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Friday, October 31, 2014

Where Science, Policy and Treatment Meet: MAC's Friends of the Autism Center Present Dr. Isaac Kohane Thursday, November 13th

From Friends of the Autism Center
at Massachusetts Advocates for Children

October 30, 2014

Dr. Isaac Kohane, of Harvard Medical School and Boston’s Children’s Hospital, has been featured on Ted Talks and in Time Magazine.

In an intimate setting with Friends of the Autism Center, together with a noteworthy panel of practitioners, we will have the rare chance to ask Dr. Kohane questions about the practical applicability of his research – to medicine, policy and parenting.

Our panel of experts include: Dr. Margaret Bauman of ICCD, a leading clinician and researcher, Eileen Hagerty, Esq., a special education attorney and partner at Kotin, Crabtree, & Strong, and Susan Senator, renowned author and autism parent.

When:   5:30 - 7:00pm Thursday, November 13, 2014

Where: The Law Firm of DLA Piper,
                   33 Arch Street, 26th floor, Boston, MA 02110

Space is limited and pre-registration is required by Nov. 10th. RSVP to Tania Duarte at tduarte@massadvocates.org, or call 617-357-8431, ext. 229.

Published on Jul 17, 2013. From TEDMED 2013: Biomedical informaticist, physician, and i2b2 founder Isaac Kohane wants to turn hospital data systems into "living laboratories" to study the genetic basis of disease.


This is an event of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children's "Friends of the Autism Center.” Annual membership is $250 per household. Prospective members are welcome to attend one trial event for free.

Membership dues support the Autism Center's comprehensive efforts to help children on the autism spectrum access services necessary to reach their full potential. The "Friends" connect at two events per year with other Autism advocates - advancing awareness, information, and policy.

The Creative Gifts of ADHD

From the Scientific American Blog
"Beautiful Minds"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NESCA's Jessica Minahan Speaks on Anxiety and Behavior at Milestones Day School on Monday, November 3rd

From Milestones Day School

October 30, 2014

Students with Autism are at greater risk than their typically developing peers for developing anxiety and anxiety disorders such as phobias, OCD, and social anxiety disorder. Without intervention, these children are at risk for poor performance, diminished learning and social/behavioral problems in school.

Understanding the role anxiety plays in a student's behavior is crucial, and using preventive strategies are key to successful intervention. Effective behavior plans for these students must focus on the use of preventive strategies and on explicitly teaching coping skills, self-monitoring and alternative responses.

As a result of this workshop participants will be able to easily implement preventive tools, strategies, and interventions for reducing anxiety, increasing self-regulation, executive functioning and self-monitoring at home and in school settings.

When:   10:30am - 12:30pm Monday, November 3, 2014

Where: Milestones Day School
                 410 Totten Pond Road, Floor 2
                 Waltham, MA 02451

Lunch will be served. To register, please respond to: rsvp@advancingmilestones.com.


Jessica Minihan, M.Ed, BCBA is a special educator, behavior analyst, acclaimed author and director of behavioral services at NESCA, a neuropsychology group practice in Newton, MA. Jessica will be selling copies of her books:

The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, and

(New!) The Behavior Code Companion: Strategies, Tools, and Interventions for Supporting Students with Anxiety-Related or Oppositional Behaviors.

Guests will receive a 30-40% discount at $20 per copy!

When Teens Talk Of Suicide: What You Need To Know

From WBUR 90.9 FM's Blog CommonHealth

By Gene Beresin, M.D. and Steve Schlozman, M.D.
Guest Contributors

September 12, 2014

Here’s the kind of call we get all too frequently:

“Doctor, my son said he just doesn’t care about living anymore. He’s been really upset for a while, and when his girlfriend broke things off, he just shut down.”

Needless to say, situations like this are terribly frightening for parents. Kids break up with girlfriends and boyfriends all the time; how, parents wonder, could it be so bad that life might not be worth living? How could anything be so awful?

For clinicians like us who work with kids, these moments are at once common and anxiety-provoking. We know that teenagers suffer all sorts of challenges as they navigate the murky waters of growing up. We also know that rarely do these kids take their own lives. Nevertheless, some of them do, and parents and providers alike must share the burden of the inexact science of determining where the greatest risks lie.

Suicide has been in the news lately with a flurry of new research and reports and, of course, the high profile death earlier this summer of Robin Williams.

But suicidal behavior among teenagers and kids in their early 20s is different and unique.

So let’s look at a couple of fictional — yet highly representative — scenarios.

Charlie, a 16-year-old high school junior was not acting like himself. In fact, those were his parents’ very words. Previously a great student and popular kid, Charlie gradually started behaving like a different person. He became more irritable, more isolated and seemed to stop caring about or even completing his homework. Then one morning, just before before school, he told his mother that he wished he were dead.

Myths: Common But Distorted

There are countless other examples. Sometimes kids say something. Sometimes they post a frightening array of hopeless lyrics on Facebook. And most of the time — and this is important — kids don’t do anything to hurt themselves. Morbid lyrics and even suicidal sentiments are surprisingly common in adolescence.

Still, this does not mean for a second that we take these warning signs lightly. In fact, there is a common myth that asking about suicide perpetuates suicide. There is not a shred of evidence in support of this concern, and in the studies that have been done, the opposite appears to be true. Kids are glad to be asked.

