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617-658-9800

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Neuropsych 101 with Dr. Ann Helmus: An Evening Presentation Weds., November 14

A Conversation with NESCA Director Dr. Ann Helmus about the Process and the Product
On Wednesday, November 14, from 7:00 - 9:00pm, NESCA (Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents) Founder and Director Ann Helmus, Ph.D. will discuss the "nuts and bolts" of neuropsychological evaluation.
  • What exactly is a neuropsych evaluation?
  • Why would you have your child evaluated, and when?
  • How do you choose someone to evaluate your child?
  • How does an experienced neuropsychologist drill down into your child's "symptoms" (attention deficits, executive function weaknesses, etc.), to fully understand what's likely going on in his/her brain, and explain that to you clearly?
  • And, then, how can YOU use this enhanced knowledge to improve your child's ability to learn?
She will also focus on the written evaluation report and what you’re entitled to expect of it: timely delivery, insightfully integrated data, a recognizable portrait of your whole child, and a set of specific recommendations easily understood and implemented by all concerned.

When: Wednesday, November 14th,

               7:00 – 9:00pm

 Where: NESCA,
                55 Chapel Street, 2nd Floor

                Newton, MA 02458

This program is appropriate for parents who have had a child evaluated before, as well as for those who have not. Dr Helmus will allow ample time to answer specific questions from the audience.

There is ample free, off-street parking. Light refreshments will be served.

This presentation is free! Seating is very limited, so RSVP quickly to Amanda Renzi or Melissa Jensen at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or by email to nesca@nesca-newton.com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When Taking a Deep Breath is Not Enough: Yoga and Mindfulness Strategies to Promote Relaxation, Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation


A Workshop Sunday, November 4 by Hannah Gould, M.Ed, RYT


Space remains available in Hannah Gould's full-day workshop on yoga and mindfulness for parents, professionals, and care-givers of children and teens.

Yoga and mindfulness are beneficial, motivating and empowering practices for many children with developmental and emotional challenges. This workshop will introduce simple games and activities rooted in yoga and mindfulness that help children build essential skills.

Parenting and teaching children who become deregulated often calls upon adults to be co-regulators. We will discuss effective co-regulation and allow time for discussion and problem-solving related to individual concerns.

No prior yoga experience is necessary!

Areas of Focus
  • Anxiety and frustration: How breathing, movement, and mindfulness can help; 
  • Attention challenges and impulsivity: Learning to slow down and find a “still place;”
  • Sensory regulation: Finding comfort in a stimulating and unpredictable world; 
  • Motor planning and self-calming: Strengthening the mind-body connection.
When:   10:00am - 4:00pm, Sunday, November 4, 2012

Where:  NESCA, 55 Chapel Street, 2nd Floor, Newton, MA

Cost:      $150 per person, pre-paid.

Participants will engage in a variety of fun and relaxing activities including yoga games, breathing exercises and meditation. Please come dressed in comfortable clothing.

This program is limited to 10 participants. Early enrollment is required. To register, call Melissa Jensen or Todd Helmus at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or email nesca@nesca-newton.com.

About the Presenter

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT is an experienced yoga therapist who specializes in working with children and teens with developmental and emotional challenges. Formerly a classroom special education teacher, Ms. Gould employs an educational approach to her work, in order to ensure the optimal learning environment for each child

Yoga for Autism, Movement for Learning

From the Boston.com Blog - Child in Mind





October 13, 2012

When I listen to parents of young children (under 5) in my behavioral pediatrics practice, they often describe a child who is very overwhelmed by sensory input, inflexible and easily dysregulated. They worry that their child is "on the spectrum."

We talk about how their child does not feel calm in his body, and work together to help him find ways to feel calm. With this approach, there can be significant improvement in behavior.

Thus I was pleased, though not surprised, to learn of two studies validating this approach in children who have been diagnosed with autism. One, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, demonstrated that a 17 minute yoga program, called "Get Ready to Learn," significantly decreased anxiety, social withdrawal and aggression.

The second, published last year in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated significant improvement in core features of autism in a group of children age 3-16 who participated in an 8 week multimodal yoga, dance and music therapy program.

In a related story, this morning on NPR's Only a Game, a program entitled Does Exercise Help Kids Learn? referred to the research of neurologist Majid Fotuhi showing that exercise improves learning efficiency. He stated:

"I am also in favor of shorter teaching sessions which are intermittent with 20 minutes of P.E. or some kind of physical activity that’s somewhat structured. In a previous post, I refer to psychiatrist Bruce Perry, whose neurosequential model of therapeutics, primarily applied to work with traumatized children, uses self regulating activities interspersed between both learning and therapy."


I conclude:

"Often when kids are struggling in school, teachers express concern that they are "over-scheduled." But if extracurricular activities are carefully planned and well thought out, they can be considered an essential part of treatment. It is best to have some kind of a calming activity interspersed with homework, tutoring or therapy. These can be tailored to a child's particular talents and interests."

Whether a child has symptoms associated with autism, has experienced trauma, or is struggling to learn, promoting self-regulation by using the body to help the brain is important. If we can incorporate this approach into treatment and education of young children, we will support healthy development of regulation of emotion, attention and behavior, perhaps even avoiding the need to label them with a disorder.

About Dr. Claudia M. Gold

Dr. Gold is a pediatrician with a long-standing interest in addressing children’s mental health needs in a preventive model. Currently, she runs the Early Childhood Social-Emotional Health program at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Prior to this, she practiced general pediatrics for 20 years.

Gold is a graduate of the UMass Boston Infant-Parent Mental Health Post-Graduate Certificate Program, and she is on the faculty of the Brazelton Institute and the Berkshire Psychoanalytic Institute.

