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Upcoming Developmental Screenings for Kids 0 to 5

bottlebaby-insideWay back when, back when Hector was a pup and I had a lot less gray hair I used to schedule screenings like this at the YWCA in Portland. Now I’m sharing this with you but you gotta get on it — the screenings happen this Wednesday. If you can’t make it then give the ECRN+ a call and find out when they might be happening in the future.

Child Developmental Screenings – Mind and Body

Wednesday, January 28th 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Grove City YMCA – 3600 Discovery Drive, Grove City, OH 43123

What is a developmental screening?

A developmental screening is a snap shot look at a child’s development to determine if a child is reaching appropriate milestones. Your child’s social-emotional development (mental health) is an essential part of their overall growth. Mental health in childhood simply means reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social and coping skills. Children with good social-emotional skills function well at home, in school and in their communities. In addition to their social-emotional screening, your child’s speech and language, fine and gross motor skills, self-help skills, vision, and hearing will also be checked.

Thanks to the generous support of The Columbus Foundation, the Early Childhood Resource Network+ will be providing FREE screenings to all children ages 1 month through 5 years. Screening appointments are not necessary but encouraged.

TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT OR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Katie Lombardi or Margie Dalton—Developmental Consultants 614-543-9000 ext. 218 or klombardi@ymcacolumbus.org

EARLY CHILDHOOD RESOURCE NETWORK+
6555 Busch Blvd, Suite 112, Columbus OH 43229 614.543.9000 ymcacolumbus.org/ecrn

When they seem fine

blue-insideI’ve got a picture of my then 4-year old peeking out of the window of a tree house at a friendly BBQ that I used to think was just adorable. All you can see is his serious little face and his big blue eyes.

“Look it this,” I said when I showed my now 16-year old the picture last week. “Do you remember this? Wasn’t that tree house great?”

“Yeah, I remember it,” he said. “[Name of Kid] cornered me in the tree house and told me I had to stay there. He said he’d kill me if I tried to come down. I was terrified.”

Yikes. How nice that we have the Kodak memories to commemorate his horror, eh?

I’m sharing this story to illustrate how sometimes we loving mothers and fathers don’t always know what’s actually going on with our kids. My son and I talk a lot now and we talked a lot then but that was something he didn’t tell me until we got the photo books out. I’m not sure why he didn’t tell me at the time (he said he was too scared to) or later (we didn’t see those people very often so it likely just didn’t come up) but that was a pretty big experience for a very little kid to carry around all by himself for many years.

Kids do that. They keep things to themselves, which is why we can’t always believe them when they say things are fine.

Now I’m not saying we need to constantly interrogate them about their inner lives and experiences because they have a right to privacy but at the very least we can assume we don’t know everything and act accordingly. Like if I’d seen the big kid threatening my little kid, I wouldn’t have to hear it from my son’s own mouth to know that’s a big bad scary thing, right? I could surmise that having a bully threaten to push you out of a high up tree house would be awful even if my kid said, hey, no, I’m fine. I’d intervene even if my preschooler said I didn’t need to.

Likewise there are certain events that are hard on kids even when very loving, very careful parents take special care. Things like moves, divorce, changing schools, and the arrival of new siblings are big adjustments and they’re hard adjustments. Our children don’t need to be constantly crying or acting out for us to know that these are difficult things to live through.

Kids may seem “fine” but that doesn’t mean they’re not scared or worried. It’s safe to assume that they have questions they don’t know how to ask and fears they don’t know how to articulate. Just ask yourself how you feel — are you exhausted by the new baby’s schedule? Worried about your kid making friends at school? — likely your child is, too. And you have the advantage of life experience to know that all things shall pass; your child doesn’t know that. When change happens, your child may not realize that transitions are, well, transitory. They may think this uneasy, chaotic feeling is their new normal and that can feel overwhelming.

It’s the same way with other big ticket life circumstances like adoption or chronic health issues (their own or a family member’s). As our children get older, their understanding changes. The stories we have told them for so long no longer suffice and we need to step up our game even if they seem fine.

Talking about things doesn’t create problems if we approach the discussion calmly and with curiosity. There’s a difference between saying, with tears in your eyes, “Oh honey, it must feel like you will never make new friends at school!” and casually saying, “It’s not always easy to make friends at a new school. How are things going for you?”

You don’t need to push. You don’t need to quiz them. But you can make statements, you can ask questions and you can let them know, hey, if you need anything, I’m here and I will listen and I will understand.

I know there are some things that scare you. What if they really really miss their birth mom? What if they wish you never got divorced? What if they hate the new house and miss the old one like crazy? What if you bring it up and it unleashes a hurricane of emotion?

Well, here’s the thing about hurricanes of emotion — you can’t unleash what isn’t there.

Finally I want to challenge the idea of “fine.” Fine doesn’t mean that we go our merry way without care or concern. Fine means that we handle our cares and concerns appropriately. A child who cries about his new school is fine because change is scary and sometimes scary makes us cry and crying is OK. Crying is an appropriate way to handle scary. We don’t need to hush the crying; we need to help with the scary.

As my son’s story illustrates, there are a whole lot of times when we won’t know what’s going on so we’re fortunate when we can make a pretty good guess and act accordingly.

When clients disappear

thoughtful-insideI was talking to another counselor last week about clients leaving therapy and how sometimes clients graduate and the two of you are happy together and celebrate her accomplishments and it’s great. And then sometimes they choose to leave by no showing on an appointment and not returning your call about rescheduling.

I don’t like it but I get it. When I was a teenager and hunting for my own “change my life” therapist I tried a couple of counselors who really didn’t work for me and I told them so by disappearing. I couldn’t imagine actually telling them with my actual voice that I wasn’t coming back. For one thing, it would be embarrassing. For another thing, what would it help? What if they tried to talk me out of it? What if they acted sad or hurt or angry? I didn’t call and I ducked their messages because it just felt way too scary to face them when I’d already decided to walk away.

Obviously, I get why some of my clients do that, too.

I can usually tell if my client is at risk of not coming back. After a particularly good (i.e., hard) session, I know there’s a chance that a client will realize she wasn’t ready to go so deep. I try to let her know that this might happen — at the end of the session I’ll talk about possible residual effects from working so hard.

Or if my client has a lot of barriers to coming in (unpredictable job schedule, demanding kids, etc.) I know that counseling may not fit into her life right now. I try to talk about that, too, and discuss creating a schedule that may work better rather than the traditional once a week at the same time every week.

And then there are some times when we just don’t click, the client is looking for a therapist with a different kind of expertise or a different couch-side manner or whatever. I can tell when that’s happening, too. If a client is phoning it in at the very first session then I know there’s very little chance of her coming for a second visit.

In all three cases I’d rather they called instead of no-showing because we might be able to address their concerns.

If the session was too heavy then we can dial back for awhile (and I notice that often sessions happen that way naturally — big epiphany and then a breather for a session or two) or we can talk about post-session planning so that she won’t be overwhelmed.

If her life is too crazy-busy, we can talk about changing our schedule around or pick a time somewhere in the future where we’ll check in again to see if things have opened up at all.

If she simply doesn’t click with me, I can find out what she’s looking for and give her some referrals. That’s totally ok by me. Recently I met with a client who wanted a therapist who does energy work, which I don’t do. I happily sent her off with referrals to other counselors because I have no desire to take money from someone who would be happier working with someone else. Truly.

I think this is true of most counselors (at least the counselors I know). If you don’t want to come back and don’t want to tell them why, I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. But if you are able to talk to them, give it a go. You might get some support or some changes or help heading in another direction.

It’s worth a try.

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