Knowledgeable & Compassionate Evaluation and Counseling Services

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  Contact : (970) 889-8204

Does My Child Have a Learning Disability?

Does My Child Have a Learning Disability?

What Are the Signs of a Learning Disability? Where Are the Resources?

So, your child is struggling with school. Her handwriting is scattered and illegible, he has difficulty remembering math facts, he hates reading out loud, and she has a hard time getting her thoughts out on a page. Many children with learning disabilities are incredibly bright. There are just these unique obstacles and challenges that make their learning styles harder to understand. So, here are a few signs that may point to your child having a learning disability:

  • Mispronouncing words (e.g., “ospital” or “pithostel” instead of “hospital”)
  • Word substitutions (e.g., “The man grew a fuzzy, long ‘board.'”)
  • Poor spelling and handwriting
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty following instructions after repeated prompts
  • Difficulty copying shapes, letters, and words
  • Letter and word reversals  (“b” instead of “d”, “was” instead of “saw”) after age 7

How Can I Be Sure My Child Has a Learning Disability?

There is plenty of anecdotal information everywhere. Teachers can give clues, and can point to areas of concern. Blogs and web articles can give a lot of information generally, which can at least provide a better understanding of what may be going on. But the best way to know for sure is to have a diagnosis from a clinician. The best way to receive a diagnosis is to have your child undergo a psychological evaluation. It is otherwise known as a neuropsychological assessment, psychoeducational evaluation, or something similar. An evaluation by a specialized clinician provides clarity and a clear path forward.  If you think an evaluation can be helpful, then ask your child’s Primary Care Physician if they believe an evaluation for a learning disability would be helpful.

What Resources Are There?

There’s plenty of information online, but many parents feel overwhelmed and helpless with all that information. What we have found is that parents need specific recommendations and resources for their children. Instead of sending parents out to search for themselves, we compiled a list of helpful resources to consider. So, follow these recommended links if you would like practical recommendations and helpful tools for parenting and teaching children with a learning disability:

We’re Here to Help!

Our clinicians specialize in assessment of learning disorders at our offices in Fort Collins. With our comprehensive approach and in-depth analysis of results, we can “get-at” just about anything. Feel free to give us a call and learn how counseling or a psychological evaluation could be helpful or to schedule an appointment. You can reach us at (970) 889-8204 or contact@coloradocac.com.

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5 Life Changing Values For a Healthy Family

5 Life Changing Values for a Healthy Family

5 Life Changing Values for a Healthy Family

When parents call our office in Fort Collins to schedule counseling or a psychological evaluation for their children, they often feel helpless, frustrated, confused, and at the end of themselves. While their focus is on the health and well being of the children experiencing certain challenges, their own health and the health of their family life gets lost or put off. But more often than not, the change a child needs begins with their family.

Our practice works to maintain open communication between our clinicians and our client’s parents. Our counselors schedule regular “check-ins” with parents as is appropriate for on-going support for their children. For the clients seeing us for psychological evaluations, we usually schedule 1/3rd of the allotted time for a child evaluation for direct conversations and support with their parents.

There are plenty ideas and goals for parenting specific types of challenging children, especially children with ADHD, autism, anxiety, or depression. But what if the goal was different? What if you made changes that benefit the whole family? And what if these changes automatically help the members of your family experiencing challenges? So, instead of providing tips for parenting children with specific issues, here are 5 life changing values that will bring health and happiness for your entire family:

1. When You’re Calm, They’re Calm

Children pick up on everything. The emotions they pick up affect them far more deeply and profoundly than it does adults. If you find yourself anxious, fearful, angry, or stressed, most likely your child has noticed it too. Whenever a child experiences a parent’s anxiety, it causes a reflexive response. Whether that is “fight or flight,” hoarding, repression, or obsessive behaviors, children will react to and learn from their parent’s anxiety. If you are able to separate yourself from the moment and come down from those feelings of anxiety, your children will regulate themselves to you.

2. Rest and Simplicity Are a Top Priority

If your world feels chaotic and full of activity, most likely your child feels the same way. When there is constant activity and drive, children have a greater difficulty switching to times of rest, they struggle with sleep, and struggle with focus and attention.

