If a child cannot learn the way I teach, then I must teach the way he learns.
--Anna Gillingham, educator and psychologist

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Childhood Trauma

Two-thirds of Americans are exposed to extreme stress in childhood. Toxic stress has a significant, negative effect on individuals' mental and physical health. Respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and various types of cancers are just a few of the health concerns that could be linked to toxic stress during childhood.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, pediatrician, author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, encourages parents and guardians to complete the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs). This study asks 10 short questions pertaining to the child. When completed, it gives a score that indicates how much trauma the child has been exposed to. The higher the score, the higher the child's risk of experiencing poor physical and mental health, and negative social consequences later in life. By completing this study and receiving a score, adults can intervene with a child that has been exposed to a high number of toxic stressors in order to diminish the impacts during the course of a child's life. This preventative measure could significantly increase the child's health, both physically and mentally.

If interested, you can find the ACE Quiz here. Trauma symptoms can often appears as disruptive behaviors at school, withdrawing from normal activities, and/or sleep and appetite disturbances. If you have concerns about your child, our Psychology Department at the Laughlin Children's Center is able and ready to assist. We provide outpatient psychological counseling as well as Parent Child Interaction Therapy. We also accept most major insurances and offer financial aid if you qualify! If you have questions or would like to make an appointment for your child, please call us at 412-741-4087.

Monday, January 15, 2018

If you work with boys or young men or are a parent of a male child, you will not want to miss this! On Monday February 5 at 6:30 PM, Quaker Valley Middle School will be screening an important film aptly named “The Mask You Live In” for the public. 

The film follows young men who are facing constant pressure from the media, peers, and even the adults in their lives to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify women, and resolve conflicts through violence, all in the name of “being a man”. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race, class, and circumstance which creates a maze of identity issues for young men. Research shows that compared to girls, boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and how to combat it. The film ultimately aims to illustrate how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.

To learn more, visit the film's website here.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Make the Most of Winter Break

Here at Laughlin Children’s Center, we are well aware that teaching, providing therapies to children, and assisting families with their daily struggles can be some of the most rewarding work on the planet. What we don’t often talk about is that it can also be stressful. It is vitally important that we stay refreshed, passionate, and focused in order to best serve our clients.

For many therapist and teachers, the holiday break at the end of December provides an opportunity for a rest (at least from work!). A great article published by Edutopia.com gives tips on making the most of the winter break to renew your body and mind. Find it hereSome of the article’s suggestions are great for parents as well as teachers.  Limiting screen time, practicing mindfulness, and exercising are, in fact, good for everybody!

The article suggests taking the first day of break as a strictly Rest-Only day by turning off all electronic devices and sleeping as much as possible. After this, commit to participating in daily or weekly guided relaxation and/or meditation (many can be found for free online). There are scientifically verified benefits of participating in these including decreases in perceived stress, emotional exhaustion, and depressive symptoms. Keep in mind that learning to relax and meditate can be frustrating at first, and it requires repeated practice to achieve the benefits mentioned.

Additionally, practicing Mindfulness can decrease your day to day stress. Mindfulness is a way to train your mind to create space between a potential stressor and your response to it. Try setting a peaceful sounding alarm to go off every half hour during your day. Each time you hear it, take three deep breathes and focus on the present.

Participating in regular exercise has long been a natural solution for stress among many other health problems. There’s a reason exercise is a go-to: it works! Completing a rigorous (or relaxing) workout releases feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine. It will also help you to sleep better!

Increase your self-confidence and decrease negativity by choosing an affirmation to repeat each morning. Affirmations are sentences aimed to affect the conscious and the subconscious mind. The words composing the affirmation bring up related mental images into the mind, which could inspire, energize and motivate. The idea behind affirmations is that repeating them affects the subconscious mind, which in turn, influences behavior, habits, actions and reactions. Affirmations you might try include:
  • I am competent and capable.
  • I am making a difference in children’s lives.
  • The work I do matters.
  • I am thankful to have a challenging and fulfilling job.

By taking care of yourself, you can not only serve your students or clients to the best of your ability, but you can also be a better role model for them. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Two Skills Most Likely to Affect A Child's Future Success

Do you know which two skills most affect a child’s likelihood to obtain a future college degree? You might just be surprised! The results of the 19-year study published in the American Journal of Public Health can be found here. To complete the study, researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University followed the same group of children from the time they were five years old until they were 25 years old. Researchers interviewed the children’s kindergarten teachers about each child’s social and emotional competence. This includes skills such as sharing, listening to others, being helpful, and resolving problems with peers. When the researchers followed up with these same individuals 19 years later, they discovered that the kids with the highest social and emotional competency in kindergarten fared better in life overall. They were more likely to have a college degree and a full time job. Children who demonstrated poor social and emotional competence at age five were much more likely to be facing addictions, a criminal record, legal trouble, and homelessness at age 25 years.

When asked how she felt about the article’s content, Village Preschool Director and Laughlin Children’s Center Academic Department Director, Karen Borland, wasn't surprised. She shared, “We at the Village Preschool at Laughlin Children’s Center say a big YES to the development of social and emotional competence!” She goes on to say, “The preschool experience is likely one of the first times a child is in a group setting, and learning how to share and get along with new classmates and teachers is a very big job for a three or four year old child. Learning to follow class rules, how to work cooperatively with a friend, and developing the language to solve a conflict puts a child on the pathway to developing life-long skills for being a productive citizen.”

If you are interested in learning more or enrolling your child in the Village Preschool is Sewickley, PA, give us a call at 412-741-4087 or visit our website at www.laughlincenter.org.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

6 Tips to Improve Core Strength in Children

As an occupational therapist, I often see children who have weak core muscles. The core includes a great number of muscles which exist in the abdomen, back, and neck. These muscles are the foundation for all body movements including maintaining an upright posture while sitting or standing. Core strength development begins in infancy with “Tummy Time” or supervised time an infant spends laying on their stomach. In this way, infants learn to hold their heads up which strengthens the neck and back muscles.

Due to an increased focus on academics, children today have less opportunity for movement and exercise during school than their parents did. They are also more likely to participate in sedentary activities, such as video or tablet games, than go outside for active play. Active play facilitates the development of appropriate motor skills, and without it children can fall behind. Children with weak core muscles might present with delayed fine, gross, and visual motor skills, excessive fidgeting and difficulty maintaining attention, poor posture, decreased balance, and low endurance.

