Saturday, September 20, 2014

Depression, Due Process, Poetry, Gut Bacteria, and More

DEPRESSION. Of those who respond to our profile survey as newsletter subscribers, 41 percent rank depression as a "very important" factor in regard to their twice-exceptional children. By contrast, anxiety is ranked as very important by 71 percent; OCD by just 22 percent. Those high rankings are why we so often point to items on depression and anxiety, and in recent days we came across four items concerning depression.
  • A review of meta-analyses of research by the University of Bern showed that sports and physical activity can cause brain changes similar to those caused by medications, affecting serotonin levels, promoting cell growth in the brain, and reducing levels of stress hormones. Sports and physical activity had a greater impact on depression than on anxiety. Read more
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urges parents to not to leave childhood depression untreated, and provides information on treatment and care. Read more
  • Next, PscyhCentral posted on its website an article titled "Helping Children Avoid Depression." The article emphasizes "thought training" to help a young person manage emotions and preempt depression. Read more
  • Finally, from Northwestern University comes news of a blood test to diagnose depression in adults. Developed by Northwestern University scientists, the test uses levels of nine RNA blood markers. Noteworthy in the article is that the same researcher who developed the adult test had previously developed a blood test to diagnose depression in adolescents; that test was announced in 2012. Most of the markers in the adult test are different than those used to identify adolescent depression. Find out more about the adult test; about the adolescent test
LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD in due process hearings is the goal of legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. Currently, while parents can recover attorneys' fees if they prevail in a due process hearing, they cannot recover expenses incurred for expert witnesses such as psychologists or other experts. Harkin is introducing legislation called the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act to make those costs recoverable when parents prevail in a due process case. Find out more.

THE DAVIDSON INSTITUTE has issued new editions of two newsletters. The eNews-Update announces the 2014 Davidson Fellows; notes the 2015 Fellows competition; points to Jim Delisle's new book on American education, Dumbing Down America; and provides a variety of other news. The Educators Guild Newsletter for fall contains a Q&A with Christine Fonseca on introversion in gifted kids, and also provides guidelines for educators on working with introverted students.

WRIGHTSLAW FANS might be interested in knowing that they can get 25 percent off all products in the Wrightslaw store until September 25; find out more.

GOT A POET in your home or classroom? The National Student Poets Program has honored five teen poets who will serve as youth ambassadors for poetry and the art of language. The National Student Poets will lead readings and workshops at libraries, museums, and schools throughout the country, as well as participate in events such as readings at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Department of Education. Find out more about the National Student Poets Program.

THE COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN is accepting nominations for its "Yes I Can" awards celebrating the accomplishments of kids with exceptionalities; the CEC Professional awards for gifted and special educators; and CEC Student Awards. Nominations close October 31. Find out more.

SIZE AT BIRTH, ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH. Research from Denmark indicates that birth weight and length can partially predict the likelihood of being diagnosed with mental health disorders such as autism and schizophrenia later in life. If the following excerpt turns you on, you'll find this article interesting, we think: "The study tests predictions of the evolutionary theory of genomic imprinting -- the idea that during fetal development some genes inherited from the mother are expressed differently to those inherited from the father. The potential consequence of this asymmetry is that maternal and paternal genes in a fetus will not cooperate fully during this period, even though they subsequently have shared interests due to their lifetime commitment to the same body." Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- in the category of "something else to worry about." Worry about artificial sweeteners because they may change the bacteria in the gut and cause metabolic changes you don't want in you or your kids -- like glucose intolerance, obesity, or adult-onset diabetes. In a NewsWise writeup of the research, one of the researchers said about artificial sweeteners, "this calls for reassessment of today’s massive, unsupervised consumption of these substances.” He also said in a New York Times article about the research, "Given the surprising results that we got in our study, I made a personal preference to stop using [artificial sweeteners]."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Brain Imaging, OCD, Anxiety, Evaluation, and Crawling

BRAIN SCANS AND ADHD. Children with ADHD develop certain brain networks more slowly than typically developing children, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. The result is that those networks are less able to control activities like daydreaming and less able to focus on externally-directed tasks. Somewhere in the future: using brain imaging to diagnose ADHD by examining these networks. Read more.

