At War with a Learning Disability

Our organization came across an interesting article from The New York Times Magazine.  A soldier wrote about her experience as an active duty soldier in the army, navigating her military dream with a learning disability.

We focus our work on developing grit and perseverance. These qualities provided Ms. Zephrine with a strong foundation to realize her dream of joining the army, and obtaining her master’s degree in social work.

We are sharing this story as a way to showcase the life experiences told firsthand by individuals with learning disabilities and other challenges. Please note that this is one person’s experience.

Personal Interests in those with ASD

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW

Recently, the mother of one of our students shared an article with me from The Mighty.  First hand experiences from those with autism are something we should all listen to.  If we as clinicians, educators, parents, and friends have trouble understanding someone with autism (or anyone for that matter), it is best to hear about their reality, their outlook, and their feelings in order to best serve the person.

Christine Motokane provides a look into her experience with society’s focus on “age-appropriate interests,”  and how this impacts a person with autism.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this story.  Please share in the comments section.

Have a great week everyone!

“I feel so anxious right now!” Coping with Finals

By Samantha Kolkey

Around this time of year, our students on academic paths are preparing for and taking their final exams.  They have worked so hard, and must overcome this last obstacle for their semester/quarter/trimester.

Many of our students feel anxious over these finals, no matter if it is a project, portfolio, test–I know most of us can relate to this. I often hear “I’m so anxious right now,”  “I can’t focus enough to study,” or I see our students walking around during study halls, unable to sit for long periods of time to study or finish papers and projects.  Below are a few suggestions that we provide to our students, and some are from students themselves:

  • Implement self-care into your daily routine: Take a walk in the morning or between studying, listen to music, or talk to a friend.  Make sure to get good sleep (especially several days before the exam) and eat as healthy as possible.
  • When preparing for a test, give yourself time.  Time to study, time to get to the testing center or classroom, time to take care of yourself.
  • If you are unable to concentrate while studying, grab an ice pack or drink a cold glass of water.  The cold may help wake you up and snap you out of distraction.
  • Reframe negative thoughts and beliefs.  Turn “I am never going to pass this test,”  “I can’t do this,” “I don’t know anything” into more realistic and positive thoughts. “I will walk into the test confidently,” “I am going to do my best,” and “I do know many things, and I am going to do well on this test.” *Bonus: this can be done during the test!
  • When you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, excessively sweating, breathing fast, heart racing:  take slow and deep breaths.  Inhale through the nose slowly until you fill up your lungs, then slowly exhale through your mouth, completely deflating your lungs.  Do this at least 5 times. Closing your eyes for a few moments and imagining a favorite or relaxing place can be added to further decrease any uncomfortable feelings. *Bonus: this can be done during the test!
  • After the test or submission of project/paper, do something you greatly enjoy.  You finished!


The World of Anxiety

By Marcella Mackowiak

Image result for pictures of anxiety

A lot of our students who come in talk about having anxiety very often. I personally sometimes feel like I’m going to drown in worry, say if a big school project is due or work stuff is overwhelming (because, really, it does happen). But I think that everyone experiences anxiety in different situations. What is the same is the typical definition and what could possibly be going through someone’s mind.

Is that person weak? A coward? Suffering from low self esteem? Image result for pictures of anxiety

Or is it simply that they don’t have the skills to cope with things that others find easy? Today, one of my students told me about the unhealthy way that [they] deal with their anxiety, and while we at Options all understand what that means, not everyone does.

Kirsten Corley wrote a great article for the website Thought Catalog which gives a great description of what anxiety is. I appreciated reading this. It helps all of us to understand why that person with anxiety isn’t weak or a coward. Enjoy…

What Anxiety Actually Is, Because It’s More Than ‘Just Worrying’

Image result for pictures of anxiety



How to Help Students with Learning Challenges Build Healthy Self-Esteem

By the Options for College Success staff


We are proud to support our Director of Programs in the publishing of her first guest blog entry for Beyond Book Smart.  Please click on the link below:



National Stress Awareness Day

By Samantha Kolkey

These “National Days” are frequent, and today is one that should be recognized and celebrated–National Stress Awareness Day! Now, most of us are very much aware of stress and our personal stress levels.  Here are 5 things you can do right now to decrease your stress and honor this National Day:

  • Stretch! It gives yourself a quick break from whatever you are doing, and helps you focus on your body and release tension.  This can be done standing or sitting. Raise your arms over head (clasp the hands if you are able to), then bend your torso to the right and then left.  Do this slowly, and make sure to breathe with the movement. For more, see @rachelbrathen and her five seated yoga poses:
  • Take 5 deep breathes.  Inhale through the nose for three to five slow counts, filling your lungs all the way. Pause for a moment with your full lungs. Then slowly exhale through the mouth for three to five counts.  Repeat this four more times (or even more if you prefer!).
  • Get moving or get outside! Based on your ability, move or walk around the office/the block.  Taking a break from a task can refresh the mind and body.  This time gives you a moment away from the stress of the day.
  • Make some tea.  Sipping on hot herbal tea allows you to take a moment to yourself, and the temperature of the beverage forces one to take it slow.  The aroma can also be appealing to your sense.
  • Eat an orange. Peeling an orange is typically a task done with two hands, encouraging one to not multitask.  The citrus smell is refreshing and awakening. You can also practice intentional eating through consuming an orange.  Here is a guide to the mindful eating of an orange, or other fruit:

Below is an additional stress reliever to try.  Soft, calming music to listen to anywhere!

Have a beautiful and relaxed day!