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Stress Solutions for Pregnant MOMS: How Breaking Free from Stress Can Boost Your Baby’s Potential

by Susan Andrews, PhD Twin

stress-solutions-pregnant-momsSpan Press, 2012

Dr. Susan Andrews has written an essential guide for the pregnant mom about stress and her developing baby.

Dr. Andrews, a New Orleans psychologist, neuropsychologist, and researcher, has captured the essence of a major societal problem and turned the spotlight on it. She draws from theory, research, and application, as well as her own extensive experience, to create this engaging self-help book with an eminently important message: The modern woman who is growing a new child must be aware of and in control of her stress level.

Stress Solutions is a must read for childbearing women of all ages, but also fathers-to-be, grandparents, health psychologists, and physicians seeking to understand the mother’s true wellbeing.

Andrews points to an alarming and dramatic rise in children’s health issues, and shows that while there are many contributing variables, stress is a critical and often unacknowledged risk factor.

“A mounting body of evidence,” she writes, “clearly links sustained high levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy to many of today’s major issues of birth and childhood, such as low birth weight and preterm birth, difficulty coping in emotional situations, learning disabilities, attention deficit, and childhood anxiety.”

She clarifies that the issues are not simple cause-and-effect, but that variables come together in “complex ways to shape the baby’s development in the womb.” Pointing to research she explains that the risk factor for stress may be as serious or more so than those associated with smoking or alcohol.

“I realized that everyone intuitively senses that prenatal stress might affect the baby,” she said to the Times, “but few really understand how. When I investigated how stress affects the unborn, I discovered a huge number of very credible research studies stating that high levels of stress do indeed affect the term length of pregnancy, the weight of the child as well as their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.”

Stress Solutions puts into the hands of the reader the power to influence their own and their babies’ health.

Andrews’ writing also offers a pleasing subtext, a woman’s book written by a woman. Her voice is authoritative, kind, and encouraging–but also firm. Like the tribal wise woman, she explains to us what’s at stake, and it is momentous. But she is also there to teach, encourage, and guide. She lightens the tone at times with a spoonful of sugar here and there, touches of wisdom, humor and well-chosen metaphors.

For example, she strategically places the phrase, “Now is a good time for a relaxation break,” at various points in the text. Andrews knows her cognitive psychology. The message sticks to your mind as if covered in Velcro.

A Chinese proverb warns, “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change; but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” Nests in your hair? That sticks too.

An image from Pooh mirrors how many modern women approach stress without saying it. “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.

Dr. Andrews’ A-B-C Formula is ingenious. She engages the reader seamlessly in a simple, practical treatment plan, by using baseline assessments of stress and of relaxation activities. She shows the reader how to calculate the “deficit” in relaxation efforts, and then lays out a comprehensive set of behaviors to fill that gap.

“As a treating clinician,” she said, “I recognized that presenting a problem of this magnitude without a solution to it, would only compound the problem. And, in fact, that might have been one of the reasons no one had presented the information in a public format.”

“I came up with the A-B-C Formula for Stress Reduction in a stroke of insight one morning watching the morning unfold with a cup of coffee. The Formula provides a way to measure and become more consciously aware of your daily stress. I realized that it is so important that pregnant women pay close attention to extra stress and to reducing it when it builds up and that most pregnant women would do just that if they realized how important it is to the health and potential development of their unborn child.”

Stress Solutions is a well-structured text, combining the latest scientific findings in Part One, “Stress and Your Pregnancy.” While leaving some wiggle-room, Andrews pulls no punches about the significance of the topic, showing how stress affects the mother-to-be and also the alarming new evidence that a pregnant woman’s stress level can affect her child for years to come. Part One is both educational and motivational.

Andrews also points out a “dangerous misperception of stress.” She explains in the annual APA study on stress, 30 percent rated their stress as extreme, 52 percent complained of fatigue and sleep problems, and 65 percent to irritability. However, Andrews points out that 81 percent still believe they are handling stress well, a “glaring contradiction,” she notes.

Part Two, “The Stress Solutions Formula,” introduces the steps and components that go into the complete stress monitoring and stress-lowering plan of the book.

“… the Formula is a lot like the point system of Weight Watchers,” Andrews said to the Times. “First, you start by measuring your Baseline level of stress before you became pregnant. Second, you add your daily stresses and hassles as they occur. Third, you subtract a constant because some stress is normal. Then, the system gives credit points for ways that people already normally use to relax and reduce stress, in the Resource Manual. And lastly, the Formula tells you how many relaxation credit points the mom should try to earn to reduce their stress by the end of the day.”

Dr. Andrews provides the “Baseline Stress Level Scale,” and “Daily Hassles Worksheet.” The section gives easily digestible information with tables such as “ Factors That Prevent Our Nervous System from

Returning to Balance,” “Six Factors That Can Affect Your Baseline Stress Level,” and a variety of case studies. She includes a chapter on how sound and music can lower stress, anxiety, and cortisol.

