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  1. Mindfulness for Educators Graduate Class at Central Connecticut State University

    Please consider joining me for this graduate class on mindfulness for educators at Central Connecticut State University starting the end of May 2017.    If you want to learn more about mindfulness for adults and children, I would be pleased to speak with you about my new mindfulness and wellness consultation/coaching.  Services will be individualized based upon your personal and/or organizational outcomes.   Feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested. 

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  2. Discovering Mindfulness. Real Stress Reduction Strategies Do Exist!

    Discovering Mindfulness. Real Stress Reduction Strategies Do Exist! 

    Judy S. Itzkowitz, Ph.D., LLC, Educational Consultant

     

         Do you have stress in your life? Stress can negatively affect all aspects of our lives. Come and learn practical strategies that can be put into effect right away. Dr. Itzkowitz understands the realities of living with an individual with disabilities. 

         Mindfulness means mindful awareness, by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindful awareness can reduce stress and stress-related disorders. Learn how to be mindful (which is not that easy!) and actually find balance and peace of mind. Mindfulness works on anxiety, depression, pain, sleep disorders, and other health issues. Parents who have children with disabilities can NOT make the stress go away, but they can learn to handle it more successfully. Parents who have children with disabilities can learn to take care of themselves in the midst of caring for everyone else. 

         Some people think that mindfulness is one of the newest fads.  It really isn’t though.  Mindfulness has been around for a very long time.  Learn the science behind mindfulness.  Learn how you can bring mindfulness into your life so that you can meet daily stressors with a greater sense of balance and peace.  Come bring your curiosity and join Dr. Judy for a morning of learning and exploration.

          Held at the Waveny House in Waveny Park, New Canaan, CT, Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 10am to noon. Coffee and bagels served. Sponsored by SPED*NET New Canaan.

         RSVP to Anne Treimanis at attorneytreimanis@gmail.com. SPED*NET Special Education Network of New Canaan, Ltd. (SPED*NET New Canaan”) is organized exclusively to educate the public on special education and disability-related issues. Directions to the Waveny House: http://newcanaan.info/content/9492/9224/675/1531.aspx

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    About the Speaker:

         Dr. Judy Itzkowitz has been an educational consultant for students with disabilities for 28 years.  Her mission is to bring mindfulness, self-compassion, and positive psychology practices to children and youth with differing abilities, their families, and the individuals who support them so that people move in the direction of their dreams, experience more happiness and joy in their lives, and have better means to meet life’s challenges.  She believes that it is vital that we focus on people’s strengths, capacities, and inherent goodness to promote well-being. She was one of the first consultants in the state of Connecticut to develop her own private practice specializing in inclusive education.  She has consulted in over one hundred school districts throughout New England. 

         Dr. Judy (as people call her) has a life-long love and passion for study and learning.  Dr. Judy has expanded her consultation practice by offering programs about mindfulness, compassion, neuroplasticity, and positive psychology.  She has a daily meditation practice and brings mindfulness and compassion into all of her life’s activities.  She has completed extensive professional activities on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction through the Center for Mindfulness in Worcester, Massachusetts.  She has been studying how to bring mindfulness to children and into schools through Mindful Schools, Compassion and Wisdom Training, and Sitting Still Like a Frog.  She has completed the first year of a three year professional program, SomaticExperiencing®, a program directed to relieve and resolve the symptoms associated with trauma and stress, developed by Dr. Peter Levine.  She has also been studying social emotional learning and character development through the Academy of Social Emotional Learning in Schools, the College of Saint Elizabeth and Rutgers. She brings everything that she is learning into her own life and her professional activities. 

         Dr. Judy lives in South Windsor, CT, with her 93 year old mother and her two “boys,” Jesse and Jamie, the Bichons. You can learn more about her on her website, www.judyitzkowitz.com

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  3. Discovering Mindfulness. “Learning to Surf Live’s Waves”

    Discovering Mindfulness. “Learning to Surf Life’s Waves”

    Judy S. Itzkowitz, Ph.D., LLC

    Educational Consultant

    South Windsor, CT 

    Jon Kabat-Zinn, the developer of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

    “There is more right with us, than wrong with us.”

    Someone told me that mindfulness is one of the newest fads.  It really isn’t though.  Mindfulness has been around for a very long time.  Discover the true meaning of mindfulness through practices and discussion.  Learn about the science behind mindfulness.  Learn how you can bring mindfulness into your life so that you can meet daily stressors and “surf life’s waves” with a greater sense of balance and peace.  Experience how to bring mindfulness practices into your life and the lives of your family.  Cultivate your innate capacity to care for yourself.  Come bring your curiosity and join me for an evening of learning and exploration. 

