Tips of the Trade: College Readiness: Creating a Blueprint for Success

College success is a goal that most of us expect. Schools and families do their part to guide and counsel children towards skill building, good decision-making, and maturity. Notwithstanding these best efforts, many newly minted high school graduates struggle as they transition into demanding post-secondary environments. Some students transfer colleges, some take more than four years to graduate, and still others depart within the first year for a myriad of reasons including medical or disciplinary leaves.

How can the peaks and valleys of transition from High School to College be softened? How can those of us supporting students calibrate the focus onto holistic college readiness preparation?

At any point in the educational process, parents can identify challenge areas within which students will need help and create a plan of action around them. Tenets to consider are:

  • Emotional Maturity. This is indicated when one can self-regulate, deal constructively with obstacles, and relate to others in healthy, productive ways.
  • Academic Tenacity. Here, one’s beliefs, attitudes, and values prioritize school success and drive scholastic engagement.
  • Academic preparedness. This is the acquisition of skills and knowledge that facilitate learning at a higher level. Additionally, one illustrates the ability to exercise cognitive strategies necessary to thrive in college-level courses.

Operationalizing these tenets becomes the basis of a plan:

  • For each area above, develop specific, measurable, and realistic goals to work towards. Goals are most easily identified by considering areas in need of improvement.
  • Then brainstorm clear strategies and action steps for each goal.
  • Identify support team members in and out of school.
  • Establish a regular, consistent schedule for reviewing progress. Keep it short, simple, and adjust as 

Working on our deficits is an arduous task. Keep this in mind as you help your child hone their competencies. Be gentle with yourself and your child. Find times to take a break from “self-improvement” plans and seize the fleeting opportunities when adolescents actually want to spend time with you.

Elaine Morales Thomason, M.Ed., is founder of Emile Educational Consulting and a member of The Life Solution Center of Darien. She provides highly personalized consultation in the areas of traditional school and therapeutic placements, educational planning, and college advising. Elaine works with adolescents and young adults whose educational, emotional, and social needs are not being met by traditional approaches. Her clients range from gifted students whose talents require specialized attention, to students who struggle with underperformance as a result of a varying range of disorders or difficulties. For more information, call 203-636-0080 or visit


Saved from Addiction


Joseph A. Russo, M.D.
CEO and Executive Medical Director
Medical Director and Co-Founder of The Recovery Center of Westport
Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP
Chief Clinical Officer
Founder and Executive Director of The Life Solution Center of Darien

We live in a time in which addiction to opioids, alcohol and other substances has
reached epidemic proportions. Even when addicts are able to achieve sobriety, they face
grave difficulty in maintaining it; often at the expense of relationships, financial stability, and sadly, their own lives.

There’s new hope and help on the horizon: Dr. Joseph Russo, Executive Medical
Director and CEO of Saved from Addiction, Inc., and Medical Director and Co-Founder
of The Recovery Center of Westport, has made the decision to join forces with Maud
Purcell, Founder and Executive Director of The Life Solution Center of Darien, a
collaborative community of professionals providing multidisciplinary answers to life’s
problems, so as to best combat the addictions epidemic.

Saved from Addiction’s philosophy is based upon respect and compassion for the client,
while providing holistic and cutting-edge assessment and treatment options for both
substance abuse and dual-diagnosis disorders. Most exciting of all, Saved From
Addiction tackles treatment compliance – a major barrier to success and ongoing
abstinence – head-on, utilizing a range of approaches including the following:

  • Vivitrol, Antabuse and oral Naltrexone monitoring
  • Suboxone, Subutex and Zubsolv maintenance
  • The ground-breaking and newly FDA-approved Probuphine Implant, which
    solidly and steadily stems opioid cravings for up to one full year or more,
    with no risk of non-compliance.
  • Safe, efficient and dignity based, in-home alcohol and drug detoxification.

On 6/20/2016, Dr. Russo was the first physician in New England to administer the Probuphine Implant treatment and it was aired of ABC News the next day. Saved From Addiction remains the Northeast pioneer and Center of Excellence in providing this specialized and life-saving option.

In addition to remaining on the cutting-edge addictions technology, Saved From Addiction’s highly skilled and experienced team of professionals works synergistically to help their clients restore physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and most importantly, their dignity. The SFA team invites you, as patients, practitioners, and community members to join them in this effort.


