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Science Drives + Wellness Steers

Science Drives + Wellness Steers

By Alley Dezenhouse Kelner, MA Counselling Psych.
Alley is a Toronto mom, therapist and business owner with expertise in mental health, child development, behaviour science, and supporting neurodivergent kids and their parents as they navigate, advocate and celebrate neurodiversity. Her niche is finding the midpoint between mental health and behaviour science, where science drives and wellness steers. She's candid, open, and has a knack for breaking things down into digestible and relatable bites; each episode, she explores issues inspired by her practice and real life experience. Connect on social? IG- @MagMinds
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Co-Regulation and our Kids
In this unscripted episode I'm diving into co-regulation; what is it, and how do we achieve it? I'm talking about connection as the root upon which the tree is planted and how to navigate our own trigger points as parents, educators and therapists.  Want more on self-regulation strategies? I'm focusing on self-reg all month long on IG so come say hi and follow along as we unpack the goods.  Follow here @Magminds Code for LOOP earplugs - LOOPXALLEY
May 20, 2021
Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga for Self Regulation
What are he benefits of mindfulness for our kids and can kids actually be mindful? No really, my kid is "a mile a minute" can they really truly SLOW DOWN? I'm unpacking the similarities and differences between mindfulness, meditation and yoga and discussing the benefits each can have on teaching and practicing self-regulation.  This month I'm sharing tons of mindfulness and self-regulation resources on my social media channels, so let's stay connected! IG - @MagMinds Tik-Tok - @MagMinds
May 4, 2021
Autism and Self Regulation Part 2
In this episode we're keeping the convo going and talking about autism and self regulation as we tackle: 1. What to do when you can't avoid the big behaviour; how to navigate it like a champ. 2.How to avoid the common pitfalls of navigating a big behaviour or power struggle.  3. How to build a toolbox of coping skills for your kiddo (and yourself). This episode is the exclamation mark at the end of an extremely useful sentence; trust me :P Share your thoughts with me!  Slide into my DMs on IG Check out my resources, workshops and downloads and use the code SECRET to get a secret discount only for podcast listeners!
April 22, 2021
Autism and Self Regulation - Part 1
Talking about self-regulation honestly LIGHTS ME UP! :P This episode is JAM PACKED with theory and practical tips for building self-regulation skills in a neurodivergent population. Grab a notebook because I am spilling ALL the tea. Prepare for an epic brain dump of considerations, pit-falls, myths and facts, and strategies I've used over the last decade in supporting autistic children and the parents, teachers, and therapists who support them. At the 55 minute mark I come up for air and realize...K, I've been monologue-ing for almost an hour, so I stop there. Take a beat, let the brain dump sink in and check back soon for part 2 because I have another hour of content coming your way.  And OBVIOUSLY, if you're feeling this episode or have an AHA moment--share it with me @Magminds
April 13, 2021
Let's Get Clinical: Skill development, troubleshooting and values based programming
How do you measure progress in your kids, in your family, or in yourself? Much of what we do in science (the science of teaching, parenting and even the science of mental health) relies on data to guide decision making. We think about things like, test scores, rating scales, and how skills are developed and ultimately mastered (and hopefully maintained); we think about things like how long it "should" take to learn a new habit, at what point we should change the plan, and how to know if a plan has gone off track at any point. In this episode, I'm getting clinical; but don't worry, if you're parent along for the ride this will still be right up your Alley :P  I'll let you in on some of the clinical conversations I've been having with my team about processes and frameworks for goal setting, goal assessment and big picture planning for both the kids and families I support. This episode will be helpful for understand how we make some of our clinical decisions, and how you can call on a similar framework for guiding your home based goals (for yourself, your partner, or your kiddo). Things like: -What exactly is mastery criteria and how do we decide if we've reached it? I'll also sidebar pretty hard on the topic of: How do we avoid arbitrary benchmarks of mastery in favour of client-centred and meaningful criteria for mastery that is both reliable and fair? -Where do we look to see if a skill (behaviour, math/literacy skills, parenting skill, all of it--) is mastered? Hint: the proof is in the pudding. -How do we assess how long it should usually take for a kiddo (or parent) to master a skill?  -What happens if we have a kiddo (or parent) whose performance is inconsistent? -What to do when skills are missing and curriculums or instruction manuals are written beyond your kiddo's current level? -How to take into account child developmental theory without sacrificing evidence based teaching strategies and guiding principles as a core foundation?
