By: Cynthia Kim-Eumie Shockley
My body houses the stories of my past.
My eyes have seen the ripe red blood of my little brother’s flesh after one of my father’s many bursts of anger.
My ears have heard the shrieking screams and heaving sobs of my unhappy mother.
My nose has smelled the liquor on my breath and sweat after blacking out, again.
My mouth has tasted the salty aftermath of my first and unconscious sexual encounter (the cum, then the tears when I came to and realized what had happened).
My skin has felt both the open palm of painful punishment as a child and the trembling, eager hands of boys who thought raping me made them a man.
My heart has felt it all--the pain, the shame, the guilt… but it has also felt immense joy, liberation, and love.
I don’t share this for pity. On the contrary, you’ve probably experienced some of these Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). At least 61% of adults have experienced at least one type of ACE. According to studies, more ACEs = worse health and wellbeing.
I share my story to show you that your past does not determine your future. We can understand patterns then use our intuition and wisdom to intentionally choose a different path.
I chose the path of healing.
My path to healing required a devastating blow, a crumbling of my foundation. My father contracted a brain virus. To survive, I left college to help my mom run the family business. Here, I developed a raw, honest relationship with my parents. The veil of authoritarian parenting was lifted, and I saw my parents for who they were as human beings who also had their own traumas influencing their belief systems and behaviors. Forgiveness, compassion, and respect were forged where only resentment, anger, and fear had existed.
During this time, I also experienced an intense ego-loss. I had left UCLA, my sorority, my dance team, and all my clubs in the middle of my sophomore year. Who the heck am I?
Writing became my first healing tool. It became a powerful way for me to process the changes I was going through and to define my truths. Sitting down at my laptop, click-clacking away, I create a safe space for my thoughts and feelings to be important and valid.
After my parents declared bankruptcy, we moved in with my aunt and uncle. I began working a 9-5 job to save up for tuition, but still felt lost as to who I was. I had always danced, so I decided to reconnect to myself that way. Through what I can only call fate, there was a pole dance studio five minutes from me. I decided to give it a whirl, and gosh am I glad I did.
Unveiled Fitness was a sacred sanctuary for women from all walks of life to feel, allow, and play. Here, I learned that I was the only one who owned my body. Here, I learned to be fully present in the moment. Here, I learned to love my body and the spirit within. Here, I was not a victim of abuse and rape, but a survivor, a thriver, a goddess reawakened. I became a pole instructor here, teaching beginners, inspired to guide and catalyze others’ awakenings.
When I went back to UCLA, I couldn’t find a pole studio with that same energy, but I found a yoga teacher who brought in that playful and healing spirit to her classes. Nicole Doherty became my teacher trainer, not only teaching me how to teach yoga, but how we can heal trauma through other ancient methods like reiki, breathwork, and shamanic healing.
By now, I was in full tilt with this holistic healing path. I was jazzed to join a Mindfulness Meditation club. I took courses at the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center to build my own practice and began facilitating mindfulness to children and the UCLA community.
Along the way, I met the love of my life and now-husband. He respected me and uplifted me in ways I’d never felt from a man, and I saw a future with him that was aligned to my reclaimed values.
Before leaving LA to live with him in Minnesota, my teacher Nicole invited me to a shamanic healing experience (it’s like guided imagery but more interactive, self-guided, and spiritually-focused). This introduction allowed me to later on have a private shamanic healing session with Nicole in which I experienced being my 5-year-old self and meeting my young parents to speak the truths I couldn’t speak before. I got to forgive them, and forgive myself in this journey. Whether that experience was imagined or not, the benefits were very very real.
I still use all these healing tools to process my truths, to re-write my story, to embrace the present moment, and to check in with and soothe my inner child. My body houses the stories of my past and it houses my dreams for the future. These healing tools allow me to kindly hold space for my traumas while reclaiming my power to design my life.
I am now an Integrative Health Coach running my own business empowering Mamas and Mamas-to-be to discover their own path of healing and know their power. I offer the very tools that have worked for me & collaborate with a wide range of healers to share radical healing experiences. This is something little-Cynthia would never believe she’d ever have the guts or grit to do. Yet, here I stand.
