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Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Help Kids Learn to Fail

From the Child Mind Institute

By Beth Arky
August 25, 2015

Only through trial and error can children become resilient adults.

Parents tend to see their mission as helping their kids succeed. But there's a growing realization among teachers and other professionals who work with children that kids increasingly need help learning how to fail.

Not learning to tolerate failure leaves kids vulnerable to anxiety. It leads to meltdowns when the inevitable failure does occur, whether it happens in preschool or college. And perhaps even more important, it can make kids give up trying—or trying new things.

That's why Michael Jordan, one of the world's greatest athletes, has spent years preaching the importance of losing. Jordan has spoken extensively about how perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges on and off the court are what have made him a winner.

Unfortunately, as the world puts increased pressure on kids to be winners, and parents feel compelled to enable them in every way possible, we're seeing more and more kids who become distraught over even the smallest misstep.

Take Sara's son John, who started taking piano lessons at 6. "Every time he played a wrong note he would pick up the music booklet and hit himself on the head with it!" she says. "His piano teacher said she'd never seen a kid who was so hard on himself. I told him when he made a mistake to treat himself the way he'd treat his younger cousin, that no one can learn if someone's being mean to them, and that he wasn't allowed to be mean to himself."

When Alicia's daughter Sara was 14, she became so distraught over not getting into a selective high school, while friends did, she began toself-harm. "It was so terrible: the pressure, the disappointment," says Alicia.

Clearly, distress or frustration tolerance is an important life skill to master. When it comes to school, "the ability to tolerate imperfection—that something is not going exactly your way—is oftentimes more important to learn than whatever the content subject is," says Dr. Amanda Mintzer, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. "Building that skill set is necessary for kids to be able to become more independent and succeed in future endeavors, whether it's personal goals, academic goals, or just learning how to effectively deal with other people."

So how do parents teach kids to fail? Dr. Mintzer offers a multistep process:

First, show empathy.

Empathize with your child; see that she's in distress. "Don't just say, 'It's okay, you'll do better next time,'" Dr. Mintzer says. "It's invalidating to brush off a child's feelings of frustration and disappointment." Instead, parents need to change their language: "I see you're really disappointed, I know you really wanted to do better."

Make yourself a model.

You can explain that failure is a part of life and happens to everyone, even you. You could share examples of "failures" you've had. "Parents can model how to handle their own disappointment," such as losing out on a promotion at work, Dr. Mintzer says. "Kids aren't necessarily exposed to the reality that life includes mistakes, missteps, and even failures. As much as everyone likes things to go according to plan, it's important to teach our children that it is also okay when they don't."

Make it a teachable moment.

A child's failure is a chance for parents to teach acceptance and problem-solving skills. You and your child can try to come up with what she could do the next time for a better chance at success. For instance, could she study differently or talk to the teacher about any problems she's having before a test?

"It's a balance of acceptance and change," Dr. Mintzer says. "It's about accepting that the situation is what it is and building frustration tolerance while also asking, 'Can we change something in the future. Can we learn from this?'"

The Minefield of Social Media

At the same time, kids need to know that sometimes when we fail or face disappointment, there's not a lot we can do about it in that moment; we have to accept it as a part of life and move on. Dr. Mintzer notes as an example the minefield that is social media.

Say a girl's friends tell her they can't hang out with her and then she sees them together on Instagram or Facebook.

"That really hurts," Dr. Mintzer says. "There are lots of emotions: frustration, disappointment, sadness, anger. How does she deal with that? Calling friends and screaming at them only makes things worse. She could ignore it and pretend she never saw, but that's not going to make her feel better or change what happens in the future."

So how can a parent help her accept what happened? The girl might be able to get more information to make herself feel better. Perhaps she can talk to these kids in a calm way, telling them that she saw the photos and her feelings were hurt. Maybe she'll discover a reason behind it. But she may not get an answer she likes, or get one at all.

That leads to another life lesson: Sometimes we get left out, sometimes we aren't liked, and we have to learn to cope with that truth without making the situation worse. Dr. Mintzer notes, "A lot of these skills are needed for interpersonal relationships."

Step back and allow kids to fail.

It can be very tough to watch your child fall down but she can only learn how to handle disappointment through trial and error. As books like The Blessings of a Skinned Knee and the newly released Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed emphasize, parents must stop hovering. Otherwise, they rob children of the very experiences that require problem-solving and set them on the path to resilience and the confidence to take on new challenges.

Therapy can help.

If a child can't function because of a fear of failure, therapy may be called for. Even if a child doesn't have an anxiety diagnosis, she may be frozen with anxiety. When that happens, Dr. Mintzer says, with what's called exposure therapy, "we slowly expose them to things that aren't perfect."

For instance, parents will complain that homework takes forever because a child will repeatedly rip it up and start over. "We're teaching kids that it's okay to misspell a word and keep going," she says. "In a session we might have them write a paragraph or two and make as many mistakes as they can, including sloppy handwriting, to get them used to the idea that it 's not the end of the world."

"We're saying," she adds, "'We're going to practice making mistakes. We know, it's uncomfortable for you, and we also know that with practice, you can learn how tolerate it.'"

Parents have more ways to help their kids move beyond failure.

When Alicia discovered Sara's self-harming, she tried to set her up for success by enrolling her in a small, private school. She also got Sara into therapy and tried to give her the time and support to "figure things out," allowing her the chance to feel proud of herself when she did.

Alicia says Sara, now about to start her junior year, "just told me she's so glad she went there instead of one of the selective enrollments. At the time, it seemed to her like a huge failure to be rejected by those schools. But she's much happier now, no self-harming and displaying resiliency."

Learning to fail can be painful. But kids will only succeed if they can acquire the skill to handle whatever life throws their way.

Bright Screens Keeps Kids Awake on School Nights

From Brown University
via Futurity

By David Orenstein
August 26, 2015

Light from tablets or phones in the hour before bed can significantly disrupt sleep time for kids, particularly those between the ages of 9 and 15.

Enough light exposure at night can keep anyone from falling asleep as quickly as they otherwise would have. But a new study finds the sleep biology of boys and girls in the earlier stages of puberty are especially sensitive to light at night compared to older teens.

In lab experiments, an hour of night-time light exposure suppressed their production of the sleep-timing hormone melatonin significantly more than the same light exposure did for teens aged 11 to 16 who were farther into puberty.

Later and Later

The brighter the light in the experiments, the more melatonin was suppressed. Among 38 children in early to middle puberty an hour of 15 lux of light (think dim “mood” lighting) suppressed melatonin by 9.2 percent, 150 lux (normal room light) reduced it by 26 percent, and 500 lux (as bright as in a supermarket) reduced it by 36.9 percent.

