Sunday, February 21, 2016

It's Not About Food: Eating Disorders Awareness

Sunday, February 21, 2016

During my first year as a high school counselor, a parent came to speak to me about her daughter. The student was a bright and beautiful young lady with a bubbly personality who I had the pleasure of meeting prior to her mother's visit.  Although she was thin (she was a dancer), I hadn't noticed just had thin she had become in the last month.  In that meeting, mom shared with me her concerns about her daughter's well being and how she had just been diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.  During our time together, we discussed a safety plan for her at school, particularly during lunchtime.  For a year, my office would be a place where this student could visit, eat, talk, and even rest.  Although I was not a specialist in eating disorders, I knew what this family was experiencing.  Unfortunately, my family had dealt with the painful reality of an eating disorder by one of my sisters. Though I could not make her symptoms go away or "talk" her out of her feelings about herself, just being there was powerful.

As a school counselor, you may or may not work with a student who has an eating disorder.   Regardless, being aware of the symptoms of an eating disorder is an important step in assisting students in their road to recovery. In 2010, Lynn Shellcross wrote an article about the growing problem of eating disorders among elementary school aged children.  When eating disorders are not identified early in students, they have the potential of growing into high school students who are at risk for serious illness and even death. Shellcross referenced researchers who found it imperative that counselors, whether school, mental health, college, or family, have an understanding of the deadliness of eating disorders. In order to understand eating disorders, counselors must be aware that it is not about food, but the student's inability to control the world around them.  Students who suffer from an eating disorder often present in our office with anxiety and go to great links to hide their disorder.  Having knowledge about eating disorders and the importance of early detection is important in identifying students who may be suffering from this mental health issue.

What is an Eating Disorder?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders are "serious but treatable illnesses with medical and psychiatric aspects."  The DSM-5 recognizes several types of eating disorders in their diagnosis including: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). Although people with eating disorders concentrate on food and weight, the reality is that eating disorders often coexist with depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. According to the Academy for Eating Disorders, there are nine truths people, particularly school staff, should know about eating disorders. 

These truths include:

Although a student may look healthy, he or she may be extremely ill.
Parents are not to blame, and should be considered allies in recovery.
An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis that disrupts daily life functioning (including academic success).
Having an eating disorder is not a choice, but is a serious "biologically influenced illness." Eating disorders affect students of "all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses."
Eating disorders increase the risk for both suicide and death due to medical complications.
Biology and environmental factors can enhance the development of eating disorders.
Biology alone does not predict the development eating disorders.
Early detection and intervention are important for full recovery!

See Kati Morton's videos about the different types of eating disorders.

Recognizing an Eating Disorder

Since school staff are with students at least seven hours a day, we are at an advantage of identifying when a student is experiencing a mental or physical illness.  In fact, early detection of an eating disorder is the first step to treatment and healing. So, who are the students we should be most concerned about having an eating disorder?  According to the BodyWise Eating Disorder Booklet, there are signs that educators should be aware of in adolescents who are at risk for developing an eating disorder (students experiencing these signs may or may not have an eating disorder).

Be aware of the following students:
  •  complain about their bodies being too fat even if they appear to be normal weight or thin
  •  talk about being on a diet or avoiding certain foods because they are too fattening
  •  overweight and appear sad
  •  teased about their weight
  •  obsessed about maintaining a low weight to enhance their performance in sports, modeling, or dancing
 Other signs and symptoms include:

Physical                                                       Emotional                                            Behavioral

Weight loss or fluctuation                      Complaints about being too fat               Constant dieting
Constantly feeling faint, tired, or cold   Comments about feeling worthless         Constant exercising
Dry hair/skin                                          Frequently going to the bathroom           Perfectionism

Not only is early detection important for the student to get treatment, but it is important to prevent a student from academic failure.  According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an eating disorder can profoundly impact a student's cognitive function and the ability to learn. Some of the impacts on their ability to learn include:
  • low iron levels which decrease memory function
  • irritability caused by headaches, lethargy, or nausea
  • reduction in concentration and focus due to constant dieting
  • obsessive thoughts with grades due to perfectionist tendencies
  • withdrawal, apathy, and social isolation from feelings of self worthlessness
  • increased absenteeism as a result of physical illness
If this is the first time you have considered learning more or promoting eating disorders awareness, this post may have some helpful information for you!