Have you ever had your child simply collapse with exhaustion in the middle of an errand? Or has your child had an emotional breakdown at the end of a long day? These are moments when children have pushed themselves to their limits of good behavior, positivity, and energy. They are done.

If you schedule regular and purposeful downtime for yourself and your children, you will find that their behaviors and mood swings start to even out. Also, if you simplify the schedules and activities of your family, family life becomes easier. You may not have everything completed at the end of the day, and your children may not participate in every extracurricular activity, but you will have your child.

3. Emotions Aren’t Facts

Remember this when feelings are strong, and conflict is hot, or when passivity has glued you to the couch. If you give yourself and your family members the space to think, choices and actions turn out for the better. Few people make good choices when they’re furious. And few people do the necessary work when their emotions tell them to give in. With time, we can learn to see the difference between what we feel in the moment, what we value, and what we know to be true. And when we see things clearly, we can make better choices.

4. Everyone Is On The Same Team

No matter how it feels, what’s been said, or how your family has related in the past, everyone has to be on the same team. This means that arguments don’t end with one person being right and the other being wrong. Rather they end with clarity as to what would be best for the family. Relationships will always be challenging. But the challenges become harder when people have opposing agendas and desires. If you take the time to figure out what core values you and your family believe, decisions become easier. Also, if you work toward having everyone on the same page when it comes to the big things, the smaller things get worked out.

Now, the idea of having everyone on the same page can be difficult in blended families, co-parenting after divorce, long distance parenting, and other unique arrangements. So, have less on the page and simplify where you can. Figure out what are the most important issues everyone can agree on and stick with them.

5. Help Is Always Available When You Ask

You’re never as alone as you may think you are. All it takes is reaching out honestly and finding the right support. Some parents look into counseling for the whole family. Other parents make space for each member of the family to have some kind support. The risk is taking the first step and finding help. Whether that’s reaching out to coworkers, social networks, googling, or having conversations with family and friends, support and help is often available when you need it.

 

The Colorado Center for Assessment & Counseling provides support for children and parents in need of counseling and therapy. We also offer psychological evaluations for adults and children. Please reach out to us to learn how our services can be a help, or schedule an appointment. You can reach us at (970) 889-8204 or contact@coloradocac.com.

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Sleep Solutions for Children with ADHD

Five Sleep Solutions for Children with ADHD

Children with ADHD often struggle with sleep. This is no surprise to the many exhausted parents. You’ve tried everything. You sang songs, read books, and sat outside the bedroom door as your child remained awake for hours. As a last resort, many parents use sleep medications meant for adults on their children. Sadly, those medications can actually disturb a child’s sleep. Instead of struggling to fall asleep at 8 p.m., your kiddo could be wide awake at 3 a.m. Fortunately, the strongest supports to a child’s regular and healthy sleep are pretty straightforward. Here are five sleep solutions for children with ADHD and anxiety disorders:

Commit to a Pattern (No Matter What!)

Children do best when they go to bed at the same time, the say way, every single night. Having leniency on weekends or vacation days, while seeming like a small tweak, just makes the weekdays all the more difficult. So think of what would actually work for your child, and stick to the pattern. The adjustment at the beginning will be a struggle (you will have to fight for it), but the result will be peace in the house and a well rested child.

Dark and Distraction Free Bedrooms

A singular tiny sliver of light coming from the window or the light from a bedside clock can keep your little one up. Anything with a screen or a flashing light (no matter how small it may seem) is just unhelpful for children with ADHD. Consider blackout curtains and facing the bed away from the light of doors. Also, while light can be an issue, so can noise (or the lack of noise). Consider investing in a white noise machine or a small fan to block out all the little distracting noises one can hear at night. We recommend the Marpac Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine (affiliate link).

Deep Breathing

Try sitting in bed with your child and show him how to relax simply by breathing. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and exhale slowly for 6 seconds. This slows the heart rate, focuses your child’s mind on one thing (breathing), and switches his body into sleep mode. Here’s a simple image to remember: “Smell the rose, now blow out the candle.”

