Blog Info

Welcome to my new Blog! I am a licensed Marriage Family Therapist, and Registered Play Therapist located in Carlsbad California.
For more information about me and my therapy practice, please see her website at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm Back - Let me share what I've been doing

I know I haven’t been blogging much for the past six months, but I have been very busy working on improving the therapeutic experience for my clients.  For starters, I’ve moved my office.  The old building just wasn’t as relaxing and as inviting for my clients as I had hoped.   Our new office (I share this office with other therapists) has a much more ‘homey’ feel – providing a more relaxing experience.  This helps clients entering our office more easily relax, open up, and talk about their feelings.   The space feels friendly, open, and inviting to clients.  

I am most proud of the therapy/healing garden we have created in a space behind our office.  Creating this new therapy garden has been both fun and exciting.  I find that this garden is relaxing for both adults and for children.  For children they can express/release their  feelings through many different outlets, such as painting, moon sand, a some themed play gardens.  One garden involves dinosaurs, and encourages children to “roar your feelings”.  The second garden encourages children to believe in their dreams.   For adults there is a calming area with a water fountain that one can relax too.   Some of the children also like to help take care of the garden by watering, which gives them a feeling of responsibility.  

This summer I also went through Therapy Dog training with my Goldendoodle Tasha.  We are still completing our supervised visits, but I do plan to complete these visits as soon as possible.  Tasha is a very friendly dog with a gentle demeanor.   She is a very relaxing dog – I find she helps some of my clients (adults, couples, and children) be able to let go of some of their stress when they pet Tasha.   I had Tasha go through this training to make sure that he had the right disposition to be a therapy dog – and she’s proving to enjoy the visits!

I invite you to come visit my new office, and see our new therapy / healing garden.  Please call first, however, as I have been very busy over the summer.  And – now that summer is over, I hope to have more time to blog periodically.  If you have any requests, or subjects you’d like to learn more about, please let me know.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recognizing the Stages of Anger

It's uncommon for people to deny that they have any feelings of anger until it escalates to a explosion.  Once anger begins to  intensify, this feeling may be carried over into your communication with others.  When this happens, people do not listen to what you're saying.  Start paying attention to what you are thinking and feeling, and to the physical changes you experience when you're angry.  It would be expected that the more intense the feeling of anger, the more intense the emotion and physical response associated with it will be.  It's important to increase your awareness for anger, so that it can be expressed at an earlier stage with less intensity.  This will also decrease the impact on you physically. 

The following is a list for you to look over of first feelings that can lead to a progressively intense level o anger, and the second list is of physical responses to anger:

Feelings that lead to a progressively intense level of Anger:
1. Uneasy
2. Uncomfortable
3. Withdrawn
4. Irritated
5. Agitated
6. Annoyed
7. Upset
8. Mad
9. Angry
10. Furious
11. Rageful

Physical Responses to Anger:
1. Headache
2. Muscle tension
3. Clenched Fists
4. Changes in Breathing
5. Upset Stomach
6. Tight Stomach
7. Sleep Disturbance
8. Screaming
9. Hitting / Breaking Things

Remember to clarify your needs, thoughts, and feelings, and this will  help you start recognizing and being more aware of your anger triggers.  Recognizing - and avoiding - these triggers will help you remain less distressed emotionally and physically.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nonverbal Learning & Disabilities

There is no typical picture of a child with a learning disability.  Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD) children are known to have excellent auditory or phonology conceptual abilities at the sound level of processing.  In addition, short term and long term auditory memory are areas of strength.  However, deficits can be noted during early development in the motor planning of the speech / language process.  As the Nonverbal Learning Disabled child develops language skills, often the rhythm of language is an area of weakness, as is the "give and take" of language.  Grammar content and structure, syntax and pragmatics, and semantics are also areas of weakness.

Auditory attention and concentration with verbal material are strengths for NLD children, but they are not as proficient when working on tasks that require either sustained tactile or visual attention.  Rote verbal memory skills can be well developed, but they have more difficulty recalling pictorial or visual information, particularly with only a brief exposure.  Perceptual visual deficits are often present in NLD children.  They can perform simple motor tasks, but have difficulty with complex tasks that involve both thought and motor activity. 

My interest in NLD came from our son, who was diagnosed with NLD in elementary school.  As parents, we worked through the struggles and through the accomplishments of our son.  We noticed early on that in school, he is good at word decoding, and that spelling (memorization) comes easily, as does memory for rote material.  However, he struggles with activities that involve fine motor control and motor planning - including handwriting, cutting with scissors, or tying shoelaces.  However, with patience and perseverance, he is slowly mastering these skills.  We now see him less frustrated, and more confident and happy with himself.

Children with NLD can have difficulty with other academic subjects, such as reading comprehension, computational mathematics, and science.  Some children may misread operational signs and may mis-align numbers in columnar operations.  Our son is actually very good at math, however he has difficulty attending to visual details, and as a result, he makes procedural errors.  He knows how to add and subtract - but he has difficulty sometimes seeing the addition/subtraction sign properly, or lining up numbers properly - which result in incorrect answers and poor test scores.  As a result, we have him highlight the mathematical signs, or draw lines for the columns between numbers.  These extra tasks seem to help him focus better on the details.

Children with NLD are impacted in their social relationships.  They may misinterpret body language or tone of voice.  Most children acquire the ability to perceive these subtle cues in the environment, but children with NLD often don't perceive these subtle cues.  Learning how to judge the limits of a situation, or understanding concepts of personal space are social skills that are normally grasped intuitively through observation - they are not directly taught to children.  With my son, and other NLD children, both Play Therapy or a social skills group are great tools to help children learn and acquire social skills.

