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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vitamin N Deficiency Linked to ADHD

From the HuffPost Healthy Living Blog

By Bianca Garilli, N.D.
November 27, 2014

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike."
-- John Muir, The Yosemite, 1912

Approximately 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2011 statistics, accounting for 6.4 million cases nationwide. A majority are treated with stimulant medication often combined with behavioral therapy.

For some, this approach is extremely helpful, and leads to an improvement in quality of life and a reduction in risk-taking behaviors often associated with ADHD. Not all cases, however, are successfully treated in this manner. Some will discontinue this approach due to its ineffectiveness or negative side effects, leaving a void that still requires a solution.

Different approaches are needed to support healthy outcomes in this ever-growing population. Nature, or what in recent years has been referred to as vitamin N, may be one of the answers.

ADHD can be caused by various sources including genetic predispositions, neurotransmitter imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, trauma, and various other origins. Rarely addressed however, is the nature deficit that may be at the heart of many cases. Vitamin N is a low-cost, high-benefit, remarkably safe answer which has also been validated through research to support positive results in this population.

A paper published in the American Journal of Public Health discusses the use of nature as therapy for ADHD in great detail while also analyzing data from previously published studies. The intent of the paper was to determine if children showed a reduction in ADHD symptoms when participating in various activities within a green outdoor setting, which was defined as any "mostly natural area -- a park, a farm, or just a green backyard or neighborhood space."

The conclusion revealed intellectually interesting and intuitively validated outcomes:

" outdoor activities reduced symptoms significantly more than did activities conducted in other settings, even when activities were matched across settings. Findings were consistent across age, gender, and income groups; community types; geographic regions; and diagnoses."

In other words, children with ADHD had fewer symptoms when activities were carried out in a green or natural outdoor setting such as parks, woods, farms, etc., than they did when in outdoor human-built settings or in indoor settings.

Another study published in 2009 showed evidence that children are better able to concentrate and complete required tasks after taking a 20-minute walk in the park. These same results were not seen after the children participated in a 20-minute walk in urban settings. What if part of an effective ADHD program included supporting healthy levels of vitamin N through exposure to natural, outdoor, unstructured environments on a regular basis?

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, writes that a nature deficit centered environment may be contributing to children's behavioral and stress-associated symptoms and diseases. A majority of children spend very little to no time in an unstructured natural outdoor environment on a daily basis.

Could ADHD be, in part caused or at least exacerbated by, an imbalance between a highly-technologically focused, exceedingly structured, fast-paced, urban lifestyle and a natural, non-structured, green, outdoor environment?

Intuitively, the answer is yes. 
How can this information be applied to today's culture and environment?

Here's the start to a list of ways to bring your child's vitamin N levels back into the balance:

  • Take a 20-minute walk outdoors before starting homework. Take a route which offers plenty of opportunities to view and interact with a natural and green setting.
  • Add plants and other natural items to your child's study area.
  • Locate your child's study area where s/he can see the sky, trees and other greenery while engaging in school work.
  • Take frequent outdoor trips on weekends and holidays including hiking, camping, fishing, swimming and visiting nearly any body of water including oceans, streams, lakes and rivers.
  • Enjoy bike rides with your child through nature trails in the evenings and on the weekends.
  • Create a peaceful environment in your home with nature-inspired music, fish tanks and plenty of plants where your child can sit quietly to read and study.
  • Take weekend trips to local farms, community gardens, botanical gardens, Community Supported Agriculture and "U-Pick" locations.
  • Grow a garden on the patio or in the backyard. Teach them to plant and care for seeds or small starter plants. Easy to grow plants include flowers, mints and other herbs, radishes, lettuce and zucchini.
  • Encourage imaginative play. Create forts, castles, and cities amongst the bushes and shrubs in a yard or a safe neighborhood location where they are easily monitored by responsible adults.
  • Encourage your child in unstructured play including jumping in piles of leaves, climbing trees, and collecting bugs.
  • Let them get their feet and hands into sand, mud, dirt, snow and water when in a safe natural environment.

Studies Confirm the Dehumanization of Black Children and the ‘Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline’

Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

By Sonali Kolhatkar
April 4, 2014

Although African-Americans constitute only 13 percent of all Americans, nearly half of all prison inmates in the U.S. are black. This startling statistic has led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to publicly criticize the U.S. for its treatment of African-Americans. A number of recent studies and reports paint a damning picture of how American society dehumanizes blacks starting from early childhood.

Racial justice activists and prison abolition groups have long argued that the “school-to-prison” pipeline funnels young black kids into the criminal justice system, with higher rates of school suspension and arrest compared with nonblack kids for the same infractions.

More than 20 years ago, Smith College professor Ann Arnett Ferguson wrote a groundbreaking book based on her three-year study of how black boys in particular are perceived differently starting in school. In Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity,” Ferguson laid out the ways in which educators and administrators funneled black male students into the juvenile justice system based on perceived differences between them and other students.

Today this trend continues with record numbers of suspensions as a result of “zero-tolerance” school policies and the increasing presence of campus police officers who arrest students for insubordination, fights and other types of behavior that might be considered normal “acting out” in school-aged children.