Part Three, “The Stress Solutions Resource Guide,” lays out the treatment component of the Formula, allowing the reader to create her own personal plan for lowering stress. In her “Directory of Resources,” she describes activities for breathing, music, mental such as prayer or meditation, physical such as yoga, biofeedback, and pampering, like naps and massage. Each is given a rating and a number of “Relaxation Points,” and folds into the overall stress reduction plan, nicely wrapping up the program for the reader.

How did Dr. Andrews decide to write Stress Solutions? “For years,” she said, “I had been interested in the results of a study that was conducted in 1991-2 in Paris. The study showed that a specific program of listening to music through headphones reduced the stress of labor and raised the apgar scores of the children who had a more normal average birth weight. Early in their development, the children were found to have better social skills and a more easy-going temperament than their siblings.” She asked why and that got her thinking.

The topic is so critical that Dr. Andrews is planning a workbook to accompany the text, and after that a book

perhaps for youngsters. “I think that there needs to be a guide to help the children who are challenged by stress, worry, and anxiety,” she explained.

Dr. Susan Andrews is in full time practice in Metairie where she is Senior Partner at Neuropsychological and Psychological Services for Children, LLC. She is also Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center, Department of

Medicine and Psychiatry, and Clinical Coordinator and Neuropsychologist at Center for Head Injury Rehabilitation, East Jefferson General Hospital. She received her first PhD in Child Psychology from Tulane, and did a full retraining in Clinical Psychology at U. of Southern Mississippi. She headed a grant for Parent-Child Development for ten years and then managed the replication of the work for the national level, as Research Coordinator from the Bank Stress College of Education in New York City.


Dr. Andrews writes a blog and answers questions on her website at

Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders

International Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Autism and Pervasive Developmental DisordersJohnny L. Matson and Peter Sturmey Editors
Springer, 2011
Dr. Johnny Matson, distinguished research master and director of clinical training in the LSU Psychology Department, together with colleague Dr. Peter Sturmey from Queen’s College in New York, has once again gathered his extensive community of experts together, this time to produce the International Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. The Handbook is part of Springer’s Autism and Child Psychopathology Series, also edited by Dr. Matson.
Thousands of new research articles and papers appear yearly about etiology, assessment, and treatment of autism and related disorders, making it nearly impossible for the conscientious clinician to stay current or the research scientist to cover all bases in this explosion of information.
“The field of ASD is moving rapidly and so an effort that provides a broad overview … is the major contribution to the field,” Dr. Matson told the Times about the Handbook.
“… while there have been other handbooks on this highly visible topic most have largely been from a medical perspective,” he said. “Given that most of the research and clinical advances to date have been on psychological assessment and treatment we thought a book taking that approach filled a big gap in the literature.”
The International Handbook meets this goal easily, providing expert analysis of current findings and a comprehensive, up-to-date review of the growing volume of information that readers will appreciate.
As is his style, Matson and his contributors provide clear, solid information in applied psychological science, thoroughly gathered, reviewed, and synthesized. He and his editors and authors lay the information before the reader in digestible subtopics with clear theoretical connections.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, behavior analysts, educators – will all find this work indispensible, whether they diagnose, treat, or research new questions in this demanding and sometimes confusing area of science and practice.
For those who like books, the International Handbook is a treasure chest. Matson draws on his decades of expertise and connections in the national and global scientific community. He brings together a who’s who of experts and 80 contributors from across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and others including Norway, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.
Contributors are not only multicultural but come from a variety of disciplines. Psychology, psychiatry, psychobiology, neurobiology, behavior analysis, occupational therapy, and nursing are included among the experts.
The writing is straightforward and clear, even considering the heavy lifting that comes with a comprehensive coverage of this topic, through 33 chapters and with over 500 pages. There is very little waffling even with highly complex issues. Ongoing clarifications or controversies are presented clearly.
A wealth of references is included, but not so many as to weight down the reasoning of the narrative or to become meaningless. Chapters are surprisingly consistent in style and tone, given the variety of authors. The Handbook can serve as a reference book for those well versed in the subject of autism, or as a thorough training text for those who are filling gaps in their information base.
The International Handbook is divided into three sections, beginning with the overview, history, and background. Part II is “Nosology and Etiology,” and serves as the preparatory and theoretical section, and gives an emphasis to applied research, critical background concepts, and theoretical subjects.
Part III includes the science and practice of assessment and 15 chapters on treatment, even though part three is named assessment.
Included is “Prevalence and the Controversy” where authors review the methodology and challenges in estimating prevalence. They explain the differences between prevalence and incidence, and discuss controversies surrounding the different ways of judging the changing rates of autism, an insightful look at variations in rates, and the impact of public awareness.
Also in the first section is a chapter addressing the overlap of “Autism Spectrum Disorders and Intellectual Disability.”
Part II opens with “The Genetics of Autism.” The chapter fulfills the promise to “… make the fast-paced, expanding field of the genetics of autism accessible to those practicing who help children …” The authors accomplish this well by providing an overview of genetics, and blending with research on autism.
The section also includes, “Behavioural, Biopsychosocial, and Cognitive Models of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” a review of the models linking biology and behavior in explaining autism, including “Theory of Mind Hypothesis,” “Executive Dysfunction Hypothesis,” and “Weak Central Coherence Hypothesis.”
Dr. Dennis Dixon, a PhD from the LSU program, now the director at the Center from Autism Related Disorders in Tarzana, California, opens Part III with “Early Detection of Autism Spectrum Disorders.” Dixon and coauthors note that early detection is essential for treatment and review assessment tools needed for this important goal.
LSU authors Julie Worley and Johnny Matson review the major assessment tools and their psychometric properties in “Diagnostic Instruments for Core Features of ASD,” Chapter 13. They provide a detailed list and review 29 instruments including limitations and uses.
Chapters in a variety of treatment topics include understanding moderators of treatment outcomes, fad therapies, physically active living, and self-injurious behavior.
The book concludes with, “Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” LSU doctoral candidates Sara Mahan and Alison Kozlowski walk the readers through the less common topic of adults with ASD, explaining challenges and issues in quality of life and independence.
Editors Matson and Sturmey acknowledged LSU’s Julie Worley and Alison Kozlowski for assistance in manuscript preparation, both who were also contributors.
“This book has 33 chapters since it was a handbook. As a result there was a lot more coordination needed due to length,” Dr. Matson explained to the Times. “Also, the book is international in authorship and allowed us to work with colleagues from around the globe. It was a very interesting and enjoyable task and will hopefully prove to be an aid to professionals in the field.”
Dr. Johnny Matson is an expert in mental retardation, autism, and severe emotional disorders in children and adolescents. He has produced 600+ publications including 37 books. Among many duties, he is Editor-in-Chief for Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (Oxford England), Editor-in-Chief for Research in Developmental Disabilities (Oxford, England), and series editor for Springer’s Autism and Child Psychopathology Series, of which the International Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders is a part.
His career has been dedicated to improving the lives of children.
Available at
Options include hardcover, eBook, and MyCopy

