Monday, June 30, 2014

Anxiety, Stimulant Meds, Common Core Math, More

ADOLESCENCE AND ANXIETY. There's what we think is an interesting and informative opinion piece on anxiety in The New York Times. The author, a professor of psychiatry, explains why teens might be more prone to anxiety. (The explanation involves our old friend the amygdala -- again.) The author also discusses teen risk taking, tying that phenomenon to another quirk of brain development, the maturity of the reward center. This, though, is just the prelude to a discussion of the treatment of anxiety and the role of stimulant medication in possibly making such treatment more difficult. If you have an anxious, teenage child, we think you'll want to read this piece. Find it.

PREVIEW. In the July/August issue of 2e Newsletter, we'll run coverage of a recent conference session on anxiety in gifted children and how parents can help the child experience "healthy" anxiety. Watch for it.

STIMULANT MEDS, CARDIOVASCULAR RISK. There could be a small but significant risk of adverse cardiovascular events in children taking stimulant meds for ADHD, according to the results of a large (700,000 children) Danish study. The results of the study emphasize the clinician's responsibility to screen risk beforehand and monitor treatment. Read more.

COMMON CORE MATH can be frustrating for parents and students alike, leading to a backlash against the standards. Some of the problem is parents' unfamiliarity with the new methods; some is the rush to implement the new curriculum. But for kids with LDs, or those who struggle with written or oral expression, the new math can present additional challenges. And some children are frustrated by having to show all of the steps. For example, to determine how many wheels are in a parking lot occupied by six cars, a student might be required to draw six sets of four, probably not inspiring to a learner who can multiply 
6 times 4 in her head. Read more about the pluses and minuses (no pun intended) of Common Core math.

LANGUAGE, GENDER. Boys and girls evidently learn language differently, with girls depending more on memorizing the proper constructs and boys depending more on invoking "mental grammar rules" to figure out the proper answer to a question testing proper language use. One of the researchers involved in this discovery says, "This fits in with previous research which has identified differences between the sexes when it comes to memorizing facts and events, where girls also seem to have an advantage compared to boys. One interesting aside to this is that as girls often outperform boys at school, it could be that the curriculum is put together in a way which benefits the way girls learn." Read more.

GIFTED ED. Read a spirited rationale for state and federal funding for gifted education, based on the experience of two Kentucky educators with lots of gifted ed credentials. The article, by Tracy Inman and Tracy Cross, provides a picture of how Kentucky compares to other states when it comes to putting money where the gifts are. Read more.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Maybe we'll stop writing about whether video games are good or bad for kids' morality and well being. It seems like every time we describe a study that comes to one conclusion, the next week we read a study with contradictory conclusions. This week's study headline: "'Bad' video game behavior increases players' moral sensitivity: May lead to pro-social behavior in real world." That's all we'll say. Read it if you wish.

Friday, June 27, 2014

GIRLS AND ADHD -- equal opportunity but not equally recognized. That's the contention of an article at the Child Mind Institute site. The female author of the article starts off, "I've always been a space cadet." She describes feeling that something was wrong with her but not receiving a diagnosis until after she was 21 years old. Her perspective is interesting and likely to be helpful to anyone who raises or teaches girls. This is the first of a three-part series on girls and ADHD; find it.

ADOLESCENTS AND MENTAL ILLNESS. As a child moves into and through adolescence, dealing with his or her mental illness will change. Confidentiality is one obvious example. An article at Oregon Live offers tips and resources for dealing with this difficult period (even without mental illness). Find the article.

AUTISM LINKED TO... Autism is not a condition with a simple cause. This week, one study linked autism to maternal exposure to agricultural pesticides; read more. Another study linked an increased risk of a child having autism to the mother's birthplace, noting that children of foreign-born immigrants from Africa and Latin America were more likely to have children with autism. Read more.

CONCUSSION GUIDELINES. Got an active kid who doesn't wear a helmet 24 hours a day? A Canadian hospital has published what it says are the first comprehensive pediatric concussion guidelines for diagnosis and management of concussion in kids 5 to 18, from initial assessment through recovery. If concussion is an issue (or a worry) at your house, find the guidelines.

