Search This Blog

Friday, November 30, 2018

Children Who Start School a Year Early More Likely to Be Diagnosed with ADHD

From Harvard Medical School

November 28, 2018

Could a child's birthday put them at risk for an ADHD misdiagnosis? The answer appears to be yes, at least among children born in August who start school in states with a September 1st cutoff enrollment date, according to a new study led by Harvard Medical School researchers.

The findings, published November 28 in The New England Journal of Medicine, show that children born in August in those states are 30 percent more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis, compared with their slightly older peers enrolled in the same grade.

The rate of ADHD diagnoses among children has risen dramatically over the past 20 years. In 2016 alone, more than 5 percent of U.S. children were being actively treated with medication for ADHD.

Experts believe the rise is fueled by a combination of factors, including a greater recognition of the disorder, a true rise in the incidence of the condition and, in some cases, improper diagnosis.

The results of the new study underscore the notion that at least in a subset of elementary school students, the diagnosis may be a factor of earlier school enrollment, the research team said.

"Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being over-diagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school," said study lead author Timothy Layton, assistant professor of health care policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

Most states have arbitrary cutoff birth dates that determine which grade a child will be placed in and when they can start school. In states with a September 1st cutoff, a child born on August 31st will be nearly a full year younger on the first day of school than a classmate born on September 1st.

At this age, Layton noted, the younger child might have a harder time sitting still and concentrating for long periods of time in class. That extra fidgeting may lead to a medical referral, Layton said, followed by diagnosis and treatment for ADHD.

For example, the researchers said, what may be normal behavior in a boisterous 6-year-old could seem relatively abnormal relative to the behavior of older peers in the same classroom.

This dynamic may be particularly true among younger children given that an 11- or 12-month difference in age could lead to significant differences in behavior, the researchers added.

"As children grow older, small differences in age equalize and dissipate over time, but behaviorally speaking, the difference between a 6-year-old and a 7-year-old could be quite pronounced," said study senior author Anupam Jena, the Ruth L. Newhouse Associate Professor of Health Care Policy in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, and an internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. "A normal behavior may appear anomalous relative to the child's peer group."

Using the records of a large insurance database, the investigators compared the difference in ADHD diagnosis by birth month -- August versus September -- among more than 407,000 elementary school children born between 2007 and 2009, and who were followed until the end of 2015.

In states that use September 1st as a cutoff date for school enrollment, children born in August had a 30 percent greater chance of an ADHD diagnosis than children born in September, the analysis showed. No such differences were observed between children born in August and September in states with cutoff dates other than September 1st for school enrollment.

For example, 85 out of 100,000 students born in August were either diagnosed with or treated for ADHD, compared with 64 students per 100,000 born in September. When investigators looked at ADHD treatment only, the difference was also large -- 53 of 100,000 students born in August received ADHD medication, compared with 40 of 100,000 for those born in September.

Jena points to a similar phenomenon described in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. Canadian professional hockey players are much more likely to have been born early in the year, according to research cited in Gladwell's book. Canadian youth hockey leagues use January 1st as a cutoff date for age groups.

In the formative early years of youth hockey, players born in the first few months of the year were older and more mature, and therefore more likely to be tracked into elite leagues, with better coaching, more time on the ice and a more talented cohort of teammates. Over the years this cumulative advantage gives the relatively older players an edge over their younger competitors.

Similarly, Jena noted, a 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that children born just after the cutoff date for starting school tend to have better long-term educational performance than their relatively younger peers born later in the year.

"In all of those scenarios, timing and age appear to be potent influencers of outcome," Jena said.

Research has shown wide variations in ADHD diagnosis and treatment across different regions in the United States. ADHD diagnosis and treatment rates have also climbed dramatically over the last 20 years.

In 2016 alone, more than 5 percent of all children in the United States were taking medication for ADHD, the authors note. All of these factors have fueled concerns over ADHD overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

The reasons for the rise in ADHD incidence are complex and multifactorial, Jena said. Arbitrary cutoff dates are likely just one of many variables driving this phenomenon, he added. In recent years, many states have adopted measures that hold schools accountable for identifying ADHD and give educators incentives to refer any child with symptoms suggesting ADHD for medical evaluation.

"The diagnosis of this condition is not just related to the symptoms, it's related to the context," Jena said. "The relative age of the kids in class, laws and regulations, and other circumstances all come together."

It is important to look at all of these factors before making a diagnosis and prescribing treatment, Jena said.

"A child's age relative to his or her peers in the same grade should be taken into consideration and the reasons for referral carefully examined."

