Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parents should know what teens know about sneaking out.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, October 27, 2009

wikiHow coaches teenagers on how to sneak out of the house. If parents knew what teenagers know and what they think before they actually sneak out of the house, parents would be in a better position to guard against this dangerous behavior. Especially, notice the part entitled, "TRICKS PARENTS USE TO CATCH KIDS." If you're not already aware of these tricks, add them to your arsenal.

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Sally, Rocco, and Cisco: To Be Continued.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, October 26, 2009

Cisco walked in the door at 6:15AM. He thought he would make it back before we woke up. He was wrong. We told him this was a violation of his house arrest and that we were taking him up to Shuman Center. He went willingly.

Fortunately, Cisco has an excellent P.O. who had all the paper work in order and Cisco was admitted within fifteen minutes. We attended our PSST meeting that afternoon. I don't remember everything about the meeting because Cisco's welfare was on my mind but one thing that stands out clear is that a parent who attended the PSST meeting talked about the death of a child, due to drugs.

I take this moment to pause and be thankful that Cisco is in the system. That he has not fatally hurt anyone including himself and that we did the right thing by taking him to Shuman.

Our son spent 90 days at a rehabilation center this summer and was home and clean for an additional 40 days, he was attending a program at Gateway Rehab, he was doing ninety 12-step meetings in 90 days, his grades were good. He has a supportive network. I wrote down these and other reasons and asked his P.O. to consider letting him come back home. It was a positive experience to explain to Cisco that we wanted him home, there would be rules and restrictions that needed to be followed but we wanted him home.

Cisco had a hearing on Tuesday.

Luckily, the judge agreed to let Cisco come home after a home detention monitor was set up.

It's curious but this is when I went onto an emotional roller coaster. I truly wanted Cisco home but began to doubt if it was the best decision. After all, what do I know about addictions? I was wondering if Cisco would make it even a day on the home monitor. He might be impulsive and run away or something. I doubted if Cisco had enough respect for Rocco and myself to follow the rules.

After the hearing, the reasons why he should be placed all came flooding into my consciousness. He may hurt someone or hurt himself. I would be the one to blame because I went to court and expressed that he should be home.

Fear and doubt led to sleepless nights and sleepless nights lead to confusion.

To make matters worse there was technical difficulty in getting the phone line into our house for the home detention monitor.

Then I came home from work one day to a message that Cisco was shipped out to Auberle and that he was safe. That was the whole message: "Hello, This is So-and-so, we have your son at Auberle Male Shelter and he is safe. If you have any questions please call 412-XXX-XXXX.

- to be continued -

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Learning To "Un-learn" by Rocco
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, October 22, 2009

Try this little exercise. First fold your hands loosely. Relax. Notice how comfortable you feel. Next move all of your fingers down one. Notice how uncomfortable it feels.

I once participated in a week long very intensive and comprehensive driving class so that I could transport company personnel. One of our first lessons was to learn to “un-learn” some of our driving skills. Some of this took us out of our comfort zone, especially when they explained Rule #1:

“If you determine that there is no way to avoid crashing your vehicle then save yourself first and worry about your passengers later.”

We all felt a little uncomfortable with that. We all had that time-honored ideal instilled in us of sacrificing ourselves to keep others out of harm’s way.

But they made it clear that, as the driver, you are the most important person in that vehicle. You are responsible for keeping as much control of the vehicle as possible. If you are incapacitated, then you have lost the ability to control the vehicle and then all of your passengers are in extreme danger.

Looking back over the past few years we can see now that we needed to learn to “un-learn” some of our parenting skills and to try something a lot less comfortable.

Our son’s attitude and grades were deteriorating and he was having more and more difficulty dealing with teachers and other students. We knew that we were good parents and were ready to use all of our best parenting skills to help our son through his issues. To address his problems we researched pamphlets, books and the internet. We worked closely with him, his school, private tutors and several counselors to get a handle on his problems.

We didn’t realize that our biggest roadblock was that he was quickly becoming an addict and that, as an addict, our son considered his school, his tutors, his counselors and especially his parents as his biggest problem. The last thing that he wanted to hear was that the individuals that he was hanging with were using him as much as he was using them. Using them to get high and to gain affirmation that there was nothing wrong with their behavior. They reaffirmed that it was everyone else that caused all of his problems. It was the school and all their bullsh*t rules, it was the other kids that he felt were just as bad if not worse than he was (but got away with it) and it was especially his parents forcing all of their family time garbage, church crap and their useless counselors on him. He didn’t “get it” that his attitude and his failing grades were making his difficulties worse. He didn’t “get it” that “guilt by association” and more and more encounters with the police were making everything worse for him outside of school.

And I am sorry to say that at that time we didn’t “get it” either.

Our family was out of control and we were sacrificing ourselves; our family, our emotions, our social life, our jobs and our own physical and mental health. We can’t say exactly when it happened because it is all kind of a blur now but we knew we were out of control and we were about to crash. We were out of options emotionally and financially. We needed some intensive and comprehensive lessons on how to learn to “un-learn” some of our parenting skills and to become competent at something a lot less comfortable…

… “to save ourselves first”.

