The Best Valentine’s Day Gifts Can’t Be Wrapped in a Box.

Valentine’s Day is this weekend and the best gift you can give your partner is not a fancy dinner or a piece of jewelry. The greatest gift is to turn towards each other.

tiffany-blue-boxI have attended lectures by Dr. John Gottman (a professor emeritus in psychology known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations) and he uses the term “turn toward” a lot. I wasn’t always sure what he meant by that, so I did a little research. Gottman says every day we are given countless opportunities to turn towards, turn away, or turn against a partner’s bid for attention. The act of turning toward instead of away during these small moments will help you to learn to recognize your partner’s needs. These small acts will add points to your emotional bank account (deposits) and over time will have a big impact on your relationship (Gottman, Bringing Baby Home. 2010).

I use the same analogies in my parenting workshop on building an emotional bank account with your children so that, when you have to make a withdrawal, the bank is full. When you have to make a withdrawal and the emotional bank is empty, it typically doesn’t go well (you have no leverage). Gottman’s research has determined that couples who interact with five positive interactions to every one negative interaction have better relationships. So how do I fill the emotional bank (or turn towards)?

  • It starts by noticing. You need to be present and notice the good things in your partner. Slowing down and taking the time to express your appreciation fills that bank.
  • It needs to be specific. A general “good job” is okay, but to get the biggest bang for your buck, give specific praise.

This Valentine’s Day, committing to remembering to take time in even the smallest of moments and turn towards can lead to a more satisfying relationship. Forego the presents and dinner, and practice those positive interactions. Your children will thank you.

But, sweetie, if you already bought me something in a blue box with a white bow…..don’t take it back!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!


Encompass Helps Teachers and Students Learn Skills to Better Succeed in School and Life Through an Innovative Curriculum

Encompass is a leader in supporting the development of executive function skills across its programs and among local early learning professionals. ss_102245243

What a child learns before the age of 5 can directly impact his or her ability to hold a job, develop healthy relationships and deal with stress later in life—major factors that contribute to the overall health of a community.

This is one reason the quality of early learning programs is significant. For example, between the first day of preschool and the first day of kindergarten, young children are expected to learn how to focus on a task, control impulses and ask for help when needed. These are examples of executive function skills—the abilities that serve as the foundation all children need to succeed in school and life.

sidebarChildren don’t naturally develop executive function skills. These abilities must be nurtured by parents, teachers and caregivers during the earliest years. Research shows that fostering these abilities in young children improves academic performance, increases high school graduation and college completion rates—helping build a more productive workforce for our community.

>>click here for the science of executive function<<   

Executive Function Development in Our Community Right Now

Encompass is a leader in supporting the development of executive function skills across its programs in education and pediatric therapy—and also coordinating a curriculum for local early learning professionals to improve the executive function skills of their students.

As the only organization in King County (and 1 of only 6 in Washington) to be selected to participate in a pilot program known as “Executive Function Learning Communities”, Encompass trained members of its staff and local early learning professionals in January 2014 using a professional curriculum to build knowledge of executive function and to support executive function in an early learning setting.


“Encompass strives to be on the cutting edge when it comes to research related to early childhood development, so imagine my excitement when we were invited to participate in a state-wide research study on the development and role of executive function skills in young children,” said Kerry Beymer, parenting support and education manager at Encompass.

>>click here for the full details of how Encompass participated in the study<< 

The expertise and leadership in executive function skill development Encompass offers means the children in our community—especially those participating in Encompass programs—have the opportunity to be better prepared for school in terms of making good decisions, participating successfully in the classroom and adapting well to changing situations.

50 acti efResults of the Executive Function Curriculum
Preschool students in our local executive function Early Learning Community were given a pre-test to benchmark executive function and a post-test approximately 100 days later to assess how intentional executive function skill development activities in the classroom affected students (this test is called the Minnesota Executive Function Scale).

Children’s scores improved over 100 days, and this was equally true for all age groups (3, 4, and 5 years).