Tangible Items and Rewards

Take a clock and color in the hours that your child needs to stay in bed. Any kind of visual clues give instant clarification of your expectations. Also, praise and rewards strengthen the pattern far more effectively than punishment. Make a morning of uninterrupted sleep a celebration. Tell her how proud you are, and ask if she feels so much better.

Take the Pressure Off

Remember, your child is tired, so his coping skills are down. You know how it’s hard for you to sleep when you’re stressed about work? It can be like that for your child every night. But If you take the pressure off of him and off of you, you can alleviate the intensity of bedtime. Try saying, “You don’t have to go to sleep right away, but I’d like you to try being still and closing your eyes.”  Also, it helps if there is a safe outlet for your child to work out his thoughts before bed. Having some one-on-one time before bed can be a great outlet for your child to share the things that cause her anxiety. Share a simple calming phrase your child can repeat when those anxious thoughts pop up. It can be as simple as: “I’m okay, I’m loved, everything will be okay” or it can be a prayer, a mantra, or a quote from her favorite book. Consider giving your child a journal to write in just before bed.

Rest easy, parents – most of the time, sleep difficulties are a developmental phase. It will get better!

Our clinicians specialize in assessment and treatment of ADHD at our offices in Fort Collins. Feel free to give us a call to learn how our services could be helpful or to schedule an appointment. You can reach us at (970) 889-8204 or contact@coloradocac.com.

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Anxiety at school

Dealing with School Anxiety

The homework load, the social pressures, standardized testing, all of these and more can cause your child to experience anxiety in school. While some stressors can be helpful (meeting deadlines, learning organization, understanding teamwork), too much stress will backfire and produce levels of anxiety that can be harmful. Suddenly the thought of a bad grade can produce outright terror of failing in life. Read on for practical info and solutions for school anxiety.

How is School Anxiety Different?

The school day as most children experience it is a microcosm of several societal environments crammed into one thing we call “school.” There is daily work, developing relationships and friendships, time management, intense learning, understanding authority, and navigating personality changes. All of these monumental and critical areas of life we navigate throughout our lives all occur simultaneously at school. Your child has to remember her Chemistry test while figuring out where to sit at lunch, who to sit with, and how she is going to have time for English homework after basketball practice. All of this happens in the mind of a 14-year-old middle schooler.

Catastrophizing!

Perhaps you have experienced this with your children: You’re driving home from school and she’s dead quiet. When you ask how was school, or how was her day, you get a frustrated sigh and then she releases all of this information and panic all at once. It might sound like this:

“I think I failed my test. Ms. Beckett says the test counts for 40% of the total grade. I got a C- last week, and if I get an F this week, I might fail English. If I don’t pass English this year, I’ll have to retake it next year and then I’ll be behind. I haven’t even started on my report, and I don’t see the point if I’m going to screw it up like everything else. I’m going to flunk 9th grade! I won’t get into college! And my life will be over!”

While this might be a bit extreme, this line of thought is common in children experiencing school anxiety. This is “catastrophizing.” It starts with a belief of a negative outcome, and from that negative outcome, every other possible negative outcome follows until they arrive at a catastrophe based in a false negative reality. One negative line of thought results in a belief that says, “My life will be over!”

Finding A New Perspective

The biggest challenge to overcoming catastrophizing is finding ways to bring in good, true, and helpful perspectives to your child. The trick is finding the right time and place to do it. When your child is anxious, her brain is NOT in a place to be rational. You wouldn’t try to reason with an animal caught in a trap, right? That’s basically your kid in the middle of a school freakout. This is where it is helpful to just be present, not judge or react, and ask gentle questions rather than convince your child she’s fine.

A hug can go a long way. Or just sitting with your child and listening. A simple,”That sounds super stressful” can be helpful. Once she’s somewhat calm, questions like: “What do you think can help you right now?” and “What do you think is most likely to happen?” can help your child slow down more and think clearly. When emotions are high and the anxiety is strong, negative thoughts fly fast. But if your child has an opportunity to come down from all that energy and think, the catastrophes tend to become manageable.

If your child is struggling with anxiety and tends to catastrophize, it can be helpful to teach her to ask herself these three questions:

  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • What’s the best case scenario?
  • What is most realistic?