In fact, black youth are far more likely to be suspended from school than any other race. They also face disproportionate expulsion and arrest rates, and once children enter the juvenile justice system they are far more likely to be incarcerated as adults.

Even the Justice Department under President Obama has understood what a serious problem this is, issuing a set of new guidelines earlier this year to curb discriminatory suspension in schools.

But it turns out that negative disciplinary actions affect African-American children starting as early as age 3. The U.S. Department of Education just released a comprehensive study of public schools, revealing in a report that black children face discrimination even in preschool. (That preschool-aged children are suspended at all is hugely disturbing.)

Data from the 2011-2012 year show that although black children make up only 18% of preschoolers, 42% of them were suspended at least once and 48% were suspended multiple times.

Consistent with this educational data and taking into account broader demographic, family and economic data for children of various races, broken down by state, is a newer study released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found African-American children are on the lowest end of nearly every measured index including proficiency in math and reading, high school graduation, poverty and parental education.

The report, titled Race for Results, plainly says, “The index scores for African-American children should be considered a national crisis.”

Two other studies published recently offer specific evidence of how black children are so disadvantaged at an early age. One research project, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined how college students and police officers estimated the ages of children who they were told had committed crimes. Both groups studied by UCLA professor Phillip Goff and collaborators were more likely to overestimate the ages of black children compared with nonblack ones, implying that black children were seen as “significantly less innocent” than others.

The authors wrote:

"We expected ... that individuals would perceive Black boys as being more responsible for their actions and as being more appropriate targets for police violence. We find support for these hypotheses ... and converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers."

Another study by researchers at U.C. Riverside found that teachers tended to be more likely to evaluate black children negatively than nonblack ones who were engaged in pretend play.

Psychology professor Tuppett M. Yates, who led the study, observed 171 preschool-aged children interacting with stuffed toys and other props and evaluated them for how imaginative and creative they were. In an interview on Uprising, Yates told me that all the children, regardless of race, were “similarly imaginative and similarly expressive,” but when their teachers evaluated those same children at a later time, there was a discriminatory effect. Yates explained:

“For white children, imaginative and expressive players were rated very positively [by teachers] but the reverse was true for black children. Imaginative and expressive black children were perceived as less ready for school, as less accepted by their peers, and as greater sources of conflict and tension.”

Although it is clear that negative behaviors were magnified through “race-colored glasses,” according to Yates, her study of children engaged in pretend play found that “there is also potentially a systematic devaluing of positive attributes among black children.”

This made her concerned that “very early on, some kids are being educated towards innovation and leadership and others may be educated towards more menial or concrete social positions.”

Reflecting on the 2001 book “Bad Boys” and how little seems to have changed since then, Yates affirmed that author Ferguson’s assertion that black children are given a “hidden curriculum” is still true now. She told me, “Our data suggests that that hidden curriculum may be persisting today and that it’s starting much earlier than we ever could have anticipated.” She noted her deep concern that “we’re actually reproducing inequality generation after generation.”

When I asked her to comment on the Goff study showing police estimates of black children as older than they are, Yates agreed that it appears as though “the same objective data are being interpreted differently as a function of race.”

Ferguson also apparently noted this trend, calling it an “adultification” of black boys. Yates recounted an example from Ferguson’s work in which “when a white student fails to return their library book, they’re seen as forgetful, and when a black student fails to return a library book, terms like ‘thief’ or ‘looter’ were used.”

Studies such as these consistently show that African-Americans have the deck stacked against them starting in early childhood through adulthood. Taken together, they make a strong case for the existence of a “preschool-to-prison” pipeline and the systematic dehumanization that black children face in American society.

Yates summarized:

“Across these different studies, black children are viewed differently. They are consequently given less access to the kinds of structural avenues required to advance in our society and ultimately they become less valued in our culture,” and are ultimately “fast tracked to the margins.”

Daily Beast staff writer Jamelle Bouie, writing about black preschoolers being disproportionately suspended, provocatively asked, “Are Black Students Unruly? Or is America Just Racist?” Yates gave me the obvious answer, saying, “We know that [discrimination] exists. It’s the most parsimonious explanation for these kinds of persistent inequalities.”

But perhaps there is also an element of justifiable unruliness involved. Yates offered that “black children—rightfully so—are more likely to disengage from their educational milieus and potentially rebel against them because these systems are at best failing to support them, and at worst channeling them into this pipeline towards negative ends.”

She indicted American society as a whole, saying, “Our educational system, our economic system, our judicial system, all of these are converging to reproduce these kinds of inequalities and perpetuate the criminalization of blacks in our culture.”

Although Attorney General Eric Holder’s push to reform mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately incarcerate African-Americans is indeed laudable, strong action is needed now to address the early childhood barriers facing black kids. The preschool-to-prison pipeline needs to be dismantled from its starting point rather than simply its endpoint.

Ultimately, “change,” Yates said, “is really going to require effort at all levels such as individual teachers, superintendents, police officers, attorneys general and even in the media.”


Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women's Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women's rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of "Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Start Conversations Early About Drugs, Alcohol in College

From U.S. News and World Report

By Briana Boyington
November 26, 2014

Poor grades, addiction and even death can result from alcohol and drug abuse in college.

