Your Family Can Enjoy Large Gatherings!

Blog post: You Can Have Happy Holidays!

While the holidays can be a wonderful time for families to gather and connect, for some kids these large family gatherings can be incredibly difficult. And when a child is having a bad time, their parents have a bad time too. This can turn what should be a special time with loved ones into a nightmare of inappropriate discipline, guilt, and disappointment. Here are some strategies that can help make large family gatherings more manageable.

  1. Make a social story for the holiday event itself (e.g., Thanksgiving Dinner). Talk about who will be there, what the table seating will be like, what foods will be served, and how to handle various social situations (like “What if you don’t like the food?” or “How do you great each person?” or “How much interaction with ‘strangers’ is required?”).
  2. Talk to the host (if you are at someone else’s house) about a “quiet room” where your kid can go hang out if they get overwhelmed. If it’s at your house, make sure there’s a quiet room available.
  3. Plan for the possibility of an early exit (if you are at someone else’s house). If your kids are losing it, one parent may have to take them away to allow them to regroup and recover. Plan for who will cover that duty ahead of time.
  4. If you have a picky eater who will only eat one food, don’t expect them to suddenly decide that unfamiliar food is yummy just because it’s the holiday and it will make Aunt Jeannie happy if they eat it. Make sure there is something your child can eat, and don’t be picky about what they eat during the big holiday meal. The focus should be on family and being together, not on whether your child is eating a balanced diet and trying new things. You can save those interactions for another time when it’s just you and your kids, and no audience of people who might not understand.
  5. If you are going to be visiting with other adults and will not be able to attend to your kids’ needs, make sure they have something to do that will entertain them when you are not available. Cue up a movie for them to watch, get them to help you in the kitchen, or let them bring a book to read so they can entertain themselves. Talk to your kids ahead of time about what you will be doing, and what they can do.

The key is for the adults to be flexible and clearly communicate structure and expectations. By helping your child feel comfortable, you will be building positive memories about gatherings with family.

This article was originally published by RDI Connect on November 19th, 2014. 


We Are All Part of the Treatment Team: The Importance of Parents, Doctors, and Educators Working in Harmony

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This post was originally published on Parenting ADHD & Autism on March 16th, 2017.

A recent discussion between teachers on a listserv raised the question of whether doctors should be prescribing school-based interventions. This got me thinking about the tension between what doctors think will be best for children, and what educators think will be best. This tension leaves (often inexperienced) parents in a difficult spot — trying to evaluate what is truly appropriate for their child, and what different providers recommend. Children do benefit more quickly when given more intensive instruction — especially in areas like speech/language (including reading, writing, speaking and listening), occupational, and physical therapy. The logistics of how to implement that is what should be up for discussion.

The Conflicts

One problem is the distinction between the “medical model” versus the “educational model” (a distinction I personally find confusing – we should all be working together to provide what the child needs). While everyone — parents, doctors, and educators — wants the child to progress as quickly as possible, we all know that the costs of providing these intensive interventions are very high. A doctor is likely to recommend the intensity of intervention that she or he believes is of the maximum benefit to the child, regardless of expense. The parents are left to figure out how to implement a plan that will best support their child, given the very real constraints on their own time and budget.

A second problem is that doctors receive no training in the “educational model,” unless they know how to seek it out. I’m not even sure they can get continuing education credits for attending such training. And most doctors I know are not exactly living a slow-paced life, with lots of extra time to spend researching educational law. The educators among this group know how challenging it is to navigate the system for supporting children with disabilities; I can assure you that parents find it even more challenging because it is so difficult to find training when you have no idea where to look. Doctors are in the same boat with the parents.

Now look at this from the point of view of the parents, who are being told by a doctor that their child needs something (intervention and/or accommodations). They bring the doctor’s recommendation to the school — thinking that the schools also want the maximum benefit for their child. The school (reasonably in some cases, unreasonably in other cases) may decide that a different set or level of supports than those recommended by the doctor is appropriate.

As a parent, how would you feel? You are being told by one expert (a doctor) that your child needs _____. And you are told by other experts (the educators who are with your child for 6+ hours every day) that your child qualifies for less than _____. (This is where the definition of “appropriate” comes into play. I cannot address this issue here. For this post, I assume that in our hearts, we all want what is best for the child.)

The parent might, reasonably, decide that if the school cannot provide everything that the medical expert recommended, that they should supplement what the school is providing with outside therapies. But because the child has a disability, being in school is exhausting for them — much more taxing than it is for children who do not have disabilities. So, they get home, they are beyond tired, and they have to go to a therapy session and work hard in their area of disability. It might make sense to pull a child out during school hours to provide needed therapies, but that solution is fraught with its own challenges.

The Expense

It’s no secret that having a child with a disability is financially devastating, not to mention the emotional cost of not having time to just be a family.