Mary Ann Goodwyn

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn Dies at 65 in Ruston

Mary Ann Goodwyn

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn (in green) speaks with colleagues at the 2010 College of Education and Human Development Alumni Ceremony at U. of Louisiana at Monroe, where she was recognized by the Department of Psychology for outstanding service and leadership. The Chair, Dr. David Williamson, told the Times that Dr. Goodwyn “Always did excellent work.” (Photo by C. Rodriguez, courtesy of CEHD, ULM.)

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn, clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psych- ology at Louisiana Tech Univer- sity, and also previously Assis- tant/Associate Professor at University of Louisiana at Monroe, died of cancer on January 13, 2012. She was 65.

Dr. Goodwyn’s life and career were characterized by an adventurous, open, and authentic nature, having crisscrossed the country from Louisiana to North Carolina to Colorado to Oregon, the to Washington state to California and back, training and working in psychology. She returned to north Louisiana to teach and practice, impacting thousands of students, her colleagues, and

community members with her intelligence, authenticity, and vision. She lived her life with an awareness and respect for the significance of the human experience, of people, and of truth. She faced both life and death with this same grace and courageous insight.

Mary Ann was born in Dallas and grew up in Ruston, moving to Greensboro to earn her B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina. She returned to Louisiana to earn her masters in experimental psychology from University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1971.

This launched her teaching career and she was a natural. She began as an instructor at Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and a few years later moved to Gunnison, Colorado to accept a position with Western State College. Her next career move took her to a research position with the Department of Developmental Psychology at Denver University. After several years she decided to move into clinical work and accepted a position as Mental Health Specialist, relocating to Gold Beach, Oregon.

In 1983 Mary Ann entered the doctoral psychology program in clinical (and pediatric specialty) at the University of Washington in Seattle. During her training she worked as a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital, as a therapist in the Counseling Center, and with the Suicidal Behaviors Research Clinic. She completed her internship in child-clinical psychology at Stanford University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in Palo Alto, California. This included the Children’s Hospital at Stanford, the Children’s Health Council, and Stanford University Hospital.

In 1991 she accepted an appointment at the University of Louisiana at Monroe as Assistant/Associate Professor a move that defined her teaching career for the next 15 years. She taught undergraduate and graduate courses including advanced topics in clinical psychology, methodology, abnormal, child, statistics, and the honors seminar.

Dr. Goodwyn was also a licensed psychologist and with her friend and colleague, Dr. Judith A. Howard, LCSW, cofounded Behavioral Health Associates in Ruston in 1997. Dr. Goodwyn focused her practice on children and adolescents.

In 2002 Mary Ann earned a masters from the California School of Professional Psychology in psycho- pharmacology and in 2006 she took an appointment as Associate Professor at Louisiana Tech University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses including neuroscience and human behavior, child psychopathology & treatment, and the advanced practicum supervision.