She is the author of Keeping Your Child in Mind: Overcoming Defiance, Tantrums and Other Everyday Behavior Problems by Seeing the World through Your Child’s Eyes, and writes regularly for her blog, Child in Mind, on the Boston.com website

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Early Intervention Can Help Regulate Brain Activity In Kids with Autism

From MedicalNewsToday.com

by Christine Kearney
October 27, 2012

A new type of early intervention therapy called Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) is effective for boosting language skills and cognitive thinking in autistic children as young as 18 months old.

It can also help their social skills, decrease their symptoms of autism, and push their brain activity to work in a "normal" manner, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

This is the first study of its kind to reveal that early intervention of autism can help "normalize" happenings in the brain.

Sally Rogers
Sally Rogers, Ph.D., author of the study, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a researcher with the U.C. Davis MIND Institute, commented: "We know that infant brains are malleable, and had previously demonstrated that this therapy capitalizes on the potential of learning that an infant brain has in order to limit autism's deleterious effects."

The findings on improved behavioral outcomes, and the ability to normalize brain activity associated with social activities, signify that there is tremendous potential for the brains of children with autism to develop and grow more normally."

The researchers involved in the randomized, multi-centered, case-controlled trial discovered that kids who underwent the early interventions showed more brain activity when they saw faces, rather than objects, while the children who went through other interventions had the opposite response.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children born every day will receive an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. People with autism often have problems communicating socially, exhibit repetitive behaviors and do not relate well with others.

Geraldine Dawson
ESDM, which was started by Rogers and Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., worked by combining developmental, play-based, relationship--based methods and training techniques of implemented examination of behavior. 

Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said:

"This may be the first demonstration that a behavioral intervention for autism is associated with changes in brain function, as well as positive changes in behavior. By studying changes in the neural response to faces, Dawson and her colleagues have identified a new target and a potential bio-marker that can guide treatment development."

The recent study involved 48 boys and girls between the ages of 18 and 30 months who were diagnosed with autism. The boy-to-girl ratio was over 3-to-1, and the report noted that males are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than females.

Around 50% of the kids in the study were given the ESDM intervention for longer than 2 years - 20 hours per week. Parents of the children were taught how to provide the therapy, which the authors said is a major part of the intervention.

The other 50% of participants underwent community-based interventions and also received referrals, evaluations, resource manuals and different things to read.

When the study ended, the researchers monitored the children's brain activity by use of EEGs (electroencephalograms), which could evaluate brain activation when the children looked at social stimuli, such as people's faces, and non-social stimuli, such as toys.

Previous experimentation has determined that normal babies and children display more brain activity when when they look at social stimuli than non-social stimuli. On the other hand, children who have autism show the opposite.

Two times as many kids who went through the ESDM intervention displayed greater brain activation when they saw faces, not toys - which established that these children have normal brain activity.

Eleven out of fifteen (73%) of the participants who received ESDM were found to have more brain activation when they saw faces, rather than toys. Likewise, 12 of 17 (71%) normally developing kids exhibited the same responses.

However, 64% of the children who received community-based interventions showed opposite "autistic pattern" reactions, such as brain activation when seeing toys more than faces. A mere 5% of these children showed normal brain activation.

Those who went through ESDM who displayed the highest amount of brain activity when they looked at faces also were found to have better social skills and were better at communicating with others, i.e. eye contacts, imitation, ect. ESDM results in improved cognitive function, life skills, and language.

Dawson, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry, concluded:

"This is first case-controlled study of an intensive early intervention that demonstrates both improvement of social skills and normalized brain activity resulting from intervention therapy. Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18- and 24-month-old children be screened for autism, it is vital that we have effective therapies available for young children as soon as they are diagnosed.

For the first time, parents and practitioners have evidence that early intervention can alter the course of brain and behavioral development in young children. It is crucial that all children with autism have access to early intervention which can promote the most positive long-term outcomes."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Panel 11/3: College Prep Boarding Schools for Bright Kids with Learning Challenges


Co-Sponsored by NESCA and Boston Educational Consultants Howland, Spence & McMillan

Please join us for a moderated discussion with the  Directors of Admission from five top college preparatory boarding schools with integral learning skills programs.

At these five schools, students with learning differences – ADHD, Executive Function Deficits or Language-based Learning Disabilities – have structured supports built right into their regular academic programs, not just offered as add-ons or pull-outs.

Using hypothetical case studies, the panelists will describe how their schools would meet the needs of three bright but challenged students who need support. A question and answer period will follow the presentation.

When:    10am - Noon, Saturday, November 3, 2012

Where:   The Westin Hotel Waltham's Emerson Room,
                    70 Third Avenue, Waltham, MA 02451

Guest speakers will include Directors of Admission from:
The discussion will be moderated by NESCA Director Dr. Ann Helmus along with Educational Consultants Carol Kinlan and Faith Howland of Howland, Spence & McMillan.

Admission is $20 per person, payable by credit card in advance by phone or, space permitting, by exact change at the door. Light refreshments will be served. There is ample, free garage parking. For additional information, please call 617-658-9800, or email nesca@nesca-newton.com.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Brain Scientists Seek Developmental Sweet Spot for Learning to Read

From the Education Week Blog "Inside School Research"

By Sarah D. Sparks
October 8, 2012

Could a brain scan one day be added to the normal developmental measures children receive at the pediatrician's office before starting school?

Jason D. Yeatman, a psychologist at the Stanford University Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging, hopes that researchers will soon be able to identify biological indicators for reading development just as they now do for height and weight.

Yeatman and fellow researchers from Stanford and Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, think they already have a clue to this. They found that in order to learn to read, a young child's brain must be developed enough to process the information, but still capable of fast growth, according to a new longitudinal study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers tracked development of reading skills and brain growth in 55 children ages 7-12 during a three-year period.

Two separate processes are hard at work in a child's developing brain during this time, Yeatman explained. Learning and practicing a skill creates and strengthens the neural pathways connecting the associated parts of the brain, represented by white matter; a child has three times as much white matter as an adult because they are making so many more new connections and learning new skills.