The good news is: there are lots of ways to help your child increase their core strength! Here are a few ideas to use with your child at home:
  • Bridging- Have your child lay on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Have them push hard through their heels to raise their bottom up off the floor.  Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground. See how long they can hold this position. Drive toy cars or walk stuffed animals underneath them while they are bridging to encourage them to hold the position longer.
  • Knock Over the Statue- Have your child hold various positions as a “statue” while an adult gently tries to knock them over. Positions can include kneeling, half-kneel, standing, standing with eyes closed, arms up over head or out the sides, or standing on a pillow with eyes open or closed. Holding a whole body position against resistance is a fun way to strengthen the core!
  • Wheelbarrow Walking- Hold your child’s feet and have them walk on their hands. How far can they go before needing a break? Have them race with friends or family.
  • Crab Walking- Have your child sit on their bottom with feet flat on the floor in front of them. Place their hands on the floor behind them, push up to lift their bottom off of the ground and start moving.  Crab walk to the bathroom to brush teeth, crab walk to the door to get shoes, crab walk to the kitchen to get a drink, crab walk ANYWHERE!
  • Flying Feet- With your child, lay on the floor on your back with legs and feet straight up in the air. Use only your feet to lift a stuffed animal or bean bag. Pass it back and forth between you and your child’s feet without dropping it. Another way to play is to hold a hula hoop and have your child use their feet to throw the beanbag or stuffed animal through the hula hoop accurately.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to encourage your children to participate in outdoor active play whenever possible!

Monday, October 9, 2017

10 Fall Sensory Activities

Looking for fun ways to spend time with the special child or children in your life AND give them beneficial sensory experiences to learn more about their world? Look no further! Below are ten Occupational Therapist approved sensory activities with a Fall theme.

1.      Pumpkin Guts! Let your child explore the inside of a pumpkin. Have your child pick out the seeds to roast. This activity gives intense sensory input, and some children might find it to be too "gross". If your child is reluctant, offer a utensil to use instead of their hands.

2.      Give some proprioceptive (deep pressure) input by pounding golf tees into pumpkins with a wooden mallet.  Besides the sensory benefits, this is great for fine motor and visual motor skills!

3.      Make some homemade pumpkin play dough with the following recipe (from KatieManuel.com):

1 Cup Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
3/4 Cup Water
10 Drops Orange Food Coloring
1/2 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

First, fill a measuring cup with 3/4 cup water, then add 10 drops of food coloring to the water and give it a good stir. Next, pour the baking soda, cornstarch, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium sized pot. Then, gradually add the water to the dry ingredients and cook on medium heat, stirring gently but frequently with a spatula until the dough forms into a ball. Finally, allow the dough to cool for about 15 minutes, then knead, play, and create! Refrigerate when done. If the dough gets dry, add a few drops of water or olive oil. Use a spoon, fork, butter knife (age depending), rolling pin, cookie cutter, googly eyes, or tooth picks to add to the fun and fine motor practice.

4.      Go on a nature walk and collect chestnuts, acorns, pine cones, or leaves. Talk about what each looks, feels, and smells like.

5.      Make a Fall Sensory Bin. For your base you can use birdseed, un-popped corn kernels, dry beans, sunflower seeds, or a combination. Add some real or faux leaves, acorns, tiny pumpkins, pumpkin seeds, straw, and red/yellow/orange pompoms. Be sure to include tongs, spoons, and small cups for practicing fine motor skills. For a Halloween theme, add plastic spiders, snakes, eyeballs, tiny erasers (Target dollar bins have some great Halloween themed ones), and orange/purple/green pompoms.

6.      Make fall leaf “confetti”. Hunt for dried leaves outside, then put them in baking dish and allow your child to crunch them into tiny pieces using their hands. Next, cut out a large leaf shape in construction paper. Cover it with glue, then sprinkle the leaf “confetti” on top until it covers your paper. Let dry, then hang up for a beautiful fall decoration!

7.      Listen to a Halloween CD or recording of spooky sounds and take turns guessing what might be making each sound (a creaky door, wind, cat, etc.)

8.      Gather fall leaves into piles and let your child run and jump through them for loads of proprioceptive, vestibular, tactile input, AND fun! 

9.      Blindfold your child and have them reach them into brown lunch bags filled with fall finds. Try including an apple, leaves, acorns, pine cones, fuzzy wool socks, small pumpkin, straw, or pumpkin seeds. Can they figure out what they’re touching without looking at it? Wonderful for developing tactile discrimination.  

10.      Make a large batch of green or orange Jell-O with you child. Set aside what you want to eat, and use the rest for play! Put plastic insects, snakes, or eyeballs inside and have your child dig them out for some ooey, gooey (taste-safe) fun!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

National Depression Screening Day

The stigma unfairly attached to mental illness can make it very challenging to talk about, but the people behind National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) are working hard to change that. National Depression Screening Day is October 5th this year. It is dedicated to raising awareness and screening individuals for not only depression but also mood and anxiety disorders. It gives people access to validated screening questionnaires and provides referral information for treatment. This year’s theme is “Speaking Your Mind” and focuses on talking about your experience with mental health. Sharing your story can help both you and others who may be having similar struggles.

You can support the campaign by using the hashtags #NDSD and #SpeakYourMind. The goal is to not only increase awareness but also to decrease the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health. You can take the free mental health screening online today at http://www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org/. There are several screening tools depending on your current situation. There is also a screen concerned parents can take regarding their child. On their website, Screening for Mental Health says, “We envision a world where mental health is viewed and treated with the same gravity as physical health, and the public’s participation in National Depression Screening Day helps make that vision a reality… Much like the medical community screens for diabetes and high blood pressure, we wanted to offer large-scale mood disorder screenings for the public. The program provides free, anonymous screenings for depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as referral to treatment resources.”

Depression screening was found to be effective at linking at-risk individuals with treatment options. Results from a 2009 independent research study by the University of Connecticut and commissioned by Screening for Mental Health showed that 55% of participants who completed an online depression screening and who agreed to participate in a follow-up survey sought depression treatment within three months of the screening.

