Psychological Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents

Archive for the Social Skills Development Category

Published on: September 7, 2015  

Are Your Children on Track Socially?

There are some children that are able to navigate social situations with relative ease; the ones who other kids gravitate to and who establish and maintain friendships effortlessly and with grace. If this doesn’t sound like your child at all, don’t worry. Understanding the in’s and out’s of social situations and establishing friendships, like other skills, can be learned. Besides, most are not looking for their children to win a popularity contest or anything. What most parents hope for is that their children are able to form meaningful attachments to others, can empathize and interact with others appropriately and be able to adapt to the roller coaster of changing social circumstances.


Where your school age child should be socially. Vanderbilt University has researched the social skills that preschool and school age children need to succeed in school. The researchers included survey results from 8,000 elementary school teachers and observation of children’s social skills. Researcher found that children at this age should be able to listen to others, follow a sequence of activities (routines), follow simple rules, ignore distractions, ask for help, take turns, get along with others, stay calm, be responsible for their behavior, and do nice things for others.

Where your middle and high schooler should be socially. The social skills needed for kids and teens to navigate the social complexities of middle and high school environments are a bit more sophisticated. They will need to learn to set personal goals, identify and change negative behaviors, develop assertiveness skills, be empathetic to others, learn to manage strong feelings like anger and frustration, and resolve conflicts with others peacefully.

What you can do to help.
Model Social Skills. Our children learn how to establishing meaningful relationships with others at home. Children are always watching and learning about how to manage social and other situations by watching and observing you and their siblings. Be aware of your behavior and work toward showing confidence, being honest and respectfulness in our interactions with others.

Teacher your children that relationships with others are important, help them brainstorm solutions to peer conflicts and give them the freedom to develop new relationships providing they are mindful of respecting others. It all about encouraging our children to be resilient and developing a constructive attitude as they approach social situations.

A positive and constructive attitude encourage children to take an optimistic view of themselves and others as being social. Adopting an upbeat attitude towards their changing social landscape and remaining confident in their ability to improve a social situation with effort and positive behaviors.

Give them plenty of opportunities to practice. When children are young they learn social skills from us as parents. As they mature, they begin to learn social skills by watching and interacting with their peers. So, the more chances kids have to interact with their peers the better, as long as the interactions are healthy and socially appropriate.

Kids also will learn crucial skills from simply playing with you. It’s also true that children whose parents frequently play with them have more advanced social skills and get along better with their peers.

Please contact us should you need additional support in helping your child develop meaningful relationships, 360-236-0206. We’re here to help!

With Warmest Regards,

Dave Callies, Psy.D.
Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Gyro Psychology Services
866-616-4976 (gyro)

Published on: August 9, 2015  

Fostering Tolerance in Children

While living on Maui and Oahu for 9 years, I realized just how diverse the “American culture” is. The rich cultural tradition of the Pacific Islanders, Hawaiians, Japanese, and Europeans melded together to form a rich and varied culture. Culture was expressed and lived in so many different ways including types of foods, languages, pastimes, ceremonies, beliefs, and values.


Many have endured hardships as they adjusted to life in America. Many pushed through those hardships and found success in many different ventures. Achieving one’s full potential in the face of challenges provides hope that life will be better and that dreams can be realized with effort and dedication without the fear or persecution and tolerance of differences along the way.

Our kids have the opportunity to step out into a world and meet people who come from varied backgrounds and cultures; creating unique opportunities to learn, grow, and expand. This growth is possible if we as parents are open-minded and look at diversity as an opportunity and be tolerate of the differences of others even if they appear unusual or different at first blush. New ideas and opportunities can spawn with an open mind and reverence for the differences of others.

It’s true that some parents welcome and even embrace diversity as they look to expose their children to new cultures and traditions while others are more cautious. I believe it’s important for parents to help their children remain flexible when meeting others from diverse backgrounds and look at integration as an opportunity to learn and understand. Remaining open and flexible will serve them well as it may lead to new and exciting opportunities and relationships. Being tolerant is a necessary as the world and our communities diversify and broaden.

Being tolerant refers to a frame of mind or attitude of openness and respect for the differences of others including gender, sexual orientation, people with physical and intellectual differences, ethnicity among others. The benefit of being tolerant is that we have an opportunity to learn from others and broaden our worldview providing that there is mutual respect and a willingness to learn, listen, and understand.

Tolerance is not blind. I have no tolerance for people who knowingly disrespect or hurt others or engage in behaviors that break social rules and societal laws. Tolerance is more about accepting people for who they are not about accepting or supporting inappropriate behaviors.

How do I teach my children to be more tolerant?
Be aware of your own attitudes. Like all attitudes, tolerance is often modeled by parents, caregivers and close friends. Parents and others who model or demonstrate tolerance in their everyday lives teach their children and others close to them how to be respectful, listen, and understand personal differences, even when what we see and hear is unfamiliar.