At the same time, however, unneeded connections are not reinforced and deteriorate over time, a process known as pruning.

"Both processes are unfolding over time. In good readers, they are balanced and going at the same time and being influenced by the child's experience," Yeatman said.

"What we think is happening in the poor reader is there was this exuberant growth in early life and then it had already plateaued ... by the time they were engaged in reading instruction. In the poor readers, the growth process has already stopped and you only see the pruning process."

High-performing readers initially had lower levels of white matter in the areas of the brain associated with visually identifying words, but these levels grew rapidly during the three years studied.

By contrast, below-average readers had higher initial levels of white matter in the areas associated with reading but these levels declined over time, suggesting the children were not creating and strengthening neural pathways.

"The brain matures in a sequential manner in which some circuits develop and stabilize while others remain capable of plastic change," the researchers noted in the study.

"In this view, reading instruction should be delivered when the systems needed to learn the material are adequately developed but still have a potential for further plasticity so that they can respond to the instruction."

It sounds like a big leap from this sort of brain imaging in a lab to a regular diagnostic tool, but Yeatman argues the magnetic resonance images that took an hour to capture five years ago now take only about five minutes, and measuring the density of neural connections requires only a snapshot of the brain, which is easier to perform on notoriously wriggly children.

As technology improves, he said he expects the cost of such scanning—now at about $400 for an hour—to drop.

"People are doubtful that 'neuroprognosis' will actually be useful. If you look at the cost to the system of children failing academically, those costs are incredibly high—thousands and thousands of dollars going to intervention programs, and, unfortunately, a lot of those intervention programs are not as effective as we'd hope," he said.

"I think we're getting close to the point of being able to identify a specific abnormality in an individual and make predictions and interventions based on that."

If we could find a way to make meaningful predictions earlier in life ... in a decade I'd like to be able to measure a 3-year-old, figure out what abnormalities are in there and what interventions might help prevent reading problems before they start."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Exercise May Lead to Better School Performance for Kids With ADHD

From ScienceDaily.com

October 16, 2012

A few minutes of exercise can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder perform better academically, according to a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher.

The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, shows for the first time that kids with ADHD can better drown out distractions and focus on a task after a single bout of exercise.

Scientists say such "inhibitory control" is the main challenge faced by people with the disorder.

"This provides some early evidence that exercise might be a tool in our non-pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD," said Matthew Pontifex, MSU assistant professor of kinesiology, who led the study. "Maybe our first course of action that we would recommend to developmental psychologists would be to increase children's physical activity."

"Maybe our first course of action that we would recommend to developmental psychologists would be to increase children's physical activity."

While drugs have proven largely effective in treating many of the 2.5 million school-aged American children with ADHD, a growing number of parents and physicians worry about the side effects and costs of medication.


In the study, Pontifex and colleagues asked 40 children aged 8 to 10, half of whom had ADHD, to spend 20 minutes either walking briskly on a treadmill or reading while seated.

The children then took a brief reading comprehension and math exam similar to longer standardized tests. They also played a simple computer game in which they had to ignore visual stimuli to quickly determine which direction a cartoon fish was swimming.

The results showed all of the children performed better on both tests after exercising. In the computer game, those with ADHD also were better able to slow down after making an error to avoid repeat mistakes -- a particular challenge for those with the disorder.

Pontifex said the findings support calls for more physical activity during the school day. Other researchers have found that children with ADHD are less likely to be physically active or play organized sports. Meanwhile, many schools have cut recess and physical education programs in response to shrinking budgets.

"To date there really isn't a whole lot of evidence that schools can pull from to justify why physical education programs should be in existence," he said. "So what we're trying to do is target our research to provide that type of evidence."

Pontifex conducted the study for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Illinois before joining the MSU faculty. His co-investigators included his adviser, kinesiology professor Charles Hillman, and Daniel Picchietti, a pediatrician at the Carle Foundation Hospital in Champaign, Ill.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Free E-Book - Transition to College: Strategic Planning to Ensure Success for Students with Learning Disabilities


From NCLD - The National Center for Learning Disabilities

October 11, 2102

Did you know?
  • 67% of students with LD graduate from high school with a regular diploma vs. 74% of students in the general population;
  • 20% of students with LD drop out of high school vs. 8% of students in the general population
  • 10% of students with LD are enrolled in a four-year college within two years of leaving; 
For students with learning disabilities (LD) who want to go to college, it is imperative that strategic planning take place as early as possible.

This book can help you understand the requirements and opportunities included in the law so you can successfully plan and help your child prepare for his or her future.

To download NCLD's free e-book, simply complete the brief form you'll find HERE.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

OTA - The Koomar Center (formerly OTA Watertown) Opening in ChapelBridge Park

OTA - The Koomar Center Opening Monday, October 29th

This area's foremost, and one of the nation's largest, sensory integration and occupational therapy practices, OTA - The Koomar Center, along with their education arm, The Spiral Foundation, will be opening in just-renovated ChapelBridge Park offices on Monday, October 29, 2012.

We welcome them as longtime friends, colleagues and now, finally, as neighbors!

OTA - The Koomar Center will have its own address and building entrance at 74 Bridge Street, Newton, MA 02458, but their facilities will be easily accessible from the Chapel Street lobby through which you enter NESCA.  

Their presence will bring to five the number of child-centered practices operating in ChapelBridge Park.

Executive DysFunction: Helping your Child to Succeed

From NCLD.org's Blog - LD Insights

By Jamie Anderson, Parent Contributor
April 17, 2012

Recently my twelve-year-old son, as part of a clinical study, underwent an MRI. I was nervous for him as I know that some people find MRI machines claustrophobic, and I worried that he would panic in the middle of the testing.