March 18, 2021
Mental Health in the Workplace
Talking about how we actively pursue mental health in the workplace within our helping profession; unpacking how we support our employees in self-awareness, personal development, and commitment to habits that promote self regulation and mindfulness. I'm diving into some strategies that I've used (successfully and unsuccessfully) in supporting staff in a high stress environment, made exceedingly more difficult by working and running a business in a pandemic. I'm talking about tag-team teaching/crisis support, finding mindful moments each day, investing time into mental wellness, and setting boundaries. I may say some controversial things about the importance of showing up for your team and holding space for "hard shit" (yup, stuff that's emotionally charged, not work related and intrinsically personal--but also directly impacting how your employees show up each day). I'm discussing managing a team in a pandemic, setting boundaries and why it's important to show up with your "human" hat on too.  Looking for the code for $10 off your Sensa Box? I got you covered. Or go to and use the code: MAGMINDS10
March 4, 2021
Nutrition, Picky Eating and Healthy Relationships with Food with Ahuva Magder Hershkop, RD
Getting real with Ahuva Magder Hershkop, RD @AhuvaRD about all things nutrition, kids and the importance of science backed strategies for food education in a neurodivergent (and frankly, neurotypical) population. Ahuva spills the tea on how to talk to our kids about food, how to create routines around food when there are big behaviours involved, and how to navigate picky eating with a "big picture" approach (as in--"you don't learn to read ALL in one day! You learn letter by letter."). Ahuva shares great insight about taking baby steps to the end goal, about reframing your perspective on how we talk about food, and how to avoid "diet culture" imprints from the days of old (read as: 80's/90's parenting at its finest :P). Disclaimer: There was a wild storm getting in the way of connection and sound drops EEK for a few seconds...stay the course, it's worth it :P Ahuva's FB Group- Busy Moms Guide to Feeding your Family
February 25, 2021
Meltdown Moments Tips and Tricks
Ever wonder what a parenting expert does when their own kid says "NO?!" Warning: Big behaviours ahead! I'm walking you through an actual meltdown moment with my 3 year old; what I did, what I didn't do, and how I handled it all. I'm unpacking what worked, what failed miserably and how I checked myself multiple times throughout the escapade. I'll talk about self regulation, holding space for your kids, and balancing gentle, firm and empathetic all while trying to keep your cool as you navigate big big feels and understand the WHY behind behaviour patterns. I love a good metaphor, so I've got one of those for you too--hint: click, click, click.  Toddlers though, am I right? This discussion will be super applicable for toddlers, pre-school aged kiddos, and even lower elementary kiddos. If your kiddo struggles with self-regulation, this is YOUR episode. The bigger the feels, the better this episode will fit. If ya know, ya know :P Deep breath, strong drink (cocktail or coffee) time to press on!
February 18, 2021
Mindfulness visualization for Kids
This is for kids--no intro, no ads, no transitional music. I'm walking your kids through how to use visualization as a tool to self-regulate. Pre-requisite skills to get the most out of this: ability to sit still for 10-15 minutes with coaching, ability to follow receptive instructions (spoken word) with coaching, ability to tolerate headphones, or listening on a tech device.   Hacks: wiggly seats for kids who struggle to be still, handheld fidgets for busy fingers (smooth rocks/crystals, small handheld toys that don't distract, squeeze/stress balls), textured carpet/shag rug tp sot/lay on. A note on volume: I've intentionally kept volume low to ensure no one's ears are overwhelmed. Crank it up if it's too quiet :) In a totally kid-friendly way I'm: 1) Explaining to your kids (and you) what visualization is as a mindfulness tool. 2) Telling your kids (and you) why visualization is a super powerful tool for self-regulation. 3) Leading your kids (and you) through 3 short ways you can practice visualization. 4) Telling your kids how and when they can use these visualization strategies--spoiler: BEDTIME! Questions? Find me on IG @MagMinds
February 10, 2021
Mindfulness Practices For Families with Andrea Stuart, BCBA/Yogi
I'm joined by Behaviour Analyst, and Yoga instructor Andrea Stuart (IG-@integrativeabayogi), who discusses mindfulness practices you can adopt without any fancy resources, and without a huge time commitment. We're unpacking what mindfulness is, what it isn't, and how it can improve your parenting by tuning into the present moment. We discuss self-regulation in neurodivergent kids (and their parents) and describe some ways you can use humour, or silliness to diffuse and move through big feelings.  If you're not already, come find me on IG and LMK what resonated! (IG-@MagMinds)
February 4, 2021
Sensory Defensiveness in Parents
I went viral on Tik Tok (3 times) for videos about sensory defensiveness and parenting. The consensus? “Wait...what?! That’s a thing? You mean—I’m not just jerk with a short temper who is easily irritated by my kids, and ahem—my life?” Nope! Well, I mean—maybe you are? But regardless, sensory sensitivity (being easily overwhelmed by sensory input—the noise, the sights, the smells, the constant touch) is very real and understanding your sensory needs could be a very powerful way to increase your self awareness and set boundaries and that just. make. sense.