Parents of kids with disabilities are often left to make draconian decisions about their budget. Because their kids are not making progress at school, I’ve seen many parents make the very difficult decision to quit working or reduce their work hours so they can take their children to therapies. The amount insurance will reimburse for these therapies is often limited by insurance companies in ways that are NOT in the best interest of the child, leaving families to pay the balance if they want to provide what their doctors have told them is medically necessary. How are they supposed to do that when their income has been drastically cut because they have quit their jobs or cut their hours? If they can’t, they may decide to increase their work hours which leads to fewer hours being home with your child, being a parent.

Bringing It Together

It is my wish that when educators are sitting at the IEP table with a parent who has a prescription from their doctor that dictates that a child needs a certain level and type of support, those educators will focus their energy on helping the parent understand what is appropriate and why they feel that way. Parents truly do not know who to believe, and when school teams do things like getting indignant about what a doctor prescribed, or dismissing the recommendations outright, parents feel the school team does not care about their child.

This fundamental tension is at the root of so many bad feelings between medical providers, parents, and educators. We need to recognize that we are all members of a team dedicated to supporting a child in the best way possible. We each have different views about what will be best for the child based on our training, experience, and understanding of the child. We need to take the time to educate each other based on our own points of view.

We should be partners in the process.

Learn why there is tension between the

We All Have Our Parenting Kryptonite

We All Have Our Parenting KryptoniteThis post was originally published on Parenting ADHD & Autism on August 23rd, 2016.


Parents are my superheroes. Who else but a superhero would wake up multiple times every night to help a crying child calm down? Who else would carry a baby everywhere, even when it means that they cannot sleep, sit, or eat? Who else would drop everything and dash to the aid of their child when he is in danger? Who else would endure the slings and arrows of adolescence and still work to guide their child to a better life? Who else would toil behind the scenes to make sure their children have what they need to survive (and even succeed), requiring no acknowledgement?

But sometimes we don’t behave like Superman. Sometimes we are more like the conscientious and kind Bruce Banner, morphing into the Incredible (Savage) Hulk at the slightest provocation. And when we look back at our anger, we are ashamed. We are painfully aware that we are not superheroes. We don’t want to lose control… but we do. We feel powerless and weak.

We are human.


Perhaps we remember what it’s like to be a child who is scared of their parents. Or, perhaps we can’t remember our parents ever behaving the way we sometimes behave.  Either way, it doesn’t feel good. No one wants to be remembered as a parent who inflicted emotional harm.

No one talks at the office water-cooler about how their kid had a screaming fit when they were forced to go to the pool against their will! Ross Greene says something along the lines of, “Show me a child who is digging their heels in, and I’ll show you an adult who is being equally inflexible.”

I am writing this post because as parents, we aren’t allowed to talk about this. We need to talk about this.

Facing Your Kryptonite

It’s important to know your kryptonite (weakness). Mine is when I think about the future based on what I’m seeing now. “How is he going to live independently if he doesn’t remember to eat without being reminded?”

—Here are some thoughts that Dr. Dan Shapiro, M.D. ( has identified in parents. (I’ve noted cognitive distortions that might be associated with each thought in parentheses.)

  • —If I give up a little bit of control, disaster is inevitable. (Magnifying and Fortune Telling)
  • —My child’s differences mean s/he cannot have a good life. (Fortune Telling and All-Or-None Thinking)
  • —A few steps backwards mean irreversible free-fall. (Catastrophizing)
  • —S/he will never be an independent adult. (Fortune Telling)
  • —If I disagree with my spouse, our children will be totally messed up and our marriage will be a disaster. (Magnifying and Fortune Telling)
  • —If my friends do not understand, I will be alone. (Overgeneralization and Jumping to Conclusions)
  • —I don’t deserve compassion. I should do better. (Should Statements)
  • —It’s all my fault. My genes. My parenting. (Self-Blaming)
  • —My child misbehaves just to get me angry. (Mind Reading and Jumping to Conclusions)

Or maybe your kryptonite is staying calm when your child is losing it.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Could one (or more) of these be your parenting kryptonite?

The Parent You Want to Be

When you start thinking like this, you may start demanding more of your child than they are capable of. Or you may retreat into a desperate place. Thinking like this can destroy your ability to be the parent you want to be.

What do you do when you can’t stay calm? You have many choices. You can try to think the rational thought (“I cannot predict what will be true in a few years.”). You can take a deep breath and imagine you are rock in a river with turbulent waters rushing around you. You can walk away (give yourself a time-out).

Thinking about how you can deal with your kryptonite moments before they happen can help you in the moment.

It’s important to know your kryptonite. Learn to recognize when it’s sapping your superpowers. Acknowledge its influence, and learn to control your reactions. Don’t expect perfection; no one (even Superman) is perfect.

We are all works in progress.

What’s your kryptonite? Share in a comment!

What parenting triggers cause you anger? All parents have our kryptonite. When we recognize the triggers, we can learn to manage them so we don't inadvertently hurt our children.