Latham Centers Produces Inspirational Video

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“And they said my child would never…” is available online

BREWSTER (Cape Cod, Massachusetts) – Students from Latham School and their families featured in a newly published video, “And they said my child would never”, would like the special needs community near and far to hear their stories of hope. The three-minute video, produced by Latham Centers in collaboration with Shoreline Media Productions of Hyannis, Mass. highlights the experiences of families of children diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). PWS is a complex genetic disorder affecting appetite, growth, metabolism, cognitive function, and behavior. The hallmark characteristics include insatiable hunger and a slowed metabolism that can lead to excessive eating and life-threatening obesity.Video collage

“When you first receive the diagnosis of Prader-Willi syndrome, you may be told that there are things your child will never do,” begins Patrice Carroll, LCSW, Director of PWS Services at Latham. Ms. Carroll works with children and adults with PWS, and she is internationally known for her Prader-Willi expertise. Ms. Carroll tells parents, “Don’t accept the limits that other people place on your child.”

Latham students featured on camera include Annika, whose mother said she never thought her daughter would be in such a place of calm and confidence; Christopher, whose mother is amazed by his weight loss and said he is happy, thriving, and enjoying life; and Patrick, who works at a local library and proudly talks of his progress toward his MCAS portfolio and high school diploma. Family members reflect on the remarkable accomplishments their children have made at Latham, a therapeutic residential school in the “Cape Cod Sea Captains’ Town” of Brewster. One mother shares, “When we first got the Prader-Willi diagnosis, it was pretty scary. The person who told us about the disease gave us some very horrifying news about how he was going to be very cognitively impaired and wasn’t going to be able to function very well.” The video features moments in the classroom, on campus, and in the community in which her son is happy, achieving, and enjoying time with his peers.

Ms. Carroll’s message to PWS families is uplifting: “Your child will succeed. Your child with thrive, and love, and they will make you happy and proud. They will defy all expectations, and they will show you that perseverance and patience always pays off.”   

And they said my child would never” is available on the main page of Latham’s website, LathamCenters.org.

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More about Latham Centers, Inc.:  Latham Centers’ programs include a therapeutic residential school for students ages 8 to 22, and a residential program for adults including 12 homes and individualized supported community living settings. Founded in 1970, the non-profit organization creates opportunities for independence, self-worth, and happiness for children and adults with complex special needs. Latham is internationally renowned for its expertise and success in working with individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome. Latham Centers is accredited by the Council on Accreditation. For more information, visit LathamCenters.org.

When Teenage Moodiness Becomes a Mental Health Concern

During the teenage years, emotions can change without warning and seemingly without reason. Oftentimes a teen’s moodiness can be attributed to life changes occurring at that time, but how do you know when the ever-changing moods are just part of puberty or if they’re a sign of something deeper?

What is a mood disorder?

EmoReg_tnAccording to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 14 percent of youth between the ages of 13 and 18 will have a mood disorder, which manifests as feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability. Mood disorders typically interfere with how a person thinks and manages every day activities like sleeping and eating. Female teens are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder than their male peers. They’re also at a higher risk for emotional dysregulation, which is difficulty controlling emotional responses and behaviors, and for some, it can lead to self-destructive actions, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. Emotional dysregulation can easily be misdiagnosed as major depressive disorder or anxiety disorders, and it can also accompany many other diagnoses.

“Emotional dysregulation occurs anytime that we experience an emotion and have a difficult time effectively managing it,” says Dr. Erik Ulland, medical director of the Nashotah Program at Rogers Behavioral Health. “It’s a pattern of avoidance of the primary emotion that you’re experiencing, which we all do to some extent. But those with emotional dysregulation often do it to the point where it becomes dangerous, because it will lead to behavior dysregulation that includes things like self-injury and suicide. Those behaviors are done out of an attempt to immediately decrease their current level of emotional distress,” he adds.

Dr. Ulland says patients with emotional dysregulation can be “internalizers”, meaning they tend not to outwardly express their thoughts, or feelings, but instead they process experiences privately.

“They often feel bad about themselves rather than anger at somebody else,” says Dr. Ulland.  “Internalizing individuals often struggle with conflict. Conflict often automatically generates shame, and they’ll feel like they’ve done something wrong. They can struggle to set effective limits, so at times they can have their feelings hurt and won’t say anything because of fear of conflict. They end up judging themselves harshly later that their emotions didn’t make sense in the moment even though they were felt,” he explains.