The 29 teens in the late or post-puberty stage were also affected, but not as much. Exposure to 15 lux did not suppress melatonin at all, 150 lux reduced it 12.5 percent, and 500 lux reduced it by 23.9 percent.

The effects were the same for boys and girls.


“Small amounts of light at night, such as light from screens, can be enough to affect sleep patterns,” says study senior author Mary Carskadon, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University.

“Students who have tablets or TVs or computers—even an ‘old-school’ flashlight under the covers to read—are pushing their circadian clocks to a later timing. This makes it harder to go to sleep and wake up at times early the next morning for school.”

Researchers say children and their parents should limit use of screens at bedtime, even though it has become pervasive. One study found that 96 percent of teens use at least one form of technology in the hour before going to bed.



Other researchers from Brown, Monash University, and Rush University Medical Center are coauthors of the study. The National Institute of Mental Health and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute supported the work that was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism. Because Science.

From Vaxplanations

August 11, 2015

This makes a great hand-out.

Next time somebody says that vaccines cause autism, or that the link has not been studied extensively, hit them with this list of 99 scientific papers (including studies and reviews) showing no link between vaccines, vaccine ingredients and autism. Compiled by Nathan Boonstra, Allison Hagood, Luci Baldwin and myself.

The title of each paper is italicized.
  1. Albizzati, A., Moré, L., Di Candia, D., Saccani, M., Lenti, C. Normal concentrations of heavy metals in autistic spectrum disorders. Minerva Pediatrica. 2012. Feb;64(1):27-31
  2. Abu Kuwaik, G., Roberts, W., Zwaigenbaum, L., Bryson, S., Smith, IM., Szatmari, P., Modi, BM., Tanel, N., Brian, J. Immunization uptake in younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. 2014 Feb; 18(2):148-55. doi: 10.1177/1362361312459111. Epub 2012 Oct 8.
  3. Afzal, MA., Ozoemena, LC., O’Hare, A., Kidger, KA., Bentley, ML., Minor, PD. Absence of detectable measles virus genome sequence in blood of autistic children who have had their MMR vaccination during the routine childhood immunization schedule of UK. Journal Medical Virology. 2006 May; 78(5):623-30.
  4. Andrews, N., Miller, E., Grant, A., Stowe, J., Osborn, V., & Taylor, B. (2004).Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics, 114, 584-591.
  5. Andrews, N., Miller, E., Taylor, B., Lingam, R., Simmons, A., Stowe, J., Waight, P. Dec 2002; 87(6): 493–494. Recall bias, MMR and autism. Archives of Disease in Childhood.
  6. Baird, G., Pickles, A., Simonoff, E., Charman, T., Sullivan, P., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., Afzal, M., Thomas, B., Jin, L., Brown, D. Measles vaccination and antibody response in autism spectrum disorders. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2008 Oct; 93(10):832-7. doi: 10.1136/adc.2007.122937. Epub 2008 Feb 5.
  7. Baron-Cohen, S. Autism and the technical mind: children of scientists and engineers may inherit genes that not only confer intellectual talents but also predispose them to autism. Scientific American. 2012 Nov;307(5):72-5.
  8. Berger, BE., Navar-Boggan, AM., Omer, SB. Congenital rubella syndrome and autism spectrum disorder prevented by rubella vaccination–United States, 2001-2010. BMC Public Health.2011 May 19;11:340. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-340.
  9. Black, C., Kaye, JA. Relation of childhood gastrointestinal disorders to autism: nested case-control study using data from the UK General Practice Research Database. British Medical Journal. 2002; 325(7361):419-21.
  10. Chen, W., Landau, S., Sham, P., & Fombonne, E. (2004). No evidence for links between autism, MMR and measles virus. Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 543-553.
  11. Christie, B. Scottish expert group finds no link between MMR and autism. British Medical Journal, 2002. May 11; 324(7346):1118.
  12. Clements, CJ., McIntyre, PB. When science is not enough – a risk/benefit profile of thiomersal-containing vaccines. Expert Drug Opinion Safety. 2006. Jan; 5(1):17-29.
  13. Committee to Review Adverse Effects of Vaccines; Institute of Medicine. Stratton, K., Ford, A., Rusch, E., Wright Clayton, E. Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012. (a review of more than ONE THOUSAND studies).
  14. Dales, L., Hammer, S. J., & Smith, N. J. (2001). Time trends in autism and in MMR immunization coverage in California. JAMA, 285(9), 1183-1185.
  15. De Los Reyes, EC. Autism and immunizations: separating fact from fiction. JAMA Neurology. 2010; 67(4):490-492. doi:10.1001/archneurol. 2010. 57.
  16. DeWilde, S., Carey, IM., Richards, N., Hilton, SR., Cook, DG. Do children who become autistic consult more often after MMR vaccination? British Journal of General Practice. 2001 Mar; 51(464):226-7.
  17. Demicheli, V., Jefferson, T., Rivetti, A., & Price, D. (2005). Vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 4. (a review of 31 studies)
  18. DeStefano, F. MMR vaccine and autism: a review of the evidence for a causal association. Molecular Psychiatry. 2002; 7 Suppl 2:S512.
  19. DeStefano, F., Chen, RT. Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: No epidemiological evidence for a causal association. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2000 Jan; 136 (1):125.
  20. DeStefano, F., Bhasin, T. K., Thompson, W. W., Yeargin-Allsopp, M., & Boyle, C. (2004). Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta. Pediatrics, 113(2), 259-266.
  21. DeStefano F., Price CS., Weintraub, ES. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. Journal of Pediatrics. 2013 Aug;163(2):561-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.02.001. Epub 2013 Mar 30.
  22. DeStefano F., Thompson, WW. MMR vaccine and autism: an update of the scientific evidence. Expert Rev Vaccines.2004 Feb;3(1):19-22.
  23. DeStefano F., Thompson, WW. MMR vaccination and autism: is there a link? Expert Opinion on Drug Safety. 2002 Jul;1(2):115-20.
  24. DeStefano, F. Chen, RT. Negative association between MMR and autism. Lancet. 1999 Jun 12;353(9169):1987-8.
  25. DeStefano, F., Chen, RT. Autism and measles-mumps-rubella vaccination: controversy laid to rest? CNS Drugs. 2001. 2001;15(11):831-7.
  26. D’Souza J., Todd T. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and the development of autism or inflammatory bowel disease: the controversy should end. Journal of Pedatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2003 Jul;8(3):187-99. doi: 10.5863/1551-6776-8.3.187.
  27. D’Souza, Y., Fombonne, E., Ward, BJ. No evidence of persisting measles virus in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from children with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics. 2006 Oct;118(4):1664-75.
  28. Doja, A., & Roberts, W. (2006). Immunizations and autism: A review of the literature. The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 33(4), 341-346.
  29. Elliman, D., Bedford, H. MMR: where are we now? Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2007 Dec;92(12):1055-7. Epub 2007 Jul 11.
  30. Farrington, C., Miller, E., & Taylor, B. (2001). MMR and autism: further evidence against a causal association. Vaccine, 19(27), 3632-3635.
  31. Fombonne, E., & Chakrabarti, S. (2001). No evidence for a new variant of measles-mumps-rubella–induced autism. Pediatrics, 108(4), e58-e58.
  32. Fombonne, E., Zakarian, R., Bennett, A., Meng, L., & McLean-Heywood, D. (2006). Pervasive developmental disorders in Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Prevalence and links with immunizations. Pediatrics 118(1) e139-e150; doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2993.
  33. García-Fernández, L., Hernández, AV., Suárez Moreno, V., Fiestas, F. Addressing the controversy regarding the association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Revista Peruana de Medicine Experimental Salud Publica. 2013 Apr;30(2):268-74.
  34. Gentile, I., Bravaccio, C., Bonavolta, R., Zappulo, E., Scarica, S., Riccio, MP., Settimi, A., Portella, G., Pascotta, A., Borgia, G. Response to measles-mumps-rubella vaccine in children with autism spectrum disorders. In Vivo 2013 May-Jun;27(3):377-82.
  35. Gerber, J. S., & Offit, P. A. (2009). Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 48(4), 456-461.
  36. Halsey, NA., Hyman, SL. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autistic spectrum disorder: report from the New Challenges in Childhood Immunizations Conference convened in Oak Brook, Illinois. June 12-13, 2000. Pediatrics. 2001 May; 107(5):E84.
  37. Hertz-Picciotto, I., Green, P., Delwiche, L., Hansen, R., Walker, C., & Pessah, I. (2010). Blood mercury concentrations in CHARGE Study children with and without autism. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(1), 161-166. doi:10.1289/ehp.0900736
