The False ADHD Controversy

More kids are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than ever before, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 8.8% of children were diagnosed in 2011, compared with 7.0% in 2007.

An uptick was also witnessed in the number of parents choosing to medicate their children with stimulants such as Ritalin. That proportion now sits at two-thirds.

ADHD is perhaps childhood’s most common neurobehavioral disorder. It’s characterized by an array of symptoms, including squirming, excessive daydreaming, forgetfulness, and hyperactivity. Scientists still can’t precisely pinpoint what’s going on in the brain to trigger ADHD, but it’s evident that something is amiss. Children with ADHD generally have reduced brain volume in the left pre-frontal cortex.

But the lack of a conclusive causal mechanism in the brain leads many onlookers to conclude that ADHD is a manufactured condition. Its symptoms are merely side effects of childhood, they argue. But this is not in agreement with evidence stemming from genetics. Thanks to large twin studies, a number of genes have been implicated, particularly those that affect dopamine transporters. The dopamine system of the brain regulates a whole heap of processes, but it’s most commonly linked with reward seeking. As far as ADHD goes, we know that when dopamine levels are driven up within the brain, ADHD symptoms lessen in severity.

Full story of the ADHD controversy at Forbes


The strong case for music education

I’ve read several articles this month that validate the claim that students participating in music and the arts are smarter than their counterparts who do not participate.

One article of particular curiosity, written by Lori Miller Kase for “The Atlantic,” cites a number of reports showing that music studies improve students’ memory, attention and communication skills, and even close the “academic gap between rich and poor students.” This is according to Dr. Nina Kraus, a professor and neuroscientist at Northwestern University. Through her research, Kraus further purports music lessons during childhood help hone the brain’s response to sound well into the adult years, even if as adults they no longer play a musical instrument.

Kase also refers to the research of Dr. Aniruddh Patel, psychology professor at Tufts University, who states that “children’s brains show evidence of faster development when they are learning to play an instrument.” Says Patel: “The fact that music engages so much in the brain — including regions we think of as important for language, memory, motor control, executive function and emotion — raises the question of how it (the brain) interacts with these other activities.”

Despite the research, across the nation, legislators are attempting to make up funding shortfalls in a challenging economy by cutting education budgets, which places school music programs at risk. Some educators are reassessing their music and other fine arts programs and recommending restructuring, stating their actions are not affected by budget cuts, but they are doing what is best for students and educators.

Full story of music education at The Spectrum

Let’s Get Girls Interested In Engineering!

When a teenage girl thinks of the word engineering—they think of train conductors. I would know; I was once a teenage girl.

Like most high school students entering college, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. My best subject at the time was math, but when my math teacher mentioned I might like engineering, I looked at her like she was insane. An engineer, I believed, was certainly some nerdy guy calculating algorithms in front of computer screens all day. Certainly not a path for a creative girl like me! Nevertheless, I took a chance and enrolled in Mechanical Engineering 101 for my first semester at Stanford University. It took less than one class for me to realize that my high school math teacher was right. Engineering—it turns out—is an amazing outlet for creativity and innovation. I was hooked.

As I rose through the ranks of the program, I couldn’t help but notice the ratio of guys to girls in my major. I did some research and found that women account for only 11% of the engineering industry. Meanwhile, the fastest growing jobs around the globe are in engineering and technology. What’s the reason for this glaring disparity?

As I looked into it further, I learned that girls start losing interest in math and science as young as age 8. Take a walk down the pink aisle at the toy store and you can begin to see why. Girls are inundated with princesses, pop stars and decorating kits. Meanwhile, boys are surrounded with math and science games, construction toys, puzzles and brainteasers. These toys develop spatial skills and get boys interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at an early age. Girls are missing out. I decided I would put my engineering degree to use by designing a construction toy for girls called GoldieBlox.

Full story of girls and engineering at Forbes

Here’s One Way to Wreck a Child’s Education: Take Away Recess

Recess is the only “subject” my 9-year-old will talk about.

I don’t even bother asking him how school is. He’s a good student. An excellent student. A veracious reader. I’m not telling you this to brag. I don’t have an “honor roll” sticker on the back of my car. I’m telling you this because my child will not answer any question about school positively.

The only thing he will talk about is recess. In recess, there is a hierarchy. There are kids who cheat. There are kids who can help him troubleshoot rainbow loom issues. There are kids who will challenge him to be a better basketball and soccer player. There is freedom. There’s downtime. There’s time to think outside of the desk he is chained to all day long.

I get so much detail about recess that it’s hard to believe it’s only 30 minutes of his day. But to him, it’s everything. It’s his world. Yet, according to a new article in The Atlantic, taking away recess has become “common practice among teachers trying to rein in unruly students.” Says The Atlantic:

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 77 percent of school principals reported taking away recess as a punishment, while a 2006 study found 81.5 percent of schools allowed students to be excluded from recess.

Full story of children’s recess at school at the Huffington Post

First grade critical to child’s development, Duke study says

The difference between first and second grade is profound when it comes to children’s attention problems, according to a new study from Duke University.

First Grade is Critical to Child's DevelopmentThe study, which appears online in the November issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders, says the age at which attention problems emerge makes a critical difference in a child’s later academic performance.

