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Adolescent and Child Psychologist Edmonton

ABC Psychological Services


Anxiety Releasing Methods for Children

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 2:01 PM Comments comments (426)

Children with learning disabilities often become overwhelmed in school. It can be important for them to learn at an early age how to relax and let go of stress. Here are some relaxation exercises that can be used as coping skills for children.

Classical Music

Classical music is frequently noted for its relaxing properties. A good way to enhance this effect is to have the child close their eyes, and count the number of times the music changes significantly. This focuses the child’s attention on the music, and can help stop the whirl of thoughts in their head. 

Active Muscle Relaxation

When our bodies are stressed, our muscles receive signals from the brain to tense up to aid in running away and escaping danger. Modern stressors tend to come from mental, not physical tasks. This means that occasionally we need to actively relax all the muscles in our body. 

One way to do this is to actively tense each muscle in the body, hold it there for a few seconds, and then let go of all tension. Repeat this for every major muscle group from the feet all the way up to the face. 

If your child is having trouble understanding 'tense' versus 'relax', use strong descriptions like, "Turn the muscles in your arms into rocks. Hold. Now let them get all floppy, like a deflated balloon." 


Have your child close their eyes and imagine their favorite color. Ask your child to breathe in this color, until they are filled with it. Tell them to exhale out all the uncomfortable feelings. This helps the child have a color that they associate with being relaxed.

When they are in a stressful situation, they can look around, find an object that is their happy color and feel more in control. 

Stretching and Exercising

The body releases happy endorphins when you work out. Exercise can also be a great way to release tension in the muscles or work out nervous energy. Go for a walk. Learn yoga together. Teach each other a silly dance. Any exercise is good exercise.

Laugh Together

Laughter has long been said to be the best medicine. Laughing can help lighten up a bad mood and good endorphin flowing. A good belly laugh can even exercise core muscles. Tell your child jokes. Make up stories with them. 

Take a Bath

A nice calming warm bath with bubbles can be a great way to ease your child's stress and help them find a safe place. Put on some soothing music and keep the lighting low as they scrub away the stress.

Make your own Stress Balls

Fill a sock with rice and sew it together. Have your child squeeze this whenever they are overwhelmed. Add a drop of essential oil and you have an aromatherapy tool.

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. For children with learning disabilities, behavioral problems or giftedness, it can be a major road block in their path to success. 

For more information about psychological services for children with learning disabilities, Edmonton families are encouraged to visit our services page.  

Building Coping Skills for Children with Dyslexia at Home

Posted on October 10, 2014 at 9:16 PM Comments comments (483)

If detected at an early age, there are many ways to help teach a dyslexic child develop coping skills and learning tools that can aid them throughout their school career. These can involve getting your child a specific tutor or buying special software.
At home, there are a number of play activities that can also teach your child to associate learning to overcome dyslexia while having fun. Here are some options to try.
Use Clay
Dyslexic children are often highly visual or kinesthetic learners. One great way to learn the proper order or letters in a word, or even the correct shape and reversal of individual letters is to physically make them out of clay.
Use Legos
Write letters on individual Legos and encourage the child to 'build' words, or even build sentences. This reinforces language in the visual-spatial areas of their brain.
Use Shaving Cream
Lather up one of the walls of their bathtub with shaving cream and encourage your child to draw words and letters in the foam. This is another visual-spatial learning trick. It reinforces it in a different way by allowing the child to see the space between the letters even more clearly.
Take a Silly Break
Any child can get frustrated and fidgety when asked to sit and focus for too long. Allow them to take a short break every so often in which they can get all their stress out in a positive way. Shift gears enough so they can think about something completely different.
Be the Letter
One of the positives of dyslexia is that it often comes with lots of creativity. A unique way to help your child recognize and focus on letters and numbers is to allow them to 'get to know them'.
Have your child assign a personality and a story to a set of numbers, and have them act out a skit in which the numbers interact. This can be especially helpful in math, where the child can use these characters as mnemonic devices to memorize multiplication tables.
Describe the Story
Read a passage out loud to your child. Ask the child how they have visualized an aspect of the story: what do you think the character looks like? Have the child read the next passage, and then ask them to visualize another aspect: what does the character's house look like?
This technique helps the child continue to use their greatest strength while reading- their ability to think in pictures. Allowing a child to realize that they can still use their visual brain while reading can help take a lot of the stress out of reading.
In working with any learning disability, identifying the child's strengths and focusing on those is extremely important. To learn more about your child's individual strengths and how to help them with their areas of improvement, having an official cognitive assessment can be a vital tool.
To learn more about cognitive assessments and the benefits of psychological services, Edmonton families are encouraged to visit our services page


