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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Why Identity and Emotion are Central to Motivating the Teen Brain

From KQED's Blog "Mind/Shift"
How we will learn.

By Emmeline Zhao
December 10, 2015

For years, common experience and studies have prescribed that humans learn best in their earliest years of life – when the brain is developing at its fastest. Recently, though, research has suggested that the period of optimal learning extends well into adolescence.

The flurry of new findings may force a total rethinking of how educators and parents nurture this vulnerable age group, turning moments of frustration into previously unseen opportunities for learning and academic excitement.

New evidence shows that the window for formative brain development continues into the onset of puberty, between ages 9 and 13, and likely through the teenage years, according to Ronald Dahl, professor of community health and human development at the University of California, Berkeley. Dahl spoke at a recent Education Writers Association seminar on motivation and engagement.

“This is a flexible period for goal engagement, and the main part of what’s underneath what we think about setting goals in conscious ways – the bottom-up-based pull to feel motivated toward things."
--Ronald Dahl, Community Health/Human Development Professor at U.C. Berkeley

Adolescence is a tornado of change: Not only is it the period of fastest physical change in life – aside from infancy – but also newfound drives, motivations, and feelings of sexuality are amplified. There are profound shifts to metabolisms and sleeping cycles, as well as social roles – especially in the context of schools.

During these years, motivation is propelled not by a tangible goal to work toward, but by a feeling of wanting and thirst. Within the tumult of pre-teens or teens is an opportunity to enhance their desire and interest to learn.

In the past decade, neuroscientists have been able to identify what makes the adolescent brain so geared for the kind of inquiry that can pay dividends in the classroom. As children enter adolescence, some developing neural systems have already stabilized, Dahl said.

But puberty creates a whole new set of elastic neural systems that, when interacting with the already stabilized systems, offers unique windows of opportunity for engagement and experiencing the world around them in multiple ways.

“Adolescence is a perfect storm of opportunities to align these changes in positive ways,” Dahl said. “Learning, exploration, acquiring skills and habits, intrinsic motivations, attitudes, setting goals and priorities: There’s compelling need for transdisciplinary research to understand unique opportunities for social and emotional learning. But few people do it in fear of these challenges.”

These new scientific insights have large implications for how schools teach adolescents, which have traditionally viewed this age group as troublesome.

‘One way to think about puberty is to think of it as a learning spurt for heartfelt goals. It’s a particularly opportune time to fall in love with learning itself.’

The feelings of acceptance, rejection, admiration, among others, are all the story of adolescence. Children in this age group also seek physical sensations and thrills. There’s heightened awareness of social status, especially as they realize that acts of courage can earn them higher social status among peers.

Their wildly swinging neurological systems also mean that adolescents can readjust quickly – making those years critical for educators to engage students in “the right ways,” when the brain is learning to calibrate complex social and emotional value systems that use feelings as fast signals, Dahl said.

Contrary to common belief, children in this age range don’t actually have “broken brains.” Rather, these children are undergoing a profound update to how they process the world around them.

Adolescents are often considered bad decision-makers who are thrill-seekers. These myths, however, stem from young people’s desire to display courage, which is valued across cultures — and adolescents constantly seek the emotional satisfaction of being admired. In fact, Dahl said that adolescents take risks to overcome their fears, not seek them out.

“[Adolescents] are learning about the complex social world they must navigate, including the hierarchies, social rules for gaining acceptance and status, and the mystifying discovery of a sexual self,” Dahl said. “This is a flexible period for goal engagement, and the main part of what’s underneath what we think about setting goals in conscious ways – the bottom-up-based pull to feel motivated toward things.”

Adding to the confusion over how best to respond to adolescents is a wave of research showing children around the world are entering puberty at younger ages. One report found that in the 1860s, puberty for girls began at age 16. In the 1950s, it occurred at 13. Today, it’s closer to eight years old. The transition for boys is similar, according to the report.

The earlier onset of these pronounced biological changes puts pressure on educators and parents to update their expectations for what it means to be young, and how youth plays into adulthood.