You are not a statistic. No matter the traumas of your past, you are an infinite being of light who absolutely has the capacity to pause, re-program, and manifest the life you deserve.
Feel free to reach out for your free Consult Call to connect and explore how we can support each other in this wild ride of life.
Cynthia Kim-Eumie Shockley is Founder and Owner of Mighty Mama Coaching, LLC. She is a Health & Wellbeing Coach who creates a warm and inspiring space for Mamas and Mamas-to-be to know their power and live their legacy. She is innately warm and curious, but she has refined her skills as an engaged listener and activator in her lifetime of study and 8 years of work as a healer.
As for Cynthia’s own healing journey, Cynthia realized that human health depends not only on the wellbeing of the body, but on the wellbeing of the mind and spirit as well after a family trauma. Though she was drawn to healing through writing, art, dance, meditation, and yoga, she felt trapped by a message: that being a medical doctor was the only way she could credibly heal others. In 2015 she moved to Minnesota to follow her heart, teach yoga, and apply to medical schools. Through a series of timely events and a personal leap of faith, Cynthia ended up right where she was meant to be--in her Health & Wellbeing Coaching Masters program. There, she learned more about Yoga & Ayurveda through a travel abroad program in India, Shamanic Healing, Mind Body Science, Functional Nutrition, and Coaching for Groups. On top of that, she learned so much more about herself, her purpose in life, and how she will pursue that purpose with grit and grace.
By: Catherine D. Nguyen, Writer & Editor
Ulysses Gonzales may look like the boy next door with a pleasant grin and piercing, kind eyes, but he is far from ordinary. We meet in a café formally called The Gypsey Den in Downtown Santa Ana. The small chain dropped what they felt was a derogatory descriptor in the name, but a free-spirited atmosphere still emanates from the hodgepodge collection of art on the walls and shoegaze music playing in the background. It’s an appropriate backdrop for Ulysses’ story filled with darkness, mythical imagery, and an ever-present strand of hope and resilience.
We sit and chat for hours, and I’m surprised by his openness. He's in a reflective place in his life after accomplishing great success. Ulysses is an artist from Garden Grove, California, and his psychedelic works of cultural figures and surrealist imagery have amassed him over 100,000 followers on social media and the support of celebrities like Joe Rogan and Pauly Shore.
His works are bright, metaphysical, and gently subversive: a purple-glowing Albert Einstein with his third eye ablaze, a colorful rendering of Kobe Bryant in a parallel universe, Macaulay Calkin’s home alone face melded into the iconic “Scream” composition. Sometimes his art is darker. Alien fetuses glowing in a radiating womb, phantasms melting off the canvas, menacing portraits of cultural icons like Hunter S. Thompson in a Dali-esque landscape.
His work, perhaps emblematic of symbols within our collective unconscious, also provides a window into his own psyche. As he speaks about his past, I get the impression Ulysses has catalyzed his experience into fuel for art. He lives, breathes, and eats art. Tragedy happens? He puts it into a painting. A midnight revelation? He starts creating right away. It appears his evolution as an artist will be unstoppable because he constantly strives to be the best version of himself.
Daggers, Bullets, & Wolves
Ulysses’ path to becoming an artist, like his art, has been full of bright, surreal moments juxtaposed with heavy imagery. From dodging bullets at a Garden Grove party to protecting himself from wolves in sheep's clothing, Ulysses has had to follow his instincts to get out of sketchy situations and to escape predators in his life.
According to Ulysses, wolves have been a recurring image in his subconscious for years and appear in his art as well. While the wolves in his dreams used to be a source of terror, they’re now a symbol of empowerment. “My spirit animal is a wolf because I always want to be surrounded by positivity and the power of a wolf pack," he writes on Instagram.
Regardless of the danger that has encircled him in the past, Ulysses traverses through experience following knowledge and love like a compass and uses his art to cast light on shadows in his psyche. Sometimes Ulysses finds himself in stoic solitude or communal utopia, but it seems he's most at home when he's facing fear and bringing his imagination to life.
But, things weren't always like this.
There was a time in Ulysses' life when he felt deeply stuck. He was in a situation for years that sucked the creativity and joy out of him. One fateful day, a work injury caused him to lose vision temporarily.
