, ,

How to Set Realistic Goals for the New Year


The beginning of a New Year is an opportune time for setting a goal and looking forward to the wonderful feeling of achieving it.

As an Advance LA Life Skills Coach, I teach my clients the important skill of goal setting. I explain that goal setting means choosing something that you want to accomplish and then taking the steps to make it happen. A phrase to keep in mind is, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!”  I explain that a coach can offer support to help a client achieve their goal but, ultimately, it’s the person who is in charge of achieving his or her goal.


Fun Facts:

  • 90% of successful people set goals.
  • By setting goals, a person chooses where they will go in life.
  • By setting a goal, a person can achieve more, improve performance, increase self-esteem, and increase self-confidence.
  • By setting a goal, a person can feel less stress, concentrate better and feel happier!


A good strategy for setting goals is to use the “S.M.A.R.T.” strategy. This means you make your goal Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Specific:  Define what is important to you: what do you want to accomplish? Decide exactly what you want your goal to be. For example, instead of “get better grades” the goal should be stated as, “I will earn a B or better in my math class.”  Instead of “make more friends” the goal should be stated as “I will take a risk and join a school club or attend a club l.a. event this month.”

Measurable: Include precise amounts or dates so you know when you have met your goal. For example, “I will complete my math homework every day” or “I will invite a classmate to get coffee after class once a month.”

Attainable: Give your goal some real thought. Is it YOUR goal or really your parents? Is it actually possible or too far out of reach? For example, “I will go for a brisk walk four times a week” may be more attainable than  “I will run a 5K race.”

Relevant: Your goal must further you in the direction you want to go in. Review your goal once a month and determine if it is still important to you. Talk about your goal with a parent, coach, or teacher. If the goal is no longer of interest, feel free to change it!

Timely: A deadline is essential so you know when to celebrate your success. It feels great to achieve a goal so choose an end time that is realistic. For example, “I will make my bed in the morning every day for four weeks.”

And of course the best part of goal setting: choosing a reward for when the goal is met. Enjoy the feeling of satisfaction of a job well done! If you did not achieve the goal, take the time to reflect on what happened. Was the goal unrealistic? Did you try your best? And remember, a goal can always be adjusted and a person can always try again!

Goal setting is empowering because it provides a focus and a true sense of accomplishment when the goal is met. Setting a realistic goal is a skill of knowing how to make your dreams a reality.



Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

, ,

Returning To College With A New Outlook

Parents of college freshmen look forward to their child coming home for the Winter break. But parental excitement can turn to worry when their child announces that they do not want to return to college after the holiday. This is not an unusual situation as thirty percent of college freshman will not return for their sophomore year with a large percentage not returning after the Thanksgiving or holiday break.

In a recent New York Times article, “When a College Student Comes Home To Stay,” authors William Stixrud and Ned Johnson discussed this trend. The authors noted that college freshmen are often devastated about not feeling emotionally able to return to school. In addition, they experience intense worry that they have disappointed their parents.

It is easy to understand how freshman year can be overwhelming as college life is a highly dysregulated environment. There is little structure, inconsistent sleep and eating patterns, and often a great deal of alcohol and drug usage. To add to this mix, students often feel intense pressure to succeed socially as well as get good grades. According to the American College Health Association, 62 percent of undergrads reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety.”

If your child says that he does not want to return to college after the Thanksgiving break or after winter break, there are steps a parent can take to offer support and guidance.

The following are suggestions for parents to assist their child with a plan for returning to college:

1.) Encourage your child to find a job: Working helps young adults learn to manage their time and budget their finances. Discuss with your child that a first job may not be the beginning of their career but it can be a wonderful opportunity to gain job skills. Grocery store jobs or retail jobs teach young adults responsibility, the importance of punctuality, and how to get along with co-workers and supervisors.

2.) Encourage your child to take a class at your local community college: Discuss with your child that he or she can take a class for the sole purpose of exploring a interesting subject without the pressure of needing to get a good grade. Often times college freshman become overwhelmed, and discouraged, by required courses that are of little interest. Discovering a true passion may motivate a young adult to return to college more focused and invigorated.

3.) Address any mental health issues: Parents often want to believe that enrolling in college will eliminate any mental health issues that were present in high school. However, college life tends to exacerbate issues due to the lack of support from family and close friends. Taking time off from college may allow a young person to gain a better understanding of their strengths and challenges. When returning to college,  parents can require that their child be able to demonstrate knowledge about campus support services in case the need arises.