Screening for Mental Health also has a great blog post with tips for talking to others about your mental illness, as well as suggestions for what to say and do when someone else opens up to you about their mental illness. It can be found here.

If you are looking for psychological services for your child, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 412-741-4087 to learn more about what we offer at the Laughlin Children’s Center.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Amy Jackson Runs for Dyslexia

We at Laughlin Children's Center couldn't be more proud of our own Amy Jackson! Not only is she a wonderful Dyslexia Program Coordinator for our center, but she is continually going above and beyond her job description to make this world a better place for the children we serve. Despite having a full time job and a busy family, she makes time to volunteer and fund-raise for individuals with dyslexia. One recent example of this was highlighted on the International Dyslexia Association's website found here.

Amy is a part of Team Quest, an endurance training and fundraising campaign, whose goal is to bring visibility to the International Dyslexia Association as well as all those struggling with dyslexia. The team trains for and completes half and full marathons across the country. Participants choose a personal fundraising goal and receive ongoing, step-by-step guidance to reach that goal. Benefits to participants include race registration, hotel accommodations, coaching, and pre- and post-event parties.

In her own words, Amy says, "I run for kids with dyslexia… so they can have the opportunity to receive research-based instruction in reading and writing. I run for their small successes and big steps toward feeling confident. I run so they can feel good! I run for teachers of students with dyslexia. I run so they know how to help their students be successful in the classroom. I run so they can receive training and attend conferences and workshops to be better equipped to teach the students who walk into their classroom who can’t read. I run to raise funds for the International Dyslexia Association … to create a better future for every child and adult who struggles with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. I run because reading changes lives."

For more information regarding our Dyslexia Program, please give us a call at 412-741-4087.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Multi-Disciplinary Screening Event

Could you use reassurance that your child is progressing through development typically? Or alternatively, do you think there might be a problem, but you’re not sure what to do next?
This August 11th, the Laughlin Children’s Center will be hosting the first ever Multi-Disciplinary Screening day!  This event will be for families with children ages 3-5 years who would like to participate in a one on one screening process with a Speech therapist, Occupational therapist, Educational specialist, and Mental health professional. Each of these professionals will screen participants to check for signs of potential issues or delays. All four screenings will be completed in just one hour! Parents will receive results of the screenings within the week. Screenings are created to quickly determine if development is occurring in a typical manner or if additional evaluation or assessment is needed. It is not to be used for diagnostic purposes.

The cost of the four combined screenings is just $10.00 per child. Interested families can sign up by calling 412-741-4087.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Strengthening Your Child's Core Muscles

As an occupational therapist, I often see children who have weak core muscles. The core includes a great number of muscles which exist in the abdomen, back, and neck. These muscles are the foundation for all body movements including maintaining an upright posture while sitting or standing. Core strength development begins in infancy with “Tummy Time” or supervised time an infant spends laying on their stomach. In this way, infants learn to hold their heads up which strengthens the neck and back muscles.

Due to an increased focus on academics, children today have less movement and exercise during school time than their parents did. They are also more likely to play sedentary games such as video or tablet games than go outside for active play. Children with weak core muscles might present with poor posture, excessive fidgeting, delayed fine and/or gross motor skills, poor balance, and low endurance.

The good news is: there are lots of ways to help your child increase their core strength! Here are a few ideas to use with your child at home:
  • Bridging- Have your child lay on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Have them push hard through their heels to raise their bottom up off the floor.  Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground. See how long they can hold this position. Drive toy cars or walk stuffed animals underneath them while they are bridging to encourage them to hold the position longer.
  • Knock Over the Statue- Have your child hold various positions as a “statue” while an adult gently tries to knock them over. Positions can include kneeling, half-kneel, standing, standing with eyes closed, arms up over head or out the sides, standing on a pillow or cushion with eyes open or closed. Holding a whole body position against resistance is a fun way to strengthen the core!
  • Wheelbarrow Walking- Hold your child’s feet and have them walk on their hands. How far can they go before needing a break? Have them race with friends or family.
  • Crab Walking- Have your child sit on their bottom with feet flat on the floor in front of them. Place their hands on the floor behind them, push up to lift their bottom off of the ground and start moving.  Crab walk to the bathroom to brush teeth, crab walk to the door to get shoes, crab walk to the kitchen to get a drink, crab walk ANYWHERE!
  • Flying Feet- With your child, lay on the floor on your back with legs and feet straight up in the air. Use only your feet to lift a stuffed animal or bean bag. Pass it back and forth between you and your child’s feet without dropping it. Another way to play is to hold a hula hoop and have your child use their feet to throw the beanbag or stuffed animal through the hula hoop accurately.
While the activities above are great for targeting the core muscles specifically, don’t forget to encourage your children to participate in outdoor active play this summer! Swimming in a pool or climbing on a jungle gym can provide valuable all-over strengthening. Your kids won’t even realize they are exercising and promoting healthy development of motor skills!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Could My Child Benefit from Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapists can help families with a variety of challenges. Take a look at the list below for some signs your child might benefit from occupational therapy. Remember to always consult your pediatrician with any concerns you have about your child.

Does your child demonstrate any of the following:

Motor Skills
  • Developmental delay (not reaching developmental milestones of sitting, crawling, and walking and/or not developing age appropriate play and social skills)
  • Difficulty with manipulating toys, puzzles, feeding utensils, or scissors
  • Difficulties with pencil grasp or handwriting
  • Difficulties with clothing fasteners (zippers, buttons, shoelaces)
  • Not developing a hand dominance
  • Difficulties with coloring, drawing, tracing, pre-writing shapes
  • Clumsy or uncoordinated movements and poor balance
  • Difficulty going up and down stairs at an age appropriate time
  • Difficulty with the concept of right and left
  • Poor ball skills
  • Low or high muscle tone
  • Poor posture while sitting or standing
  • Difficulty coordinating both sides of the body
  • Doesn't cross midline of body during play and school tasks

Visual Processing
  • Difficulty with the spacing, placement, and sizing of letters
  • Difficulty recognizing letters
  • Loses his/her place when reading or copying from the board
  • Difficulty with copying shapes, letters, words, or sentences
  • Difficulty with visual tracking
  • Difficulty finding objects among other objects