"It felt like there were scales on my eyes and blood was coming from them. The pain was excruciating."
When he eventually regained his vision, Ulysses made a decision: he would leave and travel the world.
His first stop was Europe’s longest and most storied pilgrimage route, El Camino de Santiago. Ulysses walked alone day and night for a month to heal from his broken relationship and to chart his next steps in life.
"It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. [The walk] didn't heal me from that relationship but my art got better."
After backpacking El Camino and stumbling upon the "outsider" art of Montmartre, France, Ulysses became inspired to create. The scales from his eyes fell and he remembered his first muse: his mom.
“When I was a kid, my mom would make me copy one Van Gogh painting at time until I had done like twenty. Then, she put money on the table and said, ‘now go do your own art’.
Since then, Ulysses has continued evolving and pushing the limits of his craft. He works non-stop and is constantly creating through various mediums from paint to murals to graphic art, and now to NFT's.
Rise to Fame
Ulysses has garnered much success through the internet. With 107,000 Instagram followers, Ulysses says he's developed a strong presence on social media because he cultivates authentic connections with his followers and produces quality content they love. Ulysses shared that he sometimes asks his followers what kind of content they want to see and then creates and delivers it. His Instagram live videos display him in the process of creating murals, art, or participating in challenges.
The exposure from social media cultivated an organic reach that has opened doors for him. One encounter in particular changed the course of his career.
After two years of creating and posting his work on social media, celebrities like @PaulieShore and @JoeRogen began to take notice.
Joe Rogen even promoted Ulysses' work after seeing a 40-foot tall mural of Rogen being abducted by aliens. After Rogan personally reached out to Ulysses to purchase a surreal painting of Hunter S. Thompson with swirling, glowing eyes and a cigarette draped from his mouth, things took off for Ulysses.
“Once he purchased one of my paintings, I began to get messages from people all over the world asking for me to make copies of the original for them.”
The notoriety propelled Ulysses into the spotlight where he now uses his platform to convey a message to his audience:
"Don't be afraid to look fear in the eye. Buy the ticket, take the ride!"
Currently, Ulysses is working on two different 40-foot murals in Los Angeles and continues amassing a huge following. He has expanded his art into Cryptoart, clothing, animation, and even has a custom line of PC mods parts.
"Wherever I'm at, I'm going to make money with my art," he says, "I'm just getting started."
For more of Ulysses' art, follow him on Instagram @ugonzo_art or visit his website Ugonzoart.com
For clothing and prints, check out https://linktr.ee/ugonzo_art.
How breaking out of the norm helped me live my most empowered life
By Valerie Low
My second time attending Burning Man in 2016 changed the course of my life. My campmate Kevin told me about a quote that he saw in a porta-potty:
“Ask not what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Since then, I’ve been using it as my compass, living life, following my inspiration - discovering what makes me feel ALIVE.
A month after the burn, I ended up selling and giving away most of my belongings. I left my 2-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of LA, set out to travel the world with only a 40L backpack.
After traveling through 5 different countries being a backpacker, I was back in LA the next summer. Since I'd already given up my apartment a year before, I thought I could at least find myself a temporary home for the next few months. That's how I got an RV right before Thanksgiving of 2017.
I’d never even been inside an RV before I bought one.
The second day living in the RV life by myself out in the desert of California, I asked myself, “What now?”
I’ve traveled the world, I’ve got my dream RV, but what do I do now?
I had been an engineer, a marketing manager, started and ran my own company, and now I thought:
I am going to do WHATEVER I WANT.
I spent the next two months living out of my RV, mainly in the desert, off-grid. I spent my days drawing, practicing guitar, cooking three meals for myself, fixing up the RV, doing yoga, and watching the sunrise and sunset.
I enjoyed the stillness of the desert. Many days the only movement I saw outside my windows were birds flying in the sky and other RVs coming and going in the distance.
Other than enjoying nature, there were many things I needed to learn and many challenges I needed to face on my own.
One night out in the desert there was a huge wind storm. My RV was shaking wildly from the wind, and I could hear a loud banging noise on the roof. Was it some sort of animal? Or was it from the wind? I didn’t know what it was. I even considered calling the police! And I was so scared the RV might tip over from the wind. It was a sleepless night as you can imagine.