Apart from modeling respect and understanding, parents can talk with their children about personal differences and how to be respectful of others. Talking will set the stage for practice. Creating opportunities for your child/teen to play and work with others is the natural next step. This provides them with the opportunity to learn first hand that everyone has something valuable to contribute, to experience and celebrate different values and customs, and to realize similarities.

Remember, your kids are likely watching and listening. Kids and teens are keen observers and will often imitate attitudes, values and beliefs of those who are closest to them. As a result, their kids will invariably learn to to respect and appreciate differences as well.

Please remember that tolerance does not mean tolerating unacceptable behavior. It means treating others respectfully and being respectful of others in return.

Celebrate your child’s unique and special qualities. Be sure to help your child feel proud of themselves and the qualities that make them unique and special. Children who have a strong self-esteem and respect their bodies, ideas, beliefs and culture are more likely to treat others with respect as well. So, please take time to support your child to feel accepted, respected, loved and valued. You’ll be glad you did.

If you suspect that you child or teen is depressed or anxious as a result of adjusting to a new community or is in a situation where he or she is being judged, bullied, or is still working on developing their own self-worth, please give us a call, 360-236-0206. We’re here to help.

With Warmest Regards,

David Callies, Psy.D.
Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Gyro Psychology Services, Inc.
5191 Corporate Center Court SE
Lacey, Washington 98503
360.236.0206 (p)
360.236.9909 (f)
1.866.GYRO (4976) (t)

Published on: July 12, 2015  

Managing Peer Pressure

As our kids become more independent, their friends and peers will begin to play a more formidable role in their lives. Hopefully we, as parents, teachers, and caregivers, have provided our children with the values, morals and rules that will help guide them in their decision making as they manage diverse social situations, a wider breath of possibilities, and peer pressures.


With independence comes exposure to a wider group of peers who do not necessarily fit into the friend category but can be influential by the way they dress, their language, attitudes and behaviors, which might be very different from our expectations as parents. This is when a sense of unease sets in and trust that our children will make the right choices when faced with adversity and social challenges.

Peer Influence as a Motivator
The great thing about peers is that they introduce new and varied experiences to our children. Some children have traveled and lived all over the world, speak two or more different languages and have been exposed to customs and traditions that our kids haven’t.

There are opportunities to learn and grow with each interaction. The interactions might lead to new interests and a drive to accomplish or master new skills or pursue new interests. My best friend in high school was a very talented and creative musician…artist really. Music was never a big part of my family culture until my peers introduced me to different genres of music. I wanted to be a good guitar player and enjoyed playing and practicing. It didn’t come as naturally to me as my friend but it did open up a new world that I had never been exposed to before (think of the movie “Almost Famous”).

Another friend in elementary school had an older brother who actually played in a band and gigged around Seattle. I was backstage at concerts at 10yo. It was the 70’s and I definitely saw things that I had never seen before. I knew there was a bigger world out there and went out to explore it with gusto. This never would have happened if it wasn’t for my peers at the time.

The Benefits of Healthy Peer Relationships:
Learn what being a friend is all about. Peer interactions teaches children to to be respectful, kind, and the value of have an close emotional connection with someone.

Friends help encourage us to be our best. Peers set many outstanding examples. They can help establish strong academic and performance goals, encourage, and provide support as they face challenges and obstacles. Peers who are loyal, well-mannered, respectful and calm can teach us how to develop and apply these important values ourselves. They can keep us honest and on track and teach us the value of friendship and experience emotional closeness and safety.

These values can then be applied to other relationships. Peers also inspire us to achieve more than we ever thought possible. Seeing a Russian teenager perform in the Olympics, a 9 year-old from Holland with an incredible voice, and the 283 kids that participated in the Scripps Spelling Bee Championships in 2015 are exceptional and inspiring role models. Other kids are becoming Eagle Scouts, organizing car washes to support local charities, or volunteering at our local food banks, hospitals and vet clinics. They’re an inspiration to us all and help us to embrace the idea that anything is possible.

Peers provide us with valuable feedback & advice. Peers give us valuable feedback and advice as we venture out and try new activities, explore new activities, and challenge ourselves. They help us solve and resolve conflicts and encourage us to make good choices.

Peers help broaden our social network. Peers often spend time with others who have the similar, interests, attitudes and ideals as they do. They are all individuals varied experiences and viewpoints, ambitions and dreams. Some may compliment us in ways we never imaged, bring ideas that we never thought of or been exposed to, and talents that inspire and delight.

We may not get along with everyone and might find ourselves confronted with someone that does share our ideals, values or engage in behaviors that we think are right or just. Facing a peer with stark differences allows us to reaffirm what we value, practice being assertive, and sharpen our communication skills as we navigate our way through or away from challenging relationships.

Peers help to motivate us. Sometimes doing projects alone is difficult. Doing projects together with a group of peers who are like minded provides inspiration to move forward when we we want to throw our hands up and accept defeat. We want the best for our friends and will make personal sacrifices to insure that they succeed, that they are safe, goals are realized, or a conflict is resolved and a sense of balance and stability is restored.

