Free Webinar: Talking About Anxiety and Depression in Children

Have you noticed that your children has been upset, anxious, depressed, or otherwise stressed? Check out this webinar offered by Sharp Health for free. It takes place on 9/30/2021 at 12pm.

Unprecedented changes in routine due to the pandemic — mixed with constant stress from social media and the news — has made the life of adolescents and teens more complex than ever.

Join Sharp Mesa Vista’s Child and Adolescent Program for a free webinar on how parents, teachers and school counselors can better identify and address signs that a child or teen may be struggling with significant mental distress, including anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

During this webinar, you will learn more about:

  • Recent statistics on anxiety and depression in youth
  • Implications of the pandemic on anxiety and depression
  • Typical developmental changes in children and teens and warning signs of significant anxiety and depression
  • Awareness of suicidal thoughts and risks and responding to a crisis
  • How to talk to children and teens about what they are going through
  • General support for a child with anxiety and/or depressive symptoms
  • Knowing when and how to seek support

To learn more, or sign up, click here. 

What to do When You Have a Newly Diagnosed Child on The Autism Spectrum?

I’m in a few Facebook groups for parents of children that are on the Autism spectrum or are otherwise neurodivergent.

One of the things about being a parent of a neurodivergent child is that after you are informed of your kids’ diagnosis is there is nothing. It’s like, “Here is the diagnosis. Thanks for your co-pay… NEXT!!”

Typically, doctors and other clinicians don’t offer you resources, support, or give you any information. Sometimes you have to fight to get a copy of the diagnostic report.

In my Facebook groups, parents of newly diagnosed children come and ask, “What now?” or “How do I get my kid help and services?” After typing the same response literally hundreds of times in the past 5 years trying to help parents and guardians (because I had no help and had to google and claw and find help for my child and family), here are a few resources that have helped my family:

If you suspect your child may be neurodivergent, contact their pediatrician. Ask for an assessment. You may receive a referral to a psychologist. The intake process is lengthy. There are typically 2-3 appointments, plus lots of paperwork to complete. If you receive any pushback, keep pressing forward. If your doctor says no, call your insurance provider directly and ask for help. If you live in San Diego County, you can also contact the San Diego Regional Center directly for help getting an assessment.

Once you receive a diagnosis, request a copy of the paperwork for your files. You will need a copy of the diagnosis paperwork to access services.

Important side notes: Start a file/binder (I use this one) for all of your paperwork. There will be a lot of it. I also have heavy-duty page protectors and folders in the three-ring binder. I keep his IEP (Individual Education Plan), IHSS paperwork, Regional Center paperwork, a list of his doctors (including their phone numbers and addresses), and copies of the medication inserts/directions that come with the prescriptions.

If you are in San Diego County, contact the San Diego Regional Center. Any resident of San Diego or Imperial County believed to have a developmental disability may receive intake services through the San Diego Regional Center. The Regional Center can help you access services such as respite care, Medi-cal Waiver, and access to community services. For most families, Regional Center services are free or very inexpensive. The intake paperwork will go over income requirements for payment for being a Regional Center Client. Our kiddo has been a Regional Center client for 5 years, and they have been a great resource.

Once you get in touch with the Regional Center and your child becomes a client, you want to get your child on Medi-cal. This will allow them to receive the most services and can help your family access IHSS (In Home Support Services- Someone to help provide care for your child, as their special needs may mean that they require extra care or support above and beyond what a neurotypical child their age may require).

If your family makes too much money annually to qualify your child through Medi-Cal, ask for a Medi-cal Development Disability Waiver. Having this waiver for your child is really important, as it will open up so many services and programs.

Some neurodivergent children require services to help better their quality of life. Some of these services include:

  • OT (Occupational Therapy)
  • Speech Therapy
  • Behavioral or Mental Health Therapy
  • Feeding Therapies

The Regional Center Case Worker assigned to your child can help you navigate what services they can help with, and provide resources.

Note about Medi-cal: Just because your kid has it, doesn’t mean that you have to use it as their primary health insurance. For our family, we use Medi-cal to cover the gaps that we’ve found in our primary insurance. Covering co-pays for medication that relates to his diagnosis, and in the past, a few other therapies that we no longer utilize.

