committee will be holding a parent training from 9:30-11:00.  The parent training is for parent volunteers who want to help facilitate a topic in one or more grades.  The parents will learn how to teach the activities created for each grade level.

Kindergarten:  Focuses on Visual, Hearing, and Motor Impairments (Introduction)
First grade:  Focuses on Visual Impairments (Elaboration of Kindergarten topic)
Second grade:  Hearing Impairment
Third grade:  Learning Disabilities
Fourth grade:  Motor Impairments (Elaboration from Primary grades)
Fifth grade:  Medical-related needs such as Diabetes and Allergies, as well as discussion on Autism

Looking to the future...

There was a great discussion on integrating a wider-range of special needs such as speech delays, neurological disorders, sensory issues, and other areas that are not currently addressed in the "Everybody Counts" curriculum.  By addressing a wide-range of special needs, there will be a better connection amongst students to understand and identify real-life situations.