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Adolescent and Child Psychologist Edmonton

ABC Psychological Services


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Living with Child with Autism

Posted on November 21, 2014 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (876)

Autism is a spectrum disorder which encompasses a broad range of behavioral and cognitive issues. For parents, having a child with Autism presents unique and sometimes frustrating challenges. It can sometimes take a long time to have a child tested and diagnosed because the parent is in denial about the condition or unaware that associated behaviors are different than a typically developing child.
A diagnosis of autism can be a very difficult thing to cope with. If you have proper help, guidance and support, raising child with Autism can be an experience that can change the way you view the world.
Coping with Feelings
Many parents react to a diagnosis of Autism in their child with fear, anger and deep concern. Such feelings are not directed at their children, but at themselves. What will they do? How can they adjust their parenting? What if they do something wrong?
It is important to acknowledge and process these feelings. This is the first step in moving forward. Know that it is enough that you love your child, and the diagnosis is neither their fault nor yours.
Mission Statement
As you process your feelings, work with your child’s psychologist to develop a plan of action and get going immediately. Stay focused and on task. The sooner you are able to act, the better off you and your child will be. Early diagnosis can help to give direction and point you towards education.
You should also plan for financial challenges ahead. Depending on the severity of the case, there could be significant treatment costs and not all may be covered by insurance.
Talk to your psychologist and seek education about the autism spectrum, with a focus of where on the spectrum your child falls. Every child with Autism is unique and requires a different approach. Some high-functioning chlidren with Autism go on to college and achieve doctorates. Others require assistance with basic social interactions.
There are many books, websites and other resources for parents coping with their child’s Autism diagnosis. Schools may have programs for children with special needs. Your psychologist can assist you with accessing resources. Remember, education is what arms you for the challenges ahead.
Love Is All You Need
As you begin the process of raising a child with Autism, remember that with love and patience you can persevere. Seek help when you need it, and cherish the successes. Adjust your perceptions to view the world through your child’s eyes. You may find that it is a rewarding experience to raise a child with such a unique perspective on life.

If you think your child may fall on the autism spectrum, you will want to find proper care for their needs. If you are looking for a child psychologist in Edmonton, ABC Psychological Services is here to help with advice, assessment and treatment. Give us a call for a consultation today!

Psychological Disorders in Children: Early Diagnosis is Key

Posted on November 21, 2014 at 4:28 PM Comments comments (383)

Experts estimate that roughly 20 percent of all children suffer from some sort of psychological disorder. Diagnosing a mental disorder in a child is important to healthy development. Because the brain of a child is still growing, it can be difficult to diagnose these issues in kids. 
Among those ailments most common among children are anxiety disorders, ADHD, behavior disorders, eating disorders, learning disabilities and mood disorders. A trained child psychologist can help ensure that if one of these or another disorder is present, it is properly addressed and treated.
Early Diagnosis is Vital
Early diagnosis of a childhood disorder is essential to addressing and treating the problem. If a mental health issue goes untreated, severe secondary symptoms can result. This can create a range of problems including:
·      Social awkwardness
·      Academic problems
·      Issues with self-image and self-esteem
·      Self-harming or suicide
·      Addiction
·      Depression and further mood disorders
Early diagnosis can lessen the impact of mental illness and prevent the issue from getting worse over time.
Diagnostic Criteria
Each disorder has its own signs, symptoms and diagnostic criteria. These criteria are contained in a volume called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Psychologists use this manual, currently on its fifth edition, to diagnose and address the underlying causes of most known mental health issues.
Mental health experts know how to best use the DSM to apply symptoms to a diagnosis. Because the process is tricky with children, it can take time to reach a proper conclusion. A psychologist can make adjustments during evaluation until the right treatment for your child is determined.
Know the Signs
There are many symptoms that can be indicative of a mental disorder in a child. These symptoms include:
·      Mood swings and sudden, extreme changes in mood
·      Extreme emotions, particularly overwhelming feelings of fear, worry, anxiety or rage
·      Changes in behavior that are extreme or unusual for your child
·      Severe concentration issues
·      Sudden weight loss or gain
·      Attempts at self-harming
·      Use or abuse of chemical substances
It should be noted that not everything is a sign of mental disorder. For example, all kids throw tantrums from time to time. Many experience mood swings within a normal spectrum. But if these issues are extreme, uncommon or sudden, you should consult a psychiatrist.
If you think your child is experiencing mental illness and you need a child psychologist, Edmonton area services are available. Give our office a call for a consultation and remember, early diagnosis is vital to effective treatment.