And there was another night, out in the wild, when a rat got into my RV! I was terrified! Nowhere else to go, nobody to call for help. I had to spend the night with the rat running around the RV.
Other than these unforeseen incidents, there were many things I needed to learn.
One of the first things I got to learn was how to drain and clean my black water tank (literally cleaning my own shit!). There were some messy attempts but that’s when I was reminded, ‘when we don’t mind getting our hands dirty, there are many things we could accomplish!’
At the beginning of my RV life, I thought my lesson for this chapter would be self-empowerment. Though it was very much about empowering myself, I quickly realized it was more about SELF-LOVE.
I was all by myself, with my own thoughts. Without stimulation from the outside world, I was my only source of entertainment, care, and love.
That’s when I realized even a greeting from a barista at Starbucks used to give me a sense of connectedness. These seemingly unimportant events in society were also a source for me to feel loved.
Now that those seemingly unimportant events are gone, I depend on myself to give me all that I need.
THIS IS THE JOURNEY. It’s a journey of me loving myself!
Other than the external challenges I was facing, many days I spent fighting a war within myself, feeling lonely, disconnected, scared, and exhausted.
Without having a place to escape to or distract myself with, I learned to be present with those feelings. Instead of pushing them away, which creates more tension in me and makes me feel worse, I let them be. I learned to keep them company. I learned how to comfort myself.
There’s a poem by Rumi that I share a lot with my friends:
“The Guest House” by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Negative emotions could be clearing me out for new delight.
I’ve been shown again and again, by befriending these challenges and accepting these negative feelings, that I am able to learn from them, and always, I seriously mean that - it ALWAYS leaves me feeling stronger, wiser, and lighter.
Other than my usual meditation practice, drawing mandalas helped me a great deal during this time. It’s another form of meditation, another way of training my focus. When I draw, I can hear myself talking clearly. I listen to the conversations in my head as if I am listening to a podcast. Breathing into any uncomfortable feelings that come up and observing my thoughts as they are.
The same capacity I have built to experience the negatives, helps me in experiencing the positives.
I’ve come to find that self-love is not simply taking a nice long bath or buying myself ice cream. It’s the way I talk to myself, being my own best ally, and taking 100% responsibility for myself - both physically and emotionally.
I’ve come to appreciate myself even more, finding joy in the littlest things around me.
My capacity to feel joy gets bigger and deeper as I allow myself to experience challenges with an even more open heart.
All of these experiences have equipped me to keep traveling on this earth with more ease and compassion. Learning to appreciate and love myself, I can better appreciate and love others.
Valerie Low is a nomad, entrepreneur, yogi, burner, and avid traveler. She’s always on the hunt for new coffee shops, experiencing new cultures, and learning how to say thank you in a new language. Connecting with people from all walks of life is her superpower. She dreams of a world without borders. Using compassion and inspiration as her compass, calling wherever she lands home.
Follow her journey on wwww.flowwithoutborders.com
In 2016, I moved to Vietnam to teach English in Bien Hoa, Vietnam because I was magnetized to the epicenter of where my story began. It was this period in my life that I fell in love with Vietnam, its people, and its complex history. The Vietnamese have a history of kicking ass like Lady Trưng Trắc who avenged the murder of her dissident husband by leading the great rebellion against China in 248 AD and Võ Thị Sáu, a sixteen-year-old school girl, who fought the French occupation and whose death led 980,000 Vietnamese women to join the movement. I was especially reminded of this strength and resilience when I visited Ky-Quang Pagoda. Founded in 1994 by Thich Thien Chien, Ky Quang cares for more than 200 disabled, orphaned, and abandoned children.
As I entered Ky Quang’s grounds with my friend, Tran Anh, we were greeted warmly by the staff. In the courtyard filled with flowering banyan trees, children from five to thirteen played and giggled with the sweetness of innocence. As we moved past them to the medical ward, I was told by Anh to brace myself for what I was about to see. She explained that during the (Vietnam) war, toxic chemicals were poured into the rivers and ingested by the Vietnamese, North & South alike. As a result, illness and genetic deformities like cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus or swelling of the brain began to spring up in the offspring of the people who ingested and had contact with the poison.