  38. Hensley, E. Briars, L. Closer look at autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Journal of American Pharmacist’s Association. 2003. 2010 Nov-Dec;50(6):736-41. doi: 10.1331/JAPhA.2010.10004.
  39. Heron, J., Golding, J., ALSPAC Study Team. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a prospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics. 2004 Sep;114(3):577-83.
  40. Hessel, L. Mercury in vaccines. Bulletin of the National Academy of Medicine.2003;187(8):1501-10.
  41. Honda, H., Shimizu, Y., & Rutter, M. (2005). No effect of MMR withdrawal on the incidence of autism: a total population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 46(6), doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01425.x.
  42. Hornig, M., Briese, T., Bule, T., Bauman, M.L., Lauwers, G., Siemetzki, U., Hummel, K., Rota, PA., Bellini, WJ., O’Leary, JJ., Sheils, O., Alden, E., Pickering, L., Lipkin, W.I. Lack of association between measles virus vaccine and autism with enteropathy: a case-control study. 2008. PLoS One, 3(9), e3140. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003140.
  43. Hurley, A., Tadrous, M., Miller, ES. Thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism: a review of recent epidemiological studies. Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2010 Jul-Sep; 15(3): 173-181.
  44. Hviid A., Stellfeld, M., Wohlfahrt, J., Melbye, M. Association between thimerosal-containing vaccine and autism – No causal relationship found.JAMA.2003 Oct 1;290(13):1763-6.
  45. Insitute of Medicine (US) Immunization Safety Review Committee. Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autisms. Washington (DC): National Academies Press(US); 2004.
  46. Ip, P., Wong, V., Ho, M., Lee, J., Wong, W. Mercury exposure in children with autistic spectrum disorder: case-control study. Journal of Child Neurology. 2004. Jun:19(6):431-4.
  47. Iqbal, S., Barile, JP., Thompson, WW., DeStefano, F. Number of antigens in early childhood vaccines and neuropsychological outcomes at age 7–10 years. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.2013 Dec;22(12):1263-70. doi: 10.1002/pds.3482. Epub 2013 Jul 12.
  48. Jefferson, T., Price, D., Demicheli, V., Bianco, E., European Research Program for Improved Safety Surveillance (EUSAFEVAC) Project. Unintended events following immunization with MMR: a systematic review. Vaccine. 2003 Sep 8;21(25-26):3954-60.
  49. Jick, H., Kaye, JA. Epidemiology and possible causes of autism. Pharmacotherapy. 2003 Dec;23(12):1524-30. 4695031
  50. Kaye, J. A., del Mar Melero-Montes, M., & Jick, H. Mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine and the incidence of autism recorded by general practitioners: a time trend analysis. 2001. British Medical Journal, 322(7284), 460-463.
  51. Klein, K. C., & Diehl, E. B. Relationship between MMR vaccine and autism. 2004. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 38(7-8), 1297-1300.
  52. Lazoff, T., Zhong, L., Piperni, T., Fombonne, E. Prevalence of pervasive developmental disorders among children at the English Montreal School Board. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.2010 Nov;55(11):715-20.
  53. Lingam, R., Simmons, A., Andrews, N., Miller, E., Stowe, J., & Taylor, B. (2003). Prevalence of autism and parentally reported triggers in a North-east London population. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 88(8), 666-670.
  54. Madsen, K.K., Hviid, A., Vestergaard, M., Schendel, D., Wohlfahrt, J., Thorsen, P., Olsen, J., Melbye, M. A population-based study of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and autism. 2002.The New England Journal of Medicine, 347(19), 1477-82.
  55. Madsen, K.M., Lauritsen, M.B., Pedersen, C.B., Thorsen, P., Plesner, A.M., Andersen, P.H. & Mortensen, P.B. Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. 2003. Pediatrics, 112,604-606. doi: 10.1542/peds.112.3.204
  56. Madsen, KM. Vestergaard, M. MMR and Autism: what is the evidence for a causal association? Drug Safety. 2004;27(12):831-40.
  57. Makela, A., Nuorti, J., & Peltola, H. (2002). Neurologic disorders after measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Pediatrics, 110(5), 957-963.
  58. Marin, M., Broder, KR., Temte, JL., Snider, DE., Seward, JF., (CDC). Use of combination measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recommendations and Reports. 2010 May 7;59(RR-3):1-12.
  59. Marwick, C. US Report finds no link between MMR and autism. British Medical Journal. May 5, 2001; 322(7294): 1083.
  60. Meilleur, AA., Fombonne, E. Regression of language and non-language skills in pervasive development disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research. 2009 Feb;53(2):115-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2008.01134.x. Epub 2008 Nov 27.
  61. Miller, E. Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and the development of autism –epidemiologic evidence against such an association is compelling. Seminars in Pediatric Infectious Diseases.2003 Jul;14(3):199-206.
  62. Miller, E., Andrews, N., Grant, A., Stowe, J., Taylor, B. No evidence of an association between MMR vaccine and gait disturbance. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2005. Mar;90(3):292-6.
  63. Miller, L., Reynolds J. Autism and vaccination – the current evidence. Journals for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing. 2009 Jul;14(3):166-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6155.2009.00194.x.
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  66. Mrozek-Budzyn, D., Majewska, R. Kiełtyka, A. & Augustyniak, M. Lack of association between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Przeglad epidemiologiczny. 2011, 65(3), 491-495.
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  84. Smith, M. J., & Woods, C. R. On-time vaccine receipt in the first year does not adversely affect neuropsychological outcomes. Pediatrics. 2010. 125(6), 1134-1141.
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  87. Stehr-Green, P., Tull, P., Stellfeld, M., Mortenson, PB., Simpson, D. Autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines: lack of consistent evidence for an association. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2003 Aug;25(2):101-6.
  88. Takahashi, H., Suzumura, S., Shirakizawa, F., Wada, N., Tanaka-Taya, K., Arai, S., Okabe, N., Ichikawa, H., Sato, T. An epidemiological study on Japanese Autism concerning Routine Childhood Immunization History. Japanese Journal of Infectious Diseases. 56, 114-117, 2003.
  89. Taylor, B. Vaccines and the changing epidemiology of autism. Child: Care, Health and Development Journal. 2006 Sep;32(5):511-9.
  90. Taylor, B., Miller, E., Farrington, C., Petropoulos, M., Favot-Mayaud, I., Li, J., & Waight, P. A. (1999). Autism and measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine: no epidemiological evidence for a causal association. Lancet, 353(9169), 2026-20.
  91. Taylor, B., Miller, E., Lingam, R., Andrews, N., Simmons, A., & Stowe, J. Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and bowel problems or developmental regression in children with autism: population study. 2002. British Medical Journal, 324(7334), 393-396.
  92. Taylor, B., Lingam, R., Simmons, A., Stowe, J., Miller, E., Andrews, N. Autism and MMR vaccination in North London: no causal relationship. 2002. Molecular Psychiatry. 7 Suppl2:S7-8.
  93. Thjodleifsson, B., Davidsdóttir, K., Agnarsson, U., Sigthórsson, G., Kjeld, M., Bjarnason, I. Effect of Pentavac and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination on the intestine. Gut.2002 Dec;51(6):816-7.
  94. Thompson, WW., Price, C., Goodson, B., Shay, DK., Benson, P., Hinrichsen, BL., Lewis, E., Eriksen, E., Ray, P., Marcy, SM., Dunn, J., Jackson, LA., Lieu, TA., Black, S., Stewart, G., Weintraub, ES., Davis, RL., DeStefano, F., Vaccine Data Link Safety Team. Early thimerosal exposure and neuropsychological outcomes at 7 to 10 years. New England Journal of Medicine. 2007 Sep 27;357(13):1281-92.
  95. Uchiyama, T., Kurosawa, M., & Inaba, Y. MMR-vaccine and regression in autism spectrum disorders: negative results presented from Japan. 2007.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(2), 210-217.
  96. Uno, Y., Uchiyama, T., Kurosawa, M., Aleksic, B., & Ozaki, N. The combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines and the total number of vaccines are not associated with development of autism spectrum disorder: first case–control study in Asia. 2012. Vaccine, 30(28), 4292-4298.
  97. Verstraeten T., Davis, RL., DeStefano, F., Lieu, TA., Rhodes, PH., Black, SB., Shinefield, H., Chen RT. Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: a two-phased study of computerized health maintenance organization databases. Pediatrics.2003 Nov;112(5):1039-48.
  98. Whitehouse, AJ., Maybery, M., Wray, JA., Hickey, M. No association between early gastrointestinal problems and autistic-like traits in the general population. Developmental Medicine and Childhood Neurology. 2011. May;53(5):457-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2011.03915.x. Epub 2011 Mar 21.
  99. MMR vaccine is not linked to Crohn’s disease or autism. Commun Dis Rep CDR Weekly. 1998 Mar 27;8(13):113.

