Category Archives: Support for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Why aren’t the kids playing? 

Kids don’t play anymore. It’s no secret that playing has been replaced by longer hours of homework and passive screen time. Do we have to sacrifice the previous years of childhood in order to maintain a high level of academic success? 

Here is what we know now. And if we know it, why aren’t kids in the US playing more? 

Read on:



You know what I’m talking about. The village where everyone gets together on Main street in the evening. Where you can leave your baby next door with Grandma while you pop over to get your hair done. Where your neighbor down the block, who just happens to be your dear friend since elementary school, knows to send over a fresh baked quiche for dinner when you’ve just come home with your newborn. What? You don’t live in that village? That’s because it’s not 1954. And that village has evolved into a major metropolis where neighbors don’t speak to one another, your relatives live across the country, and even if they lived near you, you aren’t on speaking terms anyway. Moms, in case you were wondering why you often feel so alone and unsupported, it’s because (sorry, Hillary) the village that has been promised to help you raise your child does not exist. Instead, let’s update the concept. I prefer: “it takes an army.” Parents are the commanders-in-chief and they just might need to hire foot soldiers and other staff to help support everything that goes into raising a child these days.  If it sounds terrible, it’s not. It’s reality. Because if you are one of these ‘do it yourselfers’, you will find yourself stuck with an avalanche of drudgery that won’t let you be the cool, loving mom that you’d like to be: school meetings, cleaning soccer uniforms, trips to doctors, chauffeuring kids to all types of therapies with names that sound like something out of a science fiction movie, and the never-ending need for entertainment – otherwise they will be watching TV or playing video games all day long, or worse, whining that they are bored. If you are overwhelmed by all of these challenges, you are not alone. But if you try to do it alone, not only will you not be able to take care of all of the details that kids today need, you won’t be able to maintain your own personal life, either as a working adult, or as just a human being with your own needs. Remember to still be you. Build your army. It may not sound as warmly fuzzy as a ‘village’ but it’s the truth. Include your circle of friends and family if you can, but if you have to hire them, go for it!


When a baby is born, all the attention turns to the adorable cupid-like infant. And who can resist? Nature in the form of neurotransmitters and hormones, such as oxytocin, prolactin, vasopressin, wires us, both mothers and fathers, to fall in love and be obsessed with the child. This is completely normal and ensures survival of the species in evolutionary terms. Although the hormones do taper off, the habit has been set: it’s “all eyes on baby” and then ‘all eyes on toddler’ and then……. It’s a habit. What happens to parents who ignore their needs, feelings and desires after a while? They aren’t at their best! Good parents take care of their own needs as well as those of their children. Nurture your own interests, take good care of yourself, continue to build your community of friends and people who nourish you. Don’t get too over-involved with your own child, they need to know that they are not the only focal point of your life. See point #1.


You already know that you aren’t like other people, at least like the women who are single or haven’t had children. But did you know that it’s not only your body that has changed? Through research, we know that the brains of mothers change as well. You are more empathic, courageous and have stronger memories for what your children need than non-moms. You also have more energy. These changes will stay with you and will become gifts to use in other ways once the immediate challenges of raising your kids become less demanding. All of those years of sleepless nights, chronic anxiety and massive hormonal changes, transforms you into a super-human being. Stringy hair and puffy eyes notwithstanding. Hang in there; these changes will be long lasting and will come in handy down the road. You can truly move mountains when you need to!


Freud once said: “Biology is destiny”. Today, we know that not only isn’t that true, but you can actually alter your own genetic patterns by your thoughts and behaviors. It’s called neuroplasticity and it’s powerful. We can always work on ourselves. While some things are hard wired into our brains, other things such as our tendency to be pessimistic or our loathing of exercise, is soft wired. We can change our brains. Anxious? Try mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR), a form of therapy that has been shown to be highly effective. Depressed? The world of positive psychology has developed numerous ways to actually change your natural mood setpoint. Practice gratitude as a beginning trial and see what happens.  Exercise, too, is a habit that can be built, just start with one step. It takes about 12 weeks for the exercise habit to get set. Go for it!