Oral Motor/Oral Sensory
  • Drools excessively
  • Difficulty using a cup or straw at an age-appropriate time
  • Loses excessive liquid or food from his or her mouth when drinking or chewing
  • Appears to be excessively picky when eating, only eating certain types or textures of food
  • Excessively mouths toys or objects beyond an age-appropriate time

Sensory Processing
  • Overly sensitive to sound, touch, or movement
  • Under-responsive to certain sensations (e.g., high pain tolerance, doesn't notice cuts/bruises)
  • Constantly moving, jumping, crashing, bumping
  • Easily distracted by visual or auditory stimuli
  • Emotionally reactive
  • Difficulty coping with change
  • Inability to calm self when upset

Learning Challenges
  • Unable to concentrate and focus at school
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty following instructions and completing work
  • Poor impulse control
  • Hyperactivity or low energy
  • Makes letter or number reversals after age seven

Play Skills
  • Needs adult guidance to initiate play
  • Difficulty with imitative play
  • Moves quickly from one activity to the next
  • Does not join in with peers/siblings when playing
  • Does not understand concepts of sharing and turn taking

If you notice one or more of these signs in your own child, consider making an appointment to discuss it with your pediatrician. You can also participate in an OT screening, which will indicate whether there is a need for a full OT evaluation, at Laughlin Children's Center without a doctor's prescription by calling 412-741-4087.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Free Summer Meals for Youth at the YMCA

Did you know that children are at a higher risk of hunger during the summer? For some children, summer is a time of fun and freedom. However, for the millions of children who rely on school for breakfasts and/or lunches, summer can be a time of hunger. Experiencing chronic hunger affects not only a child's physical well being but also their emotional and mental well being.

The good news is that many generous organizations all over the country are recognizing this problem and creating solutions! This summer our very own Sewickley YMCA  is offering free nutritious meals for youth ages 18 years and younger Monday through Friday from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm at the Oasis Teen Center.

Donations of food as well as paper products (plates, napkins, bowls, utensils) are gratefully accepted. If you are interested in volunteering, the YMCA is looking for Lunch Monitors as well as help with set up and clean up.

For more information, you are asked to contact Barb Herman at 412-741-9622 ext. 131 or bherman@sewickleyymca.org.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We've Got the Beat!

We are having a rockin’ good time so far at our “We’ve Got the Beat” preschool learning camp!  We were fortunate to have Mr. HueiShang Kao from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra visit with his violin.  We also had a wonderful visit from the talented Lynn Dunbar and her friend Chris to teach us about woodwind instruments.  Today we created our own drums and had a drum circle under the direction of Don Wright!  We look forward to the guitar with Mr. Tom Fraser and Mrs. Butterworth’s trumpet lesson later this week.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Sensory Friendly Performance

The occupational therapy department of Laughlin Children’s Center sees many children with a variety of sensory needs. For this reason, we couldn’t be happier to hear about the upcoming Sensory-Friendly Performance of Music of Flight and Fantasy being put on by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and renown occupational therapist, Roger Ideishi. It will take place on Saturday June 17 at Heinz Hall. This year's theme, Music of Flight and Fantasy, will feature musical selections that celebrate stories, characters, and adventure featuring the music from ET, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, and The Wizard of Oz.

The staff behind this event have truly thought of everything. On their website, they have provided pre-visit materials including social stories with pictures specific to Heinz Hall performances. The amount of detail these materials go into, all in a child-friendly way, is incredible. They include waiting in line, giving the usher your ticket, finding the restroom, going to the Quiet Room (more on that later), and what the child might hear, see, and feel while they are at the event. It allows the child to feel prepared and confident by knowing what to expect when they attend the performance. Recordings of the songs to be played are also available to listen to ahead of time.

On the day of the performance, Heinz Hall is beginning pre-concert activities an hour and 15 minutes prior to the performance. Some individuals with sensory needs feel more comfortable after they have spent some time in a new place, and this early start allows attendees the time they need to settle in. During this time, a variety of activities will be available including a Kinesthetic Room, Musician Meet and Greet, Quiet Room, “Picture This”, Sound Exploratorium, and Fiddlesticks’ Art Room. In the Kinesthetic Room, faculty from the Pittsburgh Ballet will be leading creative movement activities. Members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will be available to say hello in the Musician Meet and Greet. The Quiet Room is available for anyone who needs a break from the excitement. It is equipped with bean bag chairs, weighted lap pads and neck rolls, noise cancelling headphones, play mats, and coloring materials. “Picture This” will be an area in the Grand Lobby to take pictures with your favorite character cut outs. Attendees are welcome to dress up like their favorite character and share photos on social media using the hashtag #PSOsensoryfriendly.  The Sound Exploratorium will provide opportunities to explore percussion instruments, singing, and movement with the Music Therapy professionals from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Children will be able to create Flight and Fantasy inspired art projects in Fiddlesticks’ Art Room.

While the event is geared toward children, people of all ages and abilities are welcome to attend. Tickets are priced at only $15.00 each. In addition, the Pittsburgh Symphony is allowing full refunds to any families who find they are unable to attend the day of the performance. This applies only to Sensory Friendly performances. In addition to the typical services available at Heinz Hall performances (curbside assistance, accessible entrances and seating, an accessible restroom, and portable FM assistive listening devices and hearing loop), there will be a family restroom, Braille programs, large print programs, ASL interpretation, and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) at the concert.

We highly recommend you check out the event’s website to learn more. If you, your child, or someone you know has sensory needs, you will not want to miss this awesome event! A video recap of the 2016 Sensory Friendly performance is available to watch here here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How to Protect Your Child’s Hearing

Did you know that an estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years (approximately 5.2 million) and 17% of adults aged 20–69 years (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise?

Noise threatens our hearing because when we hear sound, delicate hair cells in our inner ears vibrate. This creates nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. If we overload these delicate hair cells with exposure to loud noises, we damage them. This results in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus—or “ringing in the ears.” The hair cells that vibrate most quickly—and that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds like birds singing and children speaking—usually become damaged, dying first. Sounds 85 decibels and above put you at risk of hearing loss. Many of your child’s devices including cell phones, iPods, iPads, and tablets are capable of producing sounds at and above 85 decibels.