Linda Stafford knew taking Adderall that wasn’t prescribed to her was wrong.

But her usual routine of downing coffee and energy drinks to stay awake was failing and she was struggling to manage her workload and social life. A junior at Georgia Southern University, Stafford was studying to get into the school’s pre-nursing program, partying two to four times a week and playing club rugby.

"One night I was really stressed out and had no idea what I should do. I knew I needed to study for anatomy. I wanted some sort of divine help," Stafford says.

That help came in the form of a 30-milligram pill.

"I loved it. It felt like I could access every single part of my brain that I ever wanted to access. My confidence shot up," she says.

The desire for that mental clarity lead to addiction and sent Stafford on a downward spiral.

Many parents and students share misconceptions about
the risks associated with abusing prescription
drugs and alcohol, experts say.

Stafford's story isn't uncommon. College is stressful. Many students turn to drugs and alcohol to compensate for loneliness and​ social and academic anxiety, experts say.

A recent report from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that 20 percent of the college students surveyed abused stimulants, such as​ Adderall. More than 1,800 students die from alcohol-related​ injuries​ each year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism​.

In addition to the deaths, hundreds of thousands of alcohol-related assaults and injuries happen each year. And if the health risks aren't enough, alcohol and drug abuse has been linked to poor grades.

​"At first, it was like one test," Stafford says. She told herself she would only use it for tests – once a week or every two weeks. Then, it was for papers. "Then it was like all the time, I'm going to take it all the time," she says.

By the summer of her junior year, Stafford's grades were suffering and she was depressed, paranoid, taking 90 milligrams of the drug a day, drinking and taking Tylenol PM so she could pass out. Initially Stafford got Adderall from a friend, but soon she was in a network of students selling and buying it. She traded gas and beer and spent a lot of her parents'​ money to obtain a supply, even after she was able to get her own prescription.

Parents and students often share misconceptions about the seriousness of excessive use of recreational drugs, like marijuana, and the consumption of prescription painkillers or stimulants,​ experts say. People can die from abusing painkillers. But the short-term effects of stimulants and marijuana aren’t necessarily immediate or dramatic, which can make them appear safe, experts say.

"Parents and kids have some of the perceptions that this is prescription medication, it has been developed in a lab, it has been FDA approved, it’s got positive therapeutic value, how dangerous can it be?,​" says Sean Clarkin, director of programs at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids​.

Parents should research potential long-term negative effects of these substances. Conversations about drugs and alcohol should ideally start in elementary school and continue through grade school, substance abuse experts say. For students who need prescription medication, parents should make sure they teach their kids not to share it. It’s also important for parents to model appropriate behavior when it comes to drinking and drugs. ​

Many students start using alcohol and drugs in high school and that behavior worsens when students go away, experts say. Stafford was a sophomore​ in high school the first time that she got drunk.

"The earlier on parents start having these conversations with these kids the greater the likelihood is that their kids will be more responsible when they go away," says Jonathan Gibralter, president of Frostburg State University in Maryland.

But telling to students not to drink isn’t helpful, says Gibralter.

Instead, he encourages parents to teach their children about responsible consumption and staying safe when they do go out to party.

"The most important messages that parents can give their sons and daughters are make sure that you take care of each other," he says.

That includes keeping an eye out for friends, eating before drinking, respecting your tolerance limitations, only drinking familiar beverages, avoiding risky behavior like pregaming and binge drinking and never leaving drinks unattended, he says.

Low-Income High School Students Get Less Time to Learn, Calif. Study Shows

From the Education Week Blog "Time and Learning"

By Kathryn Baron
November 21, 2014

"...the study highlights the need for communities to focus immediate attention on new public and social policy around the consequences to students of continued economic and racial segregation."

The difference between attending a high-poverty and a low-poverty high school in California is nearly two weeks of instructional time a year, according to a new study on lost learning time from the graduate school of education at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In schools where most students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, teachers said they lost about 30 minutes of class time a day to emergency lockdowns, computer shortages, noisy and dirty classrooms, a lack of qualified substitutes, preparation for standardized tests, and students' dealing with the stresses of living in poverty.

As the chart below illustrates, the report also found that on any given day, low-income students are three times more likely than wealthier students to miss school, arrive late, or be distracted in class because they're hungry, homeless, don't have transportation to school, have no health insurance and are sick or caring for sick family members, are dealing with immigration issues, or live in violent neighborhoods.

"The ZIP code that you live in and, hence, the neighborhood in which you go to school, determines how much learning time you have, and the amount of learning time is a critical educational opportunity," said John Rogers, a UCLA education professor and co-author of the report.

His team surveyed teachers at 193 California high schools that were selected based on location and student demographics. Nearly 800 teachers completed the survey between November and December 2013.

The findings support claims by students at some of the most disadvantaged high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, who cited many of the same issues in a class action filed against state education officials last year. Although California high schools are required by law to provide the equivalent of six hours of school a day for a minimum of 180 instructional days a year, the students allege they've been shortchanged by traumatic events, mismanagement, and a lack of trained mental-health counselors that requires teachers to step in and try to provide that support.

Last month, as we reported here in Time and Learning, the students won a round when a superior court judge ordered the state to intervene after some schools bungled implementation of a new software program for class scheduling, forcing many students to miss weeks of required courses.