Their success is shared by you as their friend. The joy experienced by them comes back around and enriches and nourishes you and your union with that person. It’s a beautiful thing to experience!

Peers help open the door to new experiences and activities. Peers come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles. Many kids from military families have attended as many as 14 schools by the time they reach high school and have lived all over the world, eaten a variety of different foods and experienced a variety of different cultures.

Locally you might find a peer who enjoys riding horses, riding quads, fishing, skiing, or is a member of a roller derby team. The background and interest of kids and teens your age are varied and rich. All you have to do is be open to trying new activities and experiences. The possibilities for discovery and fun are endless.

What Peer Pressure Looks Like:
Peer relationships can be stressful. There can be times when your peers do things that you don’t agree with or feel uncomfortable doing. The pressure may be direct and straightforward, like when a peer asks repeatedly to engage is sex, even though you’ve said “no” or that you’re not ready, drive without a license or sneak out of your house at night.

Pressure can also be more subtle like a peer smoking and leaving a pack of cigarettes on the table next to you, your friend stepping outside to do drugs, or having alcohol readily available at a social event.

Other forms of peer pressure come in the form of dressing or acting acting a certain way to fit in, forming certain attitudes about others and their likes or dislikes, and how to interact with adults including teachers and parents.

The pressure to do what your peers do can be challenging. People feel anxious or afraid that their might be some backlash from peers if you don’t go along with whatever’s happening, or shun you from the group, spread rumors about you, or lose aspects of the friendship that you appreciate.

These situations are tough to navigate and might be confusing especially for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience socially. When confused, we often look to others for reassurance and direction, even of that direction may not feel right for them. One might think that, “If it’s okay for my friend and others, then it must be okay for me too.” This can be good thing in the right context (i.e., a great volunteering experience, trying a new sport or activity) or something that is unsafe and risky.

Evaluating what is right for us is ongoing. People who don’t have a strong sense of who they are, their values, what they want or are more dependent and than independent, feel socially awkward and have difficulty with social and communication tend to be more influenced by the attitude and behaviors of others. They just have more difficulty navigating the complexity of some social situations.

Instead of taking a step back, thinking things through, and talking with adults they trust, they ride out whatever’s happening. If the consequences of our behaviors are not considered, people can easily find themselves in even higher risk and challenging situations. At that point, the ability to make good choices really fades and likelihood of a negative outcome increases rapidly. Add alcohol to this equation and one’s ability to navigate through a difficult situation decreases even further.

As an aside, alcohol use among veterans who expressed “hopelessness” about their past and future was one of the significant precursors for suicide among this population. Alcohol clouds our judgement, ability to think through situations, and decreases our ability to manage strong emotions. If there was one thing to stay away from, it’s alcohol.

What You Can Do When the Pressure is On:
You’re not alone. Nearly everyone has had to manage stress related to telling a peer something that might be construed as unpopular managing a difficult social situation, or making a decision to separate yourself from a situation when things seem to be going badly. Realizing that you do have a choice is important.

How do you know that the right choice is good for you and then how do you communicate it in a way that is thoughtful, honest and relatable? Standing up for yourself and saying “enough is enough” or that you don’t feel comfortable with how things are progressing or simply saying, “stop” or “NO” is challenging and takes self-confidence and courage. A strong belief in yourself and what you feel is important for YOU makes communicating these messages easier. The feeling of standing up for yourself and what you believe to be true for you is indescribable. Here are some tips to help you navigate peer pressure situations:

Trust your instincts. If there is something about a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, take a step back, take a deep breath and then decide if you want to move forward or tack in another direction. You’re the one in control. Decide what is best for you and move swiftly in that direction. Developing these critical thinking, resiliency, and problem solving skills will help you clarify your values and help you move closer toward independence and self-reliance.

Do some pre-planning. I often have teens draw out a timeline highlighting times where they feel little stress, some stress or are really stressed. This timeline can easily be applied to feeling uncomfortable in social situations. Think about the times that make you feel most uncomfortable and then decide how you want to manage it ahead of time. Role-play these scenarios with trusted adults in your life. There’s a good chance that they will have experienced or are currently experiencing a similar situation. You will feel better knowing that they know what you’re up against and that you’re taking action to decrease the pressure.

Develop codes or phrases that communicate that you need a rescue. That’s right, saying that you need to use the restroom to get away from a situation, that you allergies are acting up, or that you have a headache, feeling nauseous, or some other creative way to get some separation and think, are all okay when feeling or uncomfortable.

Creating a situation where you can decrease the pressure so you don’t feel overwhelmed, confused, or other strong feelings is the key. Please consider talking with your parents or other trusted adults about a key word or phrase that communicates that you need a rescue from an uncomfortable situation. Think about the trust that will be developed by letting your parents or caregivers know about a conflict and then taking active steps to resolve it with their support. Golden!

