tips

Sensitivity to the Season

Written by: Tammy Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer, National Safe Place Network

Autumn pumpkin background

It’s October and with the season comes such traditions as pumpkins, fall leaves, trick or treat, and brisk mornings. One only needs to look at theater listings or the aisles of your local department store to see signs of Halloween. Who remembers the first time you saw the movie Halloween and heard Jamie Lee Curtis scream? Have you seen any cars named Christine lately? How many hockey masks do you have? Do crows make you shiver? Why is that balloon tied to the storm drain?

If you are one who enjoys the season, frights can be fun and create memories worth sharing. However, for many youth and adults, the signs and sounds of the season can trigger memories of experiences scarier than most of us can imagine. Just like you, Safe Place® is committed to helping youth not only BE safe but FEEL safe. As you think about how to connect with youth during this time of year, consider the following activities:

  • Invite youth to create a collage (on paper or digitally) of the images that remind them of feeling safe. Make sure there are sufficient options to address differences across culture, age, and experience.
  • Have discussions with youth new to your program about any aspect of your organization’s physical layout that is frightening or uncomfortable for them.
  • Host a group discussion of things youth rely on when they’re scared. Be prepared to respond when youth say they are never scared or when they say they have nothing or no one to rely on in those moments.
  • Ensure you are not selecting movies for group viewing or seasonal activities without considering the needs of each youth. Allow for alternative activities without disparagement. Adults working with youth may not recognize specific triggers. Corn mazes may evoke feelings of being lost. Haunted houses may trigger unsuspected reactions. Pumpkins that smile are just wrong.

If the sound of chain saws make you cringe and the idea of summer camp makes you nauseous, you understand the power of images, sounds, and, memories. Work with your staff to create safe memories for the youth you serve. It will be the treat they never forget.

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School Supply Donation Drives

Written by Autumn Sandlin, NSPN Marketing & Communications Intern

The end of the summer season is quickly approaching. School will be back in session soon enough, and with that comes supplies. School supplies can be an underlying source of anxiety for youth and their families. While supplies are essential to a student’s education, they can be expensive and cause a strain on families and their budgets. You can help the youth in your programs ease this burden by holding back—to–school donation drives. Not only will these drives help support youth you serve, but they’re also a great way for the community to become involved with your program(s).

Suggested Items for Donation:

  • Loose leaf paper (college & wide-ruled)
  • Spiral notebooks (college & wide-ruled)
  • Binders
  • Number 2 pencils
  • Black & blue ink pens
  • Pocket folders with prongs
  • Highlighters
  • Crayons/colored pencils/markers
  • Construction paper
  • Composition books
  • Index cards
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Glue/Glue sticks

Note: These items can change depending on the age of the youth you serve. This is merely a suggested list

There are different routes you can take with a donation drive; and it will be up to you to assess your program’s needs and determine a best fit. You may want to consider placing donation bins at various locations around your area in order to maximize community involvement on an individual, and business level. There’s also the back-pack option, where volunteers would fill back-packs with the items donated to your program. Some agencies may choose to collect donations by placing bins at local businesses and others may plan a community giving day.

When you have decided on the type of donation drive you’d like to do, get the word out! You can hand out fliers/post them around your community, get the local newspaper to do an article on the donation drive, and/or talk to your local radio station. It’s important to get the word out about your drive, and seeking out platforms that have a larger audience is one of the ways to do it.

You should also set goals for your donation drive. These goals can vary. Whether you’d like to see a certain number of volunteers/businesses get involved, or have a number of donated items you’d like to receive, goals will help you maintain organization and give you a ‘bottom line’ to strive for. Try one of these goal charts to track your status and encourage excitement in your office: (click to download)

backpack drive   supply drive   fundraiser

While paper, pens, and pencils may seem like small, insignificant items; they are the some of the building blocks of education. Your decision to hold a school supply donation drive for youth helps ease the stress and anxiety of the school supply list, and puts the young people you serve on a path to greatness starting at the beginning of the school year.

My Life as a Gruntled Employee

Written by Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Marketing and Events, National Safe Place Network

I’m gruntled. I’m so gruntled I sneak around on the weekends, wake up really early, and stay at the “office” really late. I know, I know—you’re probably thinking this sounds like the beginning of a twisted Lifetime movie. I get that these activities can be seen in a negative light, but in this case—I assure you, they’re great!

“Gruntled” isn’t a term most people use to identify a “happy employee,” but I say, “why not?” It’s common to call an unhappy worker a “disgruntled employee.” Anyhow, I’m embracing the phrase. I’m gruntled. I mentioned before that I “sneak around on the weekends”—I like to work on weekends and “sneak” to work when my family members and friends are busy with things they like (my husband likes naps). I “wake up really early”—I open my eyes and my brain starts to think about what new projects we can start, how we can make more meaningful connections with the members and agencies that we care deeply for, and what new information is needed in the field. I have even been known to send emails with ideas before I get out of bed and head for a delicious cup of coffee. Before coffee . . . yes, I know—that’s pretty risky. I also “stay at the office really late”—I cannot “shut it down” at 5 p.m. I have tried (only because I was told about self-care—apparently that’s a thing), but I actually don’t think my mind ever stops. I love what I do so much, that I want to do it—all of the time. You’ve heard the phrase, “you’ll never work a day in your life if you do what you love to do.” Well, that’s it—I am just doing what I love to do and I believe that IS my self-care. I’m gruntled doing it.

