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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to School, Impossible Figures, Sleep for Teens, and the Striatum

BACK TO SCHOOL. The U.S. Census Bureau issued a "back to school" feature, a series of tables telling us exactly who our students are by gender, race, age, and place in school. Out of almost 300 million non-institutionalized members of our population, about 78 million are in school. The most interesting statistics to us, however, concerned a couple sub-categories of those in college or graduate school. Forty thousand of those were ages 14 or 15; 229,000 were ages 16 or 17. You can find all sorts of back-to-school tables at www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2012/tables.html; good luck wading through them.

ALSO FOR BACK TO SCHOOL, the organization Mental Health America provides resources on student mental health, including tips on bullying, mental health and emotional development, and a parent back-to-school checklist. Find the resources.

IMPOSSIBLE FIGURES. "The Advantages of Dyslexia" is the title of an article at the site of Scientific American which points out how dyslexics are faster than typical perceivers in picking out problem areas in illustrations violating the laws of causality. (Think of Escher's illustrations.) The article's author, who works at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tested astrophysicists with and without dyslexia to see who could better spot graphical spectrum characteristics of black holes as opposed to "noise." Guess who was better. Whether or not your 2e child is an astrophysicist, you'll probably find this article interesting; read it. (Thanks to TheFreep for alerting us to it.)

PEDIATRICIANS ARE ON BOARD with later school start times for teens, as of Monday, August 25, when the APA issued a statement on the matter. They recommend starting classes in middle and high school at 8:30 or later, and that teens get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Find the article in USA Today, then take it to your school board.

THE ABILITY TO READ emotions is apparently hindered by too much screen time, according to a UCLA study. Kids who abstained from screens for five days did "substantially better" than others at reading human emotions. What's more, says the study's lead author, using emoticons is no substitute. :-) Read more.

WRIGHTSLAW SUMMER SCHOOL. The final installment of Wrightslaw's summer school class on "Parental Rights and Responsibilities in the IEP Process" is now available in Special Ed Advocate. It's on asserting your rights. And when you complete the series, you get to download a certificate. Find Part 6.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- how the striatum in the basal ganglia acts as a sensory hub, integrating the various types of sensory information (touch, vision, sound, etc) to "select and generate adequate movements." Sound obscure? It turns out that the striatum is involved in conditions such as ADHD and Tourette's, not to mention Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. Find out more.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Depression, Davidson Fellows, ADHD, the Brain, and More

NOT TALKING ABOUT DEPRESSION. We've noted in blog and briefing that Robin Williams could talk about alcoholism and addiction in his routines, but not depression. In the "comic" strip Candorville, Darrin Bell's character Lionel sometimes accompanies the recently departed on a subway ride "to the end of the line." In today's strip (8/22), he's with Williams on that ride -- along with something you "don't talk about." http://candorville.com/  Separately, if you're on LinkedIn, you may view a discussion titled "Robin Williams and existential depression" started by psychologist James Webb, founder of the organization Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. Find the discussion. Separately again, a new study finds significantly increased signs of depression among preteens with high daily exposure to violent video games; find out more.

2014 DAVIDSON FELLOWS ANNOUNCED. The Davidson Institute has named 20 bright young people named as 2014 Davidson Fellows. The Fellows exemplify the extraordinary work that can be accomplished by U.S. students who are given opportunities to excel, according to the Institute. The Class of 2014 includes eight students from California, two siblings of past Davidson Fellows, a young woman whose project was inspired by her own experience with a rare pediatric liver cancer, as well as a young man who created a high efficiency extraction method of oil from the algae that makes algae biodiesel production an economic viability. Read more.

TAKING AWAY "SCREEN TIME" is the topic of an article at the Child Mind Institute. Do you use this strategy wtih your teens? Thinking about it? Find the article.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON EXERCISE -- more fibrous and compact white-matter tracts, associated with faster and more efficient nerve activity. This according to a recent study of 9- and 10-year-olds written up at Science Daily. Maybe your bright kiddo would accept this as motivation to be fit. Read more.

LIVING WITH ADHD is the name of a podcast which features Peter, a bright young man with ADHD, his mom, and his clinician. (His mom happens to be a Ph.D. professor of psychology at Harvard and the director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.) In a related blog, all three discuss Peter's life with ADHD in a most engaging way. Peter's ending shot: "My final advice to parents is to have patience, to truly listen to what your kid needs, and to not press your own agenda, as hard as it may be. We all work at our own pace and develop at our own rate." Find the blog and podcast.

