Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ethics- Small Town and Mulitple Relationships!

So I had the great pleasure of attending an Ethics training this week put on by Kelli S. Fox, LCSW, LADC, CCS. It was filled with some great information and what I always love about these kinds of trainings is it gets people really thinking. If you are a Social Worker like I am then you know that it is required to have ethics training for every renewal of our license. I think this is one of the best things. I see so many other careers that don't require this and people have not reviewed their ethical standards in years and years. I see so many people that really could use it that don't have it. So by having it every 2 years really is a blessing and a way to refresh and just keep your self on your toes and always questioning those issues that pop up. I am not talking about the HUGE ethical issues which hopefully everyone stays away from but the ones that really get you thinking because they just appear which you will see and read about below.

So this training really focused on the ethics of a dual relationship. I live in a very rural state so dual relationships are a thing that happens all the time.  That is not always a good thing, as we all know when you have a dual relationship it takes a lot more work to make sure that you are following protocols and your standards.  Some of the themes that come up with these kinds of dual relationships can include:
* Personal benefit
*Emotional dependency  needs
* Altruistic gestures
*Unanticipated circumstances
*Thinking about what might happen
*How much to share with the client
*Possible clients share therapists self-disclosure
*perceptions of what others view that relationship as

  So a little history before 1990 most code of ethics stated very clearly that dual relationships were not allowed. However, given that there were so many small towns it made it hard. A therapist could not go to the grocery store without running into someone. So that ruling changed and now most say to avoid exploitation and conflict of interest well and of course sexual activity with clients is prohibited by all codes.   So with that being said the code has changed, but the reality is that really the best is to avoid dual relationships when you can. Yes licensing boards know that some are impossible. You can't help that when you go to pump gas cause you are running out and there at the register is your client, you can't help that when you go to the only doctor's office in the town and walk into the room to find the CNA is your past client. Those things happen. But if you know of a dual relationship before you start working with a client you need to be aware of that and consider is this necessary or can it be avoided. 

One of the cool parts of this training that I walked away with was a screening tool. Credit goes to Jeffrey Younggren (2002) for this great screening tool. So basically it is made up of some questions to ask yourself before you get in a dual relationship:

* Is the dual relationship necessary? (so is there any other therapists around that could see this person?)
*Is the dual relationship exploitive?
*Who does the dual relationship benefit?
*Is there risk that the dual relationship could damage the client?
* Is there a riskt hat the dual relationship could disrupt the theraputic relationship?
* Am I being objective in my evaluation of this matter?
*Have I adequately documented the decision making in the treatment records?
*Did the client give informed consent regarding the risks to engaging in a dual relationship?

 What I really liked about these questions is that they are right to the point. We need to make sure that we are just not saying "oh well its a small town dual relationships are going to happen". Instead we need to still even in a small town consider these things and make sure that we are taking every precaution to make sure that we are following our ethics.

So what if we need or find that we are in a place where yes there may need to be a dual relationship what do we do? Well make sure you are familiar with the guidelines. Look at your ethics, codes, agency protocols, legislation, and case laws. Also talk to a colleague you can trust about this and get feedback. And lastly pay attention to those uneasy feelings, doubts etc. If you are having a gut reaction something might not be right.

So as you can see dual relationships happen. We can't stop them from occurring. What we can do is make sure we are always on our toes. We can make sure that we are talking to people and that they are comfortable with the dual relationship and that we are not just doing it just because but that really there is no other option.  Yes we might live in  a small town but we need to be honest are there other options. I work in a school system so for me I have to make sure I don't see students in my clinical work outside of school that attend my school.  I have to stop and think about where I shop. I personally try to shop in areas that are further away from my school so that I don't run into students, or parents. Not to be mean but just to avoid that dual relationships. For me that is easier to do as I work in a town that is 45 min away from my house. But I know for many that is not as easy as they work in the town they live in.  

