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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Client Kudos for Dr. Amity Kulis and NESCA


March 28, 2015

Having posted this review on NESCA's Facebook page for all the world to see, we doubt that this mom would take issue with our re-publication of it here:

Amity Kulis, Psy.D.
"I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the insightful evaluations that Dr. Amity Kulis was able to provide for my children. They were teenagers struggling personally and in school, Dr.Kulis's evaluations were tremendous in helping our family understand the nuances of learning disabilities and navigate the world of special education. Her advice and insight was the catalyst for my children to better understand and advocate for themselves.

NESCA's staff is professional and the Blog is terrific! Critics may say the evaluations are expensive but I would have paid double to get to the root of my teens problems - NESCA was worth every penny and then some."
--Parent of Teens Evaluated at NESCA

Raising Your Successful 35-Year-Old

From The New York Times Parenting Blog

By KJ Dell'Antonia
April 9, 2015

"...if we insist on prizing the result more than the process, they’ll never learn that sometimes it’s worth it to shoot for the moon, even if you don’t get there."

What do we mean when we say we want to raise “successful” children? Too often, especially around this time of year, that conversation centers on college or the kinds of academics and activities that lead to college.

“Success” is hard to measure, and those external markers make for comforting milestones along the way.

Comforting, but dangerous. Because when checking off the achievement box is what defines success, it’s too easy to forget that it’s the qualities in our children that might lead to those accomplishments that matter — not the goals themselves.

Achievements, from the A on the science project to the letter of acceptance from Big U, can be the gold stars for parents. They’re the visible signs that we’re doing something right, and that makes it tempting to push our children forward, just a little (or maybe a lot) by stepping in when it looks as if they might not quite get there on their own. The working model of the water cycle was her idea; we just “helped” build it. She did the algebra homework; we just corrected it. He wrote the essay; we just added some structure to the argument.

Those “justs” can be killers, says pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Raising Kids to Thrive (American Academy of Pediatrics). Because while we want to protect our children from harm, what we too often end up doing is protecting them from learning. That help creep gets in the way of our children experiencing the kind of results that teach lessons they need, like “I could have done better if I’d worked harder,” and, “you can’t leave things to the last minute and expect to do them well.”

It teaches them, instead, that their parents believe they are incapable of achieving anything worthwhile on their own.

“We should be thinking about the adult we’re raising from the day our children are born,” says Dr. Ginsburg, and that means looking past the goals immediately in front of them to the tenacious, resilient, empathetic, innovative person you hope they will become.

No one science project will teach all that, but it’s the cumulative effect of many projects — projects done well, projects done poorly, projects that were big dreams but out of reach and projects that turned out exactly as planned, whether they look that way to adult eyes or not — that builds up the muscles our children need as adults.

Letting things turn out poorly can be hard for parents, especially when it “matters.” We extrapolate and catastrophize. Too much poorly done math homework will mean my second grader never gets to calculus. A poor showing at the audition he is not practicing for means he will never get another chance at the state orchestra.

It takes so long for children to learn the lessons we think they should learn when things go awry — what if by the time they’ve learned to do better, it’s too late for whatever we had in mind?

When we parents catch ourselves thinking that way, we need a goal reset. Dr. Ginsburg’s metaphor for the parenting style that lets children experience their own successes and failures is “lighthouse parenting.” “I want to be a model for my child, a stable force that they can always see,” he says. “I want to make sure that they don’t crash against the rocks, but I have to make sure that they can ride the waves on their own.”

It’s distinguishing between a crash and a rough wave that’s hard. “How do you protect and let them learn? It’s a hard line to toe,” he says, especially as children get older and their decisions begin to have longer-term consequences. It’s easier to let a fifth grader fail a test she didn’t study for than it is to look the other way when the same thing happens to a high school junior, and on specific questions like that, there’s “no prescription that applies to every kid,” he says.

Parents, he suggests, should focus on giving children navigational skills. Instead of talking to a teacher about how a child could improve a grade, send the child in herself, but help her practice what to say. Don’t nag endlessly about homework, but help create a study or project timetable that would make it possible to get it all done. When the cardboard water cycle model fails to hold water, help her think of the best way to present her now-soggy project without it, congratulate her on thinking big, and remind her that not everything works perfectly the first time.