A quarter of all high school students in California attend schools where almost every student is designated by the federal government as low-income, said Rogers, and students of color are a majority at four in five of these schools.

He said the "dramatic inequalities" reported by teachers in the survey may indicate that things are worse in other parts of the country, because school funding in California is more equal than in most other states.

The conditions that impinge on learning time also impact what teachers do with the time they have. All teachers in the survey wrote that they value "rigorous, hands-on, and creative learning opportunities that engage students in higher-order thinking about complex academic and social issues," but teachers from high-poverty schools felt pressure to teach to the test instead.

One unidentified teacher quoted in the report, wrote, "I'm trying to push my students toward academic excellence in the time that we have, but with so many pressures to handle, and with the combination of traumas that my students are exposed to and are constantly experiencing, sometimes the overwhelming need is overwhelming."

The opportunity gap could narrow now that California has a new school funding formula that provides additional money to districts with large numbers of low-income students, foster youths, and English-language learners. And innovative teaching may be encouraged as states introduce the new student assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which require teaching deeper-level thinking skills.

But those initiatives won't improve students' lives outside school, stressed Rogers. He said the study highlights the need for communities to focus immediate attention on new public and social policy around the consequences to students of continued economic and racial segregation.

Friday, November 28, 2014

'Little Things Matter' Exposes Big Threat to Children's Brains

From the HuffPost Green Blog

By Lynne Peeples
November 20, 2014

Tiny amounts of lead, chemical flame retardants and organophosphate pesticides, among other toxins, course through the blood of nearly every American. But just how much worry is a little poison worth?

A lot, especially when considering the cumulative effects of this chemical cocktail on children, warns a video unveiled Thursday during an environmental health conference in Ottawa, Canada. The seven-minute project, "Little Things Matter," draws on emerging scientific evidence that even mild exposures to common contaminants can derail normal brain development -- lowering IQs and raising risks of behavioral conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

"The chemical industry argues that the effect of toxins on children is subtle and of little consequence," co-producer Bruce Lanphear, an environmental health expert at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, states in the video. "But that is misleading."

Watch the video HERE

Drop a few tablespoons of sugar into an Olympic-size swimming pool, and you have the sort of minuscule concentration of a toxin that researchers are finding can wreak havoc on the brain. The drug Ritalin is designed to temper symptoms of ADHD at about the same level in the blood.

Children are most vulnerable to neurotoxins while in the womb and during the first years of life. "Things are happening very fast in terms of brain development, especially in the third trimester of gestation," David Bellinger, an expert in children's environmental health at Harvard University, told The Huffington Post. "Neurons are being born and migrating to where they are supposed to end up in the brain, differentiating into different types of cells, establishing connections with other neurons.

"Those processes are very sensitive. Everything has to happen in right order at the right time," added Bellinger, whose research has associated lead, methylmercury and organophosphate pesticides to nationwide drops in IQ of 23 million, 17 million and 300,000, respectively.

Lanphear focused on six brain toxins in the new video: lead, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), bisphenol A (BPA) and polybrominated dipenyl ethers (PBDEs), a chemical flame retardant that his research team this year linked to IQ deficits and hyperactivity. This list of chemical brain-drainers, according to a study published in February, may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The chemical industry is critical of the new video and defends the safety of chemical products.

"Exposure to trace levels of a chemical does not signal impending harm to health," said Kathyrn St. John, a spokeswoman for the American Chemistry Council. "This video and other communications like it hope to muddy the waters about the safety of various chemistries."

Lanphear conceded one point. "It's true," he said. "Not all chemicals are bad."

It's also true that today, compared with decades ago, fewer children are exposed to high levels of some toxins, such as lead -- concentrations that in previous generations may have been known to produce obvious, devastating effects such as seizures or death. But even if it goes unnoticed, a little lead exposure today may leave a child a little slower to learn, a little shorter of attention and a little less successful on tests and at work. Economists estimate that bit of lead may mean a loss of $90,000 in lifetime earnings.

Most IQ losses due to lead exposure fall outside of the federally
established threshold. (Bruce Lanphear)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other national and international health agencies, has declared that there is no safe level of lead in a child's blood. However, due to limited resources, the CDC focuses on just 2.5 percent of children with the highest blood lead levels. Lead exposures among these 500,000 children, Lanphear explained to HuffPost, are estimated to have trimmed IQs by an average of more than 5 points.

Still, Lanphear emphasized that more needs to be done. With the heavy metal, and possibly with other toxins, there is actually a proportionally greater decrement in IQ at the lowest levels of exposure. In other words, the first 100 parts per billion of lead in the blood cuts IQ by an estimated 6 points. When blood lead concentrations rise to 200 and 300 parts per billion, respectively, estimates suggest another 2 points and 1 point of IQ are lost.

As a consequence of not addressing the lower-level exposures, added Lanphear, "we're failing to protect over 80 percent of IQ points lost from lead exposure."

In the new video, Lanphear illustrates another striking way widespread exposures to a toxin like lead can affect the next generation. A 5-point reduction in average IQ results in fewer than half as many children considered "intellectually gifted," 50 percent more "intellectually impaired," and billions of dollars of productivity lost.