One other good reminder this training gave me was that we need to remember what people see. Yes I know many have a drink with their diner when they go out. But if you go out you need to be aware of who might see you. I don't think this is different for many professions.  We need to remember we are professionals. I hear many teachers tell me if they go to the store to buy say some alcohol for the weekend they look around as they don't want one of their students standing there when they buy it. Again they are adults over 21 they are allowed to but it is a good thing that they have that awareness and if they can avoid a student seeing it that is better. That in a way is sorta a dual relationship. For many kids their teacher is just that only a teacher. So to see a teacher in a store buying alcohol could put them in a different light. The key is always being aware of our surroundings. Being aware of how what we do impacts others is important.  I know some may say well its my off time I can do what I want, but you have to also think we have joined a profession where we follow our ethics not just when we are clocked in but at all times.

So I just want to leave you with some thoughts to ponder? Here are some examples of things that come up and no right or wrong answer just um.. what would I do kinds of things:

So you work in a school and a parent asks you to take them on as a client do you? Student is not in your class?

So you work in an agency but also have a private practice someone from that agency not directly in your department asks to see you in your private practice do you?

So you are asked to friend someone on facebook , let's say students in your school do you? What if they are friends of family as you all live in a small community does that change your answer?

Your child had a therapist a while ago, now you are a clinician and apply for a job in the same office is it ok for you to work with your child's past therapist?  What if that therapist would be signing off on your supervision hours does that make a difference?

You walk into your doctor's office and the secretary is a past client, what do you do?

Your client is selling items that you really love say pampered chef, or scentsy do you buy them?

So that is just a few what ifs.... like I said many are not cut and dry. Many you have to use that list of questions to figure out what do you do.  This is why I find ethics training so much fun. It gets you thinking. It is not as easy as the question do you date a past client. That is a quick NO, these you have to look at all the different pieces. You have to look at things like say the one with the  my child saw the therapist now do I work in that same agency. Well as a therapist we need to consider what if that child needs to see that person again?  If they do now we are in a pickle as they say. So if we look at all those questions it might make more sense to just go get a job in a different setting.  Besides working with someone that knows so much about you should probably set up some flags a bit, or at least give you that gut feeling of "is this ok?".  But again no cut or dry  decisions, things like  is that the only agency for say 50 miles? If so then you might not have any options.

Well I hope you this blog entry has gotten you thinking. I know it got me thinking and I loved that!
Thanks Kelli for the amazing training!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why School Counselor Vs. Guidance Counselor.

So I was trained as a Social Worker. About 9 years ago I stumbled onto my current job working in a school as a School Counselor/Social Worker. Yes, I know many reading this will say but you can't do both. Well in my role I really do. I work as a School Counselor following a comprehensive school program, and then I also bill day treatment working in a very clinical role as a Social Worker.  Over the years I have heard many say that these are the same job, many say they can't be the same, I have also many many times heard that it is negative to say "guidance counselor". So I decided what better of a topic to voice my opinion on.

Well let's start out with my first year and what soon would become one of my favorite people in my school ,our Physical Education teacher.  I walked up to her one day and and said "so you teach gym?". Well the room went quiet. She looked at me and said with a smile "yes". I later asked her if it was an insult to say gym vs physical education and she said no. So then I got thinking why are we so against certain titles. Well I think part of it is that School Counselors are fighting for their place in so many schools. They are showing they are valuable. So does that mean that the older term of "guidance counselor" is not as valuable?

I don't know the answer I know that I have taken all my course work and been certified as a School Counselor so I guess never really worked as a Guidance Counselor.  I had an intern a few years ago that pointed out that I was new school vs the old school guidance counselors. What did she mean? Well my impression was that I followed different standards and I used a program that followed the ASCA standards of having accountability.  So if I look at the two titles it seems to me that one came about because a group of professionals felt like the only way to be taken serious was to increase their "worth" in a school and no one was taking them serious with the same name.  Which yes sometimes it does take a new name to be taken serious!

I remember a co-worker coming up to me a few years ago and saying "your different". Well of course I asked why, and he responded because your not like any other guidance counselor I have met. I said well is that cause I am a School Counselor or because I am a Social Worker. He said he didn't know but what he knew was my program was run more like an educator. I had data and I had lesson plans, and I worked on making sure everyone in the school was on the same page. I said well that is what they taught me in school to do. So I think back on that and really I don't think it is me I think the credit goes to having had amazing professors that taught me to be a School Counselor. They taught me that the days of guidance counseling and pulling kids and doing things without a "team"approach doesn't work. They taught me that having a comprehensive program with all on the same page and using a tiered approach to addressing behaviors was what worked. They taught me that if you want to know if your program works then you use data and you get feedback.  They also taught me one of the most valuable lessons I learned and that is that our job is there for ALL students.