Co-authors include researchers from the Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director under grant 1DP5OD017897.

Journal Reference
  • Timothy J. Layton, Michael L. Barnett, Tanner R. Hicks, Anupam B. Jena. Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder and Month of School Enrollment. New England Journal of Medicine, 2018; 379 (22): 2122 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1806828

Administrators in Low-Income Schools Must Remain Acutely Aware of Lead's Impact

From Education Dive

By Allie Gross
November 28, 2018

Dive Brief
  • Following a New York Times investigation into the prevalence of lead in New York City public housing, Chalkbeat examined how lead exposure impacts the education of affected students.
  • Prolonged proximity to lead has been linked to long-lasting behavioral problems and brain development impairment, writes Chalkbeat, noting that this can cause poor academic performance, trouble developing positive social relationships and misbehavior.

Dive Insight

Exposure to lead is more likely to be felt by poorer students, who are more likely to live, or attend school, in older buildings that either have lead in their paint or in aged and corrosive pipes.

Exacerbating this issue is the fact that, as Chalkbeat points out, low-income children are less likely to have access to healthy food options — a factor that is important in minimizing some of the effects of lead exposure (“... bodies will absorb less lead if they’re eating other essential metals that humans need, like calcium and iron,” Morri Markowitz, director of the Lead Poisoning Treatment and Prevention Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx told Chalkbeat.)

This reality is why administrators and educators in low-income communities should be more aware of the fact that lead-exposure could be impacting their student body.

While getting rid of the source — i.e. lead paint or pipes — can be impossible for a school if the source is a home, specifically public housing, making sure families are informed and educated about the risks is important for catching exposure as soon as possible.

Districts can consider sending a letter home about the effects of lead and what to look for within their homes, or how to request that lead levels are tested in their water or walls. Each state law is, of course, different. In Illinois, for example, landlords are not required to test for lead paint. They can only be required to remove it if a tenant’s blood shows exposure.

Encouraging families to take their children to have their blood tested is another option. Additionally, lessons on the topic could potentially be taught in classrooms.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Why is School Segregation Rising as Neighborhoods Become More Diverse?

From Education Dive

By Allie Gross
November 20, 2018

"The negative consequences of segregation have long been documented​, and ... 'require the immediate attention of school leaders, policymakers, and the public as a whole.'"

Dive Brief
  • New research from Professor Ryan Coughlan at Guttman Community College, CUNY​, shows that while neighborhoods in the nation's 100 largest cities are becoming more diverse, their corresponding public schools are heading in the inverse direction, Chalkbeat reports.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, 72% of U.S. cities saw their neighborhoods become more integrated, while 62% saw their schools become more segregated, according to Coughlan's study, published last month in the peer-reviewed Peabody Journal of Education.
  • What is causing the trend is unknown, though Coughlan told Chalkbeat that he believed school choice, specifically the rapid growth of the charter sector since the mid-1990s, may be a contributing factor — though Chalkbeat notes some cities exemplifying this trend, like Seattle, have very few charters.

Dive Insight

As Chalkbeat notes, despite the limitations to the study — specifically on a micro-level, when one dives into the individual city data — there are big-picture trends that can be taken away, especially around rising school segregation.

Among its metrics for segregation, the study compared the racial breakdown in schools to the rest of the city. But, since the study didn’t include charter schools in most cases, Chalkbeat points out that the data could sometimes be difficult to draw conclusions from. Detroit, for example, has over half its students attending charters.

Regardless, the negative consequences of segregation have long been documented​, and Coughlan writes in the study that its rapid increase in schools alongside greater neighborhood integration "requires the immediate attention of school leaders, policymakers, and the public as a whole."

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights issued a letter explaining that schools serving more students of color were less likely to have students benefit from the presence of an experienced and highly-qualified teacher, or to offer Advanced Placement courses or even mainstays such as chemistry and calculus. These schools were also less likely to have access to technology.

That same year, UC Berkeley economist Rucker C. Johnson published a study finding that students attending segregated schools were more likely to be poor and more likely to not graduate high school. If they did wind up attending college, Johnson noted, they would be less likely to finish.

Additionally, his study found that these students were more likely to go to jail and live in segregated neighborhoods as adults.

Somewhat complicating Johnson’s study is the fact that Coughlan’s study makes the case that segregated schools don’t necessarily mean segregated neighborhoods. This twist could be attributed, as Coughlin suggested to Chalkbeat, to the more recent proliferation of school choice and charter schools.

