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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Too Much Sugar: Sneaky Sources in Your Kid's Diet

From Scholastic's Parent & Child Magazine

By Katie Choi
September 11, 2014

It’s not just the soda! Even “healthy” foods can be packed with hidden sugar.

How’s this for a bitter truth: 16 percent of children’s calorie intake comes from added sugar — and the majority of that sugar is eaten at home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s not surprising, considering nearly 80 percent of packaged foods contain added sugar. And while you’d expect to find the sweet stuff in candy bars, cookies and soda, even seemingly healthy everyday foods like cereal and salad dressing can trigger a sugar high.

Part of the problem: Sugar is measured on food labels in grams, which are hard for the average person to visualize. A guideline to keep in mind: 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon, which has 16 calories. What’s more, natural and added sugars are not differentiated on labels, so it’s tough to know how much is added and how much is naturally occurring, says Kate Geagan, R.D., author of Go Green, Get Lean.

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Upcoming Events
  • October 7 (Tuesday) 7:00 - 9:00pm: Stressed-Out Students: How Boarding Schools Can Help. Panel discussion with admissions officers from five schools at the Wellesley College Club. Co-sponsored by NESCA and Hunnewell Education Group. FREE and open to the public; advance registration required. Details HERE.
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Read ingredient lists carefully and look for words like evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, agave nectar, molasses, malted barley syrup, dextrose, maltose and other “-ose” words — all forms of sugar. Here, five sneaky sources of sugar in kid-friendly foods:

Cereal

Some popular children’s cereals are more than 50 percent sugar, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group. Geagan suggests mixing sweetened cereals with a healthier low-sugar variety; she even mixes them right in the box, so her kids won’t be the wiser when they pour it out.

Processed Fruit

While whole fruit contains some natural sugar, it’s also rich in filling fiber and other nutrients, says Geagan. But foods like applesauce, fruit leathers and canned fruit can be laden with added sugar, so look for 100% unsweetened products. If you accidentally buy fruit canned in syrup, drain and rinse it before serving.

Reduced-fat Peanut Butter

“The heart-healthy plant fats from nuts and seeds are among the healthiest fats on the planet,” attests Geagan. But some manufacturers take out that good fat and then bump up the taste with sugar. For a truly healthy spread, look for a brand that contains just peanuts and salt.

Flavored Milks

These sweet sips are one of the leading sources of added sugar in kids’ diets. “Yes, they’re rich in calcium, but they also cultivate a palate for sweetness,” says Geagan. For a treat, try making your own hot cocoa with plain milk and dark chocolate or cocoa powder with at least 70 percent cacao for a hit of heart-healthy antioxidants.

Salad Dressings

Some bottled dressings pack a couple teaspoons of sugar per serving. The most common culprits? French and Thousand Island. Geagan recommends carefully reading the label and making your own vinaigrettes with oil and vinegar whenever possible.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Brain Scans Used to Forecast Early Reading Difficulties

From ScienceDaily

By Juliana Bunim, U.C. San Francisco
September 15, 2014

Summary: Researchers used brain scans to predict how young children learn to read, giving clinicians a possible tool to spot children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties before they experience reading challenges.

Kindergarten teacher reading to children (stock image).
In the United States, children usually learn to read for
the first time in kindergarten and become proficient
readers by third grade. Credit: Monkey Business/Fotolia

UC San Francisco researchers have used brain scans to predict how young children learn to read, giving clinicians a possible tool to spot children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties before they experience reading challenges.

In the United States, children usually learn to read for the first time in kindergarten and become proficient readers by third grade, according to the authors. In the study, researchers examined brain scans of 38 kindergarteners as they were learning to read formally at school and tracked their white matter development until third grade. The brain's white matter is essential for perceiving, thinking and learning.

The researchers found that the developmental course of the children's white matter volume predicted the kindergarteners' abilities to read.

"We show that white matter development during a critical period in a child's life, when they start school and learn to read for the very first time, predicts how well the child ends up reading," said Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, senior author and an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at UCSF, and member of the UCSF Dyslexia Center.

The research is published online in Psychological Science.

Doctors commonly use behavioral measures of reading readiness for assessments of ability. Other measures such as cognitive (i.e. IQ) ability, early linguistic skills, measures of the environment such as socio-economic status, and whether there is a family member with reading problems or dyslexia are all common early factors used to assess risk of developing reading difficulties.

"What was intriguing in this study was that brain development in regions important to reading predicted above and beyond all of these measures," said Hoeft.