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Both the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and Anorexia Nervosa & Associated Disorders have created booklets with guidelines for teachers, school nurses, school psychologists, coaches, and counselors who work with students identified as having an eating disorder, their friends, and their parents. In addition to promoting awareness, NEDA and ANRED are encouraging early detection for students through a three minute screening and self help screening.

Want to get involved?  Check out these events.

February 22nd - Google Hangout-Early Intervention and Eating Disorders (2 PM EST)
February 22nd- Twitter Chat-Awareness to Action 8 PM EST)
February 23rd - Twitter Chat-Getting Healthy: The Many Faces of Eating Disorder Recovery
February 24th-Day of Action-Promoting Education Regarding Eating Disorders

Need more information? Check out these additional resources.

Booklets & Pamphlets for Educators
NEDA Educator Booklet
ANAD School Guidelines 
National Institute of Mental Health Brochure on Eating Disorders (Downloadable)

Guidelines for School Counselors
Cutting, Eating Disorders and Confidentiality

Facts and Webinars About Eating Disorders
Anorexia Fact sheet 
Binge Eating Disorder Fact Sheet
Athletes and Eating Disorders
Fast Facts on Eating Disorders
Kati Morton's Videos on Eating Disorders
Webinars on Eating Disorders
The Truth About Eating Disorders
NEDIC Webinars

What Does Recovery Look Like Webinar

Referral Information 

Eating Disorder Referral Information (US)
Eating Disorder Information (UK)

Websites and Associations
Academy for Eating Disorders Facebook Page
Eating Disorder Foundation
International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals Foundation - Offers courses and certifications in eating disorder education. 
EDAC  - Eating Disorders Association of Canada
ANZAED -  Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders Hope
Teens Health

Chats and Conferences
Twitter Chat - March 9th-12:00 PM-Treatment and Recovery
ANAD Eating Disorder Conference - September 9, 2016
International Conference on Eating Disorders  - May 5-7, 2016, San Francisco, CA

Saturday, February 20, 2016

March Social Awareness Activities and Resources for Students

Saturday, February 20, 2016
 I can't believe that March is almost here!  Although students and staff (including myself) are getting spring fever, there is always work to do when it comes to student awareness and education.  In this post, I wanted to share some social awareness campaigns that school counselors can promote between testing (oy!). 

March Social Awareness Campaigns

Self Harm Awareness Day - March 1st
Educate yourself and your staff about self harm.  

Video - What is Self Harm?

Extraordinary School Counselor Blog - Self harm resources and materials.
Free Self Harm Workbook  - Download your free workbook from mental health therapist and vlogger, Kati Morton (no relation).
Eating Disorder Videos -  Check out these videos regarding eating disorders from Kati Morton. 
National Self Harm Awareness Day Face Book page
Is Cutting a Suicidal Activity?
Healing Self-Injury
Safe Alternatives - Check out the lectures from experts in self injury.

Need more information?  Please check out my posts about self harm.

Self harm and the Clueless School Counselor

Secret Pain

Educate Your School About the Tragedy of Eating Disorders


Show self injury awareness by handing out orange ribbons.

Kick Butts Day - March 16


Kick Butts Day is a day of activism where youth are encouraged to educate others about the dangers of tobacco and how the tobacco industry benefits from this nasty addiction.  

Want to know more about Kick Butts Day?  Check out the website for ideas and activities.

Kick Butts Day Website - Educate your students about the dangers of smoking, tobacco, and electronic cigarettes.