A 5-point drop in average IQ among U.S. children would result in an
additional 3.4 million children who are considered intellectually
disabled or mentally retarded. (Bruce Lanphear)

For every $1 spent to protect kids from lead, according to a study published in 2009, society saves $17 to $220, thanks to reduced costs of health care, special education, crime and lost lifetime earnings for those with IQ losses or disorders such as autism and ADHD.

And that's just one toxin. Impacts from multiple chemicals may simply add up, amplify one another's effects, or -- although less likely -- cancel each other out, noted Harvard's Bellinger.

"The evidence is really mounting that industrial chemicals have some contribution to neurodevelopment problems," said Tracey Woodruff, director of the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment. "And we're seeing more kids with these problems."

Experts agree that changes in diagnosis and surveillance contribute, but are unlikely to fully explain the large rise in such disorders. Bellinger suggested that the "first place to look" may be the chemicals that have increased in everyday life in recent decades, such as flame retardants and BPA.

Experts also agree on one big problem: We're not really looking. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has only required toxicity testing for around 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals permitted for use in the U.S.

"By allowing children to be exposed to toxins or chemicals of unknown toxicity, we are unwittingly using our children in a massive experiment," says Lanphear in the video.

While suggesting that the "ultimate solution" is to "revise how we regulate chemicals," Lanphear offered a few suggestions for consumers navigating toxins: Eat fresh or frozen foods, choose fish low in mercury, avoid the use of pesticides in and around the home and check for lead in older homes.

He also recommended writing government representatives and urging them to support regulation that reverses the burden of proof to require companies prove a chemical isn't toxic before it enters the market. In the U.S., an overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 remains hotly debated.

"This emerging evidence that there is no threshold for some of the most well-established toxins strongly supports the urgent need to revise" the toxic substances act, Lanphear told HuffPost.

And while the time is ripe for that federal move, Lanphear added that it is "exactly the wrong time to terminate the National Children's Study." The future of the U.S. study, long-planned to follow children from birth to adulthood, tracking factors such as exposure to toxic chemicals, now looks uncertain.

"I firmly believe that until mothers and the public become more familiar with this science not much will happen," said Lanphear. "The hope is that videos like this will help people understand this emerging pattern of toxicity."

The reaction from Woodruff's son, Xavier Woodruff-Madeira, 16, to the video is just the kind Lanphear hopes to spark: "I didn't know that tiny little amounts of chemicals can add up to make a big difference in kid's attention -- and affect all those kids."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Please have the very...

EVERYTHING makes children autistic. Where does the guilt end?

From Autism Daily Newscast

By Shân Ellis
November 4, 2014

Did the headline grab your attention? Good.

Breast milk, goats milk, cows milk, prematurity, ethnicity, pollution, vaccinations, anti depressants, epilepsy drugs, diet, gut flora, vitamin intake, heavy metals in food sources, brain signal pathway building in utero, and even birth method...

Guys; let’s face it, everything causes autism and its increased prevalence in today’s society. These are only a handful of the stories I have reported on over the past two years.

How about I turn this on its head?

EVERYONE is autistic. All people of the world are somewhere on the spectrum. Modern medicine is thoroughly advanced enough to diagnose and compartmentalise some forms of autism. Asperger’s Syndrome for example. It’s so flippant to say “the child is on the spectrum somewhere”, which child, which adult? What individual?

We recently reported on an Irish research paper authored by Eileen Curran which states, and I quote:

“Delivery by CS [Caesarean section] is associated with a modest increased odds of ASD [autism spectrum disorder], and possibly ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder], when compared to vaginal delivery”.

The number 23% increased odds is pulled out of the small control group somehow, because the researchers couldn’t actually say if autism was caused by the C section or if babies born with autism seem to have more complicated births for some reason or another.

Coming at this as a parent, who had a completely normal, two-hour labour with a robust, full-term bouncing baby boy at the end of it, only to be told when he was four that he had Asperger’s Syndrome, I asked myself where does the guilt end?

Did I breastfeed my son? Yes. Did I vaccinate? Yes, but the symptoms were there long before he had his shots. Or were they? Did I ensure that I picked him up when he cried? YES! But still with the guilt and latent finger pointing that as a parent *you* must have done something wrong.

Did I push too hard in labour? Did I damage my baby while he was still in the womb by taking paracetamol or headache tablets? Did my weekly trips to London affect him while I was breathing in the latent smog? Did my craving for tuna mayo salad baguettes affect his developing synapses?

Stop already.

I’m very glad that someone on the Irish Examiner is on the same page as I am with this.
Victoria White wrote a wonderful piece regarding the research, and from this I quote:

“Members of the UCC research team have been out saying the potential risk is “small” but would you take a “small” risk that your child will have a chronic disability for the rest of his life? Nor should the parents of ASD children born by C Section have to suffer the guilt and agony caused by this research which has proved, let us remember, absolutely no “causal link” between C Section and autism.

As the mother of an ASD child born when I was over 35 but “naturally” at 38 weeks, I am getting very tired and very angry as my child is repeatedly pictured as the damaged victim of some enemy we don’t like: pesticides, tuna fish, the Government, fluoride, vaccinations and now C Section.

