I spent two days at a conference for children´s mental health.
I attended as a parent, and as such, I was severely limited as to which sessions I could partake in. Most sessions were for professionals and not open for laypersons.
The books I have found most helpful in guiding my parenting techniques to assist my traumatized children in healing were often referred to or recommended during the conference. I discovered that I am not an auditory learner, I was frustrated that the handouts were merely bare outlines and that I had to frantically take notes in order to retain the meat of the lectures. The books that I have found most helpful are:
The Explosive Child – Dr. Ross W. Greene
Lost At School- Dr. Ross W. Greene
Transforming the Difficult Child – Howard Glasser
and one that I have never seen referenced anywhere but I find to be a goldmine is
Parenting The Hurt Child – Gregory C. Keck and Regina M. Kupecky
which is billed as a book for adoptive families.
So none of these books are new. I was expecting to find something new at the conference. I ended up feeling validated instead, which I suppose was nice. I mean validated in how I have altered my parenting and the techniques I have used to help my children learn to manage themselves.
Like.. one thing that is often overlooked is how beneficial it is to calm or distract the nervous system to prevent or shorten meltdowns. So it was nice to hear someone explaining it to a room full of three hundred people. When I tell another parent that I flip my kid upside down when they start to throw a fit they look at me like I am crazy. But it works. It works like magic.
Samantha Moe from Mad2Glad gave a presentation in tandem with Kathy Flaminio of 1000 Petals and it was great stuff, to put it all together. But I knew it already, in fact, most of what was being explained to me was elementary. I ought to have been in clinical sessions, I had too much background to be where I was. If you think about the hours I have clocked with special needs children, it makes sense. It is not like I have been doing this blindly. I have been reading and applying methods for years.
So the children´s psychologist has been telling me what works. That is the good news.
Also I stopped by the booth from the Social Security Administration and learned that it would NOT compromise our safety to apply for my son´s social security. I have a few years to decide if I should. It looks more and more like I ought to. I heard it is easier for him to apply when he hits adulthood if he has already been approved in childhood.
He (my Oldest Child) had a very difficult time at the conference. It was in a different city. I got a large and expensive hotel room for the children so that they would be at ease, and have enough space to feel like they could do their own thing. He was okay in the hotel room. He loved having channels on television. But whenever I took him out to eat or play his executive functioning was a mess. He asked the same questions over and over, not because he was clarifying, but because he had forgotten the answer. He was genuinely confused. He would get an answer and then still be muddled on what was happening, where we were going. It was NOT anxiety. He showed no signs of his anxiety, he did not even ruin a single shirt with chewing or poking while we were there. I wish it had been. That would be easier than knowing that a change of surroundings can so thoroughly confound him. I have been sitting on the fence about whether he needs life long care or not, and lately he seems to be showing signs that he will. Hard for me to accept, that his brilliant mind and outgoing nature is not enough.
My middle child did fantastically well. He attended every session with me. He was the only child in the sessions. He sat quietly and played games on my phone for each session, and he complained not at all. He had insisted that he wanted to stay with me instead of the sitter who was playing games with the other kids in the hotel room, and he was so well behaved that I thought it seemed incongruous to be attending sessions on how to manage his behaviour when he showed no sign of any issues!
So though I did learn to keep doing what I am doing, I don´t think these conferences are for me. I would rather have a book recommendation. If someone is talking at me I don´t learn as much as when I am reading what they say.
My criticisms of the conference: many of the speakers had practices that were not taking subsidized health insurance or Medicaid, which renders them inaccessible to an incredible number of special needs kids and their parents. It also means that they are referencing an entirely different pool of clients in their talks than what is really out there.
And: There was barely any diversity at all. It was usually a sea of white women. I saw representation from three minorities, no more than the fingers on one hand. I don´t know if that means that most social workers and therapists are white women, or if it means that the agencies outreaching to minorities with minorities haven´t the funds to send representation, or if it means that the agencies employing minorities thinks the conference is a waste of time.
Whatever the reason, I found it depressing. What I always loved most about the major cities in this state was the diversity. This was a state conference. We have a sizable refugee population, currently on the second and third generations that we need to reach and also learn from.
The kids had their very first vacation experience, I managed to figure out that camping is better than hotels (no matter how expensive), and I learned that I do NOT have agoraphobia despite my severe reluctance to leave town for the past four years. All good lessons.