I need not have worried as he sailed through the 2-hour session, and stoically pronounced at the end that it was fun and he’d do it again.

The MRI was one part of a research project to study “cognitive flexibility” or his ability to shift between tasks and to manage multi-tasking. He had earlier been diagnosed, among other things, with executive dysfunction.

Sometimes, as a mother of 3 boys and a teenage daughter, I am hard-pressed to distinguish between my son’s diagnosis and the typical sloppy, no-interest-in-the-details approach most adolescent take on life.

But what is, hopefully, only a phase in the maturation of my other children, is for my son and others like him, a crippling life-long disability.

Executive function refers to the mental processes associated with initiating, implementing, monitoring, and revising goal-directed activities. Executive function involves sustaining attention and effort, inhibiting impulses, mentally manipulating information and organizing materials and ideas.

These skills develop rapidly in children and adolescents, and are critical for functioning in complex settings such as school as well as performing day-to-day life skills.

I have learned through participating in this clinical study, and in other studies of my son, that there are a number of concrete ways to help him. I’ll share a few of them with you:
  • Prevent overload;
  • Provide structure and support new learning;
  • Observe for symptoms of overload and ensure downtime;
  • Minimize and preview changes in his educational environment;
  • Keep work periods brief and provide frequent breaks;
  • Allow extended time for assignments and tests;
  • Keep oral directions brief or accompany them with a visual reminder, such as a checklist.
These are just a few broad-based ideas, and as with most things the “devil is in the details” and in getting your school and teachers on board. But a joint effort between home and school can make a big difference between your child feeling disorganized, inattentive, sloppy, and uncaring to feeling competent, ready, and able to succeed.

Learn more about executive function and learning disabilities.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Panel Discussion Saturday, November 3: College Prep Boarding Schools for Bright Kids with Learning Challenges

Co-Sponsored by NESCA and Boston Educational Consultants Howland, Spence & McMillan

You are cordially invited to join us for a presentation by Directors of Admission from five fine college preparatory boarding schools with integral learning skills programs.

At these schools, students with learning differences – ADHD, Executive Function Deficits or Language-based Learning Disabilities, for example – have structured supports built into their regular academic programs, not offered only as add-ons or pull-outs.

Using three representative case studies, our panelists will describe how their schools would meet the needs of three bright but challenged students who need support. A question and answer period will follow the presentation.

When:    10am - Noon, Saturday, November 3, 2012

Where:   The Westin Hotel Waltham's Emerson Room,
                    70 Third Avenue, Waltham, MA 02451

Guest speakers will include Directors of Admission from:
The discussion will be moderated by NESCA Director Dr. Ann Helmus along with Educational Consultants Carol Kinlan and Faith Howland of Howland, Spence & McMillan.

Admission is $20 per person, payable by credit card in advance by phone or, space permitting, by exact change at the door. Light refreshments will be served. There is ample, free garage parking. For additional information, please call 617-658-9800, or email nesca@nesca-newton.com.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Must-See TV: HBO Tackles Dyslexia in Two Documentaries

From SmartKidswithLD.org

October 15, 2012

On October 22, 2012, HBO2 is airing Journey Into Dyslexia, a program first released in 2012.
 
On October 29, 2012, in another rare TV event, HBO is airing The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.
 
Both are must-see TV for anyone who has an interest in this learning disability.
 
Journey Into Dyslexia
 
In the October 22 program, Journey Into Dyslexia, the learning disability takes center stage with profiles of accomplished professionals and students that have been affected by it, along with insights from educators and researchers in the field.
 
Award-winning filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond bring you into the dyslexic brain, explaining the complexities of the disability in terms everyone can understand, debunking myths and misperceptions along the way.
 
The uplifting message is hard to miss: despite struggles in school, the successful adults in the documentary consider their dyslexia a gift, crediting the condition for their success.
 
The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia
 
The October 29th premiere of this compelling documentary features personal accounts of the experiences of children, experts and leaders who have dyslexia.
 
While filled with important information, this film also reflects the personal journey of Director James Redford to learn the truth about dyslexia, the learning disability of his son, Dylan.
 
“Had I seen this movie when Dylan was functionally illiterate in 4th grade,” says Redford, “I would have been spared an extraordinary amount of anxiety about the future.”
 
So bust out the popcorn, set the DVR, gather friends, family, and anyone else you know who has an interest in dyslexia.
 
Both programs are definitely must-see TV!
 
For more information see the websites for Journey Into Dyslexia and The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.
 
Viewing Details
  • Journey into Dyslexia is scheduled to air on Monday, October 22, 2012 at 7:45pm on HBO2 East, and 10:45pm HBO2 West. Also available on HBO Go.
  • The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia premieres on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 7:00pm on HBO.

Results Matter (Now) for Students with LD and ADHD

From Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities

By Candace Cortiella
October 8, 2012

After years of focusing solely on compliance with paperwork-oriented measures to determine how states are doing in implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Dept. of Education has decided to change course.

Announced recently on its website, OSEP’s plan to “shift the balance from a system focused primarily on compliance to one that puts more emphasis on results” is dubbed Results-Driven Accountability, or RDA.

As part of the planning process, OSEP wants to engage stakeholders and hear ideas for re-framing its accountability system to more effectively focus on improving educational results and functional outcomes for children with disabilities. They’re posing a series of questions and asking for comments.

Implications for Students with LD

So what does RDA mean for students with LD and ADHD? A lot!

The shift means that attention will now be paid to how students served under IDEA are performing on state assessments in reading and math, the rate at which they are leaving school with a regular diploma, and the rate at which they are dropping out.

While part of the reporting system required of states, these data have not previously played a role in the annual determinations given to states (available HERE.)

As a result, states that have low graduation rates for students with LD can, in fact, be given a determination of “meets requirements” of IDEA. The same goes for states with low proficiency rates on reading and math assessments.