Here are some of the things that make me gruntled. Perhaps some of these things will help you fill your organization with gruntled staff—or understand why they are gruntled and help you keep it that way:

  • I care about our mission and vision. I think in order to be truly gruntled at the workplace, one needs to be passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. For the record, the mission of NSPN is to ensure an effective system of response for youth in crisis through public and private partnerships at a local, state, and national level. The vision of NSPN is to create a world where all youth are safe. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
  • My supervisor is a leader. She leads by example. She believes in me. She checks her ego at the door and leaves that door open for input, ideas, and thoughts from all of her staff. She cares about my wants and needs to move forward. She listens—she takes the time to understand what MY idea of success is—and she helps provide the resources to accomplish it.
  • I’m challenged. There’s nothing like a good ol’ challenge to make me use my brain. Tasks can be difficult, but they are always possible. I care about our organization, partners, NSPN members, licensed Safe Place® agencies, and RHY grantees, so when I’m challenged, I know I’m playing a role in the success of all of these. (Being challenged also makes me gruntled, because it tells me I’m trusted.)
  • I have autonomy. I know some employees need a little more hand-holding than others, but I don’t believe any employee likes to be micro-managed. I cannot stand it. I’m happy I have the autonomy to do what I’m paid to do and do it well. You might have heard the phrase, “hire someone who is an expert and then get out of their way.” Well, it’s true. If you’re a micro-manager, stop now. You hired your employees for a reason—get out of their way and let them do it.
  • I’m comforted by transparency. I love that our organization is transparent. Gruntled employees remain content and safe when they know the direction of their organization. This doesn’t mean everyone is involved with every decision, but it does mean we support each other by providing the information and tools we need to carry out our responsibilities. Nothing demoralizes employees more than the phrase “need to know.” Everyone who knows me can tell you I don’t like this phrase. I think people who push “need to know” as a control mechanism, as an explanation or excuse for excluding staff who may think differently or excluding staff who question the status quo—have challenges they or their therapist “need to know.” One of the issues with “need to know” is no one seems to know who all “needs to know.” It’s based on perspective. Only including your “close friends” in a discussion or “accidentally” leaving someone out of a conversation disrupts the flow of the process.  Processes are in place for a reason. To help with this, determine teams (everyone who actually needs to know) and create contact lists (for use across the board), so when you email someone, you email the contact list and you don’t leave anyone out of the conversation.
  • I enjoy our culture. The team establishes the culture. Does it feel good when you walk into the office? Is it supportive and respectful or do you experience tension and stress? Being able to walk into an environment that is supportive enhances productivity—and gruntledness (not to mention it is definitely possible to have fun in the workplace).
  • I feel appreciated. Organizational leaders can’t always give their staff members a raise, but they can invest in them in other ways—including professional development. Don’t be afraid of developing your staff because they will move on—develop your staff so they can move up! They’ve already chosen your organization—show them you chose them as well. (By the way – NSPN offers a terrific Professional Development package with benefits like professional coaching for middle managers, an Emerging Leader Institute, Training of Trainer sessions, CEUs, Certified Youth Care course and certification, and more.  Invest in your employees by letting NSPN help. Take advantage of these benefits and let them grow professionally! Contact us at info@nspnetwork.org to learn more.)

They say happiness is contagious. I hope I’ve been able to share some ways you or your team can be happy—I mean . . . gruntled!

sm-ns-july-gruntled-faces

Biking with Ninja Turtles: Exploring Boundaries with Kids

Written by: Lisa Tobe, Executive Director, Wildflower Consulting

I lost my six-year-old son Mateo under a yellow helmet with a face-cover. I could see his little hands and knee knobs stick out from what looked like black Kevlar body armor. My friend, Thea, stood beside him explaining the gears, throttle and brakes on the blue four-wheeler their seven-year-old son Trey rides. Mateo nodded gravely. I watched the side of his helmet bob up and down in slow, short movements. She had his rapt attention, but I wondered if he’d absorbed the directions. I hadn’t.

Instead, I thought, “Oh crap, am I really going to let him ride that four-wheeler by himself?” I’d been flooded with panic about the idea of broken bones, concussions and spinal injuries. Up until then Mateo had only ridden a bike attached to mine, a three-wheeled Green Machine that could do a wicked skid at the bottom of a hill or a red, battery-powered, plastic race car that barely moved across our gravel driveway.

Thea lives outside Nucla, a rough and tumble Colorado outpost with a great view of the LaSal Mountain Range. Kids run around outside unsupervised starting at a young age, the outdoors their only playmate when not in school. Unlike their urban/suburban counter-parts, these children have hayfields instead of soccer leagues and ponds instead of spray parks. When we first arrived, Mateo did not want to ride the four-wheeler period, so Trey proudly walked him around his family’s 22-acre ranch. We told them to be back before dark. By then, Mateo and I were several days into our cross-country trip to Quincy, California, a small town I lived in for almost a decade before returning home to Kentucky. Thea and I hadn’t seen each other since before we became moms. We sat on their porch catching up while the boys explored.