Here are some tips to help prevent hearing loss in your child:
  • Check to see if your devices have software that includes a "volume limit feature."
  • Choose headphones that block out the sound around the listener. If the headphones have a good seal, your child will be less likely to turn up the volume to drown out the other sounds.
  • Limit your child's use of headphones or earbuds to only one hour per day.
  • If your child is using headphones or earbuds for more than one hour per day, be sure the device is set to play at no more than 60% of the maximum value.
  • Encourage your child to take regular breaks from headphones or earbuds.
  • Don't listen with just one earbud. It's harder to hear the music and your child might be tempted to turn up the volume putting that one ear at serious risk.

 For more information, visit: 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SLP at Laughlin Children’s Center Traveling to Guatemala and Nepal to Serve Children in Need

We already know we have wonderful staff here at Laughlin, but times like this remind us just how stellar they truly are! Our very own speech language pathologist, Jill Eckert, will be traveling to Guatemala next month and Nepal in October with Dr. Suzanne Maslo, DDS to volunteer with Global Dental Relief providing children with free dental care. This isn’t the first time Jill has volunteered her time and skills to impoverished children. This will be her ninth dental mission trip!

When asked why she goes on these dental humanitarian trips with Global Dental Relief, Jill responded, “We are called as fellow humans to provide love and care to children. I love being part of a team offering first time dental care to children who may not otherwise receive it.”

Global Dental Relief (GDR) is a charitable organization established in 2001 to provide free dental care and oral health education to impoverished children and families of Nepal, northern India, Cambodia, Kenya, and Guatemala. GDR’s commitment is to return to these same children every two years to provide continuous care. Dental camps, such as the ones Jill takes part in, generally include up to six dentists, three hygienists and six to twelve non-medical volunteers who collectively treat upwards of 150 children per day. GDR currently offers twenty clinics in five countries to volunteer combined with opportunities to explore local culture and participate in guided travel following the clinic. Since 2001, GDR has hosted more than 2,000 volunteers and treated more than 125,000 children. To learn more about Global Dental Relief, visit www.globaldentalrelief.org.

Outside of her work, Jill likes to garden, cheer on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and participate in her church’s music team. When asked what she most wants to share with the world about her experience volunteering, Jill said, “We want people to know that anyone can do this work; anyone can make a difference in the world.” Laughlin is so proud of you, Jill, because that’s exactly what you’re doing! Wishing you a safe and successful trip!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Stand Together: Help and Hope

If you are a parent of an adolescent, you have likely heard of, or even watched, the popular Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. It is based on the fictional novel of the same name written by Jay Asher, which follows the aftermath of a young girl’s suicide and delves into the reasons she decided to end her life. While many people are thankful that teenage mental health is being discussed in the media at all, some are concerned the show could be seen as glamorizing suicide.

Whatever your opinion may be, everyone can agree that it has gotten people talking about mental health. These conversations may be uncomfortable and bring up questions that are tough for parents to answer. However, don’t give up! Be sure to remain open to communication about mental health with your children.

Whether you and your child have had in depth conversations about mental health or you find it difficult to discuss, LEAD (Leading Education and Awareness for Depression) Pittsburgh encourages you to watch “Stand Together: Help & Hope” a television show about mental health that was created by teenagers in Pittsburgh. The show’s goal is to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health and offer a hopeful message. You can watch a promotional clip of the show here. It will be airing Saturday May 27 at 9:00am on Fox 53.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20% of children have or will have a mental disorder. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, make an appointment to see a professional who can point you in the right direction. There are many resources, including the mental health professionals who work at the Laughlin Children’s Center. Call us at 412-741-4087 questions you may have about beginning services for your child.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

With the month of May comes not only beautiful spring weather, but also Better Hearing and Speech MonthIt is now estimated that 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder. Better Hearing and Speech Month is the perfect time to consider how you communicate and interact with individuals with autism.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in communication and social interaction. Speech-language pathologists help children with autism in areas including communication and social skills.

Everyone can play a role in fostering an inclusive atmosphere for children and adults with autism at school, workplaces, local businesses, and throughout our society.

Try using these tips:

  • Reach out. People with autism want to make social connections just like everybody else, but it might be more difficult for them. Make an effort to engage the person in conversation or to invite them to participate in an activity.
  • Be patient. Give the person additional time to speak and respond. Don’t try to finish the person’s sentence or thought for them.
  • Modify your communication. Rephrase what you say if the person doesn’t understand or respond the first time. Use visual cues, or write your message down. Go the extra mile to be a good communication partner!
  • Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume you know what the person wants or what they are thinking. Ask them!

This is a great time for parents to talk to their kids about classmates or friends with autism—how they can include them, be kind, and better understand that despite some differences, they are similar in many more ways than they are different.

Parents who have concerns about their own child should contact a professional. Research has shown that early treatment strongly correlates with better outcomes for children with autism. Parents can obtain free speech and occupational therapy screenings for their children at the Laughlin Children’s Center by calling 412-741-4087. The screening process is brief and will indicate whether a full evaluation is recommended.

Information and graphic obtained from http://www.asha.org/bhsm/.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Day Of Giving

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, is Pittsburgh's Day of Giving, where Pittsburghers give to local charities and non-profits. Help Laughlin Children's Center continue to build bridges to learning success for children in Western Pennsylvania by donating at our Pittsburgh Foundation page: https://givingday.pittsburghgives.org/npo/mary-and-alexander-laughlin-childrens-center.
Thank you!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Laughlin Receives Penguin in Honor of Past President

Just before Christmas, Laughlin Children’s Center welcomed a new friend: a three-foot tall penguin made of cement and fiberglass and covered with fantastical animals.  The statue is a gift from Oliver and Mary Kay Poppenberg of Sewickley, given in honor of their daughter, Kate Poppenberg Pigman. Pigman served four terms as the President of the Center’s Board of Directors as well as chairman of its Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2015.

The penguin was created by local artist Laura Jean McLaughlin as part of the 2002 “Penguins on Parade” fundraiser sponsored by Sweetwater Center for the Arts.  The Poppenbergs placed the winning bid on the penguin, which McLaughlin titled, “Green Gals on Two-Headed Elephants.”  After more than a decade of the penguin greeting guests at their home, the couple decided it was time for the public to enjoy the fanciful figure.