We have to ask. It’s really that simple. But, we ask with some very basic facts in mind. Suicidal thinking, and even serious contemplation of suicide, is, as we mentioned, very common among high school students. In the Center for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey distributed every two years to about 14,000 high school kids in grades 9-12, students are queried about a range of high-risk behaviors, including suicide.

The Underlying Mood Disorder

In 2013, 17% of teens reported seriously considering suicide, and 8% made actual attempts. Each year in the United States, about 15 in 100,000 kids will die by suicide, making suicide the third leading cause of death in this age group. Additionally, we have no idea how many deaths by accidents (the leading cause of death) were, in fact, the product of latent or active suicide.

The greatest risk factors for a teenager to die by suicide include the presence of some mood disorder (most commonly depression), coupled with the use of drugs, or other substances, and previous attempts.

Although research suggests that girls attempt suicide more often, boys more often die from suicide. Add these risk factors together, and it turns out that Caucasian boys are at highest risk.

Some of this is also driven by a still immature brain. Impulsive behavior is notoriously common in teens, and in many cases, it looks as if the act of suicide was the result of a rash and sudden decision.

So, we know kids mostly don’t try to hurt themselves, but we also know that sometimes they do.
That sounds like a recipe for unfettered worry among parents. What can parents do when faced with these frightening scenarios?

Tips For Parents

Talk with your child. As we mentioned above, there is an insidious but understandable myth that asking specific questions about your kid’s thoughts, feelings and plans about suicide may lead him or her to self-harm. This is an extremely dangerous misconception. Kids who are in trouble are relieved to be asked. However, having an organizing set of principles when engaging in these difficult conversations is immeasurably important.
  • First, keep in mind that the thought alone is not, by definition, dangerous. Many people will find themselves thinking at some point in their lives that the world would be better off without them. Still, finding out whether those thoughts exist is an important warning sign. If those thoughts are combined with intent, then concern should immediately heighten. Most importantly, the presence of a plan should sound the alarm.
  • So, begin by asking general questions about what’s going on, and how your kid is feeling. Ask if he or she has thought about self-harm. Then, if there is any reason at all to suspect that your child is at risk, ask more specifically about what he or she is thinking, intending and/or planning.
Consider any recent significant stress factors in the life of your child or family. While suicide does not come about from stress alone, critically-trying emotional experiences — prolonged marital conflict, a death in the family, medical illness, chronic learning problems, or particularly dramatic relationship challenges — may precipitate depression and suicidal thinking.
  • Pay special attention during these inquiries to the meaning of dying for your child. For example, if Grandma (who happened to be your child’s closest friend and support) has just died, this kind of stressor could tip the scales negatively.
  • Consider as well the meaning of life events at home, in school, and among your child’s peer group. If you and your partner have been fighting, is your child upset about the possibility of divorce? Would suicide be an angry response, an enacted desire to get back at you for the problems at home? While this may seem an immature response, it may seem an entirely reasonable response to your teen.
  • Remember as well that these life stresses and emotional responses usually do not precipitate suicide. However, if your teen is clinically depressed, taking drugs or other substances, or suffering from another psychiatric disorder, the act of suicide or suicide attempts become more likely.
Talk with your partner, friends or relatives who know the child — don’t worry alone! It can be awfully hard to know what a teenager is thinking. We can define substances, irritability and even depressed mood as common among adolescents. So, how can we possibly know when, what appears to be common, is, in fact, a harbinger of risk?
  • We can know by checking in with others who also know your child. Often, kids know each other best. If you’re worried, it makes sense to (within reason) inquire among the peer group or the peer group’s parents. This may seem awkward, and these kinds of questions are by definition difficult. Still, you want to ask.
  • The increasing presence of alcohol or drugs, for example, can be discovered in this way. As we’ve discussed, substances can decrease the inhibition that would otherwise be utilized to prevent self-harm.
  • Finally, if there is a family history of mood disorder, suicide, or substance use disorders, your worry meter should increase.
Call your pediatrician or a mental health counselor. It’s wise if you’re really worried to call a professional. These are, at the end of the day, relatively common calls in the child mental health world. Start with your pediatrician, letting him or her know what has changed in your kid’s behavior. From there, you might be referred for further evaluation. Your teen’s school psychologist is also a good person to ask.

How To Navigate The Mental Health System

The mental health system is not easy to understand. Access to care is limited, especially among professionals trained in child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology.

If your inventory of questions leads you to really worry, go to a local emergency room immediately. If possible, you should try to go to an emergency room that has a department of psychiatry or professional mental health workers readily available. Don’t, as we said, worry alone. Enlist others in the difficult decision about what to do next.

Suicide is a problem among adolescents. While mental health clinicians may receive these calls often, they’re never — and shouldn’t be — easy. But, this is also what we in mental health have signed up to do. We cannot be slow in taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our teenage-kids.


Gene Beresin, M.D. is executive director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Reach Gene at gene@mghclaycenter.org, or follow him on Twitter: @GeneBeresinMD.

Steve Schlozman, M.D. is associate director of The MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Reach Steve at steven@mghclaycenter.org, or follow him on Twitter: @SSchlozman.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Evening November 18th at NESCA: Presentation on Therapeutic Yoga Services


October 28, 2014

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT
Please join from 7:00 - 9:00pm on Tuesday, 11/18 for a presentation by Instructors Hannah Gould and Ann-Noelle McCowan on NESCA's therapeutic yoga services.

Therapeutic yoga uses movement, breathing, mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques to bring children to an awareness of what is happening in their bodies and minds, and provide specific tools they can use to regulate themselves.

