The Sycamore School Table Display

The New Face of Autism

April 22, 2024

I’ve worked with individuals who have autism (ASD) for over 30 years. In that time, there has been a shift in our understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of autism. No two individuals with autism are the same, and every child should be understood keeping their unique strengths and struggles in mind. However, we can see common traits that allow us to view them through a particular lens. That lens helps us understand their strengths and better support their challenges.  I’m seeing more and more students who are not formally diagnosed with autism but have features consistent with the diagnosis. Many bright children struggle with social interactions and are exhausted by the demands of school. They come home spent and often take it out on their parents. I’ve met countless parents struggling to best support their children.  There is a newly identified phenomenon called autistic burnout, when an individual on the autism…

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School Counselors discuss how to start the new school year strong

Six Tips to Start the New School Year Strong

September 13, 2023

A new school year is always full of excitement and possibility, but it can also bring with it some fear and anxiety. Whether you are a student, parent, or teacher, the beginning of a new school year brings a unique sense of anticipation. This can be especially true for students starting in a new school or a new grade. What are the teachers going to be like? Will the other kids be friends with me? These are questions students might be asking themselves. As parents, we know you want your child to be happy and successful. Let’s explore six tips to start the new school year strong for parents and students. 1. Embrace Change Every new school year is a chance to start over. You can think of a new school year as a fresh start, a time to embrace the “what-ifs” and potential for growth. Though new beginnings can be…

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Person with LGBTQ+ flag

Six Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Youth in Virginia

August 4, 2023

Every student should feel safe and free to be their authentic selves. This founding principle has guided TSS since our inception. Recent legislation has questioned this basic human right for LGBTQ+ youth in Virginia. But there are many ways a school can support LGBTQ+ students in the face of these changes. I first want to assure all the members of our TSS community that we will not comply with Governor Youngkin’s updated guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.  These restrictions compromise the safety and integrity of our school community.  I’d also like to illustrate the ways TSS strives to be inclusive and help all our students feel safe, seen, and heard by creating a sense of belonging, connectedness, support, and empowerment for each and every one of our students. Here are six actions schools can take to support LGBTQ+ youth in Virginia. Below each suggestion, we describe how TSS implements these…

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Middle School students enjoying school

Summer. A New Beginning.

July 20, 2023

I’ve always thought of time in the context of school: that the beginning of the year starts in September and ends in August.  I’m often puzzled when people speak about the end of the year in December, celebrating New Year’s Eve, and making resolutions reserved only for the new calendar year.   For me, that time of reflection is in the summer. Summer is the treat we get after a long school year.  It’s a time to reset.  We can (hopefully) relax, connect with old friends, get around to reading that book that’s been sitting on our nightstand, and refinish that shelf that’s been in the garage for a while. Summer gives us a time to reflect and think about what we want to focus on and how we want the upcoming fall to go.  Rosslyn Expansion This summer has been less about relaxing and more about prepping for the…

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Sad girl

A Parent Guide for Helping Your Child Beat the Winter Blues

February 8, 2023

The short days and less favorable weather of winter often have an adverse impact on our general mood. It is not uncommon for individuals — including children — to find it difficult to stay active and optimistic during the winter months.  What is “Winter Blues” vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder (“SAD”) The “winter blues” describe the sadness and fatigue that many people experience during the winter. It may cause symptoms such as sluggishness, low interest in activities, changes in appetite, and difficulty concentrating.  Is your child has more serious symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide. This could be SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition that affects around 4% to 6% of people. This can cause depression in both men and women, especially during the winter months. It’s important to note the difference between SAD and the winter blues; SAD is a rare diagnosed condition, and more…

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coming out day

TSS Celebrates Coming Out Day

November 9, 2022

The Sycamore School celebrated National Coming Out Day 2022 on Tuesday, October 11. Dr. Rachel’s Journalism class kicked off the idea when they decided they wanted to commemorate the 34th anniversary of this day. In collaboration with school counselor Mr. Tyler, they identified ways the school could honor this milestone and the LGBTQIA+ community.  The Journalism class covered a bulletin board with resources for LGBTQIA+ students and created a banner with quotes from students about what National Coming Out Day means to them. Materials from GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network, supported robust classroom conversations. In our Morning Meeting on National Coming Out Day, students watched videos from the Human Rights Campaign that included stories of people from the LGBTQIA+ community and their coming out experiences. Students discussed the importance of these stories how we can make our community safer for all people to be themselves authentically. Some…