MAKING DECISIONS WITH ADHD -- not so good. Students with ADHD often make poorer decisions than their unaffected classmates. Researchers have now discovered that different learning and decision-making mechanisms are responsible for these behaviors, and localized the underlying impairments in the brain. Read more.

AUTISM AND THE DEVELOPING BRAIN. You know how the brain "prunes" itself of neural connections (synapses) during childhood and adolescence? Evidently the brains of children with autism do that pruning less efficiently. The result is too many synapses in some parts of the brain, which can lead to too much "noise" in the brain -- possibly explaining oversensitivities in children with autism. Find out more.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ADHD, Math, Child Psychiatry, and More

LATE-ONSET ADHD. By "late," we're talking 12 years old, the age to which the DSM-5 extended the age criterion. The extension means that more children are diagnosed with ADHD. Of these, the greatest increases are in the inattentive subtype, possibly triggered by school problems or a later developmental stage, according to researchers. Girls are also diagnosed at a higher rate in the older age group than in the overall group of ADHD young people. Read more.

THE BRAIN AND MATH FACTS. A child's brain evidently reorganizes itself as children learn math facts. This reorganization is a precisely orchestrated group of brain changes, many involving the memory center known as the hippocampus. Why is this important to the 2e community? Being able to explain brain reorganization during the normal development of cognitive skills will serve as a point of comparison for future studies of what goes awry in the brains of children with learning disabilities. Find out more in a press release from the researchers.

DR. LARRY SILVER gave one of the first presentations we covered as we were starting 2e Newsletter. At the site of ADDitude.com, he offers a multi-decade perspective of his practice of child psychiatry, which has focused on ADHD and LDs. He notes, "During these years, the pendulum gradually swung from psychological to biological models for understanding normal behavior and psychopathology. Today the pendulum has shifted to the center, with equal attention on brain dysfunction and on psychological and social challenges." Read more.

GENES, STRESS, AND THE BRAIN. They're all interrelated, and life events can affect genes and predispose an individual to a condition such as depression. Genes, for example, can determine whether the hippocampus -- you remember the hippocampus, Grand Central Station for handling stress -- will shrink or expand in response to environmental influences. If this topic interests you, read more. Separately, other researchers have found that stress on a mother during pregnancy can increase the child's risk of certain mental disorders. A researcher involved in this study says, "This means that environmental factors strongly influence neuronal gene expression and circuit formation during development. This identifies a path through which adverse environmental conditions could lead to abnormal gene expression and circuit mis-wiring in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders.” Find out more


SOFTWARE FOR DYSLEXICS is the topic of an article written by Jenn Choi, parent of a twice-exceptional child. The software is evidently very effective in helping dyslexic children read. The twist? The creater of the app, Voice Dream reader, didn't intend specifically to help dyslexics, just to give people a way to suck up text while they were doing other things. Choi is enthusiastic about the app; read more

GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY. The fall issue of this publication is out. One article carries the ominous title "Termination of Treatment of Gifted Disabled Students." It's a case study involving a young gifted girl with dyslexia. While the word "twice-exceptional" is not mentioned in the article (and only once in the references), readers might find this of interest. Also in the issue: an article on the problems of using Common Core for gifted students. Find the Quarterly

WRIGHTSLAW. Summer's not over at Wrightslaw. Part 5 of 6 in their summer school series for parent/advocates is on meeting strategies. Says Wrightslaw, "Learn how to effectively track your requests, the school's response, and document issues that were resolved or are still on the table." Find Part 5

NCLD AND "UNDERSTOOD." NCLD, as we've mentioned, is rolling out a new resource called Understood to provide information on LDs. The organization is offering a sneak preview of the product, a piece titled "Understanding Dyscalculia." See what you think.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

2e Research, Depression, Anxiety, Autism, More

APA GTLD SYMPOSIUM. An American Psychological Association symposium last week on gifted students with learning disabilities featured Megan Foley-Nicpon and other researchers/authors from last year's issue of Gifted Child Quarterly devoted to twice-exceptionality. Several recent studies discussed at the symposium are described in a blog at edweek.org, as is the message we all know -- that 2e kids need better screening and supports for both strengths and weaknesses. Foley-Nicpon is quoted as saying, "We're becoming more and more rigid in our classrooms, and the lesson of these twice-exceptional kids is flexibility, and that it's OK to be a little bit different." Read more. (Registration might be required.) If you never read that special issue of Gifted Child Quarterly, NAGC has made it freely available to all at http://gcq.sagepub.com/content/57/4.toc until August 31.