The researchers removed the effects of these commonly used assessments when doing the statistical analyses in order to assess how the white matter directly predicted future reading ability. They found that left hemisphere white matter in the temporo-parietal region just behind and above the left ear -- thought to be important for language, reading and speech -- was highly predictive of reading acquisition beyond effects of genetic predisposition, cognitive abilities, and environment at the outset of kindergarten.

Brain scans improved prediction accuracy by 60 percent compared to traditional assessments alone.

"Early identification and interventions are extremely important in children with dyslexia as well as most neurodevelopmental disorders," said Hoeft. "Accumulation of research evidence such as ours may one day help us identify kids who might be at risk for dyslexia, rather than waiting for children to become poor readers and experience failure."

According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15 percent of Americans have major trouble reading.

"Examining developmental changes in the brain over a critical period of reading appears to be a unique sensitive measure of variation and may add insight to our understanding of reading development in ways that brain data from one time point, and behavioral and environmental measures, cannot," said Chelsea Myers, B.S., lead author and lab manager in UCSF's Laboratory for Educational NeuroScience.

"The hope is that understanding each child's neurocognitive profiles will help educators provide targeted and personalized education and intervention, particularly in those with special needs."

Journal Reference

C. A. Myers, M. Vandermosten, E. A. Farris, R. Hancock, P. Gimenez, J. M. Black, B. Casto, M. Drahos, M. Tumber, R. L. Hendren, C. Hulme, F. Hoeft. White Matter Morphometric Changes Uniquely Predict Children's Reading Acquisition. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614544511

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Upcoming Special Events
  • October 2 (Thursday) 1:00pm Eastern: "Between the Synapse" internet radio broadcast on educating students with emotional or behavioral challenges, featuring special guests Jessica Minahan, M.Ed., BCBA, director of behavioral services at NESCA, and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. Free app required to listen. Details HERE.
  • October 7 (Tuesday) 7:00 - 9:00pm: Stressed-Out Students: How Boarding Schools Can Help. Panel discussion with admissions officers from five schools at the Wellesley College Club. Co-sponsored by NESCA and Hunnewell Education Group. FREE and open to the public; advance registration required. Details HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:30am - 5:00pm: "Practical Perspectives, Positives Lives" - Annual Asperger's Syndrome Connection conference sponsored by AANE at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA. Keynote Speakers: Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D.; Winnie Dunn, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA; Michael Forbes Wilcox. Info, registration HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:00am - 4:00pm: MABIDA's 7th Reaching All Readers Conference; "Dyslexia, Inattention & Anxiety." Keynote speaker: Dr. Edward Hallowell, with NESCA Neuropsychologist Angela Currie, Ph.D. Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center. Details and registration HERE.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Mary Poppins File: Be Prepared for the Team Meeting

From SPaN
The Special Needs Advocacy Network

September 17, 2014

Presenters: Christine Riley and Jennie Dunkley.

Bring your questions and hear these very experienced advocates discuss how they handle meeting-related topics such as:
  • What to bring with you to every Team Meeting, and why.
  • How to prepare for a Team Meeting (process and what specific items you might prepare based on meeting type or client).
  • How to prepare parents for Team Meetings (process and what they need to know).
  • How to act during the meeting, and how to use what you brought.
  • How to follow-up after the meeting (with parents, with district).
  • How to write measurable goals.
When:    Friday, October 10, 2014
                    Networking - 9:30 to 10:00am
                    Presentation - 10:00am - 12:30pm

Where: The Hampton Inn
                   319 Speen St.
                   Natick, MA 01760


Cost:     SPaN Members - $40.00; Non-Members - $60.00.
                 After the close of registration on October 6th, walk-in
                 rate at the door will be $70.00 if space is available.

Register HERE.

To register for the WEBINAR ONLY, click here.

For Martha

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

By Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.
September 15, 2014

News came this past weekend that Martha Ziegler has passed. No matter that Martha lived a long and robust 84 years, the loss is, as our friend Julia Landau at the Mass. Advocates for Children put it, “stunning” – to think that our world will now be without her “vibrancy, passion, and vision.”

At MAC’s celebration of the 40th anniversary
of the signing of Chapter 766, Bob Crabtree,
Martha Ziegler, Larry Kotin, and Connie Rizoli

Martha was a major civil rights leader for children with disabilities. She arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1970’s, thinking, as she loved to say, that she would now be able to set aside the advocacy work she had done in Pennsylvania and devote her energies fully to family and friends, only to find herself immediately and completely immersed in organizing a coalition to help carry a new special education reform initiative, “Chapter 766,” into law.