Assert yourself. Once you’ve decided that something is not right for you, it’s okay to communicate that to others. It actually feels really good to express what you believe and what’s true for you and why. Here are few steps to this process that might help:

  • Let your friend know that you have something you want to talk with them about.
  • Set a good time and place to talk.
  • Communicate what you like best about your relationship with that person.
  • Let them know what you want the relationship to be like and why.
  • Communicate in an honest, calm and nonjudgmental way what is getting in the way of the type of relationship you want.
  • Come to an agreement on how you want to move forward with the relationship or resolve your differences.
  • Follow though, be consist and honest with the other person about how things are going for you and the relationship (evaluation).

Make friends who share similar values as you do. Choosing friends who feel the same way you do can be a huge comfort and protect you in some ways from the pressures of others. Friends will speak up for you when you need support and provide advice on how to navigate challenging situations.

Reach out for help. If you find yourself in a risky or dangerous situation reach out for help from a trusted adult.

Resisting peer pressure can be challenging. The reward of realizing what’s important to you, what you want out of a relationship and communicating those needs to others are tremendously satisfying. Believe in yourself and what’s important to you. Share who you are and what you believe in and you will find direction and purpose. At that point, peer pressure has less of an impact on you as you have the confidence to manage these pressures more comfortably.

Please give us a call should you have difficulty manage peer pressure or if you observe your child to have difficulty managing these pressures, 360-236-0206. We’re here to help!

With Warmest Regards,

Dave Callies, Psy.D.
Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Gyro Psychology Services
866-616-GYRO (4976)

Published on: May 31, 2015  

How to Help Kids & Teens Ask for Help

For many, asking for help is second nature. For others, it’s quite a challenge. The belief in your ability, worthiness of receiving help, desire (motivation) to want things to change, and the skills needed to actually ask for help often get in the way of you taking that risk approach someone and ask for the help you need.


Here are some common beliefs we have about ourselves that often get in the way of us asking for support and some strategies on how to expand your comfort zone and connect with others garner support.

Belief That Needing Help Is a Sign of Weakness. I hear this one a lot. Kids and teens believe that others will perceive them as not being as smart as their peers or that they “should” know how to do something when they really don’t.

Actually, asking for help is a sign of intelligence and confidence.  You are smart enough to know that I don’t know. Smart enough to know who to ask when you need help and the skills to ask the right questions at the right time. You know what you need and are aware of the strategies on how to get that need met.

GYRO TIP: Be choosy about who you ask for help. The trick is to identify people who you know will be able to support you. I like to tell kids and teens that it’s best to ask help from master proboem solvers. They come in all shapes and sizes and easy to spot if you have a kean eye… Here are a couple qualities that master problem solvers typically have:

  • They are visible, available, and are often place themselves in professional or personal roles where they can help others.
  • They have a good track record of solving problems and providing meaningful and accurate information.
  • We have seen them help others solve (or resolve) problems in the past.
  • They have good active listening skills, are engaged, and communicate that they truly want to help and see you and others succeed.
  • We know friends or family members who they have helped with positive results.
  • They are open-minded and non-judgmental and access resources easily when they need help.
  • They have good control of their emotions and know how to stay calm.
  • And finally, master problem solvers and good helpers like to stick together as they are typically positive thinkers, optimistic, and like to stay engaged in healthy relationships and activities.

Belief that You’re Not Deserving of Help and Support. The truth is that everyone, young and old, needs help. We simply can’t know everything. We need a team of helpers to help guide in the right direction and support us along the way. Take it from me…developing a close-knit team of people you trust and who you can rely on to help is a necessary condition for your success.

I have never met anyone who has achieved great things completely independently. Reach out, ask the questions that help clarify what you need or want, and then move forward with that information toward achieving your immediate and long-term goals and dreams.

Staying Silent Even Though You Are Confused or Uncertain. It takes time to master a new task or skill and be able to complete it independently in a variety of different situations. Asking for help effectively is no different.

The first step is knowing and accepting that you don’t know. After that, you need to identify people who can help you get the information and resources you need and then assert yourself and ask for what you need. Completing this process is necessary but not without its pitfalls, especially accepting that we don’t know something.

Taking personal responsibility for your own learning and development becomes part of the equation. The motivation to want to be a better student, or have more friends, or know more about something is trasformative as it is the engery that drives you to seek the information or support that you want.

“I’ll Just Wait For People to Come to Me…They’re Likely Know That I Need Help”. Most people I know are not so great at mind reading. I’m a professional, and I usually guess wrong. Others may not know that you’re having difficulty or that you confused and need help.

People do a lot of things to disguise the fact that are struggling in one area or another as to not draw attention to themselves. That’s why it’s important to reach out and ask for help. Raising your hand in the middle of your most challenging class or approaching your parents with a tough topic might be too much. Perhaps, you start by writing them a letter telling them what’s on your mind or letting them know that you would like to talk with them privately about something.

Master problem solvers are experts are reading these messages and will often go way out of their way to make sure you feel comfortable and safe.