These measures should be the focus of each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), so why shouldn’t they matter in reviewing states’ performance?

Everyone interested in seeing improvements to the outcomes of students with disabilities should learn about RDA, provide comments, and follow along as the process moves forward.

More information on Results-Driven Accountability is HERE.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yoga May Improve Behavior In Kids With Autism

From DisabilityScoop.com

By Shaun Heasley
October 15, 2012

A simple, school-based yoga program can do wonders for kids with autism, researchers say, yielding gains in both behavior and socialization.

In a study comparing children with autism who did yoga each day at school compared to kids who followed a typical routine instead, those who participated in the stretching exercises exhibited significantly less aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity.

The findings published this month in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy offer tremendous promise for the growing population of children with the developmental disorder, researchers say.


The study focused on children with autism at a public school in the Bronx who participated in a yoga program called Get Ready to Learn. The 17-minute daily regimen includes deep breathing, yoga poses, tensing and relaxing muscles and finally singing, all led by the classroom teacher.

Researchers monitored the students for 16 weeks as they participated in the program and compared their experiences to those of a control group who did not do yoga.

“We found that teachers’ ratings of students who participated in the daily yoga routine showed improved behavior compared with teachers’ ratings of students who did not,” said Kristie Koenig, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at N.Y. University, who led the study.

“Our research indicates that a manualized systemic yoga program, implemented on a daily basis, can be brought to public school classrooms as an option for improving classroom behavior.”

The yoga program Koenig and her colleagues studied is already being implemented with kids with disabilities in over 500 classrooms in New York.

What’s more, teachers are using the routine in general education classrooms in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont, researchers said.

"... those who participated in the stretching exercises exhibited significantly less aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Panel 11/3 - College Prep Boarding Schools for Bright Kids with Learning Challenges

Co-Sponsored by NESCA and Educational Consultants Howland, Spence & McMillan

You are cordially invited to join us for a presentation by Directors of Admission from five fine college preparatory boarding schools with integral learning skills programs.

At these schools, students with learning differences – ADHD, Executive Function Deficits or Language-based Learning Disabilities, for example – have structured supports built into their regular academic programs, not offered only as add-ons or pull-outs. Using three representative case studies, our panelists will describe how their schools would meet the needs of three bright but challenged students who need support. A question and answer period will follow the presentation.

When:   10am - Noon, Saturday, November 3, 2012
 
Where: The Westin Hotel Waltham's Emerson Room,
                70 Third Avenue, Waltham, MA 02451
 
Guest speakers will include the Directors of Admission from:
The discussion will be moderated by NESCA Director Dr. Ann Helmus along with Educational Consultants Carol Kinlan and Faith Howland of Howland, Spence & McMillan.
 
Admission is $20 per person, payable by credit card in advance by phone or, space permitting, by exact change at the door. Light refreshments will be served. There is ample, free garage parking. For additional information, please call 617-658-9800, or email nesca@nesca-newton.com.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Navigating the Rocky Road of Adolescence

A Group for Parents of Middle-School Aged Children

The Freedman Center for Child & Family Development at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology has announced a new group for parents of middle-schoolers called "Navigating the Rocky Road of Adolescence."

This 4-week series will give parents an opportunity to interact with other parents of children in middle school, in an exploration of the many changes that occur during this period of adolescence, and how they affect relationships at home and school. This group is also a great way for parents to develop a network of parents dealing with the many issues that can arise during this challenging time.

Advance registration is required as similar programs have filled up quickly in the past. There is a nominal $20 fee for the 4-week series, but MSPP offers financial assistance to those who need it.

This group begins on Tuesday, October 23 from 7:00-8:30 pm and will take place at the Freedman Center at MSPP, Ground Floor, One Wells Ave., in Newton. To register, go to http://freedman.mspp.edu, or call 617-332-3666, x1250.


Common Warning Signs of Dyslexia in Children Pre-K to Grade 2

From NCLD - The National Center for Learning Disabilities

By the NCLD Editorial Team
October 9, 2012

Are you concerned that your young child may not be learning, communicating, or relating socially as well as other children of the same age?

Dyslexia is a language-based processing disorder that can hinder reading, writing, spelling, and speaking, can create barriers to enjoying social interactions and can have a negative impact on self-esteem.
Every child struggles with learning at times, but learning disabilities (LD) such as dyslexia do not come and go and they persist over time.

While dyslexia is most often identified in school-age children, signs of dyslexia can frequently be detected in preschoolers.

If you’re concerned about your child, review the following list of common warning signs of dyslexia in children in Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 2.

And because some of the “symptoms” listed below also apply to other types of learning disabilities and/or to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), which often co-exist with dyslexia, you may want to review our more comprehensive Interactive Learning Disabilities Checklist to clarify your concerns.

For at least the past six months, my child has had trouble:

Language
  • Learning to speak (delayed compared to his peers).
  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week.
  • Naming people and objects.
  • Speaking precisely and using a varied, age-appropriate vocabulary.
  • Staying on topic.
  • Getting or staying interested in stories and books.
  • Understanding the relationship between speaker and listener.
  • Pronouncing word correctly (Example: says “mazagine” instead of “magazine”).
  • Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words.
  • Distinguishing words from other words that sound similar.
  • Rhyming words.
  • Understanding instructions/directions.
  • Repeating what has just been said.
Reading
  • Naming letters.
  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, and blending sounds when speaking.
  • Learning to read as expected for his/her age.
  • Associating letters with sounds, understanding the difference between sounds in words.
  • Accurately blending letter sounds within words.
  • Recognizing and remembering sight words.
  • Remembering printed words.
  • Distinguishing between letters and words that look similar.
  • Learning and remembering new vocabulary words.
  • Keeping ones place – and not skipping over words -- while reading.
  • Showing confidence and interest in reading.
Writing
  • Learning to copy and write at an age-appropriate level.
  • Writing letters, numbers, and symbols in the correct order.
  • Spelling words correctly and consistently most of the time.
  • Proofreading and correcting written work.
Social-Emotional
  • Making and keeping friends.
  • Interpreting people's non-verbal cues, "body language", and tone of voice.
  • Is motivated and self-confident about learning.
Other
  • Sense of direction/spatial concepts (such as left and right).
  • Performing consistently on tasks from day to day.
If your child displays several of these warning signs, don't hesitate to seek help. Print this article, check off the warning signs that apply to your child, and take the list to the professional(s) who you consult.