In 2017, for example, the Associated Press published an analysis of 2014-2015 national school enrollment data, where it found that “more than 1,000 of the nation’s 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily.”

The data showed that 4% of traditional public schools were 99% minority, compared to 17% for charters — a figure that rose to 25% for charters located in cities versus 10% for traditional schools.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Football Affects Youth Brain Development After Just One Season, Study Says

From CNN

By Sandee LaMotte
November 26, 2018\

How Children's Brains Develop

Their youthful brains were developing normally, with no signs of developmental, psychological or neurological problems. None had ever had a concussion. But by the end of a single football season, 24 children between the ages of 9 and 18 who had more frequent impacts to the head showed signs of damage to brain development, new research says.

Related: Football's impact on the brain starts early

"Repetitive head impact exposure may have a cumulative effect in the rapidly developing brains of youth and high school football players," said study co-author Gowtham Krishnan Murugesan, a radiology research assistant at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, adding that the results mirror other recent findings.

The study outfitted 60 youth and high school football players who had no history of head trauma or developmental issues with a head impact telemetry system that measures the magnitude, location and direction of impacts to the head. The researchers were not looking at whether the impact resulted in a concussion, only that impact occurred.

Related: Playing football young may mean earlier cognitive, emotional problems

The children were sorted into two categories: high cumulative head impact players (24) and low cumulative head impact players (36).

Before beginning to play, each child had a resting state functional scan, known as an fMRI; the scans were repeated at the end of football season. The researchers were trying to see how exposure to repetitive hits affects the normal "pruning" process in the brain that occurs during adolescence.

"Pruning is an essential part of brain development," Murugesan said, comparing the process to how a tree needs to have dead or unneeded branches cut to keep it healthy and allow it to grow. "Disruption in normal pruning has been shown to be related to weaker connections between different parts of the brain," he said.

Related: Deaths on college and high school football fields are a rare -- but reliable -- tragedy

After comparing the functional MRI results to the player's level of impact, the researchers found that youth in the high-impact group had damage to their brains' pruning process after one season.

"Our study has found a significant decrease in gray matter pruning in the frontal default mode network, which is involved in higher cognitive functions, such as the planning and controlling of social behaviors, " Murugesan said.

Related: It's not concussions that cause CTE. It's repeated hits, a study finds

Although the "teenage years are a critical time for brain development, brain remodeling or synaptic pruning, this was a short-term study and did not follow the players longitudinally over several years. We don't really know the full application," said Dr. Julian Bailes, director of neurosurgery and co-director of the NorthShore University HealthSystem Neurological Institute, who was not involved in the research.

Weill Cornell neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, who was also not involved in the study, called the research "early" and said the results don't necessarily "translate to a clinical or cognitive outcome."

More research is needed to see whether the decline in brain pruning permanently affected the child's cognitive function or whether the brain's natural plasticity allowed it to repair itself.

"I would call this a pilot study," Isaacson said. "The call to action would be that we need more robust longitudinal studies with a pre- and a post-assessment of more than brain imaging. The study should also measure cognitive and neurological function and look for changes."

As we learn more about the issue, Isaacson said, parents should do everything they can to limit contact in sports, "especially in practice before games, where studies show the majority of contact occurs."

Bailes pointed out that caution should be used in all sports, not just football.

"It's soccer; it's ice hockey; it's wrestling," he said. "It's any sport that has the potential for collision and head impact."

Explainer: What’s the Difference Between Decodable and Predictable Books, and When Should They Be Used?

From The Conversation

By Simmone Pogorzelski and Robyn Wheldall
November 11, 2018

A child’s early experiences with books both at home and later in school have the potential to significantly affect future reading performance. Parents play a key role in building oral language and literacy skills in the years prior to school. But it’s teachers who are responsible for ensuring children become readers once at school.

While there’s much we know about how students learn to read, research on books used to support beginning reading development is sparse. Guidelines provided in the Australian Curriculum and the National Literacy Progressions complicate matters further. Teachers are required to use two types of texts: decodable and predictable books.

Related: Explainer: what is phonics and why is it important?

Each book is underpinned by a different theory of reading, arguably in conflict. This contributes to uncertainty about when and how the books might be used.

The Difference Between Decodable and Predictable Books

Predictable books and their associated instructional strategies align with a whole-language approach to reading.

In this approach, meaning is prioritised. Children are encouraged to draw on background knowledge, memorise a bank of the most common words found in print, and to use cues to guess or predict words based on pictures and the story. This method is not consistent with a phonics approach.

This is a good example of predictable text.