“This is an interesting potential opportunity, with the longer time to learn activated motivational systems, longer time to increase skills and develop patterns of developing knowledge,” Dahl said. “If kids grow up in opportune settings, they can take advantage of the scaffolding and freedom to go on to take adult roles. But the risks are probably more amplified than opportunities for kids in disadvantaged settings.”

It’s still unclear how the earlier development happening in children might create other sets of challenges, Dahl noted, but it’s evident that it’s a key development window of motivational learning, a time when the brain more intensely senses motivational feelings, strengthening the patterns of connections to heartfelt goals, and creates potential for deep, sustained learning.

This period of learning is exemplified by even the forbidden love of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The young couple is brought together by a single brief encounter, after which all mental processes of planning, goals, motivations, longing, and desire are transformed. They begin to obsess over reuniting, and would sacrifice anything – including comfort, safety, family, and friends – to be together again.

Without the context that adolescents’ motives can explode entirely by the spark of a single passion, Romeo and Juliet’s story would be one of utter insanity, Dahl said. But adolescents’ abilities to rapidly reshape motivations and goals both supports their emotional volatility as well as presents a key period to find love – not necessarily romantically for others, but for academic activities and goals.

“With the feelings that pull you to persevere, maybe [adolescence is] a particularly opportune time to fall in love with learning itself, to love that feeling of exploring,” Dahl said. “There’s a new window to create that ‘Yes!’ feeling.”


This story was written for the Education Writers Association and originally appeared there.

New Federal Policy Guidance on Students with ADHD

From the Education Law Prof Blog

By Derek Black
July 27, 2016

The Office for Civil Rights issued this press release yesterday:

"The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.

'The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.'

Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD.

The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.

Today’s guidance provides a broad overview of Section 504 and school districts’ obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.

The guidance:
  • Explains that schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  • Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.

In addition to the guidance, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides a brief overview of schools’ obligations to students with ADHD."


The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 
For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination laws that it enforces, please visit its website and follow OCR on twitter @EDcivilrights.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Study Links Immune, Metabolic Theories of Autism

From Spectrum News

By Nicholette Zeliadt
July 20, 2016

Rare antibodies associated with autism are unusually common among women who developed diabetes while pregnant with a child who has autism (1). The results provide new clues to the link between immune system problems and autism. 

Maternal antibodies ordinarily pass through the placenta and help to defend the fetus against pathogens. But some occasionally turn against the fetus and attack proteins in the developing brain. Researchers have found these antibodies in as much as 23 percent of women who have a child with autism (2). And prenatal exposure to these antibodies alters brain development and social behavior in mice and monkeys.

Separately, studies have shown that women who develop diabetes while pregnant, a condition called gestational diabetes, are at an increased risk of having a child with autism.

The new study, which appeared 17 June in Autism Research, ties together these two threads of research, says lead investigator Judy Van de Water, professor of internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. She says gestational diabetes may prompt some women to make the autism-linked antibodies.

“Gestational diabetes is an inflammatory condition,” Van de Water says. “And you have to have some sort of inflammatory dysregulation to create autoantibodies.” The details of this dysregulation and its link to autism are yet to be worked out, however.

Metabolic Mystery

Van de Water’s team screened blood from 227 women who have a child with autism, including 145 who have a child with severe autism, measured using scores on a standardized diagnostic test. The researchers looked for combinations of seven antibodies that they had previously linked to the condition.

All of the women are enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study, and the samples were collected when their children were 2 to 5 years old.

The scientists combed medical records — or, when these were unavailable, interviewed the women — to identify those who had metabolic conditions marked by inflammation. These include diabetes (either gestational or type 2), high blood pressure and obesity, all of which are linked to an elevated risk of having a child with autism.

The researchers found that 56 of the women carry autism-linked antibodies. Those with either form of diabetes or high blood pressure, or who were obese, were not significantly more likely than other women to have the antibodies.

But in the severe autism group, the 14 women who had gestational diabetes were more than three times as likely as those without the condition to harbor the rogue molecules.