Games, music and other fun yoga-based activities are incorporated to engage children and teach targeted skills.

Many children respond better to the body-based approach used in therapeutic yoga than to traditional talking-based therapies. This approach can be especially powerful for kinesthetic learners and those with language processing difficulties.

Introducing "Yoga Connects"

Yoga Connects is a unique parent-child yoga program designed to meet the needs of young people with autism and other special challenges. Parents participate side-by side with their children, sharing the experience of yoga together. Yoga Connects utilizes a visual yoga curriculum and specialized teaching approach developed by Hannah Gould.

Yoga Connects is a six-week program that empowers parents to facilitate effective sessions at home. With Yoga Connects, yoga becomes a meaningful shared activity and provides a daily respite from stress for both parent and child.

No yoga experience is required - the curriculum includes all of the yoga sequences and visual supports parents will need, and the trusting relationship between parent and child provides the safe ground for yoga to be a successful experience.

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014  

Where: NESCA, Lower Lobby Meeting Room
                 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458

There is ample, free, off-street parking in the lot directly opposite the main entrance to our building.

This program is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested; RSVP by calling 617-658-9800, or by email to arenzi@nesca-newton.com.

This School Has Bikes Instead of Desks--And It Turns Out that's A Better Way to Learn

From Fast Company's Blog "Co.EXIST"

By Adele Peters
October 6, 2014

Some schools are canceling recess. But this North Carolina grade school is going in the opposite direction: Kids ride bikes as they read.

Elementary school has always looked a little bit like training for a traditional office job: You show up at 8 or 9, sit at your desk, and fill out paperwork for most of the day. An average third grader might spend as much as six hours sitting in the classroom--only a little less time than the average office worker spends sitting at work.

But as more offices realize that sitting all day long is actually pretty terrible for health and productivity, how long will it take schools to catch up?

While some elementary schools no longer have recess, and people like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie argue that school days should be even longer, a few schools are already moving in a different direction. Some are testing out standing desks, and realizing that a little bit of activity can actually improve attention spans.

Others, like Ward Elementary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are starting to fill classrooms with exercise bikes, so students can work out while they learn.

The Read and Ride program at Ward began five years ago. One classroom is equipped with enough exercise bikes for a full class of students, and teachers bring students throughout the day to use them. As they ride, they read.

The combination burns calories, but it turns out that it also helps students learn better. As the elementary school analyzed testing data at the end of school year, they found that students who had spent the most time in the program achieved an 83% proficiency in reading, while those who spent the least time in the program had failing scores--only 41% proficiency.

Some classrooms at the school also have an extra bike in the corner, so kids who can't sit still don't have to. Teachers also use time on the bike as a "reward" that happens to benefit the students.

"Riding exercise bikes makes reading fun for many kids who get frustrated when they read," says Scott Ertl, who started the program. "They have a way to release that frustration they feel while they ride."

Using the bikes also gets students to exercise when they might not otherwise want to in gym class. "Many students who are overweight struggle with sports and activities since they don't want to always be last or lose," Ertl explains.

"On exercise bikes, students are able to pace themselves and exert themselves at their own level--without anyone noticing when they slow down or take a break."

Over the last five years, the Read and Ride program has expanded to 30 other schools.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

IEP Clinic November 9th: An Opportunity to Seek Advice from a Special Needs Advocate

From JFS
Jewish Family Service of MetroWest

October 22, 2014

JFS is hosting an IEP clinic on Sunday, November 9th. Special Needs Advocates will be available for free, one-on-one consultation with participants for 50 minutes.

This program is for you if you:
  • Want advice on the appropriateness of a proposed or current IEP
  • Want help understanding school or private testing results
This program is free and open to the public, but registration is required for an individual 50-minute consultation with a Special Needs Advocate. To register, please all Nancy Fried-Tanzer at 508-875-3100 x330 by November 3rd.

When:   Appointments from 10:00am through 1:00pm
                   Sunday, November 9, 2014

Where: JFS, 475 Franklin Street, Framingham

Co-hosted by Reva Tankle, Ph.D., a pediatric/adolescent neuropsychologist at NESCA, and Allison Kates, M.Ed., CAGS, school psychologist, with Special Needs Advocates Kathy Bach, Susan Haberman, M.Ed., and Andrea Wizer, M.Ed.

This program is made possible with support from the Julia Michelson Fund.

Mindfulness in Education Research Highlights

From Greater Good
The Science of a Meaningful Life

By Emily Campbell
September 16, 2014

An Annotated Bibliography of Studies of Mindfulness in Education

Although research on mindfulness, especially with children and adolescents, is still in relatively early stages, an increasing number of studies have shown the potential benefits of mindfulness practices for students’ physical health, psychological well-being, social skills, academic performance, and more.

Other studies have indicated that mindfulness may be effective for reducing stress and burnout in teachers and administrators as well.

The following list of selected articles, with brief descriptions of each study and its results, provides an overview of the current research on mindfulness in education.

"Interventions that nurture mindfulness in children and youth may be a feasible and effective method of building resilience in universal populations and in the treatment of disorders in clinical populations."

Click here for a downloadable PDF of this list.

Mindfulness and Students

Barnes, V. A., Bauza, L. B., & Treiber, F. A. (2003). Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 1(10)

Forty-five African American adolescents (ages 15–18 years) were randomly assigned to either a Transcendental Meditation (TM) group (n = 25) or a health education control group (n = 20). The TM group engaged in 15-min meditation sessions at home and at school each day for 4 months. The control group was presented 15-min sessions of health education at school each day for 4 months.