Being there for ALL students is different then my role as a Social Worker. In my role as a School Social Worker I am there for certain students. I do individual work with them, I develop treatment plans I work hard to help them overcome their behavioral issues so that can succeed in school. This is a very different role then in my role as a School Counselor. In that role I teach social emotional skills to ALL students. I design behavioral interventions that start on a Tier 1 program addressing ALL students. I work with school wide programs so that it is not in isolation but that everyone is on board.  Not to say I don't do Tier 2 work of small groups or CICO programs for individual students. I also do Tier 3 work with individual behavior plans and functional behavior assessments. However, I can without a doubt say that if I didn't have the programs I have in place those needing those higher interventions would be huge compared to the few that need them. I think that to me might be the difference in a guidance counselor or School Counselor. It seems to me I remember my own guidance counselor in school not working with every student. Not teaching ALL students these skills, but only working with those that are showing signs of behavioral issues. Did they miss the big picture in that ALL students need these skills? I don't know but I think for me all students do need these skills.

So my original question was is it important what we are called? Well I guess for me I have to agree with the amazing gym teacher at my school. What I call her is not as important as what she does for a job. She is probably one of the best physical education teachers I have ever met. There is no denying she has evolved with her career field and she goes above and beyond to meet the needs of students. So as a professional I know that ASCA has changed its title to reflect that we are School Counselors. So that is what I call myself. If someone wants to call me a guidance counselor well that is ok. But when someone looks at my work I hope they see that I follow the ASCA standards. I work hard to make sure that I keep up to date in my work and that I am not doing the same job that others in my career field did years and years ago but that I have evolved and I am doing what is expected by my profession.  When someone tells me I am different then others in my career that they have met, I take that as a positive. It means the profession has changed and they are seeing that change. They see that now School Counselors at there for ALL students. They see that we are not there just for the behavioral kids but we are there for ALL kids. We are there to help increase academics by teaching all kids academic skills and self-regulation.  We are making strides in making people see our value through data and working as a team.  We are not just teaching the "cute" and sit in a circle kind of lessons that once were all the rave. .We are instead striving to teach researched and evidence based practices. We are working not along with a student but instead we reach out and let the teacher know the skills we are working on so they can also assist the student.  If we want to have people call us School Counselors then we need to show them that the career field has changed.  But to be honest I don't care what they call me, I just care that I do my job and that I know in my heart I am doing the best job I can do.
I will say it seems to me that schools can be a place filled with not only student bullying but also adult bullying. We need to stop this and work as a team.  I think we as a group of professionals see even in this career field a divide of those that strive to meet the School Counseling and ASCA standards and those that don't want to give up as my intern said "the old school guidance counseling ways." What I see in many schools I talk to ,is that when someone new comes in with new ideas or they are following the ASCA standards the "guidance counselors" may not like this because it threatens the way they do things. Same thing with teachers that have been doing this job a long time and a new educator comes in with fresh new ideas. We need to not refuse change but we need to work as a team to learn and adapt to change. The great part about the new way that School Counselors do their work is that they can show accountability.   We need to look to others as ways of learning what works, what can we try. I am so thankful for the amazing resources of reaching out to other School Counselors and hearing how they are implementing programs and they are seeing progress. I love the online community I belong to that shares inspiration and ideas.
So in conclusion I have on purpose capitalized all the times I wrote School Counselor as I do believe it is a title and needs to be reflected as it is important. I do believe though not as important as what others call us but what we see ourselves as. If we as a profession still believe in the "old" ways then we won't be moving ahead and making progress. If we strive to do better, and we follow ASCA standards and we hold ourselves accountable for change and always striving to be our best then we will.  So call me either one I am ok, but I hope that if someone reviews my program and looks at my data and the work I do they see that I am not that guidance counselor that was written about back in 1970 I am the School Counselor that the most recent books and articles are talking about. I am the one that uses technology, works with all students, strives for accountability is involved in RTI, and keeps up with new methods in the profession.