    ““““““

    About the Speaker:

         Dr. Judy Itzkowitz has been an educational consultant for 28 years.  Her mission is to bring mindfulness, self-compassion, and positive psychology practices to children and youth with differing abilities, their families, and the individuals who support them so that people move in the direction of their dreams, experience more happiness and joy in their lives, and have better means to meet life’s challenges.  She believes that it is vital that we focus on people’s strengths, capacities, and inherent goodness to promote well-being. She was one of the first consultants in the state of Connecticut to develop her own private practice specializing in inclusive education.  She has consulted in over one hundred school districts throughout New England. 

         Dr. Judy (as people call her) has a life-long love and passion for study and learning.  Dr. Judy has expanded her consultation practice by offering programs about mindfulness, compassion, neuroplasticity, and positive psychology.  She has a daily meditation practice and brings mindfulness and compassion into all of her life’s activities.  She has completed extensive professional activities on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction through the Center for Mindfulness in Worcester, Massachusetts.  She has been studying how to bring mindfulness to children and into schools through Mindful Schools, Compassion and Wisdom Training, and Sitting Still Like a Frog.  She has completed the first year of a three year professional program, SomaticExperiencing®, a program directed to relieve and resolve the symptoms associated with trauma and stress, developed by Dr. Peter Levine.  She has also been studying social emotional learning and character development through the Academy of Social Emotional Learning in Schools, the College of Saint Elizabeth and Rutgers. She brings everything that she is learning into her own live and her professional activities. 

         Dr. Judy lives in South Windsor, CT, with her 93 year old mother and her two “boys,” Jesse and Jamie, the Bichons.  

    You can learn more about her on her website, www.judyitzkowitz.com

    Held at the Waveny House in Waveny Park, New Canaan, CT, Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 10am to noon. Coffee and bagels served. Sponsored by SPED*NET New Canaan.  RSVP to Anne Treimanis at attorneytreimanis@gmail.com.

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  4. Positive development, stress reduction main focus of Parent Stress Intervention Program (PSIP) Conference, in Nashville

    As we approach the new year, I thought I would begin offering some posts.  Have had a considerable amount of drama in our family so have been out of touch for over a year.  Wanted to start with my trip to Nashville in July.  I had the honor of attending a conference at Vanderbilt University so that I could learn how to support families to reduce their stress and access their resilience.  The learning certainly is very also relevant in my life; I get to practice each moment.  I will be offering these programs in the next few months; you can feel free to contact me if you have an interest.  Here is a summary of the Positive Adult Development (PAD) and MBSR programs.  

    Notables

    The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) held its first Parent Stress Intervention Program (PSIP) Conference July 14-17. Instructors delved into each of the two intervention manuals created by VKC researchers to teach parents of children with disabilities how to manage stress.

    The PSIP manuals—Positive Adult Development (PAD) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)—were developed as part of an intervention research study for stress reduction in parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Adapted by principal investigator and VKC director Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., and a group of dedicated parent mentors, the curricula is intended to provide tools for learning and practicing these techniques, and for teaching them to parent groups.

    The four-day conference was geared toward psychologists, counselors, and other professionals who would use the materials to facilitate parent stress intervention groups in their respective communities.

    “The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is thrilled to translate and further disseminate our study findings on Parent Stress Interventions to professionals who support families of children with disabilities,” said Dykens. “Raising a child with a disability can be a pure joy, but it can also be very stressful. We’re so grateful for these conference attendees who are committed to establishing support groups in their own communities and providing family members with effective stress-reduction tools.”

    The PAD session was led by VKC UCEDD Social Worker Carol Rabideau, LCSW, VKC Associate Director of Adult Community Services Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D., and VKC Disability Employment Specialist and parent Janet Shouse. The MBSR session was conducted by Gordon Peerman, Ph.D., and parent Roxanne Carreon. Conference attendees had the option of attending one or both sessions of the PSIP Conference.

    Judy Itzkowitz, Ph.D., an educational consultant from South Windsor, Connecticut, attended both sessions. Itzkowitz received her master’s degree in Special Education from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College in 1982 and has worked in private practice for 27 years, serving individuals with disabilities and their families. She began studying mindfulness at the Center for Mindfulness four years ago and uses it on a daily basis.