January 27, 2021
Let's talk about Autism
Let's start a conversation about autism; what it is, and more importantly--what it isn't. I'm clarifying somethings that were never explicitly taught to me in school (man, I wish); things I've learned by listening to autistic self advocates, working with brilliant minds within the fields, and of course--working directly the population myself for over a decade. If you're new to Autism, this is your crash course. If you're well-versed, I guarantee this will still be food for thought. It's just a quickie but it packs a punch. 
January 19, 2021
Issues in Mental Health Supports for Neurodivergent People
Given the disproportionate number of neurodivergent (autistic, ADHD) kids impacted by mental health needs, you'd think there would be less barriers to getting support; lack of specialization, reluctance to collaborate and uncertainty with how to start are among top contributing factors. I'm unpacking some of the primary obstacles I've faced in advocating for the incorporation of mental health supports in behavioural intervention, and possibly making some controversial statements about big problems within the "system" and how they are contributing to accessibility barriers.  Perhaps most importantly, I'm giving concrete strategies for parents and professionals in terms of how to open the dialogue and begin teaching neurodivergent kids about the importance of mental health, emotional awareness, and coping mechanisms. 
January 11, 2021
Let's Talk about ADHD
A quickie this time--but full of thoughts and considerations for folks with ADHD (especially kiddos). My quick tips for helping your ADHD kiddo overcome struggles like problem solving, self regulation, scheduling and much more. Let's dig in!
November 23, 2020
10 Habits for a Special Needs Parent
Spoiler: Many of the things you learned in school (like the pursuit of equality) are probably wrong; but don't sweat it, when we know better, we do better. I'm sharing 10 ways you can contribute to a culture of equity over equality and parent your special needs kiddo in a way that aligns with your values. I'm spilling the tea on my 10 guiding values, thoughts and habits for the parent of special needs, and/or neurodivergent kids. I'm unpacking the "must dos" and "never dos" when it comes to supporting your kiddo from a place of knowledge, mutual respect and empowerment. Adapted from a document I prepared for my clinical team, I'm walking you through 10 big picture ideas that will help you navigate parenting, advocate within the community and celebrate neurodiversity. 
November 10, 2020
Ableism in Schools
This might be my most controversial episode yet. We're digging into ableism in school; how to spot it, and how to stop it. I'll be the first to admit that this might ruffle a few feathers, but sometimes in order to do better we have to recognize our own missteps. I'll be honest and admit I've gone along with status quo before and thinking about that makes me uncomfortable. I'm checking my privilege, speaking candidly and from a place of compassion and committing to doing better. At the end of the day, what good is a platform if it's not used to talk about the hard stuff? Let's go there.
October 21, 2020
Support your kids as restrictions start to ease- Covid-19 edition
Let’s talk about what to expect as we move through phase 2 and phase 3 of reopening as we expand our bubbles and re-enter society adjusting to our new norms in post Covid times. What might our kids experience and how can we support them? Behaviour? Social skills? Communication? I’m discussing it all.
July 13, 2020
Anxiety, Covid-19 and Finding your Chill
2 things we all have in common: 1. We’re in a global pandemic 2. We’re anxious, our kids are anxious—we have no chill! I’m diving into what anxiety is like in quarantine, some surprising facts you didn’t know about how your mind works and some proactive ways I’ve found to restore my chill.