I’m a parent-in-training. I had Mateo when I was forty-one. I have been reading books about parenting since before he was born; books that told me how to be pregnant, how to give birth and how to raise him. They talked about attachment, strong-willed children and the whole-brain approach. The authors provided advice about how I could make Mateo happy, smart and compassionate, among other things. I read these books in what we in the south call ‘fits and starts’ whenever I got overwhelmed with his behavior. I thought if I followed their guidance, Mateo would be this perfect, happy child that turned into an amazing man. But I’m learning that parenting is as individualized as our DNA.

Mateo helmet
Mateo wearing his bike helmet. Photo credit: Melissa Simmons

I raise my son in a little village of helpers, which includes my parents. My dad has much more patience with Mateo than he ever did with his kids and perhaps counter-intuitively seems more afraid of bad things happening to Mateo than he did with us. My brother, Artie, and I grew up in the relative freedom like most children raised in the seventies. We scuttled up trees and scurried around the streets and woods in our neighborhood with impunity. We had few rules:

  • Tell our parents where we were going;
  • Stay within a one-mile radius; and,
  • Return home for dinner, when it got dark or when dad whistled.

My parents warned us about cars but never about people. We biked over a mile to school alone as young as seven, and by eight we were allowed to go on solo hikes around our cabin in Western Kentucky. During these excursions, I imagined being an Indian Princess hunting for food or a race car driver flying around the speedway. I felt fearless.

While my parents follow my lead, we have complex generational and personal differences about raising children. They placed a television in Mateo’s room at their house and give him desert after every dinner, often consisting of ice cream with multiple toppings. Both are remnants of my childhood.

Both my parents and I want Mateo to be independent. We know that everyone thrives in the I-can-do-it moments when Mateo learns sometime new. It’s just that we have differing opinions of independent, which have become increasingly divergent as Mateo gets older.

My parents worry about losing Mateo. They asked me to nail Mateo’s first-floor bedroom windows shut. I let Dad drill holes, but kept the nails on the window sill. I wanted Mateo to feel the breeze moving through his room.

As young as two, I took Mateo traipsing through the creeks by my parent’s house. He loved playing in the water and chasing elusive creatures that squirted past his chubby legs. At first I held his hand, afraid he might drown in the 6 inches of tepid water that made up our latest playground. But eventually I let go, following closely behind as he rambled and fell among the brown and green algae covered rocks. The water splashed around him before soaking through his blue shorts. Mateo cried at first. But when I extended my hand, he let me pull him up and tumbled uncertainly forward trying to offset his waterlogged diaper. When Mom saw our appearance, worry lines deepened around her mouth.

Before our trip, I had started giving Mateo a little more room. I exercised during his swim lessons or went biking during his soccer practices. I’d let him go to public restrooms without supervision. At first I hovered outside the door. Eventually, I had him meet me back on a certain aisle or rejoin me at a restaurant table. I admit that each time I saw him walking back, I felt relieved. I also started feeling less trapped by the crushing public perception that a child always has to be supervised.

Mateo and I have never had a long conversation about physical boundaries, just to stay away from the street and ponds. He also has some natural fears that keep him in our yard. I work at home and can often see him from my office window, where a collection of ramshackle fences border our acre in Louisville. Gaps have begun to emerge in the black wooden fence that folds around the side and back of our yard. Several poles lean in or out pulled off center by time and weather. Some slats, held in place by a stubborn nail or two, scatter at odd angles. A wire fence runs half way up the other side of our yard, separating us from a pond and horses. Cars and trucks rush past on a busy street in front of our house, parents running errands or construction workers expanding a subdivision that used to be woods. I’m told that our eighty-year-old house used to be a school and that the fields that surround it were filled with trees before a new owner decided they would get in the way and cut them down.

I mow about 1/3 of our yard. Tall grasses and wild plants grow in the rest. My mom calls them weeds. Mateo pretends they are a rain forest, although I have to admit he’s hardly ever in that part of the yard. Mostly, he stays around his play set and trampoline, beside the house where the grass is cut. I don’t worry too much when he roams out of sight. Like my outdoor cats, I figure he’s not far.

I could only imagine what my mom would do if she’d been standing there when Mateo got on the four-wheeler. After giving him directions, Thea threw her legs over the seat behind Mateo holding onto the steering wheel. She gently coached him. Then she let him drive alone at the top of her driveway where he hopscotched across the gravel as he got used to the engine and the brakes. After about three wide circles, Mateo stopped in front of us, his learning energy depleted. He wanted Trey to take him on a ride. They headed off in dust covered cloud energy. He came back sweaty and ecstatic.

“Mama, mama,” he said tumbling in the house.
“Yep.”
“I’m going to ask Santa for a four-wheeler.”
“Oh?” I grinned. “You’d better tell him to bring 22-acres with him too. There’s nowhere to ride a four-wheeler at our house.”
“OK, I’ll ask.”
“I don’t think it will fit in his bag.”
“But Mama? Maybe Santa can have someone else drop it [the land] off, and then he can bring the four-wheeler.”
“You can always ask.”