    “[The PAD and MBSR programs] are close to my heart because they build on strengths. Often, we tend to focus on a person’s disability, and not their gifts, strengths, or abilities,” Itzkowitz said. “It’s always good to be reminded how people meet disappointments, challenges, grief, and change in their lives with grace, compassion, clarity, confidence, and courage. Both [trainings] reinforced that and how I can bring these qualities into all of my interactions. Both PAD and MBSR are grounded in research and aim for positive outcomes for individuals with disabilities, the people they love, and the people who love them.”

    Positive Adult Development (PAD) incorporates evidence-based interventions from positive psychology, emphasizing ways to temper such emotions as guilt, conflict, worry, and pessimism, and offering exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace, and optimism. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a way of relating directly to whatever is happening in your life, meeting your experiences skillfully and with an open heart, and to break the habitual responses that can lock us into routines that undermine emotional and physical health.

    Itzkowitz shared that she often uses mindfulness techniques in her personal life, a practice she states has had a positive impact on all of her interactions, professionally and personally.

    “There’s a lot of value when people can meet together and share their joys and struggles. The essence is about practice,” she said. “So often we are doing from heads, and [MBSR] is about opening up our hearts, focusing on strengths and gifts so we can live a life of compassion and authenticity.”

    Both the PAD and MBSR manuals are available for purchase via Vanderbilt eInnovations.

    For more information about the PSIP manuals, contact Janet Shouse at janet.shouse@vanderbilt.edu or (615) 875-8833.

    Elizabeth Turner is VKC Communications Coordinator.

     

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  5. Listening and Learning from Children and Youth

    How important it is for us to listen and learn from the people around us.  I wanted to share something from the SWIFT Website that touched me to offer this entry today.  It served as a reminder to me about what inclusion is and what it is not.  Too often when I travel to different schools as a consultant, I see children with differing abilities being present in school buildings and present in classes, yet not true members of their school communities.  A general education teacher might not speak to the student.  Adults talk about the student with disabilities in earshot of them, not recognizing that everyone (other children and adults) can hear what they are saying; that what they are saying impacts everyone around them.  Sometimes adults and the classmates treat the student with disabilities like he or she was younger than his/her actual age, like a mascot, not as an unique person with thoughts, emotions/feelings, strengths, gifts, talents, areas for learning, and things that are difficult (like all of us)…  Inclusive education is about providing each and every student with an education that is meaningful to them, students with and without disabilities.  It is about creating a community where every person (adults and students) feels welcome, feels as though they belong, experiences a sense of acceptance for who they are, that they matter, and that they are valued.  It is about creating environments where all people, adults and children, learn, make mistakes, learn from them, make more mistakes, and learn…. Please take a moment to read this entry from the Swift Schools website.

    http://www.swiftschools.org/swifttalk/article/39/counting-everyone-in-the-everyone-category

     

     

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  6. Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Stress Reduction Being Offered

    “We take care of the future best by taking care of the present now.”

    Jon Kabat-Zinn

    You are invited to participate in a program that brings self-care, awareness, and balance into your life and reduces stress associated with personal, work and life demands. Mindfulness is a practice that supports us in the ability to be aware of patterns and habits, in the present moment, on purpose, with the intention of taking better care of ourselves, of becoming “stress hardy.” This stress reduction program is based upon the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

    The program offered here consists of a total of seven sessions:

    six weekly one and a-half hour course sessions as well as

    a half-day retreat between sessions five and six.

    All sessions include guided meditation, gentle stretching, and discussion.

    Dates: Tuesday September 30th through November 4th (6-week program)

    Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm (Tuesday evenings)

    Half day session: Sunday November 2nd (from 9:00 – 12:00 pm).

    You are asked to commit to attend all seven sessions.

    Location: Talcott Ridge Clubhouse, 65 Talcott Ridge Road, South Windsor, CT

    Cost: $125.00 payment due at the time of the first class in the form of a check or cash.

    Other: Please bring a yoga mat or blanket with you for each class and wear comfortable clothing.

    Program Instructor: Dr. Itzkowitz received professional training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the Center for Mindfulness, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She has been in private practice as an educational consultant supporting individuals with disabilities, their families, and working collaboratively with individuals with disabilities, their parents, siblings, and staff for over 26 years. Please contact Judy at 860-644-6810 or jsitzkowitz@cox.net with questions and to register for the class.

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  7. Opportunities for Learning

    I would like to share a series of events that have occurred that have been exceptional teachers for all of the beings (2-legged and 4-legged) involved.  One of the young men who I have known for several years, came to my house the other day.  He happens to live with deaf-blindness. Sometimes when people meet him, they think that he cannot learn and does not know much. His mom was kind to drive me home as I had fallen and was not able to drive.  He had only been to my home one other time  — not such a great experience for him.  My dog Jamie has a birth defect in his paw, which sometimes creates some pain and stress.  He deals with stress through reactivity.  His mom and I thought that we had planned things well, yet Jamie, was very stressed and almost bit him on the leg.  This young man was in a new environment and walks with a heavy uneven gait.  I think that both Jamie and this young man were nervous around each other, picking up on each other’s fears.  I think that emotional contagion was at work.