 Some no/low cost activities include:
  • How Tobacco Targets Me- Send your students on a hunt for how tobacco targets youth in stores.  Students should be looking for candy cigars, large advertisements outside of convenience stores, e-cigarettes, or  tobacco products near the candy aisle. Students should post their photos using the hashtag #tobaccotargetsme.
  • Chalk the Walk - Use sidewalk chalk on the main entrance or sidewalks to create visuals and quotes to grab students and staff about tobacco.
  • Fatal Flaws- This one takes a little time, but can make an impact.  Choose a fatal flaw on the Toll of Tobacco page and collect the items to display in a public place.
  • Cups in a Fence - Spell out a powerful message about tobacco in a chain link fence. 
  • Tombstones- Create tombstones with messages or facts about tobacco.
National Peer Helper Week - March 21-25

The National Association of Peer Program Professionals will sponsor the 2nd annual Peer Helper Week this March.  If you have a peer helper week and want to recognize your students, consider celebrating your students. 

Need ideas?  Attend the NAPPP webinar on March 7th and go to the website to download the free guide.

Friday, February 19, 2016

What College Brochures Don't Say: Developing Skills for College

Friday, February 19, 2016

So not my child's bed!
Well, the final Morton child is exiting the nest for college in four months!  Although I am excited for her, I am really nervous as well!  I truly believe she is academically ready for the rigor of college, but my husband and I are both concerned that she is not quite mature enough for college life.  It is difficult for me to see her living on her on when her bed has not made in weeks, she has clothes lying on the floor that are so old that they can get up and walk, and she constantly has to be reminded to lock the door when she comes home in the evening. I will admit that we have enabled our daughter to be a student without having much responsibility.  It is not a secret that today's teens have parents who want to protect them from life's daily struggles. Although teens may be academically ready for college, their inability to navigate everyday life skills is impacting  college completion rates. In an analysis of 18 industrialized country by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked ninth in college enrollment, but last in college completion.  According to adolescent expert, Tim Elmore, although teens are consuming information far earlier, they often lack real life experience and operate under an "artificial maturity". Knowing that my daughter is "at risk" for not completing college due to my parenting style is eye opening!!

As a school counselor, who so just happens to be a parent, I realize that the phenomena of the at-risk college student is becoming a huge problem in our society. Although college brochures show college life as a dream, they do not share the whole story. So, I have decided to take my real life challenge and write a blog post regarding how to help families prevent a college nightmare.

Resources For Helping Students and Families Prepare For College Life

Although it is the final semester for our seniors, the good news is that there is still time to prepare them for college life.  In my research, I found a great website by author, Harlan Cohen, regarding preparing students for college life.  In his books and webinars, his goal is to help students to survive their first year of college by educating students and parents about the transition time between high school and college. While Cohen believes that 90% of college life is "amazing" and 10% is uncomfortable, students either will either face those challenges or avoid being uncomfortable. When students fail to face uncomfortable moments, they can be at risk for dropping out.  In fact, Cohen found that during the first year of college 66% of students are get homesick and one out of four students will ultimately transfer. To help students and parents in this time of transition and preparation, he offers a free webinar for families called 17 Things to Do the Summer Before Going to College. In addition to his webinar, Cohen has authored some books for first year college students and parents, The Naked Roommate's First Year Survival Handbook and The Naked Roommate for Parents Only.  Oh by the way, Cohen also writes advice books for dating as well!

Since we are super busy and may not have time to watch the webinar, please check out the slides here.

Want to prepare next year's college going students? Feel free to check out my year long guide for students and parents.

Year Long Guide for Teaching Life Skills

Want to use these activities?  Download your own power point and handout.

10 Monthly Activities for High School Students Power point
Teaching Students 10 Monthly College Life Skills

Another suggestion for preparing students is to conduct monthly workshops featuring a life skill topic. Need resources and curricula?  No problem!  I have a great free resource of lesson plans you can download for your students and parents.  Here is a sample of resources for you to view.

