Life is stressful; you don’t need me to tell you that! Today’s world is full of competition, jam-packed schedules, and a constant need to have and do more. Levels of anxiety are on the rise—not just for adults, but for children and teenagers as well. Although having some stress and worry is a normal part of growing up, elevated levels of anxiety can be indicative of a more serious anxiety disorder. As parents, it is important to recognize the signs in your children and learn ways to teach them to manage their stress and anxiety.

anxiety_in_children.jpgAnxiety can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Everyone worries and gets stressed, but some people are predisposed to develop an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be triggered by a traumatic event, or it can seemingly arise out of nowhere. Many people who have anxiety may experience it when starting a new school, taking a big test, or in anticipation of a big event. Others may have trouble with social situations, while some may have specific fears. Anxiety is increasingly common among young people, affecting approximately one in eight children under the age of 18. 

But why is anxiety on the rise? Social media may be...


April is Autism Awareness Month, and Tom Flis, senior behavior specialist, works with adults with autism on our Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Unit. We sat down with Tom to learn more about what a behavior specialist does, and why he loves his job at Sheppard Pratt.

tom_flis.JPGQ: What is a behavior specialist?

A: Behavior specialists look at behavior to determine why a person does what they are doing. There’s a reason behind every behavior, and we look at environmental influences to figure out the causes of negative behaviors. We look at how to break the cycle of negative behaviors and how to reinforce new, positive behaviors. For example, someone who is unable to communicate verbally may be hitting his head against the wall because he’s learned that every time he wants or needs something, hitting himself in the head has gotten the attention he wanted. Our goal is to try to manage problem behaviors and to teach better, adaptive behaviors.

Q: What types of patients do you work with?

A: I work with adults with developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), genetic disorders, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and intellectual disabilities. The adult population is...


Summer camp. For many parents, the thought of summer camp brings back great memories of color wars, swimming, friendships, and sing-alongs on the bus. Parents want to send their children to summer camp so they can experience the wonders of camp, create great memories, and gain independence.

Today, it can be overwhelming to choose a camp. There are day camps, sleepaway camps, and specialty camps for almost every interest—art, music, robotics, basketball. Anything your child may like to do, there is probably a camp specializing in that activity. 

summer_camp_blog.jpegBut, what happens when the decision to pick a camp is trickier because your child has autism and needs some extra support? You want to make sure that the camp your child is attending will be fun and rewarding, as well as nurturing and appropriate for your child based on their level of need. There are many camps that focus on providing safe and engaging environments for children with disabilities; some programs are even specifically designed for children with autism. So what is the best option for your child?

There are many considerations that go into choosing a camp for a child with autism or special needs. Before choosing a camp, you first...


“I feel so weak for having to go the hospital after my heart attack.” That is not a phrase we hear often, if ever. If someone has a heart attack, it is common sense to go to the hospital, to get whatever help is needed. Everyone knows that if they see someone having a heart attack, they immediately call 911 and get help.

IMG_0186.JPGBut what about a panic attack or depression? Would you know to immediately get someone help if you saw someone who is depressed? What about if it was yourself? What if it was your child?

As a parent, I am often worried about getting judged by other parents. I know that friends of mine have the same concerns or are afraid about their children being labeled and so they don’t want to ask for help. Instead, we just assume that everything will be ok, that we can make our kids work harder, focus more, and behave better on our own.

It sounds cliché, but asking for help makes you strong. Asking for help takes courage. Knowing you need that help shows an awareness that you cannot do everything on your own. While my husband and I wanted to believe we could raise our kids without input from anyone else, we are not experts in everything. We learned early on that we would...


March 22 is Brain Injury Awareness Day. We spoke with our expert, Dr. Margo Lauterbach, director of The Concussion Clinic, part of The Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt, to learn about some of the ways you can work to prevent brain injury. Here’s what Dr. Lauterbach had to say:

How to Prevent Brain Injury in Children: 

  • Ensure your child always wears a helmet. Fortunately, helmets are available for most contact and high-risk sports, including football, hockey, horseback riding, biking, and skiing. Even if the sport your child is playing doesn’t have a specific helmet, it’s always safest to use a basic helmet if there’s the potential for your child to fall or get knocked around. Before engaging in play, make sure you know what type of protection your helmet should provide, and give your helmet a check. The CDC has tips for fit and functionality for different types of helmets. Forbush_Hunt_Valley_playground_5_TT_copy.JPG
  • Play safe on the playground. Before allowing your child free rein on the monkey bars and on the slide, take stock of which structures and toys on the playground are appropriate for their age and size. Only allow your child to play on a playground that has a soft material on the ground for them...

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