We needed to take back control of our family and our own lives before we could save our son’s life.

We were very fortunate at that point to find and to begin attending the PSST sessions. They have provided us with some very uncomfortable but valuable lessons on how to handle our son’s addiction and to take back the power and how to talk less and act more. These are by no means the easiest methods to employ. It felt awkward, painful and unpleasant to admit that yes my child has an addiction problem, they were out of control and we needed to take assertive action. Nevertheless the more that we learn and the more we put into these lessons into practice the easier it becomes. You will see that once you get your child into the system you will discover a storehouse full of valuable resources to help you that you didn’t realize were available.

Over the last year we have seen encouraging results. We are not through with our problems yet but we have regained much of our control and are on a better course. We now realize that we are not alone in this. We have found a lot of caring people who understand exactly what we are going through and who offer a lot of support and encouragement.

We can only urge you to take the time to stop into a session and to try something a little uncomfortable that can make some real changes in your life.

What we have learned is that, yes we are good parents and that we are doing the best that we can for ourselves and our son.

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, October 18, 2009

Posted for a parent named Linda

As a parent of an ADHD child, I have always been a bit confused by the diagnostic label since my son could focus on quite a few different activities from reading to sports to computer games for long periods of times. Attending to boring (for him) math was a different issue altogether. But was that an attention problem or an interest problem? From my perspective, what I always felt my son lacked was self regulation and impulse control.

A social worker sent me this website for LD OnLine a resource for learning disabilities and for ADHD information. The page this link takes you to is written by Dr. Sam Goldstein who explains that ADHD is more a problem of self-control than attention. FINALLY, an explanation that makes sense and matches perfectly what we have observed in our home all these years!


The LD OnLine website has lots of articles on it as well as forums for readers to discuss common issues.

One article I found on the website was a review of the research on kids with learning disabilities that looks at their high rates of involvement in risk behaviors, school failure, substance use and abuse, and juvenile delinquency. The article casts a critical eye at the research findings and asks good questions about whether the learning disability (ADHD and many other diagnoses seem to be lumped together in the category of learning disability) caused the other problems or if something like the lack of success in school triggered low self esteem that triggered the other problems. The article points out that of course most kids with LD do not end up as juvenile offenders, but if you are reading my post here and have a kid with ADHD or a LD, it might be safe to say that our kids could have qualified to be in these studies. Anyway, the writers of the article found that the most promising resiliency forces for the kids included awareness and knowledge. The more we know, the better we and our kids can help ourselves.


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Relapse Takes Mom for a Ride on an Emotional Roller Coaster.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hi, This is Sally. I have finally found a few minutes when my mind is clear enough to explain about Cisco's relapse. Cicso had 90 days clean in Ridgeview plus approximately 40 days clean in our home when he relapsed. Wow, that very last word was hard to say :(

Friday a week ago, women's intuition had me wake up at 4 a.m. and I went downstairs to Cisco's room. I got that sick feeling in my gut when I saw the empty bed. He was no where to be found and he was on house arrest. This was a violation and I knew it had to be reported. So I climbed the stairs and went into our bedroom and stood their a minute with my head hanging low.

I dreaded having to wake my hard working husband who was in a peaceful sleep to tell him this bad news. Rocco shook the sleep from his head and sized up the situation. In his logical manner his plan was to first wait by the front door and see who Cisco was out with. I am honest enough to say that my first feelings were just IGNORE this episode, go back to sleep, let this blow over. I'm sure Rocco felt the same as he stared out at the dark, wet street. Rocco said that maybe Cisco was just walking around and not smoking dope. After awhile it sinks in that if your kid is out at 4 in the morning while on house arrest the authorities need to be called. I dialed the number but could not speak so I handed the phone to Rocco and he got everything set into action.


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Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Drug and Alcohol Unit continues to provide a unique support for parents who have teenagers that they suspect are using drugs and alcohol. PSST (Parent Survival Skills Training) is open to any parent in Allegheny County!! Yes, that means that they do not have to be involved with Juvenile Court to come. AND, parents who do have youth involved with Juvenile Court do not have to be referred…..they can just show up!! It’s FREE and it’s open to anyone who wants help.

Six years ago, Lloyd Woodward decided that it was time to provide a service to the parents that he was working with due to his own frustration from releasing his clients’ home to the same environment they left and turning out unsuccessful. Many of the young people in Juvenile Court have similar characteristics – they need structure and discipline to prevent them from getting trapped in the system and making changes at home makes a significant difference.

For those of you who have never heard about PSST, it is a group developed for parents who are frustrated and unsuccessful at managing their teenager. This doesn’t mean that they are not good parents. As a matter of fact, a large percentage of the parents that attend have raised one or more children with success, but this one is much different. Most parents come to group out of desperation. They just don’t know what else to do.

Parent Survival Skills Training is designed to empower parents. Some of these teenagers have held their parents hostage. The parents are desperate to find a way to survive. More importantly, they are desperate to find a way to help their teenagers survive the deadly game of drug abuse. By the time they come to group, many of the parents have already learned that “bailing their child out of trouble” only adds to the problem. We refuse to place any blame on the parents for having a troubled child. We want them to identify how they are being manipulated, rise up, and take back control.

