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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Homework: An Unnecessary Evil? … Surprising Findings from New Research

From The Washington Post's Education Blog
"The Answer Sheet"

By Valerie Strauss
November 26, 2012

Alfie Kohn writes about what a new homework study really says — and what it doesn’t say. He is the author of 12 books about education and human behavior, including “The Schools Our Children Deserve,” “The Homework Myth,” and “Feel-Bad Education… and Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling.” He lives (actually) in the Boston area and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.

By Alfie Kohn

Alfie Kohn
A brand-new study on the academic effects of homework offers not only some intriguing results but also a lesson on how to read a study — and a reminder of the importance of doing just that: reading studies (carefully) rather than relying on summaries by journalists or even by the researchers themselves.

Let’s start by reviewing what we know from earlier investigations [1].
  • First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school. In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement. If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says.
  • Second, even at the high school level, the research supporting homework hasn’t been particularly persuasive. There does seem to be a correlation between homework and standardized test scores, but (a) it isn’t strong, meaning that homework doesn’t explain much of the variance in scores, (b) one prominent researcher, Timothy Keith, who did find a solid correlation, returned to the topic a decade later to enter more variables into the equation simultaneously, only to discover that the improved study showed that homework had no effect after all [2], and (c) at best we’re only talking about a correlation — things that go together — without having proved that doing more homework causes test scores to go up. (Take 10 seconds to see if you can come up with other variables that might be driving both of these things.)
  • Third, when homework is related to test scores, the connection tends to be strongest — or, actually, least tenuous — with math. If homework turns out to be unnecessary for students to succeed in that subject, it’s probably unnecessary everywhere.

Along comes a new study, then, that focuses on the neighborhood where you’d be most likely to find a positive effect if one was there to be found: math and science homework in high school. Like most recent studies, this one by Adam Maltese and his colleagues [3] doesn’t provide rich descriptive analyses of what students and teachers are doing.

Rather, it offers an aerial view, the kind preferred by economists, relying on two large datasets (from the National Education Longitudinal Study [NELS] and the Education Longitudinal Study [ELS]). Thousands of students are asked one question — How much time do you spend on homework? — and statistical tests are then performed to discover if there’s a relationship between that number and how they fared in their classes and on standardized tests.

It’s easy to miss one interesting result in this study that appears in a one-sentence aside. When kids in these two similar datasets were asked how much time they spent on math homework each day, those in the NELS study said 37 minutes, whereas those in the ELS study said 60 minutes. There’s no good reason for such a striking discrepancy, nor do the authors offer any explanation. They just move right along — even though those estimates raise troubling questions about the whole project, and about all homework studies that are based on self-report.

Which number is more accurate? Or are both of them way off? There’s no way of knowing. And because all the conclusions are tied to that number, all the conclusions may be completely invalid. [4]

But let’s pretend that we really do know how much homework students do. Did doing it make any difference? The Maltese et al. study looked at the effect on test scores and on grades. They emphasized the latter, but let’s get the former out of the way first.

Was there a correlation between the amount of homework that high school students reported doing and their scores on standardized math and science tests? Yes, and it was statistically significant but “very modest”: Even assuming the existence of a causal relationship, which is by no means clear, one or two hours’ worth of homework every day buys you two or three points on a test. Is that really worth the frustration, exhaustion, family conflict, loss of time for other activities, and potential diminution of interest in learning?

And how meaningful a measure were those tests in the first place, since, as the authors concede, they’re timed measures of mostly mechanical skills? (Thus, a headline that reads “Study finds homework boosts achievement” can be translated as “A relentless regimen of after-school drill-and-skill can raise scores a wee bit on tests of rote learning.”)

But it was grades, not tests, that Maltese and his colleagues really cared about. They were proud of having looked at transcript data in order to figure out “the exact grade a student received in each class [that he or she] completed” so they could compare that to how much homework the student did. Previous research has looked only at students’ overall grade-point averages.

And the result of this fine-tuned investigation?

There was no relationship whatsoever between time spent on homework and course grade, and “no substantive difference in grades between students who complete homework and those who do not.”

This result clearly caught the researchers off-guard. Frankly, it surprised me, too. When you measure “achievement” in terms of grades, you expect to see a positive result — not because homework is academically beneficial but because the same teacher who gives the assignments evaluates the students who complete them, and the final grade is often based at least partly on whether, and to what extent, students did the homework.