“That means that researchers can say a real change has occurred; the difference was not just due to chance. We also can conclude that the improvements were genuine and not just due to teachers’ beliefs about the children. Gains in executive function mean that children will be better able to benefit from the lessons teachers give, and to manage their emotions and reactions when they play with their peers. This is an exciting first step in creating a program to help children learn self-control skills, which are crucially important for learning,” states Stephanie M. Carlson, Professor Institute of Child Development University of Minnesota, in a letter to participating professionals.

As we close 2014, phase 2 of this executive function skill development curriculum begins—and the focus is on “teaching the teachers” and more widely sharing the curriculum to help more early learning programs increase potential in the classroom.

“I’m recruiting all local early learning professionals to participate in this year’s Early Learning Communities,” says Beymer. “The curriculum has been edited down to just 9 weeks (from 20) and the testing administered to children has been streamlined with an automated tablet version of the test (versus manually giving it and scoring it).”

Parents and early learning professionals can get involved in developing executive function skills in the children of our community.

Parent education is a pillar of Encompass programming—the organization believes knowledge of executive function should be shared with parents and is leading a FREE Executive Function Parenting Workshop on Thursday, December 4th from 5:30-7pm at Virginia Mason in Issaquah. Walk away with information and resources to develop your child’s executive function skills now.

On December 3rd from 6:30-8:30, early learning professionals can join Kerry Beymer for a workshop on Supporting Learning in the Classroom through Play to earn STARS credits (discussion on how play builds executive function skills included).

For more information and to register for either workshop, contact Kerry Beymer, the parenting education and support manager at Encompass (425.888.2777 or



New PCIT Certification Assures High-Quality Parenting Coaching for Encompass Families

By Liann Smith, Washington State Parent Support Specialist & Encompass PCIT CoachLiann

Here is a mouthful — “Washington State PCIT Parent Support Specialist.” What does that mean? It is a certification that is 3 years in the making. In 2011, I had been practicing as a Parent coach for two years, using a very good curriculum, but I still had parents struggling with their child’s misbehaviors. As I researched more tools, I found Parent Child Interaction Training (PCIT). It is a set of parenting tools that increases emotional connection and control with a child and teaches parents how to set calm, predictable limits. Best of all, the parent is taught specific skills and then coached while they interact with their child in a playroom via an ear bud (the coach views the parent-child through a one -way viewing window).

To earn this certification, I engaged in the 40 hours of direct teaching from the University of Washington at Harborview medical Center. The next step was a one-year internship with monthly fellowship phone calls with our trainer. Next was submitting three DVD recordings demonstrating the coaching skills specific to PCIT and having a live observation with my trainer. Lastly, was an application process with PCIT International, meeting all the requirements to take the certification examination. On August 29th, 2014 I passed the PCIT International exam.

Why is this important for local families? It ensures a high quality of parent coaching. Although this process was rigorous, it was surely worth it. I learned to be precise with the tools of Parent Child Interaction Training. And the certification affirms PCIT as an evidenced-based practice, meaning there are specific assessments in place that guide the coach for predictable outcomes. The outcomes increase emotional connection between parent and child and decrease negative behaviors of the child. Simply put, families enjoy one another.

When families come to see me for the first time, I always explain to the child that I am their parent’s teacher. They always smile at this statement. I tell the child, “Your parents told me they don’t want to be good parents, they want to be GREAT parents.” With the tools of Parent Child Interaction Training, I truly do help parents be GREAT parents.

Here is a video outlining what the Encompass PCIT lab looks like, how the coach interacts with families and some of the tools you will learn if you engage with Parent Child Interaction Training. VIDEO — 

Call 425.888.2777 for more information on how your family can participate in PCIT.

Click here for more information about PCIT International.

Back-to-School at Encompass! Be welcomed, ready, involved and connected!

By Julie Forslin, Early Learning Program Manager10423946_10152302106013061_7893580381580850930_n

September 2nd begins the 2014/2015 school year at Encompass! We have been getting ready and are so excited to meet our new students and see how much our returning students have grown this summer.