The group leaders begin each PSST meeting by going around the room and introducing themselves and briefly summarizing their situation. It is either through suggestions by the parents or situations described during introductions that the role-plays are formulated. Most of the group consists of role-plays and problem-solving techniques. The role-plays are designed to be fun and educational. We have found that either most parents like participating in role-plays or they enjoy talking about them afterwards.

Even though the group primarily focuses on the behavior of the youth, the parents are also encouraged to take care of themselves. It is true that in a destructive co-dependent relationship, the parent sacrifices having a rewarding life of their own. In this regard, it is important that parents know how to meet their own needs, independent of what their child is going through.

At the end of group each participant is permitted a final statement. This is an opportunity for each parent to state how group was of value to him or her. This allows the parent an opportunity to further internalize what some of the group values. It also gives the group facilitators an opportunity to summarize or focus on one thing that they hope that parents take with them from group. Additionally, it is one more chance for parents to affect each other and bond.

The Court has not ordered any of these parents to attend group; they come because they want help. Not surprisingly, many of the solutions happen because the parents share ideas with each other. Many of the parents come in saying that this is what they wish they had available to them a long time ago and are grateful for the help. We have parents attending from all over the city and suburbs. Distance does not seem to be an issue.

PSST has grown to 3 meetings per month which all meet from 9:00am to 11:30am: 1st Saturday of the month at the Eastern District Office in Wilkinsburg; 2nd Saturday of the month at the Trinity Lutheran Church on Brandt School Road in Wexford; and the 3rd Saturday of the month is at the Outreach Office in Mt. Lebanon. The parents also developed and support a web blog at www.gopsst.org ; which contains the addresses and directions for the meetings, but also a wealth of information that is written by the parents through their own experiences.

Because of PSST, the effectiveness of Court Probation intervention is greatly enhanced. Helping parents to control and supervise their own youth is a more cost effective way to provide intervention. Feel free to contact Valerie Ketter or Lloyd Woodward for more information.

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Grand Opening New Wexford Location was Today!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nice turn out of about 8 parents, Kathie Tagmyer our resident Family Therapist, and Valerie Ketter, Supervisor of the Court's D&A Unit. Vanilla Moose in that cake- oh yeah! Click here for how to find our new location.

We had a couple new faces. The role-plays we did were on teenager badgering of parents, out-of-control teenagers, and "Mom you made me into an addict." We spoke about how effective it can be to agree with a small part of what the teenager is saying and not just to give it lip service but REALLY agree with something and then twist it into your parent message. One parent said that it seemed like we are learning how to manipulate the manipulators and you know, that might just say it pretty good!

It seemed like a lot of fun and the participation as usual was excellent.

Our new location is so perfect for us. Kitchen, coffee makers, big warm room, etc. Why not come and check us out at one of three locations? See the panel on the left margin for directions to all of our meeting locations!

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Parent of the Year!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, October 09, 2009

Greg and Debby gave a gracious combined speech last night as they accepted the Allegheny County Court Parent-of-the-Year award. Debby read the actual letter that she read in Judge Borkowski's Court room two years ago and Greg waxed eloquent about their committment to continue to do the right thing by their Son and to continue to attend PSST to reach out to less experienced parents.

Greg spoke about he and Debby took home somethings that were helpful from the very firts PSST two years ago; and how some of things learned at PSST took longer for them to come around to trying. Debby spoke about how difficult it was to read that letter in Court because she knew that her son was right there listening. As it turned out, he wasn't paying attention as his drug problem was a bit to active for him to pay close attention. It may also be that their son, like so many of our teenagers, was just used to tuning out parents.

Greg also spoke about how important it is for both of them to give back to the PSST something of what they have learned. He mentioned that shen they first started coming around to PSST there were other more experienced parents that reached out to them and he emphasized that having those veteran parents in the group who had walked down a similar road and often had seen huge turn arounds in their teenagers really gave them hope at a time when things seems so hopeless.

Debby and Greg were always the kind of parents who were willing to do the heavy lifting. They drug tested several times a week. They came to a lot of PSST. They met with the PO and with the school officials as needed. And they worked with Wesley Spectrum Family Therapy on an on goign basis. In fact, Kathy Tagmyer, who unfortunaely was ill last night, had helped to write the nonimation and of course she was as proud of Greg and Debby as any of us were.

Their son now has over two years clean and a high school diploma. He is looking for employment now and soon will also be looking into furthering his education. If any readers can offer any job leads for Greg and Debby's son please email lloyd.woodward@court.allegheny.pa.us or leave a comment here with your email. He is a hardworking young man who, with the help of his parents, has learned how to wake up early every monning and get about having a productive day.

Joe Bellante author Left For Dead was a guest speaker and you can see him pictured above with Debby and Greg. Also, the first picture above from left to right is Judge Wecht, Judge McVay, Judge Hans Greco, Judge Clark, Greg, Debby, Lloyd, Jim Rieland, Director of Adult and Juvenile Probation Departments. The picture on the bottom right from left to right is Lloyd Woodward, Valerie Ketter, Debby and Greg McClemens.

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