Even if homework were a complete waste of time, how could it not be positively related to course grades?

And yet it wasn’t. Again. Even in high school. Even in math. The study zeroed in on specific course grades, which represents a methodological improvement, and the moral may be: The better the research, the less likely one is to find any benefits from homework. (That’s not a surprising proposition for a careful reader of reports in this field. We got a hint of that from Timothy Keith’s re-analysis and also from the fact that longer homework studies tend to find less of an effect. [5])

Maltese and his colleagues did their best to re-frame these results to minimize the stunning implications. [6] Like others in this field, they seem to have approached the topic already convinced that homework is necessary and potentially beneficial, so the only question we should ask is: how — not whether — to assign it.

But if you read the results rather than just the authors’ spin on them — which you really need to do with the work of others working in this field as well [7] — you’ll find that there’s not much to prop up the belief that students must be made to work a second shift after they get home from school. The assumption that teachers are just assigning homework badly, that we’d start to see meaningful results if only it were improved, is harder and harder to justify with each study that’s published.

If experience is any guide, however, many people will respond to these results by repeating platitudes about the importance of practice [8], or by complaining that anyone who doesn’t think kids need homework is coddling them and failing to prepare them for the “real world” (read: the pointless tasks they’ll be forced to do after they leave school).

Those open to evidence, however, have been presented this fall with yet another finding that fails to find any meaningful benefit even when the study is set up to give homework every benefit of the doubt.


1.) It’s important to remember that some people object to homework for reasons that aren’t related to the dispute about whether research might show that homework provides academic benefits. They argue that (a) six hours a day of academics are enough, and kids should have the chance after school to explore other interests and develop in other ways — or be able simply to relax in the same way that most adults like to relax after work; and (b) the decision about what kids do during family time should be made by families, not schools. Let’s put these arguments aside for now, even though they ought to be (but rarely are) included in any discussion of the topic.

2.) Valerie A. Cool and Timothy Z. Keith, “Testing a Model of School Learning: Direct and Indirect Effects on Academic Achievement,” Contemporary Educational Psychology 16 (1991): 28-44.

3.) Adam V. Maltese, Robert H. Tai, and Xitao Fan, “When Is Homework Worth the Time? Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math,” The High School Journal, October/November 2012: 52-72. Abstract at http://ow.ly/fxhOV.

4.) Other research has found little or no correlation between how much homework students report doing and how much homework their parents say they do. When you use the parents’ estimates, the correlation between homework and achievement disappears. See Harris Cooper, Jorgianne Civey Robinson, and Erika A. Patall, “Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement?: A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003,” Review of Educational Research 76 (2006): 1-62.

5.) To put it the other way around, studies finding the biggest effect are those that capture less of what goes on in the real world by virtue of being so brief. View a small, unrepresentative slice of a child’s life and it may appear that homework makes a contribution to achievement; keep watching, and that contribution is eventually revealed to be illusory. See data provided — but not interpreted this way — by Cooper, The Battle Over Homework, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2001).

6.) Even the title of their article reflects this: They ask “When Is Homework Worth the Time?” rather than “Is Homework Worth the Time?” This bias might seem a bit surprising in the case of the study’s second author, Robert H. Tai. He had contributed earlier to another study whose results similarly ended up raising questions about the value of homework. Students enrolled in college physics courses were surveyed to determine whether any features of their high schoolphysics courses were now of use to them. At first a very small relationship was found between the amount of homework that students had had in high school and how well they were currently faring. But once the researchers controlled for other variables, such as the type of classes they had taken, that relationship disappeared, just as it had for Keith (see note 2).

The researchers then studied a much larger population of students in college science classes – and found the same thing: homework simply didn’t help. See Philip M. Sadler and Robert H. Tai, “Success in Introductory College Physics: The Role of High School Preparation,” Science Education 85 [2001]: 111-36.

7.) See chapter 4 (“’Studies Show…’ — Or Do They?”) of my book The Homework Myth (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2006), an adaptation of which appears as “Abusing Research: The Study of Homework and Other Examples,” Phi Delta Kappan, September 2006 [www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/research.htm].