Simplified Searches

The review papers (27 in total) can be found on this link:

111 papers which show vaccines, any vaccine ingredient and the number of vaccines given do not cause autism can be found on this link:

Disproportionate Impact of K-12 School Suspension and Expulsion on Black Students in Southern States

From the University of Pennsylvania
Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education

By Edward J. Smith and Shaun R. Harper

August 26, 2015

Nationally, 1.2 million Black students were suspended from K-12 public schools in a single academic year – 55% of those suspensions occurred in 13 Southern states. Districts in the South also were responsible for 50% of Black student expulsions from public schools in the United States.

View PDF

This report aims to make transparent the rates at which school discipline practices and policies impact Black students in every K-12 public school district in 13 Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Despite comprising only 20.9% of students in the 3,022 districts analyzed, Blacks were suspended and expelled at disproportionately high rates.

The authors use data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to present school discipline trends related to Black students district-by-district within each state. Districts in which school discipline policies and practices most disproportionately impact Black students are also highlighted.

The report concludes with resources and recommendations for parents and families, educators and school leaders, policymakers, journalists, community stakeholders (NAACP chapters, religious congregations, activists, etc.), and others concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline and the educational mistreatment of Black youth in K-12 schools.

The authors also offer implications for faculty in schools of education, as well as other sites in which teachers are prepared (e.g., Teach for America) and administrators are certified.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Theaters, Museums Increasingly Catering to Special Needs

From The Chicago Tribune
via DisabilityScoop

By Rachel Crosby

August 25, 2015

CHICAGO — When the lights dim and a play starts, all eyes are on the stage. But what if you can’t see it?

How do people who are blind experience a live theater show? A museum exhibit?

“The biggest problem we face is that many people assume people who are blind can’t or don’t experience theater or other sources of entertainment,” said Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind. “And that is not correct.”

Yes, they can hear the actors, their motions — the pouring of a glass, the shot of a gun. And they’ve been going to live shows for a long time, Danielsen said.

But Chicago theater is making the experience better.

Charlie Jager, 4, who has visual impairment, checks out the ship’s wheel
on the set of “The Little Mermaid” before a performance at the Shakespeare
Theater Company in Chicago. The touch tour for the play includes touching wigs
and costumes, going on stage to inspect the sets and a talk with some
of the actors. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Two hours before showtime on a recent morning, pieces of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “The Little Mermaid” production were strewn about the theater’s lobby.

