School Counselor’s Role with Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse

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Here’s some information that was created and shared with me to help increase our awareness of substance use among our students. It got me thinking, as school counselors, are we doing enough? What do you think?


School Counselor’s Role with Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse — Infographic

In 2013, a study showed that 7,800 individuals tried drugs for the first time. An additional 12,500 reported drinking alcohol for the first time. One of the most troubling findings of this study was that well over half of these new users were younger than 18.

School counselors spend most of their time directly helping and communicating with their students, through issues both academic and personal. With drug usage so prevalent among youth, substance abuse is an inevitable issue school counselors will face throughout their careers.

Warning signs like academic decline, absenteeism, changing peer groups, and changes in attentiveness and grooming habits are all potential indicators that drug usage is beginning to impact a student’s life.  School counselors are invaluable when identifying and intervening substance abuse among individual students, but direct counsel is only one of many ways counselors can help in preventing substance abuse.

Students today are more likely to self-report drug usage than a decade ago, but they’re less likely to fully understand the risks associated with drug use. As illustrated in the infographic below, students are less likely to understand the risks associated with smoking marijuana, using heroin, or using cocaine than students surveyed over a decade ago.

Revealingly, these students are also less likely to report having been exposed to drug prevention messaging in their schools. Although these statistics reflect a downward trend, they illustrate that school counselors and educators alike have a great opportunity in reducing substance abuse by reinforcing their school’s drug-prevention policies and promoting drug-prevention messaging.

For instance, in one school district located in Escabana, Michigan, a community was able to reduce the rate of alcohol abuse over a span of seven years from 17% to just 7% by incorporating substance abuse prevention policies into their curriculum, conducting student messaging campaigns, and involving parents and youth agencies.

School counselors are fundamental in orchestrating the community involvement and policy changes needed to educate students and positively impact the rate of substance abuse in their schools. In the infographic below, produced for Bradley University’s Online Counseling Program, you can learn more about substance abuse statistics among K-12 students and how school counselors are capable of making a difference.

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Bouncy Bands provide some wiggle room

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Bouncy Bands. When I first heard the name, I thought for sure they were for exercise. Well, I was sort of right. Bouncy Bands are made to let students release energy while they are working at their desks in a quiet, non-distracting way!

Here’s a picture of Bouncy Bands set up on a desk:

bouncy bands

I was offered a free set to try out at my school, and for the last two weeks, a highly active fourth grader has had the set attached to his desk. Just for a little perspective, this student is scrappy, energetic, curious, and more often than not impulsive. Before Bouncy Bands, he would typically be found standing at his desk to do his work because sitting just wasn’t comfortable for his high energy needs. Basically, he was the perfect “guinea pig” for this kind of thing!

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been checking in with him to see how the experiment has been going. His first reponse was to thank me for allowing him to try them – isn’t that so nice?? Other feedback from him has been that he likes using them to move his feet up and down, back and forth, while he sits at his desk (SITS, not stands!). He also told me that it’s really quiet and no one even notices when he’s bouncing away.

When the fourth grade teacher requested to try the set for this student, I was a little skeptical because I thought for sure it would cause a distraction for the teacher or other students. I have received ZERO complaints from anyone, teacher included! I even sat at his desk last week to try it out for myself – I like how the rubber provides a comfortable and stretchy place to rest and wiggle your feet.

Here are a few interesting facts about Bouncy Bands:

  • They’re made with heavy-duty rubber bungee rope for maximum stretching ability.
  • They’re noise-less (really, they are).
  • They’re super easy to install – it takes a minute, tops.
  • They’re not just for students with ADHD or severe sensory issues – any student who is willing to try them can benefit.

For more facts and information, including how to order your own set of Bouncy Bands, head on over to the website: http://www.bouncybands.com/index.html.

Little book – Big lesson

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One of the best parts about being a blogger is the chance to share ideas and resources that can help others who have and work with children. There is power and knowledge in collaboration! Today, I’m excited to join a virtual book tour of “Spoonful of Sweetness and other delicious manners” by author Maria Dismondy.

Spoonful of Sweetness

Review of the book

Who knew that children could exhibit acts of kindness from the time they are infants? Children’s author Maria Dismondy makes this point clear and encourages the teaching of kindness and other powerful traits in her new board book “Spoonful of Sweetness.”