More and more lately, I have noticed that Mateo wants both me and his independence, a complex need that we have been sorting out in increments. Still there’s this complicated mix of teaching Mateo to ask for help and letting him just go for it. When we stopped at my friend’s place just off Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mateo made himself home in the wood-covered lot. He scrunched himself up the house-sized granite boulders.

“Do you think I can get down that way?” Mateo pointed down what appeared to be the equivalent of a straight-edged cliff.
“I think you might. If you miss, it will hurt. It’s your choice.” This is standard refrain when I’m unsure.

Mateo peered over the granite face before heading back down the same way he’d come up. I never know what he’ll decide. Thus far his biggest injuries have been scratches and bruises. It probably works this way because of two reasons, he actually does have a pretty good handle on his limits and I won’t let him do anything that seems like sure death. I really like this natural check-in process he has developed. I feel safer because of it, so I continually push all our boundaries, the adult comfort and the child’s will. He has done these new things alternating between wild abandon and mild trepidation.

I watched for a few minutes. “Don’t kill yourself,” I told him before I walked into Seth’s house to sort our laundry.

After two weeks, we finally reached Quincy, a town of 6,000. My neighbor offered him the use of any of their bikes, a balance-bike without petals, one with training wheels or a two-wheeled bike. To my surprise, Mateo picked the big-boy bike.

Last year, he’d tried to learn to bike on our gravel driveway in Kentucky. It had been a hot late spring day. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, me teaching him to learn to ride without training wheels or him learning. I only vaguely remember learning how to do this. I might have been five or six, no helmet, no knee or elbow pads, just a pile of dusty skin and determination. I’m sure my brain had been flooded with all those confusing chemicals that told me to be excited and afraid.  I’m sure there was blood and Band-Aides before the triumph. Mateo wore full riot gear including wrist guards. When he pushed down on the petal, Mateo lurched sideways and threw out his leg to try to catch himself. He missed. I missed. The red bike landed on Mateo. He wailed. I pulled him up.

“Let’s try again.”
“I can’t.” A small sweat droplet slid down the back of his jaw where one day he’ll sprout facial hair.

I’m not sure what had changed since last year, but now Mateo gets up when he crashes. He still blames me for the falls, but I see that as progress. He told me that I’d held on too long or not enough or … Truth be told, I didn’t’ mind, because his words guided me as I tried to help him find his balance.

“You’re pulling me,” Mateo said in a soft, frustrated voice. I had been running beside him in a sports bra, holding onto his bike with one hand and the shirt I’d stripped out of earlier with the other. At the end of the day, I found myself covered in a dust bath and Mateo able to ride a bike. By the second day, he was a pro.

In many ways, this little rite of passage opened up both our worlds. He wanted to ride to the end of our road, so I let him alone. When Mateo came back, Eli, a six-year-old from the corner, tagged behind him riding an oversized pink bike, his fresh crew cut covered by a bright yellow dirt bike helmet. Book-ended by two single mom’s, who live down the street from each other, these two boys disappear for hours now, somewhere in the expanse between our house and Eli’s. My neighbor’s two grandkids, both boys, have recently joined the fray. As I wrote this, I could hear them urgently creating story lines where their bikes become race cars, horses and Ninja Turtle dirt bikes.

Kids do not have as much freedom to roam today, for a number of reasons. Some families live in areas with high crime rates; schools are farther away; traffic seems more congested and quite frankly our society’s perception of risk does not align with reality. A  University of New Hampshire research center report published in JAMA Pediatrics showed that the rate of crimes against children dropped between 2003 and 2011.[i] As cited in a 2007 Pediatrics’[ii] article, several studies has shown that unsupervised and child-driven play enhances imagination, resiliency and confidence, as well as teaches negotiation and decision making skills.  I can see these things in Mateo. Somehow we have negotiated the boundaries that feel safe to both of us, and this has allowed him to center himself more in this world and himself.

The night Mateo learned to ride his bike, I typed as he related the story to me. He described his fear and new-found confidence.

“I had trouble. Sometimes I couldn’t really start myself. Then my mama helped me, so I thought I could do it and I did. Mama held the back of my seat. Then when I said I was ready, she let go, and I could do it.”

Mateo Bike
Mateo riding his bike.
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[i] JAMA Pediatrics. April 2011.Trends in Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2003 to 2011 David Finkelhor, PhD; Anne Shattuck, MA; Heather A. Turner, PhD; Sherry L. Hamby, PhD

[ii] Pediatrics January 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1 The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Kenneth R. Ginsburg. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182

Live Life Unfiltered

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

It’s no doubt technology has made life more…let’s say convenient. Technology has provided increased accessibility for education, safety, healthcare, and entertainment. It has also paved a new way to build “social connections”. But, with these new “social connections” – are we really connecting? Technology enables increased efficiency and productivity; however, it has disabled true conversation, connection, and togetherness. Take a moment and watch a powerful video authored by Prince Ea. In this video, he shares a simple message to encourage you to be balanced, mindful, and present. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ

Some have argued that technology has strengthened communication; however, I believe technology has made communication faster and shorter – not stronger. In fact, I believe communication is strongest when no form of technology is involved at all.