For me, he is not damaged and he is not a victim. He is the way he was meant to be. I have got over it but I’m still waiting for the rest of society to do the same.”

The question for me is mostly, where will it all end?

Scientists can continue to look for causes. Parents can continue to berate themselves with a sense of inadequacy and blame. The simple fact remains thus, we are all on the spectrum somewhere although some remain untagged, unlabelled and uncategorised. There is nothing wrong with having autism. There is nothing wrong with having a caesarian section, and most cases it is vital to save lives.

In essence, in that magic moment when sperm met egg, we did something amazing, we made something amazing, we carried it carefully for nine months, we may have mooed a little in labour, but I counted ten fingers, ten toes, waited in anticipation for that first gurgle, first smile, first word, first step, and now we watch, taking a slight back seat as our children dip their toes in the world around them. We cannot feel guilt for something we had no control over.

Autism is not a birth defect. We do not need to be fixed, mended, haven’t got pieces missing, we laugh we cry, we feel, we work and play and life goes on regardless of a diagnosis. I’m still waiting to experience a neurotypical day…chances are it won’t happen any time soon, and if it does, I’m sure it’ll be very tedious.

Michigan Court Rules that State Has No Obligation to Provide Children with Education

From Addicting Info

By Wendy Gittleson
November 20, 2014

Many days, it seems that all the advances our country has made are being dismantled one court decision at a time. A recent decision in Michigan, which has largely flown under the radar, should it hold up on a national level, could mean that poor children will have no access to education.

On November 7, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that one poverty-stricken school district didn’t have to provide a quality education to children.

A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.”

The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality.

Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

It might surprise many people to know that there is no constitutional right to an education, but free education for children is as old as the country itself. It’s always been assumed to fall under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power of taxation and to provide for the general welfare of the people.

On the other hand, education has always more or less been left up to the states, but with a big helping hand from the feds.

"During the first century of our new nation, Congress granted more than 77 million acres of the public domain as an endowment for the support of public schools through tracts ceded to the states. In 1841, Congress passed an act that granted 500,000 acres to eight states and later increased land grants to a total of 19 states. The federal government also granted money, such as distributions of surplus federal revenue and reimbursements for war expenses, to states. Though Congress rarely prescribed that such funds be used only for schools, education continued to be one of the largest expenses of state and local governments so the states used federal funds whenever possible for education."
Source: League of Women Voters

One shouldn’t have to be a liberal to believe that an educated populace is good for the welfare of the country. It will be educated people who eventually cure Ebola or send humans to Mars. It is educated people who keep building better and more fuel efficient cars.

More and more, however, our country is becoming a nation of service employees. With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the company most in need of under-educated employees, Walmart, is behind much of the effort to destroy, or as they say, reform, our school systems.

Since 2000, members of the Walton family have spent at least $24 million dollars funding politicians, political action committees, and ballot issues at the state and local level that favor their corporate approach to school reform. At local levels of government, where fundraising totals are smaller than those at the federal level, Walton largesse can go a very long way toward shaping public policy.

Walmart admits that the reason they are so interested in education is that they are having trouble finding qualified entry level employees. If these words came from NASA or Apple or Microsoft, these words might be encouraging. But for Walmart, an educated workforce can negatively impact their bottom line. Educated employees tend to expect more money and better benefits than most entry level employees at Walmart earn.

Or as says:

"The Waltons and the Walton Family Foundation have gargantuan financial resources and can exert undue influence on politicians and public policy issues of their choosing. No matter where people come down on the issues of education reform or school choice, we can all agree it is unfair that the Walton family gets to dictate the future of public education because of the amount of money at its disposal, and to do so in a way that is unaccountable to the public.

Remember, too, that the Waltons—white, rural, and mind-bogglingly wealthy—pursue their education reform goals in low-income, urban communities where the student populations consist largely of children of color. When a profoundly privileged family seeks to engage in philanthropy in historically marginalized communities that they are not part of, the lack of accountability is even more troubling.

The Waltons and their foundation have reaped billions and billions of dollars from a ruthless business model that relies on Walmart jobs being insecure and unstable jobs, with low wages, skimpy benefits, and little respect in the workplace. Their company has helped create a world where parents have to work two or more jobs, with unstable hours to make ends meet.

They’ve helped create a world where parents struggle with choices like paying rent, putting food on the table or taking a sick child to the doctor. And now the Waltons want to tell us how to fix our schools? The Walmart model has made its impact on much of the world. But, for many, the Walmartization of our schools is one step too far."

And now, with Michigan ruling that the state has no business guaranteeing a quality education, be prepared for Walmart or the Koch brothers to be writing Michigan’s curriculum.

Psychiatric and Medical Conditions Among Adults with ASD - IACC Presentation by Lisa Croen

From lbrb - Left Brain Right Brain

By Matt Carey
November 20, 2014

The last meeting of the previous Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) was a workshop on under-recognized co-occurring conditions in ASD. One of the speakers was Lisa Croen of Kaiser Permanente. She spoke about psychiatric and medical conditions among adults with ASD. Much of this work (and more) was presented as a webinar at SFARI. This work was also presented at IMFAR.