There are a lot of support groups online to help parents navigate life with Neurodivergent kiddos. It’s worth a Facebook or Reddit search, using your city, state, or geographic area.

There are also a lot of non-profits that are all about helping Neurodivergent people. I love NFAR (the National Federation for Autism Research), they are local to San Diego, and they have programs for parents, kids, and teens, and adults.

The Autism Tree Project Foundation is another NPO I love. They have all sorts of great playgroups, events, and resources for families of Neurodivergent people.

MOST IMPORTANT: Regardless of your child’s diagnosis, they are still your kid. Nothing changes your love for them and their love for you. If you are uncomfortable or if your child is uncomfortable with any therapies that they take part in, listen to your gut, and listen to your kid. There are some therapies that are commonly accepted that older Autists (people on the autism spectrum) recount as having negative mental or physical impacts on them.

Please seek out support- There are a lot of people who have gone through what you are going through. Lots of parents, friends, allies who can share their resources, and offer you a shoulder to cry on when you are frustrated, and hugs when you need them. I count myself among those supporters. When you need help or support, don’t hesitate to email me or DM/PM me on any of my socials. 

Planning for the Unplanned: A Lesson in Grace

So this started out as a post for Instagram, but it got a little wordy, so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

Last week’s meal plan was an epic fail. It was our first full week of distance learning with both kids, and I spent a majority of every day with one or both of them getting settled and accustomed to their schedules.

As a result, I didn’t stick to the meal plan, or get any writing done. This week, we’re trying it again, day by day. We didn’t starve either. We ate a lot of meals that came from pantry staples: Bean, rice, and cheese bowls, Spaghetti with red sauce and garlic bread (I made a huge batch of meat sauce a few weeks ago and froze portions for later meals- and the big kid had a vegetarian meal). And we had take out once… or twice. It was too hot to turn on the oven for our weekly pizza night, so we opted for delivery. Thanks to coupon codes (I love the Honey browser extension- it searches for coupon codes for me!) and the Dosh App, I was able to save $7 on a pizza and get free delivery! I also had coupons for free and BOGO bowls at Panda Express (Dinner for 4 was $8). I stretched them with some frozen Asian blend veggies, which I stirfried.

Every time I looked at our Meal Planning board, I felt discouraged, but after a few days, I realized that I needed to give myself some grace. I was doing the best I could. Everyone was still eating, we have shelter, clothes, we are all healthy. So I didn’t make Chicken Tetrazinni on Wednesday? Life still marches on. The kids have been working hard on their schooling, and its a hard thing to be accustomed to- learning alone with only little faces on an iPad screen a few times a day. I spend a lot of time helping them. Guiding them through worksheets, getting apps set up, encouraging them when they are upset or frustrated.

So this week:

Sunday night we had leftovers just to clean out the refrigerator and make room for the meal prep I was doing. I start our meal plan weeks on Sunday- It’s easier for me, since Sunday night tends to be quiet, and I can focus on it after the kids are in bed.

Monday was breakfast for dinner. I am absolutely in love with the Dehydrated hashbrowns from Costco. They make having hashbrowns at dinner (or really any time) a cinch.

I scrambled eggs with a little bit of half-and-half, and cooked them up with bacon crumbles, also from Costco, top with a little Mexican cheese blend, served with fruit, the aforementioned hash browns, and a half an avocado, and English muffins.

It was quick, it was easy, it was filling, and it was pretty cheap too.

Last night was supposed to be vegetarian chili, but I didn’t have a chance to get it into the crockpot, so instead the kids had what I like to call “Meal of Snacks”. I take a segmented plate and fill each section with something yummy: Peanut butter sandwich or hot, buttered noodles, goldfish crackers, apple or orange slices, fruit snacks, a juice box, or a glass of milk, cheese stick or cheese slices, and graham crackers for dessert. I had a frozen entree.

This week I’m just focusing on quick, easy meals with stuff that we already have on hand. I did a quick shopping trip to Food4less  Monday and picked up about $40 worth of groceries, which should get us through the next 10 days or so.

We have tons of pantry staples, and I have a lot of baking supplies on hand, so I will definitely be baking a pizza and cookies this week, maybe brownies too? We’ll see how the week goes. It’s already Wednesday, so who knows. And we are supposed to have a heatwave starting tomorrow. Again. I’ll be glad when it’s no longer in the triple digits for a week at a time.