May 12, 2020
Self-care during quarantine—happiness, gratitude and manifestation.
Cabin fever has set in, right? Kids are home, no end in sight—working from home—boss doesn’t “get it”, or you’ve been laid off—and you’re juggling more than ever wearing too many hats for too low a pay bracket. How do we target self care when we simultaneously have nothing but time and no time to even pee alone? If you’re like me, you’re simultaneously bored of the ground-hog day like vibe and low key loving the slower pace. On top of that, my patience have all but run out—you? So, I’ve turned to my self care habits and turns out they kind of suck. So, I did a deep dive. Happiness, gratitude and manifestation through a scientific lens will completely blow your mind and raise your level of self care. A parent engaging in self care is an all around more balance parent (and human)—so let’s go there!
April 23, 2020
Bribery vs. Reinforcement and How to Own Parenting
So... bribery and reinforcement are basically the same thing right? WRONG! Like, really, really wrong. But don't worry...I got you. By the end of this episode you'll be schooling your friends in the ins and outs of effective reinforcement strategies, and owning the parenting game (ok, ok, you'll be a good 5 steps ahead of where you were before you listened to this episode, that I can guarantee).  We'll keep it light, and get just deep enough to make sure you're 5 steps ahead of your spirited little one, and I mean--learning how to shape the right behaviour in your partner (or ahem mother in law) wouldn't be the worst thing ever, would it?  The thing about parenting is that it's ALL about setting up the right contingencies; the contingencies that reinforce the stuff you want to see more of (think: sharing, cleaning up, being independent, being a respectful get the idea). Equally important is not setting up contingencies that reinforce the stuff you'd rather disappear (think: nose picking, back-talk, total and outright refusal to eat broccoli, never cleaning up your get the idea). But how? Again, I got you! If you're ready to level up your parenting game, this is your starting point. Full disclosure--this episode is really informal and I find myself speaking to you like I'd speak to my best friend (#nonewfriends). I use some language that might be triggering to you if you think the word "crazy" is offensive. I don't love the word myself, but I use it in this episode because I'm being nonchalant, conversational and frankly I took my filter off (whoops). So, if that's going to offend you simply skip on to the next where I promise to try and be more politically correct. And if not--even better, press play!
October 23, 2019
Grief and Parenting Kiddos with Complex Needs
Grief though. Maybe it's the hormones (baby #3 on board) but I won't lie, this one got me right in the feels. The love a parent feels for their kiddo(s) is unlike anything else; it's truly unparalleled. If you know, you know. I'll save you the banter, the hashtags and the cultural references on this one and dive right into this: The most important take away from this episode is that the grief, or the grief-like feelings that you are experiencing in parenting your amazing, but complex, kiddos--is more common than you'd think. Know too, that resilience, empowerment and trust in the process comes from increased self-awareness and from being comfortable enough to acknowledge where you are right now, in this moment, in your process of accepting your reality. The road is long, but the journey is worth it; and obviously, you don't have to walk it alone.
October 2, 2019
Tantrum or Meltdown?
Kids don't tantrum because they want to be a jerks; they tantrum because they are trying to figure out how to best communicate their needs and wants. As parents, we can either extinguish or fuel the tantrum fire. Did you know that tantrums and meltdowns serve very different purposes? When it comes to our kids, our husbands, or our bosses, there's one thing to remember: all behaviour communicates. As parents, part of our job is to figure out "why do you DO that?" When it comes to big behaviours that cause us to stay awake too late into the night and rehash every little parenting move you made, every behaviour your kid had, every perceived #momfail we're dealing with overwhelming doubt about how we navigated our biggest obstacles. When we understand why our kids behave the way they do, we can actually regain our control, or at the very least, confidently navigate those big and often challenging parenting situations. You can't win 'em all, but you can make a meaningful impact on shaping the right behaviour; the behaviour that yields confident, resilient and empowered kids. 
June 10, 2019
Picky Eaters--What Gives?!