4.) Life Skills Coaching: A life skills coach can provide the support a returning college freshman needs to regain their confidence. Learning time management and executive functioning skills can help a young adult learn to budget their time and stay on top of their school work. Coaches can assist young adults with how to get involved in campus activities. Further, a coach can help a young adult increase their self-reliance and independence allowing for a successful re-entry to college.



Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.


Helping Young Adults After A Wildfire

Experiencing a wildfire can be frightening and traumatic. Seeing the devastation to homes and communities can be overwhelming and can undermine an individual’s sense of security. The wildfires in Calabasas, Agoura, Westlake, and Thousand Oaks have presented intense coping challenges including the need to relocate, especially when a home or community is destroyed.

Wildfires come with unique challenges in that the amount of warning can vary from one neighborhood to the next. While some people may have had hours or days to evacuate, others may have had only a few minutes to gather their belongings and leave their home. Even if an evacuation wasn’t necessary, preparing for the possibility can be frightening along with watching the images of nearby homes burning on the news and social media.

A young adult’s possible reactions may include sleeping and eating disturbances, agitation, increase in conflicts, physical complaints, and poor concentration.

Parents and caregivers can offer the following strategies to help young adults cope:

  1. Remain calm and reassuring: Acknowledge the loss or destruction, but empathize the community’s efforts to clean up and rebuild. Offer reassurance that, in time, life will return to normal.
  2. Acknowledge and normalize feelings: Create time and space for the discussion of feelings and concerns. Listen and empathize. Offer reassurance that intense reactions are normal and expected.
  3. Promote positive coping and problem-solving skills: Encourage young adults to develop realistic and positive methods of coping that allow for the management of anxiety and that match the situation.   
  4. Emphasize resiliency: Help young adults identify what they have done in the past that helped them cope when they were frightened or upset. Bring their attention to other communities that have experienced wildfires and recovered.
  5. If necessary, seek mental health support. Individual counseling can help a young adult develop effective means of coping, and learn to understand and adjust following a wildfire.

Parents and caregivers can help young adults with special needs in the aftermath of a wildfire by remaining calm and reassuring. Response efforts should emphasize teaching effective coping strategies and offering support to help young adults understand that their reactions are normal and expected.




Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.


10 Tips to Keep Holiday Stress at Bay for Young Adults

Holidays bring fun and joy – and also a fair amount of stress! Decorating, holiday visits, and shopping for gifts can be overwhelming for all family members. You may notice that your adult child with special needs is feeling overwhelmed and stressed out but they are having trouble articulating how they are feeling. It can be helpful to have a conversation about how feeling anxious during the holiday season is a very common experience.


Something you can’t see or touch but can definitely feel.

The name for Tension in your mind and body.

A Reaction to things that are new, different or overwhelming.

It’s Especially common during the holiday season.

A Source of headaches and stomachaches.

Something you can learn to handle!

A little stress isn’t bad. Sometimes stress is good because it can energize you to get up in the morning and get to work or school on time. But too much stress can make you feel sick, tired, sad and worried.

The following are strategies when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out:

STRESS MESS: Everything annoys you and you want to scream

STRATEGY: Take some time alone, put on headphones, close your eyes and imagine you are in your favorite place in the world.

STRESS MESS: Your feel restless, frantic and jumpy.

STRATEGY: Do something positive with your energy; go for a run or a long walk. If you are at work or in school, take a bathroom break or get a drink of water.

STRESS MESS: You can’t stop worrying, even about unrealistic things.

STRATEGY: Do something creative like draw or paint, bake cookies, listen to music, go for a walk.

                        10 DAILY WAYS TO KEEP STRESS AT BAY:

  1. Be active – exercise lifts your spirits and helps you feel relaxed.
  2. Eat healthy foods – a healthy body fights stress better.
  3. Avoid caffeine – it makes a person feel more edgy.
  4. Get enough sleep each night – you will feel more relaxed when you wake up.
  5. Laugh!
  6. Be neat – being organized helps you feel in control.
  7. Express your feelings – unlock your voice and unlock your stress.
  8. Be a planner – it will help you feel in control of your day.
  9. Talk to someone about your problems – you will feel better.
  10. Take a moment each day to feel gratitude.

5 Reasons to Join ALA’s Parent2Parent Support Group

Joining a support group is a wonderful way to practice self-care. A support group can be a source of information as well as a safe place to share your experience with other people who are in similar circumstances.


Here are 5 reasons to join Advance LA’s Parent2Parent (P2P) Support Group:


  1. It’s Nice To Have Your Very Own Focus Group

The other parents in P2P can be a sounding board for you to talk through a decision that may be worrying you. Other parents can provide input and help you problem solve.