She paused and I stared blankly at her. I would later come to understand that she was referring to Agent Orange poisoning, a herbicide mixture used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Much of it contained a dangerous chemical contaminant called dioxin linked to cancers, diabetes, birth defects and other disabilities .
There is often a layer of desensitization that protects us from feeling the world’s cruelties. Sometimes it’s a logical filter, willful distraction, or numbness: all are coping mechanisms and none are inherently wrong. But it wasn’t until this moment that these coping mechanisms melted in me, and I began to feel viscerally the experience of others.
I walked into the medical ward on the second floor and instantly began crying. I muted myself so as not to disturb the others but the tears continued. Before me, a row of infants suffering from hydrocephalus, or swelling of the brain, stared up at the ceiling on small cots. Their digits moved sporadically as they sensed us. One staff member, an older woman with kind eyes, who watched over the babies welcomed us. She advised us not to get too close, so I spent the afternoon whispering prayers of love and encouragement to them, hoping I could one day return to them.
That was five years ago. Chùa Kỳ Quang 2 Gò Vấp continues to care for these children. My hope is to raise awareness and funds to support these children, but my ultimate goal is to find a cure for hydrocephalus to give these infants a chance at life. If you are compelled, please feel free to donate to this cause. I've also started a bi-monthly community yoga class in Orange County where all proceeds will go to the care of these children. Your donation will go directly to this orphanage and will go to the care of these children.
How using visual strategies coupled with patience and accountability can strengthen your child’s communication skills
By: Catherine Phương-Đông Nguyen, M.A.Ed.
5 minute read.
Every morning your child wakes to a world filled with visual information. They see the alarm clock digits glowing in the dark, the light travelling through the window that tells them to rise, and the notifications that appear on their devices. In less than a second, your child gets the sense of a visual scene and a neural constellation of information involving 50% of their brain gets processed (Semetko & Scammell, 2012). Think of all the information your child processes in a day. It’s no wonder some children struggle to focus, may become confused, or feel anxious and overwhelmed. These feelings can affect a child’s ability to learn, interact with others, and feel comfortable at school and at home. So how can you use strategic visual supports to help your child make sense of the world and to strengthen their communication skills?
Visual supports, such as photos, drawings, charts, gestures, and print, are a powerful tool of communication for children. They are sometimes paired with verbal explanations and help children know what to do, how to learn new skills, how to express themselves, and how to feel included. These strategies support children who are visual learners who may need additional time to process what is being said and come up with a response. Using visual supports coupled with patience and accountability can deepen your child’s communication skills and abilities because they are engaging, fun, easier to recall, and more accessible.
5 Reasons Why Visuals Supports Are So Impactful & How to Implement Them
1. Visual supports help teach and reinforce positive behavior. According to the Center on the Social Emotional Foundations of Early Learning, supports like choice charts (see below for more info) show children what to do and how to do it, explain step-by-step, procedural directions, and reroute negative behavior to clear and productive tasks (n.d.). When breaking down complex activities into steps, parents can decide if a simpler or more detailed visual will help children master the task. Use images that are clear, uncluttered representations. Have an adult try out the directions before using the visual with children.
2. Visual supports enable children to express their inner world (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, wants, needs). Helping children become aware of their inner world and how to communicate their thoughts and feelings will allow them to develop a confident and independent perspective of themselves. According to relationship therapist, Charles Whitfield, M.D., children who learn to express themselves clearly are more likely to form healthy boundaries (1993, p.48-49). Parents can use visual supports to help children communicate what is available to them. They can select an activity based on the visual information on a board. Start with fewer choices and add more options or complexity later as children are able to manage them. Parents can post images that represent “survival phrases,” such as I am hungry, I am tired, and I need to go to the bathroom or use a feeling chart to help children take a temperature of their inner world. It’s important to select visual supports that meet your child’s appropriate developmental level. See below for a breakdown age-appropriate visual supports.