Why ASCA Is Important!

I am so excited to share with you a great guest blogger. Sarah was able to attend ASCA this year which I know many were like me and didn't make it. But that does not stop us from learning so much from those that attended. So here is some great advice from Sarah  and her experience! Thank you so much Ashley for writing this up! 

I recently attended my second ASCA conference in Phoenix last week. As president of my state's association, I have the privilege of representing Indiana during the LDI and Delegate Assembly, both held prior to the conference. This being my second year, I was both excited to see friends I met last year and even more excited to attend new sessions! As an elementary counselor, I tend to focus on sessions that highlight components of my program that need enhanced. I look for the words "creativity" and "fun" when reviewing the session write-ups. The sessions this year were amazing, and I learned several things I wanted to share:
1. All school counselors are really the same person in different bodies! We all want the same thing for our students, and we all have the same vision for our profession.

2. Technology can be a school counselor's best friend if used in a methodical way. Whether that be through my online social skills apps to iMovie to keeping data to utilizing the Wii, a school counselor should use technology to meet students' needs.

3. School counselors MUST advocate for our jobs!  Partner up with other counselors in our district to create a comprehensive SC program. Don't be shy to talk to our school board, using data to support what we do.

4. School counselors can never have too many resources. As I walked through the 6 aisles of exhibitors and reviewed the numerous handouts on the ASCA app, I discovered even more ideas and curriculum that is created for us!!

5. The ASCA conference not only fulfills professional development requirements but also personal enrichment! It's a leisurely way to refill my bucket with ideas, laughs, and learning!
Be sure to check out ASCA's website for future conferences! 

A huge thanks to  Sarah Altman a School Counselor at Sycamore Elementary from Avon, IN. We all hope to someday meet you in person at an ASCA Conference in the future!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Advocacy in Washington DC Making Sure that SEL is in Schools!

Ok I had the chance of a lifetime this past week to go to DC and speak on a passion of mine. What is that passion? Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools.  Going to DC on behalf of something I am passionate about was one thing, but getting to learn about how politics work, getting to meet others that share my passion was priceless.

So this blog is going to share many of the great pieces of this trip. Let's start off with how this occurred. The Commitee for Children which is an amazing organization,  and the one I get my SEL program from asked if I would be willing to join them for a Capital Hill Day. Here is what they wrote on their site in regards to this day:
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The U.S. Congress is in the process of trying to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind, is the main federal policy related to K–12 education.
Somewhat surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate were able to draft a compromise ESEA bill that unanimously passed a Senate committee on April 16, 2015. The next step in the process will be for the bill to be considered by the full Senate. If passed by the Senate, the bill will then move over for consideration in the U.S. House, where the outlook is very uncertain.
Committee for Children has scheduled a mini “Advocacy Day” on Capitol Hill for May 14, 2015. We are bringing a small (but powerful) group of SEL supporters to Washington, DC, and will encourage Congressional offices to include social-emotional learning in whatever ESEA bill moves forward.
 This photo is of the various people that came from all over to share how SEL is making a difference in their states!

So as you see this was  a day to really get the U.S. Senate on board with SEL and the language of SEL.  I was joined that day with some of the most amazing people and hearing how powerful SEL is in their schools was inspiring. Knowing that I was there to speak on the power of SEL in my school was a bit overwhelming, but I knew all I had to do was talk about what we are doing.  I gathered my information and headed off with data. Data to me is one of the best ways to show the impact of what I do in schools. This chart shows how we have been seeing a decrease in our discipline referrals over the past year. (we have seen a decrease every year since we first started the 2nd step program by Committee for Children)

We spent a whole day on Capital Hill going in and out of different offices. I am very thankful to my amazing U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins for allowing me to meet with their staff and talk about the importance of SEL in schools. I learned so much about how valuable it is to work with our politicians and let them know what is important.  Sometimes we think we can't make a difference but I walked away knowing we can. Either an email, or a quick phone call, or in my case going down and meeting with them is important. We need to have voices heard. We need to make sure people are aware of the impact these laws have on our students. So I encourage every educator out there to start being involved. Don't just let the laws happen but step up and show what you are doing in schools. Speak up about the impact these laws will have on your students.