Findings demonstrated that the students who received the TM program showed reduced rates of absenteeism, rule infractions, and suspensions compared to the control group.

Barnes, V. A., Treiber, F. A., & Davis, H. (2001). Impact of transcendental meditation on cardiovascular function at rest and during acute stress in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 51, 597–605

This study examined the impact of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program on cardiovascular reactivity in adolescents with high normal blood pressure. Thirty-five adolescents (34 African Americans) were randomly assigned to either TM (n = 17) or health education control (CTL, n = 18) groups. The TM group engaged in 15-min meditation twice each day for 2 months.

The TM program appeared to have a beneficial impact upon cardiovascular functioning at rest and during acute laboratory stress in adolescents at-risk for hypertension, as the TM group exhibited greater decreases in resting blood pressure as well as other improvements compared to the control group.

Beauchemin, J., Hutchins, T. L., & Patterson, F. (2008). Mindfulness meditation may lessen anxiety, promote social skills, and improve academic performance among adolescents with learning disabilities. Complementary Health Practice Review, 13, 34–45

Students with learning disabilities (LD; defined by compromised academic performance) often have higher levels of anxiety, school-related stress, and less optimal social skills compared with their typically developing peers. Previous health research indicates that meditation and relaxation training may be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting social skills. This pilot study used a pre–post no-control design to examine feasibility of, attitudes toward, and outcomes of a 5-week mindfulness meditation intervention administered to 34 adolescents diagnosed with LD.

Post-intervention survey responses overwhelmingly expressed positive attitudes toward the program. All outcome measures showed significant improvement, with participants who completed the program demonstrating decreased state and trait anxiety, enhanced social skills, and improved academic performance.

Birdee, G. S., Yeh, G. Y., Wayne, P. M., Phillips, R. S., Davis, R. B., & Gardiner, P. (2009). Clinical applications of yoga for the pediatric population: A systematic review. Academic Pediatrics, 9, 212–220

This review was conducted to evaluate the evidence for clinical applications of yoga among the pediatric population (0-21 years of age). Thirty-four controlled studies were identified published from 1979 to 2008. Clinical areas for which yoga has been studied include physical fitness, cardio-respiratory effects, motor skills/strength, mental health and psychological disorders, behavior and development, irritable bowel syndrome, and birth outcomes following prenatal yoga.

No adverse events were reported in trials reviewed. While a large majority of studies were positive, results are preliminary based on low quantity and quality of trials. Further research of yoga for children utilizing a higher standard of methodology and reporting is warranted.

Biegel, G. M., Brown, K. W., Shapiro, S. L., & Schubert, C. M. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 855–866

The present randomized clinical trial was designed to assess the effect of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program for 102 adolescents age 14 to 18 years with different diagnoses in an outpatient psychiatric facility. Relative to treatment-as-usual control participants, those receiving MBSR self-reported reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatic distress, and increased self-esteem and sleep quality.

Also, the MBSR group showed a higher percentage of diagnostic improvement over the 5-month study period and significant increases in global assessment of functioning scores relative to controls.

Broderick, P. C., & Metz, S. (2009). Learning to BREATHE: A pilot trial of a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 2(1), 35-46

This study reports the results of a pilot trial of Learning to BREATHE, a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents created for a classroom setting. The primary goal of the program is to support the development of emotion regulation skills through the practice of mindfulness. The total class of 120 seniors from a private girls’ school participated as part of their health curriculum.

Relative to controls, participants reported decreased negative affect and increased feelings of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance. Improvements in emotion regulation and decreases in tiredness and aches and pains were significant in the treatment group at the conclusion of the program.

Carei, T. R., Fyfe-Johnson, A. L., Breuner, C. C., & Brown, M. A. (2010). Randomized controlled clinical trial of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, 346–351

This was a pilot project designed to assess the effect of individualized yoga treatment on eating disorder outcomes among adolescents receiving outpatient care for diagnosed eating disorders. 50 girls and 4 boys, aged 11–21 years, were randomized to an 8 week trial of standard care versus individualized yoga plus standard care.

The yoga group demonstrated greater decreases in eating disordered symptoms. Both groups maintained current BMI levels and decreased in anxiety and depression over time.

Davidson, R. J., Dunne, J., Eccles, J. S., Engle, A., Greenberg, M., Jennings, P., . . . Vago, D. (2012). Contemplative practices and mental training: Prospects for American education. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 146-153

This article draws on research in neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and education, as well as scholarship from contemplative traditions concerning the cultivation of positive development, to highlight a set of mental skills and socioemotional dispositions that are central to the aims of education in the 21st century. These include self-regulatory skills associated with emotion and attention, self-representations, and prosocial dispositions such as empathy and compassion.

It should be possible to strengthen these positive qualities and dispositions through systematic contemplative practices, which induce plastic changes in brain function and structure, supporting prosocial behavior and academic success in young people.

Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, M. J., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., . . . Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26(1), 70-95

A school-based program of mindful awareness practices (MAPs) was evaluated in a randomized control study of 64 second- and third-grade children ages 7–9 years. The program was delivered for 30 minutes, twice per week, for 8 weeks. Children in the MAPs group who were less well regulated showed greater improvement in executive function (EF) compared with controls.

Specifically, those children starting out with poor EF who went through the MAPs training showed gains in behavioral regulation, metacognition, and overall global executive control.