BRAIN SCANS AND READING DIFFICULTIES. University of California researchers have used brain scans to predict how young children will learn to read, giving clinicians a possible tool to spot children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties before they experience reading challenges. The study followed kids from K to Grade 3, and showed that the way the kids' white matter developed predicted their reading abilities. The researchers hope that techniques such as the ones used in the study might someday flag children early and provide for appropriate intervention. Read more.

BRAIN SCANS AND ASD. Young adults with ASD were compared to peers without ASD in a test involving choosing test items and receiving feedback on the correctness of the choice, all the while being monitored by brain imaging. From a writeup of the study at the site of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: "As expected, young adults with ASD had difficulty integrating positive feedback in a given trial into their performance on subsequent trials. This was due to deficits in reward-related working memory -- the ability to keep just-gathered information at the ready -- for application in a related or new situation. Those with ASD also had a tendency to rely more heavily on trial-by-trial feedback processing as opposed to an affective reward-based working memory." Find out more.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA has received a $1.5 million donation to benefit its gifted education program. The gift will enable the university to hire a faculty member in gifted ed. The donors have an expansive view of gifted ed. They told a news outlet, "We'd like to see gifted education offered in every classroom, every day, to any student." Find out more.

THE CHILD MIND INSTITUTE has on its site two new articles about OCD, "What Does OCD Look Like in the Classroom?" and "A Teacher's Guide to Understanding OCD."

POWER STRUGGLES between parents and school -- and how to avoid them -- is the topic of the current issue of Special Ed Advocate from Wrightslaw. Spending time at school advocating for your child? Find the issue.

UPCOMING SENGINAR. On September 23, the organization Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted will present a webinar titled "The Anxious Family: What to Do When Everyone Frets." The presenter is Joanna Haase, Ph.D. Find out more.

MAKING A CASE FOR EVALUATION is the topic of Jen's most recent post at the blog Laughing at Chaos. From the post: "If he hadn't been ID’d twice-exceptional when he was four (and confirmed when he was tested again at age eight), I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that schools would have seen only disability and he would have fallen through the cracks." Read the blog.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Babies born in winter (who reach crawling age in the summer) evidently start crawling earlier than those born in summer (who reach crawling age in the winter). Researchers said the difference (four weeks) was reason to make sure that babies have proper development opportunities even in winter. Read more, but wonder whether maybe there's something to that astrology stuff after all. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Exercise, Autism Intervention, GHF Anniversary, and More

GIFTED HOMESCHOOLERS FORUM is observing 10 years of service to the families of gifted and twice-exceptional children. You can read more about the anniversary here, or visit the group's website here. Congratulations to GHF! (And does this mean that Corin is now 10 years older than when we first met her? No way!)

EXERCISE before school might reduce the symptoms of ADHD in young students, according to researchers at Michigan State University; read more. Separately, a recent Finnish study shows that higher levels of physical activity are related to better academic achievement during the first three school years, particularly in boys; find out more.

AUTISM INTERVENTION. A small study at the UC MIND Institute administered an intervention to infants who showed early signs of autism -- decreased eye contact, etc -- which, with heavy parental involvement seemed to allow the little ones to catch up with typically developing peers by age 2 or 3. The researchers noted the importance of early identification, as early as six months. The intervention was based on the Early Start Denver Model. Read more. Separately, another study indicates that the same sex hormone that helps protect females from stroke may also reduce their risk of autism. In the first look at a potential role of the female sex hormone in autism, researchers have found expression of estrogen receptor beta -- which enables estrogen's potent brain protection -- is significantly decreased in autistic brains. The receptor also plays a role in locomotion as well as behavior, including anxiety, depression, memory, and learning. Find out more