This particular bill is really important to me. SEL is the foundation to which students can sit in class and learn. Without having control of their emotions and impulses we can't expect students to sit all day and understand their academic subjects.  So what is SEL? Well that is a key question and a key part of what we were doing down there.  There is some controversy over the language of SEL. Some fear of SEL in schools. Which as we all know fear of what we don't know can often lead to people assuming the worst. So we were down there to help spread what SEL is and what SEL is not. So here is what we shared:

SEL is 
* Recognizing emotions in oneself and others 
*Managing strong emotions 
*Having empathy for others 
*Controlling impulses 
*Communicating clearly and assertively 
*Maintaining cooperative relationships 
*Making responsible decisions 
*Solving problems effectively 

What SEL is NOT: 
*Kids sitting around a circle singing songs
*Parenting your kids
*Suggesting your not doing a good job as a parent 
*Suggesting that today's generation of kids is broken
*Taught at the expense of core academic subjects such as math, science, and literacy 

How SEL is taught: 
* Using words, pictures, video, and audio 
*Students practice concepts with skill practice, group discussion, individual writing, or partner work 
*reinforce concepts weekly 
*Send info home for students and parents to work on together 
*Re-teach when necessary. 

(That information was taken from

What I know is that SEL does work. I use the 2nd step program and I have seen it work. I have seen many kids needing pull out of class due to behaviors and once we start the program with ALL students we see less and less kids needing to leave the classroom. I know that kids are using the skills. Is it a magic wand? NO but it does work. Some kids get it the first lesson others need it a few times before they realize that yes taking a breathe does help. But that is no different then when we teach reading some get it fast others need support.  What I also know is that without SEL many kids can't learn math, reading, or other subjects because they can't sit and listen.  So if we take the time to put SEL into classrooms we are gaining valuable academic time because kids have learned the skills to sit and listen and control their emotions so they can learn.

Our Message in DC
So we had two messages we wanted the US Senators to hear when we were there I want to share these as I encourage others to get these messages out there and heard.
The first was to support the Jesse Lewis Empowering Educators Act that is being sponsored by Richard Blumenthal.  This Act would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) so that existing professional development funding (Title 2) could be used to train teachers and principals in SEL concepts. The legislation would define both "social and emotional learning" and "social and emotional learning programming". The bill would also add training in "social and emotional learning programming" as an allowable State activity for Title 2 funding and as an allowable LEA activity for Title 2 subgrant funding.
The second was to share language for the report. This wording was designed by many including CASEL. CASEL's mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. They can be found at Along with them also Committee for Children was involved and many others in this wording.
Here is the wording:
In order to improve student's safety, health, and well-being and academic achievement, the Committee acknowledges the scientific research that shows that getting the best outcomes for students requires building nonacademic skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. These skills are teachable, promote healthy behaviors, and help students succeed in school, careers, and life.

So as you can see by the wording SEL clearly is all about teaching kids skills. We acknowledge they are not reading, writing, math etc. but they are valuable skills. Those of us that work in a school also know that without these skills students can't succeed.  One of the interesting things I learned while in DC was of a research project that called the Missing Piece. This was well worth the read and really showed that educators are asking for SEL and for SEL training. Here is a link to this for you to check it out: Missing Piece 

Well this has been one of my longer posts but I will be honest it is probably one of the more powerful and most meaningful events in my life. To get the chance to work with other amazing and dedicated individuals all wanting the same goal of helping students was amazing! I could go on and on for days. But I won't, instead I will leave you with some great photos but also with a strong encouragement to believe that your voice is powerful! You can make a difference and I encourage you to speak out and let others know that SEL is important in ours schools!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Role in helping to make a difference in the future of SEL

Ok so this is the first of probably a few blog entries. I have come down a "little" off my initial shock of what will occur in May. Wondering what it is? Well I was asked to go to Capital Hill and do some one on one advocacy with members of Congress. Yes you are reading that right, I had to read it a few times myself.