Raising a successful adult means letting a child be a child, with all the mistakes and consequences and learning that come with childhood. If we cover up our children’s best work with ours, they learn that their best isn’t good enough. If we cover up their weak efforts with our willingness to do more, then they’ll never learn that more is worth doing. If we prop up their procrastination with our ability to nag and cajole, they’ll never learn to discipline themselves.

And, if we insist on prizing the result more than the process, they’ll never learn that sometimes it’s worth it to shoot for the moon, even if you don’t get there.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Good Mental Health Away from Home Starts Before College

From The Wall Street Journal

By Andrea Petersen
April 13, 2015

When Eliza Lanzillo went off to college, she was excited to leave behind her old school, her old routines—and her old mental health challenges.

“I thought of it as a clean slate. Nobody knows my history. I could be a new person,” says the now 21-year-old junior at Brown University. “I didn’t want people to see me as the girl with anorexia.”

Ms. Lanzillo started struggling with the eating disorder and anxiety in high school. She had been doing so well the summer before college that she stopped therapy when she arrived for college in Providence, R.I. But a few months into her first semester, she relapsed.

Brown University junior Eliza Lanzillo had a relapse of anorexia
and anxiety during her freshman year. She advises arriving
students with mental health issues to find a therapist near campus
even if they think they won’t need one. Photo: Brittany Comunale

With high-school seniors deciding where they’ll be attending college in the fall, now is the time, psychologists and psychiatrists say, for teens and their parents to focus on how to maintain good mental health away from home. This is particularly vital for the growing number of teenagers who have already struggled with mental illness in high school.


A Different Kind of College Prep

Teens should be able to handle basic tasks on their own before college. Feeling comfortable with these tasks is particularly important for students with pre-existing mental health issues:
  • Make doctor/dentist appointments.
  • Get enough sleep—without parental prodding.
  • Make travel reservations and get to the airport or train station.
  • Advocate for themselves with teachers and other authority figures.
  • Manage a budget.
  • Manage emotional upheavals.
Source: Anne Marie Albano, Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders


About 14.3% of college students were diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems during the past year, and 12% were diagnosed with or treated for depression, according to a spring 2014 survey of 79,266 college students by the American College Health Association. That is up from 10.4% for anxiety and 10.2% for depression in the fall 2008 survey. Anxiety and depression are the most common disorders, according to the survey.

Why mental illness seems to be rising among college students is unclear. Better medications and therapies are likely making it possible for more young adults with even serious mental disorders to attend college. The growing number of outreach programs by colleges is likely bringing more young adults into treatment. Advocacy groups like Active Minds Inc., a nonprofit with chapters on 428 campuses, are trying to reduce the stigma around having a mental illness.

But many students arrive unprepared, experts say.

“What happens is everyone is under the impression that at the end of high school, magically college will be different,” says Anne Marie Albano, director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders in New York. “That once she or he gets away from the same old routine and the same old peers that never connected with him, and the teachers who were mean, it is going to be different. And it isn’t.”

Indeed, in a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2014 that followed 288 adolescents and young adults with anxiety disorders, nearly half relapsed within six years of treatment. Late adolescence is also when more serious illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often kick in.

Living away from home for the first time, making new friends and handling the rigors of college coursework can all make the transition to college difficult—especially when those are added on top of an existing mental illness.

“Even good change is stressful,” says Micky M. Sharma, a clinical psychologist and the director of the Office of Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service at Ohio State University. He says traffic in the counseling center surges in mid-October, around the time of the first midterm exams.

Psychologists and psychiatrists say it is critical for students to become as independent as possible during the months before school starts.

Parents are on the hook, too. Now is the time for them to learn to let go. They should move from doing things for teens to taking on the role of adviser or coach, experts say. That includes formulating strategies and weighing solutions to problems with children and—after they make attempts at independence—reviewing how things went.

This often means parents must confront their own anxieties about their children failing. Ideally, parents should be practicing letting go all along and not waiting until just before college starts.

Concerned adults should try to avoid becoming what Dr. Sharma calls snowplow parents: those who remain too involved at college. “They will just come in and knock me out of the way to make sure their son or daughter gets what they need. Just because you can text your son and daughter 10 times a day doesn’t mean that should be happening.”