With proper identification and support, your child will be better able to succeed in school, and in life.
The sooner a child’s LD is identified, the better the results will be, so trust your observations and have the courage to advocate for any special needs.

Other Helpful Resources

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Recruiting Research Subjects: Mass. General Hospital for Children at The Lurie Center

Guanfacine and Methylphenidate in the Treatment of Hyperactivity in Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders

The Massachusetts General Hospital for Children at the Lurie Center in Lexington, MA is conducting a research study for children 5–14 years old who have Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, or PDD-NOS).

If your 5 - 14 year old has Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, or PDD-NOS, he or she may qualify for a research study involving study medication and clinic visits with a child psychiatrist and qualified research staff at no charge.

The purpose of this study is to find out if the medication, extended release guanfacine, is helpful for the treatment of hyperactivity and impulsiveness in children. 

Participation requirements and risks involved in this study will be disclosed prior to study enrollment. If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please contact the Lurie Center at 781-860-1711 or LurieCenterResearch@partners.org.

School Planning for Autistic Spectrum Disorders in 500 Words Or Less

From The Huffington Post Education Blog

By Mark Bertin, M.D.
September 19, 2012

A child with an autistic spectrum disorder does not intuitively understand the social world. Severely affected kids may have little apparent interest in people around them. Someone with mild impairment may be quite motivated socially, but lacks the skills to initiate or maintain social exchange or play.

Regardless of whether the diagnosis is autism, Asperger's Syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)-nos, this difference in social development defines the disability.

Educational planning for children with ASDs is often complex and difficult to negotiate. When children have severe impairments, they often end up in specialized classrooms, but sometimes are mainstreamed too quickly.

For children more able to integrate into mainstream settings, an appropriate balance between class time and services to address their special needs can be hard to define. They benefit from, and hopefully enjoy, time with mainstream peers and teachers, but they still are behind developmentally and require services.

The bottom line in educational planning, however, is this: As long as a child continues to show symptoms of an autistic spectrum disorder of any kind, he or she requires continued and targeted special services. Even children with mild social impairments, who are able to get by in mainstream classes and frequently do not act out in any way, require services.

To meet a child's long-term potential, we must define and develop a long-term plan that addresses the often subtle social and communication skills that lag behind peers.

As the school year beings, here's an overview of educational planning (in 500 words or less):

1.) Behavioral therapy is the core intervention.

For intense impairments, a self-contained classroom with an autism-specific behavioral program is the quickest way to catch a child up. With milder impairment, children still benefit from direct instruction. As long as symptoms of autism persist, children require ongoing behavioral intervention, considering both individual and group interventions, to teach core social skills.

Exposure to typically developing children alone doesn't accomplish enough. If they could instinctively learn from peers, they probably wouldn't have autism.

2.) Speech-language delay is part of the autism diagnosis.

Regardless of how high-functioning children with autism appear, they have language deficits. It's a defined part of the diagnosis. Some have profound delays in expressive skills and comprehension, but for others the delay is more subtle.

Pragmatic language refers to all the unspoken, nonverbal aspects of human communication. Pragmatic language delays are inherently part of having autism, so children require ongoing speech-language therapy. Importantly, pragmatics are impossible to quantify, so we cannot rely on test scores to define needed services. As long as social awkwardness, lack of awareness, or communication concerns persist, skillful language intervention has a role.

3.) Daily repetition is needed to learn social skills.

If the absolute most important thing in the world was for your child to become a concert pianist by age 16, she would have to practice multiple hours almost every day to get there.

Similarly, for children with autistic spectrum disorders the development of social and communication skills is the absolute most important thing in the world. Their educational plan, considering what happens both in and out of school, should include daily reinforcement through a variety of services. As children catch up, or for those with very mild impairment, the intensity can be decreased.

4.) Monitor the need for related services.

Occupational therapy addresses fine motor, handwriting and sensory concerns when present, all of which are common with autism. Physical therapy addresses primarily gross motor concerns. Psychoeducational testing should look for these types of impairments, with an emphasis on daily living and adaptive life skills.

5.) Monitor for other academic difficulties.

Children with autism frequently have symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They also can have learning disabilities. Obsessive, rigid thinking may affect classroom performance. On a more subtle level, pragmatic difficulties impact their ability to understand and interpret reading assignments, social studies, and other work. This means they likely will need ongoing intervention to address a broad range of educational difficulties.

6.) Many children with autism need more support during unstructured time than structured time.

The social rules in a classroom are simple: Sit down. Be quiet. Raise your hand when you want to speak. On the playground, in the lunchroom, and during recess social rules are constantly in flux. A recent study suggested half of children with autism become victims of bullies, which is much more likely during unmonitored time. Planning should address this unstructured, often unsupervised time of the day.

About Dr. Mark Bertin

Dr. Mark Bertin, M.D. is a board-certified, developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Pleasantville, N.Y. He studied at UCLA School of Medicine, and completed his training in neurodevelopmental-behavioral pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.