Anxiety Releasing Methods for Children

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 2:01 PM Comments comments (466)

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 (1105)

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 (528)
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.

Impact of ADHD on Family Members

Posted on September 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM Comments comments (886)
It can be overwhelming to raise a child with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The disorder not only affects the child, but family members as well. Side effects of living with a child with ADHD can become problematic if not dealt with immediately. Here are some key points to be mindful of, so you can ensure negative feelings don’t fester and worsen.

Impact on parents:

  • Physical and mental exhaustion  
  • Frequent frustration and mood swings/emotional outbursts
  • Anxiety and stress causing impatience and irritability
  • Angry feelings about the ADHD child, but later feel guilty when noting the disorder
  • Begrudging the child for being the focus of their attention and neglecting other aspects of life
  • Gradually losing connections with friends and family
  • Harboring resentment toward the child
  • Fighting with spouse over disagreements on how to deal with their child

Impact on siblings:

  • Siblings' needs often get overlooked as they receive less attention than the child with the disorder
  • Receiving harsher reprimands when they make mistakes and less celebration for their successes
  • Being taken for granted
  • Coercion by parents to take on parental responsibilities for their sibling with ADHD and getting blamed if the latter misbehaves under their supervision
  • Developing jealousy and/or resentment toward the sibling with ADHD
  • Acting out and doing poorly in school

Raising a child with ADHD requires teamwork and contribution from each member of the family. A combination of compassion and consistency are necessary in order for the family to meet the demands and challenges of living with a child with ADHD. 

I hope these caution signs help you to lessen any potential detrimental effects on your family. I understand the challenges your family is faced with, and I can help formulate an intervention plan for your child.  Please give us a call, or for more information, visit my services page

Ten Things Your Autistic Child would Want You to Know: Part II

Posted on August 27, 2014 at 12:33 PM Comments comments (384)

A child with autism is just like any other child, but communicates their needs, wants, feelings and desires in different ways. Maybe they can never tell you directly, but there are still things they would want you, the parents, to know. Below is the continuation of a list of things that your child would want you to know.  

5.  Please listen to my own way of communicating: It is difficult for me to tell you my wants and needs because I may not have the verbal capacity to do so. I still have feelings and can be frustrated, scared or confused but I just cannot find the right words. Watch out for my body language, signs of agitation and withdrawal. If I am able to speak, you may find me telling you things in scripts that I have memorized from books, films, TV or the speech of other people. I may not know what I am saying, but at least I am trying.  

6.  I’m visually oriented: Instead of telling me, show me how to do something. Be prepared to repeat yourself and show me many, many times. I’m sorry to try your patience, but it helps me learn. I need to see something in order to learn it. Speaking alone does not help me much. If you give me instructions, make sure to use visual stimuli as support.  

7.  Focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t do: Even if I can’t communicate my feelings and thoughts very well, I still do not like feeling that I’m not good enough and that I need fixing. Focus on my strengths: There are many things I can do and I’m waiting for you to find them.  

8.  Help me with my social interactions: Teach me how to play with others. Encourage others to play with me instead of asking me to initiate – I have difficulties doing so as it’s hard for me to read facial expressions and body language and decipher emotions. I do best in structured play activities so give me a game that has a concrete beginning and ending.  

9.  Identify my triggers: When I have an emotional meltdown, it is very devastating for me because one or more of my senses has gone into overload or I have been pushed too far. Keep an eye on my behavioral patterns and you may see ways to prevent this.  

10.  Love me just the way I am: I am just a child. I need your support and unconditional love. Please do not expect me to fulfill your every expectation, but with your guidance I will do able to do a lot more.

Every child has different abilities and it would help your child to remember this rather than characterizing your child by their disabilities. Look past their limitations and see their strengths. If you are in need of a Edmonton-based psychologist to give your child an assessment, please take a look at my services.