Dr. Albano at Columbia runs a six-to-eight-week college readiness program for high-school seniors with anxiety disorders and depression. During “exposure” group sessions, teenagers role-play to practice talking to professors and meeting new people—and learn to deal with negative or anxious thoughts that arise.

Dr. Albano has Columbia colleagues act the part of skeptical professors. The teens practice asking for help or extensions on assignments. Students are also sent to cafeterias at local universities to practice getting food and approaching groups of peers.

A young woman attends a group meeting of Dr. Albano’s
Launching Emerging Adults Program at Columbia.
Photo: Brian Harkin for The Wall Street Journal

 Then, in periodic transition sessions, parents and teens meet together. The goal is to help parents ease up on any overprotection. Often, parents of children who have struggled with mental illness have responded by doing more and more things for them. Then the children “start falling behind their peers in developmental tasks,” Dr. Albano says.

Dr. Albano has compiled a list of young-adult milestones that include managing money responsibly and establishing emotional independence from parents as part of the overall program dubbed LEAP (for Launching Emerging Adults Program). Parents and teens fill out what she calls scaffolding forms that detail which life tasks the teens can do independently, which they can’t and which are in the gray zone—ones they sometimes do on their own, sometimes not. The families work on moving tasks from the dependent zone to the independent one.

Dr. Albano says college-bound students should go to yearly physicals by themselves. They should also take at least one out-of-town trip alone, including making travel reservations and getting to the train or plane by themselves. “If you end up on a train going to Boston instead of Baltimore, all the better,” Dr. Albano says. “They learn it is not a catastrophe to make mistakes.”

Students arriving on campus also need to make sure they can handle taking their medication and getting refills on their own. Louis Kraus, chief of child psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, suggests students get a seven-day pill pack and set a daily alarm on their smartphones to help remember medication. Dr. Kraus has frank discussions about drinking with students on stimulants and benzodiazepines, drugs that can be deadly when combined with alcohol.

If teens are stable, they may be able to continue working with their home psychologist or psychiatrist via phone or Skype sessions, Dr. Kraus says. But establishing a relationship with a doctor near campus is critical if there’s a risk of a relapse or medication changes. While college counseling centers often offer emergency sessions, waits to initiate regular therapy appointments can be several weeks long.

Many centers have caps on the number of sessions students can have. About ¼ of colleges have no access to psychiatrists except as a private referral, according to a 2013 survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.

Still, these logistical problems are solvable. Ms. Lanzillo, the Brown student, found her equilibrium after finding treatment near campus.

The transition also proved tricky for Josh Ratner, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Maryland in College Park. He says not having some basic life skills made his move to college much more stressful. “A lot of parents don’t realize they’re babying their kids. When you have mental health issues, the really simple things become intimidating.”

Mr. Ratner, who struggles with ADHD and anxiety but says he is now doing well, recalls a time when his car broke down at school. “I didn’t know what tire I needed, what service station to go to,” he says. “I spent a whole day missing classes on the phone with my Dad.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

A List of Massachusetts Educational Advocates


March 26, 2015

It's peak IEP season again--what better time to publish a roster of Massachusetts special education advocates?

This list has been recently updated, and includes many people with whom our client families have worked over the years and found to be effective. It will also soon be available on our new website. Please let us know if you spot any errors or omissions.

We hope you find this information helpful.

Mehrzad N. Araghi
Aligned Connections Consulting
Tel. (508) 259-4660
30 Cummings Road
Newton, MA 02459

Kathleen F. Bach
Ashland, MA
Tel. (508) 881-9076; Fax: 508-881-9076
Email: hellooutthere@comcast.net

Barbara Ball
Tel. (617) 244-6030

Elizabeth Yancy Bostic
The Parent Coach, LLC
10 Terrance Way, P. O. Box 245
Reading, MA 01867
Tel. (617) 592-3852; Fax: (781) 209-5956

Ginny Brennan

Janice Papazian Boyce
Partners in Special Education
310 Stow Road
Harvard, MA 01451
Tel. (508) 868-2336

Ellen Chambers
SpEdWatch, Inc.
Pepperell, MA
Tel. (978) 433-5983; Fax: (978) 433-0492