3. Visual Supports help communicate routines & expectations. Creating clear and aesthetically-appealing visuals can serve as a reminder of what your child should be doing, when they should be doing it, and how they should do it. Reinforced with verbal direction, visuals help children know exactly what is expected of them (e.g., washing hands independently, cleaning up toys). Parents can create visually appealing charts and lists to communicate rules, routines, and expectations. Parents can create stories that use images with words to provide scripts or offer video models of appropriate behavior for children to follow in social situations. For more on routines and expectations, see “3 Reasons Why Routines for Children of All Ages Fail and How to Fix it”
4. Visual Supports enhance memory & learning. Due to their engaging, fun, accessible nature, visuals activate prior knowledge and create a powerful neural bridge to new knowledge. According to the Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication, children remember 80% of what they see and do, 20% of what they read, and 10% of what they hear (Lester, 2006). Just as adults use calendars, grocery lists, and “to do” lists to enhance memory, children also benefit from visual reminders. Parents can use charts, signs, lists that children can view regularly to improve memory. Visual supports like graphic organizers and Do-What Charts can help children visualize academic tasks. For more ways to use visual supports to enhance learning, see this article.
5. Visual Supports cultivate independence and self-efficacy. Visuals are static, meaning that they remain present after words are spoken. Children can refer to them once the spoken words are no longer present. Regular routines, when represented visually, can be taught to children at a very young age. Once taught, the adult can fade out of the routine and allow the child to self-monitor the routine to completion (Tips and Ideas for Making Visuals to Support Young Children with Challenging Behavior). As your child completes tasks successfully, they will gradually take responsibility for their actions and feel more confident in their abilities. According to renowned psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is "the belief in one's capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations” (1997). Self-efficacy is a person's belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Cultivating self-efficacy is a powerful way to help your child become an empowered communicator. For older children, parents can celebrate their child’s completion of a task or hold their child accountable through positive reinforcements. For more on positive reinforcement, check out this article, “Consequences for Kids: What Parents Need to Know”.
Identifying Your Child’s Visual Stage
When deciding which types of visual support strategies to use, consider your child’s learning ability and age of development. According to the Center on Social Emotion Foundations for Early Learning, your child’s “visual stage” (or combination of) may be identified by the following criteria:
• Object Stage (18-24 months): use of actual objects and items for communication needs. Child psychologist Jean Piaget believed that representational thought begins to emerge between 18 and 24 months. At this point, children become able to form mental representations of objects. Because they can symbolically imagine things that cannot be seen, they are now able to understand object permanence.
• Photo Stage (3 years and +): use of real photographs (photo, digital, scanned, magazines, catalogs, coupon ads, Izone Camera, which prints out mini “Polaroid” pictures with adhesive on the back side of the picture) for communication needs.
• Picture Symbolic Stage (4 years and+): use of colored line drawings (hand drawn or commercially produced) for communication needs.
• Line Drawing Stage (5 years and +): use of black and white line drawings (hand drawn or commercially produced) for communication needs.
• Text Stage (5 years and +): use of written words and/or numbers for communication needs.
Types of Visual Supports to Use in Your Home
Plan when and how to evaluate their effectiveness. Adjust the kinds, frequency of use, placement, or purpose of supports as children’s needs change. Make visuals using sturdy materials, such as card stock or file folders. Supports created from these materials are easy to make and long-lasting. Visual supports provide predictability and structure in the daily routine. They let children take part in the curriculum and understand information. They help children organize their thoughts, expand their ability to communicate, and increase their independence. Visual supports are available and can be created in a variety of formats, including books, posters, games, slideshows, apps, and video.
#1. Schedule Boards (First/Then Boards)
A First/Then board can be used to communicate a sequence of events or to reinforce completion of a non-preferred activity. A First/Then board can be used in a variety of ways:
• Assist with transition from one activity to another.
• Assist in completing non-preferred tasks by reinforcing with a preferred activity.
• Breaking a large schedule or sequence of events into smaller steps.
#2 Behavioral Supports (Choice Charts)
Allowing for choice making gives children opportunities for socially appropriate power and control and give choices at every opportunity possible (Do you want the blue cup or the red cup?”) If you don’t have a visual that represents a particular choice, use the actual item or a representation of the choices (e.g., food choice, art materials, toy pieces, video choices).
