Drawing of two figures and a large head with puzzle pieces

A November 2020 New York Times article* spoke about how “remote learning, lockdowns and pandemic uncertainty have increased anxiety and depression among adolescents, and heightened concerns about their mental health.” And there are plenty more recent studies and articles on this subject. As caregivers, we must listen to our teenagers and reach out if we see concerning signs. Here are some resources to help:

Mental Health America (MHA): Talking To Adolescents And Teens

MHA is a community-based nonprofit “dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all.” They have a series for caregivers of teens that starts with noticing symptoms, starting a conversation, and figuring out what to do and where to go. And they have a “Parent Test” you can take to help determine if your child is having emotional, attentional, or behavioral difficulties.

Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

This training is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers and more how to help a teen who is experiencing a mental health crisis. Many staff at the library have taken this course and we highly recommend it and you can take it for free through Get Trained To Help. Beyond the course, the Mental Health First Aid folx have lots of good information on their website including 5 Tips for Talking to Your Teenager About Mental Health and 5 Signs Your Teen May Be Asking for Help

Signs of Depression During the Pandemic

From the Child Mind Institute, an article listing signs of depression to look out for in your child and ways to help them feel comfortable sharing their feelings. Their articles are available in Spanish as well. 

YouthLine

A teen-to-teen youth crisis and support service provided by Lines for Life. YouthLine operates a national helpline that provides support and referrals via call, text, and chat. It is answered by teen volunteers daily from 4pm-10pm PST (and by adults at all other times, 24-hours a day!). 

Cascadia Behavioral Health Care 

Cascadia is the largest “community-based behavioral health and substance use treatment services organization in the state of Oregon” and they operate a Crisis Line in Multnomah County 24/7 (503-988-4888). Check out their Crisis Intervention page for more information. 

Multnomah County EASA (Early Assessment and Support Alliance) program   

EASA is a program that was created to help young people who are experiencing symptoms of psychosis. Research shows that getting help as early as possible makes treatment easier and recovery quicker.

Multnomah County Library: Teens

We have written a few other blog posts that might be helpful:

And of course we have books! Please see our book lists below. 

This article is part of our "Talking with kids" series, and was featured in our monthly Family Newsletter, brought to you by Home Learning Support and available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

*If you do not subscribe to the New York Times you can get full access to their articles through the library’s databases. Contact us for more information.

Drawing of child on laptop

We know that distance learning from home has been hard on kids and their families. Finding the joy in school and keeping engaged can be really hard for students. So we asked some experts - teachers and students - how they motivate, and stay motivated, to learn!
 
Ms Horn, a Middle School teacher and parent to a 1st and 4th grader learning from home, suggests giving students multiple ways to do their work (video, writing, drawing, etc.). Hopefully their teachers are already allowing this, but if not, she stresses communicating with  your child’s teacher and working with them to create workarounds that play to your student’s strengths. 
 
This makes sense to me... a kid may not be motivated to write a paper, but if they could do a podcast instead, that might be the push they need! 
 
One thing that has worked well for Ms. Horn with her own kids is using speech-to-text for writing assignments, since writing is the most challenging for her children. Her 4th grader uses it to get her thoughts out. Her first grader needs to physically write since he is still learning that skill, but using speech-to-text to get the letters removes the worry of spelling and lets him "do it himself!" Which is also very important to many students.
 
With how little choice and control is available right now, Ms. Horn’s best advice is to “try to find ways for [students] to have as much choice as possible while completing [their] school work.” 

Third graders from James Johns Elementary shared their expert advice on staying motivated. They mentioned that they like having fun breaks between assignments, and a consistent "reward" like 10 minutes of games/videos, drawing, stuffie time, or a virtual friend meet-up. Interestingly, every other suggestion they gave had to do with help scheduling or understanding when to do what. They suggest having a schedule posted, something that they can easily see while in school. They also enjoy having a schedule they can check off when something is done and/or having a schedule with must do (blue), should do (orange), or choice (green). I think we can all agree that whatever help with structure and organization we get right now, relieves stress and helps us be more productive and engaged. Thank you to Library Teacher Ms. Rolf for interviewing these local experts for us!

And here are some additional resources to help:

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, brought to you by Home Learning Support and available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

three preschool age kids - two girls and one boy - sit on the carpet.  The boy has the facial characteristics of Downs Syndrome.  One girl has her hand raised.

Kids are naturally curious about the world around them. They notice differences in people, because there are differences.  

Visible differences, like how we look, skin color, how we dress, and how we get around.  

And less visible differences, like how we learn, how we interact with one another, and how we experience the world.

Responding to kids’ observations about people with disabilities and visible illnesses can be hard for parents and caregivers who are not sure how, or are afraid they will say something wrong.   

Let’s remember that some of us are different, and experience the world differently, than others. And that’s not a bad thing! In fact, it’s a beautiful thing. Talking about it can be hard, but it’s important!  

My kids' cousin has autism. I tell my kids about how his brain works differently and experiences the world differently than our brains do.  We read books with characters who have autism and talk about them together. Their cousin's mother, my sister-in-law, shared a post on Facebook written by staff at the EDAM Center for Special Education in the Philippines.  This part really stuck with me, and I hope it sticks with you, too.