Each sturdy page pictures super cute and diverse babies showing character traits through their play. The traits include kindness, friendship, responsibility, empathy, respect, and courage.

What I love most about this book is how simply each trait is written about and shown through the realistic play of each baby. I have always believed that children learn the most through play and discovery, and Maria captures this beautifully on every page. I love that Maria shows how simple it can be to help young children begin to learn manners – it’s as easy as waving, saying hello, smiling, and picking up toys! What a great start to life every child would have if these behaviors were modeled and encouraged.

As an Elementary School Counselor, I have much appreciation for families who model and teach their children pro-social behaviors from an early age. “Spoonful of Sweetness” is an excellent resource for any parent, teacher, or counselor who believes in setting their child up for social and emotional success, in school and in life!

Other children’s books by Maria

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

The Potato Chip Champ

Pink Tiara Cookies for Three

The Juice Box Bully (co-authored by Bob Sornson)

More about Maria

Maria

Maria Dismondy is a #1 best-selling children’s book author, former teacher, and highly sought-after speaker. Spoonful of Sweetness is her 5th children’s book. Maria has a passion for spreading an anti-bullying message and making a difference in her writing, public speaking, blogging, and charity work. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband and children.

Maria’s website: www.mariadismondy.com (go here for a FREE parent/teacher guide and a FREE coloring page!)

Maria’s Facebook page: facebook.com/mariadismondy

Book giveaway!

Maria was kind enough to offer a free, autographed copy of “Spoonful of Sweetness” to one of my readers! If you’d like to enter for a chance to get a free copy of this adorable book, all you have to do is comment on this post with a reason you’d like to have this book or how you’d use this book with the young children in your own life. All entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Saturday, January 25, 2014. I will review all comments and pick one winner! I will contact you for your mailing address and Maria will send you your free copy.

Good luck and thanks for reading! 🙂

You want NAMI on your list

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NAMI logo

 

Did you know that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people or nearly 60 million Americans every year? That means that mental illness affects you. It means that if you haven’t struggled with a mental illness yourself, there is likely someone you love who has or still is.

It means that mental illness deserves some attention. Attention for normality, education, recovery, advocacy, and support. If it doesn’t get more attention from all of us, there will likely be more needless deaths, suicides, violence, school shootings, abuse, substance abuse, etc.

So instead of slapping more band aids on people and communities affected by the aftermath of untreated mental illness, why not be proactive?

Last weekend, my husband (who is a mental health counselor) and I attended a 2-day training provided by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This free training gave us the certification to co-facilitate NAMI support groups for peers and families affected by mental illness. We plan to run groups in our area, on a volunteer basis, for those needing help from others who understand what they’re going through.

NAMI is an organization you want to know about because they are leading the way in supporting mental health needs. Each state has a NAMI organization which offers lots of FREE services, including:

  • Peer and family support groups
  • Advocacy for public policy to fight stigma and to help the mentally ill get proper treatment
  • A non-crisis hotline for anyone needing someone to listen, answer questions about mental illness, or guidance through the tedious process of getting treatment
  • Respite services for families needing self-care time
  • Parent and family classes to educate families about mental illness and how it might affect them and their loved ones
  • Resources on specific mental illnesses, state and federal laws that affect mental health, suicide awareness and prevention, veteran support services, and more

Because most of their services are free (seriously, how awesome is that?!), NAMI encourages people to become members to help support their important work. When they have more members, they can pack a lot more punch when they stand up for policies and legislation that will help our communities heal. Membership is only $3 for open door or $35 for individual/family (basically, it’s what you can afford to pay), and it gives you access to your state and national NAMI organization.

For School Counselors, it is vital that we have some understanding of mental illness, as we are often involved in the early stages of identifying and referring for treatment. It’s so important that we can spot the difference between a child simply having a difficult time, and a child who may be struggling with mental illness and in need of much more support than we can provide in the school setting. I don’t think I even need to write about the lasting damages of untreated mental illness…I’ll just say that if we can avoid causing this kind of harm, we should.

So, when you compile your resources list, please add NAMI. They have a lot to offer.

National site: http://www.nami.org/

State of Maine site: http://www.namimaine.org/index.php 

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You don’t have to walk your journey alone.