When the problems emerged in first grade, children’s performance suffered for years afterward, Duke said. Those children scored lower than their peers on reading achievement scores after fifth grade. The Duke report said the poor performance occurred even if the attention problems improved after first grade.

But children who developed attention problems starting in second grade performed as well as their peers in later years.

Other studies have noted the link between early attention problems and academic achievement. But the new study focuses on the impact of attention problems that emerge in first grade versus those that emerge just a year later.

Full story critical first grade at WNCN

Photos courtesy of and copyright PhotoPin,

Which Symptoms of Depression Most Hamper Parenting?

Researchers at the University of Exeter have identified the symptoms of depression that are most likely linked to poor parenting.

Although the link between depression and poor parenting has already been identified, this is the first time that researchers have reviewed a variety of studies in order to identify the reasons behind parenting difficulties.

“We have looked at a wide range of research studies and identified multiple factors that link depression in adults to difficulties in their parenting role,” said Lamprini Psychogiou, Ph.D.

“This work will help identify areas in which future research is necessary in order to develop interventions that will prevent mental health issues from being transmitted from one generation to the next. We hope that this will go some way towards helping both depressed parents and their children.”

Depression, sometimes referred to as clinical depression, is a serious mental disorder characterized by overwhelming, daily feelings of sadness, a low mood, lack of energy, sleep and eating disturbances, and an inability to take pleasure in things that normal a person would enjoy. The symptoms must be present for two weeks or longer before it can be diagnosed.

Full story of depression and parenting at PsychCentral

TeachME Professional Development: New CEU Courses

Steps and Tools to Address Barriers to Learning

The purpose of this course is to provide strategies for schools to move forward in establishing the type of comprehensive system for addressing barriers to learning and teaching that can enable them to be more effective. The course material, provided by the UCLA Mental Health In Schools Center, also outlines planning and monitoring processes as well as resources, strategies, and practices that provide physical, social, emotional, and intellectual supports that will enable all pupils to have an equal opportunity for success at school. Lastly, methods for reshaping the functions of all school personnel who have a role to play in addressing barriers to learning and promoting healthy development are discussed along with ways to integrate their roles and functions into school improvement planning.

Psychological First Aid for Schools

This course was developed using the National Child Traumatic Stress Network publication, Psychological First Aid For Schools, Field Operations Guide, and will provide strategies to prepare school administrators, teachers, and school partnering agencies before a critical event occurs. Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S), an evidence-informed intervention model to assist students, families, school personnel, and school partners in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by emergencies, and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. Schools are typically the first service agencies to resume operations after a disaster/emergency and can become a primary source of community support during and after the incident, so this information will be beneficial to school personnel and community members.

Assessing the Well-Being of Our Nation’s Children

This course was developed using information from the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, and gives a brief overview of data that assesses the well-being of children and families. Domains that are addressed in the report include the Family and Social Environment, Economic Circumstances, Health Care, Physical Environment and Safety, Behavior, Education, and Health. Current statistics are presented as well as changes and trends in children’s overall health and status.

For these new courses and many more, visit TeachME CEUs

Depressed moms, depressed offspring: An unbroken chain?

A baby born to a woman who suffers depression during pregnancy stands a higher likelihood of becoming a depressed adolescent than does his or her nursery-mate born to a nondepressed mother, a new study finds.

A large British study also found that among those with less education, a mother’s postpartum depression — as well as a father’s depression following his baby’s birth — similarly raised the odds that that offspring would go on the become depressed. Mothers and fathers with more education who became depressed after a baby’s birth appeared less likely to sow the seeds of later depression in the child.

The child’s odds of going on to suffer depression rose steadily as the severity of his mother’s depression during pregnancy increased. And for women with lower education, a case of severe postpartum depression was linked to a higher likelihood that her child would suffer depression by late adolescence than if her postpartum symptoms were milder.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, underscore the importance of treating depression in pregnant women, the authors wrote. And they suggest that a child whose mother was depressed while carrying him would be a good candidate for early intervention aimed at nipping melancholia in the bud.

Full story of depression between moms and offspring at The Los Angeles Times

Here’s The Best Way To Beat A Bully

Six out of 10 teenagers say they witness bullying in school once a day, and 160,000 students miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to bullying statistics.

Bullying is a big problem in America’s schools, and for National Bullying Prevention Month, education groups are trying to inform kids and adults about what they can do to stop bullies.

Popular wisdom often portrayed in movies and TV shows would have you believe that kids should fight back against bullies, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ bullying website says that’s not a good idea.

Here’s their advice:

Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard. If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.

Full story of beating the bully at Business Insider

Obama administration to allocate $45M for cops in schools

The Obama administration plans to spend millions of dollars to place armed police officers in schools throughout the country in a move advocated by the National Rifle Association in the wake of last December’s shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The Department of Justice announced Friday it’s giving nearly $45 million to fund 356 new school resource officer positions. Funding will be provided by grants from the department’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, office.

“Just over nine months after the senseless mass shooting at Sandy Hook, we remain committed to providing every resource we can to ensure that the children of Newtown can feel safe and secure at school and elsewhere,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “And as we hold lost loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, we resolve to continue to support and protect this community — and to help them heal together.”

Holder announced the department has allocated $150,000 to put police officers in schools in Newtown. The grant from the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance is intended to fund two positions, such as resource officers.

Full story of placing cops in schools at Fox News