Lucie Chansky
259 Jackson Street
Newton Centre, MA 02459
Tel. (617) 244-7310; (617) 965-7310; Fax: (617) 965-7310

Noreen Quinn Curran
Advocacy Associates
68 Leonard Street
Belmont, MA 02478
Tel. (617) 489-2745; Fax: (617) 489-2745

Jennie DunKley
JDK Communications
9 Meetinghouse Lane
South Easton, MA 02375
Tel. (508) 230-7357; Fax: (508) 230-7363

Maureen Finaldi
Advocacy for Special Kids
25 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 200
Braintree, MA 02184
Tel. (781) 930-3482, ext. 323; Fax: (781) 394-0719

Jayne Fisher, M.A., M.S.
Worcester, MA
Tel. (508) 755-4557; FAX: (508) 791-5135

Mary Fishman
Joanne Robichaud
Educational Consultants of Cape Cod
8 West Bay Road,
Osterville, MA 02655
Tel. (508) 420-0030; Fax: 508-534-1468

Susan Haberman
60 Davidson Road
Framingham MA 01701
Tel. (508) 965-4175; Fax: (508) 405-4544

Ellie Hickey
8 Cedar Street
Chestnut Green Suite #43
Woburn, MA, 01801
Tel. (781)733-3561

Liz Hopkinson
67 Indian Spring Road
Concord, MA 01742
Tel. (978) 505-1634

Danielle Jarjura
Children's Speech and Hearing Specialists, LLC
128 Wheeler Road
Burlington, MA 01803
Tel. (781) 784-9225

Mary-Beth Landy
Special Kids with Needs
67 Prescott Street
Medford, MA 02155
Tel. (617) 699-0364

Stephanie LeBlanc
Autism Spectrum Advocacy
76 Main Street (at One Claflin Common; 1st Floor)
Hopkinton, MA 01748
Tel. (508) 625-2209, ext. 2; Fax: 508-625-2209

Stephen Lowe, Ph.D.
Triad Advocacy
Concord, MA
Tel. (978) 263-9725; Fax: (775) 254-1289

Martina Roy “Tina” Lynde
Tel. (617) 965-5549; FAX: (617) 527-9690
11 Stearns Street
Newton, MA 02459

Catherine S. Mayes
Second Nature Social Skills
15 Main Street Ext., Unit 7
Plymouth, MA 02360
Tel. (508) 747-2663; Fax: (508) 747-3670

Faith M. Morgan, B.S.Ed., MPP/Family-Child
Massachusetts Family and Child
126 Main Street  #19
Watertown, MA 02471
Tel. (617) 393-3704

Tracey Morgan
A Bright IDEA Advocates
1661 Massachusetts Avenue,  #241
Lexington, MA 02420
Tel. (781) 734-0419

Joan Munnelly
32 Bernard Road
Wellesley, MA 02481
Tel. (781) 237-8474

Donna Murphy
Burlington, MA 01803
Tel. (781) 272-7747

Karla Murphy
North Shore Advocacy Services
One (R) Newbury Street, Suite 205
Peabody, MA 01960
Tel. (978) 536-5075; Fax: (978) 536-5133

Melody Orfei
Triad Advocacy
Concord, MA
Tel. (978) 371-2182

Patricia A. “Trish” Orlovsky
Better Outcomes Advocacy
62 Iroquois Road 
Arlington, MA 02476-7841
Tel. (339) 368-0463; Fax: (781) 641-0182

Bonnie Polakoff
Polakoff Educational Advocacy
68 Whit's End Road
Concord, MA 01742
Tel. (978) 371-9886

Lynne Rachlis
61 Hoover Road
Needham, MA 02494
Tel. (781) 449-0622

Christine M. Riley
Cape Cod Advocate
P.O. Box 1614
Marstons Mills, MA 02648
Tel. (508) 428-2288; Fax: (508) 613-7627

Teresa Sauro
Special Touch Advocacy
50 Cook Street,
Newton, MA 02458
Tel. (617) 969-5445; Fax: (617) 641-9168

Cheryl Temple
Autism Spectrum Advocacy
76 Main Street (at One Claflin Common; 1st Floor)
Hopkinton, MA 01748
Tel. (508) 625-2209, ext. 4; Fax: (508) 625-2209

