• How Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Can Affect Kids

    Does your child suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? If so, you may not even realize that this is the problem. Sometimes, parents think kids are just slacking off, because they seem to be losing concentration, sleeping more, and generally acting mopey and low on energy. It might not immediately occur to you that this seasonal funk is anything more than a phase, but kids can get SAD just as adults can. People with SAD tend to have symptoms in a seasonal pattern, starting when winter approaches and going away when spring returns. It’s thought that the depression associated with SAD is related to decreased daylight exposure, but it’s not entirely clear how it works. It may have something to do with melatonin, which increases in the dark and makes us sleepy, and serotonin, the hormone that increases with light exposure and makes us happy. About 6 percent of people experience seasonal depression, and it’s most common in older teens and young adults. But how can you tell if your child is suffering from SAD?

  • Mood shifts. If your child is experiencing SAD, you’ll probably notice mood swings for at least two weeks. Sadness, irritability, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness may be accompanied by your child being more sensitive than usual to criticism, being self-critical, and crying or getting upset easily.
  • Your child doesn’t enjoy things as much. You might notice that your child has lost interest in things he or she usually finds enjoyable, or feels unable to accomplish tasks successfully.
  • Sleep pattern changes. Your child might have trouble sleeping or might sleep much more than usual. It can be hard for kids with SAD to get out of bed and ready for school in the morning.
  • Your child lacks energy. Regardless of sleeping habits, you might notice unusual tiredness or unexplained fatigue.
  • There are changes in eating habits. Children with SAD often crave simple carbohydrates, like comfort foods and sweets. They may also tend to overeat.
  • Your child has trouble focusing. Grades might drop, as your child becomes less able to concentrate and less motivated to succeed.
  • He or she spends less time socializing. If your child is spending less time with friends or in social activities he or she previously enjoyed, this could be a symptom of depression associated with SAD.

If you suspect your child is suffering from SAD, talk to your pediatrician. Treatment depends on the severity of the child’s symptoms, but there are several different approaches that may help. Increased light exposure, light therapy, medication, and talk therapy are all used to combat SAD.

If you’re concerned that your child may be suffering from SAD or another form of depression, don’t hesitate to seek help. STAR of CA provides a wide array of services to children, adolescents, and adults, to address a variety of mental health needs. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Setting Goals with your Child for 2021

    As the year winds down and we start looking ahead to 2021, most of us set goals for the coming year. While you’re setting your goals, why not take the time to help your child set some as well? Teaching children the valuable skill of goal-setting is important because it’s something they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.

    • Begin on a positive note. Brainstorm with your children, first making a list of things they do well, then looking for areas where they’d like to improve or learn something new. Consider “Three Stars and a Wish” as a planning exercise. Have the kids establish three “stars”, or strengths, and one “wish” of something to aspire to.
    • Strive for goals that are both ambitious and obtainable. This year has been a challenging one for most students, so there’s likely to be an area in which your child doesn’t feel especially competent and would like to improve. By making sure the goals he or she sets are obtainable, you’ll help to build confidence.
    • Choose some goals that are just for fun. Maybe your child wants to learn origami this year, or how to blow bubbles with bubblegum, or how to whistle. It makes working towards goals more interesting if there are aspirations in the mix that aren’t too serious.
    • Turn wishes into goals. What’s the difference between a wish and a goal? It all comes down to having a plan. Help your child determine exactly how he or she will reach the goal you’ve set together, breaking it down into achievable steps.
    • Write everything down. It’s helpful to have a visual reminder of the goals you’ve chosen, perhaps in the form of a chart. When you have a chart on the wall, you and your child can easily record progress being made toward achieving the stated goals.
    • Set a timeline and check in periodically. Talk with your children about a reasonable length of time needed to achieve their goals. Establish expectations, not just for the main goal, but for the little steps along the way. Determine intervals at which you’ll check in to see how your child is feeling about the progress being made.
    • Don’t assume the achievement is its own reward! While your child will feel a sense of accomplishment upon achieving the stated goal, rewards are a great motivator. This can be as simple as stickers on the chart along the way, or you can plan for a big reward once the goal is met.

    If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support, keeping you informed of opportunities for fun with your kids and providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Introducing your child with ASD to a New Sibling

    Bringing home a new baby is exciting, but when older siblings are involved, it’s also a bit of a challenge. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be even more challengingHow do you prepare your child with ASD for the presence of a new little brother or sister? Every child with ASD is different, but some principles remain the same.  

    • Prepare your child earlyChildren with ASD often struggle with change, so prepare your child as soon as possible for all of the changes a baby will bring into the household. If Mom is pregnant, talk about that, using clear language. If any major changes need to be made- switching rooms, perhaps- these should be made early on, to minimize the number of disruptions that occur all at once.  
    • Be as honest as you can. Introduce the concept of “baby” and let your child know that this is a new family member to love. However, don’t paint too rosy a picture. Answer your child’s questions honestly, explaining that some things will change when the baby arrives. Explain that babies can’t feed themselves, are up at night, cry, and need people to change their diapers. Especially for children with ASD who are especially sensitive to sensory stimuli, knowing what’s coming is important.  
    • Use pictures and stories. Draw pictures together of families with babies, show your child photos of babies, or use social stories to help your child understand what to expect. You might take the child to a playground to observe babies, or introduce him or her to a friend’s baby. You know your own child’s capabilities, and how best to help the child understand.  
    • Involve your older child. Giving your child a sense of ownership of the new sibling will help make the transition easier. Make sure to teach concepts like “fragile” and “gentle” so that your child is not inadvertently too rough with the new baby. 
    • Maintain normalcy as much as possible. Establish something special you do regularly with your older child, like a bedtime story, and continue doing this after the baby is born. Keep the daily routine as consistent as possible after the baby arrives.  
    • Be prepared for pushbackUnderstand that not every feeling your child has about the new baby will be positiveThere will always be ups and downs in a family. Be patient with your child with ASD, and make sure you have a support system in place to help you manage once you bring the baby home. 

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896. 

  • Common Questions About Our Mental Health Services

    STAR of CA has been providing resources and education for treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) since we first opened in May 2006. Since then, we have expanded our services to encompass a wider range of mental health issues. We work to ensure that all of the services we provide adhere to the highest possible standards. Here are some questions you might have about the services we offer.

    What mental health services do you offer for children or minors? STAR of CA provides treatment for mental health issues that include anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The treatments we offer include applied behavior analysis (ABA), behavioral classroom management, cognitive behavioral therapy, family focused therapy, and parent management training.

    Do you offer services for adults with mental health issues? We offer treatments for adults who are dealing with issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. The adult treatments we focus on include dialectic behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavior therapy, and prolonged exposure. We also offer psychotherapy services to individuals, couples, and families who are dealing with problems such as grief and relationship issues.

    Can STAR of CA assess mental health issues? Yes, STAR of CA is qualified to provide a psychological assessment service that will allow you to ascertain what issues you are confronting and which evidence-based treatments may be most useful. Among other services, we offer functional behavioral assessments, cognitive functioning assessments, personality functioning assessments, psychodiagnostic assessments, and psychoeducational assessments.

    If your family is dealing with the challenges of an ASD diagnosis, STAR of CA can help. We are here to offer comprehensive mental health services to families in the Ventura area and across California. If you would like to learn more about how our services can help your family, contact our team today by calling (805) 644-7827.