Want this list in PDF form? Click here for a downloadable PDF version of this list, perfect for saving, printing, and/or sharing with colleagues!


Galantino, M. L., Galbavy, R., & Quinn, L. (2008). Therapeutic effects of yoga for children: A systematic review of the literature. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 20, 66–80

This study is a systematic review of the literature on the effect of yoga (as an exercise intervention for children) on quality of life and physical outcome measures in the pediatric population. The evidence shows physiological benefits of yoga for the pediatric population that may benefit children through the rehabilitation process, but larger clinical trials, including specific measures of quality of life, are necessary to provide definitive evidence.

Greenberg, M. T., & Harris, A. R. (2012). Nurturing mindfulness in children and youth: Current state of research. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 161-166

This article reviews the current state of research on contemplative practices with children and youth. It reviews contemplative practices used both in treatment settings and in prevention or health promotion contexts, including school-based programs. Interventions that nurture mindfulness in children and youth may be a feasible and effective method of building resilience in universal populations and in the treatment of disorders in clinical populations.

This review suggests that meditation and yoga may be associated with beneficial outcomes for children and youth, but the generally limited quality of research tempers the allowable conclusions.

Gregoski, M. J., Barnes, V. A., Tingen, M. S., Harshfield, G. A., & Treiber, F. A. (2010). Breathing awareness meditation and LifeSkills Training Programs influence upon ambulatory blood pressure and sodium excretion among African American adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48, 59–64

To evaluate the effects of breathing awareness meditation (BAM), Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST), and health education control (HEC), 166 African American adolescent participants with moderately high blood pressure (and thus an increased risk for development of cardiovascular disease) were randomized by school to either BAM (n = 53), LST (n = 69), or HEC (n = 44). In-school intervention sessions were administered for 3 months by health education teachers. The BAM treatment exhibited the greatest overall decreases in blood pressure and heart rate.

Harrison, L. J., Manocha, R., & Rubia, K. (2004). Sahaja yoga meditation as a family treatment programme for children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9, 479–497

This study investigated meditation as a family treatment method for children with ADHD, using the techniques of Sahaja Yoga Meditation (SYM). Parents and children participated in a 6-week program of twice-weekly clinic sessions and regular meditation at home.

Results showed improvements in children’s ADHD behavior, self-esteem, and relationship quality. Children described benefits at home (better sleep patterns, less anxiety) and at school (more able to concentrate, less conflict). Parents reported feeling happier, less stressed and more able to manage their child’s behavior.

Jensen, P., & Kenny, D. (2004). The effects of yoga on the attention and behavior of boys with Attention-Deficit ⁄ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Journal of Attention Disorders, 7, 205–216

Boys diagnosed with ADHD by specialist pediatricians and stabilized on medication were randomly assigned to a 20-session yoga group (n = 11) or a control group (cooperative activities; n = 8). Significant improvements from pre-test to post-test were found for the yoga, but not for the control group on five subscales of a parent rating scale, along with some other positive effects.

Although these data do not provide strong support for the use of yoga for ADHD, partly because the study was under-powered, they do suggest that yoga may have merit as a complementary treatment for boys with ADHD already stabilized on medication, particularly for its evening effect when medication effects are absent.

Lawlor, M. S., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Gadermann, A. M., & Zumbo, B. D. (2012). A Validation Study of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale Adapted for Children. Mindfulness, 1-12

A total of 286 fourth to seventh grade children completed the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale—Children (MAAS-C), a modified version of a measure designed to assess mindfulness in adults. Results indicated that mindfulness, as assessed via the MAAS-C, was related in expected directions to indicators of well-being across the domains of traits and attributes, emotional disturbance, emotional wellbeing, and eudaimonic well-being. These findings were in accord with those of previous research with the MAAS in adult populations.

Mendelson, T., Greenberg, M. T., Dariotis, J. K., Gould, L. F., Rhoades, B. L., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness intervention for urban youth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38(7), 985-994

Mindfulness-based approaches may improve adjustment among chronically stressed and disadvantaged youth by enhancing self-regulatory capacities. This paper reports findings from a pilot randomized controlled trial assessing the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes of a school-based mindfulness and yoga intervention. Four urban public schools were randomized to an intervention or wait-list control condition (n = 97 fourth and fifth graders, 60.8% female).

Findings suggest the intervention was attractive to students, teachers, and school administrators and that it had a positive impact on problematic responses to stress including rumination, intrusive thoughts, and emotional arousal.

Napoli, M., Krech, P. R., & Holley, L. C. (2005). Mindfulness training for elementary school students: The attention academy. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 21(1), 99-125

This article presents results of a formative evaluation of whether participation in a mindfulness training program affected first, second, and third grade students’ outcomes on measures of attention. The training was designed and intended to help students learn to focus and pay attention. The 24-week training employed a series of exercises including breathwork, bodyscan, movement, and sensorimotor awareness activities.

Results from three attentional measures administered to the students show significant differences between those who did and did not participate in mindfulness practice training.

Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Lawlor, M. S., & Thomson, K. C. (2012). Mindfulness and inhibitory control in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 32(4), 565-588

99 fourth- and fifth-grade students completed a measure of mindful attention awareness (self-reported dispositional mindfulness) and a computerized executive function (EF) task assessing inhibitory control. Controlling for gender, grade, and cortisol levels, higher scores on the mindfulness attention awareness measure significantly predicted greater accuracy (% correct responses) on the inhibitory control task.