Meal times are the WORST! Agree? It's one thing to be lactose-intolerant, it's completely another to be new-food-intollerant. If your kid is picky, you've had your share of food battles; you've probably also had your share of peas thrown at your face, kale on the floor, and maybe even--pizza on the window? I remember the first time I took my kid to a restaurant; I looked at the "kid-menu" and thought--damn it, she won't eat ANY of this. So she ate bread. Just bread. Not ideal. After that, I got really used to packing a lunch bag wherever we went--but honestly, that was exhausting and not practical! So I turned to my clinical experience in food exposure, and went to work on my own kids.  I'm sharing my struggles, my strategies and my tips for navigating BOTH food refusal and general meal time chaos. 
April 16, 2019
Parenting is hard; like, really, really hard!
Parenting is hard! Like really, really hard. If you don't prioritize your wellness as a parent, you'll spiral into burn out, and the burden of day-to-day life will only increase as your burn-out gets more intense. Optimizing wellness, for you as a parent, is one of the most vital things you can do FOR YOUR KIDS. Let's talk about some signs of parent burn out, some strategies for overcoming the rough days, and some ways to develop your self-awareness. Let's talk about how good you are at talking your kids off a ledge, and how bad you are (sometimes) at talking yourself off the same ledge. We've all been there; let's not act like we're picture perfect parents with our shit together. The struggle is real; but we're ALL from the hood (parentHOOD). Parenting is messy and like a Picasso painting, that can be beautiful too. Let's get real about our struggles so we can suck every last drop out of these chaotic, unpredictable, and absolutely all-encompassing and awe-inspiring childhood years. "They" say, the days are long, but the years are short--let's  try to keep our eye on the prize, right? The first step is putting yourself first, for 35 short minutes, and it starts now!
April 2, 2019
Does Birth Order Impact Parenting Style?
What are your thoughts on birth order: fact or fiction? Early on in my research, and career, I found myself wondering how, or if, birth order was a real "thing" or a hypothetical construct. I found myself wondering if we are "who we are" as individuals, because it's our innate nature (destined to be this way), or because we're nurtured into taking on character traits  (a more "product of my environment" kind of thing). Spoiler: I am totally into the idea that we can create our own destiny which means, by extension, I am all about nurture over nature. Fast forward a few years and I'm a parent, and a therapist, who spends a lot of time talking to parents about their family dynamics; here I am finding a whole new appreciate and renewed interest in how (and if) birth order effects us in our pursuit of purposeful parenting.  Does birth order (ours and our kids') impact our parenting style or is this just a fairy tale? 
March 11, 2019
BONUS: Mental health and ABA overlap. Part 1: Pre-OAP reform
In this episode we discuss the importance of recognizing the meeting point of mental health services and ABA services in an autism population. We review the political history in Ontario leading up to the funding model pre Feb. 6 2019 and set the tone of Part 2 of this episode, scheduled to launch in the next week, where we review the changes implemented by the PC government after Feb. 6 2019, and discuss the long term impact of these service reductions and cuts. 
February 24, 2019
Emotionally Responsive Parenting
Have you ever seen a parent, out in the big wide world, who handles an epic kid meltdown with effortless grace and a gentle, but grounded approach? Well, that can totally be you! Armed with a few key strategies and an understanding of your own core values (and a dash of self-care to help keep you calm and collected in the face of external chaos) you will not only be ready to handle big emotions, but also understand how to get ahead of them by having a road map for navigating your way with confidence, and consistency. You'll understand your role in raising kids with emotional intelligence, effective coping skills and an understanding of the-order-of-things. Wondering where to begin? Press play!
January 26, 2019
Taking the Plunge- Toilet Training Basics
If you've got a spirited kiddo, a kiddo on the Autism spectrum, a kiddo with intellectual, developmental or behavioural needs and toilet training is on your radar, you've stumbled upon the right episode! If you've got a kiddo that isn't potty-trained, and you're SO DONE with diapers (like really, byeeee), you'll want to tune in! If you've tried other methods, and struggled; if you've been overwhelmed by the idea of taking the plunge (see what I did there?), then you'll want to grab a pen, maybe a mop, and pull up a chair. I'll walk you through transitioning from "toilet trained at school" to "toilet trained at home" without missing a beat. I've got 10+ years of experience supporting kiddos (and their parents) in their potty-training process in therapeutic, home and school based settings. I've seen my fair share of shit storms (literally and figuratively--no really I LOVE my job) and I've got some go to strategies to help optimize the outcome, maintain your sanity, and set your kiddo up for success. 
January 14, 2019