So here are some of the details. Last week, the US Senate Education committee unanimously (read:with bipartisan support) passed an ESEA reauthorization. I was asked to come and help Committee for Children encourage support of the Senate bi-partisan mark up of the ESEA and encourage support of Congressman Tim Ryan’s bill ( and to embed language about social-emotional learning into the ESEA reauthorization where ever possible.

Well this was a quick YES from me, and then after a short time my school administration also gave me the YES. In no time  I was booking planes and ready to go. So you might ask why? Well because I am a huge believer in SEL in schools. When I started working in schools I walked into a district that did not have SEL really in their school. I worked hard to write a grant that would bring SEL into our school.  I was a bit disappointed when my grant was not selected but as I strongly believe in karma my administrator at the time who had read the grant put it in the back of her mind that this program really was something I believed in. Four months later she approached me with funding to bring the 2nd Step Program to our school.  (For more info on this program please see their website )

You might be wondering does it really work? Well it does! One of the best stories I like to share is how that year in 3rd grade I had 7 kids the teacher was asking me to pull out for support due to behaviors. When the program arrived the teacher gave me extra time to teach it and she joined me in learning this program. By the end of us implementing this program we were down to only 2 kids needing pull out. So that was huge. Those 2 kids after hearing it again in 4th grade went on to have little to no behavioral issues because they were learning the skills, it just took them a second round of the lessons. 

What I love about the Committee for Children is that they are honest with their consumers. They give you the research and the evidence that it works. However, they don't promise miracles. There are no magical wands, it takes work. It also takes everyone in your school knowing the program and reinforcing it. I remember reading that it can take up to 3 years for the program to really be implemented and shared that with the staff at my school.  I have heard other schools say that it does not work. Well with any program it does not work if you don't work it. This program needs to have buy in by administrators and all educators. So that is why I am so excited about this bill. Congressman Tim Ryan gets that. He knows that it is key to make sure that administrators and educators know the value of SEL and that they teach it, but that they also have the chance to be trained and learn about it. Anyone can take a box of materials and attempt to teach it. However, taking an evidence based program and just teaching it anyway you want will not work.  So the key piece is making sure you teach it with fidelity and integrity. Teach it the way it was researched. If you want those same results then you need to do it that way.

There are a lot of programs out on the market. I am not here to say that the 2nd step is the only SEL program that works. What I am here saying is that SEL programs do impact schools. Teaching kids to respond to emotions is huge. How can we expect our kids to learn in class if they are unable to control their emotions. I also am a strong believer in that it is not enough to just teach kids what their emotions are. It's all great and wonderful to teach kids they are angry and to calm down. But the real lesson for me is what made you angry and how to do problem solve so that you don't have that happen again. That is one of the pieces I love about this program, is the problem solving piece.
As a society we have an obligation to help our future generations learn these key skills of problem solving. These students will grow up to use these skills as they become the next mechanics, doctors and lawyers.  So as you can see I am very passionate about SEL in schools.

So I am very excited to be a part of this piece in history of helping to get SEL a key piece in schools across the country. I will get the chance to work with a lobbyist and get trained on advocacy skills. I will get a chance to be on Capital Hill with an organization I strongly believe does care about kids.  If you are interested in seeing some of the other advocacy work that Committee for Children is involved in please check out their site at

So my journey is just beginning but I will make sure to post pictures and let you know about the experience because as a social worker and school counselor it is key for us to sometimes not only advocate for students in our school but on a larger scale like on Capital Hill.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book that will move you and make you look at kids differently!

Ok it has been a while since I have sat down to blog. I know life gets busy, and I could give you a ton of excuses but let's just say life is busy. But I am on spring break and I had the chance to read a book and thought what a great blog entry this would be. So here it is.......

So this starts off with me telling you a little about my son. So my son is undiagnosed on the spectrum. I say that because years ago someone said he would fit the diagnosis but to get it, it would cost me a ton due to our insurance. The same provider said "but really is there anything a diagnosis will do compared to what you are already doing" this provider knew I was a social worker. So I have always joked with my son about being my "Sheldon" and I push him to be all that he can be. Well why am I telling you this? Well the story starts with him. Yesterday I sat for 3 hours in a waiting room to have his elbow looked at. While we knew it was going to be a long wait I ran next door to grab him headphones so he could listen to netflix on his phone and I could grab a book to read. After all sitting with a bunch of strangers for 3 hours is like torture to him so being able to escape into netflix was needed. What became a boring wait in a waiting room turned into one of those moments where a book touched me and brought me the answer I was looking for.