Much harm has been done to the psyches of moms by worrying about what others are thinking of you. Its as if moms imagine that other mothers keep imaginary scorecards analyzing your best and worst performance. The real scorecard is in your own brain. Keeping up with the Joneses is a very real phenomenon, we are wired to be competitive, it’s part of the survival gene. Their child is crawling before yours? It’s enough to send some new moms into a real panic! Everyone is better at Red Rover than your skinny little girl? Get a grip, and get her a set of boxing gloves! Or better yet, since she doesn’t likely care, get yourself a pair of pink boxing gloves and work it off! It doesn’t matter who does what first or better!! The road to success is paved from the inside out: for a child to feel happy, nurtured and secure comes from having a confident parent behind them, not a frazzled pushy mom whose kid needs to be the star of the show. Give it up, people! Look in your interior mirror, no not the one that shows your new gray hairs, but the inner mirror; ask yourself: what will make you today a more content and calm and confident mom? Close your eyes. Breath deeply and quietly for a few minutes. Put your hands on your heart and wish yourself well.   You know what it takes. Go for it. And have a happy and peaceful mothers day

Not What I Expected: Now #1 on Amazon for Disability Parenting!

Not What I Expected: Hope and Help for Parents of Atypical Children hit the bookstores this week. If you haven’t already ordered your  copy on Amazon,, or, this is the month to attend one of my book signing events in Los Angeles or grab a copy at your local bookstore.
Last month, I shared the starred review that Not What I Expected received from Publishers WeeklyBooklist has since described Not What I Expected as “empowering” and noted that “Parents of children with medical problems and learning disorders will find comfort in the wise words of psychologist Eichenstein.”
Since March, I have been a guest on multiple radio shows across the country.  Here is my interview with Bettina Bush, host of Working Motherradio – the topic, “Caring for Your Atypical Child.” Bettina and I had a wonderful, in-depth conversation about the emotional challenges that come with parenting an atypical child. I invite you to have a listen.

Get your copy of Not What I Expected signed
by the author, Rita Eichenstein, PhD
Sunday, April 12th or Wednesday, April 22nd
Sunday, April 12th
Chevalier’s Books
126 N Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Wednesday, April 22nd
Barnes & Noble
189 The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90036
7:00 pm


Special Needs Network

                                                                         Tools for Transformation Conference
                                                                                 Saturday, April 11, 2015
                                                                              Junior Blind of America
                                                                                5300 Angeles Vista Blvd
                                                                                    Los Angeles, CA 90043
The Special Needs Network (SNN), has invited Dr. Rita to be the keynote speaker for a luncheon this Saturday, April 11th as part of the 9th Annual Tools for Transformation Conference. After the keynote address, Dr. Rita will participate in a Q&A  and then sign her new book, Not What I Expected. More than 2,000 participants are expected to attend the 2-day event. Online registration is available at or by calling (323) 291-7100.
Tools for Transformation is one of several programs offered by SNN during National Autism Awareness Month and Southern California’s largest and most comprehensive FREE conferences for parents, professionals, and businesses interested in critical issues related to autism, ADHD, early childhood education, and developmental and learning disabilities.


Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children: Now Available Online or in Stores!


 Publishers Weekly                            Review:

Though parenting any child can be demanding, pediatric neuropsychologist Eichenstein understands that particular challenges face the parents of “atypical” children, identified in this helpful manual as those who have “developmental, psychological, or learning disorders” or exhibit problematic behavior. She explains the neurobiology behind the feelings commonly experienced by such parents, including loss, denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, illustrated with relatable stories of the families with whom she’s worked. Eichenstein strongly counsels readers to trust the experts when it comes to diagnoses, remediation, and treatment. For her part, she offers therapeutic tools derived from cognitive psychology and her own long practice. She also addresses a range of pediatric disorders, including ADHD, autism, intellectual disability, and OCD. Her tone throughout maintains the “patient, positive, and optimistic outlook” that she wants to help parents cultivate. Indeed, any parent might benefit from the techniques outlined here. Sage and consistently reassuring, Eichenstein’s manual is a self-help book of the best kind, a road map for an emotionally fraught journey that illustrates how parenting itself can become an avenue for personal growth.