SCHOLARSHIP RESOURCE. Lilly, through The Diabetes Scholars Foundation, awards scholarships each year to "a gifted group of young adults who, in addition to successfully managing their diabetes, have excelled in the classroom and in the community, demonstrating that diabetes truly does not have to stand in the way of pursuing one's goals," according to the company. This year, 21 high school graduates were chosen as recipients. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS. According to research from the American Psychological Association, chimpanzees prefer music from Africa and India to silence -- and silence to music from the west. Here's how the study went: When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimps spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music. When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music. The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas the Japanese music had regular strong beats, which is also typical of Western music. Want to read more? Find the press release.


Monday, June 23, 2014

ADHD, Biploar Disorder, Parenting, and More

ADHD AND IRON? Can levels of iron in the brain help diagnose ADHD? Maybe. Researchers have discovered that kids without ADHD and kids with ADHD who use stimulant meds both have higher levels of iron in their brains than unmedicated kids with ADHD. The research involved measuring levels of iron in the blood as well as the brain. It turned out that all participants had similar levels of blood iron, but MRI imaging was able to detect the different levels of iron in the brain. The researchers intend to test their findings on a larger group to see if they've really found a biomarker for ADHD. Read more.

ADHD AND SUICIDE. There's no link between between ADHD meds and suicide attempts, according to a large Swedish study. In fact, one researcher said, "The results rather indicate that ADHD drugs may have a protective effect." Read more.

ADHD AND READING. An article at About.com provides tips for remembering what you read. A couple of them: read aloud; and walk around while you read. Find more tips.

BIPOLAR DISORDER IN KIDS manifests differently (in the brain, at least) than in adults. It turns out that in kids with the disorder, certain areas may be hyperactive or under-active. For example, when bipolar children view emotional faces, their right amygdalas react more strongly than in bipolar adults. Find out more.

A KID WITH STRONG BONDS TO PARENTS is likely to be a positive, responsive playmate, and he’ll be able to adapt to a difficult peer by asserting his needs, according to a new University of Illinois study. A researcher is quoted as saying, “Securely attached children are more responsive to suggestions or requests made by a new peer partner. A child who has experienced a secure attachment relationship with caregivers is likely to come into a new peer relationship with positive expectations." Read more

NCLD FAN? The organization has just released its annual report for 2013. According to NCLD, the report "offers a snapshot of our programs and services, as well as essential information about our operations." In terms of revenue, NCLD raised about $5.6 million in 2013, with expenses of about $5.3. Of note: contributions constitute less than 10 percent of revenue; most fundraising comes from its annual benefit dinner. Net assets remained stable at about $3 million. Our compliments to those who support NCLD and the work it does. Read more about the accomplishments of the organization.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Do you ever help your child with homework? There's a humorous opinion piece in The New York Times about the practice and its dangers to the egos of parents and children alike; find it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Meds, TV Violence and Kids, and More -- Including Something Else to Worry About

DOSING YOUR KIDS. Twice-exceptional kids are likely to, at some point, be on meds for anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other conditions. A new article at the site of the Child Mind Institute discusses considerations for finding the right dosage of particular medications, providing some general guidelines ("start low and go slow") as well as medication-specific guidelines. Find the article.

U.S. SENATE: MORE $ FOR SPECIAL, GIFTED ED? The Council for Exceptional Children reports that Senate subcommittee has recommended increases in spending in some areas of special ed and gifted ed. Under the proposal, Javits funding -- called "the sole federal investment in gifted education" -- would rise from $5 million this year to $7 million in FY 2015. (It used to be has high as $11 million.) So here's our favorite calculation: $7 million divided by the number of children in the U.S. 18 or under (~74 million) comes out to -- WOW! -- about 10 cents per kid. Find CEC's report.

SENG CONFERENCE. July 1st is the closing date for advance registration for the SENG annual conference, to be held July 18-21 in San Jose. After that, walk-ins will be accepted if space is available. Also, no child/teen program registrations will be accepted after July 1, according to SENG. Find out more.

TV VIOLENCE EFFECTS. Last time, we blogged about video game violence and its effect on empathy. Since then, a new study indicates that exposure to violence on TV show leads to "indications of less mature brain development and poorer executive functioning." The study found a link, not causality. But the lead author says, "The take-home message from this study is the finding of a relationship between how much violent television we watch and important aspects of brain functioning like controlled attention and inhibition." Read more.