 

Now, don’t try to have her answer those questions in the moment of her anxiety; give her some space, wait for things to calm down, and then ask her these questions. Eventually, your child will be able to think through the situation, have clarity of mind to see things differently, and then have a more reasonable outlook on school or whatever is causing this kind of anxiety.

Oftentimes, the anxiety and stress of school can be overwhelming for our students and in turn for our entire families. Sometimes it helps to discover new ways to navigate and understand anxiety. Counseling can be a simple conversation with someone on your side, who’s there to listen and understand, and provide support. We offer counseling services for students experiencing stress in school at our offices in Fort Collins. Call our offices today or email us to schedule an appointment for you or your child. (970) 889-8204; contact@coloradocac.com

Resources:

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The Power of Positive Self-Talk

The Power of Positive Self-Talk

One of the most common struggles I recognize in my clients, or humans in general, is the difficulty in maintaining positive self-talk. Self-talk is our internal dialogue. We speak to ourselves more often than others may speak to us. We have conversations about what we may need to do that day or noticing something within our daily interactions. There may often be conversations or comments about other people (good and bad), but we also have conversations and comments about ourselves (good and bad).

When our conversations and comments within ourselves tip the scale toward the negative side, we often find ourselves feeling anxious, sad, angry, depressed, fearful, or disgusted. This may be related to our character or our body image or even ruminating on mistakes from the past.

One of the things I try to remind my clients is that this is a normal part of human existence. As far as I can tell, everyone struggles with some low self-esteem or negative self-talk from time to time. Our world is created to make mistakes and to have failure a part of our existence. However, it is important to find ways to change those conversations, to begin to notice and emphasize our astounding and unique qualities; to praise ourselves. I have found in my work (personally and professionally) that often times we forget some of the “simple” ways we can increase our self-esteem and our self-talk. It can be helpful to be reminded, as well as, implement changes into our internal dialogue if we feel that the conversations we are having with ourselves are no longer motivating or making us feel good. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if our internal dialogue is what is causing our emotional symptoms, which is another post.

Through my experience as a therapist, I have come up with a few “simple” strategies to implement in our daily lives to help increase our positive self-talk. Here are 7 ways to improve your internal dialogue.

1. Be honest with yourself

We are talking honesty, not negativity. It is important to identify the facts about ourselves in order to have full honesty. To be honest means that you recognize the strengths and limitations. Honesty also allows us to see the limitations in the most realistic way to help create change. For example: “I am really great at being compassionate, but sometimes I have trouble holding onto the past”.

2. Fact check yourself

Just like with most data, facts are necessary to help educate ourselves and to arm us with the best information possible. When our internal dialogue is telling us how bad we are, the facts we acquire can help us fight those internal thoughts and debunk the myths about ourselves. For example: “I do everything wrong”. Fact: “I do somethings wrong, but I also do somethings right like…”

3. Practice heathy self-care

Self-care is important for everyone. Healthy self-care is knowing where your boundaries are, being self-aware with your energy level, and practicing different tools to rejuvenate yourself. Examples include taking bubbles baths, going for a nature hike/walk, enjoying a hot beverage (tea/coffee), meditating for an extended period of time, petting an animal, playing with your children, going to the gym, or journaling.

4. Ask for feedback

If you are particularly struggling with a certain thought or a past mistake, it can be helpful to ask a friend, family member, or someone you trust for their feedback about their interpretation of the issue. Sometimes it can be helpful to hear another person’s point of view that you trust; it helps us get out of our own heads and see things in a different light.

5. Meditate or create quiet time

Meditation or prayer can often be a place where people find forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance within themselves. Contrary to what pop culture shows us, meditation does not have to be sitting in nature, sitting with our legs crossed, and for hours at a time (although that’s great too!). A simple 2-20 minute meditation can do the trick and you can do this sitting or laying in your bed. There are a lot of different apps out there for this, but my favorite is Calm.com.

6. Do daily affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements we say about ourselves. The more positive statements we say about ourselves, the better we become at self-talk. One of the most common worries I hear from my clients is “what if I say too many positive things that I then become too confident or arrogant?” My response is usually “we often fear of becoming something that isn’t in our nature to become.” Meaning, if you are someone who struggles with positive self-talk, the likelihood of you becoming too confident and arrogant is low. This is often something we say to ourselves to place a barrier from doing it (due to legitimate and normal concerns or fear). An example of a positive affirmation looks like: “I am strong,” “I am capable,” “I am really good at making people laugh,” or “I am proud of myself for being confident.”