She authored and coauthored over 40 papers and presentations during these years, including “Medical and psychosocial models developed for the prediction of outcomes of children with meningomyelocele,” presented at the International Society for Research in Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida, in Mainz, Germany. She presented and sponsored numerous presentations at the Southwestern and Southeastern Psychological Associations, including, “Relationships between diagnosis and progression of adolescents through inpatient levels systems.”

At the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry in Sarasota, Florida, she presented, “Inpatient levels systems for children and adolescents: Where are we going?” And she delivered an address at the ULM President’s Banquet at the Monroe Civic Center, titled “University teaching and the College of Education and Human Development.”

In 1996 Mary Ann helped develop programs for interdisciplinary courses for integrating life sciences and social sciences and humanities, for an institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for Humanities.

She worked with Dr. Joseph McGahan in the Strategic Planning Committee for ULM. She served on the ULM Honors Program Council, the Core Values Committee, Faculty Senate, and the Core Curriculum Committee at ULM, and she contributed to numerous grants and research projects.

At Louisiana Tech she served on the Core Faculty for the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program and on the University Graduate Council. She served in the Psychological Services Clinic for child, adolescent treatment, eating disorders, psychopharmacology, and medical/psychological interface issues.

Dr. Goodwyn was a member of American Psychological Association, the Louisiana Psychological Association, the Southwestern Psychological Association and the Southeastern Psychological Association. She was an inductee of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

In recent years she worked with Dr. Eddie Bell at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, publishing “Medical Issues and Special Populations: Providing Training to Students with Mental Health Issues” in the Braille Monitor. Dr. Goodwyn consulted with the Louisiana Center for the Blind, working with Dr. Bell in an on-going project to assist blind individuals in building success in their lives, a study titled, “Factors that support the achievement of success in blind adults.”

Perhaps some of the most telling contributions were Mary Ann’s community involvements which combined her training with keen insight and appreciation for the natural world, its people, and the future.

While in North Carolina she was a consultant and educator for North Carolina Outward Bound, a premier program for experience-based outdoor leadership development. Later she served as a board member, trainer, and chairperson for Wilderness Experience.

She was a children’s programmer and organizer for National Public Radio. And she was involved in the Community Theatre as a children’s stage tutor, a set worker, and an actress.

She participated as organizer and speaker for the Spina Bifida Parent Support Group.

She served as a Health Advisory Board member, consultant, and in-service provider to the OMCAP Head Start Program in Ruston and as a speaker to the Autism/Asperger’s Disorder Family Support Group, the Methodist Children’s Home, and the National Federation of the Blind.

She served on the board of directors for the North Central Louisiana Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, global housing program.

Mary Ann was instrumental in helping found the Ruston Farmers Market where she volunteered whenever she could. The Market’s administrator wrote,

“We can’t express strongly enough how important Mary Ann was to this community. Anyone who spent any time with Mary Ann couldn’t help but be touched by her compassion and her desire to better the world.”

Mary Ann impacted all who came into her sphere. Dr. Lou’uan Gollop-Brown, of LaTech, said, “I have only known Mary Ann for four short years, but it always felt like a lifetime of knowing. She was my mentor and also my supervisor while completing my post-doctoral assignments, and I will miss her terribly. Mary Ann was the type of person who looked at you deeply, listened to you intently, and responded to you earnestly. It was not difficult to guess that she cared about you and everything that you were saying.”

Dr. Donna Thomas, also a LaTech colleague said, “In my life, Mary Ann was first my teacher, later my thesis committee member, then my colleague. But it was as her friend that I learned what a truly special person she was. I love that she lived life on her own terms. And I love that every person touched by one of Mary Ann’s students or friends will carry a little piece of her with them.”

“My favorite memory of her is not a professional one,” said Dr. Bill McCown. “She was obviously very ill. My son and I ran into her at our vet, where we were taking our oversized strays. While we waited, Mary Ann utterly engaged my four-year-old and also befriended the usually-aggressive dog. She was obviously in extreme pain. Still, she pursued this conversation with gusto, laughing, joking, and gently endearing herself to my son.” He said, “Mary Ann’s unique talent was that she could empathize with anyone, at any time.”

“Mary Ann was simply the most conscientious person I’ve known,” said Dr. Howard. “An example was her call to me from the emergency room the day before she died to tell me something she wanted me to do for her clients. If Mary Ann said she would do something in our practice, she did. I never had to worry about her following through on a commitment. I couldn’t have asked for a more dependable business partner, or a more trusted friend.”

“Her gift with children was not something that can be taught. She inherently valued them and knew how genuinely to convey that message,” Dr. Howard said.

Heifer International

Heifer International was one of Mary Ann’s favorite organizations. They ask, “Can one animal change the world?” Mary Ann volunteered at the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas. Above is a youngster in Heifer International’s meat goat project in Cameroon, Africa. (Photo by Jake Lyell, courtesy of Heifer International.)