Treating emotional dysregulation

Certain forms of psychotherapy, medications, and other interventions can be helpful if there are other behavioral health diagnoses in a person with emotion dysregulation. However, they may often continue to struggle due to the dysregulation intensifying the other diagnoses.

Dr. Ulland says, “It’s critical to help individuals with substantial emotion dysregulation master Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills to regulate their emotions, and experience emotions more genuinely. It’s not uncommon to see depression or anxiety improve once an individual is regulating more effectively most of the time.”

Rogers’ residential Nashotah Program is a fully adherent Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program. It helps teenage girls recover from a history of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, suicide attempts, self- injury, and other behavioral patterns and diagnoses often common in individuals who have emotion dysregulation.

Rogers also provides outpatient DBT programs for both male and female adolescents.

For more information about programs for adolescents at Rogers, call 1-800-767-4411 for a free screening or request a screening online.

https://rogersbh.org/

Journey Home East Spotlights Dynamic In-house Education Liaison

Journey Home East Liaison PostAt Journey Home East, a step-down, transitional living program for young adults ages 16-21, residents have the opportunity to develop and work on their education goals while in the program with the support of an in-house Education Liaison, Tatiana Martinez.

The Education Liaison’s role is to help residents with anything academic related while living at Journey Home East. This can include helping residents find community classes to take, like pottery or other art classes, guitar, and even sign language. Some residents take traditional core classes like English or math to get a head start before moving onto a larger university following the program.

As with everything resident-focused at Journey Home East, the educational options offered to residents are highly individualized. The Education Liaison will help students find classes to take, apply to college or help plan with next steps after the program, help residents manage their time, help with organization and getting school assignments completed on time, or even helping with finding tutors. Residents also form close bonds with the Education Liaison, where they often go to local coffee shops together to work on assignments or study.

Journey Home East’s Education Liaison, Tatiana Martinez, has been working within the Solstice family of programs since 2015, when she then moved into a role at Journey Home East. She describes her passion for working with the young adult population, “I love working with this age group because I’ve been a young adult myself and have gone through similar experiences. I know how tough it can be, so having the opportunity to give back and help them, letting them know that I believe in them and showing them that extra support is very important to me.”

Residents at Journey Home East are provided with the support, tools, and options to help them define and pursue their goals. With the help of Education Liaison, Tatiana Martinez, residents are able to have that one-on-one support needed to focus on the next steps within their education, while also building healthy relationships with program staff, other residents, and within the community.

https://journeyhomeeast.com/

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Hands-On Teacher Experience Enhances Academics

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TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher

TJ Penrod, Social Studies Teacher at CERTS Programs Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy is passionate about teaching his students.  He is innovative and creative in his teaching method providing students a variety of modalities to fully experience history.  He makes learning interesting, memorable and hands-on.  TJ finds that this type of teaching is highly effective in a therapeutic learning environment such as residential treatment where students often arrive bringing a history of school refusal or a high degree of anxiety associated with academics.  TJ is continually looking for new ideas to improve his own knowledge base to provide interesting information to his students in a way that they will effectively respond to. 

TJ was recently selected as one of 28 teachers from hundreds of applicants across the state of Utah to participate this summer in the Driven 2 Teach Program.  Driven 2 Teach explains their program as such, “The Driven 2 Teach program takes History teachers who specialize in American History or historical literature out of the classroom to the very places where history happened.  The Driven 2 Teach program gives teachers an extended, hands-on learning experience unlike any other.” In order to apply for this incredible opportunity, TJ wrote a letter explaining why he particularly should participate and what opportunities he would give his students from this experience.

TJ will specifically be involved in the Civil War to Civil Rights seminar. This seminar will provide TJ with a deeper understanding of Civil Rights in American History.  Driven 2 Teach explains that this seminar, “Provides teachers with a greater understanding of the rights of citizens to political, economic, and social freedom with equality for all with a focus on the African American struggle.”  To prepare for the trip, TJ won’t just be packing his bags and buying road trip treats.  He will need to read 6 assigned books and do homework himself completing a 6-credit college course in just 6 weeks.