At the earliest levels, predictable and repetitive sentences scaffold beginning readers’ attempts at unknown words. Word identification is supported by close text to picture matches and familiar themes for children in the early years (such as going to the doctor).

While there is some evidence the repetitive nature of predictable books facilitates the development of fluency, the features contained within disadvantage young readers as they do not align with the letter-sound correspondences taught as part of phonics lessons. This is particularly problematic for children who are at risk of later reading difficulties.

In comparison, decodable books consist of a high percentage of words in which the letters represent their most common sounds. Decodable books align with a synthetic phonics or code-based approach to reading. This approach teaches children to convert a string of letters (our written code) into sounds before blending them to produce a spoken word.

The reading video above is an example of a child reading
one of the many widely available decodable books.

When reading decodable books, children draw on their accumulating knowledge of the alphabetic code to sound out any unknown words. Irregularly spelt words (for example was, said, the) are also included, and children receive support to read these words, focusing on the sounds if necessary.

There is mounting evidence for the use of decodable books to support the development of phonics in beginning readers and older kids who haven’t grasped the code easily. Decodable books have been found to promote self-teaching, helping children read with greater accuracy and independence. This leads to greater gains in reading development.

The Role of Books in Early Reading Development

Children need lots of opportunities to practise reading words in books. Given research demonstrates a synthetic phonics approach provides young readers with the most direct route to skilled reading, there’s a strong logical argument for supporting early reading with decodable books.

Related: As easy as ABC: the way to ensure children learn to read

Until the most recent version of the Australian Curriculum, only predictable books were included in the Foundation and Year one English curricula. The addition of decodable books recognises the critical support they provide beginning readers. But this places teachers in a difficult position because the elaborations in the curriculum documents place more emphasis on the strategies designed primarily for use with predictable books.

Using Different Books in the Classroom

While reading is an extraordinarily complex process, a model of reading called the Simple View of Reading is very helpful from an educational perspective. It explains skilled reading as the product of both decoding and language comprehension. This helps us understand what we need to do when teaching children to read, and the types of books they need to support early reading development.

Before they enter school, the majority of children are considered to be in the “pre-alphabetic” stage of reading. In this stage, children have little or no understanding the written code represents the sounds of spoken language. They would not have the skills to use decodable books.

Instead, they recognise words purely by contextual clues and visual features. For example, children know the McDonalds sign because of the big yellow arches (the M) or can read the word “stop” when they see the sign, but not out of that context.

Predictable books would help the pre-alphabetic reader gain insight into the workings of texts, especially with regard to meaning. In particular making the connection between spoken words – which they are familiar with – and written words, which they are not.

After decodable books have been used to get children beyond beginning
reading, real books provide broader vocabulary and language structure.

Beyond this stage, predictable texts become less useful because memorisation and meaning-based strategies aren’t sustainable long term. Once children have advanced to the partial and full alphabetic stages of reading, usually fairly quickly after starting formal reading instruction, they benefit more from decodable books which allow them to apply the alphabetic code.

So Where to From Here?

There is no evidence children benefit from the continued use of decodable books beyond the beginning stages of reading. In the absence of any empirical studies, we suspect it would be a good idea to move children on once they have sufficient letter-sound knowledge and decoding skills that they can apply independently. At this point, the introduction of real books would benefit students and provide access to more diverse language structures and vocabulary.

Related: International study shows many Australian children are still struggling with reading

Given what we know about how reading works, it makes sense for children in the early stages of learning to read to be given decodable books to practise and generalise their developing alphabetic skills. At the same time, they will continue to benefit from hearing the rich vocabulary and language forms in the children’s books being read with (to) them.

It’s less clear what predictable texts contribute to beginning reading in schools when considering how reading skills develop. But there is evidence they might have a useful role to play in pre-school prior to the start of formal reading instruction.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

New Government Report Suggests 1 In 40 Kids Have Autism

From DisabilityScoop

By Blythe Bernhard
November 26, 2018

National survey results show as many as 1 in 40 U.S. children have been diagnosed with autism, continuing an upward trend.

A public service announcement from Autism Speaks offers information about
the signs of autism. More parents are reporting that their children have the
developmental disorder, according to a government survey.

Researchers estimate 1.5 million American children ages 3 to 17 have been diagnosed with the developmental disorder, for a prevalence rate of 2.5 percent.

The figures published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics come from data collected through the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, a government survey of parents of more than 50,000 children across the country.

As part of the survey, parents were asked if a doctor or other health care provider had ever told them that their son or daughter had autism and, if so, they were asked if the child currently has the condition.