    Courage.  His mom and I discussed what happened.  We had a difficult, yet important conversation.  We reflected on what happened to see what we could do differently.  Reflection, I find, is so invaluable, when faced with a problem.  Everyone seemed very stressed from the incident.  We wanted to work through this so that everyone could feel more comfortable and safe.  We did a few things… I had brought my dogs over to his house for a brief visit when I was in the area.  The young man laughed and loved to see his dog and my dogs play together.  The Bichon calendar gift that we had given him was hidden for quite a while.  He used to look at it and cry.

    So, I was concerned when he arrived at my house that day. Would he be okay?  Would he want to come into the house?  How would the dogs be with him?  So, I walked in first and Jamie was out with our friend, Your Pet Nanny.  My dog Jesse, the one who is an old soul, smelled the young man, was very curious and relaxed.

    The young man immediately went into my bedroom and went onto my bed.  When he was told that he was not going to stay over, sleep over, he went to my mother’s room and went on her bed.  He was telling us, he wanted to stay.  When Jamie came in, we had him on a leash on his mat in the kitchen; all of the adults were vigilant so that everyone was safe.  To think, I had wondered whether this gentleman would be afraid to come into the house.  He was fine.  He showed courage. It takes a lot of courage for him to get through the day, when life can be unpredictable.  When he went to bed that evening, he actually laughed himself to sleep.  The next morning he woke up, and this is what happened as told to me by his mother in an email.  Just a side note.  He had given my mother a hat for her birthday, he loves hats.  A bright yellow hat.  As a thank you, we had sent a photo of my mother, the hat, and the boys, as this  young man communicates  by selecting photos.  So, he got this photo and put it on his red bag,

    Red backpack with photo of Miss Gladys and the Bichons

    Young Man: I want to go to Dr. Judy’s house.

    Mom: Sorry. No… Dr. Judy is hurt.

    Young Man: I want to go to Dr. Judy’s house.

    Mom: Sorry… no… Dr. Judy is hurt.

    Young Man: I want to go to Dr. Judy’s house.

    Mom: Sorry…we can’t.  Dr. Judy is hurt.

    Young Man: I am packing my own bag because I want to go to Dr. Judy’s house.

    Mom: Sorry… Dr. Judy is hurt.  Maybe a different day.

    This sequence occurred 37 times!!!!  Very sweet but a little bit annoying after the 30th request :).  Can’t blame him for trying and boy is he persistent!!!!!!

    He then took a photo of how he initially requested your house. He took the photo off the fridge of your mother and the boys and put it in his bag. He eventually packed his bag, got our coats and keys.

    Guess he misses you 🙂

    Later that day, he went to the bathroom, got the bottle of Pepto-Bismol, and put that on the bag.  You see he usually takes this when he is hurt and not feeling well.  He thought that it would make me feel better.  Well, hearing about this did make me feel better.  It reminded me to continue to have high expectations.  Sometimes, we do not realize how much people are thinking about what has happened to them, what an impact we make on their lives. Sometimes when someone has a significant disability, we can forget how many things the person does understand.   I often need to remember what a difference I make in other people’s lives and the difference people make in my life, that what I do impacts others.  How do you make a difference in someone’s life?  How do other people contribute to your life?   Do you have high expectations for the people around you?  Have there been times when people have surprised you?  exceeded what you thought was possible for them?  

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  8. Dignity of Risk and Independence

    Zeb with the Honorable Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut

     