How to identify learning disabilities in preschool- and elementary-aged children

Posted on September 22, 2014 at 6:52 PM Comments comments (349)
Individual differences can make the manifestation of psychopathology varied and difficult to assess. In children, while learning disabilities all impact on their academic achievement and school performances, the symptoms can look very different. One child may be struggling with math, while another may excel in reading but for some reason do very poorly in spelling. It is not always easy to identify learning disabilities due to the wide variations, but there are similar warning signs that children will share. Below is a checklist that lists some of the common problems that you can use to see whether your preschool- or elementary-aged child has a learning disability.

  • Trouble pronouncing words
  • Problems finding the right words to express their thoughts
  • Difficulty in learning numbers, alphabets, colors, shapes, days of the week, and any other basic/fundamental systems
  • Trouble with following directions or learning new routines
  • Problems in controlling their fine motor skills
  • Are unable to or have great difficulties in controlling crayons, pencils or scissors
  • Are unable to or have great difficulties in dressing themselves (e.g. with buttons, zippers, snaps, shoelaces.

  • Problems with identifying the connections between letters and pronunciation/sounds
  • Unable to make words by blending sounds
  • Confuses basic words when reading aloud
  • Makes spelling and reading errors often
  • Difficulty in learning basic math concepts
  • Consistently slow in learning new skills
  • Have trouble in telling time and/or remembering basic sequences 

There is no single profile or symptom that you can use as solid proof to help make a diagnosis. If you use the above-mentioned checklist and suspect that your child may have a learning disability, I am an Edmonton-based psychologist who would be able to give your child a psychoeducational assessment. Learn more about my services in the Edmonton area.

Learning Disabilities and Disorders

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM Comments comments (445)

Whether it’s problems with focus and studying, fear of getting up in front of people to present a paper, lack of reading and writing comprehension, or lower than expected math skills, there comes a time when a child’s inability to complete his work goes beyond the normal childhood lack of focus and motivation, when it’s more than just wanting to be outside on a spring day.  

If a child is having issues in school or with studies that are consistent and persistent, and it seems that he or she cannot overcome the problems they are having, you might be coping with learning disabilities. Edmonton parents who face this problem should not despair; the first step is educating yourself on just what a learning disability is, so you can better seek help and treatment.  

Defining a Learning Disability
Defining what a learning disability is, can be difficult because the terms, “Learning Disability” and “Learning Disorder,” are blanket terms that cover a broad spectrum of issues related to learning and focus that affect a child’s ability to store and process new information.  

The first thing that you need to understand is that if your child has a learning disability, that does not mean they are not intelligent. Many kids and adults with learning disorders hare very bright and clever people. The only difference between them and others is that they process information differently. The way they see, hear, and understand information is not the same as the way others do. That doesn’t make them better or worse than anyone else, just different.  

The most common kinds of learning disabilities affect the following skills: 

·       Reading
·       Writing
·       Mathematics
·       Reasoning
·       Listening
·       Communication  

Signs of a Learning Disorder
Different learning disorders have different signs and symptoms. Each one looks different—while one child has problems with reading and writing, another may have problems with math or basic communication. This can make it difficult to diagnose a learning disability. However, there are some common warning signs for which you may want to watch out.Here are a few of these signs.  