Believe in Yourself and Keep Trying. “I’m not old enough to play football or baseball. I’m not eight yet. My Mom told me when you start baseball you aren’t going to be able to run fast because you had an operation. I told my Mom that I didn’t need to run fast. When I play baseball, I’ll just hit them out of the park. Then I’ll be able to walk.” ~Edward McGrath

“Magic happens when you believe in yourself.” ~Barbie (from the movie, Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale)

Asking for help is a learned skill that takes practice to perfect. When we ask, our tone of voice, body posture and how we ask are all factors that contribute to having a favorable response from others. If you don’t get the response you hoped for the first time, take a step back, think through your delivery, ask an adult or a friend or two and give it another try. You’ll be glad you did. “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” ~Dory from the movie Nemo.

Asking an adult, “what’t the best way to ask for help” is not out of bounds. If anything, they will appreciate you considering them in your problem solving process.

Why Asking for Help Is Important. When you don’t know how to do something, feel confused about what you supposed or expected to do or when we are hurt and need help, talking with trusted adults is a good choice. Adults can provide some new ideas on challenging situations or provide options on how to get through a difficult situation.

If we don’t ask for help or tell them about it, we run the risk of making decisions on our own experiences and and information which may or may not represent everything that is happening. Acting without know all the facts or responding emotionally often leads to more complex challenges or conflicts.

Besides, your parents and other trusted adults want to help and be involved. Sharing a conflict, the different strategies to solve that conflict, and what you did to make that happen, is the type of communication that will strengthen your relationships with trusted adults in your life and will lead you to feeling safe, secure, and confident.

Please feel free to contact us if your child or teen had difficulty asking for help, struggles with social relationships or often gets down on themselves, 236-236-0206. We’re here to help!

With Warmest Regards,

Dr. Dave Callies
Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Gyro Psychology Services

Published on: March 21, 2015  

BULLYING: Advice for Parents and their Kids

Parents can help kids and teens learn how to deal with bullying if it happens. For some parents, it may be tempting to tell a kid to fight back. After all, you’re angry that your child is suffering and maybe you were told to “stand up for yourself” when you were young. Or you may worry that your child will continue to suffer at the hands of the bully, and think that fighting back is the only way to put a bully in his or her place.


However, it’s important to advise kids not to respond to bullying by fighting or bullying back. It can quickly escalate into violence, trouble, and someone getting injured. Instead, it’s best to walk away from the situation, hang out with others, and tell an adult.

Here are some other strategies to discuss with kids that can help to improve the situation and help them feel better.



  • Avoid the bully and use the buddy system. Use a different bathroom if a bully is nearby and don’t go to your locker when there is nobody around. Make sure you have someone with you so that you’re not alone with the bully. Buddy up with a friend on the bus, in the hallways, or at recess — wherever the bully is. Offer to do the same for a friend.
  • Hold the anger. It’s natural to get upset by the bully, but that’s what bullies thrive on. It makes them feel more powerful. Practice not crying or looking red or upset. It takes a lot of practice, but it’s a useful skill for keeping off of a bully’s radar. Sometimes kids find it useful to practice “cool down” strategies such as counting to 10, writing down their angry words, taking deep breaths, or walking away. Sometimes the best thing to do is to teach kids to wear a “poker face” until they are clear of any danger (smiling or laughing may provoke the bully).
  • Act brave, walk away, and ignore the bully. Firmly and clearly tell the bully to stop, then walk away. Practice ways to ignore the hurtful remarks, like acting uninterested or texting someone on your cell phone. By ignoring the bully, you’re showing that you don’t care. Eventually, the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you.
  • Tell an adult. Teachers, principals, parents, and even lunchroom personnel at school can and should help stop bullying by staying watchful and intervening when necessary.
  • Talk about it. Talk to someone you trust, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, sibling, or friend. They may offer some helpful suggestions, and even if they can’t fix the situation, it may help you feel a little less alone.



Dealing with bullying can erode a child’s confidence. To help restore it, encourage your kids to spend time with friends who have a positive influence. Participation in clubs, sports, or other enjoyable activities builds strength and friendships. If school activities are out of the question because of bullies, consider community clubs and teams.

Provide a listening ear about difficult situations, but encourage your kids to also tell you about the good parts of their day, and listen equally attentively. Make sure they know you believe in them and that you’ll do what you can to address any bullying that occurs.



  • Talk with and Listen to Your Children Everyday. Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents about these matters before they are involved in bullying are more likely to get them involved after.
  • Spend time at School and Recess. Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during “free” time like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with peers aside from their best friends.
  • Be a Good Example. When you get angry at other drivers, servers, or other people in the community, model effective communication techniques. As puts it, “Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is okay.”
  • Create Healthy Anti-Bullying Habits. Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both what NOT to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) as well as what TO do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away, and ignore the bully).
  • Make Sure Your Child Understands Bullying. Clearly explain what bullying is, and that it is not normal or tolerable for them to bully other kids, to be bullied, or to stand by and watch other kids get bullied.