I have found technology – as wonderful as it is – often times interrupts, rather than improves our lives.  Look around; you’ll begin to notice how society is starting to live through technology instead of taking the brilliant science behind it to meet certain needs. So many moments are being lost because they are being experienced through a (screen) filter. I want to shout – “LIVE IN THE MOMENT!” I mean, don’t you want to experience something you enjoy first hand and not through a screen? I was at a concert one evening and I was recording the song I had been waiting for all day. About half-way through, I realized I was watching it through my screen. With excitement, I had been waiting for that very moment and almost missed the entire thing. I wasn’t allowing myself to experience something joyful. I was watching it with a filter, which I could have just as easily watched on screen from home. It was that moment that I realized the value of just enjoying the in-person experience. When you have a better connection with your phone than a person, you are living life through technology. It’s time to make some changes. Live life unfiltered; live in the moment.

Here are five ways you can start living life unfiltered:

  • Adjust your morning routine.
    • Put your phone out of reach.  Many of us sleep with the phone right beside us and the first thing we do in the morning is check our emails or social media accounts.  Try starting the day off with a nice stretch or meditation instead.
  • Leave home without it.
    • That’s right…leave your phone at home.  Plan a day with the family or by yourself and leave the technology at home.  If you’re concerned about an emergency, let others know where you’ll be and what time you expect to get home.  If there is an actual emergency, they will do what they did before cell phones… they will find you.
  • Eat and be merry.
    • Make your time at the table, chair, or couch technology free.  Simply enjoy your meal and savor each bite.  Not only is it the healthiest option, it’s also a way to actually connect with others – or yourself if you choose to have a bite alone.
  • Don’t drop one piece of technology for another.
    • While smart phones have become a one-stop-shop for all things, technology doesn’t begin and end there.  If you truly want to disconnect for a while – turn the television off too.  Instead, go outside and plant a flower or tree, pull out the big tub of photos (you know – the ones you had to go and get developed to see them.)  Sit down around a table and relive the memories or share those memories with those who weren’t there – especially those who don’t know what life is like without the technology of today.
  • Don’t allow over-stimulation to control your life.

Here’s a fun life-hack where you can make a quick change to help you avoid over-stimulation and potentially reduce the urge to constantly check your smart phone: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/480240/adventures-in-grayscale/?utm_source=SFTwitter

Breaking Down Barriers: Working with Children, Youth, and Families Impacted by “Disabilities”

By: Dee Blose, Executive Director, Youth & Family Services, Inc.

We all have a “disability” of sorts.  I wear glasses.  Without them I would be lost in this world.  Glasses are basically my accommodation to help me better access my environment.  They help me be the best that I can be!

That is the purpose of any accommodation for someone that learns, processes, or accesses the world in a different way.  If we could think of “disabilities” as mere differences, rather than a weakness, then we have made the first step to break down a barrier for our clients.

I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know a group of children, youth and young adults with a variety of “abilities” through some of our programing here at Youth & Family Services, Inc. in El Reno, Oklahoma.  We have a partnership with AutismOklahoma.org, a state-wide parent driven autism support system.  Through that partnership we assist with a couple of summer camps, and a year round social/entrepreneurial club called Bee’s Knees.

What we have found through working with a variety of children, youth and young adults on the autism spectrum is that they are more like the rest of us than different!  And that is where our common ground lies.  Finding those “touch points” where our interests can intersect give us the perfect space to come together and share, communicate, and grow together.  Music, animals, art, and hobbies all offer this common ground that we can join together celebrating.

One of the most rewarding experiences I have had with Bee’s Knees was attendance at an art show showcasing their artwork.  Youth that are quiet, non-social, suddenly open up about their art, especially when their art is about an interest of theirs.  Art about computers, video games, electronics, movies, books, animals, whatever is their passion all the sudden leads to communication and socializing.  It is a glorious sight to see them engage.  One particular young man will take a strangers arm and gently lead them over to his work.  Although he has a stutter, he is adamant that he describes his work in detail.  It always seems to actually have a complete story, a beginning and an end.  One of his works describes the process of renting a video game, everything from ordering it on-line to the postman delivering it to his mailbox, to him enjoying it (artwork included below).

gamefly

Without common ground opportunities, this type of communication would be lost, never even heard in the context of a public event or public opportunity.  It would rather be a topic of a social skills conversation where a therapist would be challenging this youth to NOT talk about his video game, but to try and stay to more “socially appropriate” topics.  I don’t know about you but one of my favorite things to talk about are my current interests, so why would they be any different?

Developing programs that capitalize on their interest and their strengths opens up the world to new possibilities.  Suddenly these barriers become moments of enlightenment and new human interactions, new appreciations for different points of wonder, new experiences from both directions.

Consider as you are identifying “barriers” to participation for children, youth, and families impacted by “disabilities” that you look at it in an entirely different way.  If you were on their side of the “barrier” what would be important to you?  Where would you want to interface and engage?  What have you got to showcase to the world?  Then build a program or event or activity from that perspective, inviting all the rest of the world (or group) to join.  It may very well be that the barrier we have erected is basically only perceived from the original perspective.  You may very well now not see a barrier, but rather a bridge that connects us all together into one glorious group of humans that can laugh, sing, dance, and participate as complimenting spirits in the program we call “life”.