The itinerary for the seminar includes some of the major locations for both the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  Starting in Charleston, South Carolina, TJ will learn about and study the beginning of the slave trade, the institution of slavery and the Civil War. TJ and the other teachers will then go to Atlanta, Georgia, where they will study the history of African Americans and the role of Martin Luther King at the Martin Luther King National Museum. Tuskegee, Alabama and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site will be the next stop.  The seminar will consider these pilots as pioneers of the Civil Rights movement.  TJ will also spend time in the George Washington Carver Museum. One aspect of the trip that is most exciting to TJ is the opportunity to travel to Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery, Alabama to study at the Civil Rights Institute and the Rosa Parks Museum.  TJ will visit the 16th Street Baptist Church and be given the opportunity to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge with a woman who marched across the bridge with Martin Luther King Jr.

TJ explains, “I fully intend to use this opportunity to improve and strengthen our amazing Social Studies programs at both schools. I will be able to bring this experience to our classrooms and really engage our students in the curriculum of Civil Rights.”   During the seminar and as well as upon his return, TJ will be developing nationally archived lesson plans that will benefit students at both Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy.

Asheville Academy for Girls Announces Dr. Mary Flora’s Big Adventure!

Mary Flora

Mary Flora, PhD., LPCS, LCAS, CCS
PATH Intl., Advanced Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor

After seven years as our Clinical Director at Asheville Academy, Dr. Mary Flora will be leaving us to begin a new chapter in her therapeutic endeavors. She will be joining Southwest Clinical and Forensics (SWCF) with offices in Dallas and Frisco, Texas and will be engaged in private practice continuing her work with families, youth, and adolescents. In addition to her office practice, she will pursue a lifelong passion and develop an active practice utilizing equine assisted psychotherapy in association with Cornerstone Equine.

 

By joining with SWCF, Dr. Flora will expand her trauma focused work to forensic issues dealing with family disputes in support of healthy family reunification. It is her conviction that challenging family dynamics can be supported more effectively by involving the whole family and the whole person in equine assisted activities and therapies (EAAT).  Her continued interest in Jungian psychology, psychodynamic issues common to girls and young women, and family systems theory, will be put to great use both inside the office as well as in the arena with her equine partners when serving the needs of the individual and family. Equine assisted psychotherapy has allowed her to directly participate in the development of AAG programming focused on a whole family approach, and she is eager to continue to nurture that component of her clinical focus.

Dr. Flora reflects fondly on her experiences with the families and girls she has worked with the during her seven years at AAG and twelve years total in the NATSAP family of programs. We will miss our Dr. Mary and are grateful for the years of dedication and passion she has given to the growth and development of Asheville Academy and our community of families, professionals, and most importantly, students.

To help ensure a smooth and seamless transition, Mary will continue to lead her team of devoted and talented therapists until her departure in May. During that period, in addition to implementing some exciting additions to our programming, she will also be aiding in the search for a successor. Given her talent for identifying and recruiting exceptional clinicians, we are confident that our new addition will continue to grow and improve those areas most important in the treatment of middle school girls–family work, parent education, and personal development.

Please feel free to reach out to Mary and our Cat Jennings, Executive Director, directly to discuss opportunities with Asheville Academy, and especially to Mary to thank her for the years of personal and professional devotion, support, and care that she has offered to our AAG family. Her contributions have been invaluable, and we will make it our priority to maintain the high level of quality and service that have been the hallmark of her tenure. Best wishes Mary—you deserve all good things.

https://ashevilleacademy.com/

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How Attending Conferences Enhanced Our “Safe Space” in Treating the LGBTQ+ Community

At OPI we are committed to providing safe and affirming spaces for our LGBTQ+ young adults and their families.  We recognize that best practices for a young adult who identifies as LGBTQ+ are going to differ from their straight/cisgender counterparts because of a number of factors and that our awareness of those needs should be constantly evolving.  We also recognize that everyone’s experience is individual! Through diverse hiring practices, open and out staff members, LGBTQ+ process groups and social clubs, we are able to model for and provide holistic support to our participants identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Part of our continued commitment to working with an LGBTQ+ population involves ongoing continued education at a variety of conferences and action summits available in L.A. and across the country.  In the past year, many members of our staff have attended LGBTQ+ Affirmative Conferences, trainings, or events in Massachusetts, Utah, and California to enhance our clinical skills and expertise. In the past month, we sent representatives to two local events, the EDGY Conference (sponsored by Penny Lane) and ETA Summit (“Eat, Think, Act” luncheon coordinated by La Fuente).  Some of our takeaways are as follows.

