News Reel

Back to School for Students with ASD or ADHD

Back to School 2

Returning to school is a big deal for all students, but for students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD the challenge can be even greater. As students start and settle into a new school year there are things that can help minimize the stress and promote a healthy outlook on learning.

Dr. Gordon Day, Executive Clinical Director and Founder of Seven Stars wrote a recent article giving parents tips to facilitate a successful back to school transition, featured below.

5 Tips for Parents as your spectrum student heads back to school

Heading back to school can be a real challenge for a teen student with ASD or other neurodevelopmental issues like ADHD.  Sometimes the thought of the coming school year fills teens with a sense of dread.  The social, behavioral and academic expectations in school often highlight the areas of difficulty in the student with ASD.

These are the top five things we recommend parents consider when heading into a new school year.

1). Talk to your son or daughter about their goals for the school year, what they need to do in order to reach those goals and what kind of support or help from parents would be helpful.  Make sure you allow time for them to express their thoughts.  The key is to listen with empathy.

2). Develop routines in order to promote your students independent executive skills (morning routine, homework routines, night time routines etc.)  Incorporating their input in the plans gives them ownership and a sense of empowerment.  Help them understand that the goal of routine is to help them prepare for the future and independence.

3). Find ways to reinforce school successes.  Teenagers with ASD often have passionate interests.  Find ways to incorporate their passions in school related activities like extra curricular clubs or activities at school.

4). Work with teachers to define expected behaviors at home and school.  Consistent and clearly defined expectations facilitate success.  Experience in different environments and activities improves the generalization of skills to other settings they encounter.

5). Look for ways to help them feel successful outside of school.  Volunteer work, an after school job, tutoring younger students, regular opportunities for socialization and physical exercise in structured activities can really help with confidence and self efficacy.

If you have a child or teen struggling with ASD or ADHD and believe they need additional help, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Back to School & Mental Health Concerns

Back to School


Children and teens around the nation are heading back to school. The beginning of the year brings a range of emotions – from excitement to anxiety – that they are trying to cope with. To help facilitate the process, Mental Health America  has put together a toolkit of information for parents, teachers and students.

Back to School

Kids and teens today are dealing with some heavy stuff — cyber-bullying, body shaming, community violence, abuse, neglect, unstable home lives, drug exposure, sexual orientation, immigration issues and more. Some young people may not have the tools that they need to effectively handle emotions like fear, sadness, and anger, which are often at the root of misbehavior. All too often youth who misbehave aren’t given a great deal of attention until they get into trouble at school. Getting in trouble at school usually means adults implement disciplinary measures like time-out, detention, suspension, expulsion, or even arrest. Oftentimes, those who are disciplined are almost always left feeling that they are labeled as a “bad kid” and end up being excluded from their peers in the process.

Yet, before behavior problems surface, there are emotions that young people are unable to deal with. These emotions come about from the environment and situations that kids and teens are exposed to.

While we can’t completely shield young people from all the stressful or traumatic situations they may be facing, we can help them learn to manage their emotions and reactions in ways that cultivate resilience. Equipping young people with appropriate coping skills for when they are struggling with emotions leads to better mental and physical health in adulthood.

MHA’s 2017 Back to School Toolkit aims to increase emotional intelligence and self-regulation through materials for parents, school personnel, and young people.

If you have a child or teen struggling with mental health issues and believe they need additional help, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Teens & Sexting


As time passes, each generation gets more and more sexually aware, and this one is no exception. Social media, easier access to the internet, and sexual promiscuity add fuel to an already burning fire. A big problem now with the pre-teen and teen age group is sexting. Sexting is defined as sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone. Sexting at any age can have repercussions, but at an age where brains are still developing, bullying is on the rise, and the consequences can be far reaching, the trend is even more disturbing.

The writers and directors of “Screenagers, Growing up in the Digital Age” focus not only on the issues around technology use and kids, but they also send weekly emails about current trends and what to watch for. The following information was recently sent out, titled “Beggin’ for Sexts.”

