PCLG Wants to Hear from You

 

Please take a few miniutes to complete this short survey to help Parent Catalyst Leadership Group (PCLG) find out more about how families are learning about and accessing services for their children (ages 0-18) in Hennepin County.  PCLG is part of the Hennepin County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative and we work with many stakeholders to improve the children’s mental health system in our region.

Your feedback is important to us and will remain confidential.

SURVEY: Tell Us About Children’s Mental Health Services in Hennepin County

Summer Camps? Already??

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I know, I know.  It seems WAY too early, but it’s really not. And it just might be possible to find a camp that suits your kid. Here are a few ideas to help you start exploring some options for your child now:

True Friends Camp – (Annandale, MN)

This camp has different programs which you might find are suited to your child’s specific needs and interests, with programs designed for kids with shorter attention spans, a literacy camp, a sensory friendly camp, equine therapy, and even a camp for struggling readers.  They accept waivered funds and have financial assistance for others who qualify. Five camps make up this group: Camp Courage, Camp Friendship, Camp Eden Wood, Camp Courage North and Camp New Hope.

Camp Noah (St. Paul, MN) The camp curriculum is specifically designed to help children process their experience with disaster and grief in a safe, supportive, and caring atmosphere that also offers fun and recreation at a time of intense stress. Lutheran Social Services runs this camp.

Camp Character (Park Rapids, MN) works to develop life and social skills for children with special needs ages 7-18. It is an overnight camp that will build confidence and behavioral skills.

And for those who prefer to stay in town… Three Rivers Parks District and local parks and Y’s are often good options.

DID YOU KNOW? Reach for Resources  (Twin Cities Metro Areaoffers adaptive recreational opportunities and partners with programs to support all kinds of kids in inclusive settings. 

Cabin Fever? Some Free Activities for Families

 

Lake Harriet Kite Festival

And just for fun on a winter day… the Lake Harriet Kite Festival       Saturday, January 16, Noon to 4 pm

Let’s face it.  Kids need to get out of the house and explore their world, but it isn’t always easy to navigate an activity when you have a child who struggles with behavior or sensory issues.  I know I didn’t have the money to plunk down admission to a “family friendly” activity, only to find 15 minutes later that it was too overstimulating for my son and we had to leave because he was on the verge of a meltdown.

As a survival mechanism, I kept lists of free and “my family friendly” activities.  Below, I’ve listed some great opportunities here in Hennepin County that range from interactive Library storytimes to informal, kid friendly free classical music family concerts.  And even though this is January in Minnesota, there are plenty of great outdoor activities at the parks, many of which have great indoor nature centers where you can warm up, check out a salamander and touch some rabbit fur. You never know what might spark your child’s interest.

Hennepin County Libraries will be offering some “Act Out” interactive theater classes for kids and teens with Guthrie artists.

  • Tuesday, Jan 12, 4 – 5:30 pm, Storytelling
  • Webber Park Library, 4400 Dupont Ave N
  • Saturday, Jan 16, 2 – 3:30 pm, Playmaking
  • North Regional Library, 1315 Lowry Ave N
  • Saturday, Jan 23, 1 – 2:30 Creative Movement
  • Minnetonka Library, 17524 Excelsior Blvd
  • Saturday, Jan 23, 2 – 3:30 pm Storytelling
  • Roosevelt Library, 4026 28th Ave S
  • Monday, Jan 25, 6 -7:30 pm Storytelling
  • Edina Library, 5280 Grandview Square
  • Tuesday, Jan 26, 4-5:30 pm
  • Act Out for Teens: Costume Design Basics
  • Hosmer Library
  • Saturday, Jan 30, 10:30 – Noon
  • Act Out for Kids: Storytelling
  • Ridgedale Library
  • Saturday, Jan 30, 1 – 2:30 pm
  • Act Out for Teens: Intro to Physical Comedy
  • Excelsior Library

 Family Music ConcertsCheck out these free kid-friendly classical music concerts in informal settings.

