Children and Technology

How much screen time is too much for my child?
What are the signs that a child might be “addicted” to screen time and/or media and games?
How do I strike the right balance between beneficial screen time and harmful screen time?
Some good bullet points, or rules of thumb include:
1. Unplugging yourself, as children emulate their parents.
2. Designate “sacred time” to connect with your child.
3. Be intentional about exploring alternatives to technology as a family.
4. Schedule a healthy balance between technology use and other activities.
5. Create a productive role for your child to help build their confidence and sense of mastery.
6. Make time for your child to play outside.
7. Be conscious of working towards developmental milestones through touch, connecting, using fine and gross motor skills, being well rounded.
8. Become informed of the consequences of technology overuse, including attention/concentration difficulties, aggression, attachment problems, and social difficulties.

The following infographic is a helpful resource when thinking through the basics of how to manage screen time/media use with our children.

The Wired Child

Asperger’s Resources for Teens and Tweens

Identifying Asperger’s/High Functioning Autism in your child is a crucial first step. The next step is educating yourself and him/her about the strengths, challenges and frequently encountered difficulties that many of their peers with the disorder have faced and are facing. There are several resources that have recently come out, which offer insight into the experience of being a teen with Asperger’s Disorder.
Asperger’s Rules! How to Make Sense of School and Friends
The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome
Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence

ADHD is not a simple behavior disorder

ADHD was once widely understood and still is by some today, largely as a behavior disorder, where a child is “bouncing off the walls”, unable to sit still and pay attention in class, constantly interrupting others. However, as Dr. Thomas Brown points out, the more we learn about ADHD through research and science, “specialists are recognizing that it is a complex syndrome of impairments in the development of the brain’s cognitive management system, or executive functions.” The executive functions include the ability to:

• Organize and get started on
• Attend to details and avoid
excessive distractibility.
• Regulate alertness and
processing speed.
• Sustain and, when necessary,
shift focus.
• Use short-term working
memory and access recall.
• Sustain motivation to work.
• Manage emotions

In order to illustrate the complexity of the executive functions, Dr. Brown uses the metaphor of a symphony orchestra composed of talented musicians: “Regardless of their expertise, the musicians need a competent conductor who will select the piece to play, make sure they start at the same time and stay on tempo, fade in the strings and then bring in the brass, and manage them as they interpret the music. Without an effective conductor, the symphony will not produce good music. In individuals with ADD, the parts of the brain that correspond to the individual musicians often work quite well. The problem is with the conductor, with those executive functions that, in a healthy individual, work together to accomplish a task. ADD impairs neural circuits that function as the conductor of the symphony.”

Dr. Brown’s model of executive functioning (ADD/ADHD) is comprised of six core executive functions:
Activation – organizing, prioritizing, and activating for work.
Attention – focusing, sustaining, and shifting attention to tasks.
Effort – regulating alertness and sustaining effort and processing speed.
Emotion – managing frustration and modulating emotions.
Memory – using working memory and accessing recall.
Action – monitoring and self-regulating the pace of action.

Dr. Brown continues: “In daily life, these clusters of cognitive functions operate, often without our conscious involvement, in integrated and dynamic ways to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. They do not continually work at peak efficiency for any of us; everyone has difficulty with some of them from time to time. However, those diagnosed with ADD…are substantially more impaired in their ability to use these executive functions than are most other people of the same age and developmental level.”

10 Myths About ADHD

Dr. Thomas Brown, one of the leading researchers and clinicians in the field of AD/HD, identifies 10 myths about ADHD that are insightful and worthy of (focused) attention:

1. A person who has ADHD always has difficulty with executive functions such as focusing on a task and keeping things in mind, regardless of what they are doing.

2. If a person with ADHD really wants to focus and work effectively on a task they can make themselves do it. Using executive functions is just a matter of willpower.

3. Persons with high IQ are not likely to have executive function impairments of ADHD because they are smart enough to overcome such difficulties.

4. Executive function impairments of ADHD usually are outgrown when the person reaches their late teens or early twenties.