Sue Terzakis                                                                                      
Educational Advocacy Solutions
Andover, MA  01810
Tel. (978) 686-3212

Joan Toussaint
Maynard, MA
Tel. (978) 897-1622; Fax: 978-897-1884

Marjorie “Margie” Walsh
Center for Children with Special Needs of MA
534 Main Street, Suite 3
Weymouth, MA 02190
Tel. (781) 331-5437 (KIDS)

Debi Wasilauski, M. Ed.
Autism Spectrum Advocacy
76 Main Street (at One Claflin Common; 1st Floor)
Hopkinton, MA 01748
Tel. (508) 625-2209, ext. 3; Fax: (508) 625-2209

Renee Williams
Olive Branch Advocacy
P.O. Box 8036
Lynn, MA  01904-8036
Tel. (617) 312-1498; Fax: (781) 479-0756

Rachel Wilson
Educational Advocacy and Consulting Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 309
Winchester, MA 01890
Tel. (781) 369-1394; Fax: (781) 369-1002

Andrea Wizer
7 Emerson Road
Needham, MA 02492
Tel. (781) 449-8367; Fax: (781) 444-2268
Email: ajwizer@gmail.comt

Thursday, April 16, 2015

An Educational Consultant's View on Admissions & Learning Disabilities

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog

April 3, 2015

Editor’s Note: This week, we interview Lori Day, an Educational Consultant in Newburyport, MA. Having worked in academia for her entire career, Lori is well-prepared to serve the needs of her clients. We chatted with her recently about her work with parents, students (with and without learning disabilities), and schools. (Jackie Stachel)

JS: Why do families seek out educational consultants?

LD: Every child deserves the most ideal academic and social environment in which to develop, learn and grow into adulthood. Finding the right school for a child is one of life’s most important decisions emotionally and financially. Families need help in navigating their many educational opportunities, a process that can be fun and rewarding, but for some families also challenging, overwhelming, frustrating, and stressful.

In most cases it is also quite time consuming, so having a consultant to guide parents (and students) and help them stay organized and punctual within the admissions process can make everything go more smoothly and relieve anxiety. Family harmony during multiple school applications is a common positive outcome of hiring an educational consultant!

Parents seek an educational consultant for a number of other important reasons, as well.

Admissions for Independent Schools

JS: It seems that it’s more competitive than ever to get into an independent private school. In some instances, parents even need to submit essays along with their children’s applications. Do you help parents with the application process?

LD: I do. I offer what I call soup-to-nuts support. This includes everything from determining which schools are a good match, to helping parents stay organized and meet deadlines, to mock interviewing the student. I advise on every step of the process, including parent and student essays. I also do direct advocacy with the schools. It’s a bit like having an agent!

I have relationships with the admissions officers at a large number of schools in the Boston area and New England, and I am able to “pitch” for kids and liaison between parents and schools. Some parents worry that schools might look down on a family that hires a consultant, but the opposite is true. Because consultants are good at directing well-matched students to apply to the right schools, the schools enjoy working with consultants.

And for parents, sometimes the emotional support is as highly valued as everything else I do—I’ve “been there” as a parent myself, and I understand the anxiety. I’m a psychologist by training and can help parents stay calm even when navigating a stressful process!

JS: As someone who was formerly in admissions at a private school, do you hold the secret to getting into the right school?

LD: Ah, the Secret Sauce. You want to know what it is, heh heh! Obviously, there is nothing I know that leads to guaranteed admission to one’s first-choice school, and in fact, the contract parents sign with me says that I cannot guarantee admission!

However, the odds of admission do increase for parents who use experienced consultants. This is partly due to the relationship consultants have with schools, but perhaps more a result of good collaboration between parents and the consultant.

Right now, about four years in with this consulting practice, 89% of my clients have gotten into their first-choice school and 11% their second-choice school. So far, none have had to settle for a school that was their third choice or below.

The reason for this is important to understand. It is not because I have the Secret Sauce! It is because I am only interested in working with parents who value expertise and are able to consider my advice on which schools will be a good match for their child, both in terms of being a place where their child will thrive, and also being a school where their child stands a reasonable chance of gaining admission in a competitive process.