·       Difficulty with pronunciation
·       Searching for the right words to communicate
·       Problems with basics like the alphabet, days of the week, colors and shapes
·       Troubles connecting sounds with letters or written words
·       Persistent reading and spelling troubles
·       Problems with simple math concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
·       Problems with telling time
·       Issues with creative thinking, such as with open-ended or essay questions  on exams
·       Poor organizational skills
·       Sloppy handwriting

Other Disorders
There are other disorders that can interfere with learning, but are not strictly learning disorders. Issues like ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or Autism Spectrum Disorder can also include symptoms that interfere with learning. These have their own individual treatments and approaches. A qualified counselor can help you find the best approach for your child.

One thing that you should always remember is that your child does not have to be limited by his or her learning disability—she absolutely can succeed! If you think your child may have problems with learning disabilities, Edmonton based help is available. Give me a call!

Tips for parents of children with ADHD: How to bring your child’s symptoms under control

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 5:04 PM Comments comments (693)
Parenting is no easy feat, and the responsibility is made even more strenuous when your child suffers from Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD are characterized by a myriad of symptoms that make daily functioning difficult, such as impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. It is often a challenge for parents to regulate their children who are afflicted with the disorder. Therefore, it is quite common to become frustrated when trying to apply parenting measures that would typically work for other children and seeing ineffective results. Although it may feel hopeless at times, as a parent, there are actually many things you can do to help make the symptoms more manageable. Realizing that you have the power to help your child overcome daily challenges can significantly reduce the stress for you and your family. The key is to address the problems early and to implement the strategies consistently. In the next few months, we will offer a series of themed tips aimed to facilitate your management of your child’s symptoms. This month, we will focus on the importance of incorporating structure and organization in the tasks your child undertakes.

Children with ADHD exhibit disorganized behavior; they often have trouble completing tasks. Instilling structure in tasks will therefore make it more likely for your child to finish them. As the parent, your job is to maintain predictable patterns in the tasks to be taken on by your child. The following are some tips for you to consider in helping your child to stay focused and organized in completing the tasks.

Tip 1: Plan daily routines
It is extremely important for children with ADHD to have structure in their lives so that they know what to expect and what they are expected to accomplish. Set up routines for different aspects of the home life, such as chores, homework, and bedtime, to make them more predictable. For example, asking your child to set up the table can be part of the daily dinner ritual.

Tip 2: Simplify schedules
Children with ADHD can easily fall prey to distractions. Therefore, it is important to make their schedules and routines as simple as possible. Break complex tasks into components will make them more manageable for your child. Also, it may be necessary to adjust your child’s daily schedules. Consider cutting back on extra-curricular activities and individualizing commitments according to your child’s abilities and interests.  

Tip 3: Use organizational tools
Consider using organizational tools such as agendas, daily planners, and calendars to make your child’s tasks more concrete. Placing more clocks around the house in highly-visible places will also serve as a constant reminder to your child. Using a timer during transitional times (e.g., taking a bath before getting ready for bed) will make the tasks more transparent and easier to follow as well. 

Tip 4: Provide a ‘private/quiet’ zone
Giving your child a private and quiet place to call their own can work wonders in bringing calm to erratic behavior. This place does not have to be a bedroom, but any comfortable place that is relatively quiet and private, such as a nook, will do. Just make sure that the space is dedicated solely and specifically for your child’s private and quiet time.

Tip 5: Be organized yourself
Be neat and organized in your home management, and make sure your child knows that everything has its place. In addition, try to set an example of organization and structure for your child to follow suit. Remember that as the parent, you are the key role model for your child.

Establishing organization and structure in the daily lives of children with ADHD will significantly increase their chances of completing the tasks. As the parent, you can help extend the success to areas outside the home by working with professionals such as child psychologists. To see how a child psychologist can help improve your child’s behavioral success in school and in the local Edmonton community, please refer to our services page.  

What Every Parent Should Know About ADHD

Posted on March 17, 2014 at 5:56 PM Comments comments (8204)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder comes as one of the most common mental health problems in children. The condition is characterized by children having problems socializing with others, academic and school related problems and emotional problems. As such, families with ADHD children suffer because of the problems associated with the condition. 

Nevertheless, help is available to children with ADHD and their families. Here are some facts about the condition that every parent with ADHD child should know.