  1. Being With People Who Understand Without Having To Explain

Connecting with other parents of adult children can be a source of support. It feels good to talk and share with people who “get it” without you having to explain everything.


  1. Do You Know Anything About…..?

We are all always looking for good doctors, therapists, recreational ideas, and volunteer opportunities. A support group is a great place to ask about other people’s experiences with various professionals, organizations, and activities.


  1. You Have Valuable Insight For Others

You have valuable experiences that are helpful to someone else. When you share your story, you give support, encouragement, and helpful tips to others.


  1. You Like To Play Mahjong Too?!!

When you get to know the members of your group, you may find out that you have common interests outside of your parenting experience. Come join P2P and make a new friend!


Please join us for our Parent 2 Parent Support Group on October 26 at 5pm. Our on-going P2P (Parent to Parent)  group is a free, monthly meet-up for parents and caregivers facing the challenges of helping their young adult transition to greater independence. 

And have your young adult attend club l.a.’s Halloween Party while you are attending the P2P support group. It’s a win-win!

To inquire about future P2P meetings, email xbooker@thehelpgroup.org.


Jeri Rochman, JD, MS
Life Skills Coach & Director of Community Outreach
Advance LA


Strategies for Avoiding the Homework Battles

Homework. Just the sight of that word is enough to make some parents weep with frustration.

One of the most frequent issues that arise in parenting counseling is the afternoon battle over homework. There is usually a vicious cycle at play: your child procrastinates about getting started, you start nagging, and your child becomes overwhelmed and shuts down.

It might help to remind yourself that there is actually a reason for doing homework. Homework gives your child a chance to practice what she has learned in school. Further, homework helps children develop age-appropriate discipline and independence with respect to schoolwork.

But what often happens is that the kids who need the most practice have the hardest time completing homework. Parents should never assume that a child who resists homework is just “lazy.” Children inherently want to do well in school and they generally want to please their parents. If you know that your child has the intellectual potential to work independently yet says that he “hates school” or “hates reading” you might want to explore having your child evaluated for the presence of an attention or learning issue.

For children with learning challenges, doing homework is like going on a hike with 20 pound weights around your ankles and big blisters on your heels. It is possible, but painful and difficult. So of course your child will look for ways to postpone such a painful and discouraging task.

So, what to do? Appreciate that homework is frustrating for your child and put into place a plan that will help your child learn to work through frustration and develop self-discipline.

A Homework Plan:

  1. Set aside a time for homework that works for your family. For most kids, they do not want to do homework after doing school work for eight hours. Afterschool is a time for hobbies and exploring possible new interests in sports, dance, art, robotics, cooking – whatever your child enjoys. Try having homework time after dinner or while dinner is cooking to see if that works better for your child.


  1. Choose a spot for homework that works for your child and family. Some kids like to be at the kitchen table while others prefer a desk in their room. Parents should be available to help, offer encouragement, and answer questions.


  1. Talk with your child’s teacher about the expected length of homework time. If your child is unable to finish in the expected time frame, have him write a note to the teacher that states he worked for the amount of time and note the assignments he was able to complete. This information is helpful for your child’s teacher to see how long it takes your child to do homework and determine if modifications need to be made.


  1. Begin with a reasonable amount of work time. If your child can only focus for 10 minutes and then needs a break, then that is the starting time. Try 15 minutes the next week and support your child as they gradually become able to focus for longer amounts of time. If your child needs frequent breaks, try to work up to 20 minutes of work followed by a five minute break.


  1. Choose your words carefully. Instead of “if you don’t do your homework you won’t be able to…” try a language of opportunities like, “as soon as you finish your homework we will have a chance to play a quick game of Jenga!”


Some more tips: acknowledge all efforts, no matter how small. Provide positive and frequent encouragement. Praise effort not innate ability. Do not compare to siblings who may have an easier time doing homework.

It isn’t always easy to stay calm when your child is melting down about homework. If you would like to talk further about ways to avoid the homework battles, please feel free to reach out to me at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org. I am here to help!


Jeri Rochman, JD, MS
Life Skills Coach & Director of Community Outreach
Advance LA


Article originally posted at http://www.jerirochman.com/blog/.


Interview with our Keynote, Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD

Keynote, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky

Keynote, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky

Advance LA is thrilled to welcome our Keynote Speaker, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D. to our 2015 Conference, The Science of Happiness: Purpose. Connection. Optimism. Grit.

Why is the scientific study of happiness important?
Most people believe that happiness is meaningful, desirable, and an important, worthy goal. Happiness is one of the most salient and significant dimensions of human experience and emotional life.  Not only does happiness yield numerous rewards for the individual, it makes for a better, healthier, stronger society.