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn’s love of people and for the environment came together with her support and volunteer efforts with Heifer International, Inc., a world hunger organization that combines long-term solutions to hunger, environmental sustainability, and community involvement. Mary Ann was a strong supporter and had been a volunteer at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. This organization was so important to her that

her family asked that memorial donations be directed to Heifer International. Mary Ann had at one time hoped to retire and work for the company full time.

“Mary Ann was an asset to our community and gave of her time to make it a better place,” said Dr. Howard. “She was happiest when she was able to be outside in the natural world, and she appreciated simple pleasures—a good cup of coffee, good food, and good conversation.”

“Mary Ann Goodwyn will be remembered for her inquisitiveness, her utmost adherence to ethics, and simply because she was so gentle and subtly funny, “ noted Dr. McCown. “She was a kind, generous, and often profound person who taught uncountable students to recognize the power, beauty, and importance of psychology.”

“She believed that psychology could transform her community and even the world into a better place. The lives that she touched demonstrated how accurate she was about this,” he said.

Steve Jobs

Freedom and Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs– Julie Nelson

One of the first things that a consulting psychologist will do with a team is to help the group establish a climate of freedom.

Decades ago when I was a brand new psychologist working at a 5,000 person Honeywell manufacturing plant in Phoenix, I witnessed this dramatic effect. From simply removing blocks to freedom of thought and action for the team members, the group catapulted from last place in the company (the shameful position of the 27th performing team) to the 1st place team, in only a few months.

As an internal consultant, this made me hugely popular. To those who didn’t know much about psychology, it was like a magic trick. But of course it had almost nothing to do with me.

One piece of luck was a leader who was extremely bright, open, and achievement-oriented. He was minimally encumbered by ego so we didn’t have to spend time on that. In team-building having this type of leader is like stacking the deck.

I applied the principles of psychology that I’d been taught and the natural forces took over. Participation, motivation, and creativity all increased. The team revved like an airplane that had been finally cleared for takeoff. Then, productivity flew.

In The Constitution of Liberty, F.A.Hayek explains that freedom is “that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as possible in society.” He reminds us that freedom is not power, wealth, or even happiness. In fact, freedom might mean the absence of these. And it is not entitlement.

Hayek also explains that freedom is not about the collective, but the single individual. “To grant no more freedom than all can exercise would be to misconceive its function completely. The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million may be more important to society and more beneficial to the majority than any freedom that we all use.”

Steve Jobs, the premier inventor of our time, could never have created what he did without the freedoms provided in our country.

Jobs had the freedom to go to college and the freedom to drop out. He had the freedom to reject his father. He had the freedom to start a company in a garage. He had the freedom to get kicked out of his own company and he had the freedom to start all over again. He even had the freedom not to listen to his customers–he didn’t survey them. He felt they didn’t know what they needed.

This November we honor our veterans on the historic date of 11-11-11. We think about their service and their sacrifice.

In a letter addressing the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia, October 11, 1798, John Adams wrote, “If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country.”

Steve Jobs possessed a naturally creative temperament. But what made it possible for him to reach his potential, to light the entire world with his inventions, was that time and chance placed him in this country, a country where Lady Liberty has made her home.

Les Miles

What Could Be Under The Hat?

– Julie Nelson

Les MilesSome of us in Louisiana can’t help but get caught up in the magic of the LSU Tigers and their fascinating coach Les Miles. Miles currently holds a stunning 75-17 record and his success on the field extends to his recruiting, suggesting a mixture of talent in man- agement and leadership, flavored delightfully by his own unique style.

The media has focused on Miles’ unorthodox style, underscored by the nerve-racking, edge of the seat, 2007 season, where his gambles, trick-plays, and hair’s-breadth wins, became the norm. He was nicknamed “The Hat” for his large, unpretentious cap, which morphed into “The Mad Hatter,” because of his innovative plays and a tendency to
push the limits.
Recently Miles drew attention for chewing on grass, explaining it in existential terms: “I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I’m part of the field and part of the game.”
Sports writer Austin Murphy said, “For the longest time Miles didn’t need to chew grass to humble himself as a man. He had the LSU fan base to do that for him.” (“What Will Les Miles Do Next?” SI Vault.) He’s been criticized for plays, clock management, and his communication style, described by Murphy as, “… an always original and sometimes comprehensible gumbo of declarations, digressions, distressed syntax and so-called Mile-a-props ….”
In this article, the Times publisher muses about Miles’ unique style, with some ideas from psychology to bring the coach’s magic a little way back through the looking glass.