7. Seek support if it becomes too hard

If at the end of the day, you feel that the tools you have tried have failed or if you feel like you need some extra support in this area, seek support from your friends, family, church community, neighborhood, colleagues, or even a therapist. You are worth the time and dedication in making your self-talk positive and motivating, not negative and limiting. Invest in yourself and let us know if we can help in any way.

Alyssa Wright, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Fort Collins, Colorado. She specializes in counseling with tweens, adolescents, and young adults struggling with identity, self-esteem, parent/family relationships, substance abuse, trauma, and anxiety. To schedule an appointment or consultation with Alyssa, call (970) 889-8204 or email us at contact@coloradocac.com.

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Anxiety at work

Anxiety at Work

Seven Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety at Work

Having an anxiety disorder can impact one’s work and social life in a major way. Getting stressed out at work is perfectly normal. But when the anxiety is irrational, and you’re stuck feeling overwhelmed on the job, it may be time to make some changes. The difficulties can come from many areas, but we see these things most often in our practice:

  • Meeting deadlines and staying productive
  • Interpersonal relationships (fitting in)
  • Conflicts with management
  • Sudden problem solving

Sound familiar?

While the challenges are real, the good news is there are strategies that can help you stay productive, stay engaged, and work through anxiety. Here are seven strategies for overcoming anxiety at work.

1. Talk It Out

Most people don’t feel safe or comfortable discussing stress with their employers and coworkers. They fear if they do, they would either not be taken seriously or they would get passed over for promotions. So many people keep things hidden instead of looking for help. As we all know, that just doesn’t work.

If you find a trusted coworker, just ask for help. You can always return the favor. Sometimes, simply knowing that there is someone with you who accepts you and your condition can be all the comfort you need. Just knowing there’s “Jan in accounting” may be enough to get you through that panic moment of anxiety. If you simply have too much to handle, speak up; they may not realize you’re overextended and need support.

2. Be Realistic About What You Can Handle

Some people can fit a lot on their plate, some can fit less, and others don’t have a plate – they have a platter! If you have a more realistic awareness of what you can do well, it will help you prioritize and set the pitch for your workload. If you can only do three things really well in a day, then do those to your best ability. Multitasking is overrated.

3. Set Healthy Boundaries

Does your work stay at work or does it get in the car come home? Emails will still be there in the morning and most can wait until you’re back at the office to be answered. Start small if you need, but put in place boundaries that will give you the space to decompress after the workday.

4. Celebrate Success, No Matter How Small

Small victories are victories, so take a moment to celebrate your personal development! Oftentimes it’s easy to move past things done well, but taking a moment to realize that you handled that stressful situation really well can make all the difference in an otherwise hectic day. Sometimes it helps to think to yourself, “I would have handled that completely differently before.”

5. Fight for Organization

Everyone knows it’s good to be organized and manage one’s time well, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. Simplifying your workspace can not only save you time in the long run but may prevent a crisis later.

6. Know Yourself

The biggest hindrance to working through anxiety at work is not acknowledging how you are feeling in the moment. Jumping to action doesn’t always help, because those actions may not be the right choice. When you learn to recognize the symptoms of your anxiety, you can then move toward working through it, and then make clearer decisions. Overcoming anxiety begins with understanding and working with the symptoms you’re feeling, not against them.

7. Find the Right Strategies

Sometimes, the tools we think should work end up not working at all. If you ever think, “The harder I work, the worse it gets,” then maybe you’re using the wrong tools. Anxiety at work can be combated and overcome, but it does require intentional steps toward a healthier living. This is where it might be helpful to sit down with a professional who can provide both clarity and strategies that make sense for you.

Our clinicians specialize in treatment of anxiety and career concerns. If you would like support with anxiety or feeling overwhelmed at work, contact our office today to see if counseling could be helpful. Call (970) 889-8204 or email: contact@coloradocac.com

 

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