If you can find the time to watch the video above (it’s 17 minutes long), it’s well worth it. This is the sort of work we just haven’t seen before now–a look at medical needs of autistic adults. If you don’t have that time, here are a few highlights.

First consider the sort of medical conditions that get a lot of attention in the pediatric population: Sleep, GI and immune. For the pediatric population, one can watch the presentation by the Lewin group that was also given at the IACC workshop:
IACC Co-occurring conditions workshop: Lewin Group presentation on co-occurring conditions in autistic children in the U.S..

In adults, GI, sleep and immune conditions are found more often in the autistic population than in the general population. Moderately more often. Interestingly, thyroid conditions are 2.5 times more common (compare this to GI disorders, which are 1.3 times more common).

By contrast, psychiatric conditions like anxiety, depression and suicide attempts are even more common in the autistic population. Schizophrenia is 22 times more common.

Neurologic conditions are also more common in the autistic population. Parkinson’s is 32 times more common in autistics. Dementia is 4.4 times more common.

This is the sort of work I’ve been calling for since even before I was appointed to the IACC. The autism parent community and the research community spends a lot of time talking about learning about kids and getting tools into the hands of pediatricians. But what about adults?

We know that epilepsy often has an onset about puberty for autistic kids. We know that for another developmental disability, Down Syndrome, early onset dementia is relatively common. But what is going on right now with adults? What is do we, parents and autistics, have to plan around for the future?

If I recall correctly, the last comment I made as a member of the IACC had to do with this study:

"Those are exactly the kind of things that frankly scare the heck out of me and I would like to know more about. And know there’s something on the horizon I need to know about and if there is a way to intervene with adults."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sleep-Deprived Teens Have More Car Accidents

From Smart Kids with LD

November 24, 2014

In recent years a growing body of research points to the adverse affects of early school start times on children and teens. Simply put, a significant segment of school age kids is sleep deprived, and the results are impacting their health.

Insufficient sleep among young people has been associated with increases in smoking, alcohol use, fighting, sexual promiscuity, and physical inactivity among other risky behaviors.

Now a new study has found yet another reason to start school later. According to
research published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, teen drivers who sleep later have fewer traffic accidents.

The results were based on a review of accident rates among teens in two counties in Virginia. Chesterfield and Henrico have similar population characteristics, but in Henrico the high school day begins at 8:45, while Chesterfield’s begins at 7:20. According to a blog post in The New York Times that difference is associated with a significant discrepancy:

The rate of accidents among 16- to 18-year-old drivers in Chesterfield County in 2009-2010 was 48.8 per thousand, compared with 37.9 in Henrico County. In 2010-2011, the same trend was evident: 51.9 per thousand in Chesterfield and 44.2 in Henrico. The crash rate among adults over the same period fluctuated between 13 and 14 per thousand, with no difference between the two counties.

ADHD Factor

Other studies have shown that young drivers with ADHD are more likely to be involved in automobile accidents than their peers without attention issues. Add to that the increased accident risks associated with lack of sleep and you have a compelling reason to jump on the growing bandwagon of those who want to see later school start times.

Two Years Post-Newtown: What’s Changed? What Needs to Change?

From Special Education Today
A Special Education Law Blog from Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP

By Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.
November 24, 2014

"Educate fully and with open hearts and hands; support and treat those who are severely troubled; reduce access to the means of violence against oneself or others. Can we make this happen in this fractured political culture of ours? At this Thanksgiving time, can we at least imagine such a thing?"

The Office of the Child Advocate for the State of Connecticut has issued a report outlining major factors contributing to the murder of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut two years ago.

Although the Yale Child Study Center had evaluated the young man who committed that atrocity and recommended mental health services and special education services for him, the responses of both his mother and the special education staff at the school were found to be tragically inadequate to address the emotional issues that made him a pariah at school and resulted in his avoiding school completely.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (“COPAA”), a national organization with its eye on issues and initiatives that are important to our field, has used the findings in this report to advocate for additional funding for the federal mandate in IDEA. They have issued a compelling statement using the findings in this report to advocate for additional funding for the federal mandate in IDEA.

We join COPAA in urging that you let your federal legislators know how critical it is to increase funding for special education services, which include services for emotional disabilities and related services. We add to their plea a request that you let both local and national lawmakers know of your support for increased funding of ALL public education, as we attempt to understand and avoid the conditions that give rise to such desperate violence.

Along with full funding for services under IDEA should come much-expanded funding and meaningful options for children with serious mental health disorders. As many special education lawyers and advocates have also experienced, in recent years our caseloads have seen a major increase in the numbers of students afflicted with severely debilitating emotional challenges that prevent those students from being able to access an education.

The Kafkaesque maze of bureaucratic blind alleys, inconsistent and often contradictory criteria of eligibility for services, and battles between school districts and state agencies over which agency, if any, must provide the key day and often residential services and supports necessary to address the student’s needs is exhausting, incomprehensible and too often fruitless for parents who struggle, often literally, to save their children’s lives.

While underfunded government agencies battle over who, if anyone, should meet the needs of a student at risk, the student’s risk all too often becomes a tragic reality.