“It is difficult to pin down an exact number. We don’t have a biological marker for autism,” said Michael Kogan of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration and lead author of the new report. “We know that in terms of having a major condition like autism, parents are usually pretty good reporters compared to medical records.”

While the government tracks autism prevalence through several methods including the parent survey, the official prevalence rate is based on data collected through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

In April, the CDC reported from that data collection that autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children based on medical and educational records of thousands of 8-year-olds at multiple sites in the network.

While there is some debate over whether parent surveys or medical records are more accurate, the true prevalence rate is probably somewhere between 1 in 40 and 1 in 59, said Alycia Halladay, chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation.

“There is evidence to say that the method of collection impacts prevalence numbers,” Halladay said.

The autism prevalence rate of 2.5 percent found in the 2016 parent survey is up from 1.7 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2012. But Kogan cautioned that the rise could be mostly attributable to changes in the survey format.

Changes in the diagnostic method and better awareness among clinicians are thought to contribute to the rise in autism rates over the past few decades. But there is also an unknown percentage that could represent a true rise in cases, Halladay said.

“There is a part that we don’t know where it’s coming from,” she said. “There probably is a real increase but we don’t know what’s causing it yet.”

The study also provides the first national estimates on the prevalence of treatment for autism, Kogan said. About 64 percent of parents who indicated that their child had autism reported that their son or daughter had received behavioral therapy in the last year, and 27 percent reported that their child had been treated with medication for autism 
symptoms, including irritability.

The survey results also show the challenges parents face in getting appropriate care, from referrals to specialists to finding family-centered care.

“Parents of children who have autism spectrum disorder are quite frustrated with trying to get services for their children, even compared to kids with other emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders,” Kogan said.

There is other evidence that children and adults with autism have problems accessing care for psychiatric and other medical issues, Halladay indicated.

“Clinicians and the community should take this with other data and say we need to do a better job at making sure we’re helping everyone in the family with autism in addition to any other issues that they may have,” she said.

The research is published in the December 2018 edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Your Child’s Temperament: 9 Basic Traits to Consider

From GreatSchools

By GreatSchools Staff
November 25, 2018

Nine different temperament traits affect how well your child fits in at school, with peers, and at home.

How often have you heard a child described as “easy” or “difficult” or “shy until you get to know her”? These casual labels all refer to characteristics of child temperament, those traits that influence how your child reacts in various situations.

Researchers have described nine child temperament traits which individually, or in combination, affect how well your child fits in at school, with peers, and even at home. Temperament influences how teachers, peers, and family relate to her, as well as how she relates to them. Your child’s temperament directly affects how she approaches her school work and chores at home.

When a child’s natural behavior doesn’t fit with what is expected, social, family, or academic problems may arise. For a child with an identified learning disability (LD) or behavior issues, her particular temperament may help her achieve success more easily or it may compound her difficulties.

Behaviors for each temperament trait described below fall along a continuum. Responses toward either the high or low end — while still completely normal — may be cause for concern.

9 Child Temperament Traits*

1.) Activity Level

Your child’s activity level is the amount of physical energy evident in typical daily activities and behavior.

Low energy, high energy

At school, the more active child struggles to fit into an environment where suddenly she is expected to sit still for long periods of time. Her fidgeting and restlessness may disrupt the class and make it difficult for her to stay on task, but extra energy can be a benefit if channeled in a positive direction.

In contrast, kids with low activity levels adapt well to a structured school day but may be viewed as unmotivated.

2.) Sensitivity

Your child’s sensory threshold, or how easily your child is bothered by changes in the environment.

Low sensitivity, high sensitivity

Kids who are highly sensitive are very aware of their environment and can be disrupted in countless ways: clothes may itch, noise may distract, the chair may be too hard. While these children often have a heightened awareness to others’ thoughts and feelings, such a low sensory threshold may distract from studies and affect academic performance.

Less sensitive kids are more tolerant of environmental sensations but may be slow to respond to warning signals, such as school bells and smoke detectors.

3.) Regularity

The rhythm or predictable recurrence of daily activities or routines (such as waking, hunger, becoming tired), in a child’s personal habits or patterns in after-school routines.

Low predictability, high predictability
Children with high regularity enjoy a structured classroom but may have problems with changes in routine, such as a field trip. Kids with low regularity, on the other hand, may have difficulty following the school routine and cause disruptions in class, yet are less bothered when things don’t go according to the usual plan.

4.) Approach and Withdrawal

Your child’s initial reaction to new situations.