This research identifies mindfulness—a skill that can be fostered and trained in intervention programs to promote health and well-being—as significantly related to inhibitory processes in early adolescence.

Razza, R. A., Bergen-Cico, D., & Raymond, K. (2013). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 1062-1024

This study evaluated the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based yoga intervention in promoting self-regulation among preschool children (3–5 years old). Twenty-nine children (16 intervention and 13 control) participated in the yearlong study. The mindful yoga intervention was implemented regularly by the classroom teacher for the treatment group.

Results from direct assessments indicated significant effects of the intervention across three indices of self-regulation. There was also some evidence that the children who were most at risk of self-regulation dysfunction benefited the most from the intervention.

Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lawlor, M. S. (2010). The effects of a mindfulness-based education program on pre- and early adolescents’ well-being and social and emotional competence. Mindfulness, 1(3), 137-151

This study evaluated the effectiveness of the Mindfulness Education (ME) program, which focuses on facilitating the development of social and emotional competence and positive emotions and has as its cornerstone daily lessons in which students engage in mindful attention training. Participants were 246 students in the 4th to 7th grades.

Results revealed that students who participated in the ME program, compared to those who did not, showed significant increases in optimism from pretest to posttest. Similarly, improvements on dimensions of teacher-rated classroom social competent behaviors were found favoring ME program students.

Program effects also were found for self-concept, although the ME program demonstrated more positive benefits for preadolescents than for early adolescents.

Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(2), 218-229

Program development of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) is described along with results of the initial randomized controlled trial. Participants were boys and girls aged 9–13 (N = 25), mostly ethnic minorities from low-income, inner-city households. Participants who completed the program showed fewer attention problems than wait-listed controls and those improvements were maintained at three months following the intervention.

A strong relationship was found between attention problems and behavior problems. Significant reductions in anxiety symptoms and behavior problems were found for those children who reported clinically elevated levels of anxiety at pretest.

Semple, R. J., Reid, E. F. G., & Miller, L. (2005). Treating anxiety with mindfulness: An open trial of mindfulness training for anxious children. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 19, 379–392.

This study is an open clinical trial that examined the feasibility and acceptability of a mindfulness training program for anxious children. Since impaired attention is a core symptom of anxiety, enhancing self-management of attention should effect reductions in anxiety. A 6-week trial was conducted with five anxious children aged 7 to 8 years old.

The results of this study suggest that mindfulness can be taught to children and holds promise as an intervention for anxiety symptoms.

Tang, Y., Yang, L., Leve, L. D., & Harold, G. T. (2012). Improving executive function and its neurobiological mechanisms through a mindfulness-based intervention: Advances within the field of developmental neuroscience. Child Development Perspectives, 6(4), 361-366

Mindfulness-based interventions that focus on increasing awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions have been shown to improve specific aspects of executive function (EF), including attention, cognitive control, and emotion regulation. This article reviews research relevant to one specific mindfulness-based intervention, integrative body-mind training (IBMT).

Randomized controlled trials of IBMT indicate improvements in specific EF components, and uniquely highlight the role two brain-based mechanisms that underlie IBMT-related improvements. Short-term IBMT may improve specific dimensions of EF and thus prevent a cascade of risk behaviors for children and adolescents.

Thompson M., Gauntlett-Gilbert J. (2008). Mindfulness with children and adolescents: Effective clinical application. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13, 395-407.

This article aims to provide an overview of mindfulness to professionals who are working in child or adolescent settings. Initially, it provides some orientation to and definitions from the field, before summarizing the current evidence for the utility of the approach. The article recommends specific clinical modifications for mindfulness with children and adolescents, as well as reviewing how to monitor and enhance the development of this skill. Finally, it highlights important differences among mindfulness, relaxation and other meditative techniques.

Van der Oord, S., Bogels, S. M., & Peijnenburg, D. (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(1), 139-147

This study evaluated the effectiveness of an 8-week mindfulness training for children aged 8–12 with ADHD and parallel mindful parenting training for their parents. There was a significant reduction of parent-rated ADHD behavior of themselves and their child from pre-to posttest and from pre- to follow-up test. Further, there was a significant increase of mindful awareness from pre-to posttest and a significant reduction of parental stress and overreactivity from pre-to follow-up test. Teacher-ratings showed non-significant effects, however.

Zelazo, P. D., & Lyons, K. E. (2012). The potential benefits of mindfulness training in early childhood: A developmental social cognitive neuroscience perspective. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 154-160

Early childhood is marked by substantial development in the self-regulatory skills supporting school readiness and socioemotional competence. Mindfulness training—using age-appropriate activities to exercise children’s reflection on their moment- to-moment experiences—may support the development of self-regulation by targeting top-down processes while lessening bottom-up influences (such as anxiety, stress, curiosity) to create conditions conducive to reflection, both during problem solving and in more playful, exploratory ways.

Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools – A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 603

This article systematically reviews the evidence regarding the effects of school-based mindfulness interventions on psychological outcomes. Twenty-four studies were identified, of which 13 were published. In total, 1348 students were instructed in mindfulness, with 876 serving as controls, ranging from grade 1 to 12.

All in all, mindfulness-based interventions in children and youths hold promise, particularly in relation to improving cognitive performance and resilience to stress. However, the field is nascent; there is great heterogeneity, many studies are underpowered, and measuring effects of mindfulness in this setting is challenging.