He is an assistant professor of pediatrics at N.Y. College of Medicine and an instructor at the Windward Teacher Training Institute. He consults for Reach Out and Read, a national organization that promotes child development and literacy, and serves on the editorial board of Common Sense Media. His book, The Family ADHD Solution: A Scientific Approach to Maximizing Your Child’s Attention And Minimizing Parental Stress, integrates mindfulness into evidence-based ADHD care. For more information, please visit his website, www.developmentaldoctor.com.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Riverview School Information Session for Parents October 19th

The Riverview School will be hosting an information session for parents of secondary school students (ages 11-19) on October 19th, from 9:00am - 11:30am. They will share an overview of the school and provide a tour of the campus.

Where: Riverview School, 551 Route 6A, E. Sandwich, MA

This program will be appropriate for parents who are in their initial search for a school for their child with complex language, learning and cognitive disabilities, or those who may have previously expressed an interest in Riverview, but have not yet applied for their full school year program.

For more information and to register, call Monica Lindo at 508-888-0489, or email admissions@riverviewschool.org.

You can also visit Riverview's website: http://www.riverviewschool.org.



When Taking a Deep Breath is Not Enough: Yoga and Mindfulness Strategies to Promote Relaxation, Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation

A Workshop Sunday, November 4 by Hannah Gould, M.Ed, RYT

NESCA is pleased to announce a full-day workshop for parents, professionals, and care-givers of children and teens.

Yoga and mindfulness have proven to be beneficial, motivating and empowering practices for many children with developmental and emotional challenges. This workshop will introduce simple games and activities rooted in yoga and mindfulness that help children build essential skills.

 Parenting and teaching children who become deregulated often calls upon adults to be co-regulators. This workshop will discuss effective co-regulation and allow time for discussion and problem-solving related to individual concerns.

No prior yoga experience is necessary!

Areas of Focus
  • Anxiety and frustration: How breathing, movement, and mindfulness can help; 
  • Attention challenges and impulsivity: Learning to slow down and find a “still place;”
  • Sensory regulation: Finding comfort in a stimulating and unpredictable world; 
  • Motor planning and self-calming: Strengthening the mind-body connection.
When:   10:00am - 4:00pm, Sunday, November 4, 2012

Where:  NESCA, 55 Chapel Street, 2nd Floor, Newton, MA

Cost:      $150 per person, pre-paid.

Participants will engage in a variety of fun and relaxing activities including yoga games, breathing exercises and meditation. Please come dressed in comfortable clothing.

This program is limited to 10 participants. Early enrollment is required. To register, call Melissa Jensen or Todd Helmus at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or email nesca@nesca-newton.com.

About the Presenter

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT is an experienced yoga therapist who specializes in working with children and teens with developmental and emotional challenges. Formerly a classroom special education teacher, Ms. Gould employs an educational approach to her work, in order to ensure the optimal learning environment for each child.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Connecting Autistic Behavior to Brain Function

From The Huffington Post Science Section

By Dr. Marlene Behrmann, Director
Carnegie Mellon University Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

September 22, 2012

Autism is a disorder that is well known for its complex changes in behavior -- including repeating actions over and over and having difficulty with social interactions and language. Connecting these behavioral patterns to an underlying neural deficiency is imperative for understanding what gives rise to autism, to developing better measures for diagnosing those along the Autism Spectrum Disorder and designing more effective treatments.

However, even given our significant advances in understanding how the brain works, there hasn't been evidence to tie autistic behavioral patterns together with corresponding neural functions. Until now.

A team of researchers -- including myself and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, New York University and the Weizmann Institute of Science -- were interested in trying to understand on a basic neural level what happens inside the brain that might give rise to the altered behaviors in autism.

Instead of focusing on the more complex behaviors, we set out to uncover and measure fundamental neural responses -- the patterns of brain activation in individuals with autism compared to those without.

Using an fMRI at Carnegie Mellon's Scientific Imaging and Brain Research Center, we scanned the brains of 14 adults with autism and 14 without while these individuals responded separately to visual, auditory and touch stimuli. We looked at the way the most elemental part of the brain's cortex responded to these simple stimuli.

In typical individuals, every time they saw the same visual stimulus, they had an almost identical response in the primary visual system. The stimulus drove normal visual systems in the same way time and time again.

So, the question was whether we would see the same kind of consistent responses in the visual, auditory and somato-sensory, or touch, cortices and within autism. We believed that any alteration in brain response we saw would be a very powerful indication of a major characteristic of autism.

It turns out that in all three of the primary cortices -- visual, auditory and somatosensory -- we did not see the typical response trial after trial in the individuals with autism. Instead, we saw considerable variability -- sometimes a strong response, sometimes a weak response.

The fact that we did not see precise responses in autism was a really important result. It suggests that there is something fundamental that is altered in the cortical responses in autism. This variability in the brain response might also possibly explain why individuals with autism find visual stimulation, touch and sound to be so strong and overwhelming.

We know from genetic research that many of the neurobiological changes that occur in autism have to do with changes at the level of the synapse, the way that information is transmitted from one neuron to another. What these results -- that autistic adults have unreliable neural responses -- does is begin to allow us to build a bridge between the kind of genetic changes that may have given rise to autism in the first place.

It cracks open a new avenue of research which has a good potential to be highly informative in understanding the connection between the neurophysiology and the behavioral patterns in autism.

While this particular study involved high functioning autistic adults and fMRI, we are now running follow-up experiments using EEG. This method which will give us even more detailed information about the neural responses and will allow us to test individuals across the autism spectrum and across different age groups so that we can gain further understanding of this unreliable neural response profile.

And, because unreliable neural activity is a general property that could have a profound impact on how many brain systems function, it could underlie not only autism but a range of cognitive and social abnormalities including epilepsy and schizophrenia.

We are at the tip of a huge iceberg here; further research to fill in the details of exactly how this unreliability happens is essential for accurately diagnosing and treating autism and other disorders.