If you think your child would benefit from some additional support, consider calling us to set up an appointment with one of our psychologists at Gyro Psychology Services (360.236.0206). We serve children and adolescents ages 2-20 with a variety of emotional, mental, and behavioral health needs. 

We are located at 5191 Corporate Center Ct SE, Lacey, Washington, 98503. Or, check out the Resources page on our website for more information on bullying prevention and interventions, and a variety of other behavior health issues.  Our weekly Blog provides information and tips on tough issues that kids, teens, and their parents face.  Be sure to “like” us on Facebook to receive “Gyro’s Daily Welless Tips” on a variety of subject areas related to parenting and the health and wellness of your child and/or teen.

With Warmest Regards,


Dr. David Callies

Child & Adolescent Psychologist

Gyro Psychology Services



Published on: April 16, 2014  

The Importance of Keeping Kids Active

These days, it seems that every time you turn around there’s something about obesity in the news. We’re hearing about how obesity is continually on the rise amongst adults across the country, and even more alarming, approximately one third of children in the United States are overweight or obese.

This puts our children at risk for a number of adverse physical and emotional health outcomes including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, social stigma, low self esteem and depression. To combat this issue, we’ve been given recommendations on how to clean up kids’ diets and increase their physical activity, and the integral role parents play in that process. But when parents hear that kids should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, it can seem like a rather daunting task. It can seem even more difficult considering the pull of technology keeping us glued to our seats. Check out these suggestions for incorporating physical activity a part of your daily routine.

Walk whenever possible. Walk with your kids to school at least once a week. If you live too far away to walk, you can park a couple of blocks away and walk from there. If you live closer, walk to school more often. Start having a regular family walk after dinner or take the family dog for a walk. Try to walk to regular activities, like sports, etc., whenever possible.

Limit sedentary behavior. Limit time watching T.V., playing video games and working on the computer for two hours or less per day. Take activity breaks when watching T.V. or working on the computer. Encourage your kids to get up and walk around or do some sit-ups or jumping jacks to re-energize. Get moving in and around the house: go outside to garden, clean up the yard, rake the leaves or wash the car. Keep your kids involved in active household chores.

Keep activities fun and creative. Allow your kids to choose an after-school sports activity they like or may be interested in. Encourage your kids to engage in physical activity with their friends they can play basketball, jump rope or go for bike rides. Be sure to check out local park & recreation locations (LaceyOlympia & Tumwater) and activities.

Above all, remember to be a good model for your children. They won’t take physical activity and their health seriously if you don’t either. Join an exercise group or find one that parents and kids can participate in together. Engaging in physical activity as a family not only keeps you and your kids healthy, but it can keep family relationships strong as well.  Check out similar articles on Child Obesity and Physical Activity in Kids & Teens in our Blog Archives as well as tips on Parenting Teens in the Resources section of our website.

Please give us a call should you need some additional help in developing strategies to keep your child or teen active, 360.236.0206.  We’re here to help!

Warmest Regards,

Gyro Psychology Services



Published on: March 23, 2014  

Building Resilience In Children & Teens

What is it that makes children resilient, and can we build resiliency in children? Researchers have yet to come up with a uniform definition of resiliency (Cicchetti & Rogosch, 1997). However, we feel the dictionary definitions of resiliency provide an accurate picture of what it means to be resilient. Resiliency can be defined as “ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity; buoyancy” or as “an occurrence of rebounding or springing back”. It is generally agreed that core components of resiliency are dealing effectively with stress and pressure; coping with everyday challenges; bouncing back from disappointments; adversity and trauma; developing clear and realistic goals; and solving problems.

Resilient children appear to have many personal characteristics in common that seem to help them cope with difficulties. These individual characteristics that lead to resiliency can be divided in to 4 categories – innate skills, emotional functioning, relationships, and community. With respect to innate skills, resilient children typically have average to above-average intelligence, good critical thinking skills, good planning and organizational skills, and an easy-going temperament. Moreover, resilient children appear to have at least 1 skill or area of competence.

In the emotional functioning category, resilient children are typically independent, have a mostly positive outlook on life, are flexible and tolerant of change, and can manage their emotions well.

Regarding relationships, adaptive children appear to have good social skills; more specifically, these children can quickly read and respond to other’s non-verbal behaviors, and they understand and respect personal boundaries. Moreover, they typically are friendly and affectionate, and they can effectively figure out who in their environments can help them if needed. An important component in the relationship category is that resilient children have a strong relationship with at least 1 adult they trust; this doesn’t have to be a parent – it can be a coach, counselor, teacher, or neighbor.

Finally, resilient children appear to have good relationships with their communities. That is, they usually feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods, and they are often involved in community activities. Moreover, they tend to have positive relationships with people in their communities, such as their little league coach or their Sunday school teacher.

The goal is to help children build resiliency skills so that when they encounter challenges and difficulties in life, they can cope with those challenges and difficulties in an effective, healthy way.

Please contact one of our specialty trained Psychologist to talk more about we can help your child/teen effectively manage stress and pressure; cope with everyday challenges; bounce back from disappointments, adversity and trauma, develop clear and realistic goals, and solve problems, 360.236.0206. We’re here to help!