In addition to my 10 lessons and the free resources, check out these additional resources from campus safety to getting along with your college roommate.


Teen Life Lessons

7 Things to Do Before Your Kids Goes to College

Prepping Kids so They're Ready Thrive Adults

Essential Life Skills for High Schoolers to Build Before College

10 Tips College Freshmen Should Know

10 Questions Every Parent/Student Should Ask About Campus Safety

10 Life Skills Your Teen Needs Before Leaving Home

Five Tips to Getting Along With Your Roommate

If you have materials and ideas you use in with your students, I would love to hear about them!!!

Monday, February 8, 2016

February #HSCCHAT: Cultural Competence

Monday, February 8, 2016

Missed tonight's High School Counselor Chat regarding Cultural Competence?  No worries!   I have the transcript for the February chat hosted by Dr. Daryl Howard (@darylhowardphd) and Amber Shepherd (@AmberShepherd) right here. 

Don't forget to check out the High School Counselor Chat (#hscchat) each month!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Will Not Be Ignored! School Counselors Doing It For Themselves

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Well, it is the apex of our year (supposedly)...National School Counselor Week!  Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing our counseling colleagues honored by the First Lady at the White House and I was so proud for them!  Although there was much fanfare in Washington, around the nation there were many school counselors who were unaware this event was even going sad.  For instance, many of the school counselors in our district county were unconsciously unaware that the White House was throwing this amazing affair.  Sigh...
Makes me so proud!

Now let me digress for a minute...

Before going to college, I worked in a video store.  Each month, we would get about ten new movies to watch, tell our patrons about them, and either recommend or not recommend that particular film.  So, during this time I watched a lot of movies and I still remember a lot of them (especially some of their one liners).  Thinking about our profession, I remember one quote from a movie during that time period that is pertinent to our situation.  First, a brief synopsis...

Man has a happy family, but meets an attractive woman who seduces him into an affair (that is not the part that is pertinent to our profession...stick with me).  The man feels so bad about the affair that he breaks it off with her.  Woman doesn't take it well and stalks man and his family.  Eventually woman faces off with man, with a butcher knife no doubt, and tells him "I will not be ignored Dan."

Okay, I know you are thinking what does this movie have to do with this school counseling post?  Well, actually the movie is irrelevant, but her quote stood out in my mind.  I realized that she had been discarded and was going to do what she needed to do to get the attention she thought she deserved.  Now, I am not advocating for violence, stalking, or insanity; however, as school counselors, we need to bring attention to our profession by standing out and showing how we benefit our schools.

In an article written by Anne O'Brien, she found that even though research shows that school counselors are important to academic success in schools, they are highly undervalued. Further, she indicates that school counselors are still considered a luxury in most states.  In fact, the Office of Civil Rights found that one in five students still lack a school counselor and some counselors have caseloads up to 1600 students (I am shaking my head on this one).  What really put our current professional situation in perspective for me was a quote I read by one of my counseling friends, Carol Miller. Carol writes a great blog and manages a Facebook page for middle school counselors.  On this Facebook page, Carol posted a quote that reflects the belief that many school counselors have about our profession. Many school counselors feel that people should know what we do and so why should we bother promoting our profession in our school.  She had an amazing response to the counselors who said that they were too tired, it didn't matter, or people should be celebrating that they are school counselors.

So why bother? Because I hope these things bother you as well. I hope that you will find the strength to promote our profession. Because that profession helps kids. They are the reason we go to work in the morning. They are reasons why our jobs exists. That are the ones who ultimately benefit from our advocating. If you think it doesn't matter, you're wrong. Sometimes it has to be played like a broken record, being repeated over and over again until the words are embedded in our brains. But, it does have impact. Our words matter. Just as words you say to a student may not seem to have any impact, but then years later that student sees you and says, "Remember what you said to me? It made all the difference."

Side note: Carol posted a comment on my blog and I wanted to share her thoughts with you.