 Free Days at Area Museums

  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts (always free
  • Bell Museum of Natural History (free on Sundays) dioramas and hands on activities
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum (free on 3rd Sunday of each month)

Parks and Nature Centers around Town:

 

PCLG ONLINE SUPPORT FOR PARENTS

Ever wished you could get support from other parents right from home when you most need it?facebook-vs-google-advertising

PCLG has launched a new private online support group via Facebook.  The Hennepin County PCLG Support Group is open to parents and caregivers of children and young adults with mental health challenges.  It’s a great place to ask questions, exchange tips and make connections with other parents!

To register: fbook4hcparents@gmail.com

It Is Time to Change

A recent tragedy at my son’s school has reminded all of us of the urgency of reaching out to kids and  talking more openly about mental illness.

This short video from Britain is one of many great ways of starting conversations at your student’s high school:  The Squote-on-stigma-health-80-healthyplacetand-Up Kid

Check out other videos and the Time to Change Toolkit at Time to Change.org

Talking to Kids about Mental Health

Most kids are a bit anxious at the start of the school year, but for kids who struggle with mental illness, school can be a veritable minefield.  Schools need to take the time to talk to all students about mental health and  tquote-on-stigma-health-48-healthyplacery to reduce the stigma around this issue.

While it’s important to start the conversation, so many parents and schools are afraid to go there.  This flyer from the Centers for Disease Control is an excellent place to start:  Talking to Kids About Mental Health Flyer

Periodically, we will be offering more “conversation starters” and resources for schools and families.

A Visit with Generation Next

A recent blogpost at the Generation Next site got my attention.  The group is dedicated to resolving the achievement or opportunity gap between affluentGen Next logo1 and low-income students in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and they were announcing the addition of Social Emotional Learning to their set of initiatives.  Recognizing the difficulties children have with learning when they are anxious or depressed and when they have been exposed to stress and trauma in their lives, Generation Next is now tracking elements of social emotional well-being in metro area schools.  They want to learn more about how students view themselves and whether or not they have the ability to bounce back from making mistakes, like even the everyday mistakes you make when  you are in the process of learning math or any other subject.

As Beth Hawkins puts it in her MinnPost article on the subject:

“Social-emotional learning recently became Generation Next’s sixth identified priority — one that has the potential to influence the other five (which include: kindergarten readiness; 3rd grade reading benchmarks; 8th grade reading benchmarks; high school graduation; and post-secondary credential). Those are are big goals, but the initial work within them is discretely defined.”

“The effort’s data committee — made up of a Who’s Who of local education researchers — concluded that they needed to collect and analyze data on social-emotional learning.

The group partially funded data positions in both the St. Paul and Minneapolis districts to collect the relevant information. From that came some striking information. Predictably, the St. Paul numbers show drop-offs in skills between grades 5 and 8 in students’ commitment to learning and social competence, and especially in positive identity, with scant rebounds as those students move into high school.”

This got me so fired up that I called Generation Next and I suddenly was invited to attend one of their regular open forums. I really didn’t know what to expect.  A nice Step-Up intern named Abdul escorted us invited guests to a room with a very large table at the back of the United Way building.  At my forum, the other guests were from school districts, private companies, social service organizations, and, yes, a children’s mental health collaborative (that was me).   It was inspiring because we all care about the same issue and because the different perspectives and expertise brought to that big, shared table cast new light on the subject.

I shared with the group how my own passion stems from observing how special education students, particularly those with emotional behavioral disorders, often have the poorest outcomes.  Many do not have good access to mainstream teachers who are licensed in their particular subject area, and they can end up in a more secluded setting and not offered appropriately challenging and interesting subject material.   The poor performance and low graduation rates of this set of students is appalling, and getting these students the mental health services they need and a stimulating academic experience are crucial steps toward their being able to be successful. Moreover, these same kids are the ones most likely to be suspended or expelled from school.  They make up the highest proportion of those kids who drop out.

The problem of untreated or undertreated mental illness doesn’t just affect the low-income and minority students.  Even more affluent students don’t always get the help they need because of our lack of awareness, the difficulties families have with navigating the system, and the stigmatizing nature of mental illness.