Quality of Life of Families with ADHD
A pan-European study conducted on the daily life of a child with ADHD and families with ADHD found that the majority of the parents experience consistent disruptive, demanding, impulsive, noisy and disorganized behavior from their children. They indicated that every day, children that took 12-hour medication can be quite difficult in the afternoon to early evening. Children that took 8-hour medication can be quite difficult from the afternoon to bedtime. The families also indicated despite their medication, the condition negatively impacts their homework, family routine and socialization with other children. The results of the study suggest that:

  • Medication alone does not control some of the most important issues of ADHD
  • A need for better treatment that includes behavior management for the condition

Profile of Children with ADHD
In another study conducted, children aged 6 to 18 years old; it was found that the children with ADHD may suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Minor Depression/Dysthymia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The severity of these associated conditions varies from child to child. For example Depression/Dysthymia is usually present in the subtypes of the condition while Oppositional Defiant Disorder is more common in combined hyperactive and inattentive ADHD. Anything a parent can do in childhood to manage the condition helps lessen the effects of the more severe symptoms.

One of the possible reasons why medication may not be working as intended is because children with ADHD suffer from various related conditions that may be present in one but absent in another. In other words, unlike other diseases or conditions, ADHD has a set of unique symptoms for every child. A psychologist can offer suggestions in managing the behavior of an ADHD child without additional medication.

The Case of Over-diagnosis and Stimulants
One of the most illuminating studies conducted on ADHD is the Great Smokey Mountain study which found that among the children in the community studied, 6.2% have ADHD while 7.3% received stimulants. This means that even children who do not have the condition may be diagnosed as having ADHD and may be prescribed with stimulants. To avoid such misdiagnosis get the opinion of a child psychologist Edmonton. Psychologists prescribe behavior or cognitive modification rather than drugs.

If your child has ADHD, it is best to seek professional help to ensure that he is not over-diagnosed with medication. 

Is an assessment necessary now?

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 3:08 PM Comments comments (593)
September is coming to end and the leaves are quickly changing colors. School has been in for nearly a month already for most of us and our children should be settling into their daily routines. However, sometimes children can become frustrated with their daily routine because they’re experiencing some trouble with their studies.

Often, parents do not know when their child may need a psychological assessment or a psychoeducational assessment to improve their learning capabilities.I have compiled a short list of behavioral signals to help you make sure your child is not at risk of falling behind in class.   

 Things to watch for in your children are:
·         Frustration with reading, writing, or math
·         Taking longer to complete assignments
·         Avoiding schoolwork
·         Functionally having difficulties with reading individual words or getting ideas on to paper
·         Troublewith organization
·         Attention problems, lack of persistence, distractibility
These are just a few behaviors, but certainly not an exhaustive list. An assessment with a psychologist may help to identify learning difficulties or learning disabilities and provide helpful strategies to overcome these challenges.

I have been registered as a psychologist and conducting these types of assessments since 2001. I am well-practiced in intellegence tests, which assist me in understanding how your child learns, as well as in standardized academic tests, which let me know how your child is functioning academically compared to other children his/her age. I have experience with some emotional and behavioral issues as well, including ADHD.
Please give me a call if you have questions or concerns. I would be glad to talk them out and better determine if an assessment is necessary or if it could help your child.

Back to School...

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 9:29 PM Comments comments (573)
Welcome to my Blog!
Well, it's back to school next week for most children in Alberta. Time to get back into routines, activities, seeing friends, and everything that goes with it. For those children somewhat anxious to return to school, that are worried about their teacher or which friends will be in their class, consider the following de-stressers:
Have your child write a letter or draw a picture to introduce themselves to their teacher. Include things that they want their teacher to know about them.
Develop a daily routine that encourages good sleeping and eating habits.
Make time for exercise.
Allow your child time to share their fears or concerns and help them problem-solve or come up with coping strategies.
Encourage your child to focus on the positive by asking them what went well that day or what they like about themselves.
If you have any more ideas, questions, or strategies that worked for you, please add to the list. And welcome back!