Withdraws, approaches

Bolder children approach new experiences with curiosity and openness but may jump in too quickly or react impulsively. Kids who are more hesitant prefer to hang back and watch for a while before engaging with a new person or activity, which may cause them to miss out on new experiences. A more cautious nature, though, does lower the risk of engaging in dangerous behaviors.

5.) Adaptability

How your child adjusts to new situations; length of time needed to accept changes in plan or routine. (This trait is different from approach/withdrawal in that it describes adjustment after the initial reaction to change.)

Slow to adapt, adapts easily

Adaptable children usually have an easier time; they tend to go with the flow. In school, this allows for ready adjustment to change but can also make the easy-going child more willing to adopt undesirable values or behaviors of peers.

More rigid children, those slower to adapt, may be less susceptible to negative influences. However, they may find new situations stressful and difficult — a potential problem in school, where change is frequent and the number of transitions increase through the grades.

6.) Mood

Your child’s general tendency toward a happy or unhappy demeanor.

Negative, positive

While all children display a variety of emotions and reactions, from cheerful to glum, affectionate to grumpy, each child is predisposed toward a generally positive or negative mood. A more negative child may have difficulty being accepted by family, teachers, and peers, and it can be tough for caregivers to distinguish real problems from the child’s typical mood.

A child who always seems to be in a good mood fits in more easily but may not be dealing honestly with all the experiences in her life.

7.) Intensity

The amount of energy your child puts into responses.

Less responsive, more responsive

A very intense child laughs and cries loudly, loves things or hates them, and puts a great deal of emotion into her reactions, so it’s easy to know where things stand. But a child who is overly responsive may drain a parent’s or teacher’s resources due to the child’s intense feeling level.

Kids who react mildly still feel all these emotions but do not exhibit such highs and lows in their responses. Low intensity is easier to deal with, but parents and teachers must be alert to more subtle signs of problems.

8.) Persistence

Your child’s ability to stick with a task in spite of distractions, interruptions, or frustration.

Low persistence, high persistence

High persistence is strongly correlated with academic success. The child with excessive persistence, however, may be a perfectionist — unable to judge when a task is finished adequately or reluctant to turn in an assignment because she feels it’s not good enough.

The child with low persistence may have difficulty in school because of a tendency to become irritated or annoyed when interrupted or when a task becomes difficult. Her inclination to give up easily or to ask for help, rather than try things independently, can lead to incomplete assignments or difficulty staying focused.

9.) Distractibility

Your child’s tendency to be sidetracked by outside noise or interruptions.

High distractibility, low distractibility

Distractibility is not the opposite of persistence — a child can be easily distracted and yet show high persistence by returning quickly to the task at hand. A distractible child notices everything going on around her and may even be diverted by her own thoughts and daydreams.

The opposite behavior in a child means she can concentrate despite any interruption. However, she may also tune out signals when it’s time to move on to something different.

*Based on Temperament and Development, by A. Thomas and S. Chess, published in 1977 by Brunner/Mazel, New York.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Autism Behaviors Show Unique Brain Network Fingerprints in Infants

From Elsevier
via ScienceDaily

November 13, 2018

A new study has identified unique functional brain networks associated with characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 12- and 24-month old children at risk for developing ASD.

The study is published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

The findings help pinpoint brain regions involved in particular aspects of ASD and provide clues as to how the characteristic behaviors -- known as restricted and repetitive behaviors -- develop in the brain from an early age.

"This study is the first to investigate which patterns of brain functional connectivity underlie the emergence of these behaviors in infancy," said co-first author Claire McKinnon, a lab technician in the laboratory of John Pruett, M.D., Ph.D. of Washington University School of Medicine, a lead researcher of the study.

Although the behaviors assessed in the study are important for typical development during infancy, increased prevalence of the behaviors at 12 months old is one of the earliest signs that an infant might later develop ASD. Few studies have managed to examine what is happening in the brain at this time because of the difficulty of using brain imaging techniques -- such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) -- with infants and toddlers.

The new study provides an important window into the brain during this critical time when brain circuits and ASD behaviors are developing.

"The study contributes to the growing body of evidence that changes in brain function, that can be measured in infants and young children using resting state fMRI, can reflect emerging differences in cognition and behavior that are associated with the autism spectrum and seen in children at increased risk for the disorder," said Cameron Carter, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

"Functional connectivity correlates of repetitive behaviors observable in infancy could be candidates for biomarkers that predict features of ASD before a clinical diagnosis, which typically is only possible after 24 months," said Ms. McKinnon.