8.) On the alleged value of practice, see The Homework Myth, pp. 106-18, also available at http://bit.ly/9dXqCj.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

10 Ways to Get Your Kids Out in Nature, and Why It Matters

From The Washington Post's Blog
"On Parenting"

By Lauren Knight
October 21, 2014

"...spending time in nature has tremendous health benefits, among them improved concentration, a greater ability to engage in creative play, an aid to help treat mental illness (in particular ADHD and depression), and exercise that beats out organized sports with its hour-to-hour physical activity."

We awaken to the gurgling sound of a small creek; even with the windows closed, the gentle sounds of the rhythm of water making its way downhill reaches my boys and pulls them outside to explore. After two long days of travel and a pitch black night time arrival, they are eager to see what surrounds the cabin in daylight. We are in the thickly wooded mountains 20 miles or so from Asheville, North Carolina, enjoying the beginning of what would become our best family vacation yet.

And though it was just that — a vacation — over the following week, I got the sense while I watched my three little boys navigate the steep paths down to the creek, catch crayfish and salamanders, hike miles and miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and rock hop across small rivers, that there was something bigger going on. They were happy. Not just happy, they were awake with wonder, interest, enthusiasm, and joy. Being in nature had transformed them.

According to Richard Louv, 2008 Audubon Medal Recipient and author of Last Child in the Woods, kids today are becoming more and more removed from nature, at the expense of their own psychological and physical well being. Children are spending more time in structured activities and on electronic devices, leaving little time for unstructured play in nature.

Why Does It Matter?

In his book, Louv shares many studies that have shown that spending time in nature has tremendous health benefits, among them improved concentration, a greater ability to engage in creative play, an aid to help treat mental illness (in particular ADHD and depression), and exercise that beats out organized sports with its hour-to-hour physical activity.

Children who spend more time in nature develop better motor fitness and coordination, especially in balance and agility. And the benefits of the mind are not to be overlooked; greater time in nature can help children develop a healthy interior life, greater mental acuity, inventiveness, and sustained intellectual development. As it turns out, being in nature is not the “tree-hugging” hype of the past.

Understanding that many of us live the reality of a hustling, busy day-to-day life, I am not suggesting that we all pick up and move to the mountains, though the idea certainly seems appealing at times. There are many ways we can incorporate nature into our children’s lives (and our own) to reap the benefits, even if you live in the city.

1.) Inspire curiosity by being curious yourself.

The most important part of prioritizing the natural world is to give your child the gift of enthusiasm. A parent’s excitement is contagious to her children, and when we show awe in nature, our children follow suit. Take the position of a learner — be open to learning new things; after all, no one can possibly be an expert on everything. Encourage questions you don’t know the answer to: “I don’t know! Let’s find out together,” is a wonderful way to get the ball rolling. Be open to a mutual adventure and allow your curious inner child to come out while you explore nature with your children.

2.) Simply be in nature with no other distractions.

Resist the urge to micromanage your child’s experience in nature. Forget about “teaching moments,” just show up and observe. Find a spot near a pond or creek and encourage your child to wait and observe. If you are still and quiet, you may observe nature uninterrupted; the frogs may reappear at the edge of the pond, the birds and squirrels may start to return to their work. If you are with a very young child, follow his or her lead. Let your child explore underneath stones and dig in the mud. Early exposure in nature is less about learning facts and more about the senses and joy.

3.) Limit electronic devices while commuting.

If you have to carpool in the morning, turn off the devices and instead encourage your children to look out the window. The early morning fall skies are beautiful with colors and migrating birds. Talk to your children about the different patterns clouds make, or even better, if your child can read, bring along The Cloudspotter’s Guide and try to identify cirrostratus and cumulonimbus clouds. After all, even views of nature from the car window are calming and beneficial.

4.) Seek out natural, untouched spaces and return often to them.

A suburban field, edge of a forest, or even a small ravine at the end of the street can be teeming with wildlife and spaces to observe and explore. Returning to the same spot throughout the seasons will allow for observations of change and cycles of life. We dubbed our favorite spot when we lived in Washington, D.C., “The Milkweed Field.”

It was on the edge of Rock Creek Park, not far from a very busy road, but set far enough back to be out of eye and ear-shot of the traffic. In the summer, the field grew tall and green, with deer trails throughout. In the fall, hundreds of milkweed pods exploded with fluffy white seeds and we marveled at the monarch butterflies that congregated near the plants on their migration south. This place was magical, and right in the middle of the city.

5.) Make time for unstructured outdoor play.