So the name of the book is: Love Anthony. This book is written by Lisa Genova. I first grabbed this book because I had read her other book and loved it. Not really knowing what I was getting into I soon discovered this book was about autism. However, unlike other books this book takes one into the mind of a child with autism. It explains from their perspective that life is not "less than" or horrible because they don't engage. Instead it explains that when allowed to be themselves they are happy.  My son graduates high school this year. I struggled for a long time, do I push him to do the typical graduating things. Do we get senior pictures when he hates his picture taken? Do I make him attend a graduation ceremony that will be a torture for him every second? Do I make him attend the senior class trip? Well I started to realize these are things I want not that he wants. But a part of me still wondered was I just taking the easy way out by allowing him to decide these things. Well after reading this book it was like it was speaking to me. How would I feel if someone forced me to do things I don't want? Why is it that kids on the spectrum are forced to stop their patterns that keep them feeling safe, secure and happy. Who said a 10 year old can't like Barney? If Barney makes someone happy should they not be allowed to like Barney?

I wish I could share more about this book, but to be honest I don't want to spoil it. I think every person that works with someone on the spectrum should read it. I will warn you to get some tissues before the ending. But  I also warn you to really listen. We know that a part of us as professionals want to have kids fit in. We want the students at our school to adapt and be like the other kids. But why? Is that our need, or is it theirs? That is the question we need to ask. Can they be happy, and get by in life without us making them just like every other kid?  If a student loves and is "addicted" to trains do we need to force them to stop liking trains? Or do we encourage them and maybe consider them working one day for a train company. My son loves computers, his life evolves around technology. He has dreamed of being a video game programmer since he was about 8. Well next year still unsure how we will pay for it but he heads off to college for this dream. I know he can succeed because it is one of the few things in his life that makes him happy. Yes as a parent many nights we fight and get upset about the fact that his math grades are not high, he is failing english. But when I stop and I listen to him, he is right.  He is always saying "but mom, I won't need those things when I become a programmer." He knows enough to get him by. He knows what makes him happy and he is good at it.

So many people live their lives not to be happy but to make others happy. So many put off the things they enjoy because of what others might think of them. So many are always concerned about the new fads or if that is in style or not. After reading this I am puzzled by perhaps those people that fall on the spectrum are lucky. They are happy and they don't really care what others do or think. They live life by making themselves content. They don't have to deal with always wondering about others. They do what they enjoy. How great life would be if we could get everyone to stop and think about what they enjoy.

So I know this was a blog about a book. I have not told you to much about the book because as I said I don't want to ruin it for you. What I want you to know is, if you work with a child on the spectrum. Stop and think about whose need is this to change their behavior. Yes we can't have kids hitting and things like that. But does the child have to stop flapping if it makes them happy? Do they need to stop rocking if that calms them down? Do we need to make them sit in a crowded gym or cafeteria when really they just enjoy being alone eating lunch. Do we need to make them have friends when really all they want is one or two friends?  I know for my son he is happy with the few friends he has. He is happy being on his computer vs. playing sports or joining clubs at school. So why force him to do things that make him unhappy just because that is what society thinks a high school kid should do.

Thank you so much Lisa Genova for opening my eyes and giving me the validation that yes it is ok to let my son be my son. To let him be happy with who he is and not try to change him. To not think that we as  a society need to force kids to change. We need to really look at what do we want from our future generation and if a kid is different or unique then enjoy that. We need to not try to make every kid be the same. If only people could be more understanding and realize that these behaviors are not just behaviors to annoy others they are who this child is. We sometimes can't change the behavior without forcing a kid to change who they are. We would not force someone to change their eye color, or their skin color so why do we force them to change some of these behaviors that really are not harming others?