In addition to potential as an early prediction tool, the authors also hope that the results may have use for treatments in ASD. "There is currently a lack of effective interventions targeting repetitive behaviors, and the specific neural correlates identified in this study could also be studied as potential targets for measuring response to future treatments," said Ms. McKinnon.

The study divided the behaviors into three subcategories -- restricted behaviors (e.g., limited interests), stereotyped behaviors (e.g., repetitive movements), and ritualistic/sameness behaviors (e.g., resistance to change). The abnormal functional connections associated with these subcategories involved several brain networks, including the default mode (a network typically most active at rest), visual, attention, and executive control networks.

The unique associations between these networks and specific behaviors reinforces the subcategories, whereas overlapping associations indicate that some aspects of the behaviors may share common origins.

Journal Reference
  • Claire J. McKinnon, Adam T. Eggebrecht, Alexandre Todorov, Jason J. Wolff, Jed T. Elison, Chloe M. Adams, Abraham Z. Snyder, Annette M. Estes, Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, Kelly N. Botteron, Robert C. McKinstry, Natasha Marrus, Alan Evans, Heather C. Hazlett, Stephen R. Dager, Sarah J. Paterson, Juhi Pandey, Robert T. Schultz, Martin A. Styner, Guido Gerig, Bradley L. Schlaggar, Steven E. Petersen, Joseph Piven, John R. Pruett. Restricted and Repetitive Behavior and Brain Functional Connectivity in Infants at Risk for Developing Autism Spectrum Disorder. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.bpsc.2018.09.008

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Diane Ravitch's Review of "Ghosts in the Schooyard"

From Diane Ravitch's Blog
A site to discuss better education for all.

By Diane Ravitch
November 20, 2018

The best book about education this year was written by a woman who is a poet, a playwright, a novelist, and soon to be the writer of a Marvel comic about “a black girl genius from Chicago.” Eve L. Ewing has a doctorate in sociology from Harvard and is now on the faculty of the University of Chicago.

In case you don’t know all this, I am referring to Ewing's new book about school closings in Chicago. Its title is Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side.

Eve Ewing was a teacher in one of the 50 public schools that Rahm Emanuel closed in a single day. Her book will help to memorialize Rahm Emanuel’s stigma as the only person in American history to close 50 public schools in one day.

Because she is a poet, the book is written beautifully. She has overcome the burdens of academic language, which can so often sound technical, bureaucratic, and dehumanizing. Her language goes to the heart of the experience of suffering at the hands of bureaucrats and technocrats.

She examines the school closings from the perspective of those who were its victims: students, families, communities.

The question at the heart of the book is this: Why do students and families fight to keep their schools open after the authorities declare they are “failing schools”?

She answers the question by listening to and recording the moving testimony of those who fought for the survival of their schools.

Ewing sketches the history of the Bronzeville community in Chicago, racially segregated by government action. What resulted was a community that was hemmed in but nonetheless developed strong traditions, ties, and communal bonds. One of those bonds was the one between families and schools.

She describes some of the schools that were closed, schools with long histories in the black community. Parents and students came out to testify in opposition to the closings. They spoke about why they loved their school, how their family members had proudly attended the school, only to be confronted by school officials who waved “data” and “facts” in their faces to justify closing their beloved school.

Ewing deftly contrasts the official pronouncements of Barbara Byrd-Bennett (now in prison for accepting kickbacks from vendors), who insisted that it was not “racist” to close the schools of Bronzeville with the emotional responses of the students and families, who saw racism in the decision.

Ewing writes powerfully about a concept she calls “institutional mourning.” Families experienced this mourning process as the city leaders killed the institutions that were part of their lives and their history. The school closings were “part of a broader pattern of disrespect for people of color in Chicago,” they were part of “a formula of destruction” intended to obliterate memory, history, and tradition.

The act of closing schools was integral to gentrification. And indeed, Chicago has seen a mass exodus of a significant part of its black population, which may have been (likely was) the purpose of the school closings and the removal of black neighborhoods.

Institutional mourning, she writes, “is the social and emotional experience undergone by individuals and communities facing the loss of a shared institution they are affiliated with—-such as a school, church, residence, neighborhood, or business district–especially when those individuals or communities occupy a socially marginalized status that amplifies their reliance on the institution or its significance in their lives.