Management and Leadership style
I asked one of our Louisiana experts in leadership, Dr. Courtland Chaney, about the style of Coach Miles. Dr. Chaney is past Professor at the College of Business at LSU, and currently instructor for LSU Executive Education.
“I believe one can make a distinction between management and leadership. Management usually refers to planning, organizing, directing or telling, and controlling people and other resources to achieve goals,” noted Dr. Chaney. “A sports coach must assure that work is managed.” He explained that examples are selecting new players, planning, and organizing recruiting efforts. “Obviously some coaches do this better than others,” Chaney said. “I believe Coach Miles does a very good job of this.”
In the SI Vault article, Murphy wrote that Les Miles had taken on the core principles of Bo Schembechler, his boss at Michigan. Murphy lists these as “integrity, discipline, toughness and the primacy of group over individual.”
Dr. Chaney explained, “Coach Miles expects people to accept responsibility for their own behavior, shows tough love when it’s appropriate, and manifests consistency in his value-based behavioral style. It seems to me he is a good role model as well as a good coach and leader. If leading by example is admirable, then Coach Miles is to be admired.”
“I would also make the case that Coach Miles is an excellent leader relative to the LSU football players and thus football team,” he said. “Putting aside any discussion of leadership traits, I would cite Coach Miles’ leadership style … Throughout the research and writings on leadership style, one finds reference to leaders showing concern (caring) for and about high performance and for the welfare of those they supervise/lead. In my judgment, this is where Coach Miles excels, and possibly holds his most important competitive advantage.”

People Oriented
In an Alexandria TownTalk article by Glenn Guilbeau, LSU player Michael Brockers said about Miles, “He’s the players’ coach. I feel like that’s what has really made us so successful right now. I feel like coach Miles understands where his team is coming from. He kind of relates. If you have that as players, we can do anything.”
Dr. Chaney told the Times, “I believe a review of Coach Miles’ behavioral practices over time supports the conclusion that he truly cares about the players’ personal welfare –academic, athletic, post-school life, etc., …”
To look at this characteristic from another view, I decided to run the text of an interview (“Les Miles unfiltered: Arkansas preview,” through the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software so I could get a rough idea of Coach Miles’ communication. The LIWC program counts words and offers a few simple, broad-brush comparisons in its online software.
The first thing that popped out is Coach Miles’ high use of social words. The LIWC gave Miles a score on social words of 12.74. We can compare this to the average for samples of formal texts (8.0) and also the average for personal texts (9.5). While not at all scientific, this fits. He does seem to like people and enjoy interacting.
“I think we’re the only team that singsChristmascarols,” sophomore defensive tackle Michael Brockers told TownTalk. “LSU’s coach Miles shows nice guys can finish first.”
Brockers said, “I remember being shy about it my first year, thinking, ‘What is this?’ And now this year, I’m up in the front leading the songs. Oh yeah, he’s very unique, and he has us doing very unique things. But he’s our coach, and we love him to death.”
Why is social connection important? Trust. Affection. Reciprocal support. Coach Miles really does like his players. He’s not faking it.
Senior linebacker Ryan Baker said in the TownTalk article, “He’s just a different coach. I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s very successful. But at the same time, he’s a nice guy.”

Positive and Optimistic
The LIWC analysis also suggested that Miles focuses on the positive. His interview text had almost double the positive emotion words of the formal or the personal text samples. Coach Miles’ positive emotion words fell at 5.41, compared to 2.6 for formal texts and 2.7 for personal texts. He was also low on negative emotion words.
This is a pattern characteristic of optimists. Optimists are normally cheerful and happy. They bounce back more easily after hardships because their positive view makes them more resilient and adaptable. They make up a disproportionate number of leaders in our society because they take risks and seek out challenges.
Sounds about right. Great manager, genuine liking for people, positive and optimistic. And there seems to be a little bit of magic too.
• Transformational Grammar
Paul Crewe, sports writer for And The Valley Shook, wrote, “Put Miles into a public speaking situation and you get speech gumbo: take everything left in the fridge, throw it in a pot, and somehow, it comes out delicious, even if you don’t quite understand why,” (“Really Smart or Really Dumb, The Big-Picture Genius of Les Miles.”)
Consider this simple statement from Miles in an interview. “In pregame we looked at the purple and gold that may be in that stadium and the spots that would eventually be filled with purple and gold, and we enjoyed it.” (“Les Miles Unfiltered,” MSN.)
Psychologists who have studied Ericksonian psychotherapy will recognize this style, called transformational grammar. It is a style with many nuances and variations, depending on the listener and the goal of commun- ication. Here are just two ideas about its benefits.
Being an elite athlete is a complex job. While having high expectations is important for performance, we also know that these expectations translate into pressures that can impair performance on difficult, skill-based tasks. Also, performing in front of
an audience, even a sup- portive audience, increases reactivity. Even if the athlete feels positive about fan sup- port, the supportive audience has a detrimental effect.
Coach Miles’ word gumbo seems perfect for balancing out high expectations while at the same time softening the harmful effects of this type of stress. And it likely works because he really means it.
Another way that Coach Miles’ word gumbo might be beneficial to his athletes comes from research about “invisible support.” Coaches must give direct advice at times, but research has found that this carries an emotional cost for the recipient, such as feeling less capable.
LSU CoachResearchers have found that support can be more effective when it is outside of the person’s awareness or if it is so subtle that it is not perceived as support. Invisible support is associated with lower stress and stronger feelings of capability, what psychologists call self-efficacy.
“We were challenged by an opponent that talked about a rivalry and they would play to it. We told our team that is how we would rather have it anyway and lets go play. They took an edge onto the field. It did not take long to take that edge into the end zone for us.” (“Les Miles Unfiltered, MSN.)
LSU Tiger left guard Will Blackwell said in the SI Vault, “You’ve got to use your context cues to kind of decipher the meaning.”
I don’t think this style can be learned, at least not easily. I think it is more of a complex set of characteristics particular to Miles– his concern for people, optimism, integrity, man- agement skills, all coming together. In this way our Mad Hatter seems more like a Zen master, with his natural talents applied to manage high expectations for elite athletes.
All the while he keeps his feet on the ground and the grass of Tiger Stadium in his pocket, reminding him that it is just a game, and he, after all, is just a man.