“It was really the more severe symptoms of autism that were associated with the antibodies,” says study investigator Paula Krakowiak, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis. “Among those who had a child with milder autism, there were actually very few moms who had metabolic conditions.”

Unraveling Risks

The work expands the list of maternal health conditions that track with autism-linked antibodies, says Lior Brimberg, assistant investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York. Brimberg was not involved in the new study, but was part of a 2013 investigation showing that women who carry antibodies associated with autism are also at an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease, in which the body attacks its own tissues.

Because the blood samples were taken after the children were born, it isn’t certain the children were exposed to the antibodies in the womb. To address this uncertainty, Van de Water’s team is repeating the analysis in pregnant women.

If the results hold up in large numbers of women, they point to a new segment of the population at risk for the antibodies. “Our hope is to better understand what the risk factors are, because you could potentially mitigate gestational diabetes,” Van de Water says.

Van de Water’s team now plans to conduct studies in mice to determine how inflammation during pregnancy might lead to the production of antibodies that attack the fetal brain.

  1. Krakowiak P. et al. Autism Res. Epub ahead of print (2016) PubMed
  2. Braunschweig D. et al. Transl. Psychiatry 3, e277 (2016) PubMed

When Play is Criminalized: Racial Disparities in Childhood

From TruthOut

By Eisa Nefertari Ulen
July 25, 2016

"Black, Brown and low socio-economic status children (are denied) the fundamental right to blow dandelions, twirl, laugh out loud, race downhill and, yes, yell and bump and push and struggle -- and grow into adulthood secure in the memory of a childhood where they ran free and did play." 

Racial disparities in the way children are allowed to play
denies many Black kids an important childhood right.
(Photo: Stefano Brivio / Flickr)

A significant segment of the child-age population in the United States is effectively denied one of the most important rights of childhood: free play. The trend away from unstructured play can have deleterious effects on the cognitive, social and emotional development of affected children.

Because of disparities in opportunities for physical activity at school, the semi-privatization of public space, and the criminalization of Black and Brown bodies in motion, children of color, especially those of low socio-economic status, too often miss this essential requirement for healthy childhood development.

According to Diane Barnes, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in private practice in New York City, "both children and adolescents require at least 60 minutes or more per day" of physical activity. "Their activities," Barnes says, "are obviously different. While young children are running around the playground, older kids are more likely to be engaged in exercise that is related to a sport such as football or soccer."

It is the "running around" -- the uninhibited activity -- that is so crucial to cognitive, social and emotional childhood development. "Free play should be imaginative and self-directed," says Barnes. "The ideas should come from within. Dance classes and soccer classes do not count as free play."

Indeed, even school physical education classes, while important to overall wellness and an essential component of a balanced, healthy education, don't count as free play. "While it would be wonderful to increase PE," Barnes says, "PE should not be mistaken as free play, because it is not. It is not only necessary for children to have the room to play, but this play needs to be free play and not under the microscope of teachers or other professionals."

The Importance of Free Play

Indeed, a growing body of research proves the influence of play on children is overwhelmingly positive, as it leads to greater academic achievement and better executive function . Free play looks less like PE and more like recess -- or at least like recess time as memorialized in the well of the American imagination. Images of children goofing off, climbing, leaping, falling and even bruising with wild abandon populate the collective consciousness of our past.

However, despite the efforts of movements like Free-Range Kids , American children rarely move independently, without the watchful gaze of adults who monitor their every movement. This hypervigilant eye is watchful even when older school-aged children play in their own neighborhoods. For children who are Black and Brown, this adult gaze -- in the form of surveillance by both police and school authorities -- often criminalizes their young bodies. Sufficient research reveals the tremendous racial disparities in disciplinary responses to children's behavior in schools and in communities.

An issue brief published by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity found that,

".... African American students, and especially African American boys, are disciplined more often and receive more out-of-school suspensions and expulsions than White students. Perhaps more alarming is the 2010 finding that over 70% of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or Black. A 2009-2010 survey of 72,000 schools (kindergarten through high school) shows that while Black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions. Over all, Black students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their White peers."