For more information about Youth & Family Services in El Reno, Oklahoma, visit their website: http://www.yfsok.org/

For more information about Bee’s Knees visit their website: http://beeskneesart.com/ 

To see a full length movie (one hour) about Swanky Art Camp, including meeting many campers on the autism spectrum, view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MMDSzqtwww 

To get more general disability accommodation information, visit this websitehttp://www.aucd.org/itac/template/index.cfm

Alleviating Stress

By: Lindsey Collier, MSSW Student Intern with RHYTTAC

Quiz time!

I know you are probably thinking, “What can one more quiz tell me about myself? Haven’t I already learned everything I could possibly need to know about myself from Facebook?” I’m confident you already know what breed of dog you are, what your Smurf name is, and what your spirit animal is…but indulge me and take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. Do you ever feel like your plate is so full you just can’t possibly take on one more task, answer one more phone call or email, or deal with one more crisis?
  2. Have you lost sleep, changed your eating habits, or noticed a difference in your interactions with colleagues, family, or friends? Have they noticed a difference in you?
  3. Is your hair falling out?
  4. Are you always tired and maybe even a little irritable?
  5. Can a vegetarian eat an animal cracker?

Just kidding about the last question…however, it is an important question to ponder.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be stressed. I have never met you, but I would venture to guess that if you are reading this, you will answer yes to at least some of these questions at some point in your life. As with much of life, the real questions is how you respond.

So, what do you do? First, you should figure out just how stressed you are. There are many different types of stress. The two most common forms you will encounter are acute stress and chronic stress. For more information on other types, like burnout, vicarious traumatization, and toxic stress (hint: toxic stress isn’t something adults experience), please click the following link where you will find tip sheets with more detailed information on stress in its various forms: http://www.rhyttac.net/resources/search?field_resource_type_tid=All&field_tags_tid=&title=stress.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress – How do you know what you are dealing with?

Acute stress is a brief stress response that doesn’t persist over time. For example, your heart rate and respiration increases in response to an impending car accident. Chronic stress is a longer-term stress response that can become so ingrained that a person may not realize their symptoms are related to a stress response. For example, a person loses interest in social activities and exhibits depressive symptoms as a result of their work as an elementary school teacher in a severely under resourced inner-city school where nearly all children are living in poverty and many have witnessed community, gang-related violence.

Basically, if you feel like you are living Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for a day or two, then you are probably dealing with acute stress. On the other hand, if you feel like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad describes your entire life and has for the last several weeks, months, or years, then you are probably dealing with chronic stress.

Now that you know what kind of stress you are dealing with, what do you do about it?

Acute stress will typically resolve on its own once the stressful experience is over and your mind and body have a chance to return to baseline.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, may require action to mitigate. It could be as simple as taking a few days off work to recharge, or as drastic as making a job or career change. Perhaps you have taken on too many responsibilities and need to prioritize what matters most. Depending on the nature of the original stressor, some type of therapy may be in order. The bottom line is that chronic stress is, by definition, chronic and will not go away without some action on your part.

In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, do yourself a favor and do one thing this month to alleviate at least some of the stress in your life. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, reconnect with a friend over coffee or dinner, take a weekend getaway, try making sleep a priority. Treat yourself to some quality time with your significant other…or, if you are like me and don’t have a significant other, some quality time with a good book. I can also highly recommend changing your phone wallpaper or computer background to pictures of cute puppies. You can’t not smile if you are looking at cute puppies! If your stress level is chronic, have courage to make significant changes in your job or career. Consult trusted family and friends and seek professional counseling, if necessary.

If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to sign up for NSPN Communications at: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/index.php?option=com_mc&view=mc&mcid=form_173370%20.

Earth Day: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

By: Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, NSPN

I have been recycling for a long time and around our office I’m affectionately known as the “Recycling Queen.” I’m not ashamed to say I occasionally rummage through the garbage when I see recyclable materials in the can. This all started because my neighborhood was part of a pilot recycling project in Louisville and we became fanatics about how to reduce, reuse and repurpose. At home, my husband and I produce less than one bag of trash each week and we even purchased a larger recycling can from the city to pick up each week. We would have even less to throw away if we had a way to easily dispose of or compost organic trash – coffee grounds, old flowers, egg shells and other kitchen garbage.

If you’re not quite into recycling yet, it’s OK – it’s not too late to start! Here are a few recycling and reusing tips I’ve picked up over the years:

  1. Get a recycling container and place it in a location it will most likely be used.
  2. Don’t just throw it away! Think and look before throwing something into the trash. Does the item have the recycling triangle on the bottom – can it be recycled?
  3. Purchase items that have minimal packaging or that are not individually wrapped. For example, purchase the larger-sized products and re-package them in your own reusable containers.
  4. When getting that cup of coffee at a meeting or conference, use the ceramic or glass mug instead of the paper cup with the lid. Those mugs can be washed and reused!
  5. Use cloth napkins instead of paper and use real cloth dish towels instead of paper towels.
  6. Use re-usable shopping bags – keep them in your car so they are handy
  7. Don’t just throw those plastic shopping bags away. You can repurpose them – they make good trash can liners) or save and take them back to retail stores that reuse them (grocery stores, etc.)
  8. Don’t get a shopping bag if you don’t need it. If it’s one or a few small items, do you really need a bag to put them in? Don’t hesitate to say you don’t need a bag.
  9. Dry cleaners often use more environmentally friendly techniques and options, such as reusable laundry bags – ask about this option. I put shirts I need to be laundered and dry cleaning items in my laundry bag and when I go pick up our clean items, that bag turns into a garment bag and covers those items just like the old plastic bags – no garbage produced.
  10. Use a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing plastic water bottles.
  11. For yard waste at home, purchase a large metal or plastic garbage can and place your yard waste in that container. If you have a large yard, you might need more than one. Make friends with your neighbor and borrow theirs if you have a lot to get rid of. My neighbors borrow our containers many times in the fall.
  12. Consider installing a rain barrel or two to collect water coming off of your roof and gutters. Use that for watering your plants.
  13. Does your workplace recycle? Does your neighborhood recycle? If not, try to get a recycling effort started. If this doesn’t work out, find out where the recycling drop-off sites are in your community and take items there.
  14. Consider purchasing items made of recyclable materials when you can afford to do so.
  15. Recruit more recyclers – it takes all of us to make a difference.
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Don’t be Fooled, NSPN has you Covered

By Katie Carter and TC Cassidy

Whether your RHY-funded staff members are attending RHYTTAC conferences and trainings, you are a Safe Place agency getting help locating and recruiting sites, or you are a NSPN member during this hectic grant season, your team at NSPN is here to help – really! This is not a joke.

RHYTTAC Support

FYSB RHYTTAC-Logo

RHYTTAC is funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) as the training and technical assistance provider for all FYSB-funded RHY grantees. RHYTTAC staff members all have a background in FYSB-funded RHY program services and understand the challenges programs face in striving to achieve the best possible outcomes in the midst of staff turnover, community change and ever-emerging needs of the RHY population.

RHYTTAC provides tools, resources and consultation to assist FYSB RHY grantees so that they may engage in continuous quality improvement of their services and build their capacity to effectively serve RHY. Technical assistance services can include the provision of relevant resources; telephone consultation; email exchanges; Community of Practice support; on-site assessment and consultation to address program-specific needs. Technical assistance may be requested directly by a grantee or a Federal Project Officer may request RHYTTAC’s involvement to support a grantee’s effort.

RHYTTAC services are free for grantee organizations, with the exception of a small registration fee for the National RHY Grantees Conference and travel-related expenses. Recognizing that travel costs are often prohibitive for many grantees, RHYTTAC is working to ensure that topics delivered via technical assistance clinics and trainings are also made available to all grantees via the website and other outlets.

RHYTTAC wants to hear from you. If there is a training topic you would like to see added to the calendar for upcoming webinars or on-site events, please let us know by contacting us at info@rhyttac.net.

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) Member Support

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In addition to operating RHYTTAC, for more than three decades, NSPN has provided services and support for agencies serving youth and families. NSPN offers a unique set of packages designed to meet the needs of youth and family service agencies across the country.

NSPN members are a part of a national network of dedicated youth service professionals working to strengthen the lives of youth and families. We provide training opportunities to gain Continuing Education Units, share current trends, best practices, and keep members updated on news and research.

We are here for you, to answer your questions, guide you through grant proposal applications, and introduce you to others in the field, doing similar work. If interested in learning more about membership opportunities, check out: www.nspnetwork.org/join-the-network.

Safe Place Program Support

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NSPN is constantly seeking to provide the greatest return on the investment that local licensed agencies make in implementing Safe Place in their communities. We offer materials and resources, professional program support, training and industry networking opportunities. Don’t Safe Place in your community? Let us know and we will work with you to see if starting the program is a feasible option. For more information about Safe Place, please visit: www.nationalsafeplace.org.

Don’t be fooled by all NSPN has to offer. We are here to help. Just let us know what you need!

Women’s History Month Recognition: Celebrating Strength, Courage and Positive Self-Esteem

On Thursday, March 12, 2015, the NSPN Communications Team (Elizabeth Smith Miller and Hillary Ladig) hosted RHYTTAC’s weekly-scheduled Talk it Out Thursday call. This week’s topic was, “Women’s History Month Recognition: Celebrating Strength, Courage and Positive Self-Esteem.” Many girls (and boys, for that matter) will enter your program having survived events that can tear anyone’s esteem down. It’s important to recognize low self-esteem and identify what factors that may be causing it. There are many types of issues and many reasons that cause them. There are also many ways to help boost esteem, build courage, and encourage strength.

We have compiled a list of resources related to this topic that we hope you find to be helpful.

Learning About and Teaching Women’s History

TeachingHistory.org’s Women’s History Resources: This is a one-stop shop for diving deep into Women’s History Month. Here, educators will find learning resources, lesson plans, and a long list of quizzes and printables for the classroom. http://teachinghistory.org/spotlight/womens-history

EDSITEment Women’s History Resources: Produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities, these resources include featured lesson plans and teaching resources that cover women in politics, the arts, and military and civilian service. The comprehensive plans highlight time required and subjects covered, and they include worksheets and links to required reading and resources. http://edsitement.neh.gov/feature/womens-history-month

Women’s History Resources for Teachers: These resources from the Library of Congress encourage teachers and students “to put primary resources to work in the classroom.” Featuring packaged lesson plans, this is a great resource. There are also wonderful audio and video resources, thorough primary source collections, and a number of timeless photo projects.http://womenshistorymonth.gov/teachers.html

Women’s History Month: You may also want to check out the Library’s official Women’s History Month page at: http://womenshistorymonth.gov/.