I wrote this blog to provide other parents with a knowledge base in order to advocate for their child in effecting the appropriate accommodations and modifications in school.  As a family, your planning should encompass school, as well as social and family issues.  There is additional assistance available to children diagonosed with NLD in the school setting.  Some special services to be considered are:

  • Occupational Therapy - to develop fine motor and visual motor integration skills
  • Early Speech / Language Therapy - since very young children with NLD may have difficulty with the motor planning involved in speech production
  • Social Skills Groups - to help teach nonverbal behavior and to promote specific problem-solving strategies
  • Play Therapy- to help the child express / explore their feelings non-verbally through sand work, puppets, and other therapeutic play activities.  Children that know they are struggling often compound their frustration by keeping it bottled up inside.  Teaching children how to communicate more effectively is an integral part of boosting their self-esteem, and their self-confidence.

  • offers an information packet and a calendar on NLD related events
  • NLD Hotline (831) 624-3542
  • NLD-In-Common: List server which parents can join and talk to other parents interested in this subject.  To join, go to: and click on the "New Member" button.
  • Share Support, Inc. (sponsors an annual NLD symposium and four newsletters):  P.O. Box 2379, Danville, CA 94526; (925) 820-4079


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Do Children with ADD/ADHD sometimes have Sensory Problems?

Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and children with Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) can have difficulties in thress sensory areas:  Tactile or touch, proprioceptive (or spatial relationships), and vestibular (balanced movements).

Tactile refers to the sense of touch.  Children who have problems in this area often don't like things touching them.  This can include materials of clothing - such as tags in shirts.  It can include aversions to getting their hair cut or taking baths.  Children who have tactile difficulties sometimes don't like messy play, such as getting their hands in clay, paint, or play dough. 

The proprioceptive system relates to the position of the body in space.  It allows us to know what our body parts are doing, how fast or slow we need to move, and how much pressure to use.  Children with difficulties in this sensory area often appear clumsy and uncoordinated.  These children often hug too hard, or throw the ball too hard.  If this sensory area is not treated, it can impact the child's self-esteem.  Children with proprioceptive sensory problems may start thinking of themselves as "I'm terrible at sports", or "no one likes me" - both negative statements.  Essentially, without treatment, these children have trouble "fitting in" with children that have well-developed proprioceptive systems.

The third sensory issue often seen in children with ADD/ADHD children is the vestibular system.  The vestibular system helps with balanced movement.  The vestibular system provides our brain with information about our environment.  It tells us where we are in space.  Its also involved with the right / left movements and with balance.  Children with vestibular problems are typically clumsy in their movements.  Clumsiness can be a barrier to developing normal social relationships with other children.

As one can see, a child with ADD / ADHD poses a lot of challenges for the child and for the family.  Understanding what makes your child behave in a certain way will help you meet those challenges.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Value of Play

The Value of Play

I have always been a big believer in the value "Play" has in the development of children.  This has fueled my interest in Play Therapy, Sand-Tray Therapy, and Art Therapy.  Why do I feel so strongly that Play is an integral part of a child's development?

1. Play helps children learn to problem solve. Play provides many opportunities for children to learn how to solve problems.  It provides opportunities for negotiating roles in dramatic play.  It promotes analytical thinking - for example figuring out where to place the lever and ball when they play "hot hoops", or if playing "Don't break the Ice", learning where and how hard they should hit the ice blocks.

2. Play helps children learn to discriminate, to sort, to classify, and to learn what is alike and what is different. As children play with different materials or manipulate toys, they learn to discern texture, size, shape, color, and other qualities.

3. Play increases creative thinking.  Children naturally play pretend games and use their imagination to make ordinary objects represent things in their fantasy world.  This is the foundation for later understanding and use of abstract symbols, such as letters and numbers.

4. Play promotes social-emotional growth.  Play provides opportunities to practice the social skills of communicating, understanding another's point of view, taking turns, sharing, and following rules.  Through play, children can relax, have fun, and develop self-confidence.

5. Play helps children express their feelings and ideas.  Play offers children opportunities to safely explore and express their feelings and ideas in a safe manner.  It also provides opportunities to be able to see and explore other's feelings and ideas or "play expressions".

6. Children's physical, emotional, fine motor, and gross motor movement is greatly enhanced through play. Children learn how to use and control their bodies through play by developing different eye hand motor skills.  Play also encourages self-regulation of their body - and learning to control their actions.

How empowering is that?

Social Skills in ADHD Children

How are poor Social Skills displayed by ADHD children?
If you were to observe your child interacting with his peers, you might see several inappropriate social behaviors.  He or she might not look at his peers while he or she talks to them.  His dialogues will not promote a conversation, but rather a monologue on his topic of choice.  If he/she begins to lose a game, the rules of the game will change.

Parents might ask how their child's impulsivity affect their social skills?
The very nature of being impulsive means the inability to consistently think before acting.  In social situations, children with ADHD fail to think before they say or do something.  To get along well with others we all need to use a mental filter.  That prompts us to think ahead of time before we say or do something.

Can ADHD be a Strength?
When parents and children change their perspective, some of the symptoms of ADHD can become assets instead of symptoms to be eliminated.  ADHD children often have a unique way of perceiving things.  Today's business model of "thinking outside the box" is made for the ADHD person.  Turning a symptom into a strength can change the way you respond to your child - and when you change the way you respond to your child, your child will find increased happiness and improved self-esteem.

What is Sensory Integration?

What is Sensory Integration?
Everyday we receive a great deal of information from our senses.  We use this information to organize our behavior and successfully interact in the world.  What happens if one or more of our senses are not being interpreted properly?  A child with vague or hazy feedback about his sense of touch, body position, or movement and gravity is in a world totally foreign to ours.  You would not feel the usual security, safety, and fun that other children experience.  When the process of sensory integration is disordered, a number of problems in learning, motor development, or behavior may be observed.