These disparities seem to suggest an inherent deviance present in Black children, a deviance that requires punitive responses to maintain order. However, Black children are more likely to be suspended from school than their white peers even when the "offense" in question is the same.

Indeed, a survey of the literature published by The Equity Project at Indiana University determined that, "Research has failed to support the common perception that racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline stem from issues of poverty and increased misbehavior among students of color." Disproportionate surveillance and punishment of Black children, regardless of socioeconomic class, also manifest outside of school buildings.

People of color are more likely to be stopped by police while driving, are more likely to be detained by police when charged with felonies than "comparably situated" whites, and are more likely to go to prison. These stark realities endure in the public perception of Black and Brown bodies, even when those bodies belong to children. Black and Latino teens are more likely to be stopped and frisked by police than their white counterparts.

This mistreatment is at least partially rooted in an implicit bias that strips Black children of their innocence. The American Psychological Association has found that,

"Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime."

Black parents know these facts, even when they are unaware of the research and statistics behind them. And of course, these realities mean that Black and Brown children's right to free play is significantly infringed.

Reilly Bergin Wilson is well-versed in the facts behind this infringement. Wilson is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow in the Environmental Psychology Doctoral Program at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY), and a former Fulbright Fellow. She is also a research associate for the Children's Environments Research Group at The Center for Human Environments and a board chair at play:groundNYC .

"At several of our events, I have spoken with African American parents and grandparents who specifically talked about frustrations with the harsh discipline that their children face in schools," Wilson says. "Indeed, one mother that I had a lengthy conversation with last year at our Governors Island event had become so distraught with school disciplinary procedures that she had chosen to home-school her son.

While I was not surprised by this, having followed this trend in critical urban education literature and in the news, it is still heartbreaking to watch a young child play intently, building a world I could never have imagined out of cardboard and duct tape and string, while his mother tells you that he was repeatedly suspended for 'talking back' to a teacher. That mother made an extremely difficult life decision to protect her son, but one that is not an option for many families. I can't imagine what it feels like to be a parent and have to send your child every day to a place where he or she is chastised and degraded."

The Relevance of Adventure Playgrounds to Children of Color

Black and Brown children's bodies are so heavily policed that the state of being a child of color in America can feel like a kind of occupation. This occupation of the child inhibits free play. According to Wilson, the war-time conditions that inspired the adventure playground movement when it originated in Denmark, approximate the conditions Black caregivers face today.

While most American playgrounds contain permanent structures, like swings and slides, which were built according to very strict, very adult guidelines, in adventure playgrounds, or "junk playgrounds," children use wood, old tires, tape and other materials to build play environments they can tear down and build again according to their own imaginative visions.

The first adventure playground was produced by a Workers Cooperative Housing Association in Emdrupvej, Denmark, during the 1940s German occupation of that country. Parents needed solutions to shield young people from the occupying forces as they engaged in everyday play activities. Parents feared that "their children's play might be mistaken for acts of sabotage by soldiers," Wilson explains.

Rather than roam and play as children have done through time everywhere in the world, in Denmark and later, in blitzed neighborhoods throughout England, war-weary children turned to adventure playgrounds, which offered safe spaces to engage in the exuberant bursts of activity and noise-making associated with truly free play.

"Parents of young people of color in the United States often face very similar concerns," Wilson says, "as their sons and daughters are likely to encounter disproportionate rates of discipline and policing, both in public spaces and inside of school buildings. Black male children in particular are often not afforded the benefit of being perceived as innocent, and behavior that is forgiven of white children is more often interpreted as deviant when exhibited by children of color."

With Black children facing suspension for wearing their hair in a natural stylehandcuffed for showing their friends a science experiment and physically disciplined for minor infractions, Black parents often fear that free play, and the exuberant expression of freedom uninhibited play engenders, puts their children at risk.

Punitive discipline and the policing of Black children in schools is just one impediment to free play in communities of color. When families wish to encourage free play for their children in schools that don't suffer from predatory officers and officials, those of low socio-economic status often lack safe spaces in which to do so.