Learning as much as we can about your student and your family is a priority for us—and we believe every child learns and grows in his/her unique way. We will design our program around them. We’ve found this approach works much better than changing your child to fit our program! So please join us on Thursday, September 3 from 6:30-7:30 for Parent Orientation to review the handbook and get to know us, too (please contact us if you have a conflict and we will make arrangements to get you the information).

It is my hope that your family not only takes full advantage of the programs offered by our early learning program, but also utilizes the many programs at Encompass that include parenting support groupsparenting education workshops and coaching, toddler playgroups, pediatric therapy, parent nights out, and more.

How to Get Involved at Encompass

Share Resources & Camaraderie – Moms Moment – September 1

Volunteering – Donate Your Time & Energy to Nurturing Children & Enriching Families

Get Connected & Informed – Attend Parent Orientation – September 3 at 6:30

Reach Your Family’s Potential – Attend our FREE Parenting Workshop on Avoiding Power Struggles – September 4

Get involved with our Autumn Gala – Attend, plan, volunteer, invite friends: Now through Nov 1

Learn more about your child — Join us at our monthly FREE developmental screenings – September 8 (Snoqualmie) and 9 (Issaquah)

Experienced Childcare & a Lot of Fun – Register for Parents’ Night Out – September 13

Be Welcomed, Informed & Inspired – Attend our Moms Meeting – September 16

Engage Your Toddler Developmentally & Meet Other Parents — Join our Toddler Playgroups – Register now. Begins September 5

Support Encompass with Every Purchase through AmazonSmile –

Purchase comedy night tickets and support Encompass – October 1

Follow us on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blog

Decrease Parental Stress and Target Challenging Behavior

By Kerry Beymer

PFP_WashingtonColorEach April, people across the country join forces to raise awareness of the terrible tragedy of child abuse and neglect for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. At Encompass, we know that parenting can be difficult – especially when kids have challenging behaviors. Parenting is the most challenging yet most important job we do and in those challenging times parental stress runs high. Parental stress levels can be a predictor of child abuse.

There is no single known cause of child maltreatment. Nor is there any single description that captures all families in which children are victims of abuse and neglect. Child abuse occurs across all socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. No one is immune. It must be emphasized, however, that while certain factors often are present among families where maltreatment occurs, this does not mean that the presence of these factors will always result in child abuse and neglect.

In 2011, Child Protective Services (CPS) accepted referrals for 46,636 individual children, equaling a rate of 30 per 1,000 children under age 18. Bear in mind that only a portion of child maltreatment is reported to CPS, and not all referrals are investigated.

To reduce child abuse and neglect in our community, Encompass offers a host of programing that can help decrease the parental stress and help parents sort through their children’s challenging behaviors, including:

Each of us can make a difference preventing child abuse and neglect. There are a few ways for you to get involved:

  • Educate yourself and others about child abuse and its prevention by visiting or
  • Build a support network by increasing your involvement in your community. Getting involved with Encompass programs, community center groups, or library programs is a good start.
  • Volunteer for organizations serving children and families.
  • Contribute to organizations working to prevent child abuse. At Encompass, your contribution will go a long way at helping to develop healthy children and create strong families – two critical components of child abuse prevention. To donate, click here.

With your support, we can to increase child abuse prevention efforts in our community.

To report child (or adult) abuse, call 866-ENDHARM in Washington State.

“TherAPPy”: Encompass uses technology in pediatric therapy

Example of an app Encompass uses: Handwriting Without Tears.

Example of an app Encompass uses: Handwriting Without Tears.

Tablets (like iPads and the Microsoft Surface) are increasingly used by Occupational Therapists and Encompass has integrated the use of tablets and apps into working on specific skills with our patients. Megan Daniels, a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant at Encompass, told us about how she uses apps to assist in promoting age-appropriate skills.

Skills that can be developed through apps:

  • Fine motor skills for dexterity, finger isolation, strength, grading movement and pressure when using stylus to promote correct pencil grip. Also correct letter formation with specific apps.

Below are examples of the skills and apps that many children could benefit from using!