Warmest Regards,

Gyro Psychology Services


Published on: September 11, 2013  

Effective treatments for Autism: Spotlight on ABA

If you are a parent of a child who has just been diagnosed with autism, we understand that you probably feel confused or even worried for your child’s future. It is not an easy thing to hear that your child has a disorder that will likely change the outcome of the life you expected for them, and for you. Rest assured, though, that there are many parents out there who are just like you, and there are an abundance of resources available to help you. Thankfully, too, there is a great deal of research being conducted every day that is helping us better understand this disorder so that we can treat it effectively.

If your child has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), hopefully you have been able to talk at least briefly with your child’s pediatrician or psychologist about what this diagnosis means. We have posted several blog entries here on our website, too, which can serve as a general foundation for your knowledge on ASDs. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing more information about effective treatments for autism. Today, we focus on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

The first thing to know is that Early Intervention is the best hope for your child’s success.

The earlier we know that a child has autism, the earlier we can intervene to make sure that the child learns the skills necessary for success. A good early intervention program will help your child build on his or her strengths to teach new skills, improve behaviors, and reduce areas of weakness. Generic early intervention programs are great, but programs targeted specifically for children with autism are even better.

  • Talk to your doctor about enrolling your child in an Early Intervention program through your child’s school district, preschool, or other agency.
  • Early intervention programs vary by state and local districts, but in general, they include partial day programs that function like a school, and/or home-based programs that involve teachers or therapists visiting your child at home.

What is “Applied Behavior Analysis” (ABA) Therapy and how can it help?

One type of service that could fall under the category of “Early Intervention programming” is ABA. ABA is a somewhat broad term that encompasses a field of psychological science which views behavior as being linked to the environment in which it occurs. When people talk about “ABA Therapy,” they are typically referring to a subset of treatment approaches that stems from this philosophy. ABA programs are highly structured, intensive programs that are sometimes referred to as the “Lovaas Model,” named after Dr. Ivar Lovaas, who pioneered the first of such treatments. You may also hear this treatment referred to as “Discrete Trial Teaching” (DTT). Here are some basic ideas behind this type of treatment:

Who provides ABA?

  • A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who specializes in autism will write and maintain the child’s individualized program. BCBAs are licensed professionals with at least a Master’s degree.
  • ABA programs often are conducted in a one-on-one setting with an individual therapist or “trainer” and your child, and this trainer is supervised by the BCBA.

What do they do?

  • Skills to improve (e.g., speech, social skills, etc.) are targeted with an established curriculum
  • Each skill is broken down into small steps, taught using prompts, and practiced frequently
  • Each time the child achieves the desired result, he or she is rewarded with positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise or some other highly motivating reward
  • Problem behaviors can also be addressed with individual behavior plans, and positive (alternative) behaviors are introduced

How is it done?

  • ABA therapy sessions can vary in length from short, half-hour segments, to a few hours in total.
  • Sessions include time for breaks, free play, and practicing learned skills in new environments
  • Depending on your child’s needs, he or she may receive ABA therapy for up to 40 hours per week, although many ABA therapists and agencies have found great success with less of a time commitment per week.
  • Families are encouraged to use principles of ABA throughout their daily lives at home, too
  • Other types of treatment that stem from an Applied Behavior Analysis approach include Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) and Verbal Behavior (VB) therapy.

We hope this information has been helpful to you. Here at Gyro Psychology Services, we provide assessment and treatment services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Although we do not provide ABA therapy here like the services reviewed in this blog entry, we do work closely with children and their families using principles of ABA to help bolster their success. If you suspect that your child is showing signs of an ASD, or if your child has been diagnosed with an ASD and needs individual attention, call us today. We’re here to help!

Warmest Regards,

Gyro Psychology Services, Inc.

Olympia, Washington


866.616.GYRO (4976)

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Published on: August 28, 2013  

How parents can teach social skills to their children with Autism

At Gyro Psychology Services, we see children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), including autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-NOS. With many of these children, we work specifically on developing appropriate social skills, because the hallmark of a child with an ASD is a significant delay in social development and communication. Many parents do not realize that they can play an important role in improving the social skills of their own children who have been diagnosed with an ASD.

Here are some ways that parents can contribute to their child’s success when it comes to teaching social skills to a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Recognize that children with autism have a hard time understanding other people’s point of view. Children with autism often lack what is called “theory of mind,” or the ability to truly understand what someone else might be thinking. This means that children with an ASD may assume you know what they are thinking, may assume others think the same way as them, and may lack empathy in a variety social situations.
  • Recognize that children with autism, social skills often must be explicitly taught. Because children with an ASD do not easily understand the perspectives of other people, they often do not “pick up” on social cues the way most people do, in the context of everyday social interactions. This means that parents should not expect their child to learn social norms and rules on their own. Children with autism often need very clear instructions on how to behave in social situations.