Studies published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and the American Journal of Health Promotion concluded that Black and Brown children and children of a low socio-economic status aren't even getting access to basic PE, much less the richer experience of free play that Barnes described or the adventure playground model that Wilson works to support.

Defending the Right to Play

In addition to insufficient resources to devote to movement time in schools, emphasis on test scores and other quantitative means of evaluating performance have created what Wilson calls "play-averse schooling regimes." Even middle-income white families find themselves in the surreal position of having to schedule in free play for their children. For families of low socio-economic status and families of color, inequities in school funding exacerbate the problem of children's access to free play.

Wilson believes that "for play equity to become a reality, schools will need to stop being funded by local property taxes; standardized testing should not determine school budgets; and playworkers [adults who work in adventure playgrounds] should be hired and trained to facilitate recess by providing loose parts and producing material opportunities rather than behavioral directives."

This call for a fundamental shift in the organization and funding of public schools is not unlike Wilson's vision of public parks, which she believes are compromised by the fundraising capacities of conservancies and "Friends of" groups in high socio-economic status communities, and "the semi-privatization of public space that helps cement disparities in funding."

"I think we all need to challenge the revanchist parks funding systems in cities," Wilson says, using a term rooted in nineteenth-century France, where "revanchists" sought to reinstate the bourgeois order in opposition to the socialist uprising of the Paris Commune.

In the current day, revanchist systems are understood as those that enable more powerful groups in society (such as affluent residents) to regain their territorial domination over less powerful groups (such as homeless people and communities of low socio-economic status) through policies of spatial containment and displacement.

Though revanchist groups in high socio-economic status communities are engaged in well-intentioned efforts to reverse the losses parks experience because of city funding, they create a stark imbalance that people not only see but also feel as they move from parks in low-income neighborhoods to parks in high-income neighborhoods.

Wilson envisions greater equity in the disbursement of funds for public spaces and greater local control over the use of those funds received. "We need to demand that parks funding is allocated for labor rather than construction, so that instead of heralding one-million-dollar built-permanent playgrounds, we celebrate grassy lots with lots of material fluidity, where local residents are not only given true control over the projects but also paid a living wage to maintain the space."

Wilson cites California Bay Area's Pogo Park project as an example of community transformation developed through thoughtful intentionality with regard to where children play.

Money often presents the biggest barrier to providing well-trained playworkers on adventure playgrounds because, as Wilson says, "it is much easier to get money for capital projects, such as building a playground, than for ongoing labor costs." Wilson says advocates for adventure play opportunities, such as Providence PlayCorps, which "hires and trains local residents to be playworkers in existing public parks, are already addressing these issues in their on-the-ground work."

But regardless, she says, "the reality remains that the production of adventure play opportunities is labor intensive, and the largest impediment to providing them in a sustained program is funding for playworker salaries."

While Wilson recognizes money as an impediment to free play opportunities for children of color and low socio-economic status, she also advocates for greater intentionality with regard to the human interactions that occur in public parks.

"I would really like to entreat white adults to force themselves to be aware of how they might be unconsciously biased against children of color, particularly black children, in terms of how they interpret their play behaviors and motivations, whether they smile at them as readily as they smile at white children, and whether they proscribe to them all of the sympathies that they lend to children that might look more like themselves," she says.

The othering white gaze gives cultural permission to law enforcement officers to police children of color. But a shift in the way white adults see Black and Brown children can reduce opportunities for their objectification and criminalization.

It is the human element in the free play movement that presents the biggest area of concern for anyone interested in fairness and equality in the development of young people's bodies and minds. Too many American children are denied what the UN has identified as a fundamental right of all children everywhere: play.

Barnes, who earned her MSW at the University of Connecticut and has two young children of her own, lists isolation, anxiety, lack of appetite or overeating, nervousness, the development of headaches and stomach aches, and depression as the range of possible outcomes when children aren't given opportunities for free play.