I will leave you with this about this book, this was the message I personally take away from this. Each book is different to each person. I know there are other major things in this book that might speak to you more then this piece. To me though this is the piece I really walk away with. However, Lisa also does an amazing job at covering things like trust, forgiveness, grief and loss, and friendship in this book. She shares how a child on the spectrum deals with things in compartments so that they are no overloaded. She does a great job helping to explain why when a child is upset they can't hear what you say because they are shutting down their ears so they can try to remain calm and the noises are setting them overboard. She has a gifted talent to really write not only a book but write a book that speaks to different readers.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dreams Do Come True.

So this is a post that means a ton to me. I am a long standing supporter of the amazing Donorschoose site. This is a site that allows teachers and other school staff to go on and request items for their students and obtain funding for it. I have been using the 2nd Step program from Committee for Children for the past 5 years. I love it! It has made a huge difference in our school when it comes to emotion regulation. However, as we all know sometimes when we use the same material for that many years it starts to get old to us.  It is not that it doesn't work. After all this is an evidence based program. What happens is we get used to it and don't really put in the effort as much. We forget to follow all the steps. We assume everyone knows all the things because after all we have been teaching it for 5 years.   Getting the newest version will help to bring us new energy. This newest version is updated with more research and includes more executive functioning materials to help students.

Well where does the dream part fit in? Well this year I finally said "I'm going to try,  can't hurt". So I did it. I wrote up  a project on Donorschoose for just 1 grade level. I figured I would keep it small and try to do one grade at a time. When I say keep it small, it still was a pretty big project. Well now let me share my dream journey with you. So the first project wasn't moving much. I had just about given up hope and assumed it would never fund. But then I got the magical email saying it was funded. It was funded by an amazing classroom angel (Trevor from WA). But then I really was Cinderella as the next email I got was Trevor sending me enough to fund 2 more grades. Wow I was half way there only 3 grades to go. So I submitted for the 4th grade kit. The same day it posted another angel from Maine funded the whole project. I really was starting to feel like I was in a Disney movie this did not feel like real life. So I then had to figure out which direction to go.  I had 2 more grades to go. Well Bill and Melinda Gates started to work with DC for a pilot program of teacher professional development. So it required me to submit a project under $1000 that involved some professional development. Well the 2nd step program comes with online training so this was perfect. I posted it and it posted with what is called an AH Match. That means Bill and Melinda were paying for all but $98. Then I hit the interne,t promoting and tweeting and getting the word out there. I was lucky enough to fund it in a few days. Thanks to some amazing co-workers that know how important this program is to the work we do in our school.

Yes you are reading that right, trust me I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming. I now have all 6 grades for this program. Each grade is about $340 or more so that is huge. To think that without any school funding, a little investment of time in writing the proposals and some of my own $ as I donate to each of my own projects, I did it. I made the dream come true. 
Here is what one of the projects looked like: 2nd Step Project 

I know I often hear School Counselors talking about how they have no budget and no funds. I will say since I have been in my current district I don't have a budget per say. I ask for things if I really need them and sometimes I can get it but over the past 7 years I have asked for very little. The first version of this program was only obtained through a grant.  However, I know it is important to make your dreams come true to not to sit around and wait for them. So I encourage you all to go to Donorschoose and start to make those dreams come true.
It is important to not get discouraged. Also as you see I only did projects one at a time for each grade. I don't think this dream would have happened if I had done a project for all 6 grades at once. Sometimes we have to take smaller steps to meet a larger goal.

I am not done yet I am going to ride this wave as long as  I can and now have another project for some things to support our work with the 2nd step program.  I know that I won't be discouraged if it does not fund. But I also know if I don't dream then it won't happen. 
 Here is my dream continues project:

I would love to hear other people's dreams and how they met their dreams to get their school counseling program to the place it is.  I know we all have different funding sources that we love and that we have used. Let's share some as there are probably  many out there that are without any funding sources that can use this info. So please either leave a note on this blog with our ideas of funding sources or head to my Facebook page and leave a note there. Together we can help meet the needs of all students all over.

Also I want to do a huge shout out to the Committee for Children for the work you do. You are amazing in your products and I am so lucky to have the chance to use your research, evidence based program with our students. If you are looking for a great program I highly recommend this program and here is their website: