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Small Child, Big Fears (and more from

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment

September 4, 2012

If you’ve lived with, and loved, a very anxious child you’ll recognize the kind of moments Michaela Searfoorce writes about this week: Watching her son James stand, stranded, on the beach while all the other (younger) kids are splashing joyfully in the waves. Girding for a meltdown when a balloon man materializes at a favorite restaurant. Prepping the Oscar-caliber performance it takes to coax him into the pediatrician’s office. Michaela writes about living for 12 years with James’s severe phobias—in some ways more challenging, she notes, than a myriad of cognitive and physical deficits and medical issues.

For an otherwise adventurous family, it means a mental list of things you don’t do and places you don’t visit to avoid causing James misery. But it also means an evolving set of strategies to help him overcome his fears. Michaela shares her tactics (some she’s proud of, some she’s not) on And she shares the great pleasure she takes in each of the things James no longer fears, something all of us who’ve been there can enjoy too.

With most high schools opening their doors this week, learning specialist Ruth Lee, the Child Mind Institute’s Director of Clinical Outreach, offers a checklist for students to get organized and off to a good start in managing their homework and assignments. Not surprisingly, she advocates use of a planner. But what did surprise me is that she suggests that kids block out time in their planners for things they like to do, as well as things they have to do. The reason? Because kids who find homework arduous often feel that it will take forever, using up all the time they have for things that are fun. By marking out blocks next to each other, kids can remind themselves that working efficiently, rather than avoiding the work, will leave guilt-free time to do whatever they enjoy.

—Caroline Miller, Editorial Director

New on Customizing games for your kids, spanking and mental illness, coming of age on medication

July 3, 2012
I’m pleased to tell you about a rather delightful piece on (just in time for summer vacation) about games—how to make them work for children of different ages and abilities. It’s delightful because the writer, Michaela Searfoorce, brings such insight and humor to the role of being a mother of three kids. A passionate game-player, Michaela has customized five popular games for her brood, which includes, as she puts it, “a special needs pre-teen, a competitive 3-year-old and a copycat 20-month-old. What’s the secret? We make up our own rules.”What makes her reinvented games irresistible is her acuity in creating fun and engaging experiences for kids. My particular favorite is what she calls “Trivial Pursuit – Dinnertime Edition,” in which she writes questions on cards for each child and deploys them to energize dragging dinner table talk. “This little game has saved many a dinner alone with the kids while Ryan works late and I am out of ideas. The cards make it an ‘official game’ so they will answer anything I ask—pretty genius, right?”——

If you haven’t read her blog,, I recommend that you check it out. I’m hooked on her weekly installments of conversations with James, her 11-year-old son with multiple disabilities. James is unpredictable, imaginative, perceptive, and occasionally infuriating. In one recent post from the Long Island Rail Road, his little sister points out a train yard and asks him what it is.  “It’s kind of like a nursing home for trains,” says James. “When trains stop working or when they get old they go to train yards.” Here’s another one in which Michaela captures the humor in James’s bad mood on a very rocky morning—something we all need to do on those kind of days.

 —Caroline Miller, Editorial Director

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