Is it fair to link children's emotional health, mental health and academic outcomes to access to free play? "All the literature," Barnes insists, "points in this direction." She says that children who engage in regular free play "have a better awareness of others' feelings because they interact with others and problem-solve in an organic way. Because it is fun, they tend to be less anxious. It gets them moving, so they tend to be more active and hence healthier adults. Studies show that even 10-minute breaks throughout the day significantly improve learning."

Childhood is not more precious when it presents in a white body, yet racial disparities in the availability of free play -- and permission to engage in it -- reinforce the notion that white children are more valuable than Black and Brown children. One way to think about these racial disparities is that denied access to free play among children of color helps concretize the inequities in health and human development that persist across lifetimes.

Institutionalized racism in schools, the police state, and even implicit bias in public parks and playgrounds deny Black, Brown and low socio-economic status children the fundamental right to blow dandelions, twirl, laugh out loud, race downhill and, yes, yell and bump and push and struggle -- and grow into adulthood secure in the memory of a childhood where they ran free and did play.


Eisa Nefertari Ulen is author of the novel Crystelle Mourning, a novel described by The Washington Post as "a call for healing in the African American community from generations of hurt and neglect." She is the recipient of a Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center Fellowship for Young African American Fiction Writers, a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship and a National Association of Black Journalists Award. Her essays exploring African American culture have been widely anthologized, and her most recent essay, "Black Parenting Matters:Raising Children in a World of Police Terror" was published in the Truthout anthology, Who Do You Serve, Who Do Your Protect?

Eisa has also contributed to Essence, The Washington Post, Ms., Health, Ebony, The Huffington Post, The Root,, The Grio and She has taught at Hunter College and The Pratt Institute and is a founding member of RingShout: A Place for Black Literature. You can contact her online at and on Twitter at @EisaUlen.


Friday, July 29, 2016

An Early Bedtime for Kids May Fight Weight Gain

From The New York Times Family Blog "Well"

By Roni Caryn Rabin
July 14, 2016

Preschool children who are in bed by 8 p.m. are far less likely to be obese during adolescence than children who stay up late, a study has found. Their risk of teenage obesity is half the risk faced by preschoolers who stay up past 9 p.m.

The research analyzed data gathered on nearly 1,000 children born in 1991 whose bedtimes were recorded when they were 4½ years old, and whose height and weight were recorded at age 15. The children were part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, done under the auspices of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Among the children who were in bed by 8 p.m., 10 percent were obese as teens, compared to 16 percent of those who went to bed between 8 and 9 and 23 percent of those who went to bed after 9, according to the study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The researchers adjusted for such factors as socioeconomic status, maternal obesity and parenting style and still found that the children who went to bed by 8 p.m. were at less than half the risk of teenage obesity as those who were up past 9, said Sarah E. Anderson, the paper’s lead author and an associate professor of epidemiology at the Ohio State University College of Public Health in Columbus.

Although the study does not prove that early bedtimes protect against obesity, Dr. Anderson said, “there is a great deal of evidence linking poor sleep, and particularly short sleep duration, to obesity, and it’s possible the timing of sleep may be important, above and beyond the duration of sleep.”

“This provides more evidence that having an early regular bedtime and bedtime routine for young children is helpful,” she said.

Parents as Equal Participants in Team Meetings

From Parents Have the Power
to Make Special Education Work

By Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves
July 28, 2016

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the role of parents at Team meetings. In our conversations with other parents and in too many online sources, there is frequently a misconception that IDEA gives parents an equal voice with school personnel in deciding what services or educational placement their child needs.

The phrase that is most often cited is “equal participant,” which many parents assume means that the school must accept their suggestions at Team meetings.

The Opportunity to Participate, Not Decide

While IDEA does require that parents be “afforded the opportunity to participate” in all Team meetings [34 C.F.R. § 300.322 (a)], the right of participation is not the same as the right of decision making.

The law, in fact, only requires schools to schedule meetings so that parents have the opportunity to attend and for schools to consider any information (such as independent evaluations) or concerns that the parents bring to the meeting.

“Consider,” however, does not mean “accept.”

IDEA is clear that the school has the ultimate responsibility to ensure that a student’s IEP includes the services and placement needed for a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Because the law makes the school responsible, the law must also give the final decision on what constitutes FAPE to the school.

If parents disagree with the school’s decision, the law provides a due process remedy, either through mediation or a hearing.

Unfortunately, pursuing due process rights can be expensive, time-consuming, and have an uncertain outcome. This means that short of going to mediation or a hearing, you must arrive at Team meetings prepared to be as persuasive as possible in advocating for the services and placement you feel are necessary for your child.

What Can You Do?

Some recommendations we have are:

  • If the Team won’t agree to all your suggestions, try to come to a mutually agreeable compromise. Remember that your goal is to achieve the best possible result for your child’s education, not to “win” a contest with the school.
  • Have a relative or trusted friend attend the meeting as a note taker so that all important agreements are recorded and the subject of a follow-up letter to your special education liaison. This will prevent later misunderstandings about what was agreed to. You can record a Team meeting, assuming your state allows this, but our experience is that this is not always the best option. (See Recording Team Meetings, Not That Simple)
  • Become familiar with any federal or state law that might impact the service or placement you want to have included in your child’s IEP. Sometimes school personnel and administrators aren’t familiar with the laws that regulate special education. A citation, gently delivered, can work wonders in breaking down uninformed resistance. If the resistance is intentional, making the Team aware of the law will work toward your advantage before a hearing officer, if it comes to that.

The bottom line is that thoughtful preparation is the best way to become “more equal” in helping your child obtain an appropriate education.

The ADA Turns 26 Years Old

From Jim Gerl's Special Education Law Blog

The actual prevalence of disability for once made visible. These people are our children and other family-members, friends and fellow citizens. Please remember that on election day!

By Jim Gerl, Esq.
July 26, 2016

The Americans With Disability Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Happy Birthday ADA! This important law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, and state and local government services.

To celebrate, here are some interesting facts and numbers from our friends at the Census Bureau:

Population Distribution

56.7 million - The number of people in the United States in 2010 with a disability, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation

People with disabilities represented 19 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population. People with a disability have a physical or mental impairment that affects one or more major life activities, such as walking, bathing, dressing, eating, preparing meals, going outside the home or doing housework. A disability can occur at birth or at any point in a person’s life.

Source: Americans With Disabilities: 2010.

15.7 million - The number of people age 65 and older with at least one disability, according to data collected from the American Community Survey from 2008 to 2012, which makes up 39 percent of the population in this age group. Of this group, two-thirds had difficulty in walking or climbing stairs. The second-most cited disability was difficulty with independent living, such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping.

Source: Older Americans With a Disability: 2008-2012.

19.9% - The percentage of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in West Virginia in 2014 with a disability — the highest rate of any state in the nation. Utah, at 9.6 percent, had the lowest rate.

Source: 2014 American Community Survey, Table GCT1810.

28.1% - The percentage of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in Pike County, Ky., in 2014 with a disability — among the highest rate in the nation among counties with populations of 65,000 or more. Loudoun County, Va., at 5.5 percent, had among the lowest rates.

Source: 2014 American Community Survey, Table GCT1810.

23.2% The percentage of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in The Villages (CDP), Fla., in 2014 with a disability — among the highest rates in the nation among places with populations of 65,000 or more. San Ramon, Calif., at 4.3 percent, had among the lowest rates. A place is a city, town, village or borough, either legally incorporated or not.

Source: 2014 American Community Survey, Table GCT1810.

Services for Those with Disabilities

2,833 - The number of business establishments providing special needs transportation in 2012, up 20.7 percent from 2,347 in 2007. Such businesses may use specially equipped vehicles to provide passenger transportation. These businesses employed 61,605 people in 2012 and generated revenues of $3.5 billion. Employment was up 24.0 percent and revenues increased 27.7 percent since 2007.

Source: 2012 and 2007 Comparative Economic Census Geographic Area Series (NAICS485991).

14,060 - The number of business establishments that provided pet care (except veterinary services) in 2012. These businesses generated revenues of $3.4 billion. Among these businesses are those that train assistance dogs.