Mindfulness and Teachers

Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., Bonus, K., & Davidson, R. J. (2013). Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout, and teaching efficacy. Mind, Brian, and Education, 7(3), 182-195

This study reports results from a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers. Results suggest that the course may be a promising intervention, with participants showing significant reductions in psychological symptoms and burnout, improvements in observer-rated classroom organization and performance on a computer task of affective attentional bias, and increases in self-compassion.

In contrast, control group participants showed declines in cortisol functioning over time and increases in burnout. Changes in mindfulness were correlated in the expected direction with changes across several outcomes (psychological symptoms, burnout, and sustained attention) in the intervention group.

Jennings, P. A., Frank, J. L., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2013). Improving classroom learning environments by cultivating awareness and resilience in education (CARE): Results of a randomized controlled trial. School Psychology Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/spq0000035

Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE for Teachers) is a mindfulness-based professional development program designed to reduce stress and improve teachers’ performance and classroom learning environments. A randomized controlled trial examined program efficacy and acceptability among a sample of 50 teachers randomly assigned to CARE or waitlist control condition.

Participation in the CARE program resulted in significant improvements in teacher well- being, efficacy, burnout/time-related stress, and mindfulness compared with controls. Evaluation data showed that teachers viewed CARE as a feasible, acceptable, and effective method for reducing stress and improving performance.

Jennings, P. A., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2011). Improving classroom learning environments by Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education (CARE): Results of two pilot studies. Journal of Classroom Interactions, 46, 27-48

Two pilot studies examined program feasibility and attractiveness and preliminary evidence of efficacy of the CARE professional development program. Study 1 involved educators from a high-poverty urban setting (n = 31). Study 2 involved student teachers and 10 of their mentors working in a suburban/semi-rural setting (n = 43) (treatment and control groups).

While urban educators showed significant pre-post improvements in mindfulness and time urgency, the other sample did not, suggesting that CARE may be more efficacious in supporting teachers working in high-risk settings.

Roeser, R. W., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Jha, A., Cullen, M., Wallace, L., Wilensky, R., Oberle, E., Thomson, K., Taylor, C., & Harrison, J. (2013, April 29). Mindfulness Training and Reductions in Teacher Stress and Burnout: Results From Two Randomized, Waitlist-Control Field Trials. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0032093

The effects of randomization to mindfulness training (MT) or to a waitlist-control condition on psychological and physiological indicators of teachers’ occupational stress and burnout were examined in 2 field trials. The sample included 113 elementary and secondary school teachers (89% female) from Canada and the United States.

Teachers randomized to MT showed greater mindfulness, focused attention and working memory capacity, and occupational self-compassion, as well as lower levels of occupational stress and burnout at post-program and follow-up, than did those in the control condition. Group differences in mindfulness and self- compassion at post-program mediated reductions in stress and burnout as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression at follow-up.

Roeser, R.W., Skinner, E., Beers, J., & Jennings, P.A. (2012). Mindfulness training and teachers’ professional development: An emerging area of research and practice. Child Development Perspectives, 6, 167-173

This article focuses on how mindfulness training (MT) programs for teachers, by cultivating mindfulness and its application to stress management and the social-emotional demands of teaching, represent emerging forms of teacher professional development (PD) aimed at improving teaching in public schools. MT is hypothesized to promote teachers’ “habits of mind,” and thereby their occupational health, well-being, and capacities to create and sustain both supportive relationships with students and classroom climates conducive to student engagement and learning.

This article discusses emerging MT programs for teachers and a logic model outlining potential MT program effects in educational settings.

Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S., Karazsia, B. T., & Singh, J. (2013). Mindfulness training for teachers changes the behavior of their preschool students. Research in Human Development, 10(3), 211-233

This study measured the effects of preschool teachers attending an 8-week mindfulness course on the behavior of the students in their classroom. Results showed that decreases in the students’ challenging behaviors and increases in their compliance with teacher requests began during mindfulness training for the teachers and continued to change following the training.

While the students did not show a change in positive social interactions with peers, they did show a decrease in negative social interactions and an increase in isolate play. Results indicated that mindfulness training for teachers was effective in changing teacher-student interactions in desirable ways.

Mindfulness and Administrators

Wells, C. M. (2013). Principals Responding to Constant Pressure: Finding a Source of Stress Management. NASSP Bulletin, 0192636513504453

This conceptual article presents a review of the research concerning the stress level of principals over the past three decades, with emphasis on the occupational stress that principals encounter because of heightened accountability and expectations for student achievement. Mindfulness meditation, as a stress management intervention, provides the theoretical background for this article; the scientific evidence concerning benefits of mindfulness meditations are reviewed. Finally, the author presents suggestions for the prevention and reduction of stress for principals.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Video: 87-Minute Talk on Transition Topics by NESCA's Kelley Challen

via AANE - The Asperger/Autism Network

October 23, 2014

AANE, formerly the Asperger's Association of New England and now, the Asperger/Autism Network, offers an extensive program of educational webinars and also video-on-demand. Here's a link to a Fall, 2013 presentation by NESCA Director of Transition Services Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS, entitled, "Assessments: The Cornerstones of Transition."

Watch the trailer on Vimeo for free HERE.