NEAR VERMONT? Landmark College is holding its second day-long symposium on "new and emerging technologies for people who learn differently," according to the organization. Speakers include Ben Foss, founder of Headstrong Nation; Jon Landis from Apple; and Dr Mark Hakkinen from Educational Testing Service. The three (respectively) will speak on:
  • "A Blueprint for Learners: Using Technology to Support Students Who Learn Differently"
  • "Accessibility and Current and Emerging Technologies"
  • "Why Mobility Matters"
Find out more.
NEAR LOS ANGELES? The Summit Center still has seats left for the September 18th event "Be an A+ Parent of Gifted & Twice Exceptional Learners: Focus on What Matters!" Presenters are Dr. Dan Peters, executive director of the Summit Center, and Melanie Prager, J.D., C.P.E. Find out more

THE DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE NEWSLETTER for September is out, previewing two upcoming dyslexia- or 2e-related webinars, presenting two recordings of conference sessions on dyslexia and innovation (one a "young professionals" panel), and giving a pointer to a recent Scientific American article on the advantages of dyslexia. Find the newsletter

DOES GIFTED EDUCATION WORK? FOR WHICH STUDENTS? That's the title of a paper issued by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research. It's based on a study of one large urban school district. The key contention: "Our findings suggest that a separate classroom environment is more effective for students selected on past achievement – particularly disadvantaged students who are often excluded from gifted and talented programs." That is, those selected on achievement rather than IQ seem to benefit most from gifted classrooms. See a summary of the paper (scroll down to the third item); or try to access the paper itself. (It's evidently freely available to some groups -- like government employees or residents of developing nations -- but not others.)

CARGO-CULT NEUROSCIENCE. A writer takes aim at "neuroscience" applications in business and education that might not be exactly rigorous. Actually, the term "cargo-cult science" has an interesting origin that makes  this Sydney Morning Herald article worth looking at all by itself; find it. 

AND FINALLY, THIS. Researchers compared the fatty acid profiles of breast milk from women in over two dozen countries with how well children from those same countries performed on academic tests. Their findings show that the amount of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a mother's milk is the strongest predictor of test performance. It outweighs national income and the number of dollars spent per pupil in schools. Read more. Then go chow down on nuts and seeds. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Raising/Teaching Introverts, On the Spectrum, and Back to School

AUTISM SPEAKS highlights an under-development app for Google Glass that will provide the wearer with information on the emotional state of individuals viewed through Glass. Using facial recognition software, the app will be of use to those on the spectrum and others who have difficulty "reading" emotions in others. (Who knows, maybe you should get Glass and the app for your spouse.) Find out more

ALSO FROM AUTISM SPEAKS, a college graduate on the spectrum describes his experiences in elementary and high school, as well as being the first NCAA athlete and basketball player at Michigan State University. The man is now an advocate and motivational speaker. His core advice: use your resources. Read more

WHAT A HIGHLY CREATIVE CHILD WOULD LIKE US TO HEAR. At creativitypost.com, an educational consultant has written a piece from the point of view of a highly creative child, offering advice to parents and teachers on a variety of situations -- such as "he's smart, he's just acting lazy." Find the article

DO YOU RAISE OR TEACH AN INTROVERT? You'll be interested in a posting (text, not video) at TED.com called "How to Teach a Young Introvert." Susan Cain points out that perhaps one-third to one-half of students in the U.S. are introverts, yet "our most important institutions, like schools and workplaces, are designed for extroverts." She offers tips such as not setting social standards for what is normal -- eg, acknowledging that it's okay to have just a few friends; building quiet time into the day; and provide choice for how "you get your learning and how you get your restorative time." Read more

WRIGHTSLAW offers some back-to-school resources, including "The Back to School Checklist" (15 items, including "make an information folder about your child for the teacher" and "record every conversation" in your school contact log) along with pointers to reduce stress on school mornings. Find Wrightslaw's Special Ed Advocate

MORE BACK-TO-SCHOOL RESOURCES are offered by NAGC -- for parents, administrators, educators, students, and advocates. (Don't fit any of those categories? What are you doing reading this?) Not surprisingly, many of the resources come as the result of NAGC membership. Check it out

CHILD WELL-BEING -- what is it? Two academics propose a theory of child well-being: "First, a child is considered to be doing well if that child develops capacities appropriate to his or her developmental stage that equip the child for successful adulthood, given the child's social ecology. Second, that the child engages with the world in child-appropriate ways, such as curiosity and exploration, spontaneity and emotional security." Note the phrase "appropriate to his or her developmental stage," something often not taken into account with gifted or 2e kids, we think. Read more.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Depression, ADHD, Hard Work versus Talent, and More

CHILDHOOD DEPRESSION can be difficult to distinguish because it manifests differently than adult depression, according to an article in the Washington Post. The article says that even preschoolers can show signs of depression, however, and provides characteristics of depression in children and in adolescents, along with signs that should tell parents to seek help for their kids. Find the article.