DEPRESSION is in the news after Robin Williams' death. Harold Koplewicz, the director of the Child Mind Institute, has a nice piece on the power of depression at the Institute's site. In it, he speculates that Williams, at least in public, downplayed his depression even though he could riff on alcoholism and addiction during his routines. And Koplewicz mentions the same Terry Gross interview with Williams that partner Linda told us about this morning, where Williams says of his depression simply, "I get bummed, like I think a lot of us do at certain times." So: watch for downplaying of depression in that 2e kiddo of yours, and reach out if you think you need to. Read the piece at Child Mind Institute.

ANXIETY is in the news, too, partly because it's back-to-school time. The Child Mind Institute offers 10 tips for managing this problem; find them. Separately, a Loyola University
 (Chicago) psychiatrist offers his own tips, including, most importantly, talking to your child about their fears and feelings; find them.

BACK TO SCHOOL WITH ADHD is the topic of a slideshow at the site of ADDitude, offering the "40 best school accommodations for your ADHD child." Find the slideshow.

ADHD BIOMARKER. We've blogged previously about other potential biomarkers for ADHD. Now, researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that involuntary eye movements can provide what the researchers call a foolproof indicator. The research compared the involuntary eye movements in three groups: subjects without ADHD; medicated subjects diagnosed with ADHD; and the same ADHD subjects unmedicated. Read more.

ADHD AND MORE. Researchers at the University of Montreal and CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre have traced the origins of ADHD, substance abuse and conduct disorder, and found that they develop from the same neurocognitive deficits, which in turn explains why they often occur together. Besides reducing the stigma of these conditions, the findings may also lead to ways to treat these disorders. Read more.

AUTISM MODEL. A press release from the University of Montreal describes research there on autism. An analysis of autism research covering genetics, brain imaging, and cognition has provided insight into why autism potentially occurs, develops, and results in a diversity of symptoms. “One of the consequences of our new model will be to focus early childhood intervention on developing the particular strengths of the child’s brain, rather than exclusively trying to correct missing behaviors, a practice that may be a waste of a once in a lifetime opportunity,” states one author. Read more.

BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK isn't until next March, but that's when the winners of the fourth annual Dana Foundation "Design a Brain Experiment" competition will be announced. Says the organization, "Submissions must test an idea about the brain. Beyond that criterion, they can do anything from examining the effects of art on the adolescent brain to exploring alternative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Students should not complete their experiments, so be creative!" Find out more.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to School and More

BACK TO SCHOOL. The words “back to school” were in the headlines of the majority of the press releases we read today as we looked for items worthy of the blog; no releases, however, contained news worthy of passing on. That said, some of the organizations we follow are offering what could be useful information for parents of 2e kids as school resumes in the northern hemisphere:
  • ADDITUDE offers an "IEP/504 Guide," along with three other articles dealing with special ed law and process. Find ADDitude's back-to-school resources
  • LD ONLINE is offering back-to-school tips for parents of children with special needs, tips on organization, communication, IEPs, and more. If you're early in your 2e journey, you might find these tips useful. Go to LD Online
  • NCLD features a free eBook, The IEP Meeting Planner, to help you plan and organize before, during, and after an IEP meeting; find it
BACK HOME FOR CONGRESS. The U.S. Congress is in a five-week recess, and the Council for Exceptional Children suggests that this would be a great time to schedule a local appointment with your representative to turn up the heat for education-related funding that's important to you. The CEC also offers resources for preparing for your meeting. Find out more.

FOLLOW-UP. If you read the New York Times Magazine article on "losing" autism, you might be interested in the author's responses to questions from readers. One question, for example, is about the "recovery rate" in girls as opposed to boys. Find the Q&A.

2e AND OF COLOR? SENG is presenting a webinar on August 21st titled "Look Closer and See the Genius in Me: Dispelling Stereotypes of Gifted Children of Color." From the webinar blurb: "This session will explore positive intellectual, academic, and psycho-social traits of culturally diverse gifted learners as demonstrated in research and personal stories. These stories will serve to dispel negative stereotyping as perpetuated by public media and often school personnel who engage with these students daily." Find out more

SUMMIT CENTER PRESENTATION. The Summit Center in California does lots of work with twice-exceptional children. On September 18th the Center is presenting a session on parenting gifted and twice-exceptional learners, to be held at the Center's Santa Monica offices and hosted by Dan Peters and Melanie Pragaer. Find out more.