You can rent the entire 87-minute video for 30 days for just $20.00! Here's a complete description of Challen's talk:

Getting Transition Assessments and Using Them
to Create Transition Goals and Obtain Services
 with NESCA Director of Transition Services  Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS
For Parents/Guardians of Teens with Asperger's Syndrome and Related Conditions as part of our Transition Webinar Series.
This presentation is recommended if your child is 13 years old or older. (If a student is 22 years old or has graduated from high school, the workshop is not relevant.)
This workshop is relevant for all states because federal law (IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) mandates the delivery of transition services to all students on IEPs.
Transition assessments provide powerful tools and data to:
  • Document a student's need for transition services.
  • Give the student and the members of his or her educational team an accurate, objective profile of the student's strengths and challenges.
  • Help the student and the team develop a detailed and truly individualized vision for the student's life after high school.
  • Help the student and the team develop a detailed action plan to help the student make meaningful progress toward realizing his or her vision.
In this presentation, we will discuss how neuropsychological evaluations and a variety of specific functional assessments can strengthen the process of transition planning, and the delivery and evaluation of transition services.
We will discuss specific types of evaluations, and how the student, parents, and educators can take the information the assessments reveal, and put it to work for the benefit of the student.


NESCA Transition Services

Transition is the process, ideally beginning at age 14 if not sooner and extending through high school graduation and beyond, by which an adolescent or young adult masters the life skills necessary to function independently in post-secondary school or the workplace. NESCA offers complete transition assessment (including testing and community-based observation), planning and consultation services, coordinated by Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS.

Obama Administration Clarifies Anti-Bullying Protections for Students with Disabilities

From the HuffPost Politics Blog

By Joy Resmovits
October 22, 2014

When a 10-year-old student with ADHD and a speech disability talks in a high-pitched voice, gym class can become a nightmare. Other students call him "gay" or a "weirdo." He becomes yet another student with disabilities who gets bullied at a higher rate than his peers -- a problem the federal government has been tracking for years.

Since 2009, the feds have received 2,000 complaints of such incidents. But until now, due to the nature of his disability, the gym student might not have received the same federal anti-bullying protections as many of his peers -- even though he is legally entitled to it.

The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights is seeking to change that. This week, Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon sent a letter with new legal guidance to the nation's public schools in an effort to clarify that federal anti-bullying protections extend to about 750,000 more students than schools think.

The gym student, as described in Lhamon's letter, is representative. He's an example from the new guidance, and he receives his special education services under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's Section 504, the category of students whose coverage is clarified by the guidance.

Before this week's letter, the Education Department's most recent guidance on this issue came in 2013 from its special education office, which oversees the enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

But not all students with disabilities are covered by IDEA -- in fact, about three quarters of a million students are entitled to special education services under Section 504, but not under IDEA. And in many cases, these students have been left out of schools' attempts to police bullying.

"We were frankly surprised and dismayed when we learned that there had been some confusion after the 2013 document," Lhamon told The Huffington Post. "People didn't understand that students who don't receive IDEA services are nonetheless entitled to the protections against bullying that we're talking about."

The new letter, which comes during National Bullying Prevention Month, aims to clear up the confusion and extend protections to more students. Under federal law, most students with disabilities have a right to a "free and appropriate public education," but in some cases, the letter says, bullying can prevent them from receiving it -- pushing schools into the realm of noncompliance.

Under Section 504, a civil rights law, the example student is entitled to a "free and appropriate public education," and receives speech therapy and behavioral supports. Lhamon's letter describes a scenario where, three months into the school year, the physical education teacher notices the child enduring painful taunting. He sees students telling the child to "ask other students inappropriate personal questions."

But instead of reporting it to the principal, the teacher tells the student that he needs to tune it out and focus on "getting his head in the game." The bullying worsens, and the student recedes from social life to the point where he misses speech therapy. Like the gym teacher, the speech therapist also does not report the student's absence.

The new guidance clarifies that this school would be out of compliance with federal law. The school knew about this case of "disability-based harassment," and the gym teacher "not only failed to provide the student behavior supports [entitled by his 504 plan] ... but also failed to report the conduct." As a result, the student's right to public education has been violated. He is participating less and losing out on speech therapy, a form of academic support.

An investigation into the school would result in a special resolution with the district that would require a re-evaluation of the student's services, as well as counseling for the student and the development of school-wide anti-bullying policies and other federally mandated remedies.

When bullying occurs, the guidance specifies, schools must assess whether the bullying is related to a student's disability, and whether the bullying affects the student's ability to receive a free and appropriate public education. Investigations into schools can be triggered when schools knew or should have known about disability-related bullying but did not report or respond to it.

"It's a clear statement that students with disabilities are being disproportionately bullied and that ... [the federal government] is going to enforce the law that prohibits that," said Denise Marshall, who heads the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, an organization of lawyers who represent the parents of students with disabilities.

After the bullying occurs, administrators should formally reconvene to assess whether it has affected the student's educational opportunities -- and adjust the student's services accordingly if it has. While special education law already calls for a constant re-evaluation of students' needs, Lhamon said, that "is the world I would like to live in, not the world we actually live in." She wants to ensure that once schools assess the basis of a bullying incident, they then consider "whether that bullying has impeded the student's access to education."

According to the letter, there are "no hard and fast rules" in determining whether a student's education has been interrupted, but "the onset of emotional outbursts, an increase in the frequency or intensity of behavioral interruptions, or a rise in missed classes or sessions of section 504 services would be generally sufficient."

Currently, Marshall said, anti-bullying laws are "unevenly or ineffectually enforced" for students with disabilities. The current legal standard is often difficult to prove in court. Marshall called the new guidance "a positive step," but added that it remains to be seen how much difference it will make.

A representative from the Council of Administrators of Special Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.