“Ollie and I are so thrilled about his grand reception at the Center,” Mary Kay Poppenberg stated.  “He has brought lots of smiles and good thoughts to our family and friends, and we are very happy to give him a new home at Laughlin Children’s Center.  I am especially pleased that the artist’s statement matches up so well with the spirit of LCC.  And we’re even more pleased that this gift is in honor of Kate’s board service for so many years.”

According to the artist’s notes, McLaughlin “looked at the form of the penguin and allowed images of people and creatures to flow out, while never second-guessing” what she painted.  “Green people represent all races and genders. The animal forms are metaphors for various hierarchical structures that… carry us and form our immediate perception of the way we see things good and bad,” McLaughlin explained.  According to her website, the artist has work in the collection of the City of Pittsburgh, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Along with a new home, the penguin will also be getting a new name. “While ‘Green Gals on Two-Headed Elephants’ is certainly descriptive, it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue,” Laughlin executive director Douglas Florey shared.  “We are so grateful to the Poppenbergs for this generous addition to the Center,” Florey continued.  “It’s the perfect tribute to Kate’s many years of dedicated service, and is already well-loved by our clients—which is why it needs a more kid-friendly name.”

The Center will be collecting suggestions on what to call the penguin throughout the coming months and will announce the new name via its Facebook page on April 25th, World Penguin Awareness Day.  Those interested in making suggestions should “like” the Laughlin Children’s Center Facebook page and comment on the Name the Penguin post, pinned to the top of the feed.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The ‘American Storyteller’ to share his experiences at Dyslexia Today 2016 conference

One out of every five students has dyslexia, and Nelson Lauver just happened to be one. However, Lauver’s parents and teachers had no concept of what dyslexia was, so he went undiagnosed, struggling through school at around a second-grade reading level. Forced to pursue knowledge outside of the classroom, Lauver learned through observation of the people and the environment surrounding him, which would later serve him well in creating colorful stories. After high school he left the scholastic world for the more comfortable sphere of entrepreneurship starting several small businesses. In his late twenties, Lauver had an unexpected conversation that prompted him to be tested for dyslexia and finally was properly taught to read. In his effort to improve his writing skills, Lauver began composing stories from his memory of growing up in Pennsylvania and soon became famous for his narrated tales on the radio. His memoir Most UnLikely to Succeed gained critical acclaim, and he has since been a champion of literacy for all students.

Lauver will be the keynote speaker at Dyslexia Today 2016: Learning and Living with Dyslexia, sharing his story with those attending the conference held by the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Apart from the keynote address, Dyslexia Today will offer attendees learning disability-related exhibits and two break-out sessions on topics ranging from hands-on math training techniques to assistive technology demonstrations. In addition, Laughlin Children’s Center will be sponsoring an afternoon session on the principles of the Orton-Gillingham Approach. The conference program also will include the Gardner Award presentation and both breakfast and lunch. Dyslexia Today 2016 will take place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on April 9th, and is open to educators, parents and students.

To find a full list of session topics or to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.pbida.org/conferences/pittsburgh-region-conference/.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Acknowledging trauma in the classroom and the home may lead to stronger academic programs and healthier students

Research has shown that one out of every four preschoolers has gone through a traumatic experience. Many times the scars from these mentally shocking events are manifested in “bad” behavior in the classroom. As a result, disruptive little ones often forfeit the chance to learn, all because their past trauma has not been addressed.

In the Kansas City area, many students live in poverty and over five percent of children are homeless, a strong correlate with traumatic incidence within the family (e.g. observation of physical or substance abuse at home, incarceration or death of family member, etc.). With the knowledge that many of their preschoolers were likely to have experienced trauma, many school districts in Missouri around Kansas City decided to mitigate the instances of pre-kindergarten expulsions and future risky behavior in adolescence by piloting Crittenton Children’s Center’s Head Start Trauma Smart program.

Head Start classroom programs naturally integrate trauma-informed practices into the student’s environment by training both educators and family members to address behavior through the framework of the Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency Model. Recognizing that trauma often places a young child’s mind on constant “high alert,” the program encourages teachers and guardians to establish securing routines, concrete calming methods, and a safe space to discuss emotions with their little ones. In addition to this training, Trauma Smart offers Intensive Individual Intervention for those students in need of counseling, Classroom Consultation to improve instructional and disciplinary methods in response to actual situations, and Peer Based Mentoring to foster harmony and support.

After adopting these trauma-informed principles in multiple levels of the school system, administrators saw a decrease in behavioral problems, disciplinary and therapy referrals, and educational costs, as well as an increase in attendance and graduation rates.

Addressing trauma has long been a practice in the field of counseling, and here a Laughlin Children’s Center, each clinician of the Psychology Department works to educate her clients and their teachers on how past experiences can affect learning. Clinicians warn educators of potential triggers, help clients create calming rituals they can use throughout the school day, and even bring in therapy dogs to ease students’ anxiety or depression.

However, even those without traumatized clients or past trauma themselves can adopt more mindful practices in their daily routine. Over at the Village Preschool, instructors encourage the students to notice their emotions and the physical actions that might accompany them, taking steps to appropriately express feelings and foster behavior conducive to classroom learning. As Head Instructor Susan Wright says, “As teachers, we demonstrate and facilitate problem solving with the end goal [of] self-regulation and independence,” a fitting aspiration for all regardless of background. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kidsburgh's Top 10 Pittsburgh Toy Stores

Courtesy Lynlott Miniatures
Whether you collect miniatures or train sets, like trading art supplies or board games, or are looking for vintage items or great ice cream in the middle of winter, the toy stores on this list are sure to help you find that perfect gift as well as bring out your inner child this holiday season. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bridging the IEP and the classroom through words

Check out the video interview with Michael Yudin of the U.S. Department of Education here to learn more about the use of dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia in the educational sphere and its impact on students.
Information obtained from https://www.understood.org/en.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Standing Firm

Out of every five full-time employees, at least one is a victim of domestic abuse. So next Thursday, when business leaders from all around Pittsburgh and the surrounding area gather at the Omni William Penn Hotel, they will be meeting for a highly relevant and worthy cause. They will discuss the prevalence of domestic violence and its effect on the workplace and recognize those who have worked to publicize and mitigate this issue’s impact on the individual.