As she saw it, the victory Martha and her coalition celebrated in the signing of Chapter 766 was not enough by any means. She well understood that without an ongoing reliable organization to educate and train parents and professionals over the long haul and to monitor and advance the promises of our special education reform act, it would be all too easy for the law to become dead letter.

She turned her energies accordingly toward the creation of what became the Federation for Children with Special Needs – an agency that all who work in our field know as the gold standard of parent training and advocacy.

Along with that, she dedicated countless hours to advancing the principles and many of the solutions built into Chapter 766 at the federal level, developing bonds with leaders in Congress that contributed greatly to the eventual enactment of the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (now the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or “IDEA”).

Some years ago, when my now-retired partner, Larry Kotin, and I stood as co-recipients of the Martha Ziegler Founder’s Award from the Federation, I turned to Martha during my remarks and said:

“Without your enormous energy and indomitable spirit, your great humor, your organizing skill among warring factions, and your pragmatic political savvy in 1972, Chapter 766 might never have come into being, and without your formation and leadership of this great organization for so many years, there would quite certainly have been no Federation for Children With Special Needs.”

There is so much more to say to and about Martha as advocates in our field begin to mourn her loss. As for me, I feel the loss not only of a powerful and sophisticated colleague in advocacy, but of a true and loving friend for more than forty years. Rest in peace, old friend.

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

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Upcoming Special Events
  • October 2 (Thursday) 1:00pm Eastern: "Between the Synapse" internet radio broadcast on educating students with emotional or behavioral challenges, featuring special guests Jessica Minahan, M.Ed., BCBA, director of behavioral services at NESCA, and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. Free app required to listen. Details HERE.
  • October 7 (Tuesday) 7:00 - 9:00pm: Stressed-Out Students: How Boarding Schools Can Help. Panel discussion with admissions officers from five schools at the Wellesley College Club. Co-sponsored by NESCA and Hunnewell Education Group. FREE and open to the public; advance registration required. Details HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:30am - 5:00pm: "Practical Perspectives, Positives Lives" - Annual Asperger's Syndrome Connection conference sponsored by AANE at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA. Keynote Speakers: Simon Baron-Cohen, Ph.D.; Winnie Dunn, Ph.D., OTR, FAOTA; Michael Forbes Wilcox. Info, registration HERE.
  • October 25 (Saturday) 8:00am - 4:00pm: MABIDA's 7th Reaching All Readers Conference; "Dyslexia, Inattention & Anxiety." Keynote speaker: Dr. Edward Hallowell, with NESCA Neuropsychologist Angela Currie, Ph.D. Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center. Details and registration HERE.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NESCA's Angela Currie to Speak at MABIDA's 7th Reaching All Readers Conference - Saturday, October 25th

From MABIDA
The MA Branch of the International Dyslexia Association

September 8, 2014

Dyslexia, Inattention and Anxiety

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Edward Hallowell will present an in-depth look at emotional and learning problems in children with reading disorders and/or ADHD. He will explore the
various kinds of problems children may contend with
that have a biological or genetic basis. 

Breakout Session Presenters and Topics
  • Adam Hickey - Metacognition, Reading Comprehension and Writing
  • Peter Morris - Beyond Mathematical Literacy
  • Panel Discussion - Transitions & Accommodations
  • Dr. Leslie Laud - Evidence-Based Writing Practices
  • Dr. Nathan Doty - Dyslexia's Common Comorbidities
  • Joe Green, Esq. - Going to Hearing at BESA
  • Lesley Maxwell - Academic Vocabulary
  • Dr. Joseph Moldover - Assessment & Diagnosis
  • Dr. Angela Curie (NESCA) - Relationship between Dyslexia & Anxiety 

Sessions have been designed for teachers, reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, parents, individuals with dyslexia, and others interested in helping struggling readers.

For the conference brochure and to register, please go to MABIDA's website: www.dyslexia-ma.org.

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When:   October 25, 2014

Where:  Sheraton Framingham Hotel and Conference Center
                   1657 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA

Cost:    IDA Member - $95
               Non-Member - $120
               Student - $25

Contact:  MABIDA
                    P.O. Box 562
                    Lincoln, MA 01773 

                    massbranchida@gmail.com

Certificate of Attendance and .5 ASHA CEUs available.

How a Bigger Purpose Can Motivate Students to Learn

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


By Ingfei Chen
August 18, 2014

A few years ago, psychologist David Yeager and his colleagues noticed something interesting while interviewing high school students in the San Francisco Bay Area about their hopes, dreams and life goals.

It was no surprise that students often said that making money, attaining fame or pursuing a career that they enjoyed were important to them. But many of them also spoke of additionally wanting to make a positive impact on their community or society — such as by becoming a doctor to take care of people, or a pastor who “makes a difference.”

