Aha Moments from ASCA15

School, this year, ended for me on June 26th. However, I was up bright and early on the morning of June 27th excited to be heading for Phoenix and the American School Counseling Association’s National Conference: Spice Up Your School Counseling Program #ASCA15.


This was the first time in my eleven years of school counselling that I attended a conference specifically targeted for Professional School Counsellors. In addition I was excited to meet-up, for the first time face to face, many of the amazing members of my PLN. People who I had gotten to know online over the last two years through my ePD including #SCin30, #sccrowd and #scchat.


ASCA15, was very moving for me. It was a time to connect with others who could understand my passion for youth and my commitment to instilling hope. While many sessions were very good, I experienced  a few “AHA” moments throughout the conference which will positively influence my counselling programs in the future. I would love to share these treasures with you too.

AHA 1 Stealth Mental Health – be wherever you’re needed


During the Red Cross Training: Foundations of Disaster Mental Health workshop, there was a fantastic co-presenter (I’m sorry I don’t remember her name) who had a fabulous sense of humour. She was a social worker with over 30 years of experience in supporting crisis situations. She reminded us that the most important thing to do when encouraging resiliency, is to read your audience and create an environment where they can feel safe and secure. Language matters: if play therapy sounds threatening, create a “playroom“. Call people survivors and not victims.  She also reminded us that sometimes supporting mental health can be as simple as providing tissues and water.

AHA 2 It takes a team to build a dream. 

Fredi Lajvardi, is one of the teachers who inspired the movie Spare Parts. His school’s robotics team was also documented in Wired Magazine.


Lajvardi’s inspirational speech encouraged all of us to embrace diversity and  create meaningful relationships becuase you never know where the next great student will come from. He explained that every student on his team from the special education student to the academically gifted was able to contribute. His special education students were able to provided NEW ideas and outside of the box thinking, which the more academic students were then able to put into practice. This created an innovative working team which was able to achieve more than was ever thought possible.

AHA 3 Making an Impact with group counselling.

11707811_10153262392990845_4447882916601759042_n Ed Jacobds and I at the session

Ed Jacobs and Christine Schimmel provided an amazing afternoon on Impact Therapy. The primary message being that groups should be directed with a purpose.

Ed and Christine believe that the brain remembers novelty and therefore props can be useful tools in a counselling session. Some of my favorite demos included:

Pop = cloudy thinking Water= clear thinking; even if you are shaken clear thinkers don’t explode

The Bill Part 1 Hold up a bill – how much is this worth? Scrunch it up step on it it’s still worth the same amount – you’re worth it.

The Bill Part 2

Hold a bill folded thin…, is it worth more if its thinner? Hmmm Impacted image used from financialpostcom

Aha 4 Wii can be a powerful tool in a counsellors office

My previous experience had taught me that sometimes the best conversations with kids don’t happen when we are sitting directly across from each other, but while we are engaged in other activities. Christina Welch’s session provided many examples of how to incorporate video games as school counselling tools.

Some of the suggestions I might try myself include:

Mii development on the Wii How is it like you? How is it different? Use your Mii to practice making friends

Create a bookcraft– mindcraft work based on books

Minecraft build your dream university

Aha 5  Inclusion does not just benefit students with special needs: It benefits all students

Learning through inclusive communities.

Dr Tim Shriver is not just the embassador for Special Olympics, but he also focuses on the role of Social Intelligence through his book Fully Alive.  His anecdots were inspirational and he topped it off by teaching us a WE ARE ABLE dance performed by the Unified Sports Team from Kellis High School.