Both Kristy Trautmann, Executive Director of the FISA Foundation, as a champion, and Pittsburgh Technology Council, as an employer, will be honored for their commitment to the safety of their employees. Joshua Safran, author, attorney, and advocate, will speak on his experience with domestic abuse as a child witnessing his father victimize his mother and as an adult litigating the cases of abuse victims. And over 250 member businesses, from Giant Eagle to Peoples Gas, will reaffirm their pledge to play their part in ending domestic violence.

The force behind this awakening to how trouble at home can be brought into the workplace: the Standing Firm organization.

Standing Firm seeks to inform businesses that domestic abuse, or partner abuse as they like to label it, poses a risk for companies themselves and not just the individuals who work there. When employees are in abusive relationships at home, their productivity often suffers at work due to the distraction of anxiety. Occasionally, confrontation and aggression are even brought into the physical workplace as, statistically, one in four violent acts at work are related to domestic issues. Thus, businesses have a stake in ending partner violence, as Standing Firm points out, simply to help their bottom line.

Once a company recognizes this, Standing Firm asks it to respond and refer. The organization walks each business through a safety plan specific to its size, location, and environment so that it can respond efficiently should the need arise and so that it can take preventative measures to avoid these crises altogether.

Standing Firm encourages employers not to ignore possible signs of domestic abuse in their employees. Susan Nitzberg, the Associate Director of Outreach, points to possible indications such as a once stellar employee producing subpar work, secretive and frequent phone conversations or texts, an employee who wears turtlenecks despite the warm weather, or simply a seemingly unwarranted and constant concerned demeanor.

Standing Firm then gives these businesses resources and contacts so that they can refer potential at risk employees to professionals. Nitzberg says that over the years one mistake that she has seen people make again and again is to tell a victim of abuse to leave their partner and come stay in that friend’s home. She reveals that this tends to escalate the situation as the abusive spouse almost certainly becomes enraged and, consequently, more lives, including the friend’s and the family’s, are put in harm’s way. Instead, she advises that friends and employers connect victims to community support organizations who deal with these situations every day and are able to provide safe exit strategies.

Although it is hard to gather personal stories when dealing with abuse, Standing Firm has already helped many victims throughout the western Pennsylvania region. One women’s shelter received five calls from state employees to self-report their abusive partner due to their workplace’s membership in Standing Firm.

If your company would like to become a Standing Firm member for free, support the organization, attend the luncheon, or simply find out how to reduce domestic violence and its impact on the workplace, please visit http://www.standingfirmswpa.org/ or call 412-421-3682.

Information obtained from Susan Nitzberg and the Standing Firm website.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Parent Groups at Laughlin Children's Center

Every month two small groups of elementary to high school parents gather in the Laughlin Children’s Center boardroom. They begin with introductions welcoming the new faces around the table.
Then Amy Jackson, the assistant director of academics and the dyslexia program coordinator here at LCC, introduces the month’s topic. The issues that her 15 minute presentations address range from school-work organization to self-esteem in those with dyslexia, from reading comprehension to the celebration of learning differences.
Whatever the subject introduced, it is one that the parents have requested and the topic leads to spirited discussion. There is a real sense of camaraderie as mothers and fathers of high schoolers share their past experiences with and encourage those who have middle or elementary-aged students and as all the parents commiserate over similar struggles their children have encountered in their educational journey.
As Jackson puts it, the aim of these parent groups is to provide a casual atmosphere in which parents can ask questions so as to better help their child through school. And through this support network, mothers, fathers, or even grandparents will hopefully be able to effectively support their student’s scholastic growth both within and outside of the school system, ultimately leading to the community’s education in learning disabilities.
In the month of October, Jackson, by popular demand, will speak on homework techniques, and then she will bring in a professional advocate for November to address parent-educator communication skills when specifically discussing dyslexia.
If you are interested in any of these topics or simply would like to learn more about how to support your child with his or her learning difficulty, we encourage you to join Jackson on the second Wednesday of each month (October 14th, November 11th, and December 9th of 2015) at either 1:00pm or 6:30pm. Please send Jackson an email letting her know which time you will be attending; she can be contacted at a.jackson@laughlincenter.org.

Friday, November 7, 2014

4 Tips for Preparing Your Child with Autism for Holiday Celebrations

Michael J. Cameron, Ph.D., BCBA-D

[Note: although Dr. Cameron is writing specifically for families of children on the autism spectrum, many of his ideas and suggestions make sense for all parents!]

Holidays are a time for family, friends and food. A time to celebrate the spirit of thankfulness, giving and receiving. A time for decorating, traveling and shopping for many. As Abe Lincoln once said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." This means preparing for success. For a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), preparing for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is imperative.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanza or any other holiday celebration, the chaos, audio and visual stimuli and increase in human interaction that these occasions bring about can cause elevated amounts of anxiety and stress to a child with ASD. These heightened emotions can manifest into behavioral (e.g., an exacerbation of repetitious verbal and motor behavior) and physiologic changes (e.g., increase in heart rate and adrenaline), which can be eliminated, reduced or managed with the right preparation.

Here are some tips that we at Pacific Child & Family Associates share with families to help families like yours prepare a child with ASD for a season full of holiday cheer:

Communication: It is critical that you have a plan to communicate to your child, spouse and family or friends that you will be visiting. It is important for your child to know what to expect and for all other people involved to understand your child's needs and concerns. You can accomplish this by gathering information about a home you will visit including details of pets, other children, home security (in case your child has a history of wandering or leaving without permission) and food that will be served (if your child has food sensitivities). It is equally important for you to communicate with the host about what they might expect from your child and how the visit might go.