(Dr. Julie Nelson is Times publisher, licensed psychologist, and consultant to businesses in organizational and talent development. She trained with Milton Erickson briefly.)


Social Behavior and Skills in Children Johnny L. Matson, Editor

Springer, 2009
In Social Behavior and Skills in Children, premier scientist and LSU Professor and Distinguished Research Master, Dr. Johnny Matson, brings together a slate of experts to explain the science and practice of helping youngsters with problems to strengthen their social behavior. Matson and his contributors unfold a wealth of information in theory, research, and practical advice to support both the clinician and researcher to update and focus thinking in this complex and essential topic.
Matson has a gift for coordinating interesting, authoritative sources. In Social Behavior he draws from experts at Louisiana State University, from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in California, from the Universities of Kansas, Southern Illinois, Southern Mississippi, Southeastern Louisiana, Virginia, Texas at Austin, Central Florida, and Universities in New Zealand and Italy.
Among this group are Louisiana State University’s Jessica Boisjolie, Dr. Thompson Davis, III, Timothy Dempsey, Jill Fodstad, Melissa Munson, Tess Rivet, and Erin Tarcza from LSU, and Dr. Monique LeBlanc from Southeastern.
Also contributing are Dr. Rebecca Mandal-Blasio and Dr. Karen Sheridan from the Louisiana Office of Citizens
with Developmental Disabilities, Resource Center on Psychiatric and Behavior Supports, in Hammond, Louisiana.
Dr. George Schreiner from Northlake Supports and Services Center in Hammond, and lecturer at Southeastern,
is also a coauthor.
Dr. Matson is an expert in mental retardation, autism, and severe emotional disorders in children and
adolescents, with over 600 publications including 37 books. In Social Behavior he provides the underlying
connections between theory and research, general practice, and then applies this foundation in eight specific
diagnostic groupings.
Children who suffer with learning disabilities, ADHD, conduct disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic physical
illness such as diabetes or and other disabilities, may need specific help to function socially in school, with
friends, with family, and to move smoothly in social adjustment toward adulthood. Social Behavior addresses how
these deficits in social skills can impact quality of life and future development of a youngster.
The 13 chapters provide an in-depth study of the topic of social behavior and social skills, not always covered
adequately in texts about mental or physical disorders.
Previously Dr. Matson said to the Times, “Writing is rewarding in the sense that it assists in allowing for the
review of empirically supported evidence and the concise delivery of this information to professionals in the field.”
Social Behavior will help ensure that practitioners have the newest information supported by scientific findings.
Dr. Thompson Davis, agrees. Coauthor of the chapter on anxiety and phobias, he is Director of the Psychological Services for Youth Clinic and of the Laboratory for Anxiety, Phobia, and Internalizing Disorder Studies at LSU. He told the Times, “I always enjoy the opportunity that chapter writing provides of getting an updated in-depth review of a topic. I learn a lot by having to then turn around, digest the information, and do my best to present it in a concise and usable form for others.”
One of the satisfying aspects of Social Behavior is the logical structure and consistency that flows from chapter to chapter, despite the variety of topics and different authors’ perspectives. The structure facilitates the readers’ thinking about the subject, defining the concepts, applying the available evidence, analyzing gaps and directions, and linking practice recommendations to both assessment and treatments.
Whether a practitioner or researcher, the reader will easily be able to update knowledge in this rapidly evolving area, and have on hand a comprehensive and relevant review of the literature.
Yet there is ample practical advice and information. Social Behavior provides 48 norm-referenced measures of social skills and an array of evidence- based interventions with critiques.
Dr. Matson has authored more than 37 books and his way of handling complex theoretical and technical matters is to produce cleanly written and logically organized volumes. Social Behavior meets this goal by capturing a record amount of information in a concise 13 Chapters without unnecessary tangents or bloated narrative.
In “History and Overview,” Chapter 1, authors define applicable concepts and review the progression and evolution of the science over time. Authors provide the scope of the field, an overview of assessment and treatment, and the current state of research. Dr. Monique LeBlanc, Assistant Professor at Southeastern Louisiana University helped coauthor the chapter.
In Chapter 2, “Theories of Social Competence from the Top-Down to the Bottom-Up: A Case for Considering Foundational Human Needs,” authors untangle the theoretical issues further in an intriguing review, including sections on “meta-theoretical lens” and “resource control theory,” an evolutionary based theory of social competence.
“Etiology and Relationships to Developmental Disabilities and Psychopathology” comes next. The
