Posts

LD Adolescent Independence

Julia Murphy, LMFT

Parents often come to me confused about whether or not assisting their LD child is in fact “enabling” him.  A further complication is that each parent may have a different opinion about this issue. Many 18-year-olds may be driving, holding down jobs or making appointments on their own, while these typical rites of passage may not apply to an LD teen, whose development is following a slower course.  These teens may have the emotional maturity of someone much younger.  Parents sometimes feel a renewed sense of fear and grief during this period that may trigger earlier feelings they had when their son or daughter’s learning difference was first detected. 

This was the case with one of my clients, the mother of a son who was diagnosed with Non Verbal Learning Disability and ADHD at age 5. She felt that over the years of his childhood, she had adjusted to her son’s strengths and limitations after the initial shock of his diagnosis when he was age 5, followed by what felt to her like stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. She had expended a lot of energy and effort along the way to support her son, having him evaluated periodically, finding educational therapists, occupational therapists and mentors. She also learned how to navigate the IEP process with an advocate who helped her get funding for a non-public school that could support his academic, social and emotional needs.  By the time he reached high school it seemed like life was fairly stable for her son and the family. He was on an effective medication regimen, was able to work more independently, and had finally found a small, steady group of friends.  She could finally relax a little. Although those high school years weren’t without their turbulence, it felt like nothing to her compared to the early years of acting out and hyperactivity both he and his family endured.

Then, as he began his senior year and friends were applying to college, taking the SATs and even finding part time work, a renewed sense of his being set apart and left behind entered her consciousness, especially when his friends came over to the house and she could sense the disparity between her son’s maturity level, accomplishments and abilities compared to his friends. As much as she resisted the comparison, so many early feelings came rushing back – fear, bitterness, grief, heart ache.  As painful as these feelings are, they are also natural. As parents, we want so much for our children to be happy, successful and fulfilled. On a deeper biological/primal level, we hope to ready them for survival after we are gone.

With therapy, this mother was able to recalibrate her emotions surrounding her son and his well-being and to remind herself to resist comparing him to others. She focused on what she could control – support, love and guidance – and managed, at least most of the time, to let go of expectations connected to comparing her son to other teens his age. Admittedly, this is not an easy task for a parent, but it is an important one to work toward. After all, launching a child is a major transition in the life of an entire family.  It may be a very emotional time even without the added worries that come with parenting an LD child.   

My word of advice is, to the best of your ability, honor your feelings but also resist comparing your teen to the “neurotypical” neighbor.  Talk your feelings out with a sympathetic therapist if need be.  In the end, your peace of mind and your child’s self esteem stands a better chance of remaining intact if you consider where your child’s independence and maturity level actually are, rather than where they “should” be. Also, bear in mind that brain and frontal cortex keep developing into the 20s and even 30s.  Many of these skills will develop over time, and learning disabled teens will reach independence with the right support and training.  In fact my mantra to sooth worried parents is the phrase “time is your ally.”  Remember it if you can.

The Promise of Nutritional Psychiatry

Julia Murphy, LMFT

Nutritional Psychiatry is an emerging field exploring the link between diet, brain function, and mental health. In simpler terms, it looks at how the food we eat impacts our emotional state. Current research data point to a healthy diet (ie: lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains) as prevention and treatment for depression, as well as adjunctive treatment for ADHD. Conversely, unhealthy diets (processed, fatty and sugary foods) are associated with mental health problems in children and adults across nations and cultures.

By now you’ve probably heard of the term “gut-brain” connection. Our bodies house a miraculous, intricate community of different, beneficial bacteria called the human biome. Healthy gut bacteria are responsible for nutritional absorption, as well as immune system support and modulation of the nervous system. What we eat impacts the health of the human biome, and, therefore, the health of our bodies and minds.

Dietary interventions at this early state of nutritional psychiatry research are recommended as complementary treatments that may alleviate mild depression and anxiety or help with ADHD. At this point, diet is not recommended as the anecdote to suicidal ideation or extreme mood issues, but the field holds a lot of promise for breakthroughs to come.