Alisa Foreman, Clinical Director at OPI, attended the ETA Summit and said, “We decided to be gold sponsors because we, at OPI, strongly support the LGBTQ+ community and pride ourselves on making OPI a ‘safe space.’  We have worked with many LGBTQ+ participants and are eager to continue to learn more about how to truly respect and support one’s journey towards their authentic identity.” Missy Martin, Director of Life Coaching, noticed that while we recognize a person’s internal journey, we must also be aware and versed in their societal context, the messages they have received about themselves from others, and how those messages shift and fluctuate based on time, geography, and other factors.  As an out lesbian member of OPI’s staff, I truly believe in the intention and honesty present in Alisa’s and Missy’s words. I take pride in being part of an organization that backs up those words with action.

OPI, specifically, is in a unique place to actively support our LGBTQ+ participants for several reasons.  For one thing, as we are situated in California, an informed consent model is utilized with regard to transgender individuals seeking medical treatment.  La Fuente’s ETA Summit did a wonderful job familiarizing clinicians and lay people alike who might not know about this model. Historically, a mental health professional was responsible for providing clinical recommendation before a client could explore medical options.  Under an informed consent model, the patient has agency over this and other pieces of their medical decision-making. Alisa Foreman said, “I was interested to learn about the ‘gate keeper’ vs. informed consent model and how that impacts an individual’s sense of control over their own lives, bodies, and identities. As an MTP, I do not want to be the ‘gate keeper’ for someone else’s true identity.”

ETA Summit also left me thinking about how I can better serve our LGBTQ+ participants by remaining knowledgeable in areas that might not apply to my own queer experience (remembering that I do not know everything) – for instance learning about and remaining familiar with dating apps that are also used to seek drugs.  As members of the LGBTQ+ community are more prone to relational difficulty and addiction because of a variety of developmental and social factors, this is particularly relevant with our young adults. Even more specifically, our participants who identify as gay men are at risk to become part of a growing movement of “chemsex” or sexual encounters under the influence of drugs (particularly/often crystal methamphetamine) as a way to dampen internalized shame about their desires.  Keeping my ear to the ground and being aware of the dating apps our participants are using, as well as being alert for certain acronyms (for instance PnP – Party And Play) can help me to counter harmful/toxic messaging, and keep our residences and offices safe, as our participants deserve them to be.

OPI also sent representatives to this year’s Edgy Conference – Penny Lane’s 10th annual gathering of panels and speakers intended for those who work closely with LGBTQ+ persons and their families.  The theme this year was “Building A Brighter Future.” One of our primary takeaways was a growing awareness of similarities between young adults who identify as transgender or gender-expansive, and young adults on the autism spectrum.  OPI Life Coach, Brittany Williams, summarizes, “I was intrigued by the workshop we took on the correlation between gender variance and the autism spectrum since we’ve had participants in the past who identified with this and had spectrum-like tendencies. It has caused me to be aware of possible patterns and tendencies that may have been overlooked because of their diagnoses.”  We were also interested in the continued conversation of how clinicians can best support clients going through any coming out process (with a recognition of how that process shifts, changes, and recreates itself over the course of a person’s life).

Both EDGY and the ETA Summit left OPI participants renewed in their existent core understanding of each person’s identity as unique, non-fixed, and non-linear.  “We will not act as gatekeepers. We will hold space for those who have been (and continue to be) othered. We will respect and listen to the experiences of our LGBTQ+ young adults.  Some of us will be allies, some of us will be mentors, and some of us will be mirrors. All of us will be informed.”

Author: Britt Kusserow
Email: bkusserow@opiliving.com

Anxiety in Schools: New Podcast Series from Rogers Behavioral Health

Worry, fear, meltdowns, inability to concentrate, refusing to go to school. Students’ outward behavior can often indicate an internal struggle with anxiety. And as the most common emotional disorder affecting kids today, anxiety is having an impact on thousands of classrooms nationwide.

But how can you know when students are dealing with anxiety? And what can you do to help?

New resources from Rogers Behavioral Health

To help manage school anxiety, Rogers has released a comprehensive set of educational tools, helpful handouts, anxiety-reducing exercises, and the new “Anxiety in Schools” podcast. In this six-part series, Rogers’ medical experts share ways school professionals can identify at-risk students, practical tips for addressing anxiety in the classroom, and clues for knowing when it’s time to seek professional help.

Listen to the podcast and access a library of additional resources to help students at rogersbh.org/student-anxiety.