5. Modern research methods have established that executive function impairments are localized mainly in the prefrontal cortex.

6. Emotions and motivation are not involved in executive functions associated with ADHD.

7. The new model of ADHD as developmentally impaired executive function is completely different from the older model of ADHD.

8. ADHD-related executive function impairments are due primarily to a “chemical imbalance” in the brain.

9. For some individuals with ADHD, prescribed medications can cure their ADHD impairments so they do not need to keep taking the medication.

10. ADHD impairments sometimes last into early adulthood, but then they usually diminish before middle age.

Below is a link to Dr. Brown’s article on the topic, which includes detailed explanations as to why each of these myths are wrong.
10 myths about ADHD and why they are wrong

Who are the Millennials?

The Millenial generation are the youngest generation currently identified and although the age-range for Millennials is disputed, they are generally born after 1980 and include those in their teens, twenty-somethings, and those in their early thirties.

Are called “Millennials” because they are the first generation to come of age in the new

Are also called “generation Y”, as they followed “generation X”.

The Millennial “personality” is confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open
to change.

Are more ethnically and racially diverse, less religious than previous generations, less
likely to have served in the military, and are on track to become the most educated
generation in American history.

Their entry into careers and the job market has been drastically affected by the
Great Recession, but tend to be more upbeat than their elders about their economic
futures, as well as the overall state of the nation.

They are history’s first “always connected” generation, steeped in technology, social
media, and multi-tasking.

More than 8 in 10 say they sleep with a cell phone glowing by the bed and nearly 2
out of 3 admit to texting while driving.

They embrace multiple modes of self expression. 75% have created a profile on a
social networking site.

When asked what makes their generation most unique, Millennials identify: Technology
Use (24%), Music and Pop Culture (11%), Liberal/Tolerant (7%), Smarter (6%), and
Clothes (5%).

Only about 6 in 10 were raised by both parents.

When weighing their own life priorities, they (like older adults) place marriage
and parenthood far above career and financial success.

Aren’t rushing to the alter: only 21% are married now, half the share of their
parents’ generation at the same stage of life.

They generally get along with their parents and respect their elders.

All numbers and research taken from the Pew Research Center. For more detailed numbers and information see: Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next.

The Marshmallow Test and the importance of Self-Control: could you resist the temptation?

The classic Marshmallow Test (conducted at Stanford University in the 1960’s) sheds some light on how the ability to delay gratification and exert self-control is linked to the cognitive skill of concentrating on the good feelings that will come from achieving a goal despite frustrations, setbacks, and obstacles. In this experiment, children ages 4-6 years-old were placed in a small room with a marshmellow or other tempting food and told that they could eat the treat now or if they could wait for 15 minutes until the researcher returned, they could have two. About 1 out of 3 children were able to withstand the sweet temptation. Follow up studies conducted on these pre-schoolers found that those who were able to wait the 15 minutes were less likely to have problems with behavior, drug addiction or obesity, scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT, and had better life outcomes across the board.

Another study that examined childhood self-control and it’s outcomes followed a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to age 32. Findings from the study show that levels of self-control predict physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes. Effects of self-control were also shown to be independent of the effects of intelligence, social class, and mistakes made in adolescence. In another cohort of 500 sibling pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. The authors rightly conclude that interventions addressing self-control might reduce multiple societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity.

How will a psychological evaluation help me and my child?

5 foundational ways a psychological evaluation will help you and your child:

Provides CLARITY – it’s easy to make assumptions as to why our child is struggling in school, or why he is struggling to make or keep friends. Our assumptions and ideas may be right, but then again, they may not. A psychological evaluation helps sift through the hunches and foggy ideas about what “may” be going on, and provides clear, accurate, and detailed explanations of what is causing the child to struggle in a particular area.

Sets EXPECTATIONS – clearly understanding an individual and their struggles with clarity enables parents, teachers, coaches and friends to set realistic and appropriate expectations for the child. Assuming that someone is capable of something when they are not is a recipe for discouragement and low self-esteem. Often, an accurate diagnosis can help with providing clear guidelines for what can and should be expected from a child.