So, if a parent comes to me with a copy of US News & World Report tucked under his or her arm, saying, “Here’s the list of this year's Top Ten schools, and I want one of those,” but their child is an average student, things are not going to work out. If parents are able to look at their child realistically, and work with me on a list of schools that includes some good bets, a safety, and a reach or two, then the odds are good their child will end up with at least one desired acceptance letter in March.

Finding the Best School Fit for Students With Learning Disabilities

JS: How do you help parents with a child who is bright, yet has a diagnosed learning disability such as ADHD or dyslexia?

LD: Each year I work with some parents who have children with mild special needs such as well-managed ADHD, mild Executive Dysfunction or Dyslexia. Sometimes they need a school like the Carroll School or the Landmark School, but often they can apply successfully to mainstream schools. As long as parents are realistic about who their children are, I can help.

We would look at options where support is provided and where the attitude of the school is welcoming.

The most difficult placements involve children who are on the autism spectrum or have behavioral problems. The independent schools I work with are more wary about admitting kids who will require a lot from teachers or will upset other tuition-paying parents. It is a sad truth. I am up-front with parents about this, and they make an informed decision about whether they want to hire me, understanding that I can help them, but that it will be a more difficult endeavor than it is for children with difficulties that do not involve significant social or behavioral deficits.

I can also refer parents to other consultants who specialize in school placements for children with challenging behaviors.

JS: What are some common questions or concerns that parents have about special education services in public and private schools?

LD: There are lots. Many parents are pleasantly surprised to learn that students in private schools do not have to take the state-mandated standardized testing, like MCAS here in Massachusetts. Parents of children with special needs are especially keen to release their children from this testing, and they do not have to opt out in private school, because none of the students take those tests.

Students with IEP’s or 504 plans are part of a very structured legal support system in public schools that they will not have in private schools. Private schools do not have to follow the same legal guidelines public schools do. They provide as much or as little support as they choose. In some cases, kids are better off staying in public schools, even though parents may be dissatisfied in some way and looking to get them out.

I can review a student’s neuropsychological testing, report cards and so forth to help parents decide whether it makes sense to pursue applying to private schools. If it seems best for a child to stay in public school and receive better support, or to apply to non-mainstream private schools, I can refer the parents to other consultants or legal advocates, such as those at the Goldberg Center in Braintree, MA, to help them resolve special ed concerns within the public school or seek private options.

Popular Resources for Parents

JS: Do you have any books, websites, or other resources that you like to recommend to parents?

LD: There are so many resources out there, and it can get very confusing for parents. Obviously, if your child has autism or dyslexia or some other specific learning or developmental disability, you will have many books to choose from that address your child’s particular issues.

For example, if your child has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) I recommend The Out-of-Sync Child.

But the books I find myself recommending most often are Wendy Mogel’s books: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus. This is because I find that a lot of my clients really struggle with helicoptering and overprotecting their children in ways that prevent them from developing resilience.

I also recommend all of Ellen Braaten’s books, especially Straight Talk About Psychological Testing for Kids.

For parents looking for a really helpful resource online, there is a great new site called MyEdGPS. It is an online platform for parents of children with a variety of special or exceptional needs. Parents can receive guidance on developing more effective collaboration with school personnel, help with understanding complex processes and federal or state regulations, and suggestions for professionals or schools in their local area.

About Lori Day

Lori Day has an M.Ed. and an Ed.S. in School Psychology from The College of William & Mary. Prior to opening her consulting business, Lori started her career as a school psychologist, and moved on to roles in undergraduate admissions at MIT and then at the Fenn School. She also served as Head of School at Odyssey Day School in Wakefield, MA. Email her at lday@loridayconsulting.com.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gifted Students Are Still Stepchildren

From the Education Week Blog
"Walt Gardner's Reality Check" 

By Walt Gardner
April 10, 2015

No other country in the industrialized world pays so little attention to its gifted children as the U.S. ("Gifted students -especially those who are low-income - aren't getting the focus they need," The Washington Post, March 31).

This may be because we assume that the gifted don't need the same focus as their classmates.

That's a mistake we will regret deeply in the years ahead as we continue to squander one of our greatest assets. It was only in 1988 that the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program became law.

But from the start, there was never enthusiastic support, and federal appropriations remained paltry over time.