"One thing I want to add is that if you missed National School Counseling Week this year, don't worry.  Just pick another week and participate.  You don't have to wait until next year.  We are, after all, School Counselors 52 weeks a year, not just one.  While you're at it, remember what you learned in Kindergarten.  Remember to say 'Thank you.' I'm sure you had a school counselor who has touched your life.  Let them know."

So, the reality is that we are not where we need to be.  Even the First Lady recognizes that school counselors are often treated unfairly by our schools.

Okay, so what can we do to change this mindset by our stakeholders?  I have been a professional school counselor for a while now and I believe the key to not being ignored is to show your existence matters.  In this post, I would like to include some suggestions from other school counselors and experts about how to show others we make a difference. 

Jeff Ream, The Counseling Geek, gives some great advice on how we can show our value by marketing our programs.  Some of his suggestions for school counselors include:

• Highlighting the number of students who have improved their grades after participating in study skills groups.
• Showing the increase in number of students who want to go to college.
• Sharing the number of students who participated in intentional guidance groups to improve behavior, and the reduction in discipline referrals.
• Identifying and featuring improvements in feelings of school safety and connectedness.
• Recognizing the increase in students who are taking and passing AP courses and/or are graduating from high school and entering post-secondary education program.
For those counselors who may not be the best at collecting data, Mr. Ream suggests we report the number of parents who attend our parent nights/parent conferences, collect quotes from parents and students about our services,

The Urban School Counselor suggests that is important for school counselors to create partnerships with teachers and other staff members.  For example, one school counselors even made a sign for the school nurse to put outside her door when she was out of the building.

The American School Counseling Association gives an excellent description of the role of the high school counselor and the types of collaborations we should have with staff, students, and parents.  Also, ASCA has a brochure to download for parents explaining the role of the school counselor to parents. 

In an article by Economists, Carrell and Hoekstra, they determined that hiring one additional counselor has more impact on academic performance than teacher quality.  This would be a great research study to share with stakeholders to show how important school counselors are to students and schools.

For goodness sakes, don't forget to promote your program. One great week to do this is National School Counseling Week.  Let's say you missed this it next year.  It's never too late to start to promote the importance of a school counselor.  Here are some ideas for future reference.

School Counseling Week Ideas

A Second Look at National School Counseling Week
Nine Easy Ways to Promote Your School Counseling Program
National School Counseling Week
ASCA School Counseling Week Photo Challenge
10 Ways to Celebrate National School Counseling Week
The Ten Key Questions for NSCW

Get Involved in Initiatives Based on Your Data

Based on the needs of the stakeholders, school counselors can create initiatives that address the issues in their schools.  Whether it is college application assistance, conflict resolution/soft skill training, attendance intervention, tardy reduction, you can make a big difference in your schools.  Take the School Counselor of the Year, Kat Pastor.  Ms. Pastor, a school counselor from Arizona, was instrumental in making a huge impact on her students by helping them access resources that would have been unattainable without her help.  According to her principal, Ms. Pastor is the type of counselor people seek because they know that she is consistent, helpful, and resourceful.  Sounds like a great model we should all be following (I am preaching to myself as well).

Kat Pastor, 2016 School Counselor of the Year

Don't Get Stagnate

I speak from experience when I say that it is easy to get so bogged down in the daily grind that you neglect your professional learning and fail to connect with other counselors.  One way I try to keep excited about school counseling is to continue learning and I love, love, love to connect other school counselors whether on social media, at conferences, or meetings.  Also, I have found reading other counselors' blogs has been so refreshing and inspiring to my personal development.  Don't know who to follow, please check out my post regarding school counseling superstars!  I am sure you will find a few favorites.

Well, that is the end of my rant, but if you need more information about promoting school counseling?  Check out these additional articles...

School Counselor (Yes) vs Guidance Counselor (No)
Before You Scream At Your School Counselor
Wearing Many Hats: School Counselors Vital to Student Growth While Juggling Many Roles