Dr. Paul Bernstein – Tips of the Trade

Most of us take our  eyesight for granted. If we don’t see well, we schedule an appointment with the Eye Doctor. Diagnosing a vision problem in a child can be slightly more complex. The question isn’t only “can they see it”, but “how hard is the brain working to see it”? The inefficient use of vision is one of the most common reasons for a child not achieving to their innate academic potential, or acting out in school. We asked Dr. Paul Bernstein of The Life Solution Center and The Bernstein Center for Visual Performance to share with us a few simple facts that everyone should be aware of:

  • Every August is Children’s Learning and Vision Month
  • 1 in 10 children has a vision problem significant enough to impact learning (5 million children in the US alone)
  • “20/20” only means a child can see at distance but they may lack skills needed for learning, such as focusing their eyes, coordinating their eyes, and using their eyes to accurately move across a line of print
  • Typical vision screenings miss at least 50% of vision problems
  • Children with vision problems are often misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD


PAUL R. BERNSTEIN, O.D. is a developmental optometrist who is Board Certified in Developmental Optometry and Vision Therapy and a Member of The Life Solution Center of Darien. His practice emphasizes the importance that Comprehensive Visual Exams and Vision Therapy have in the development of effective reading, writing, and learning experiences. He specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of oculomotor, accommodative, and binocular vision problems as well as strabismus, amblyopia, visual perceptual deficits, visual motor planning issues, visual rehabilitation and sports vision enhancement.  He prescribes traditional optometric treatments (glasses, contact lenses, vision aids) as they relate to the remediation of the aforementioned visual deficits. Dr. Paul splits his time between the Bernstein Center for Visual Performance offices in White Plains, New York and The Life Solution Center of Darien, in Darien Connecticut. For more information please see: or contact the office at 203.636.0080

Pathway to Mindfulness – Tips of the Trade

Mindfulness has become a buzz word, but really, what is it all about? In a nutshell, mindfulness is living in the present moment, enjoying and appreciating life, without letting past baggage or future worries intrude.

The way to achieve mindfulness in all aspects of your life is to develop a sustainable, 20-minutes-a-day insight meditation practice that changes behaviors and strengthens your mind. Here’s how your life will change:


  • Stress:  75 percent of Americans are stressed. 75 percent of preventable diseases are caused by stress. Unfortunately, most of us cannot escape stress but we can change how it affects us. Through meditation you learn to notice stressful thoughts and focus on what you are feeling in the present moment, without blocking, denying or getting lost in them. When you are dealing with only the stressful situation – not thinking about past occurrences or agonizing about the future – you worry less and accept things as they are without judgment or criticism, the natural way to handle stress.
  • Focus: Studies show our minds wander 47 percent of the time, which means employees are actually working a little over four hours during a typical eight-hour day. During meditation you learn to focus on your breath, and when your mind begins wandering, you notice and return to the breath. That constantly returning to your breath builds neural pathways that increase your ability to focus, naturally boosting your productivity.
  • Decision-making: There is a measurably thicker prefrontal cortex in the minds of meditators, the area of your brain that is responsible for decision-making, impulse control and regulating attention, emotions and actions. You become razor-sharp and able to remain focused and calm.
  • Strategic thinking: No matter your age, meditation helps us build a thicker cortex in the hippocampus, which puts things into perspective, improves executive functioning skills and boosts working memory. You will stay sharper throughout your life.
  • Communications: Through meditation you learn the importance of listening without interrupting and how to respond in a calm, focused and in-control manner. When a stressful situation or annoying person pops up you remain calm, able to diffuse what could turn into a contentious exchange. It is estimated that managers devote a quarter of their time to resolving conflicts at work. Imagine a workday minus those conflicts?

Val Foster and Bill Van Ollefen, owners of Pathway to Mindfulness, a member of The Life Solution Center of Darien, teach their clients how to develop a sustainable meditation practice that can change behavioral patterns and strengthen brains. They teach individuals and groups, and in corporate settings. For more information, call 203-636-0080 or visit

Financial Sense Tips of The Trade

Getting organized and reducing financial stress from Financial Sense LLC,

File Simplify your filing system to ensure that you keep up with it!

Create twelve folders for 2016, one for each month of the year. File all paid bills, financial statements, and credit card receipts together in the appropriate month’s folder for easy retrieval if necessary.  At the end of the year, stick them in a banker box and put it away.  No need to complicate matters unnecessarily.

Track – Know where your money is coming from and going to!

Consider using a Personal Financial Management (PFM) software program or App. We use Intuit’s Quicken Premier software to track income and expenses for our clients. Quicken is a sophisticated, but user friendly, program that has the ability to customize financial data and reports, and manage investments.  

For someone looking for a simplified, but bare-bones, way of tracking income and expenses, Intuit’s Mint product might be a good option. Mint has both a website and an app that you can securely sync to your bank accounts. It can be used to get a basic understanding of your inflows and outflows.

Be especially diligent about tracking and categorizing tax-related items such as charitable contributions and property taxes. This will make your life a lot easier when it comes time to talk to your accountant about your tax returns. You will already have all of the necessary information at your fingertips!

Stay on top of it – When you allow papers to pile up, your stress piles up too!

When you stay on top of your personal finances, these tasks only take a few minutes. If you fall behind, then the time that it takes to catch up can be daunting!

