Posts for Berkeley

Special Therapy for a Special Kiddo

Self-care - Allison Kenny - February 8, 2017

My family has angels looking out for us. Last year, we were knee deep in a trauma cycle that made day to day life unbearable. My daughter had just been diagnosed with PTSD, which was a helpful label in that it gave context for the kinds of fits were seeing each day. I could relate to my daughter’s high levels of fear, looping thoughts and terrorizing moments of re-experiencing scary events. I have PTSD, too. My mental health was starting to suffer as I struggled to support my daughter to feel safe. With my nervous system on such high alert, I would resort to yelling or leave to take a walk when she needed me most. This was truly the best I could do. After months of this, though, I wasn’t sleeping well. Our family was exhausted and feeling at a total loss.

This is when the angels appeared. The thing about going through big challenges is that it forces us to be vulnerable. If you’re willing, this is a good time to accept help. Lots and lots of help. Our help came from a generous, loving friend who wanted to do something for us…something big. First, she recommended a wonderful, experienced therapist who had helped her family a lot. Once we were sure he was a good fit for us,  she insisted on paying for treatments. We took days to respond to her offer because it just seemed like more than we could accept. But we were in no place to refuse help. We allowed her to support our family in the way she could. We said yes to her gift and in return, we got Dr. Carl as an on-going part of our daughter’s therapeutic team.

My daughter loves going to see Dr. Carl. His office is in Berkeley, CA. The waiting room is full of toys that she can’t wait to play with. She loves his gentle spirit, his sense of humor, his love of animals. Each week, my daughter and Dr. Carl talk a little and laugh together. He helps her pick out a movie and adjusts the pillows in her chair so they are just right. In the winter, he even sets up a little space heater at her feet. She loves the royal treatment! She knows that she’s there to help her brain become more flexible and her heart to feel more calm.

After 40 years as a therapist, Dr. Carl Shames narrowed his specialty to neurofeedback. In this gentle, alternative therapy, kiddos or the grown-ups who love them wear sensors on their head while watching a movie. Meanwhile, their brainwave patterns are displayed on a computer screen and the therapist makes modifications to balance and stabilize brain activity. My daughter watches her favorite shows while these sensors do their thing and her whole body relaxes at the same time. It’s all about helping her brain regulate differently. Once in a while, she gets sleepy afterward. But she always feels better.

In the days that follow the neurofeedback treatment, our little “Squirrel” is more able to use her words. She sleeps better at night. Her tantrums are shorter and less intense. Dr. Carl has helped her with night terrors, with bedwetting, and now he’s working on the parts of the brain that will help her in school, improve her focus and allow her to better understand math. She looks forward to going every single time. She even asks to schedule an appointment if we haven’t gone in a while.

I know first hand how positive neurofeedback can be because I started seeing Dr. Carl myself. I so badly wanted to undo the cycle of my daughter’s PTSD triggering my own. I wanted to have more moments of joy together and less stress as a family. I knew how far we’d come when I was able to travel for a week alone with my daughter last summer. We went fishing, rode horses, practiced swimming, navigated airports, road trips, a cabin in the woods and visiting with extended family. We kept our loving connection the whole time. As an adoptive family, this is no small miracle. All of that excitement holds the potential for triggered, out of control behavior- from either of us! Instead, we made memories we can always keep.

I couldn’t be more grateful for these two angels in my life, Dr. Carl Shames and the friend who introduced me to him. Whether you are a Bay Area adoptive family or friends to one that you want to give a healing gift to, I can’t recommend Dr. Carl enough.

Carl Shames, Ph.D. received his doctorate in psychology in 1975. He has extensive experience as a psychologist in a variety of settings, including community clinics, hospitals, criminal justice agencies. He became interested in neurofeedback while searching for an alternative, holistic treatment for ADHD, depression and other mental health issues. His passion for this form of treatment lies in the transformation clients experience. He sees people relate to their friends & family in a more centered, genuine way and become themselves in a way they couldn’t before. 

“By the time they find me, most parents are at wits’ end having run around for years to various doctors and neuropsychologists and not really getting anywhere. I’m passionate about bringing neurofeedback to adoptive families in the Bay Area. In all my years as a therapist, I haven’t come across anything that works as well.”

 

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My Go Girls! Summer Bucket List

Girl Power, Play Time, Tales from the Maxi Pad - Lynn Johnson - June 15, 2015

7 Things to do this Summer to Care for Myself and Inspire my Daughter

Happy Summer blog editI know, I know.  The first day of summer isn’t for another week.  But, let’s be honest, the official start of summer is when your kids get out of school and the whole energy of your house changes.  The kids go to camp.  You start to pack up for vacations.  And, then, there is the Summer Bucket List.  I’m sure you have one.  It’s that list full of all of the things that you haven’t managed to get to the other 3 seasons of the year but (cross your fingers) swear you will get to in the summer.  Summer has a magic to it.  The air is different.  Things slow down.  Why not use this time to make all your dreams come true?  You can do it.  And I’m going to join you.

Around my house, the beginning of summer has a very specific energy.  The magic also contains a special mix of stress, excitement, pride, overwhelm, lunacy, creativity, and sheer panic.  Yes, it’s the start of Go Girls! Camp!  This morning 90 girls showed up in Oakland and Berkeley expecting to have a good time.  By the time the season ends in mid-August, over 450 girls will have made plays with us at our 5 Bay Area locations.

This isn’t just my first day of camp.  Today also marks my first summer as a parent.  As I navigate how to produce our biggest summer ever with a Squirrel in the house, I also have to figure out how to make some time for myself, have a little fun, and embrace the magic of the summer months.  At the same time, I have an opportunity to model for my daughter the practices of summer self-care that may have a positive effect on her choices.  I’m thinking, “why not do stuff this summer that will take care of me and inspire my daughter at the same time?”  I mean, 450 Go Girls!?!  I don’t have that much time.  I might as well do a little multi-tasking with my self-care, right?

As a result,  I have created a Summer Bucket List that I hope will inspire the Go Girl! in me, the Squirrel, and maybe even you.  This summer, (cross my fingers), I will…

1. Make Something

The theme of our first session of camp, “Girls can…MAKE!,” conveniently and coincidentally aligns with the White House’s National Week of Making, a call to action to “lift up makers and builders and doers across the country” through Maker-related events and activities.  I have a fear of and fascination with making anything at all.  However, I believe that we all have it in us to make, to invent, to create something that has never existed before.  My goal is to make something simple that challenges my fears this week, to have fun with all of the inevitable mistakes I will make, and to share this mini- adventure with the Squirrel.

2. Rock that Swimsuit…with no apologies

I hate the phrase “swimsuit-ready” when referring to women’s bodies.  We all have bodies.  If I want to swim or hang out by the pool or play in the sand or just dream of tropical destinations, then, by default, my body is ready for a swimsuit…no matter how many “extra pounds” (another phrase I hate) my body has.  My body is always “swimsuit-read.”  I will throw on my suit, no matter how many pieces it has, and enjoy it.  I will celebrate my body in front of my daughter and make no excuses or lament about any other body I wish I had.

3. Read an out-of-your-world book

Melissa Harris-Perry (the mother of 2 daughters) is my spirit animal mainly because she seems so unafraid to share exactly what she feels/thinks with the whole world.  And she does it in a kind and compassionate way.  I wish all of us women could do that?  Anyway, recently, when she noticed that the NYT’s summer reading recommendations had no authors of color on it, she had something to say about it.  Have you seen this?

I am particularly drawn to the part where she recommends that we read a book by someone outside of our own culture.  As Allison and I work to support the Squirrel with her reading this summer in preparation for first grade, I want to make sure that 1) She sees me reading for pleasure as much as possible – the goal being to reduce as much “do as I say, not as I do” kind of behavior – and 2) She sees me being curious about worlds outside of my own.  The Squirrel has been fascinated by the Spanish language lately…a language I don’t speak at all.  How cool would it be if she sees me reading a book by a Latina/o author that actually contains Spanish words and phrases?  Maybe I can support her to continue her exploration as well.

4. Have a total veg-out/breakdown day and invite no one

The Squirrel is so busy all the time.  “What are you doing, Momma?”  and “What are we going to do next, Momma” are often-heard phrases around the Maxi Pad.  It’s our continued challenge to teach her the importance of quiet, down time; how to enjoy spending time with herself and just herself.  Despite the busy-ness of running camp, or perhaps because of it, I must remember to embrace the lazy-ness of the season.  I must take at least a day or 2 where I do absolutely nothing of importance…all by myself.  I’ll need, certainly, and she will need to see me doing it.

5. Make a new friend

In the fall, my daughter will start a new school.  She has been going to a school far from our house and we decided to transfer her to the public school nearby so that she could make friends with the kids who live in our neighborhood.  The Squirrel actually has no trace of social anxiety.  She is that kid who will come up to your kid on the playground with absolutely no filter and the classic kid query, “Do you want to play?” Meeting new people is not her problem.  Actually making and keeping friends is where she struggles.  I’m actually very good at this but haven’t ventured out into the new friend territory in quite awhile.  I have a whole other bucket list of “folks I want to be friends with” – those people whom I really like/admire but only know casually.  This summer is the perfect opportunity to dust off that list and get to work sharing with the Squirrel the steps of making a good friend.

6. Woman the Grill

Despite the fact that I throw an exceptional party, I tend to overcook meat – a fact I am a bit embarrassed by.  And my tendency towards dry meat makes me fear the grill.  But, here’s the thing, my mother-in-law bought us a brand new shiny gas grill this spring and I am obliged to bust it out this summer.  My daughter has already seen me engage more than one man in helping me figure out how the grill works…I literally couldn’t turn the grill on without the help of my friend Steve…I can’t continue to let my grill-timidation (yes, it’s a word) get in the way of improving my meat-abilities (again…).  And I especially can’t reinforce the stereotype that grilling is only the domain of men, especially not in a home full of women and a brand new shiny gas grill.  I have a hankering for some pork chops this summer and nothing is gonna get in my way!

7. Dance

Isn’t the summertime made for dancing?

I used to dance all the time.  I studied dance in my youth and danced my butt off socially when I was a younger adult.  I rarely dance these days.  And now I have a daughter who loves dancing.  She dances while walking down the street.  She had her first ballet class this spring and returning to class is all she can talk about.  Summertime is made for dancing.  This summer, I will grab the Squirrel, my new friends (and old ones) and create as many opportunities as possible dance the day and night away.

My last goal for the summer is to drink lots of lemonade.  This has nothing to do with modeling exemplary Go Girls!-like behavior for my daughter.  I just love lemonade.  The Squirrel loves lemonade.  And I wholeheartedly believe that summer is only summer with lots of lemonade.

There’s magic in it.

 

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