Studies from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children between the ages of 8 and 18 are spending at least 6.5 hours a day plugged in electronically — that’s 45 hours a week. If this is the case, we can reduce some of that screen time and replace it with nature exploration and just being outside with no other agenda. Try skipping organized sports for a season and use that time to go outside and be in nature with your child.

6.) Stop thinking about nature time as leisure time.

Time in nature is an essential investment in our children’s health and well-being (as well as our own). Changing our mindset will change our priorities; if we view nature time as essential to good health, we will be more likely to engage in it. Nurturing creativity and wonder is part of our responsibility as parents if we want to raise healthy, well-balanced children.

7. Read about nature with your child.

Want to encourage and inspire? Check out books from your local library that are colorful with nature language and adventure. Better yet, read them outside.

Here are a few suggestions:
 And for the little ones:

8.) Plant a small garden.

If you have the space, help your child plant a few vegetables. Bean and pea plants grow quickly and can be eaten when mature, teaching your child about food and the wonder of growth.

9.) Look at the stars.

Visit your local observatory (Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium is great, just check the hours and days they are open before you head there), then drive out of the city some (very early) morning or evening for your own stargazing with a blanket and/or telescope or binoculars. Stargazing offers a deeper, more expansive understanding of the infinite. Allow yourself to think about it, and talk to your children about that wonder.

10.) Get organized.

If your older child is interested, encourage him/her to get involved in the local community. Find an outdoor space, like a field or creek, to restore, and encourage your child to become an active participant in protecting it. Getting the whole family (or neighborhood) involved is even better. It will teach teamwork, pride in community, and family togetherness.

Attachment to a piece of land is, of course, good for the land as well as the people who love it.


Lauren Knight blogs at Crumb Bums.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Free Talk on ADHD in Acton Wednesday, January 7, 2015

From the Acton-Boxborough SpEdPAC

December 27, 2014

At 7:30pm on Wednesday, January 7, 2015, in the R.J. Grey Junior High School auditorium at 16 Charter Road in Acton, the Acton-Boxborough SpEd PAC will host a talk on ADHD by School Psychologist Kalyani Krishnan, M.A., assistant director of assessment and a language and learning specialist at the Institute for Learning and Development.

Her presentation will summarize what we know about ADHD in children, including the positive attributes of the ADHD profile. The talk will also address how ADHD is diagnosed, the importance of differential diagnosis, and possible treatment options (Note: the speaker is not an M.D.).

The relationship of ADHD to other learning difficulties, including specific learning disabilities and difficulties with executive function, will be addressed as well as gender differences in ADHD. The talk will include strategies for parenting.

Please come with your questions or send them ahead of time to abspedpac@gmail.com. This event is free and open to the public.

For additional information, please contact Amanda Bailey, Co-Chair, Acton-Boxborough SpEdPAC, at (978) 263-4642.

Resources: Transition, Transition Services and Transition Planning

From Wrightslaw

August 6, 2014

The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is:

"...to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living."

Section 1400(d) The phrase "further education" and the emphasis on effective transition services is new in IDEA 2004. Section 1400(c)(14) describes the need to provide "effective transition services to promote successful post-school employment and/or education. (See "Findings and Purposes" in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, pages 45-48)

Congress also made significant changes in the legal definition of "transition services" in IDEA 2004.

(34) Transition Services - The term `transition services' means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that-

(A) is designed to be a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child's movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;

(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests;

(C) includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation."

(See "Definitions" in Section 1401, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page 56)

Articles about Transition

It's time to begin planning so your child knows what is necessary to prepare for work, further education and independent living. These articles, resources, and free publications will help.

New Article - 2014! Transitioning from High School to Post-Secondary Education. Marilyn J. Bartlett, M.Ed., Ph.D., J.D. explains why transition from the IEP to a 504 plan for seniors is important!

Transition Planning: Setting Lifelong Goals by Jennifer Graham and Peter Wright, Esq. This article will provide you with two checklists and good advice to help your child make a successful transition from school to employment or further education.

IEPs for Success by Dr. Barbara Bateman. This article includes extensive discussion of transition and transition plans.

The IEP for Transition Age Students. Excellent article about IEPs for "transition-aged students." Learn about transition requirements, members of the IEP transition team (including student and parents), special factors for the IEP team to consider (published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition and The Pacer Center).