Pay bills as you receive them and file them right away.

Log-in to your PFM software or App to categorize your credit card charges as soon as your statement arrives.

Financial Sense, LLC is a family owned daily money management company in Darien, CT.  They specialize in bill paying, income & expense tracking, account reconciliation, budgeting, and financial reporting for individuals and families. To learn more please visit


LSCD Member & Local Artist Donates Work

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 12.21.44 PMMany of you know Lorraine E. Hurley as the founder of By Word of Math, a local tutoring outfit helping children all over Fairfield County excel in mathematics and embark upon their ACTs and SATs with greater confidence. But to those of you who have had the chance to speak with Lorraine in person, you may also know that she is a fabulous artist whose paintings have frequented the wall of many a local home, and even The Life Solution Center of Darien Office Suite.

Most recently, Lorraine has been putting her artistic prowess to good. She donated three of her pastels in both silent and live auctions at the True Colors 12th Annual Chocolate and Cheesecake event earlier this month. One particular piece, featured above, was chosen because of tie in to the current events taking place in Cuba, as the artwork was inspired by the dance troupe, Cuba Vibra.

Spring Renewal

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 11.43.24 AMHave you noticed a new “spring” in your step?  Now that the Vernal Equinox is behind us spring has indeed sprung; daffodils are starting to sprout and birds have begun to sing.  In addition to the force of Mother Nature, brain physiology may play a role in our renewed vigor.

In the winter our lack of exposure to sunlight causes the pineal gland in the brain to produce more melatonin, a chemical that is sleep-inducing.  This may slow us down during the winter months, not unlike the phenomenon of animals in hibernation.  As we move into spring, however, the days get longer and the sun’s rays become more direct.  In response, the pineal gland produces less melatonin, leaving us feeling energized and renewed.

Spring ushers in nature’s rebirth.  For thousands of years rites of spring, in a multitude of cultures, have acknowledged nature’s regeneration and bounty. Many of these celebrations involve discarding what’s old and ushering in what’s new.  An example of this is found in the Persian new year which falls right on the Vernal Equinox.  It’s called Nowruz and is preceded by a period of intense spring cleaning called “Khouneh Tekouni”, or “shaking down the house”.  Similarly, many of us grew up in households where turning the mattresses, cleaning out the closets and washing the curtains and windows, were all part of an annual spring ritual.

This year maybe you should consider capitalizing on your new-found zest by literally and figuratively shaking down your house.  Here are a few ideas to help you do just that:

  • Reorganize, sort and toss: There’s hardly a more liberating feeling than going through your files, your kitchen cabinets or those boxes in the basement.  It’s hard to get started but once you do you will immediately feel a burden lifted.  If doing this on your own is too overwhelming enlist the help of a friend or family member.  Better yet, hire a professional organizer who has no emotional attachment to your possessions and can quickly create order out of chaos.
  • Revamp your wardrobe: It’s time to put your winter clothes away anyhow so why not revisit your old spring wardrobe and spend some time creating a new look? My favorite definition of creativity is combining two or more old things in new ways; this is exactly what you should do with your existing wardrobe!  Add a pocket handkerchief to an old blazer, or complement a recycled dress with a different scarf.  Small changes like this can make others believe you’ve invested in a new closetful of clothes.  If mixing and matching isn’t your forte why not enlist the help of a Wardrobe Consultant?  Their services may cost less than a new suit or dress.
  • Recharge your love life: In the inimitable words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson:  “In the spring a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love”.   In my experience the same is true for men and women of all ages.  If you’re already in a relationship take this opportunity to reinvigorate it:  Send your loved one a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, leave a love not in his lunch box or a rose on her pillow.  If you’ve been looking for love but have only found a succession of toads (or toadettes), why not re-write your online dating profile? If you need help ask a trusted friend or hire a professional.  While you’re at it why not redo that outdated photo?

In sum, every spring re-invigorates us and opens the door to new possibilities.  Why not use this spring to your full advantage?





RAM Council Foundation Presents: The Power of Prevention: Success Stories and Strategies for Healthy Teen Years

Thursday, March 31, 2016 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

New Canaan High School Wagner Room

Student Presentations by NCHS 9th – 12th  Substance-Free Members Q & A with Prevention Panel

Suggestion Donation: Adults $10; Students Free


Rob Mallozzi, New Canaan First Selectman

Mark Davis, Headmaster St. Luke’s New Canaan, Family Story

Joe Greenfield, Outreach, Turning Point, Personal Story

Maud Purcell, Executive Director Life Solution of Darien, Parenting/Teen Communication

Jamison Monroe, Founder/CEO, Newport Academy, The Importance of Treatment

John Hamilton, CEO Recovery Network, Moderator

For more information, please contact Joyce Sixsmith, MA, LADC President, Ram Council Foundation, Inc. or call 917.678.0543

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