authors, including Dr. Sara Jordan of U. of Southern Mississippi, point out how social skills problems are related to a variety of developmental and psychological disorders experienced by youngsters.
LSU’s Jessica Boisjoli and Johnny Matson author Chapter 4, “General Methods of Assessment.” They provide a comprehensive review of current methods for assessing social skills, along with supporting evidence, current trends, and future directions.
“General Methods of Treatment,” Chapter 5, is authored by LSU’s Timothy Dempsey and Johnny Matson. They provide an overview of the guiding theory for social skills interventions, including the methodological issues in current research. Results of meta-analysis of outcome studies is included and also an explanation of “social validity,” a way of understanding the value of interventions.
Chapter 6 is “Challenging Behaviors.” This chapter is coauthored by Dr. Rebecca Mandal-Blasio and Dr. Karen Sheridan, both from the Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. Dr. George Schreniner is also a coauthor. Authors examine how challenging behaviors such as aggression, property destruction, or self-injury, for example, are related to social skills deficits, including acquisition deficits, performance deficits, fluency deficits, and interfering behaviors. They review functional assessment and interventions.
In Chapter 7, “Social Skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder,” authors define concepts and provide an overview of interview and observation scales that are useful in measuring social skills in this population. They include the Children’s Social Behavior Questionnaire, the PDD Behavior Inventory, The Social Responsiveness Scale, and Matson Evaluation of Social Skills with Youngsters. Coauthors also review an array of skills addressed by interventions, including social initiation, conversational behavior, sociodramatic play, reciprocal interactions, perspective taking, and others.
For Chapter 8, authors review the current scientific status of “Intellectual Disability and Adaptive-Social Skills.” They provide 11 specific examples of interventions with associated evaluations, including “A program to promote adaptive (leisure) engagement and improve mood in children with severe/profound intellectual and other disabilities” and also “A program to reduce sleep problems in children with mild-to- severe intellectual disability.”
In Chapter 9, “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,” authors provide an overview with current definitions, assessment methods, and interventions for social behaviors deficits in youngsters with ADHD. They include a section on “Novel Directions for Treatment,” and explain “friendship interventions,” interventions for peer rejection that focus on the peers, and new strategies for cooperative learning in classrooms.
Chapter 10 is “Evidence-Based Methods of Dealing with Social Deficits in Conduct Disorder.” Authors outline diagnostic criteria, etiology, assessment issues, and treatment including a section on prevention.
LSU’s Dr. Thompson E. Davis, III, collaborates with coauthors Melissa Munson, and Erin Tarcza, for Chapter 11, “Anxiety Disorders and Phobias.” The authors note that numerous anxiety disorders and phobias in children can interfere with social, school and family relationships, including discrimination and even victimization. They explain that little attention has been paid to social behavior in anxiety-disordered children outside of social phobia, and provide information on etiology, prevalence, and social skill problems that are unique to this population. They provide an appealing definition of anxiety, current theory, research, assessment, and treatments, calling for a multi-level approach.
Dr. Davis told the Times, “I hope this chapter helps in establishing the social context surrounding anxiety disorders, and that it emphasizes the reciprocal social influences children and adults have on each other–for the alleviation or, unfortunately, exacerbation of anxiety problems.”
In Chapter 12, “Major Depression,” LSU’s Jill Fodstad and Johnny Matson, point out that at one time experts thought children did not experience depression and write “serious psychological disturbance that affects a large number of children,” must not be taken lightly. The complex nature of depression, they note, requires the clinician to take into account etiological variables, and “skill set, competence, developmental level, and needs of the client…” It is not a one-size fits all problem, the authors say, and recommend a broad- based, multi-method assessment approach. They review biological, environmental and psychosocial factors, and present an extensive review of available assessment methods.
Social Behavior and Skills in Children concludes with Chapter 13, “Medical and Physical Impairments and Chronic Illness,” by Tessa Rivet and Johnny Matson of LSU. They define chronic physical childhood conditions and review theoretical models for psychosocial adjustment. They outline the impact of these illnesses and physical disabilities on social skills, psychosocial development, risk, resilience and provide extensive information for assessment, including a compilation of studies of social functioning of children with asthma, cancer, cardiac conditions, cerebral palsy, craniofacial conditions, epilepsy, hearing loss, HIV, and others.
This excellent work is available at Springer ( and at online booksellers everywhere.