Ewing asks:
“What do school closures, and their disproportionate clustering in communities like Bronzeville, tell us about a fundamental devaluation of African American children, their families, and black life in general? Is there room for democracy and real grassroots participation in a school system that has been run like an oligarchy?”
Byrd-Bennett spoke about a “utilization crisis” that required the closure of schools in Bronzeville and the dispersion of their students. Ewing offers a counterpoint, seeing the schools in the black community,
“... as bastions of community pride” and (parts of) a long-running war over “the future of a city and who gets to claim it. There is the need to consider that losing the school represents another assault in a long line of racist attacks against a people, part of a history of levying harmful policies against them, blaming them for the aftermath, then having the audacity to pretend none of it really happened. 
There is the way some of these policy decisions are camouflaged by pseudoscientific analysis that is both ethically and statistically questionable. 
There is our intensely segregated society to account for, in which those who attend the school experience a fundamentally different reality than those who have the power to steer its future. 
And finally, there is the intense emotional aftermath that follows school closure, which can have a profound, lasting effect on those who experience the closure even as it is rarely acknowledged with any seriousness by those who made the decision.”
One bright spot in her book is the story of the successful resistance to the closing of the Walter H. Dyett high school in Bronzeville. She explains who Walter H. Dyett was, why the school was important, and why the community fought to keep the school named for him open.

Dyett was a musician and a beloved high school music teacher; he taught in Bronzeville for 38 years. The school bearing his name may be the only one ever named for a teacher. A dozen community members, led by Jitu Brown of the Journey for Justice Alliance, conducted a hunger strike that lasted for 32 days. Only by risking their lives were they able to persuade the Chicago Mayor and his hand-picked Board to invest in the school instead of closing it.

Why do parents fight to save their schools, a fight they usually lose? She writes, “They fight because losing them [their schools] can mean losing their very world.”

I have underlined and starred entire paragraphs. Certainly, the testimony of students at public hearings, which was very moving. Also Ewing’s commentary, which is insightful.

At the hearing concerning the proposed (and certain) closing of the Mayo elementary school, students talked about the shame they felt.

One student, a third grader, testified:
"My whole class started breaking out crying, so did my teacher. We walked through the halls in shame because we didn’t want Mayo to close. When I’m in fourth grade, I was really thinking about going to the fiftieth year anniversary, but how can I when Mayo is closing?"
The shame was on Rahm Emanuel and Barbara Byrd-Bennett, but the students somehow felt culpable for what was done to them.

Another student from Mayo said:
"Every day I go to school, we sing the Mayo song, and we are proud to hear the song. We are proud to sing the song every…every day. All I want to know is, why close Mayo? This is one of the best schools we ever had."
The book reads like a novel.

Let me add that I have waited for this book for a long time, not knowing if it would ever be written. History told from the point of view of those who were acted on, rather than the point of view of those at the top of the pyramid. Whose story will be told and who will tell it? Eve Ewing has told it.

I found it difficult to put down.

Proactive Discipline Can Lower Likelihood of Problematic Classroom Behavior

From Education Dive

By Amelia Harper
October 31, 2018

Dive Brief
  • At its root, restorative discipline encourages teachers to approach issues proactively and supportively, creating classroom conditions where problems are less likely to arise and easier to resolve if they do, Edutopia reports.
  • Some key steps to achieving proactive discipline in the classroom involve relationship-building with students, developing classroom norms with student input, and making classroom expectations clear.
  • Supportive and responsive discipline involves modeling good behavior, reminding students of expectations, using positive language, rewarding effort and growth, using non-verbal signals as much as possible, and connecting with students to offer support or having a one-on-one “restorative chat” with a student when problematic behavior arises.

Dive Insight

Bullying continues to be a problem that plagues many schools. In a recent survey, one-third of students reported experiencing bullying in school — a rate that seems to be increasing despite the use of anti-bullying efforts.

Bullying can harm students and affect their academic performance and attendance rates, and school leaders bear some legal responsibilities regarding in addressing and preventing this from taking place.

However, the problems created by bullying and other troubled school behavior are not easy to solve. A recent study indicated that many anti-bullying measures schools are using are ineffective, and, in some cases, are counter-productive.

In addition, solutions such as zero-tolerance policies and out-of-school suspensions are often blamed for phenomena like the school-to-prison pipeline.

However, many schools are rethinking discipline and looking at alternatives to suspensions, including more positive approaches like restorative practices. These methods look at problems with student behavior as opportunities to explore the roots of the problems and teach students how to react more appropriately in the future.

Because the approach depends on relationship building, it takes more time than responsive discipline. However, these more positive approaches are also more conducive to learning and can help these students become more productive citizens in the long run.

Recommended Reading