  • Identify specific skills to target. Does your child need help with making eye contact? Does he or she need to get better at using specific manners like saying “thank you” or “please”? Choose 1-2 skills to teach and practice per week, or per month. It is important to work at a pace that is comfortable for you and your child.

  • Parents can model appropriate social skills. Even though children with autism do not immediately pick up social skills by observing others, parents can help their children notice behaviors that are desired by explicitly modeling what is appropriate. Parents can set up pretend situations and “act out” what the desired social behavior should look like. For example, a parent may do this by pretending to be in a checkout line at a store and then saying to their child, “Now watch how I would respond to a stranger who asks me a question.”

  • Provide frequent opportunities for practice. What good is learning a new skill if you only use it every now and then? Encourage your child to practice the skill at home, with neighbors, at school, and elsewhere in the community. Be intentional about setting up opportunities for him or her to use this new skill.

  • Repetition is key. You probably know the saying that “practice makes perfect.” Well, it’s true! New skills – even social skills — are learned with frequent and consistent repetition.

  • Provide rewards for practicing and for success. Learning a new social skill is not always the most fun activity to participate in, so give your child a good reason to practice! Provide incentives for doing practice sessions with you. Provide rewards for successfully demonstrating the new skill at school or in the community. And remember: rewards do not have to be tangible items like toys or money. Rewards can also include: special time with parents, time engaging in a preferred activity, or tokens that can be “cashed in” for a bigger prize.
  • Be patient. Children with autism can learn social skills, but it will probably not happen overnight. Allow yourself and your child the time it takes to practice these skills, and try not to get too frustrated if it seems like they have forgotten the basics. Continue to model appropriate behaviors, prompt him or her to respond appropriately, and practice the target skills you’ve identified. Most importantly, remember to reward your child (and yourself) for all of the hard work they’re doing! Learning social skills can be a very difficult task for children with autism.

Please check out the Resources section on our website to learn more about Asperger’s Disorder and High Functioning Autism and social skills development.

Please give us a call if your child has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, you suspect they might have Autism or if they just have difficulty making friends, 360.236.0206.

We’re here to help!

Warmest Regards,

Gyro Psychology Services

Olympia, Washington


866.616.GYRO (4976)

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Published on: March 20, 2013  

Healthy Relationship or Not?

In this blog we’re going to talk about what makes a healthy relationship, both of the romantic and non-romantic variety. We will cover the traits of a healthy relationship, how to tell if one is unhealthy, and what you can do to either fix it or leave.

Traits of Healthy Relationships:

All good relationships have a similar foundation of characteristics. One of the most important is mutual respect. For any type of relationship to be successful the people involved have to value who the other person is and their boundaries. A true friend or significant other will not challenge your morals or push you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.

Trust and honesty are two traits that are closely intertwined. Without honesty you won’t have trust. Trust is necessary to a relationship because you need to be able to talk openly and confide in one another. Trust and honesty also help to curb jealousy which can wreak havoc on relationships, especially the romantic kind.

Communication in relationships is huge! Lack of communication of miscommunication can cause more problems so speak up! You should not feel like you have to keep your feelings bottled up if something is bothering you.  If you find yourself sweeping problems under the rug from fear of bringing them up or from what the other person might say things will only get worse.

Relationships are all about give and take so there needs to be an aspect of equality in your relationship. One person should not dictate the decisions of the other. Good relationships are not a power struggle.

Finally, individuals in the relationship should be there to support each other through the good and the bad. Friends and romantic partners need to be people you can count on to make you feel better when you’re sad and to celebrate with you when you succeed.

When is a Relationship Unhealthy?

If your friendship or romantic partnership is lacking in any of the traits above it may be time to reevaluate that relationship. You may need to decide if the relationship can be fixed, and if not, if it is really something you want and need in your life.

Beyond lacking the characteristics listed, a relationship becomes unhealthy when either person involved becomes mean, disrespectful, abusive or controlling. You should never feel pressured into doing anything that is against your values or makes you uncomfortable. Teasing and belittling are a form of control meant to make you feel bad about yourself. You should never have to put up with this. You should never have to feel unhappy, unsafe, or trapped in any type of relationship and neither should they.

What Do I Do?

When you feel like you’re in an unhealthy relationship it is important to first assess what is making you feel that way. Can it be fixed by talking to them?

Talking to the person is necessary because they may not know what they are doing is hurtful. If you have tried to work things out before without success before you may need to end the relationship. This can be done through a breakup or by gradually fazing that friend out of your life.

Sometimes leaving a relationship isn’t so easy, especially in a romantic relationship turned abusive. If you want to leave but feel trapped in your relationship, it is time to get help! Help can come from parents, friends, guidance counselors, teachers, shelters, or law enforcement. They will help you find a way out.

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799- SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

Healthy relationships do wonders for your life and mental and emotional health. Good relationships provide support, love, fun, happiness, and so much more. Never feel like you have to settle for anything less.


Best Wishes,


Gyro Psychology Services, Inc.

Olympia, Washington



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