Preparing for Visits to Family or Friends' Homes: Once you have communicated with the hosts, use the information you gathered to ensure a successful and enjoyable visit for both you and your child. If your child has particular food preferences, you may want to prepare and bring something that he or she will enjoy. Bring materials that your child will be highly interested in, including videos, electronics (iPad, Leapfrog, etc.) or anything that your child has a high motivation to play with due to lack of continuous access.
You don't want to put your child in a corner to self-entertain, however. Do try to create a medium for social interaction by giving him a role. Perhaps he likes magic tricks and can practice showing his tricks to others. You could also inquire about the interests of the other kids that will be in attendance to see if they have interests that might be intriguing for your child to learn. If that is the case, pre-teach your child to play and engage with the materials other children may enjoy (e.g., Beyblades Battle Dome). Again, it is important that whatever the plan, you should communicate to your child what they can expect.
Religious Services: If planning to attend a church, temple, mosque or Karamu feast, pre-exposure to the environment can be very beneficial for your child. Every venue has its own standards, practices and rituals. Rehearsing routines that your child will encounter, such as kneeling on a pew, taking shoes off, sitting on benches, singing songs or praying, will create an opportunity for your child to participate as a community member and feel proud.
Traveling: Whether by airplane or long car ride, be prepared by bringing activities that will keep your child comfortable for long periods of time. Pack a special travel bag just for your child that includes materials that he or she is interested in. These items should include items of comfort, but also novel but desired items -- new things that are of your child's taste and preference. You should also research to find out about any restrictions along the way that may create distress for your child, such as lack of Internet connection. Prepare for the journey through an airport by practicing required protocol, such as taking off shoes or putting your child's personal items in a bin to go through the x-ray scanners. Understanding protocol and restrictions can help to manage expectations for your child. You can look for events such as the Blue Horizons for Autism airport rehearsal event hosted by Jet Blue Airways and Pacific Child & Family Associates on May 3 at Burbank Bob Hope Airport in Los Angeles. This event provided families and individuals affected by autism with the opportunity to navigate the air travel experience in a realistic, relaxed environment, surrounded by other families in the autism community.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Asperger's: Finding a Balance

“I’m sorry. It’s the Asperger’s.”

That was the “heartfelt” apology that my almost seven year old daughter came up with, after a raging meltdown in her classroom the day before, during which she verbally unfriended her best friend in the class.

Of course, trying to play the part of the responsible mom of a daughter with asperger’s, I tried to steer her away from these words, claiming that they sound like an excuse. And, well… NOT very sorry.

I encouraged her to dig deep and find her empathy. Empathy that, although not always present at the appropriate times, I know she is capable of.

“Maybe tell her that you’re sorry, and that you didn’t mean what you said, and that she really IS your friend, and that you’ll never yell at her again…”

“It’s not an excuse,” she replied, bluntly. “It’s the truth. And it’s what I’m going to say.”

Because I persisted in trying to alter her idea of an apology, she left for school on the bus, still anxious, and perseverating on how she needed ME to WRITE an apology for her, because she hates writing and writing makes her hand too tired and cramped, and it needed to be done NOW and it was just all too overwhelming for her.

She declared that she wouldn’t talk to her friend that day. She wouldn’t be able to look at her. She was scared of her.

As I reflected on my feelings of failure as a mom that morning, that I couldn’t make her see things differently, I realized that I was trying too hard. In my efforts to teach her “Theory of Mind,” the concept that other people can think and feel differently than her, I de-valued her own struggles.

This happens a lot. Being as high functioning as she is, people will likely always see her as having more control over herself than she actually has. They won’t factor in sensory overload, or difficulty understanding social situations, or fine and gross motor skill struggles that aren’t bad enough to qualify her for occupational therapy. They will be appalled that such a seemingly intelligent child can throw a regressive tantrum that could rival any toddler.

I sometimes see it in their stares. Hear it in their voices: A spoiled brat. Needs discipline. Parents must not set limits.

She sometimes resembles a modern day Veruca Salt, as she demands a new stuffed animal because having one more cat stuffed animal is the solution to her feelings of overwhelm as she is innunndated with sensory stimulation and social information that is impossible to process in that moment. The object of obsession is tangible, straightforward. It makes sense. She needs a solution, and her frazzled young brain seeks to find a simple one.

No, it doesn’t make sense to us. But to her, in those moments, nothing makes sense. She needs something to make sense.

After her massive school tantrum had subsided on the day she was mean to her friend, she called me from the principal’s office. “I’m having a hard day,” she said. “She told me she couldn't come to my birthday party, and I said she wasn’t my friend anymore, but I was just being sarcastic.”

“Sweetie, that’s not sarcasm,” I replied defeatedly. Sarcasm has been a point of contention before, as it confuses her. In an effort to relay that she was saying something she didn’t mean, she described it as sarcasm. I made a mental note to find a way to better explain the concept of sarcasm to her, and told her that she should apologize to her friend.

I was so quick to correct her faults. The fact that it’s unacceptable to throw tantrums in school, and yell at your friends. The misuse of the word, “sarcasm.”

In all actuality, I knew that she was disappointed and confused in that moment that her friend politely declined her party invite because her family already had plans. She misinterpreted the situation, and was so overcome with emotion that there was no sorting through to logic. Her feelings were too big, too confusing. She exploded. I felt sorry for the innocent victim who was likely just trying to let her know about the party she wouldn’t be attending. I felt even more sorry for my daughter, who couldn’t interpret this rather cut-and-dry social scenario through her own sensitivity.

So while I’m sorry for the hurt feeling my child caused another little girl, and for the hard time she gives to the adults in her life, and those at the school, and as much as I want her to take responsibility for her actions, not use her deficits as an excuse, and only exhibit her strengths, she’s kind of right when she says, “It’s the Asperger’s.” And she’s young. And she has high-functioning autism that is not obvious to the average on-looker.

Yes, she’s pretty, smart, and charming most of the time. And yes, she will throw completely socially inappropriate tantrums at times, and not fit properly into the box that she’s supposed to fit into. She’ll possibly be wearing a ridiculously sparkly dress while she’s doing it.

It may not look right to them. But, I’m sorry. It’s the Asperger’s.

By the way, her teacher informed me that she did, in fact, apologize to her friend at school that day. She dug deep. She tried. I’m not sure how she phrased her apology, but it doesn’t matter. I’m certain that she didn’t say it the way I would. She found her own way, and I’m immensely proud of her for that.

About the Author...
Rachel Finnemore is a sleep-deprived stay at home mom of two girls, and one boy. An aspiring farmer, and writer, she blogs about parenting on her blog,Chroniclesofjustamom.blogspot.com, and her adventures in becoming a wannabe farmer at her blog, Weepingwillowmicrofarm.blogspot.com.
- See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/im-sorry-its-the-aspergers/#sthash.4OFyxH7h.dpuf