IEP and Transition Planning: Frequently Asked Questions

Legal Requirements for Transition Components of the IEP - Barbara D. Bateman, Ph.D., J.D.

Making the Transition from School to Work
by Sue Whitney

IDEA 2004: Improving Transition Planning and Results by Candace Cortiella. Recent amendments to the federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 04), include several revisions to the requirements for transition planning designed to improve post-secondary results for students with disabilities.

Students with Disabilities Get an Extra Hand in Transition to College (pdf format), Austin American Stateman (March 06, 2008).

Termination Just Before Transition: Is This Best? Don’t allow the school to terminate your child’s eligibility unless and until you are convinced that he is functioning well and can get a good job and pursue further education if he wants to.

Transition: Summary of Performance (SOP) When your child graduates from high school with a regular diploma or “ages out” of special education, IDEA requires the school to provide a “summary of academic achievement and functional performance"

Establishing Exit Criteria for a 20-Year -Old Student. There are no clear, specific documents to establish exit criteria for a 20 year old student, except for a regular high school diploma. Absent that, exiting is not an option.

Measuring Interests to Aptitudes - Finding a Direction. Pete Wright says, "Bottom line: Like so much in life, before trying to create a treatment plan, get the data first.”

Certificate Instead of Diploma - Is This OK? Your child is eligible for special education until he graduates from high school with a *regular high school diploma* or ages out at age 22. Do not accept a certificate. A certificate is meaningless and will not help him get a job, get further education or be self sufficient and independent.

Transitional Programs on College Campuses or in the Community. Find out what IDEA says ...“Part B funds can be used for student ‘participation in transitional programs on college campuses or in community-based settings. . .”

More Resources

Got Transition. Find resources to develop youth and parent leadership in advocating for needed transition supports and participating in transition quality improvement efforts.

Special Education and Transition Services. Information about developing and delivering programs, products and services that enhance the quality of education and transition services for students with disabilities and their families, advocates and services providers from OHSU.

Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators (March 2011). This document provides high school educators with answers to questions students with disabilities may have as they prepare to move to the postsecondary education environment.

Parents Guide to Transition to College, Career, and Community. This article will increase your knowledge and provide tools to help you prepare for your child’s transition from K-12 education to postsecondary education and life as a young adult.

The Guideposts for Success for Youth. What all youth need to successfully transition into adulthood from the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Based on an extensive literature review of research, demonstration projects and effective practices covering a wide range of programs and services, including youth development, quality education, and workforce development programs.

Workforce Recruitment Program. Coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense, the WRP is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal and private sector employers with highly motivated postsecondary students with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.

Healthy and Ready to Work National Resource Center. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Division of Services for Children with Special Health Care Needs (MCHB/DSCSHN) www.mchb.hrsa.gov has funded the development and demonstration of model Healthy & Ready to Work (HRTW) state programs focused on of children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN).

Planning for Postsecondary Transition. Presented by NCLD and 92nd Street Y, provides insights into the realities that students with learning disabilities face as they prepare to apply to and attend college.

Podcast: Transition from High School to College for Students with Learning Disabilities. Policy Podcast from NCLD with Vincent Varrassi of Fairleigh Dickinson University. He discusses the basics every high school student and family should know about how to plan for a successful transition from high school to college for students with learning disabilities.

Transition to Adulthood at the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

Transitions Considerations Checklist. Use this checklist from NCLD to determine if your child's transition planning includes all of the components needed.

Transition to School and Work: A blueprint for your child's success after high school. A brochure on transition planning for parents from the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD).

Youth Information, Training, and Resources - Center for Self-Advocacy Leadership (CSAL) Virginia. The Center for Self-Advocacy Leadership (CSAL) provides information, training, and resources to increase self-advocacy leadership skills in youth and young adults with disabilities (ages 13 to 30) who are emerging leaders.

Transition Topics to help you understand the transition process from the National Collaboration on Workforce and Disability.


Yankton School District v. Schramm (8th Cir. 1996) Eligibility for special education under IDEA v. Section 504; transition from school to life after school; unilateral termination of special education services; attorney's fees.


New Update! Transition to Adulthood Guidelines for Individuals with ASD has been revised and formatted into a series of free web–based booklets from OCALI. Each booklet focuses on one aspect of the transition from school to adult life.
  • IEP Components of the Transition Process
  • Considerations for School Programming
  • Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment
  • Employment
Helping Youth with Learning Disabilities Chart the Course - from the National Collaboration on Workforce and Disability.