Helps develop a TREATMENT PLAN – it’s hard to treat a problem when your really not sure what’s wrong. It’s amazing how frequently people may begin to try and treat a problem before accurately understanding the problem. Treatment plans and interventions are most effective when developed around a thorough understanding of a client’s diagnosis, which is obtained from a good psychological evaluation. Treatment plans are often well crafted, but can miss the mark if there is misunderstanding surrounding the cause or nature of the problem.

Improves PARENTING – when a parent has clarity regarding what makes their child tick and is clear on what expectations are appropriate, they are in a much better place to know how to parent their child effectively. This enables them to set reasonable limits, provide adequate praise, and establish the correct amount of structure into their child’s life.

Prevents years of FRUSTRATION – having clarity, the right expectations, a solid treatment plan and the right support can have a dramatic effect on the development of any child, particularly, in the areas of: academic performance, social skills/relationships, confidence, self-esteem, level of motivation, and happiness. Struggling with an undetected problem for years can be a drain on anyone’s level of functioning and can create problems in all areas of life. Therefore, it is worth the time and effort to properly address the problem before the consequences become more difficult to manage.

What sets you apart as a therapist?

I frequently receive feedback from parents that I am able to make their child/adolescent feel comfortable and that their child enjoys working with me. It is particularly gratifying to work with children/adolescents and their families and to hear that I am making such an impact in their lives, whether its helping their child to overcome fears and anxieties, helping parents to communicate with and parent their children more effectively, or providing clarity regarding diagnostic issues such as ADHD, Asperger’s, and Learning DIsabilities. I offer a unique combination of insight and practical, straightforward communication.

What Does a Psychological Evaluation Consist Of?

There are five essential elements of a thorough psychological evaluation:

1. A review of the presenting problem. The presenting problem(s) is the reason the individual is seeking treatment or an evaluation. Examples of presenting problems include: difficulty with falling and staying asleep, poor organizational skills, frequently forgetful, depressed or sad most of the day, anxious or restless throughout the day, difficulty letting go of things, etc.

2. A psychological interview. The interview is where the psychologist gets to know the client personally and in-depth. A review of current symptoms, history of symptoms, and development are collected so that an accurate picture of the individual can be made. Questions are asked in the areas of family, social, medical, and work/school.

3. Psychological testing related to the presenting problem. Based on the information obtained in the presenting problem and comprehensive interview, the psychologist will then identify appropriate testing to obtain specific information about problem areas. Psychological tests typically consist of answering specific questions on standardized instruments. The tests selected may measure moods, personality, aptitude, pathology, skill, intelligence or ability.

4. A summary of the results and feedback session. The psychologist then pulls together all the information gained from the interview and testing to create a clinical picture of the client and generate appropriate diagnoses in four areas: identifiable psychiatric disorders, personality disorders, medical conditions which may be affecting mental health, and social/environmental problems. The summary also includes a Global Assessment of Functioning, which assigns a number. This summary is called a multiaxial assessment and is used to complete the recommendations and suggestions.

5. Recommendations and suggestions. The psychologist now creates a list of recommended interventions to address the problems identified in the multiaxial assessment. These recommendations are typically treatment interventions which have been shown through research and practice to effectively work on the problems identified. The psychologist will refer the patient to appropriate resources to obtain the interventions recommended. For example, if the psychologist has diagnosed the individual with bipolar disorder and recommended a medication consultation, he will likely refer the patient to a psychiatrist for medications. Sometimes, the psychologist will provide the treatment interventions himself—depending upon his scope of practice (e.g. using cognitive behavioral therapy in treating a client diagnosed with depression/anxiety).

Typically, a comprehensive psychological assessment report will be provided containing the five essential elements. The report may be used for: obtaining necessary services based upon particular diagnoses, collaborating with teachers and schools regarding services needed to address attention/learning concerns (typically called an IEP or 504 plan), for clarity and accuracy when dealing with multiple healthcare professionals (psychologist and a psychiatrist), and for the tracking of symptoms over time.