10 things your autistic child would want you to know: Part I

Posted on August 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM Comments comments (812)
Autism is a complex disorder that renders its sufferers with problems in sensory processing, speech/language development, social interaction skills and emotional areas. Many children with autism are incapable of fluent speech, causing difficulties in communication. Each child has his/her unique set of needs, but there are also general things that most children with autism do share. Below is a list of things that every child with autism wishes his/her parents to know:

1. I am still a child: My autism does not define me, rather, it is just a part of me. Would you be happy if people thought of you as just one thing?  Like any other kid, I still have thoughts, feelings, ideas, and talents. Just because I have a disorder does not mean I am useless. I am more than meets the eye. Do not think me any less than other children without the disorder. I am still developing and growing, so do not give up on me.
2. I have sensory problems: Every sensory stimulus may overwhelm me because I am more sensitive than other children. You may not notice things such lights shining, water dripping, or people walking by, but I do. Every sound, smell, touch, taste, sight can be very painful for me. My environment is not a friendly one because I am constantly bombarded by stimuli. Sometimes I may appear withdrawn or belligerent because I cannot handle the stimuli overload.  It is not because I am trying to be mean, but because it’s too much for me to handle.   
3. I can’t, not I won’t: Sometimes I really do want to follow the instructions that you give me, but I simply cannot understand you. If you call me from across the room, everything becomes gibberish to me and I feel frustrated. You will have to come over to me and get my attention before you speak to me. If you can put your instructions in simple, concrete words, I will be better able to do what you want me to do.
4. I have trouble understanding latent messages: I interpret language literally – that means that I have difficulty understanding indirect references and secondary meanings. Therefore, please do not tell me to “take it easy” when you want me to stop running. Tell me everything in concrete terms or else I will not be able to comprehend.

Your child relies on you to support and help them. Although it may be difficult, dealing with a child with autism can be manageable. If you live in the Edmonton area and would like us to facilitate a treatment plan that caters to your child’s specific needs, please contact us. We would be happy to help.

Is Your Child Autistic?

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 1:27 PM Comments comments (9929)
According to the CDC, about 1 out of 68 children has been diagnosed with with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is far more common than people realize, so if you observe any telltale signs in your child, getting a proper assessment is the first step. A psychologist may be able to spot possible underlying causes for your child's behavior that you may not have considered--causes that include the possibility that your child may have some form of autism.
What is Autism?
ASD is a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that cause significant behavioral, communication and social impairments. ASD encompasses several conditions which includes autism or autistic disorder), Asperger syndrome, PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) and childhood disintegrative disorder. ASD is more common among boys than girls.
Signs and Symptoms
ASD is difficult to diagnose because symptoms and severity widely vary, and milder symptoms often go unrecognized and/or are misdiagnosed as other health conditions. Doctors can typically can make a diagnosis by observing and monitoring a child's behavior and development for any abnormalities. In some cases ASD can be detected in a child as young as 18 months old, but many children are not diagnosed until they are much older.
Listed below are symptoms of early onset of ASD:
·       Little or no eye contact
·       Lack of social skills
·       Inability to say single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
·       No response to his or her name
·       No pointing or babbling or pointing by age 1
·       No smiling or lacks social responsiveness
·       Unable to communicate
·       Excessively lining up or arranging toys or objects
Symptoms of later onset of ASD:
·       Unable to make friends with peers
·       Unusual and repetitive speech patterns
·       Unable to start or maintain a conversation with others
·       Restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in focus or intensity
·       Preoccupation with certain subjects or objects
·       Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
·       Inflexible adherence to specific schedules, rituals or routines
Causes and Risk Factors
The cause of ASD is not yet known, however, research has shown that there are factors that may increase a child's risk for ASD.  Persons with certain chromosomal or genetic conditions were found to be more likely to develop ASD, as were children with siblings who have ASD. Certain medications taken during pregnancy have also been linked to higher incidence of ASD, including: 
Misoprostol, a commonly prescribed treatment of gastric ulcers and less frequently used to induce medical abortions; Valproic acid, a commonly prescribed anti-epileptic drug (AED); and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) a class of drugs commonly used as antidepressants. Researchers are also studying the link between higher rates of autism to children born of older parents. This parental age/ASD relationship may provide important clues to the factors that lead to autism. For instance, increased age may account for increased cumulative exposure to toxic chemicals. Older moms have greater  risks of pregnancy complications, and as a woman’s eggs age, they are more likely to carry genetic changes that can affect fetal development.  
ASD has no cure, but it can treated. Treatment typically involves behavioral and educational therapy to help autistic children develop their language and social skills, as well as counseling for families of autistic children. Medication may also be prescribed to treat certain autism-related symptoms such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

If you are looking for a good child psychologist in Edmonton to help you determine whether or not your child has ASD, a qualified and licensed professional is just a phone call or email away. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner your child can get the treatment he or she needs.


Learning Disabilities and Disorders

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM Comments comments (486)

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!