The IEP for Transition Age Students
- National Center on Secondary Education and Transition and The Pacer Center.

Moving On to High School: A Tip Sheet for Parents of Children on Individualized Education Plans - Transition to 8th grade from the Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Person-Centered Planning: A Tool for Transition. Under IDEA 2004, IEPs must include transition services for the child by age 16. The transition plan should reflect the student’s interests, preferences, accomplishments and skills, what they need to learn, and what they want to do. Person-centered planning is a way to identify goals and develop plans to accomplish goals (published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition and The Pacer Center).

Secondary to Postsecondary Education Transition Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities - National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities

Vocational Assessment: A Guide for Parents and Professionals - National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

What Works: Transition Research - National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Visit the Free Pubs Page for free publications about IEPs, special education, transition, reading, children's mental health, harassment, high-stakes testing, retention and social promotion, discipline, and much more.

College Students with Disabilities

College-bound students need to learn self-advocacy skills - how to present information about their disability and accommodations so professors are willing to help. If students master these skills, they are far more likely to make a successful transition from high school to college.

Please check the resources on the College, Continuing and Higher Education page.

Download the Help for College Students with Disabilities. More Wrightslaw flyers.

IEPs do not follow students into college. Make sure you and your child know what to expect. Read Your Rights and Responsibilities in College by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

Letter to Parents from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) about changes students with disabilities encounter as they make the transition from high school to postsecondary education.

Post-secondary institutions have significantly different responsibilities from those of school districts. This letter provides examples of the unique relationship between post-secondary institutions and students with disabilities.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities (U. S. Department of Education). Short booklet for students who plan to continue their education after high school; includes questions and answers about admissions, accommodations & academic adjustments, documentation, evaluations, and discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

These books will answer many questions students have when deciding on a college.

Peterson's Colleges with Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders - More than 750 college programs in the U.S. and Canada for special needs students.

The K and W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder - A resource book for students, parents, and professionals.

Visiting College Campuses - When to go, how to get there, where to stay, and how to get the most from your visit - complete profiles of the nation's 249 most toured schools - information on campus tour schedule, interviews, and local accommodations.

Learn more about Section 504, ADA and life after school.

Learn more about College: Continuing and Higher Education.


Now is the time for high school seniors to visit college campuses and get a head start on their college applications. Learn about financial aid for students with learning disabilities.

Books - Transition

Life Beyond the Classroom: Transition Strategies for Young People
With Disabilities
by Paul Wehman

The Transition Handbook: Strategies High School Teachers Use that
by Carolyn Hughes and Erik W. Carter

Vocational and Technical Schools--East 8th Editon

College and Continuing Education

Accommodations in Higher Education under the Americans with disabilities Act: A No-Nonsense Guide for Clinicians, Educators, Administrators and Lawyers by Michael Gordon and Shelby Keisern

The K and W Guide to Colleges For Students With Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorder, 9th Edition (Paperback)

Colleges for Students with Learning Disibilities or ADD (Peterson's)

College and Career Success For Students With Learning Disabilities

Guide for College Students with ADHD or LD by Kathleen G. Nadeau

Going To College: Expanding Opportunities For People With Disabilities (Paperback) by Elizabeth Evans Getzel and Paul Wehman (Editors)

Succeeding in College With Asperger Syndrome by John Harpur, Maria Lawlor, Michael Fitzgerald

Realizing the College Dream With Autism or Asperger Syndrome: A
Parent's Guide to Student Success

Transition Practices in Early Childhood

Foundations of Transition for Young Children - Effective Transition Practices in Early Childhood.

Transition of Young Children in Early Childhood Programs from CONNECT: The Center to Mobilize Early Childhood Knowledge from the Child Development Institute at UNC. This training module is about transition from Part C of IDEA (infants and toddlers- birth to three) to Part B (young children - three to six) programs.

More about Early Childhood - Early Intervention


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 and her team, including Sandy Storer, MSW and Marilyn Weber.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Neuroscientists Identify Brain Mechanisms That Predict Generosity in Children

From the University of Chicago
via ScienceDaily

December 19, 2014

Summary: Developmental neuroscientists have found specific brain markers that predict generosity in children. Those neural markers appear to be linked to both social and moral evaluation processes. Although young children are natural helpers, their perspective on sharing resources tends to be selfish.