What’s more, the teens with these “pro-social” types of goals tended to rate their schoolwork as more personally meaningful.

Given this information, Yeager and his colleagues wanted to know: could such a bigger sense of purpose that looks beyond one’s own self-interests be a real and significant inspiration for learning? They believe the answer is yes.

And, they’ve devised a new social psychology intervention to foster a “purposeful learning” mindset as another way to motivate pupils to persevere in their studies.

Yeager, now based at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, conducted the work in collaboration with UT colleague Marlone Henderson, David Paunesku and Greg Walton of Stanford, “grit” guru Angela Duckworth of the Univ. of Pennsylvania, and others.

They recently explored purposeful learning in a series of four studies and put their intervention to the test against one of the banes of learning: boredom. Initial promising results suggest the psychology strategy could encourage pupils to plug away at homework or learning tasks that are challenging or tedious, yet necessary to getting an education that’ll help them reach their greater life goals.

Can Drudgery Be Eliminated from Learning?

The idea of drudgery in schoolwork is anathema to many progressive educators these days. Game-based approaches to learning are far favored over “drill-and-kill” exercises. And while an emphasis on fortifying students’ academic “grit” and self-discipline in their study habits has been explored in depth, it’s controversial. Along with criticisms about deeper implications relating to race and poverty, some observers say the buzz over grit neglects the need to make dull classroom lessons more compelling to today’s learners.

As education author Alfie Kohn has written, “not everything is worth doing, let alone doing for extended periods, and not everyone who works hard is pursuing something worthwhile.”

It’s complicated, though. At Stanford’s Project for Education Research that Scales, Paunesku believes that teachers and educators should make learning more engaging wherever possible. “However, the reality is that schoolwork is often neither interesting nor meaningful,” he said — at least, not in a way that students immediately get.

“It’s hard for students to understand why doing algebra, for example, really matters or why it’ll help them or why it will make a difference in their life.” Yet, he noted, such work is often key in building basic skills and knowledge they’ll need for a successful future.

With that in mind, Yeager and Paunesku designed an intervention that subtly guides students to connect their academic efforts with pro-social long-term goals, to see whether it might help inspire them to plow through assignments that are “boring but important.”

As a baseline, the research team first investigated a mindset of “self-transcendent” purposeful learning by surveying 1,364 low-income high-school seniors at 10 urban public schools in California, Texas, Arkansas and New York. The teenagers sat down at a computer and took an “academic diligence task” devised by Duckworth and Sidney D’Mello of the University of Notre Dame. For a few minutes, the participants had the choice of either doing lots of simple, tedious math subtraction problems, or watching YouTube video clips or playing Tetris.

The students with a purposeful-learning attitude (who agreed with socially oriented statements like “I want to become an educated citizen that can contribute to society”) scored higher on measures of grit and self-control than classmates who only reported self-oriented motives for learning such as wanting to get a good job or earn more money.

The purposeful learners were also less likely to succumb to the digital distractions, answering more math problems on the diligence task — and they were more likely to be enrolled in college the following fall, the researchers found.

The Potential of a Purposeful Mindset

Next, a pilot experiment tested the sense-of-purpose intervention to see if it would improve grades in math and science (two subjects often seen as uninteresting): The researchers asked 338 ninth graders at a middle-class Bay Area high school to log online for a 20- to 30-minute reading and writing exercise.

The teenagers read a brief article and specific quotes from other students, all conveying the message that many adolescents work hard in school not just to gain knowledge for, say, pursuing a career they like — but also because they want to achieve “something that matters for the world.”

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Study participants then wrote short testimonials to other, future students describing how high school would help them become the kind of person they want to be or make an impact on society. As one teen explained, “I believe learning in school will give me the rudimentary skills to survive in the world. Science will give me a good base for my career in environmental engineering. I want to be able to solve our energy problems.”
Another ninth grader wrote that having an education “allows me to form well-supported, well-thought opinions about the world. I will not be able to help anyone without first going to school."

A few months later, at the end of the grading quarter, the researchers observed positive effects from the intervention, most notably in the weakest students: Underachieving pupils saw their low GPAs go up by 0.2 points. That’s a helpful improvement, said UT Austin’s Henderson, because many pivotal educational decisions hang in the balance based on a GPA cutoff. A few tenths of a point can make or break a student’s acceptance into a program or a school, which could in turn affect what type of job she ends up getting and ultimately, the salary she earns, Henderson said.