Science NetLinks Women’s History Collection: This Science NetLinks collection complements this year’s WHM theme well, which looks at women in STEM fields. This page features science lesson plans and teaching resources for all students of all ages. Teachers can filter results by grade level, and there is also a great list of science-specific outside links to lesson plans. http://sciencenetlinks.com/collections/womens-history-month/

ReadWriteThink’s Women’s History: Here, educators will find thoughtful lesson plans, a list of links to online women’s history resources, as well as after-school ideas for teaching women’s history for parents. There are teacher-written lesson plans available for grades 3-12. http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/march-national-women-history-20452.html

Zinn Education Project’s Women’s History Resources: These lesson plans incorporate Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” and they encourage classrooms to delve into American history by looking at our collective past through the eyes of everyday people. Instead of just highlighting iconic historical figures, these lessons look at history through the eyes of common women. (Note: access requires free registration.) http://zinnedproject.org/teaching-materials/%20-%20themes-womens-history

Reading Lists and Additional Collections for Students about Women’s History

There are so many great women’s history reads and resources online, and it’s hard to select just a few for youth. But, hopefully, these reading lists and additional resource collections will help spark curiosity in your programs.

A Collection of Teaching Resources for WHM, Scholastic Teachers: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collection/womens-history-month-collection-teaching-resources

The Origins of Women’s History Month, HISTORY: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month

The Best History Websites for WHM, EdTechTeacher: http://www.besthistorysites.net/index.php/american-history/women

WHM Videos, Articles, and Multimedia, Biography.com: http://www.biography.com/search/Women’s%20History

Women’s History Month Reading Resources, TIME for Kids: http://www.timeforkids.com/minisite/womens-history-month

Women’s History Month Reading List, Reading Rockets: http://www.timeforkids.com/minisite/womens-history-month

Celebrate Women’s History, The New York Times’ The Learning Network: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/teaching-topics/celebrate-womens-history-month/?_r=0

Women’s History and Children’s Books, Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site: http://www.carolhurst.com/subjects/history/women.html

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collection/womens-history-month-collection-teaching-resources

http://womenshistorymonth.gov/teachers.html

Want to Learn More About Self-Esteem?

What is Self-Esteem? http://psychology.about.com/od/sindex/f/what-is-self-esteem.htm

Low Self-Esteem: This article shares information on the curvilinear model of self-esteem, empirical research, and low self-esteem in children and teens. http://www.simplypsychology.org/self-esteem.html

Low Self-esteem Signs and Symptoms: http://www.self-help-and-self-development.com/low-self-esteem-signs.html

5 Possible Causes of Low Self-esteem: http://www.self-help-and-self-development.com/causes-of-low-self-esteem.html

10 Sources of Low Self-esteem: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/me-we/201312/10-sources-low-self-esteem

The Story of Self Esteem: This article provides helpful ways to explain what self-esteem is to younger children. http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/emotion/self_esteem.html

Teenage Girls’ Self Esteem – Your Inner Sparkle: BeingGirl.com is a helpful site dedicated to teenage girls.  Girls can visit this site to obtain information on confidence, Self esteem, Sex & Intimacy, Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders, Cyber Safety, and social life/work/school. http://www.beinggirl.com/article/teenage-girls-self-esteem/

TeenBreaks.com is a neat site that offers information to teens about self-esteem and other topics. http://www.teenbreaks.com/confidence/selfesteem.cfm

Want to Learn More About How to Boost Self-Esteem?

Girls with Low Self-esteem: How to Raise Girls with Healthy Self-Esteem: This article shares information such as “when and why” self-esteem drops, the sexualization of girls and mental health problems, and more. http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Mirror_Mirror_Wall/

Help Children Develop a Positive Self-esteem: http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-psychology/self-esteem/

Helping Teens Develop a Healthy Body Image: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/mood/healthy-body-image

Livestrong.com offers a site with self-esteem resources including “activities to promote self-esteem in girls”. http://www.livestrong.com/article/131858-activities-promote-self-esteem-girls/

Youth Communication Program (click “For Agencies” & “For Teens” tabs): http://youthcomm.org/who_we_are/publish.html

Self-Esteem Boosting Worksheets

Therapistaid.com offers many great tools for boosting self-esteem. http://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/selfesteem/adolescents

http://activitiesforchildrenandteens.blogspot.com/2012/02/self-esteem-boosting-worksheets.html

View-Worthy Videos

Always #LikeAGirl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

A Dove Film: A girl’s self esteem: https://youtu.be/4ytjTNX9cg0

We invite you to join us every Thursday at 1pm ET. No need to sign up!  Just call us at 1-605-475-5950 and enter passcode 4560151# when prompted. Be sure to check your weekly TIOT email for the topic. Check out rhyttac.net to learn more about Talk It Out Thursday. Feel free to connect with us at info@rhyttac.net to share your ideas or learn more about NSPN, Safe Place, RHYTTAC, and HTR3!