Exacerbating the difficulties families and their advocates face in securing meaningful services, there is an ever-decreasing supply of resources in the Commonwealth to support children in crisis, and even less to help children who need longer-term treatment. See the heartfelt plea by the Parent/Professional Advocacy League (“PPAL”) for more immediate baseline funding to make more program beds available for kids with severe mental illness, in a year when funding has disappeared far earlier than usual.

Part of the reason for declining resources, we are finding, is that recent state-level administrative decisions have led to a combining of beds available for troubled children between two previously independently supported agencies – the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCF”) and the Department of Mental Health (“DMH”) – in single group homes or other facilities.

Where resources were previously made available separately to DCF and DMH for kids in crisis – agencies whose clients’ needs and profiles are frequently incompatible to the degree that sharing residential space can be dangerous – the administrative decision to combine resources both reduces available beds and increases the risks to children already at risk. (Please note that we do applaud efforts by state agencies to work together for the good of children, but in this case we feel that the combining of beds works against the interests of children in need.)

I would add to COPAA’s and PPAL’s statements an additional plea: A society that makes the means of lethal violence so easy to acquire is making a tragic choice. As difficult as it may be to stand up to the knee-jerk absolutism and to ignore the carrots and sticks of national and local lobbyists for open access to weaponry, legislators need to find a way to stop the madness.

To me it is obvious that the imposition of intelligent restrictions on access to the means of such violence should be part of any efforts to reduce the numbers and magnitude of events like those at Newtown and Columbine.

Educate fully and with open hearts and hands; support and treat those who are severely troubled; reduce access to the means of violence against oneself or others. Can we make this happen in this fractured political culture of ours? At this Thanksgiving time, can we at least imagine such a thing?


Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.

Report Questions Role of Wealth in Lanza's Care

From the Associated Press

By Pat Eaton-Robb and Michael Melia
November 22, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A new report asks whether the race and affluence of Adam Lanza's family influenced decisions about how to care for his mental health problems in the years before he committed the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Among the findings in the report, which was released Friday by the state Office of Child Advocate, is that Lanza's his parents and educators contributed to his social isolation by accommodating - and not confronting - his difficulties engaging with the world.

The report said recommendations from Yale psychologists that he be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions were rejected by his mother, who eventually took him out of school.

"Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?" the report asks. "Would (Adam Lanza's) caregivers' reluctance to maintain him in school or a treatment program have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?"

Lanza's father is a financial services executive. The son and his mother lived in an exclusive neighborhood in the wealthy bedroom community, 70 miles north of Manhattan.

Research has found that upper-middle-class parents are far more likely to be resistant, defensive and even litigious when presented with treatment options suggested by school service providers, said Suniya Luthar, a professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, who has written extensively on the topic of affluence and mental health.

Deferring to those parents can have grave consequences, allowing nascent problems to escalate to serious and sometimes dangerous levels, she said.

"Even though some of these parents can be very intimidating, schools need to hang tough," she said. "If there is a psychologist, a teacher or a social worker who believes this child is headed for deep trouble, they need to be firm in advocating for the child"

The report concluded that Lanza's autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems did not cause or lead directly to the massacre.

But it found that his "severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems" when combined with a preoccupation with violence, and access to deadly weapons, "proved a recipe for mass murder."

Lanza killed his mother then shot his way into the Newtown school on Dec. 14, 2012, and gunned down 20 children and six educators before committing suicide.

Lanza's obsessions with firearms, death and mass shootings have been documented by police files, and investigators previously concluded the motive for the shootings may never be known.

But in exploring what could have been done differently, the new report honed in on his mother, Nancy Lanza, who backed her son's resistance to medication and from the 10th grade on kept him at home, where he was surrounded by an arsenal of firearms and spent long hours playing violent video games.

"Mrs. Lanza's approach to try and help him was to actually shelter him and protect him and pull him further away from the world, and that in turn turned out to be a very tragic mistake," said Julian Ford, one of the report's authors, at a news conference.

The authors said Lanza's parents tried to obtain help for him in variety of ways, but they did not know which path to take and appeared not to grasp the depth and severity of his disabilities. His parents were divorced, and Lanza had not seen his father for two years.

After 2008, his parents did not appear to seek any mental health treatment for him, and there was no sustained input from a mental health provider after 2006, according to the report.

The one provider that seemed to understand the gravity of his condition, the Yale Child Study Center, evaluated him in 2006 and called for rigorous daily therapy and medication for conditions including anxiety. At the time, a Yale psychiatrist warned there was risk to creating a "prosthetic environment which spares him having to encounter other students or to work to overcome his social difficulties," according to the report.

The day after the evaluation, Nancy Lanza told the doctor by email that her son would not agree to any sort of medication and that he had been angered by the doctor's line of questioning. The Yale recommendations went largely unheeded.

Joseph Erardi Jr., who became superintendent of schools for Newtown this year, said the report will have great meaning if "there is one school leader, one district, one mental health provider or one set of parents who reads this work and can prevent such a heinous crime."

He also said wealth and race will never be a factor when deciding how to treat a child in his school system.

"There will never, ever under my watch be a decision made based on race, color, creed, or wealth index....never," he said. "I feel very strongly about this and would never allow this type of influence in any way."