AGGRESSION WITH ADHD sounds like a tough combination for any parent to handle. Recent research indicates that a combination of drug therapies (stimulants and antipsychotics) plus parent training can help. A study compared two groups differing only in whether the antipsychotic risperidone was part of the treatment and found that "augmenting stimulant medication and parent training in behavior management with risperidone may result in additional behavioral improvement in aggression, anger, and irritability over the short-term for children," according to one of the researchers. Read more.

HARD WORK. You probably know Carol Dweck's hypothesis that praising effort rather than native talent is more effective in terms of encouraging healthy achievement. A Michigan State University study indicates that simply telling people that hard work is more important than genetics causes positive changes in the brain and may make them willing to try harder. "Giving people messages that encourage learning and motivation may promote more efficient performance," said the lead investigator. "In contrast, telling people that intelligence is genetically fixed may inadvertently hamper learning." Find out more in an MSU press release about the research. Separately, other research shows that how a student reacts to setbacks -- eg, a failed exam -- depends at least in part on how much control the student feels he or she has over what happened. And there's evidently a physiological basis for the difference in the reaction, as evidenced by activity in areas of the brain that deal with goal-setting based on past experience and with flexible regulation of emotion. The findings have implications for how to present news of a setback to students; read more


IT'S STILL BACK-TO-SCHOOL TIME, and this week a couple organizations offered advice for "connecting" with school. At the site of the Child Mind Institute is a list of seven things to tell the teacher about your child, including health conditions (including ADHD), strengths and weaknesses, and learning style; find it. And this month's newsletter from LD Online offers tips and resources to strengthen home/school communication; read the tips


SPEAKING OF BACK TO SCHOOL -- we're offering our Spotlight on 2e Series booklets at reduced prices this month. Parents, perhaps consider buying a copy of Understanding Your Twice-exceptional Student for your 2e child's teacher, or stocking up on other titles for yourself. Find out more at our website

SENG has made a major change to membership. Supporters can now choose to become "official" members with dues that range from $20 (student) to $75 (professional) per year. The paid memberships come with a variety of discounts and other benefits, such as discounted conference fees and one free SENG webinar per year. Not sure yet which category we fit best, but you can be sure we'll be joining. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- one more thing to worry about, phenols. Some of them may interfere with fetal development in boys. Exposure can come from mom's exposure to parabens (in cosmetics and healthcare products) and triclosan (in some soaps and toothpastes). The compounds are classified as endocrine disrupters. In some ways, it's not a friendly world out there. Read more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Little News, an Offer, and A Few Resources

THE NEWS...

SHORT PEOPLE is the name of a song written and sung by Randy Newman a long time ago, but it's not necessarily going to be a label for your ADHD younger person who takes stimulant meds -- at least, according to research published in the journal Pediatrics and reported at the site of NPR. Longitudinal research found no height deficits in adulthood among young people who used stimulants for ADHD. Read more

THE OFFER...

We're repeating last year's popular fall sale for our "Spotlight on 2e Series" booklets. Any booklet is $12, plus shipping. Find out more

AND THE RESOURCES...

REMEMBER ERIC? That was the Education Resources Information Center, a repository of public domain research summaries on the topic of education. There's evidently a new home for them. You can find out more in a post at LinkedIn or go to http://eric.ed.gov/?q=Talented+and+Gifted&ff1=pubERIC+Digests+in+Full+Text.

CHILD PSYCHIATRY CONSULT is the name of a new feature at the site of Pediatric News. It's written by child psychiatrists for pediatricians. Articles in the initial batch include titles such as "Antidepressants and Youths"; "ADHD Boundaries with Normal Behavior"; a case study, "Obsessive-compulsive Disorder"; and "ADHD Medication Is Not Working." Find the feature. Free registration is required.