DIFFERENT IS THE NEW NORMAL is the title of a documentary about Tourette's featuring Ariel, a young man on the journey to overcome the obstacles of the condition. Find out more about Ariel; find out more about "Different is the New Normal."

PHYSICAL FITNESS: DEPRESSION BEATER? Physically fit sixth-graders -- especially girls -- are less likely to report feeling depressed when they reach seventh grade, according to a study presented at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention. Read more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- in the category of "something else to worry about." Perchlorate is a commonly used chemical; excessive levels in a mom can negatively affect the IQ of children born to that mom. Read more about the problem. Read more about perchlorates at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Law and 2e, ASD in College, Depression, More

IDENTIFYING AND SERVING THE 2e: LEGAL ISSUES. 2e Newsletter contributor Rich Weinfeld has co-authored an article for a CEC gifted group covering what the law says about identifying and serving gifted students who are also educationally disabled. The article covers law such as IDEA, court decisions based on law, and letters in which governmental bodies offer guidance on 2e-related matters. Find the article.

AUTISTIC IN COLLEGE. Forbes has an article describing how different colleges and universities offer support and experiences for students on the spectrum. The programs differ in the amount of independence they expect and the amount of support they offer. Among the institutions covered: Rochester Institute of Technology; Mercyhurst University, which has an entire residence hall for Aspies; Rutgers, which apparently mainstreams their ASD students; Nova Southeastern University; and Boston College. Find the article.

DAYTIME SLEEPINESS, ADHD may be linked, according to new research reported at ScienceWorldReport.com. Hypersomnia is the condition, and young people with it are more likely to be experience learning problems, ADHD, or conduct problems. Read more.

DEPRESSING NEWS. Preschoolers diagnosed with depression are much more likely to be depressed throughout their elementary and middle school years, according to a new study. Kids with a conduct disorder or a depressed mother were also more likely to show later depression, but preschool depression was a better predictor. Unfortunately, according to the researchers, there's no "proven, effective treatment for depressed pre-schoolers." Read more. Separately, other research indicates that gene changes over the course of a lifetime may contribute to stress-related illness such as depression and PSTD. Read more about the study, which depended on fMRI, saliva and blood testing to investigate serotonin transporter genes, and actual brain tissue examination.

IN AUSTRALIA? In New South Wales, you can attend a seminar for teachers and parents called "Case Studies in Twice-exceptional Children: Underachievement, Motivation, and Mindset," offered by the Gifted Families Support Group; find out more. In Sandringham, Victoria, the organization Kids Like Us, which focuses on and supports twice-exceptional youth, is presenting a six-week program for parents titled "Turing into Teens." It's for those with 10- to 18-year-olds. Find out more. (Thanks to Jo Freitag for letting us know about these events through her Gifted Resources Newsletter).

NCLD, in the current issue of LD News, explores executive function -- what it is, its different aspects, working memory, and more. Find the newsletter.

RISE AND FALL OF A 2e ACHIEVER? A man who is a gifted, intense athlete gave an interview to The New York Times recently. The Times writer called him "intelligent" -- more precisely, "foul-mouthed and funny, juvenile and intelligent, intense, and prone to mumbling." Former Major League Baseball player Lenny Dykstra was the interviewee, talking about the 13 months since he'd been released from jail on charges that included bankruptcy fraud. What leaped off the page at us was Dykstra's admission that it was hard for him to stay on topic. "I put the A in ADD," he is quoted. Find the article.

FROM THE DAVIDSON INSTITUTE: The University of Nevada at Reno is offering an endorsement in gifted education starting this fall. Davidson Academy instructor Jessica Sambrano will teach the first course of the 12 credit program, EDSP 681 (Characteristics and Needs of Gifted and Talented Students). The class is completely online and features both weekly synchronous meetings via Blackboard Collaborate, and an active, engaging asynchronous component. The class will be relevant and informative to any educator of gifted students, according to DITD. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- something else to worry about, microwave radiation emitted from wireless devices. A scholarly article "reports that children and fetuses are the most at risk from neurological and biological damage that results from microwave radiation emitted by wireless devices, due to the higher rate of absorption of microwave radiation by children than by adults." Find out more.