May 9, 2020
This week on MIA Radio, we
interview Nicole Beurkens, PhD, about the impact of the COVID-19
crisis and “quarantine life” on children with different types of
behavioral, emotional, and neurodevelopmental challenges. Families
may be understandably worried that the stress of lockdown may
aggravate their child’s struggles. Yet, we hear some parents say
the situation has changed their child for the better. Why might
A unique combination of psychologist, nutritionist, and special
educator, Dr. Nicole Beurkens has over 20 years of
experience supporting children, young adults, and families.
She is an expert in evaluating and treating a wide range of
learning, mood, and behavior challenges. Dr. Beurkens holds a
doctorate in clinical psychology, master’s degrees in special
education and nutrition, and is a Board-Certified Nutrition
Specialist. She is the founder and director of Horizons
Developmental Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she
leads a multidisciplinary team dedicated to exceptional evaluation
and integrative treatment services, research on innovative
treatment protocols, and professional training on best
Dr. Beurkens is a highly sought-after international consultant
and speaker, award-winning therapist, published researcher, and
best-selling author. Her work has been highlighted in
numerous publications, and she is an expert media source.
When she isn’t working, Dr. Beurkens enjoys spending time with her
husband and four children.
(audio to be added)
- Her background as a holistic therapist helping children with
severe behavioral and emotional problems, which combines training
and experience in special education, psychology, and nutrition. She
integrates these skills to uncover and address the physical,
social, and/or environmental “root causes” underlying her patients’
symptoms, which often include dietary, sleep, immune, and other
previously undiagnosed issues.
- How “sheltering in place” slows down and simplifies life, which
can benefit kids with neurodevelopmental, mental health and other
challenges by reducing the usual heavy demands of school,
therapies, and activities; allowing them to take the time they need
to accomplish things; and letting them get more sleep.
- That schools tend to focus on academic achievement at the
expense of developing other important skills such as planning, time
management, and interpersonal relations. Being home offers parents
an opportunity to focus on nurturing these life skills through
planned and spontaneous family activities.
- How parents can leverage the plusses of staying at home and
minimize the minuses. Lowering stress levels and activity overload
is key: Parents should not only limit their expectations of their
kids, but of themselves. That said, this is an opportunity for
adult-child collaboration on household chores and decision-making,
especially with older kids.
- The importance of maintaining balance between learning
activities, personal development, play, creative pursuits, and
exercise or movement, tailored to your child’s and family’s needs.
These need not be structured to be valuable; some kids learn best
through self-directed activity. Boredom and doing nothing can also
be valuable; parents should not feel compelled to entertain or
teach their children all day long.
- Specific strategies to support children with different types of
challenges during this quieter period. For example, those typically
given an ADHD diagnosis, whatever the underlying cause, struggle
with planning, organizing, and follow-through. Now we can help them
practice these skills and become more independent by developing
their own goals and schedules for the things they want and need to
- The opportunities the pandemic offers children with anxiety to
face their fears and “build resilience.” These include developing
coping strategies with a parent or tele-therapist, such as
practicing talking back to negative, scary thoughts, or inventing
their own. It’s also important for parents not to dwell on dangers
and worries in front of frightened kids and to limit kids’ exposure
to the news media.
- How Dr. Beurkens is balancing her own personal and professional
lives, including doing telehealth sessions while having all four
kids and her husband around the house. She emphasizes that constant
communication and renegotiating priorities are key, and advocates
finding a daily structure that works for your job and
- The importance of parents’ own self-care, including finding new
ways to exercise and relax so you can be your best for your family.
The need to “focus on what we can do rather than what we
Nicole Beurkens’s website