FROM TED. We see tons of stuff at TED.com that look interesting. Lately the site has featured a illustrated piece called "Five Brainiac Brain Facts"; find it. And while in the past we've pointed to a TED talk on education by Sir Ken Robinson, TED has assembled 10 talks on education that Sir Robinson chose. One is "What Do Babies Think" by one of our favorite intellects, Alison Gopnik; see the entire list.

SAGE is a publisher of journals and newsletters; they publish Gifted Child Quarterly, for example. For September, SAGE is allowing access to all of its neurology-themed publications free of charge. One publication: The Journal of Child Neurology. One caveat: these are not journals intended for the layperson; bring your dictionary. Find out more and register.

AND FINALLY, THIS. The "tortured genius"? (Think Robin Williams.) A Huffington Post writer weighs in on this old concept. ""There are plenty of geniuses who are not mentally ill, and there are plenty of mentally ill people who aren't geniuses.... Sometimes you have the two combined.... The illness is pervasive. Genius is much more rare." Read more.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Anxiety, Depression, Dyslexia, ADHD... and Bacteria

FOLLOW-UP #1. We blogged last time about a study indicating that a problem in autism is a lack of neuronal pruning during childhood. The New York Times also reported on the study, going much beyond the press release we read and pointed to. Find the NY Times article.

FOLLOW-UP #2. We also blogged about the American Academy of Pedatrics' recommendation that teens start school later in order to get more sleep. The Child Mind Institute has an article on its site with advice on how parents can help teenagers get more sleep; find it.

DSM-5. Medscape surveyed over 6,000 physicians on their reactions to the DSM-5, released a year ago. It doesn't seem to have caused much of a stir -- or much change in practice. More than half of the respondents don't use the new edition; and most said that the DSM-5 hadn't made a difference in their handling of autism, pediatric bipolar disorder, or personality disorders. However, the majority of those who actually use the DSM-5 are "extremely satisfied," "very satisfied," or "moderately satisfied." Find out more.

GOT AN ANXIOUS KID? Do you fall into the "protection trap"? Find out what it is and how you can help that child.

DEPRESSION was the topic of lots of stories over the past few days.
  • The brains of young adults who have experienced depression are evidently "hyperconnected" -- different sections talking to each other too much; read more
  • The Child Mind Institute ran an article on the symptoms of depression in teens; find it
  • "Collaborative care" -- presumably integrating mental health services into primary care -- leads to greater improvements than "usual" care; read more
  • A study indicates that serotonin might not play a central role in depression; read more
DYSLEXIA IN THE WHOLE BRAIN. Researchers have mapped connectivity within the entire brain in subjects with dyslexia and compared them to typical readers. Some of the results: "Dyslexic readers showed decreased connectivity within the visual pathway as well as between visual and prefrontal regions, increased right-hemisphere connectivity, reduced connectivity in the visual word-form area, and persistent connectivity to anterior language regions around the inferior frontal gyrus." Read more.

GIFTED ED IN MINNESOTA. A school curriculum specialist grumps about the state of gifted ed in Minnesota, listing a variety of ills, some of which are probably ones that irritate you in your home state. It's a depressing read, but necessary in that it brings up questions to ask your district or your state board of education. The writer concludes, "Ignoring an entire population of students gives lie to every district mission statement I have ever read and violates everything 'educational equity' should represent. But until education focuses on the growth of each student, stagnation will remain the painful reality for most gifted students." We hope he keeps his job. Read the opinion piece.

ADHD: Not an LD? Maybe it's a "decision-making impairment" instead. See what you think about this twist in diagnosis.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- your bacteria are a big part of your life, and they even travel with you and "colonize" your hotel rooms to "look" just like home. In fact, families have distinct "fingerprints" -- bacterial profiles -- that allow one family to be distinguished from others. Now, this is interesting in several ways, but the research also implies that more early exposure to different bacteria -- eg by having a family dog -- might positively affect a child's development and later life. Read a press release; or, read a Washington Post article about the study. And go get a dog.