 

I’m not gonna pretend that I’m perfect, I’m not gonna pretend that my life is all sunshine and unicorns.  Shit is hard right now for all of us. I wasn’t trained to be a kindergarten teacher or a 4th-grade special education teacher. Adding the stress of teaching daily to everything else that I am supposed to be doing is hard, and stuff falls to the side. Putting away laundry, sweeping up the living room, running the vacuum, washing my hair… But remembering that we are all in the same boat is what’s keeping me going.

Pushing out all of the “Insta-perfect” of my line of sight has done wonders for my mental health. All of those perfectly cultivated and curated pics can be detrimental to our mental health. There is a lot of comparing of ourselves to these photos we see online of perfect, clean, bright white kitchens and homes. Guess what- They aren’t real. These people have helpers: Housekeepers, nannies, mother’s helpers. They aren’t doing it alone. AND NEITHER SHOULD WE. Reach out to your tribe. You aren’t in this alone. We may be limited in our in-person, face to face contact with our friends and family, but we can still make phone calls, facetime, skype, zoom, email, or even write letters the old fashioned way.

You aren’t alone. I see you. I recognize you. I’m here for you.

Until next time: Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve.

What I’ve Been Up To…

_DSC2099As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting a lot lately, either here or on Social Media. I’ve been busy. Distance learning is coming to a close for the year, so we’ve been doing a lot of meetings and paperwork (I’ll be glad when the mountains of homework packets stop).

In addition to supervising all of the learning (for both kiddos), I’ve also been taking a more active role in helping my big kiddo find behavioral therapies that will work well on his journey through life. My big kid is on the Autism spectrum (ASD) and that means that we do behavioral therapy a few times a week in addition talk therapy. So lots of time helping process feelings and emotions, and that leaves this mama bear feeling tired.

I (try to) get up early about 6:30 each morning, make coffee, do emails, and work on getting stuff set up for the day before the kiddos wake up. Sometimes I’m super successful and get it done. Sometimes I’m lucky if I get a shower.

Successes for the days are measured so much differently now. Did we make it through a day without tears? Missing friends, regular routines, going to the gym, extracurricular activities- all of these weigh heavy on the kids, and grown-ups.

We’ve also been trying to get our home more organized, and we’ve been getting some help from a family friend who is a Konmari guru. We’re about halfway through the process, and it’s been super liberating to get rid of stuff that no longer serves us. We sold all of the DVD’s/video games that we no longer wanted, and raised over $200, that we’ll put towards family fun (maybe sock it away for a 2021 vacation?). Thankfully our local thrift shops are accepting donations at this time. We’ve been loading up the back of my car weekly to donate goods.

In an attempt to wear the kids out physically, I’ve been taking them out for a walk a few times a week with my parents at a local park. Social distancing and masking occur- Also a liberal application of mosquito repellant is applied- The kids and I are very tasty according to the local ‘squito population. We also picked up a small pool for the patio- We are on our second. The first was not heavy-duty enough. This is the one I recommend. We also put tarps under it to protect it from the textured decking. I also use this solar fountain to keep the water moving all day, and we cover it with a tarp at night. I usually dump the water and refill it 2-3 times per week.

downloadSaving money has been a challenge as of late- There aren’t as many deals as supplies aren’t being delivered to stores regularly, less staff to stock shelves, etc. And really, who has been shopping lately for fun? Not many of us. I’ve been using coupons when I can find them, but what I have really found useful is Honey. Honey is a browser extension that helps you find coupon codes and sale prices on items that you are shopping for online. I used it to save over $145 when we bought the big kids new bed a few weeks back.

And I’ve been making masks for family and friends- I made some especially for the kids this week too.

kalecutI’m here y’all! I’m up to my eyeballs, but I’m here. And of course, I’m doing the Always Eat After 7pm program, so I’ll be posting about that. There are so many good recipes I am excited to try (dark chocolate dipped PB cookies, uh, yeah). and I’ll be posting some recipes this weekend- I’ve got a killer Kale Salad recipe that is so tasty and easy (and it keeps in the fridge for a few days too).

I’ll be hosting an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway soon! I want to spread the love with you!

 

Talk Back: What have you been doing lately?