Children were monitored with EEGs while watching animated
characters perform prosocial and antisocial behaviors,
and later participated in a task measuring generosity.

University of Chicago developmental neuroscientists have found specific brain markers that predict generosity in children. Those neural markers appear to be linked to both social and moral evaluation processes.

There are many sorts of prosocial behaviors. Although young children are natural helpers, their perspective on sharing resources tends to be selfish. Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and Jason Cowell, a postdoctoral scholar in Decety's Child NeuroSuite lab, wanted to find out how young children's brains evaluate whether to share something with others out of generosity.

In this study, generosity was used as a proxy for moral behavior. The paper is published online by Current Biology, and will appear in the Jan. 5, 2015 issue.

"We know that generosity in children increases as they get older," said Decety. He added that neuroscientists have not yet examined the mechanisms that guide the increase in generosity. "The results of this study demonstrate that children exhibit both distinct early automatic and later more controlled patterns of neural responses when viewing scenarios showing helping and harmful behaviors. It's that later more controlled neural response that is predictive of generosity."

The study included recording brain waves by EEG and eye tracking of 57 children, ages three to five, while they viewed short animations depicting prosocial and antisocial behaviors of cartoon-like characters helping or hurting each other. Following that testing, the children played a modified version of a scenario called the "dictator game."

The children were given ten stickers and were told that the stickers were theirs to keep. They were then asked if they wanted to share any of their stickers with an anonymous child who was to come to the lab later that day.

The children had two boxes, one for themselves and one for the anonymous child. In an effort to prevent bias, the experimenter turned around while the child decided whether or how much to share. On average, the children shared fewer than two stickers (1.78 out of 10) with the anonymous child. There was no significant difference in sharing behavior by gender or age.

The authors also found that the nature of the animations the children watched at the outset could influence the children's likelihood of behaving in a generous way.

The study shows how young children's brains process moral situations presented in these scenarios and the direct link to actual prosocial behavior in the act of generosity by sharing the stickers. "The results shed light on the theory of moral development by documenting the respective contribution of automatic and cognitive neural processes underpinning moral behavior in children," Decety concluded in the paper.

The developmental scientists found evidence from the EEG that the children exhibited early automatic responses to morally laden stimuli (the scenarios) and then reappraised the same stimuli in a more controlled manner, building to produce implicit moral evaluations.

"This is the first study of moral sensitivity that directly links implicit moral evaluations and actual moral behavior, and identifies the specific neuro markers of each," said Decety.

"These findings provide an interesting idea that by encouraging children to reflect upon the moral behavior of others, we may be able to foster sharing and generosity in them."

Decety added that these findings show that, contrary to several predominant theories of morality, while gut reactions to the behavior of others do exist, they are not associated with one's own moral behavior, as in how generous the children were with their stickers.

Decety and Cowell are now conducting similar work with even younger children, ages 12 to 24 months, to look at when these neural markers for generosity emerge.

Journal Reference

Jason M. Cowell, Jean Decety. The Neuroscience of Implicit Moral Evaluation and Its Relation to Generosity in Early Childhood. Current Biology, 2014 DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.002

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Yoga Gets Biggest Science Thumbs Up Yet

From the Hindustan Times

By Charu Sudan Kasturi
New Delhi

December 18, 2014

Yoga works much like antidepressants and psychotherapy, and helps tackle most mental health problems including depression, attention deficiency and even schizophrenia, researchers have concluded, giving the ancient Indian practice science’s most comprehensive thumbs up yet.

Like medication commonly prescribed for major psychiatric disorders, yoga helps modulate levels of key chemicals like serotonin, and stress hormone cortisol, a review by scientists at Duke University has confirmed.

For some illnesses, yoga may work as a standalone remedy, and in others, as an adjunct to medicine, they found.

“Additionally, there is likely to be a positive group effect when one practices yoga in a group,” Dr Meera Balasubramaniam, the lead author of the research told HT.

Yoga is estimated as practiced by over 200 million people worldwide, including over 100 million in India and about 16 million in the US.

But while its general use in helping psychical and mental health is widely recognized, medical science – particularly outside India – has till now viewed its potential to tackle specific major illnesses with skepticism.