Source: 2012 and 2007 Comparative Economic Census Geographic Area Series (NAICS 812910).

25,964 - The number of business establishments providing services for the elderly and people with disabilities in 2012. These businesses employed 901,359 workers and generated $34.1 billion in revenues. In 2007, there were 20,433 such establishments, employing 621,545 people and producing $25.3 billion in revenues.

These establishments provide for the welfare of these individuals in such areas as day care, non-medical home care or homemaker services, social activities, group support and companionship.

Source: 2012 and 2007 Comparative- Economic Census Geographic Area Series (NAICS 624120).

7,832 - The number of business establishments providing vocational rehabilitation services in 2012; these businesses employed 312,659 people and generated revenues of $12.4 billion. In 2007, there were 7,631 such establishments, employing 303,713 people and producing revenues of $11.5 billion. These businesses provide job counseling, job training and work experience to people with disabilities.

Source: 2012 and 2007 Comparative Economic Census Geographic Area Series (NAICS 624310).

2,344 - The number of business establishments providing translation and interpretation services in 2012; these businesses employed 24,926 people and generated revenues of $4.2 billion. In 2007, there were 1,975 such establishments, employing 14,546 people and producing revenues of $1.9 billion. Among these businesses are those that provide sign language services.

Source: 2012 and 2007 Comparative Economic Census Geographic Area Series (NAICS 541930).

3,597 - The number of business establishments providing home health equipment rental in 2012, down 4.4 percent from 3,762 in 2007. Such businesses rent home-type health and invalid equipment, such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, oxygen tanks, etc.

These businesses employed 33,935 people in 2012 and generated revenues of $5.4 billion. Employment was up 2.8 percent while revenues decreased 7.8 percent since 2007.

Source: 2012 and 2007 Comparative Economic Census Geographic Area Series (NAICS 532291).

Specific Disabilities

Note: All data in this section come from Americans With Disabilities: 2010, which contains data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
  • 7.6 million: Number of people age 15 and older in 2010 who had a hearing impairment. Among people 65 and older, 4 million had hearing impairments.
  • 8.1 million: Number of people age 15 and older in 2010 with vision impairment.
  • 30.6 million: Number of people age 15 and older in 2010 who had movement impairment, such as walking or climbing stairs.
  • 3.6 million: Number of people age 15 and older in 2010 who used a wheelchair. This compares with 11.6 million people who used canes, crutches or walkers.
  • 2.4 million: Number of people age 15 and older in 2010 who had Alzheimer’s disease, senility or any form of neuro-cognitive disorders.
  • 12.0 million: Number of people age 15 and older in 2010 who required the assistance of others in order to perform one or more basic or instrumental activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, doing housework and preparing meals.

Older People with a Disability

Note: The source for the data in this section is Older Americans With a Disability: 2008-2012, which contains data from the 2008 to 2012 American Community Survey.

25.4% - The percentage who were age 85 and older with a disability among the population age 65 and older, according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

More than One-Third: The proportion of people age 85 and older with a disability who lived alone, compared with one-fourth of those age 65 to 74, according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

54.4% The percentage of the older population who had not graduated from high school and had a disability, twice the rate of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (26.0 percent), according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey.

12.6% - The percentage of older Americans living in a household with a disability living in poverty, compared with 7.2 percent of older household population without a disability, according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. 


$21,232 - Median earnings in the past 12 months for people with a disability. This is 68 percent of the median earnings, $31,324, for those without a disability. (Both figures pertain to the civilian, noninstitutionalized population 16 years and older, with earnings in the past 12 months.)

Source: 2014 American Community Survey, Table B18140.


Note: The source for the data in this section is Desire to Move and Residential Mobility: 2010-2011, a report which uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

12.5%The percentage of householders with a disability who desired to move to another residence, higher than the corresponding figure of 8.2 percent for those without a disability. Those with mental disabilities were the most likely to desire to move (20.6 percent).

17.3%The percentage of householders with a disability who desired to move to another residence and actually did so over a one-year period.

9.3%The percentage of all householders with a disability who moved to another residence over a one-year period.