APROPOS OF SUMMER? Children who spend more time in less structured activities — from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo — are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study also found that children who participate in more structured activities — including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework — had poorer “self-directed executive function,” a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently. Read about the study in a press release from the U of Colorado.

CHALK ONE UP FOR NERDS. "Cool" teens may later have more trouble with drugs and relationships, according to a new study. By "cool," the researchers meant young teens who acted old for their age -- "pseudomature." The study's lead author is quoted in the L.A. Times as saying, "They are gaining the appearance of maturity, but they are not gaining actual maturity.” Find the article.

AUTISM PIONEER DIES. The New York Times carried an obituary for psychiatrist Lorna Wing, who it says "is widely credited with recognizing autism as a spectrum of related problems, rather than as a single condition." She "rediscovered" the work of Hans Asperger and named the mildest variant of autism. Read more.

THIS ONE'S FOR YOU. "The Neuroprotective Effects of Education" is the title of an article at the site of the Dana Foundation. Graduating from high school is good; graduating from college is even better. From the article: "Research published in the past few years suggests that it can strengthen the brain, making it more resistant to the ravages of old age, and perhaps mitigating the damage that occurs after traumatic brain injury." Read the article.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Something else to worry about: the herbicide Roundup -- appearing in breast milk. As you can imagine, chemical manufacturers, the EPA, and environmentalists -- including moms -- have different opinions about the risk involved. Read more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2e Definition, plus ASD, Anxiety, and More

DEFINITION OF 2e. Sally Reis, Susan Baum, and Edith Burke are co-authors of an article in Gifted Child Quarterly titled "An Operational Definition of Twice-exceptional Learners: Implications and Applications." The abstract of the article says, "In addition to introducing this new definition, the authors provide a research-based rationale for the definition, offer a clear profile of twice-exceptional youth, and summarize the development of new programs and practices to enable these students to develop their gifts while simultaneously compensating for their deficits." If you're an NAGC member, you have access to the article through your membership. For those of you who are not members, the definition offered by the authors of the 15-page article is this: Twice-exceptional learners are students who demonstrate the potential for high achievement or creative productivity in one or more domains such as math, science, technology, the social arts, the visual, spatial, or performing arts or other areas of human productivity AND who manifest one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria. These disabilities include specific learning disabilities; speech and language disorders; emotional/behavioral disorders; physical disabilities; Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD); or other health impairments, such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These disabilities and high abilities combine to produce a unique population of students who may fail to demonstrate either high academic performance or specific disabilities. Their gifts may mask their disabilities and their disabilities may mask their gifts.

AUTISM SPEAKS AND GOOGLE are joining forces in genomic research on autism spectrum disorder. Autism Speaks will use the Google Cloud Platform to manage its library of genomic information on ASD. Autism Speaks' goal is to sequence the entire genomes of 10,000 individuals worldwide who are affected by autism. Read more.

ANXIETY. Medscape has published an account of a session on anxiety presented during May's annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The session described the use of cognitive-based therapy for children and adolescents, especially exposure therapy. In addition, the presenter also described some of the experiential and neurological factors that seem to cause heightened anxiety in some individuals. (Our old buddy the amygdala figures into this.) Research was cited concerning the conditions in which exposure therapy seems to work or not. While the article gets somewhat technical with terms like "BDNF Val66Met polymorphism," most of the information in it should be accessible to the parent of a twice-exceptional child. Read more. (Free registration required.)

IEP SUMMER SCHOOL. Wrightslaw is offering its annual summer school for parents. The topic is "Parent Rights and Responsibilities in the IEP Process." It's a six-part, self-study course of instruction for parents who want to empower themselves to participate fully in the IEP process. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS -- violent video games and lack of empathy. A New York Times blogger uses the occasion of E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, to ruminate on whether violent video games desensitize players to violence and its effects. The blogger cites recent research in favor of the desensitizing effect, and also -- ironically -- queries attendees at the show about the hypothesis. Read more.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

2e Goes to Congress? Plus ADHD, Teen Mental Health, More

2e NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBER RUNNING FOR CONGRESS. Jack Trammell, a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, is running for the U.S. Congress in Virginia's District 7. Trammel is head of the college's Disability Support Services and had also been the head of the school's honors program. His opponent in the high-profile race is a fellow RMC professor who, in the primary election, just unseated the House Majority Leader. All we could think of when we read the news of Trammell's candidacy was how cool it would be to have someone in Congress who understands the 2e community. Find out more.

