Social Work in the Public Eye (March 2017)

Nityda Coleman

“I think it is important for teachers, parents and counselors to educate teens about the risks of social media and expose them to the issue,” NASW member Nityda Coleman, a clinical social worker and therapist at Teen Therapy Austin was quoted saying in a story posted at

“It’s important to go into detail around why social media can be harmful as well as helpful,” Coleman said.

A report, “Social Media Use and Children’s Wellbeing,” published by IZA Institute of Labor Economics, states that children between ages 10 and 15 who spend as little as one hour a day chatting on social networks are overall less content, the story says.

The report claims that spending one hour a day chatting on social networks reduces the probability of being completely satisfied with life overall by approximately 14 percentage points. A survey of British households was conducted from 2010 through 2014, partially in an effort to “contribute to wider debates about the socioeconomic consequences of the internet and digital technologies,” the story says.

It noted that it is important for children to know they can express how they feel when they discuss the rules and limitations of social media use.

“Let your teen know that you might want to check in on her/him every now and again,” Coleman is quoted saying. “It is extremely important to listen to, empathize with, and validate your teen’s experiences and perception of the world both on and off social media. Rather than giving her/him advice or a solution, listen... .”

Janice Fialka

NASW member Janice Fialka, her husband, Rich; daughter, Emma; and son, Micah, launched themselves on a mission to prove that labels and IQ tests are not true measures of someone’s ability to be valuable to the world, to contribute and to learn, according to an interview Fialka did with NPR Michigan.

She discussed her book, What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love, where she shares what she has learned about raising and supporting Micah, who has an intellectual disability.

Fialka says her son pushed just as much as the family did for his inclusion in school after he expressed to her that he wanted to go to through the same school door as his friends.

“People with labels can live a meaningful life,” she said.

Fialka notes that the book charts how Micah was fully included and later challenged discrimination in federal court and won, and how he moved 300 miles from his home to become a teaching assistant at Syracuse University. It is one of the first higher education programs to employ a person with intellectual disability as a T.A., she said.

“Do not limit your kids with any kind of label,” Fialka suggested to other parents with intellectually challenged children. “Use your imagination for what might be possible.”

Micha’s story will be featured in an upcoming documentary film, “Intelligent Lives.” A trailer is available.

Sergio Gutierrez

How to recognize symptoms of PTSD in children after serious storms is the focus of a story produced by WDAM in Pine Belt, Miss.

A tornado ripped through the area in January. NASW member Sergio Gutierrez, a clinical social worker with Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, listed some of the warning signs for post-traumatic stress in children.

“Some things parents might notice, which is normal, could be increased activity, difficulty with concentration or attention, agitation, problems sleeping or appetite changes,” Gutierrez is quoted saying. “In adolescents, parents might notice more acting out or increased substance abuse. Some physical signs might be headaches or stomach aches. Parents might also notice children focusing a lot on the tornado, that they want to talk about it a lot. Young children might even want to play tornado games.”

Gutierrez suggests keeping an open dialogue with children about their feelings.

“Let children talk as much as they need to,” he said. “Be open and be patient. Ask children their opinions on what they’ve heard other people and their friends talk about dealing with the tornado.”

Joy Cheng

The Chicago Tribune highlighted the important work school staff can make when helping students deal with homelessness.

The story highlighted the challenge of one student at Niles Central High School in Skokie, Ill., who had to deal with being without a place to stay at night.

Among those who helped the student was NASW member Joy Cheng, a social worker at Niles Central.

When it was discovered the student was dealing with bouts of homelessness, teachers started checking each day whether he had a place to stay for the night.

“I didn’t ask for it,” the student was quoted saying. “Pretty much the whole school watched over me and took care of me.”