Beggin’ for Sexts

I hear from many pre-teen and teen girls that they or their friends have been asked by boys via social media to send nude pics. In one discussion I had with a 10th-grade girl this week, she told me it “happens all the time” to her. This is so very disturbing.

Now here is the real killer. The guys have been known to make threats if the girls don’t comply. Girls are threatened with social embarrassment on many fronts.

Sexual exploration is a natural part of growing up—and growing up is so much about being seen as cool and desirable by peers. Girls get a lot of attention for their sexy looks, and guys get kudos for interacting with girls – and sometimes that means getting “pics.”

According to a 2016 survey from Statistics Brain, 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys say they have sent or posted sexually suggestive content to a boy or girlfriend.  Here is what I find very interesting—”48% of young adult women and 46% of young adult men say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.”

It is imperative that we try to have conversations with our sons and daughters about the pressures, internal and external, of looking “hot” and sending “hot” photos. We need to arm girls with ways to respond to pressures. Talking to our boys about what are the messages of guys on how to be cool, why is there so much asking girls for pics, and what as a culture can we do to decrease this?

Start a conversation with your children about pictures and social media. The key is CURIOSITY. Teens will likely be very defensive with this conversation unless we approach it with kid gloves. Teens are at a time when the worst thing we can do is judge them. Being curious about the pictures culture can make for much better conversations.

  • Which celebrities show the most revealing photos these days?
  • Have you heard of girls being pressured into sending sexy photos?
  • What are some reasons guys may be pressuring girls to send them photos?
  • Should health classes discuss these issues or should they just be for home discussion?

Parenting teens, especially around topics involving sexuality, is never easy. But having open conversations early can help facilitate healthy boundaries. If you have a teen or young adult struggling with appropriate sexual behaviors, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Screenagers Showing Hosted by TAG Counseling


Recently Tamara Ancona partnered up with other mental health and educational professionals to host a showing of the film “Screenagers, Growing up in the Digital Age” for other community professionals. After the showing Tamara and four additional mental health and educational professionals led a panel discussion and provided additional resources to the attendees.

“Screenagers” is the first feature documentary to explore the impact of screen technology on kids and to offer parents proven solutions that work. Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston decided to make “Screenagers” when she found herself constantly struggling with her two kids about screen time. Ruston felt guilty and confused, not sure what limits were best, especially around mobile phones, social media, gaming, and how to monitor online homework. Hearing repeatedly how other parents were equally overwhelmed, she realized this is one of the biggest, unexplored parenting issues of our time.

Director Ruston turned the camera on her own family and others—revealing stories that depict messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction.

Tamara has a Master of Arts in Psychology with a Clinical Counseling Specialty and holds her certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Georgia. Her area of specialty prior to establishing her educational consulting practice has included counseling individuals and families in the acute care, corporate, and private practice settings. She also has vast experience facilitating therapeutic, educational and experiential groups with both the adult and teen populations.

Since 1998, her focus as an educational consultant has been to provide families within the Southern Region and across the United States with distinct educational options or therapeutic alternatives for their struggling teen or young adult children.

If you have a teen or young adult struggling with appropriate screen usage call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.

Teens + Screens = A Good Thing?!?

teens on computer

Teens and screens get a bad rap. Too much screen time has negative consequences, and often times teens get into trouble by misusing their time online. But what if we could turn that around? Instead of banning all screen time this summer encourage your teen to make good use of their time.

NetSmartz is a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helps educate children and teens about smart online activity. Parents can go here to learn more about keeping kids safe online. They also have a site dedicated to teens, where teens can play games, watch videos and look at comics dedicated to making better online choices.

And, if you think your teen can take their knowledge to the next level they can go here and download a kit to help teach their peers about online safety.

By involving teens in the conversation about online safety we give them the opportunity to be leaders among their peers and create a safer future for their entire generation.

If you have a teen or young adult struggling with appropriate screen usage call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.