BIOLOGICAL BASIS FOR ADULT ADHD. Brain imaging can differentiate adults whose childhood ADHD has remitted from those whose ADHD is still active. The differences were detected in a specific brain communication network by MIT researchers. According to one of the researchers, "This new study suggests that there is a real biological boundary between those two sets of patients." Find out more.

TEEN MENTAL HEALTH. The initial "gatekeeper" into mental health services for teens is often the school psychologist. A study indicates, however, that later service providers often consist of pediatricians or family doctors, not mental health professionals, begging the question of what would happen if school psychologists could better collaborate with mental health professionals to improve care for these teens. Read more.

ONE MORE STUDY: This one indicates that mothers with ADHD are six times more likely to have children diagnosed with ADHD and two-and-a-half times more likely to have children diagnosed with ASD than moms who do not have ADHD. The next step in this line of research: to see if biology is the cause. Read more.

MATH ANXIETY is the topic of an article in Education Week -- specifically, what teachers can do to help alleviate it. The article offers three suggestions, and also has engendered a good discussion by readers. Find the article.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION in teens is a big issue, and a new article at the site of the Child Mind Institute tackles it, covering reasons for the deprivation (biology, technology, homework, etc). What to do about it? That's another matter. The article offers only the idea of earlier school start times, not something likely to happen easily or soon at any school near you. Coming up: another article on the topic examining the consequences and risks for sleep-deprived teens. Read more.

JOB POSTING. NAGC has posted a job opening at Purdue University, where the Department of Educational Studies is looking for an assistant professor in gifted, creative, and talented studies. Is that you? Or do you know someone? Find out more.

BELIN-BLANK CENTER. The organization's most recent newsletter is out. It includes a message from Director Susan Assouline on talent development and how experiences such as those offered by the Center's programs -- including its summer program -- can be "pivotal to the student's development of his or her talent area," in Assouline's words. Also in the newsletter: a description and deadlines of the Belin-Blank summer programs. Find the newsletter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2e "Meat and Potatoes"

IN THIS POST -- anxiety, depression, ADHD, gifted ed, and dyslexia. No "garnish" in this posting. 

WHO'S ANXIOUS? Besides your 2e child, that is. Well, the Huffington Posts tells us about 11 public figures "who will make you rethink what you know about anxiety disorders." The figures range from cartoonist Charles Schultz to up-and-coming performers whose names we didn't recognize but who must be famous. Find out more.

DEPRESSION MARKER. Researchers have discovered a molecule that exists only in primates and humans; levels of the molecule are lower in depressed individuals. The finding could provide a marker for depression as well as help determine which individuals will respond to antidepressant treatment. Read more.

YOUNG WOMEN AND ADHD. Young women between the ages of 19 and 34 are being treated with ADHD meds at a relatively high rate -- more than 125% the rate of younger girls. Milwaukee Public Radio tells the story of Diany Levy, 23, who wishes she'd been diagnosed earlier, perhaps allowing her to be an A student. A child and adolescent psychiatrist also comments for the article. Find it.

ENDORSEMENT IN GIFTED ED. The University of Nevada, Reno is offering an endorsement in gifted education starting this summer with the first course of the twelve-credit program, EDSP 681 (Characteristics and Needs of Gifted and Talented Students). According to the Davidson Institute, the class will feature both weekly face-to-face meetings and an online component. For more information about the course, please email jsambrano@davidsonacademy.unr.edu. To take this course, you will need to apply as a "graduate special." Interested educators may download the application at http://www.unr.edu/grad/admissions/special-requirement-categories.

NCLD. For fans of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the organization reminds us that it connects via three forms of social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Go here for more information.

DYSLEXIC ADVANTAGE NEWSLETTER. The edition for June is out, acknowledging the support the Eides received during and at the end of their (dyslexic) daughter Katrina's battle with cancer and previewing a new program to be named in Katrina's honor. Also in the newsletter, read about a MacArthur Genius who was once discouraged from going to college; how Fernette and Brock scored main floor seats at a James Taylor concert (there's a dyslexic connection); and about the settlement of a lawsuit which will provide accommodations for dyslexics taking the Law School Admissions Test.