Ariel’s long red locks. Flounder the guppy’s turquoise and yellow “fin” mohawk. Even the tough snakeskin boots of Sebastian, the crab who conducts.

And 3-year-old Lincoln Rybak was running his fingers over all of it — tapping, squishing, squeezing. Lincoln is legally blind, and his parents were participating in the theater’s touch tour, an opportunity for patrons with low vision to feel the textured costumes, explore the set and meet the characters before the show.

Touch tours are not new to the city — Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater adopted a program in the 1990s, said Evan Hatfield, Steppenwolf Theatre’s director of audience experience. But in the past five years, the city’s cultural scene has blossomed with accessibility. He listed 21 local theaters that offer programs like touch tours, audio description, sign language interpretation and live captioning for productions. And that number is growing.

Lincoln’s favorite piece was a fantastic sea urchin headpiece; his little hands were grasping the flexible, floppy spines that poke out from its base. He was at a standstill as a group of about 20 children and adults who are blind weaved through the props with family.

“Whoaaaaaaaa,” he howled, tugging the thick spines as Jason Harrington, the theater’s education outreach manager who heads accessibility programs, explained each piece.

Growth in accessibility is not limited to theaters. Eleven other Chicago institutions including the Lincoln Park Zoo, the History Museum and the Shedd Aquarium pledged to make accessibility better in many ways after the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July, said Christena Gunther, founder of the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium, a group that works as a network for cultural accessibility programs.

Ideas include offering more programs, hiring full-time accessibility managers and finding new ways to reach those with disabilities.

“Accessibility is not just about having a ramp,” Gunther said. “Everybody’s different, everybody has different needs. Accessibility never reaches an ending point, and that’s the challenge but also the fun part.”

Once in the theater, Lincoln and the group had full access to a few of the show’s set pieces.

On stage was Prince Eric’s ship, a piece of Ariel’s grotto, a giant sea anemone cushion and Chef Louis’ cooking table, covered with “pots and pans and really gross-feeling fish, which you’re welcome to touch,” Harrington said as he guided the tour.

“Don’t they feel awful?” said Sharon Howerton, of Chicago, who is blind and brought her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren along.

Soon, a handful of the core cast members joined the group “so you get a sense of what they sound like,” Harrington said.

There was Ariel, in full attire, who explained the mermaid’s curiosity and many costume changes — from a tail to a dress to a wedding gown. King Triton and Eric also joined. And the man who played Sebastian previewed the crab’s Jamaican accent. “Ah-ree-el!” he yelled.

While a touch tour undoubtedly “enhances the experience,” said Danielsen of the federation for the blind, so does audio description, an explanation of scenes and set changes that are transmitted live to patrons who are blind, through headsets, while the show unfolds on stage. Chicago Shakespeare and about 20 other local theaters offer it already or plan to soon.

It’s an accommodation that requires training, finessing and time to perfect, but when done well it can make the play come alive in a new way.

Like the beginning of “The Little Mermaid,” when Ariel begins to sing the opening, “A World Above” — a beautiful song, but even better when you know a giant blue fabric like the surface of the ocean is rippling around her as she rises to hip level from beneath the stage, like she’s treading water.

Deborah Lewis, vice president of California-based Audio Description Solutions, trained audio describers in Chicago a few weeks ago and said “some people get it, some people don’t,” but here “everyone got it.”

“In Chicago, theaters seem to be helping each other out, giving each other a lot of ideas, and that doesn’t happen in a lot of places,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed and impressed.”

If Chicago theaters are budding, the city’s museums are still planting the seeds.

The Art Institute of Chicago offers a touch gallery — a free area where anyone can feel four small sculptures, said Lucas Livingston, the museum’s assistant director of senior programs. But those four pieces are only tiny slice of the artwork offered in the building.

The Art Institute also hosts tours where patrons can handle a limited number of 3-D-printed duplicates of objects on display, like plastic copies of ancient mugs, dolls and instruments. Those are helpful not only for the blind but for people with dementia, Livingston said, so they can feel and better engage with each piece. “Everybody loves to learn through touch.”

The museum also has five small 3-D-printed duplicates of paintings — helpful, tactile representations of the art on the wall from different genres, since handling can damage original paintings.

“For theater, you have the luxury of knowing who’s coming in advance and being able to plan for that, versus at a museum, people are usually just dropping in and you might not know what people are coming to see,” said Gunther of the cultural consortium. “The way you can make your institution accessible varies depending on what type of organization you are.”

The Art Institute is able to plan for its monthly sign-language tour, which garners about 60 patrons, Livingston said.

Other museums offer audio tours and guided tours — options that cover the bases but do not yet go above and beyond, Gunther said. But they all share an interest in improving.

“I think we’re better off than five, 10 years ago,” she said, but “this is an ongoing effort. There’s always something new and different you can offer at your institution.”

To the left of the Shakespeare stage, a pair of sign-language interpreters enthusiastically signed the characters’ dialogue — another layer of accessibility for patrons at the show.

Harrington remained in a handful of ears until curtain call, guiding them through live set changes as he watched from a room high above the audience.

He described Prince Eric’s castle, Ariel’s lavender dress. The way Ursula’s evil electric eels moved down aisles and about the theater. And ultimately, Prince Eric’s proposal. Their marriage.

“They kiss,” Harrington said, just before the couple climbed aboard the ship and sailed backstage. “Lights out, end of play.”

The Real 21st-Century Problem in Public Education is Poverty

From Moyers & Company

By Elaine Weiss
November 6, 2013

NOTE: This post first appeared in The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog.

So much has been said about new “21stcentury” skills, standards and learning requirements, that they have become virtually synonymous with “college and career readiness” (a similarly poorly defined goal). The purportedly new demand for higher-level and different skills has further increased the pressure for more tests and higher stakes attached to them.

A new study showing explosive growth in student poverty suggests, though, that we have misidentified the problem. What if we have actually been teaching the right skills in U.S. schools all along – math and reading, science and civics, along with creativity, perseverance and team-building?

What if these were as important a hundred years ago for nurturing innovative farmers and developers of new automobiles as they are now for creating the next generation of tech innovators? What if these are the very characteristics of U.S. schools that have made us such a strong public education nation, and the current shift toward a narrower agenda just dilutes that strength?

What if, rather than raising standards, and testing students more, the biggest change we need to address is that of our student body?

The October 2013 Southern Education Foundation study indicates clearly that poverty, which has long been the biggest obstacle to educational achievement, is more important than ever. It is our true 21st century problem. Fifty years ago, we educated mostly working-class kids and up, and we did not expect those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to graduate. Now we educate all students, including the very poorest and otherwise disadvantaged. And, we expect them all to graduate.