Why Are Some People Happier Than Others?

I have always been struck by the capacity of some individuals to be remarkably happy, even in the face of stress, trauma, or adversity. My students and I have found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness. In essence, happy individuals experience and react to events and circumstances in relatively more positive and more adaptive ways.

What Are the Benefits of Happiness?
Relative to their less happy peers, happy people in Western societies have more rewarding and longer-lasting marriages, more friends, higher incomes, superior work performance, higher community involvement, better mental and physical health, and possibly even longer life.

How does this apply to young adults with autism, learning differences, and ADHD?
Young adults with challenges who learn practices that increase their happiness will not only FEEL better (more tranquil, more joyful, more curious, more affectionate, more proud, etc.), but they are also expected to experience the same benefits of happiness as their typical peers.  For example, people who are happier smile more and are more likable and approachable to others – thus, generating more social support and making friends.  People who are happier are more productive and creative – thus being able to accomplish better whatever their goals are.  People who are happier have stronger immune function, thus getting sick less often. 

Giving Thanks

This post is from guest blogger, K.S. – age 21

One of my favorite things about being in the Advance LA program is the ability to give back to the community through internships. Not only do internships give me a chance to help children like me succeed, they also help me prepare for future jobs. These experiences greatly reinforce how important it is for me to get a degree.

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of continuing my internship at The Help Group’s Culver City Village Glen school. During the year, I aid teachers in the classroom and students with schoolwork. This internship was different as I was working at Camp Kids Like Me and Camp Discovery.

During a typical camp day, under the guidance and direction of my lead counselors, I set up camp activities including water play and weekly field trips. I also helped kids express themselves through arts and crafts. I even participated by dressing up during weeks with themes, like “Pirates,” “Under the Sea,” and “Carnival.”

Overall, there was never a time when I found myself looking for something to do. I am very thankful for the opportunity to gain this valuable work experience and for the chance to share the campers’ excitement. It is a great feeling to help campers try activities they have never done before.


Theme for 4th Annual Advance LA Conference Announced!

The Science of Happiness: Purpose. Connection. Optimism. Grit.
Presenting cutting-edge research and best practices for young adults with autism, learning differences and ADHD

Advance LA is thrilled to announce our 2015 Conference theme, The Science of Happiness: Purpose. Connection. Optimism. Grit.  The Advance LA Conference presents cutting-edge research and best practices for young adults with autism, learning differences and ADHD. This year’s theme strives to answer the question of how we create and maintain happiness through four building blocks of happiness: purpose, connection, optimism and grit.

“The enthusiasm expressed by our speakers, sponsors, and attendees for this unique conference has been overwhelming. We look forward to bringing parents and experts together to discuss practical applications of the latest happiness research” said Jill Rosenberg, Advance LA Director.

“The study of happiness is important,” says Keynote Speaker, Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD., “because happiness is one of the most salient and significant dimensions of human experience and emotional life, because happiness yields numerous rewards for the individual, and because it makes for a better, healthier, stronger society.”

Registration is now open for the conference, which will be hosted at the American Jewish University on Friday, May 1, 2015. This one-of-a-kind conference offers sessions focusing on the needs of transitional age young adults with autism, Asperger’s disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), executive functioning difficulties, learning disabilities, and mental health issues including dual diagnosis. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of California – Riverside, will be the Keynote Speaker. Presenters include Dr. Andrew Shatte, Dr. Art Markman, Dr. Anthony Rostain, Dr. Brian Galla, Dr. Liz Laugeson, Dr. Jenni Mariano, Dr. Shauna Shapiro, Dr. Bonnie Aurbach and Lisa King.

The Advance LA Conference is open to parents, educators, clinicians, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students. Continuing education credits will be available. An early bird rate of $65 for students, $90 for parents and $135 for professionals seeking CEUs will be available through Friday, March 13, 2015. Register or find more information about the conference.


Club LA Lounge – Winter Beach Party

A group of nine adults hung out at Club LA Lounge’s Winter Beach Party on Sunday, December 14th. The room was transformed into a comfortable indoor beach with splashes of blue, beach balls, sea shells, beach chairs, and a boogie board. As everyone relaxed and made new friends, many played Jenga, Uno, Connect 4, and various video games. Other participants shared music and drawings with one another. Everyone got a chance to experience unusual flavors in our soda tasting. Flavors included chocolate, buffalo wing, gingerbread, bacon, and marshmallow!

Our next Club LA Lounge event will be our first ever night-time lounge on Friday, January 23rd from 6:30-8:30 pm. Hope to see you there!