“GPA is really a better long-term predictor of not just educational outcomes but all kinds of positive life outcomes,” commented education researcher Camille Farrington of the University of Chicago. A 0.2 point gain in GPA could bump a B to a B+ or a B+ to an A-, she noted, which is an important impact given how brief and relatively inexpensive the sense-of-purpose treatment was.

Many other education interventions take a lot more time, energy and money, yet “don’t give any more of a bump than that,” she said.

How Does It Work?

As with other kinds of academic mindset strategies, the benefit from the sense-of-purpose intervention “almost seems like magic,” Henderson said. But it’s not, (as Yeager and Walton have previously elaborated). The research team ran two other experiments (with college undergrads) that helped unpack how the intervention might work: by motivating students to engage in deeper learning, and by bolstering self-control in resisting tempting distractions from schoolwork (as measured again by Duckworth and D’Mello’s diligence test).

What a purposeful mindset does for students is that “when they encounter challenges, difficulty or things that could potentially be roadblocks to learning, it motivates them to persist and barrel through,” Henderson said. The psychology researchers don’t know how long the positive effects last, but they speculate that just a small shift in students’ attitudes could spark a chain reaction of stronger academic performance and confidence that builds upon itself and endures over time.

Such a payoff can be hard to believe. After all, grownups have forever been telling children any number of reasons why a good education is important for their future. But here’s the thing: The technique for nurturing a sense-of-purpose mentality is designed so that “the student owns that and kind of puts those pieces together in their own heads, for themselves,” Farrington noted. “And that is a different thing than your mom or your teacher telling you, it’s important to do this because blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Other, self-oriented goals such as making money or getting out of their parents’ house didn’t seem to inspire students as much as the self-transcendent goals did in the studies. That’s worth noting, Farrington said, especially considering that youths from low-income backgrounds are often exhorted to study hard so that they can get out of their disadvantaged neighborhoods and go to college or find a good job.

If the research results are right, these kids may get more motivational mileage out of the goal of making a meaningful contribution to the world. “That’s consistent with what we know in social psychology: that people are motivated by, they care about having meaning in their life,” she said.

The sense-of-purpose work is just in its beginning stages, Henderson said, with the psychologists still tinkering to improve the intervention. They want to explore whether the technique can reduce student cheating, and whether teachers can “activate” the purposeful-learning mindset by writing simple, subtle and carefully tailored messages of feedback on classwork, he said.

Finding Meaning in Schoolwork

The experiments with the new strategy beg the question of whether the researchers are implicitly endorsing drill-and-kill-style learning. They aren’t, Paunesku is quick to say. He’s all for project-based learning and other efforts to make school more relevant and alluring for students. Yet, he added, it isn’t practical or possible to render every lesson or assignment in K-12 “super fun and game-y” for kids — and even if it were, doing so could be a disservice to them later.

What would they do when they get to law school and are faced with having to memorize long lists of laws? Or when they land a job that calls for mastering information that no one has “gamefied” to make it exciting to learn?

Students go to school not just to learn specific facts, he pointed out. They’re learning how to learn, how to practice self-discipline and motivate themselves through frustrating roadblocks, and thus are preparing for adulthood. That’s important even if it isn’t always fascinating, he said. But having that bigger sense of purpose, that personal mission of making a positive difference in the broader world, might help students to find meaning in difficult or mundane schoolwork.

“If you think about it the right way, you can actually be motivated and you can find it interesting, even if on the surface it’s not fun,” Paunesku said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Safe and Supportive Schools - Free Presentation Wednesday, October 8


A flexible framework for trauma-sensitive schools, to promote and maximize the success of all students. Please join us to learn how Safe and Supportive Schools can:
  • Support better learning practices based on neuroscience research;
  • Reduce unhealthy levels of stress at a systemic level;
  • Promote safer, healthier and more effective behavioral interventions;
  • Increase the amount of classroom time available for learning.
A rare opportunity to learn how our schools can better support our students; free and open to the public.

When:  7:00 – 9:00pm Wednesday, October 8, 2014 

Where: Newton North High School Auditorium
                   457 Walnut St., Newton, MA 02460
                   (Plenty of free, off-street parking available)

Speakers: Program Welcome - Representative Ruth Balser
                         Lead Sponsor, Safe and Supportive Schools Legislation,
                         Enacted August 13, 2014


                         Keynote Speaker - Joe Ristuccia, Ed.M.
                         Trauma & Learning Policy Initiative,
                         Adjunct Professor, Lesley University / Certified School Psychologist

For more information, please contact either Lucie Chansky at luciec@comcast.net (617-244-7310) or Greg Smith at gregsmithpm@gmail.com (617-584-9993).