Friday, June 6, 2014

GIFTED ED. Do we need "gifted tracks"? Should we emphasize instead providing all children with the best possible education? Those are some of the questions under discussion at a New York Times feature called "Room for Debate." Got an opinion on the topic? See what the debaters think.

ADHD AND THE BRAIN. Researchers studying dopaminergic (that's a new word for us) neurons, involved in motivation and reward among other things, have found that a certain dopamine receptor can influence nervous system cell growth; a deficiency in the receptor results in "miswiring" and ADHD-like behaviors in mice. The research write-up is a little technical (at least to us), but you can read more at Science Daily.

FITNESS AND THE BRAIN. Physically fit kids have "faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses while reading," according to recent research. The study doesn't show cause and effect -- just a link. But if you're interested, read more.

HANDWRITING AND THE BRAIN. With the de-emphasis on cursive handwriting in the Common Core Standards, some clinicians and researchers worry that something might be lost. "Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information," according to an article on the topic. The article cites a 2012 study of kids asked to reproduce a letter or shape either by tracing it, drawing it, or typing it. Drawing the letter activated areas of the brain associated with reading and writing. Find out more.

SPEAKING OF CCS, NPR has an article on them that provides (for those of us who have attempted to avoid the topic) explanation, context, and history. The article differentiates standards and curriculum, and also explains how educational publishers reacted to the new standards, along with how difficult it's turning out to be to develop new textbooks to support the standards. Read more.

INDIVIDUALITY AND THE BRAIN. From the Dana Foundation: "Mounting imaging evidence suggests that brain circuits involved in our emotional responses are highly plastic and change with experience, affecting our temperament." Intrigued? Read more.

NCLD has a couple brief "slide shows" online. One presents 10 common myths about LDs, based on NCLD's recent survey on perceptions of learning disabilities. Apparently one in five adults believes that an LD is caused by poor diet. Find the other myths. The other slide show offers 17 ways to start a conversation about learning disabilities from a parent's perspective. For example, to a child: "If you tell me what about having LD is making things hard, we can find solutions and help... together." NCLD says it's looking for readers to share conversation starters that have worked for them -- so maybe read theirs and contribute yours.

AND FINALLY, THIS. We've posted what arguably should have been the first of the videos on our YouTube channel, this one on the basics of twice-exceptionality. 
 It's called "What is 2e?" It's probably pretty basic for our readers here, but comments welcome and please pass it on to those who might benefit. Thanks! Find the video.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TEACHING THE BRAIN TO LEARN is the title of an article at T.H.E. Journal in which experts talk about the importance of cognitive stimulation for infants -- and for students of all ages -- in order to properly shape the brain for learning. Mentioned in the article is the importance of emotion on learning, and on that topic sometime 2e Newsletter contributor Judy Willis is quoted. Find the article.

TOURETTE'S TREATMENT. Psychiatric News last month ran an article about treatments that have recently emerged for Tourette's. The article covered genetic and environmental influences on the occurence of Tourette's, then went on to discuss a couple treatments with drugs (alpha agonists, antipsychotics) and a "comprehensive behavioral intervention for Tourette's (CBIT). Find the article.

HOW ADHD MEDS WORK is the topic of a piece at the site of NCLD. It covers stimulant meds, non-stimulants, side effects, and combinations of medicines and other interventions. Read more.

THE NATIONAL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE CENTER (TA Center) is a proposed website to help students with LDs know what kind of disability services colleges provide. The TA Center would also provide training to educators and serve as an information hub. The problem: the center evidently needs funding, says NCLD, which offers a way for you to tell your senator that you favor funding for such a funding. Interested? Find out more at NCLD.org.

LANDMARK COLLEGE, one of very few in the U.S. that cater to students with learning challenges, is holding a summer institute for educators from June 24-27. Author Thomas West kicks it off with a keynote, and the institute, according to Landmark, consists of three concurrent morning strands (cerebrodiversity and learning; executive function coaching; tablets as assistive tech), a variety of afternoon sessions, and networking. Find out more.

AND FINALLY, THIS. Enthusiastic explanations of basis phenomena are often quite engaging, and Stony Brook University, as part of its "Flame Challenge," has recognized two scientists for their explanations of "what is color," directed to an 11-year-old audience. Find out more in a press release, or go right to the winning entries. BTW, this challenge is part of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.