For all the children who struggle every day to succeed in a world that does not recognize their gifts and talents, and for those who are walking beside them, please let this be a gentle reminder to be kind and accepting of all people.

Recognize that the "playing field" is not always a level surface.

Children who learn differently are not weird. They are merely gifted in ways that our society does not value enough. Yet they want what everyone else wants: To be accepted!!

At the library, we strive to celebrate differences and find common ground in kindness and acceptance.  We want to support you in being comfortable talking to your kids about differences from an early age, and to keep up the conversations as they get older. Below are some resources that may help.  

This post is part of our “Talking with kids” series, as featured in our monthly Family Newsletter.  Reach out to us at learning@multcolib.org if you need more support or have questions. We’re here for you!


 

Young child with paint on hands, smiling up at camera.

When your child is diagnosed with a disability, you’ll enter an alternate and parallel dimension: the special education system.  

Look out: acronyms ahead! You may need a special education glossary like this one from understood.org. Understood.org is a fantastic resource for parents looking to understand the special education system, what you can expect, and how to advocate for your child.

Birth to Kindergarten
If you have a concern about how your child sees, hears, walks, talks, plays, or learns between birth and kindergarten, you can ask for a developmental evaluation. Screen your child’s development using this online tool from the Oregon Screening Project out of the Center for Human Development at the University of Oregon. Call 503-261-5535 to get in touch with the Multnomah Early Childhood Program (MECP).  They will do several observations and interviews to assess your child.

The results of the MECP evaluation may diagnose your child with a disability and qualify them for early intervention special education services. Early intervention could include services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, parent education, or special education preschool. You’ll meet with a team to develop an Individual and Family Support Plan (IFSP) that outlines which services your child and family will receive, how much, when, and where. MECP services are free. They are part of public school.

School Age
Children with disabilities in K-12 school have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or 504 Plans. Both outline what services and accommodations your child needs to be successful at school. Your child will qualify for an IEP if they have one of 13 disabilities defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IEPs have a more formal, standardized format and process for describing a child’s present levels, their annual goals, accommodations and modifications, service levels, and classroom placement. A child qualifies for a 504 Plan if they have any disability that interferes with their ability to learn or navigate their school day. Learn more about the differences between an IEP and 504 Plan here and what you can expect from each.  

If a child has an IFSP, you and your team will write an IEP when they go to kindergarten. Some disabilities don’t become apparent until a child enters school: ADHD or dyslexia for example. Parents or educators who notice a child struggling in school can request an educational evaluation. That evaluation may lead to a diagnosis and an IEP or 504 plan. Getting an evaluation and effective IEP after starting school has been known to take more parent advocacy.  

When an IEP is in place, the child’s entire educational team meets annually to write the IEP for the coming year. As a parent, you are an important part of that team. The IEP includes a section for parent input where you can write about your child’s strengths, interests, and challenges to help the school know your child. Your child is assessed every three years to determine that they still qualify for special education services.

Graduation and beyond
During the IEP meeting of your child’s sophomore year of high school, you’ll begin talking about diploma options and plans for after high school. 

Getting help
You don’t have to navigate this system alone! Families and Communities Together (FACT Oregon) is a statewide group offering broad support for families experiencing disability. They offer help through parent education, connection to community, and a support line connecting you with other parents to help answer questions. The IEP Toolkit and The IEP: What You Need to Know online training are two of their most popular resources.

Special education can be complicated and confusing, and you might feel you need a second education about special education. The many resources and support options help you understand and advocate for your child throughout their school life.

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

 

Two children at playground, holding hands, one child is in a mobility device.

Movement, especially during the winter months when we are all stuck inside, can be vital for our physical and mental health. But not all of us move in the same ways. We’ve pulled together some resources for kids of all abilities, to help get our sillies out:
 
Cosmic Kids Yoga
While not specifically intended to be for youth with disabilities, this YouTube channel is great for kids with ADHD and older youth with learning disabilities. The instructor includes a story with animations that help grab and keep kids attention. She also describes moves in easy to understand ways like, puff up like a ball and roll around singing *jigglypuff* for the Pokemon video
 
Gympanzees:
Gympanzees has an excellent online resource hub for exercises and activities that are disability specific, such as sensory processing, Down Syndrome, wheelchair users and more. 

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability
NCHPAD has a ton of content on their YouTube channel. There is a playlist on Adapted Kids Yoga for a number of conditions, and another on Improving the Lives of Individuals with Autism through Exercise. The latter specifically addresses the sensory overload of going into a gym or during PE at school. Beyond those two kid-focused playlists they have lots of others that could be of interest to the whole family, such as Home Workouts.

Northwest Association for Blind Athletes:
NWABA has a YouTube playlist with adapted Physical Education lessons for different age groups, and for kids with Multiple Disabilities.

And here's a great article from Chicago Parent with ideas on how to incorporate physical activities for children with developmental disabilities into daily life. 

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

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