Helping Your Child Master Skills

The key is collaboration. Academic and social skills do not develop in a vacuum. They are the result of interactions between the child and his/her environment. Your child’s capacity to complete tasks independently occurs when skills have been mastered and external supports are no longer required. For example, complex academic assignments may overwhelm your child’s brain. She needs you to look at the task with her and collaboratively develop a plan for how the assignment or project will be executed. This means breaking the task down into steps, then creating timelines for each step to be accomplished. You might also have to work with your child to actually complete the steps. The idea here is not to do the work for your child but to do it with her. This collaboration will enhance his learning, while also helping her develop the organizational and planning skills necessary to eventually mange the work on her own.

What’s on My Mind (Psychology Peter Murphy)

Interesting read about new field of nutritional psychiatry:

 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

Recommended: New Book on Learning Disabilities

“Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities” by Daniel Franklin, Ph.D. My good friend and colleague, Dr. Daniel Franklin has just come out with a new book for parents on how best to help their children with challenges like Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD and processing disorders. Dr. Franklin, who has been in education for over 30 years, is founder of Franklin Educational Services, which provides individualized school support services for students of all ages and needs. Franklin helps parents discover how a secure relationship between them and their child can optimize the child’s learning ability by enhancing motivation, reducing anxiety, and increasing flexibility. The book also contains practical strategies for navigating school and home life. I highly recommend it. For more information go to https://www.franklined.com/

Summer Support

Summer’s a good time to get a little extra support for your learning disabled high schooler. In addition to therapy services, we can pair your teen with a college grad/ mentor who will steer your child toward college readiness. We’ll tailor our program to fit your child’s needs. Some services we offer include:

  • Academic tutoring
  • Help with organization and planning
  • Shoring up life skills and independence
  • Nutrition and exercise regimes

Call or email for more information: Julia@MilestoneMentoring.com  *  Julia Murphy (818) 388-1526

The ABCs of Learning Challenges (Part 2)

Academic Skill Deficits

1. Dyslexia, or reading difficulties, effects about 80% of children with learning challenges.

  • They may have difficulty decoding words, reading fluently, as well as comprehending text.
  • Writing may also be difficult, which includes organizing thoughts, putting ideas into sequence and using grammar, punctuation and spelling appropriately.

2. Dyscalculia, or difficulty with math, is also common among children with learning challenges.

  • This may include difficulty with mental math, transposing digits, failing to line up numbers properly in an equation or omitting steps in a math problem.

Fortunately, there are strategies and accommodations that will help your child cope with his or her learning challenges, including implementing the right modifications and accommodations at school to help him learn, supporting the development of his interests and strengths, helping him understand his challenges, and providing him with support and understanding.

The ABCs of Learning Challenges (Part 1)

  • Most children with learning differences are affected by multiple challenges.
  • Learning challenges often surface when there is a mismatch between the child’s abilities and the demands of the environment. For example, an academic curriculum may be accelerated beyond the developmental level of the child (or many of the children) in a particular classroom.
  • People with verbal learning disabilities have difficulty with words, both spoken and written
  • People with non-verbal learning disabilities may have difficulty processing abstract concepts, abstract reasoning and conceptualizing concepts.
  • visual processing or perceptual disorder refers to a hindered ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes.
  • An auditory processing disorder interferes with a person’s ability to make sense of information taken in through the ears.

(To be continued)

Poets Who Inspire: Mary Oliver

 

What follows is a moving poem by Mary Oliver called The Journey, which may be an inspiration to those of you facing a period of great change or difficult decision making.

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice —

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

(Mary Oliver)

Divorce Support Groups

We’ve added Divorce Support Groups to our menu of services. Led by Tara Boerner, LMFT and Julia Murphy, LMFT.

1. Begin Again: A Healing Group for Women

This group will meet Wednesdays 1-2:30 pm in our Tarzana offices. An initial assessment is required for admission.

2. Helping Teens Cope with Divorce

These groups will meet 1x/week for 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon or early evening. Members will be grouped separately according to age: 13-14, 15-17, 18+.

Contact: Julia Murphy, LMFT 818-388-1526 or Email: Info@MurphyPsychologyGroup.com

tara_058           Julia

Tara Boerner, LMFT             Julia Murphy, LMFT