Compounding this shift, a large and growing proportion of U.S. students live in poverty and even concentrated poverty, have a disability, and/or are learning English as a second language. THAT is the paradigm shift, and we need a totally new set of policies to address that 21st century reality.

In 2000, students who were eligible for free or reduced-price meals made up at least half of the student body in four states. Just eleven years later, over half of public school students are poor in 17 states, including every Southern state but Virginia and Maryland, and most Western states. Student poverty is the dominant reality in schools in three of the biggest states – California, Texas and Florida—and nearly the majority in New York, Michigan and Illinois.

The 21st century has sharply increased the proportion of parents who are unemployed, whose jobs do not pay enough to provide basic food, shelter, clothing and health care for their children, and/or whose immigrant status limit their capacity to navigate the education system and restrict them to a shadow economy.

This devastating reality demands a set of education reforms radically different from those on which policy has fixated of late. Without a set of supports that enable all students to acquire basic literacy, problem-solving and communications skills, kindergarten teachers must tailor their instruction to an ever-broader range of academic capacities and behavioral challenges. And too many students will be doomed from a very early age to remedial education and dim prospects of life success.

Until we ensure that basic, preventable medical problems do not keep large numbers of students out of class and lack of food does not prevent them from focusing, effective teaching will become further out of reach. So long as we put school nurses, social workers and counselors on the “expendable” list when budgets are tight, teachers will shoulder more non-teaching burdens, and instruction will be impeded.

In the absence of systemic, consistent after-school and summer enrichment, a growing number of students will lose much of what they gain during the day and over the school year, wasting taxpayer dollars and future talent.

Not only have we not addressed these realities, we have exacerbated them. Pressure on test scores has crowded out the art, music and drama that cultivate a love of learning and that draw out children’s unique skills. In high-poverty schools especially, drilling in math and reading has dumbed down lessons, frustrated teachers and put students at an even greater disadvantage relative to high-income, experienced, well-rounded peers. Standardization has made it harder to tailor lessons to the unique culture of the community, making instruction more distant and less relevant.

This pressure has also sidelined physical education and recess, both of which boost student capacity to focus and learn, and of course are critical to combat our growing child obesity crisis. Finally, it has increased the prevalence of “zero-tolerance” policies that establish harsh disciplinary consequences for even minor infractions and that treat the natural responses to poverty- and school-related stress as near-criminal behaviors.

Kids who are living in poverty need more, not less, of the supports that help upper-class children thrive. These include small classes, challenging, rich curriculum, individualized instruction and supportive responses to emotional and behavioral challenges. It also means ensuring a meaningful “floor” – in terms of school readiness, physical and mental health, and nutrition – on which they can stand in order to viably learn.

We do have a 21st century education crisis – poverty. Until we properly diagnose the illness, however, our prescribed remedies will continue to fall far short.

Elaine Weiss is the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), where she works with a high-level task force and coalition partners to promote a comprehensive, evidence-based set of policies to allow all children to thrive.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Half of All African American Suspensions and Expulsions Were in Thirteen Southern States

From The Education Law Prof Blog

By Derek Black
August 26, 2015

"In 132 Southern school districts, Blacks were disproportionately suspended at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population." 

Edward Smith and Shaun Harper have released a new study focusing on suspensions and expulsions in the South. Most of it is sadly par for the course, but the enormous portion of the nation's suspensions and expulsions that come from the South was shocking.

"Nationally, 1.2 million Black students were suspended from K-12 public schools in a single academic year – 55% of those suspensions occurred in 13 Southern states. Districts in the South also were responsible for 50% of Black student expulsions from public schools in the United States."

The racial disparities also seemed to track consistently higher than than other regions. "In 132 Southern school districts, Blacks were disproportionately suspended at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population."

Expulsion disparities were high as well, although slightly lower the suspension disparities. "In 77 Southern school districts, Blacks were disproportionately expelled at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population."

The study also includes a nice set of tables with the data for individual school districts, so one can easily see what is occurring in their own community, region, and state.

Get the full report HERE.

Author: Helicopter Parenting Damages Kids – And Society

From WBUR 90.9 FM's Show "Here & Now"

August 18, 2015

As the former Stanford University Dean of Freshmen, Julie Lythcott-Haims had the opportunity to meet some of the country’s brightest, most engaging, interesting and driven young students. And many of them fit the bill.

But in her final years there, she began to notice a disturbing trend. Students were becoming less independent as parents increased — or demanded — control over their children’s lives. That trend, she noticed, was having a profound impact on students, many of whom were experiencing unnecessary stress, difficulty managing their lives and, in some cases, an inability to function at university at all.

As a parent of two, Lythcott-Haims was noticing the same trend among parents in her neighborhood, where free play gave way to play dates and concerns about safety were taking away even simple freedoms, like biking to school. Those observations drove Lythcott-Haims to research the phenomenon of so-called “helicopter parents,” and the impact their parenting has not only on kids, but on society as a whole.

The result of that research is her newly-released book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” Lythcott-Haims joins Here & Now host Meghna Chakrabarti to discuss the issues surrounding over-parenting.

Read Julie Lythcott-Haims’ piece, “Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out”

3 Parenting Tips From Julie Lythcott-Haims
  • Stop staying “we.” In conversation about your children, don’t refer to their work or achievements by using “we.” “We” are not on the soccer team, “we’re” not doing the science project, and “we’re” not applying to college.
  • Stop arguing with the adults in your children’s lives. Kids need to learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers, coaches or other school staff. They should have these conversations themselves.
  • Stop doing your children’s homework. The only way kids will learn is by doing their work themselves.

Book Excerpt: ‘How to Raise an Adult’

By Julie Lythcott-Haims

"Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar."
(Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.)
—Antonio Machado (1875–1939)

This is a book about parents who are overinvolved in the lives of their kids. It looks at the love and fear behind our overinvolvement. It looks at the harm we cause when we do too much. And it looks at how we might achieve better long-term ends—and help our kids achieve even greater success—by parenting differently.

I love my kids as fiercely as any parent does, and I know that love is the foundation for all we do as parents. But in my years researching this book I’ve learned that many of our behaviors also stem from fears; perhaps chief among them is the fear that our kids won’t be successful out in the world.

Of course it’s natural for parents to want their kids to succeed, but based on research, interviews with more than a hundred people, and my own personal experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that we define success too narrowly. And what’s worse, this narrow, misguided definition of success has led us to harm a generation of young adults—our children.