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The pandemic, school refusal, and mental health struggles

Communities in Crisis: The Pandemic, School Refusal, and Mental Health Struggles – What We’re Not Talking About

January 5, 2022

We are in a mental health crisis.  The pandemic is once again disrupting our daily lives, and we have a significant number of children, tweens, and teens who are not going to school. The isolation that COVID necessitated has caused a myriad of mental health issues. The “rates of depression and suicidal behaviors have increased dramatically during the past decade, and especially during the past two years” (Our National Mental Health Crisis – Psychology Today Dec. 14, 2021). Clinicians noticed a spike in anxiety before the pandemic; since then, it’s skyrocketed out of control. Some younger children have never gone to school and don’t know how to follow a routine. Others have significant social anxiety. We’re seeing a lot of regression in terms of skills that students had previously acquired. We’re also seeing an increase in eating disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. With these mental health…

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Summer Break Update at The Sycamore School - featured image

Summer Break Update

July 15, 2021

Summer: a time for barbecues, swimming pools, and some much-needed R&R. The weather outside may be slowing everyone down, but here at The Sycamore School (TSS), we’ve hit the ground running. The staff has been hard at work to get set up for the 2021-2022 school year, planning experiences and electives, re-organizing the school, and taking on those projects we didn’t have time for during the school year. Students can expect to see re-organized cabinets, spotless classrooms, and refreshed teachers come August.  Teachers have been working with their cohort partners and in content teams to create the trans-disciplinary curriculum that TSS is known for. Starting with the essential question and the final project, teachers reverse engineer an experience that’s designed to be as entertaining as it is instructive. We don’t want to spoil anything just yet, but this year’s showcases are looking to be a lively and entertaining return to…

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Tips to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

June 28, 2021

I recently was asked to give a talk for the FAA on School’s Out: Tips on How to Avoid Summer Brain Drain. Parents wanted to know how they should be engaging their students over the summer, especially in light of COVID and the hopeful relaxing of social guidelines. Parents often worry about regression and wonder if there are ways to prevent it. Many parents also have pragmatic concerns: I have to work full time over the summer, what are my kids supposed to do? Dr. David Myles, who is a pediatrician at Walter Reed and also spoke at the event, used a term I’d like to borrow. He explained that it’s best to view the summer as a bridge between the beginning and end of school.  First of all, as parents, please be kind to yourselves. This has been quite a year and we’ve all had to embrace flexibility, good…

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Summer Covid Guidelines

The New Normal

June 12, 2021

Are you excited about the prospect of a more relaxed and carefree summer? Or does the thought of parenting and navigating this new world fill you with anxiety? Maybe it’s my psychologist mind, but I think about, how comfortable are we with “getting back to normal” and what does that even look like?  Some of your children (and maybe you) are probably just itching to get outside, connect with friends, and get back to normal. Other children may be fearful and reticent to connect with peers, adults, and even relatives. Many of you are  probably somewhere in between – excited but also experiencing some reticence  and anxiety over this new world. We need to be mindful that going back to normal may feel and look different depending on the individual and that both parents and children may have strong (and differing) feelings about what that looks like.  Post-Covid Guidelines As…

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Remote Learning

Remote Learning Part II

December 15, 2020

Over the summer, we created a comprehensive COVID reopening plan which offered our students the choice of full time in-person or remote instruction. The vast majority of our students chose in-person and it has gone incredibly well. We certainly had our share of adjustments but overall the fall in-person instruction was quite successful. I think being able to offer in-person learning had significant positive effects on our students’ mental health. It also gave us an opportunity to onboard new students, establish rapport, and get our students comfortable with our routines and approach to learning.  Read more about our first week of in-person instruction on our blog “First Week of In-Person and Remote Learning.” An essential feature of our reopening plan was having a planned switch to remote learning from November 30th-January 18th. We anticipated that COVID rates would be high, it would be the height of flu season, and that…

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