    Here is my friend Zeb, who had the honor of meeting the Honorable Senator Blumenthal from the state of Connecticut while he and I were in Washington, DC last year as part of the National Down Syndrome Society Ambassador Program.  It was a great opportunity for us to be able to learn about and meet with our state Senators and Congressmen, to learn about how our government works, and how we can “have a voice.”  Last year, the theme was to support the Achieving a Better Life (ABLE) Act.  This would help individuals with disabilities ease some of the strains associated with financial inequity.   See if your congressional representative has sponsored the bill, if not ask him or her to support the legislation.  Zeb’s dream is to become an advocate for people with disabilities including Down syndrome.  He had done an internship in Senator Blumenthal’s office while he was attending the Mason LIFE program, a post-secondary program for individuals with developmental disabilities.  http://masonlife.gmu.edu/  He always wanted to meet Senator Blumenthal, who was not in the office on the days that he was working there.  He continued to ask and to articulate what he wanted.  He is very persistent.   I respect that he is so perseverant, a great quality even if it can be challenging for the people around him. So, he did get to meet him.  By the way, he wants to meet President Obama too.  Perhaps that will happen some day (he has written to him).  What an accomplishment for him to meet the Honorable Senator!!!  He had always wanted to go to college and so, it was a risk, to apply.  At first he did not get accepted (he, his mom, and I did not know that an interview was required).  His mom, with support (a lot of coaching from me; her exact words, “more like holding my hand and giving me a swift kick”) called to find out why he did not get accepted.  She found out that an interview was required.  So, off they went for an interview.  Once he was accepted (after he was told by his public high school team that he could not go to college, because he had an intellectual disability), off to VA.  So many challenges and opportunities… Leaving home, moving away, living far from home, new place, new people, new expectations…  The opportunity that Zeb had to go to college provided him with so much learning, learning to be independent and to be responsible for himself and his life.  Each time that he has taken a risk to do something outside of his comfort zone, there have been some amazing gifts and growth.  Yes, he and his mom sometimes need support and coaching, just like I do.  His mom had supported me in finishing up this website.  It only has taken me a year from start to finish.  Some people tell me that is not too long.  It felt like a long time.  As one of my friends would tell me, “flowers grow as fast as flowers grow.”  Everyone learns and grows at their own pace.  Many things outside of my comfort zone with this website, including writing these blog entries.  I remind myself, “progress not perfection.”  I always am learning.

    A number of years ago, I was afraid of roller coasters.  You can see the photo.   I decided to overcome my fear and go on roller roaster until I was no longer afraid, so I did (unfortunately no picture to show the many times I went on the roller coaster).   Good friends and family support the people that we care about to take risks, to initiate so that we can bring our dreams closer to reality.  Congrats Zeb for making some of his dreams come true.  Your mom and I are here to continue to support you.   I, too,  am grateful to have people in my life who support me to take risks.  More to follow.JSI roller coaster 2

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  9. Dignity of Risk

    I wanted to continue the discussion about high expectations and raise this idea, dignity of risk, which was introduced by Bob Perske (http://www.robertperske.com).  He is someone who I have respected and regarded since learning about him in 1980.  He has been one of the strongest advocates I know for individuals with disabilities, advocating and celebrating people’s lives.  Many times people who care about individuals who have disabilities (family members and staff) want to protect them from all risks, instead of supporting them in taking calculated and reasonable risks.  “There can be such a thing as human dignity in risk.  And there can be a dehumanizing indignity in safety” (Perske, 1972).  Every person’s life whether they have a disability or not is enhanced when we take a risk, do something we never did before, and do something outside of our comfort zone.  Of course, supports are needed.  For some folks, they may need encouragement, practice, role-plays, watching us, watching videos… Support looks different for each person.  I remember that safety at all costs is limiting for all individuals.  If a person is not afforded opportunities to take risks, he will not learn how to negotiate challenging situations, he will not have the repeated practice that is necessary to gain the confidence to effectively handle breakdowns, disappointments, and other challenges that may occur in his life.  Life is filled with joys and disappointments.  Being able to learn how to negotiate these waters is what life is about.

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  10. High Expectations!!!!

    How essential.  Too often, I am told that my expectations of individuals with differing abilities are too high.  Whether that is a principal who told me that my expectations were too high and that a person with Down syndrome could never learn to drive. At the time, the young man was a middle school student.  I responded by saying that I do not know what is possible, but I am not going to put limits on a person.  If this young man wants to learn to drive, his parents and I will figure out what supports he needs.  Or another person who told a student with Down syndrome that he could never go to college, because he has a cognitive disability.  He stood up for himself and said, “that I am going to go to college” and he did.  Another time, I was told by a middle school teacher that a high school student with an intellectual disability should not learn about the Holocaust, as the person would not understand about what happened, that it would be too traumatic for him.  My thoughts — if all other students in that social studies class are learning about the Holocaust, then it also is important for the student with an intellectual disability to learn about the injustices and suffering.  It is part of the common core.  More importantly, it is part of being human.  Sometimes parents have told me that they are fearful about their adolescent son or daughter with an intellectual disability staying home alone.  My thoughts — how do we teach the student the skills that he or she needs so that he/she can stay home safely?   If I do not have high expectations, I can run the risk of doing things that result in a person becoming more disabled, acquiring learned helplessness, and making their lives smaller.  More about this another time.  So, what will I choose today?

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