At places like Carnegie Mellon University, which established a Brain, Mind and Learning initiative to build from its excellence in psychology, computer science and computation to continue to solve real world problems, these types of research projects are a priority. Our ongoing collaborations with Center for Autism Research at the University of Pittsburgh, and with ABIDE, which shares autism imaging data from top research facilities around the world, are crucial for working together to make sure we have all of the scientific resources possible to conduct high quality research.

.................................................................................

The study referred to here, "Unreliable Evoked Responses in Autism," was published as the cover article of the September 20, 2012 issue of Neuron.

.................................................................................

About Marlene Behrmann, Ph.D.

Marlene Behrmann, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the university’s Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, specializes in the cognitive neuroscience of the visual perception system, with a focus on object recognition.

Behrmann has been one of the pioneers in the use of brain imaging to investigate the neural mechanisms of developmental disorders, such as autism. She is known for combining behavioral investigations and brain imaging techniques to understand what is going on inside the brain.

Behrmann’s research has been published in the world’s top science journals, including Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) and the Journal of Neuroscience, and is routinely covered in media outlets such as the New York Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Number of College Students with Disabilities Doubles in Five Years

From SpecialEDpost.com

By Kathleen Wilson
September 25, 2012

As the recession drags on, more and more budget-conscious people are asking for results from our large outlays for special education. But while not largely covered in the mainstream press, our increasingly successful early interventions have created a crop of college-bound students with disabilities; a group who a generation ago would never have had such an opportunity.

Kevin Rinaldi was so silent as a child that his mother studied sign language in case he never talked. She didn’t expect he would ever go to college.

Kevin Rinaldi, who did not speak until the age of six, at
California Lutheran University.

But the boy who was diagnosed with autism at 3, and didn’t speak in sentences until he was 6, earned As and Bs as a freshman last year at California Lutheran University. He edged into the social life at the Thousand Oaks, CA university, too, living with roommates and joining a club.

When it was time to move back to campus this month after a slow summer at home, he was more than ready. “It got a little boring,” Rinaldi said after staking out a bed near the window in his dorm room. “I’m looking forward to classes.”

The 19-year-old is part of a wave of college-going students with autism disorders showing up at college campuses.

Or as he puts it: “It feels good knowing there’s a lot of me.”

Growing Numbers

Around the nation, their numbers are growing at state universities, private colleges and community colleges. Locally, at least 50 have registered this year at Ventura College, 18 at CSU Channel Islands and 10 at CLU.

Total numbers are unknown because the only figures come from college offices where disabled students can register for assistance. But those enrollments are easily double what they were five years ago, and officials believe many more are on campus who don’t disclose they have autism or Asperger's Syndrome, which is included on the autism spectrum.

Some consider Asperger’s a separate disorder, while others believe it’s high-functioning autism.

The trend has spawned books for students and parents, and business for private coaches who advise autistic students on how to navigate college life. Rutgers University, the Rochester Institute of Technology and CSU Channel Islands, among others, have developed special programs to help these students succeed.

It’s a dramatic change from the 1960s, when many autistic people were more likely to be locked in institutions in California. The trend is driven not only by the growing number of diagnosed people, but by early intervention programs, educators said.

Behavioral therapy at an early age has really opened doors,” said Ventura College teacher Steve Turner, who has worked with autistic people in various settings since the 1980s.

Autism is still a barrier to success in both college and the workplace, according to a national study published in May by the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 35 percent had attended college in the six years after high school, based on interviews with parents, guardians and young adults.

Employment rates were higher at 55 percent, but still worse than any other group studied, including people with an intellectual disability, formerly called mental retardation.

Graduation rates for this new generation of students with autism are unknown. Research now underway should help answer that question, said Jane Thierfeld Brown, who has co-written a guide for parents.

Brown, who has noticed the trend for 15 years, said the numbers are definitely growing.

Diverse Needs

Their range of abilities is diverse, and many need help in adapting to a college environment, educators say.

They may struggle to work in groups, handle the noise from a fire alarm pulled in the middle of the night or deal with a change in the syllabus they have memorized. Students afraid of talking to a girl might be accused of stalking if they lurk outside a classroom or send repeated text messages, according to Brown’s book, “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum.”

Often, they don’t speak up in class or strike up conversations. Some struggle with expressions such as “What’s up?”, literally looking to the ceiling. Sarcasm may elude them.

Rinaldi’s parents said he eased into college pretty smoothly, starting out in summer school when there were fewer people on campus.

Kevin didn’t make any panicky calls to his parents’ home. “That was mostly me,” said his dad, Scott Rinaldi, an electrician. “Are you sure you can do this? I was a nervous wreck.”

Kevin’s mother, graphic artist Linda Rinaldi, said it took an array of interventions to get him to the point he is today. He needed speech and occupational therapy, special education and a reading program that helped him distinguish sounds. An aide helped him with social skills.

He was good at math, so she persuaded school officials to put him in regular math and science classes in middle school. By high school, he attended regular classes for the entire day, graduating with a B average from El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. He became an Eagle Scout.

Kevin Rinaldi said no subjects were really hard, but that autism sometimes slowed the rate at which he learned skills.

“Once I get them, I get them,” he said.

Once autistic students get to college, they must meet the same standards in class as other students. But they may qualify for assistance, such as extended time to take tests, help with note-taking and special housing arrangements.

CSU Channel Islands, for example, allows students to move in a week early, avoiding the din on regular move-in day. Some students have problems with sensory overload, preferring to live in single rooms or at home.

Steven Kapp, a 26-year-old doctoral student at UCLA, decided to switch dorms.

“A lot of the students were in Greek houses and partying and running around,” said the man with Asperger's Syndrome, who is eyeing a career as a professor or research scientist. “I went to a more studious dorm.”

Inside the classroom, faculty members see a spectrum of students and behavior. Rinaldi said he’s not prone to any outbursts, but does find it hard to speak up in class.

“Usually I try to lay low,” he said.

Read more at Programs help autistic students succeed in college.