I understand up to a point why the emphasis has been on underachieving students. They deserve help in overcoming whatever deficits they bring to the classroom. But I detect a bias against gifted students that if directed toward any other group would be the cause of outrage and litigation.

The truth is that gifted students are no less in need of attention than other students. That's particularly so for black and Hispanic students.

The closest I came to teaching gifted students during my 28-year career in the Los Angeles Unified School District was the year I was assigned a class of "advanced" tenth graders. Up until then, I had a few gifted students in my regular English classes. But given a class composed solely of these students was an entirely different matter. I don't think I ever had to work as hard.

These students challenged me everyday by asking questions reminiscent of graduate students in university seminars. I don't know if I ever answered their questions to their satisfaction, but I quickly learned they had unique needs that demanded attention.

The latest report about gifted students by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a compelling reminder that the issue remains. This creates what is termed an "excellence gap" that threatens to deprive the nation of precious talent. It's time to disavow ourselves of the notion that the gifted will learn by themselves.

They need our support, but time is running out.

Can Fish Oil Help Boys With ADHD Pay Attention?

From HealthDay News
via MedicineNet

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

March 19, 2015

Boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and some vegetable oils, a small European study suggests. 

Those who regularly ate an omega-3-loaded margarine experienced an improvement in their ability to pay attention, compared with boys who did not, researchers report in the March 19th issue of Neuropsychopharmacology.

The results suggest that parents might help children with ADHD by adding foods rich in omega-3s to their diet, or by giving them a fish oil supplement, said lead author Dienke Bos, a postdoctoral researcher with the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

"It most likely wouldn't hurt to try using omega-3 supplements in kids together with their medication, as it might give some extra alleviation" of ADHD symptoms, Bos said.

However, the improvement in the boys' attention was not huge, and omega-3s did not seem to help other ADHD-related symptoms like impulse control or aggression, said Russell Barkley, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Parents should not replace their kids' ADHD medication with omega-3s, Bos and Barkley said.

"My opinion at the moment is that if there is any benefit, it is modest, nowhere near what one gets with [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]-approved medications," Barkley said.

Boys in the study without ADHD who consumed omega-3s also seemed to benefit in terms of attention.

Omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in fatty fish like trout, herring and salmon, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also are found in soybean and canola oils, and in walnuts and flaxseed.

Prior research has shown the potential benefits of omega-3s in preventing heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The polyunsaturated fats also might help a wide variety of other health problems, although study results have been inconclusive.

In the United States, about 5.9 million children younger than 18 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the CDC. It is one of the most common childhood psychiatric conditions.

In this study, researchers recruited 40 Dutch boys between ages 8 and 14 who had been diagnosed with ADHD, along with 39 typically developing boys.

All were asked to eat 10 grams (about one-third of an ounce) of margarine every day. Half of the boys in each group ate a margarine with 650 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, while the rest had plain margarine.

Parents were asked to fill out standard questionnaires that assess a child's behavior for signs of ADHD, and MRI brain scans were taken of the children.

By the end of the 16-week study, all boys who ate omega-3-rich margarine exhibited improved attention, compared with the boys eating plain margarine, researchers found.

Dr. Alex Strauss is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

"It seemed to improve the attention in individuals both with and without ADHD, so it sounds like there might be some general benefit to the brain," he said.

Therefore, it wouldn't hurt if parents made omega-3 fatty acids part of every child's diet, since there are no downsides to reasonable consumption and a number of potential benefits, Strauss said.

Whether kids receive their omega-3s in food or pills is another matter. Fish oil supplements are good because a person knows the dose of omega-3s they will receive, but food sources of omega-3s might be more complete, Bos said.

"On the one hand, using fish oil supplements, you would be able to take in much higher dosages of fatty acids at a time compared to eating fish," Bos said. "On the other hand, fish oil supplements only contain limited types of fatty acids. Fish contains many more types of fatty acids, and it has also been suggested that this combination with other fatty acids results in a better absorption of the omega-3 fatty acids we are interested in."

Researchers aren't sure why omega-3s appeared to help battle inattentiveness, but Bos noted that omega-3s are an important building block in the brain. The fatty acids are abundantly present in the brain's cell membranes, where they are thought to facilitate the transmission of neural signals, he said.

There are no follow-up trials currently planned, Bos said, although Strauss and Barkley said the findings warrant further study.