#3 Communication Boards (Visual Schedule/Reminder Board)
Visual Schedules and Reminders can help children learn how to manage their time and learn self-regulation, executive functions (making decisions), and emotional regulation (control of feelings) as well as behavioral regulation (control of actions and movement) . Younger children may prefer traffic signals, visual cues/reminders that cue him to “stop computer,” “go pee-pee,” then “go back to the computer.” Older children may use a weekly schedule where both parents and children work together to fill the schedule out. This form of communication helps children build organizational skills they’ll need later on in life.
#4 Positive Reinforcement Boards
Positive reinforcement is the act of rewarding or praising the positive behaviors in an attempt to change, avoid, or completely stop the negative behaviors. Just like any other picture board set up, such as Reminder Boards, a positive reinforcement chart is personalized for each child.
The Big Picture
Whether you use choice charts or reminder boards, visual supports will make your life easier by providing structure, routine, improve understanding, and strengthen your child’s communication skills. When introducing the visual strategies to your child, explain what you are going to be using it for. Think about when and where you will be using the visual. In what activities/situations would it be most useful. If you are applying positive reinforcements, make sure they are meaningful and motivating for your child. Be consistent in your use of visuals: children need to see visuals lots of times to begin to understand their use. Make sure the visuals are clearly visible for your child, accessible, and clear. The hardest part may be having patience with your child as they learn new visual strategies. Learning is the repetitive process of discovery and rediscovery and that through practice and patience, you’re child will become more capable and communicative.
Remember that visual strategies are there to help move your child towards independent and confident communication and responsibility. The strategies you put into place will hopefully create schemas (a plan or outline) your child will apply later on in school and life, and your child’s perspective of the world will be shaped by the structures you create for them. This gradual release of responsibility creates capable young people who have learned self-regulation through consistent practice with their family.
Youtube: 5 Ways to Incorporate Visual Supports at Home
For more ways to incorporate visual strategies at home, view the video below and subscribe to https://coachfranny.com
5 Ways to Incorporate Visual Supports at Home. (n.d.) Retrieved April 01, 2021, from
13 reasons why your brain Craves Infographics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2021, from
Bandura A. Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. Cambridge University Press; 1997.
How to Teach Your Child Self Regulation. (n.d.) Retrieved from April 1, 2021, from
Lester, P. M. (2006). Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication.
Semetko, H. & Scammell, M. (2012). The SAGE Handbook of Political Communication, SAGE
Tips and Ideas for Making Visuals to Support Young Children with Challenging Behavior.
February 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2021, from
Whitfield, C.L. (1993). Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the
Self, Health Communications, Inc.
By Catherine Phương-Đông Nguyen, MA.Ed.
How breaking up with hyper-connectivity and the illusion of intimacy gave me a new lease on life.
4 minute read
Years ago, while living in Vietnam, I had a moment of clarity spurred on by a night of inebriation that changed my perspective forever. After a gut-punching break-up, I chucked my smart phone over the balcony of a five-story building, and then had the best sleep of my life. The next morning, I was like Oh fuck...what did I do, but then I got up, made a strong, tall glass of Vietnamese coffee, and had the most productive day I’d had in weeks. I understand my actions may be viewed as reckless and wasteful, but frankly, I needed to break up with hyper-connectivity.
I liken the destruction of a phone to the end of a relationship because of the attachment I’d developed to this sophisticated mass of aluminum, ceramic glass, and wizardy gadgetry. According to CNN Business, Americans average about four hours a day on their phone, up from three hours in 2019.  I was obsessed with my phone, constantly texting, clicking, infinite scrolling, and sliding. It got to the point where I started to develop carpel tunnel syndrome and dreamt an iPhone chord connected my spine to a matrix-like motherboard. Yikes! But the worst part about my phone obsession was the illusion of intimacy with all my “friends” generated through social media.
There are 3.8 billion social media users worldwide.  That’s almost half the world’ population. The constant stream of free-flowing information from this $84 billion industry dumping into my brain distracted me from the reality that I only engaged with 10-15 of these folks and only actually liked about 4-5 of them. So, what was I doing for hours and hours from the time I woke to the moments before I closed my eyes? Browsing through a menagerie of people’s lives, mostly people from my past, and wondering what more I could have like all the shining projections on my screen. Comparing, reminiscing, fixating on things, moments, and people.