  • Visual motor skills for tracking, eye convergence/divergence, eye-hand coordination, foreground and background, bilateral integration and crossing midline
  • Self-regulation and impulse control
  • Sequencing and following directions
  • Social interactions and turn taking

Examples of the types of apps that are used for fine motor and visual motor skills are mazes, matching, puzzles, memory, and handwriting. Other apps that assist with visual motor are hidden pictures, word searches, popping/catching moving objects across the screen and finding the differences between pictures. Apps that are used for self-regulation and impulse control include metronome, music, interactive books and visual stimuli. Many app examples listed above can be graded to include (or already include) promotion of sequencing, direction following, social interactions and turn taking.

Encompass Occupational Therapists also use their tablets to record and take pictures for consults with colleagues, demonstrations for parents, baseline data and video modeling.

There are many great opportunities to incorporate apps in assisting your child’s development and improving age-appropriate skills!

Here are the apps Encompass Occupational Therapists currently use (new ones launch every day—check out our Pinterest board dedicated to apps for therapy & education, including how to CHILDPROOF your tablet — ):

  • Handwriting Without Tears (Occupational Therapist-based program that has the letters in a specific order that is easier for kids to build their skills on).
  • Sam Phibian
  • Trainyard EX
  • Alien Buddies
  • Flow Free
  • Highlights Countdown (hidden pictures)
  • iMazing
  • Lego Juniors
  • Metronome
  • Even Monsters get sick (interactive book)
  • Nighty Night (interactive book)
  • Pandora

Your child’s backpack can be ‘spine safer’

Two kids with backpacksBy Nicole Demetrescu

At their core, backpacks are a good idea. They keep students’ belongings together, protect their lunches from the elements and foster communication between parents and teachers.

But backpacks have drawbacks, especially as children age and bear greater academic loads. More books and equipment add to the weight of a pack and to the burden on a child’s spine.

The latest research shows us that anything beyond 10 percent of a child’s weight places unhealthy stress on the spine. It pushes the head forward and increases the compression of spinal discs. If these issues are not corrected, chronic pain can result, especially in older teenagers.

How a pack is worn also makes a difference. Low and loose on the back creates greater stress than higher and tighter. And if a pack is carried in a hand or over one shoulder – forget it.

If I could have my way, students would have one book for each subject at school and another at home, erasing any need for transport. Or they would carry books in wheeled bags, removing the spinal load entirely.

But neither of these options is practical for most of today’s students. Here are tips for how your student can make his or her backpack “spine safer”:

  • Keep the load no greater than 10 percent of body weight. Strategize with your student on what books he or she really needs each day. Create a place at home for books to be organized and easily accessed to ease day-to-day transitions.
  • Does your student have a locker at school? Encourage him or her to use it and carry only the materials needed for each class. Installing a portable shelf in tall lockers can help keep things organized and user-friendly.
  • Wear the pack high and relatively snug across both shoulders. If possible, buy a pack with a waist strap to shift weight from the shoulders and upper back to the pelvis. (Bags with waist and chest straps are doubly good if the fit is high and snug.)
  • Avoid single-strap bags, especially in middle- and high-school years when book loads are greater.
  • Place heavy items closest to the back inside the pack and light items in pockets and outer areas. This keeps most weight closest to the spine, reducing stress on vertebrae and discs.
  •  Posture, posture, posture! Especially in adolescence when bodies change proportions, poor posture can cause back, neck and shoulder pain – and adding a pack often makes it worse! Use this mantra to coach your student on proper posture: “Ears over shoulders over hips.”
  • Physically active students generally have greater strength, endurance and abdominal stability than more sedentary students. Help your students engage in activities they find enjoyable. If they exercise, encourage them to target (with moderation) the abdominals and buttocks at their “core.” Strong tummies and hips make happier lower backs.

Consult a physical therapist if your student complains of neck, shoulder or back soreness, or if you are concerned about your student’s spinal health. Physical therapists also assess and treat joint pain, muscle soreness and weakness, postural problems, balance dysfunction and coordination challenges.

Try these tips, and your student’s spine will thank you!

Nicole Demetrescu, DPT, is a physical therapist at Encompass.,