So, yeah, I walked away from this meeting as a big supporter of Generation Next’s efforts.  And I’d like to see them partner with the Hennepin and Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaboratives, as well as NAMI Minnesota and the Wilder Foundation.  I think we’d find that a big push on community wellness will do far more to fix the “achievement gap” than uniforms, charter schools, discipline, union contract reform, or any of the other “silver bullet” ideas that are so often floated. I also felt fired up to continue PCLG’s work to connect with other parents and disadvantaged communities to make sure more students have the opportunity to thrive.

How Are Some Students Raising Mental Health Awareness in Their High Schools?

PCLG parents have been spending some time these past few months learning about student-driven mental health awareness groups at area high schools.  It’s truly inspiring to hear how teenagers are leading efforts to erase stigma, create positive environments, and drive change in their schools and communities. Hats off to these students!Teensgroupcircle

Silver Ribbon Campaign (SRC)  – South High School, Minneapolis

SRC is a student-led group dedicated to supporting and educating students whose lives are touched by mental illness or who want to positively influence school culture.  SRC was founded 11 years ago by two students who had family members suffering from mental illness. SRC holds about 18 1-hour events throughout the year, most of which are held during the school day and involve invited speakers (students, teachers, and outside guests).

The group learns about mental health issues and has a field trip to the capitol each year to learn about advocacy and the legislative process.  Many students attend conferences and other meetings as representatives of SRC.

Silver Ribbon Club – Washburn High School, Minneapolis

The Silver Ribbon Campaign is a student led group focused on reducing stigma and raising awareness around mental illness issues. “We make it ok to talk about not being ok.”

Students  check in with each other and the group’s advisor at meetings but primarily work on planning mental health awareness activities, such as:

  • Guest speakers for students and also evening events for parents
  • Fidgety Fairy Tales performance
  • “Above the Influence” Campaign: Avoiding the pitfalls of peer pressure
  • Text number with free app for Washburn students to ask questions
  • Glass display case with information about depression and anxiety
  • Create of a video Public Service Announcement
  • Volunteered for other organizations that help teens with mental illness

HEART, Wayzata High School, Wayzata,MN

HEART is a student task formed a year ago by a student leader in response to a series of tragedies. Their main focus has been to create a positive school climate and raise mental health awareness, particularly for those students who might otherwise be overlooked or not connected to school activities.

They sponsored a Mental Wellness week, leveraging support from local businesses, the Student Council, National Honor Society and other existing student groups.

Activities included:

  • “Pay It Forward Day” – Students earned wristbands for doing good deeds
  • Professional and student panels and mental health workshops
  • Photo booth – Students held cards that answered the question “How do you do wellness?”

Outside the Box: Summer Activities for All Kinds of Kids and Teens

Summer can be a great time for kids to take a break from the pressures of school, explore their strengths and interests, or just have fun with friends.  Finding things for kids to do over the summer is a challenge for every family, but it is Summer Fall 2011 Etc 322particularly difficult for our families.  Sensory issues, anxiety, attention problems, fine and gross motor problems, or the potential for outbursts can be barriers for our children’s participation in many activities.

 But don’t give up!  It’s so important for our kids to be involved in their community. We are listing below lots of ideas to help you get started.  In this issue, we have low cost activities for families, fun and affordable ideas for kids, special swim lessons, and opportunities for teens.

A few fun and affordable ideas for kids:

IDEAS FOR TEENS

Internships and Volunteer Opportunities

Minneapolis Parks & Recreation

Programs for Teens

  •  Youthline Outreach Mentorship
  • Youthline engages youth ages 12-16 in positive leadership experiences and recreational activities while connecting them to adult mentors in the parks.
  • Teen Teamworks
  • Teen Teamworks is a summer employment and educational program for youth ages 14-18.
  • Nite Owlz
  • Nite Owlz provides extended teen programming at various recreation centers from 8-11 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Activities may include open gym, cooking, computer labs and more. Contact a neighborhood recreation center for details.
  • IDEAWERKS
  • IDEAWERKS is for youth ages 12-18 to learn multimedia production; record audio and video information on a digital media workstation; study music basics and computer software to create music tracks and videos; and produce and record individual multimedia projects.

Familiar Faces

We spotted some familiar faces recently!  Catalyst Suzanne Renfroe and her son Brian are featured in a video on their combined journey through Brian’s ASD diagnosis and his experiences with Transition.