I came to know, care, and worry about young adults over the course of my ten years as freshman dean at Stanford University. I loved that work and found it a sheer privilege to be alongside other people’s eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old sons and daughters as they began to unfold into the adults they would become. My students made me laugh and they made me cry, and I rooted for them no matter what. This book is not an indictment of them or of their generation, people born after 1980—known as Millennials.

Their parents, though—we parents, I’ll say, for I, too, am one of them—are another story.

I want to put all of my cards on the table. I’m not just a former dean at Stanford, I’m a graduate from Stanford and Harvard Law School as well. I’m writing this book not because of those opportunities, or despite them, but informed by it all, keeping in mind at every turn that my privilege and experience can be both a help and a hindrance in this analysis.

And, as I’ve said, I’m also a parent. My husband and I have two teenagers—a son and a daughter who are two years apart—and we are raising our kids in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, as energetic a hive of overparenting as you are likely to find on the planet.

Whereas once upon a time I was a dean at a highly selective university tut-tutting the behaviors of over-involved parents, in the years I’ve spent thinking about this topic I’ve slowly come to appreciate that I’m not much different from the parents I once rather breezily chastised. In many ways, I am the problem parent I’m writing about.

Father (and Mother) Knows Best

In the earliest moments our love is our umbilicus, our heartbeat, our body, and then our arms, our kiss, our breast. We bring them home to a sheltering roof and we delight weeks later when they make their first intentional eye contact with us. We nurture early babbles into first words and applaud as they gain strength to roll over, to sit up, to crawl. We scan the horizon of the twenty-first century and see an increasingly interconnected and competitive world that at times seems familiar and at times utterly not. We gaze down at our precious little ones with a promise to do all we can to help them make their way into the long life that lies ahead. There is no amount of direction on our part that will teach them to stand or walk before they are ready. But we are eager for their progress.

We see almost instantly that they are their own person, but we also want them to start where we left off, to stand on our shoulders, to benefit from all we know and can provide. We expose them to experiences, ideas, people, and places that will help them learn and grow. We want them to reach and be stretched by the kind of rigor and opportunity that will maximize their potential and their chances. We know what it takes to succeed in today’s world and we’re quite eager to protect and direct them, and be there for them at every turn, whatever it takes.

Many of us remember a time when, in comparison, parents were rather uninvolved in childhood. When a parent (usually a mom) would throw the door open on weekday afternoons and tell us, “Go out and play and be home for dinner.” Our parents had no idea where we were or exactly what we were doing. There were no cell phones for keeping in touch or GPS devices for tracking.

Off we went into the wilderness of our block, our neighborhood, our town, our vacant lots, our parks, our woods, our malls. Or sometimes, we just snuck a book and sat on the back steps. Childhood doesn’t look that way today and many young parents don’t relate to childhood ever having been that way.

Father and Mother Have Changed

When, why, and how did parenting and childhood change? Even a cursory hunt yields a bounty of shifts. A number of important ones take place in the mid-1980s.

In 1983, one shift arose from the increased awareness of child abductions. The tragic 1981 abduction and murder of a young child named Adam Walsh became the made-for-television movie Adam, which was seen by a near record-setting 38 million people. The faces of missing children began staring out at us over breakfast from the back of milk cartons soon after. Walsh’s father, John Walsh, went on to lobby Congress to create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1984, and to found the television show America’s Most Wanted, which aired on Fox beginning in 1988. Our incessant fear of strangers was born.

Another shift—the idea that our children aren’t doing enough schoolwork—arrived with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, which argued that American kids weren’t competing well against their peers globally. Since then, federal policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have fomented an achievement culture that emphasizes rote memorization and teaching to the test against the backdrop of increased competition from students in Singapore, China, and South Korea, where such teaching practices are the norm.

American kids and parents soon began struggling under the weight of more homework and began doing whatever it takes to survive school, as was illuminated in the 2003 book “Doing School”: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students, written by Stanford School of Education lecturer Dr. Denise Pope, and the 2010 film Race to Nowhere.

A third shift came with the onset of the self-esteem movement—a philosophy that gained popularity in the United States in the 1980s that said we could help kids succeed in life if we valued their personhood rather than their outcomes. In her 2013 best-selling book "The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way," Amanda Ripley cites the self-esteem movement as a uniquely American phenomenon.

And a fourth shift was the creation of the playdate, circa 1984. The play-date emerged as a practical scheduling tool at a time when mothers were entering the workforce in record numbers. The combination of more parents working and the increased reliance on daycare meant fewer kids were going home after school, and it was harder to find either a location or a time for play. Once parents started scheduling play, they then began observing play, which led to involving themselves in play. Once a critical mass of parents began being involved in kids’ play, leaving kids home alone became taboo, as did allowing kids to play unsupervised.

Day care for younger kids turned into organized after-school activities for older kids. Meanwhile, concerns at the turn of that decade over injury and lawsuits prompted a complete overhaul of public playgrounds nationwide. The very nature of play—which is a foundational element in the life of a developing child—began to change.

Observing such shifts among other things, in 1990, child development researchers Foster Cline and Jim Fay coined the term “helicopter parent” to refer to a parent who hovers over a child in a way that runs counter to the parent’s responsibility to raise a child to independence. Focused on giving advice to parents of young children, Cline and Fay had their finger on the pulse of important changes that took place in American parenting in the prior decade, and which are commonplace today, twenty-five years later. That means the oldest members of the helicoptered generation turned thirty circa 2010. They are also those known as “Generation Y” or “Millennials.”

In the late 1990s, the first of the Millennial generation began going off to college, and my colleagues and I at Stanford began to notice a new phenomenon—parents on the college campus, virtually and literally. Each subsequent year would bring an increase in the number of parents who did things like seek opportunities, make decisions, and problem solve for their sons and daughters—things that college-aged students used to be able to do for themselves.

This was not only happening at Stanford, mind you; it was happening at four-year colleges and universities all over the country, as conversations with colleagues nationwide confirmed. Meanwhile my husband and I were raising our two little kids, and without fully realizing it we were doing a good deal of helicoptering in our own home.

The Big Boom

Members of the baby boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, were the first to earn the label “helicopter parent.” Their children are the older wave of the “Millennial” generation I’m concerned about. Baby boomers’ grandparents believed “children are to be seen but not heard,” and their parents’ standard retort was “because I said so.” In contrast and perhaps in response, as teenagers and young adults the baby boomers championed free thinking and the rights of the individual, questioned authority, and reshaped or outright overturned many fundamental paradigms and mores of American society.

Of course, boomers weren’t the first parents in history to hover over their kids like helicopters—in 1899 General Douglas MacArthur’s mother apparently moved to West Point with him and lived in a suite at Craney’s Hotel overlooking the Academy, where she could watch him by telescope to see if he was studying. But when the baby boom generation—at 76 million members the largest generation in American history until their own children were born—starts a trend, whether in fashion, technology, or parenting, it quickly reaches a tipping point. So perhaps it should then be no surprise that when Boomers became parents they managed to change the very nature of parenting in the United States.