The night I threw my device into the ether, I was fixating on a Vietnamese guy named Duy. Duy was born and raised in a war-torn city that had been ravaged by chemical warfare. He was the youngest of four sisters and understood the transient nature of love, especially coming from foreigners from other nations. His grandfather was an American soldier who impregnated his grandmother during the Vietnam war. At the end of his tour, his grandfather left and was never heard from again.
Duy lived the left-behind reality of love undone. And yet, we two, from opposite sides of the world met in his hometown and sparks flew. When I first saw Duy, he was managing a popular expat bar in Bien Hoa called Nation. He moved through the crowd of Vietnamese and white faces with confidence towards me, and my pheromone-fueled fantasy took flight. It didn’t matter to me that we could barely understand each other or that I was leaving for America in a few months. As I got to know him, I compartmentalized the pang of guilt of how my leaving would affect him. I was disconnected from this unpleasant reality and allowed myself to be enraptured by the Asian mystique: motorbiking throughout an exotic yet familiar land, arms wrapped around a mysterious man, discovering the real pulse of the city and my own.
But the truth was that I was more in love with the idea of this man than the man himself. My obsession with the serotonin-soaked experiences had clouded my judgment, and the breakup shattered my illusions. This loss was a heavy reminder of all the friends and loved ones I’d lost that year and who I continued to yearn for and think about. Perhaps, I moved across the world to grieve these losses and achieve some kind of catharsis, but at my fingertips was a constant reminder of my past, my failures, and all my heartbreaks. I was ready to let it all go. So, I held the phone in my hand and threw it all out into the night.
The morning after was sobering. Breaking up with hyper-connectivity and the illusion of intimacy forced me to sit with myself. I realized all the distraction was beginning to negatively affect my psyche. Studies have shown a correlation between hyper-connectivity and depression, particularly among young adults.  I was tired of walking through life in a fog, so I made a decision. Rather than viewing the world through an augmented lens, I would try to be more fully present. Rather than taking pictures of moments and food, I would experience the moments and the food. Rather than plugging in my headphones, I would strike up conversations with people. Instead of rummaging through ten feeds, I would read, reflect, and write.
When I unplugged myself from distraction, the world opened its infinite beauty to me. As I rode my motobike on Võ Thị Sáu, the main road in Biên Hòa, I listened to the city’s euphonious soundscapes: the undulating chatter of people buying and selling, going and leaving, car and motorbike horns blaring at one another, and the endless sound of engines rumbling and roaring. At the market, the freshness of the plants compounded by the aroma of spices and herbs drew me in toward the center of the market, perhaps representational placement as the flavor heart of Vietnamese cuisine. Instead of snapping a picture, I chatted with the spice lady and marveled at her twinkling eyes as she laughed at my broken Vietnamese. While sitting on the corner of a dirt road getting my motorbike fixed, instead of gawking at my phone, I watched how hard the mechanic was working in the hot sun and how the grease stains on his hands reminded me of my dad’s hands after a long day of work. I watched a barber cut a close shave on a man while kids played soccer in the street and reveled in simplicity and honest work and play.
I became more deeply present and connected to myself and the people around me. You know the part in Harry Potter and Half Blood Prince when Dumbledore says: "I am not worried, Harry," his voice a little stronger despite facing his impending death, "I am with you.” That shit fucks me up. The gift of showing up no matter what is inspiring and something I took for granted. I think my students as well as (my friends and family) can feel when I’m with them or when I’m checked out thinking about bacon cheeseburgers or ex-boyfriends. My point is that the beauty in life is found in moments, and if our faces are always shoved into our phones, we’re bound to miss many beautiful ones. You don’t have to toss your smartphone in the garbage, but you can assess introspectively if hyper-connectivity is keeping you from truly living. I don’t know when or if I’ll rejoin the smart phone nation, but if I do I’ll be sure to check-in to life first.
-Catherine D. Nguyen
 Lin, L.y., Sidani, J.E., Shensa, A., Radovic, A., Miller, E., Colditz, J.B., Hoffman, B.L., Giles, L.M. and Primack, B.A. (2016), ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS. Depress Anxiety, 33: 323-331. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22466