Based on their own values and experiences, and in the context of those various societal factors taking place in the 1980s discussed above, Boomers took a more involved role in the lives of their children. Whereas Boomers’ parents had been emotionally distant, Boomers were emotionally present in their kids’ lives, often becoming one of their kids’ closest friends.

Whereas Boomers’ parents were hands-off, Boomers tried to control and ensure outcomes for their own kids and became their strongest advocates. Whereas Boomers’ parents adhered to hierarchy, structure, and authority, Boomers questioned these things with a vengeance and ushered in massive societal changes such as the sexual revolution, two income–earning households, a steep rise in divorce rates, and the perhaps not unrelated mindset of spending “quality time, not quantity time,” with kids (that is, it’s not how much time we spend that matters, it’s how we spend the time).

As parents, Boomers, ever accustomed to expressing their opinions, being heard, and getting their way, wanted to “be there” for their kids, whatever it took, still challenging the system, but now on behalf of their kids, often supplanting themselves as a buffer between their kids and the system and its authority figures. Even when their child is grown.

Looking at only the short-term results, a very involved style of parenting offers short-term gains in the forms of safety, opportunities attained, and outcomes secured. As with General MacArthur—who graduated first in his class at West Point—a very involved parenting approach seems, in some significant ways, to “work.” Seeing evidence that this was so, by the 2000s this very-involved style of parenting became less like the exception and more like the rule.

My generation, Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980), followed the Boomers’ suit when we became parents, as did the Millennial generation (born between 1980 and 2000) as they became parents. The baby boomers are now grandparents, but, as with much they’ve contributed to American society, for good or for ill, their influence on parenting could be with us long after they are gone.

To What End?

A heightened level of parental involvement in the lives of kids obviously stems from love—unquestionably a good thing. But by the time I stepped down as dean at Stanford in 2012 I had interacted not only with a tremendous number of parents but with students who seemed increasingly reliant upon their parents in ways that felt, simply, off. I began to worry that college “kids” (as college students had become known) were somehow not quite formed fully as humans. They seemed to be scanning the sidelines for Mom or Dad. Under-constructed. Existentially impotent.

"I began to worry that college “kids” (as college students had become known) were somehow not quite formed fully as humans. They seemed to be scanning the sidelines for Mom or Dad. Under-constructed. Existentially impotent."

Tremendous good can be said about the baby boomers—they were drafted into and questioned the Vietnam War, lay their bodies on the line in the monumental civil rights and civil liberties struggles of their day, and fueled the greatest economic growth our nation has ever seen. But did Boomers’ egos become interlaced with the accomplishments of their children to such an extent that they felt their own success was compromised if their children fell short of expectations?

And did some of these parents go so far in the direction of their own wants and needs that they eclipsed their own kids’ chances to develop a critical psychological trait called “self-efficacy”—that is, what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura identifies as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations”?

There’s a deeply embedded irony here: Maybe those champions of self-actualization, the Boomers, did so much for their kids that their kids have been robbed of a chance to develop a belief in their own selves.

Did the safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, checklisted childhood that has been commonplace since the mid-1980s and in many communities has become the norm, rob kids of the chance to develop into healthy adults?

What will become of young adults who look accomplished on paper but seem to have a hard time making their way in the world without the constant involvement of their parents? How will the real world feel to a young person who has grown used to problems being solved for them and accustomed to praise at every turn? Is it too late for them to develop a hunger to be in charge of their own lives? Will they at some point stop referring to themselves as kids and dare to claim the “adult” label for themselves?

If not, then what will become of a society populated by such “adults”? These were the questions that began to gnaw at me and that prompted me to write this book.

These questions were on my mind not just at work but as I made my way in my community of Palo Alto, where the evidence of overparenting was all around me—even in my own home. Too many of us do some combination of over-directing, overprotecting, or over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives. We treat our kids like rare and precious botanical specimens and provide a deliberate, measured amount of care and feeding while running interference on all that might toughen and weather them.

But humans need some degree of weathering in order to survive the larger challenges life will throw our way. Without experiencing the rougher spots of life, our kids become exquisite, like orchids, yet are incapable, sometimes terribly incapable, of thriving in the real world on their own. Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own?

And, why do these problems I’m writing about seem rooted in the middle and upper middle classes? After all, parents care deeply about doing a good job and if we’re fortunate enough to be middle- or upper-middle-class, we have the means—the time and disposable income—on our side to help us parent well. So, have we lost our sense of what parenting well actually entails?

And what of our own lives as parents? (“What life?” is a reasonable response.) We’re frazzled. Worried. Empty. Our neighborhoods are photo-worthy, our food and wine are carefully paired, but with childhood feeling more and more like an achievement arms race, can we call what we and our children are living a “good life”? I think not. Our job is to monitor our kids’ academic tasks and progress, schedule and supervise their activities, shuttle them everywhere, and offer an outpouring of praise along the way.

Our kids’ accomplishments are the measure of our own success and worth; that college bumper sticker on the rear of our car can be as much about our own sense of accomplishment as our kids’.

In the spring of 2013 I attended a board meeting for an organization that provides financial support to Palo Alto’s public schools. In casual conversation afterward as the parents were taking one last piece of coffee cake and heading out into their day, a woman who knows of my work pulled me aside. “When did childhood get so stressful?” she pleaded with a faraway look. I put my hand on her shoulder as tears slowly filled her eyes.

Another mother overheard and came toward us, nodding her head. Then she leaned in, asking me, “Do you know how many moms in our community are medicated for anxiety?” I didn’t know the answer to either question. But a growing number of conversations like this with moms like these became another reason to write this book.

The dean in me may have been concerned about the development and prospects of young adults who had been over-parented—and I think I’ve made better choices as a parent thanks to spending so much time with other people’s young adults. But the parent in me has struggled with the same fears and pressures every other parent faces, and, again, I understand that the systemic problem of overparenting is rooted in our worries about the world and about how our children will be successful in it without us. Still, we’re doing harm.

For our kids’ sakes, and also for our own, we need to stop parenting from fear and bring a more healthy—a more wisely loving—approach back into our communities, schools, and homes. Through research woven together with real-life observations and commonsense advice, this book will show us how to raise our kids to become adults—and how to gather the courage to do so.

Excerpted from the book HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Copyright © 2015 by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Reprinted with permission of Henry Holt and Co.


Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean and author of “How to Raise an Adult.” She tweets @DeanJulie.