As the practice gained popularity globally through the latter half of the 20th century, with cultural icons like the Beatles and a galaxy of Hollywood stars subscribing to it, several cases of fraud gurus duping innocent people also started popping up.

Even in India, though yoga is widely accepted and followed as a cure for multiple ailments, medical doctors have had to counter outlandish – and potentially misleading -- claims from popular yoga masters like Baba Ramdev.

The Haridwar-based guru in 2006 said be could cure HIV-AIDS, a claim he has been unable to substantiate.

“Yoga has become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and patients to differentiate legitimate claims from hype,” the authors of the Duke research have written, in their paper published on January 24 in the respected journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. “Our goal was to examine whether the evidence matched the promise.”

They found that, in most cases, it does.

Yoga, the research reviewed by the Duke scientists shows, can help control levels of serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and acetylcholine – chemicals key to most mental illnesses.

Research shows that those performing yoga also did better in handling some of the difficulties associated with attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) such as inattention and impulsivity, suffered by lakhs of Indian students.

Students who practiced yoga were able to use techniques they learnt to calm themselves if they got agitated.

“There was also some evidence of improved homework compliance,” Balasubramaniam said.

While some evidence suggests that yoga benefits patients of mild depression even without medicine, it helps only in addition to prescribed drugs for severe depression, ADHD and conditions like schizophrenia.

“More research to evaluate the benefits of yoga, including its mechanisms, is certainly warranted,” Balasubramaniam said.

The conclusions of the Duke team come at a time when the medical fraternity is increasingly grappling with a growing mental health burden, often exacerbated by poor access to medication for low income families mainly in developing countries like India.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects more than 350 million people globally and is the world’s leading cause of disability.

Recent studies also point to the limited effectiveness of drugs alone as a solution to many mental illnesses.

The Primary Care Study, conducted by the WHO, found that 60% of patients remained depressed a year after being treated with an anti-depressant.

“The search for improved treatments, including non-drug based, to meet the holistic needs of patients is of paramount importance and we call for more research into yoga as a priority,” Dr. P Murali Doraiswamny, a co-author of the research at Duke, said.

Yoga in addition to medication for mental health situations is also useful because the cure rates of medicines tend to be variable and yoga may provide a safe and acceptable adjunct, Balasubramaniam said.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Time's Up for 'Timeout'

From The Atlantic

By Roger Thompson
December 19, 2014

A progressive group of neurology researchers wants to redefine "discipline." Decisions about parenting affect not only children’s minds, but those of adults as well.

At the end of a gravel road in the Chippewa National Forest of northern Minnesota, a group of camp counselors have gathered to hear psychotherapist Tina Bryson speak about neuroscience, mentorship, and camping. She is in Minnesota by invitation of the camp. Chippewa is at the front of a movement to bring brain science to bear on the camping industry; she keynoted this past year’s American Camping Association annual conference.

As Bryson speaks to the counselors gathered for training, she emphasizes one core message: At the heart of effective discipline is curiosity—curiosity on the part of the counselors to genuinely understand and respect what the campers are experiencing while away from home.

Brain science is far from a precise field, but Bryson deploys it effectively when she conducts trainings. She has lectured from Australia to Germany, California to D.C., and the camp trainings are only a small portion of what she does. She envisions herself as someone on a mission to change parenting, and her talks weave recent data on brain imaging, new findings from top journals, and reports of ongoing experimental research with stories from her own life, anecdotes from her clinical practice, and aw-shucks pithy sayings that help make the science accessible.

Bryson is not alone in this approach. She is part of a progressive new group of scientists, doctors, and psychologists whose goal is ambitious, if not outright audacious: They want to redefine "discipline" in order to change our culture. They want to rewrite—or perhaps more precisely said, rewire—how we interact with kids, and they want us to understand that our decisions about parenting affect not only our children’s minds, but ours as well.

So, we’re going to need to toss out our old discipline mainstays. Say goodbye to timeouts. So long spanking and other ritualized whacks. And cry-it-out sleep routines? Mercifully, they too can be a thing of the past. And yet, we can still help our children mature and grow.

In fact, people like Bryson think we’ll do it better. If we are going to take seriously what science tells us about how we form relationships and how our mind develops, we will need to construct new strategies for parenting, and when we do, says this new group of researchers, we just may change the world.

In the late 1980s, a group of scientists in Italy began work that would lead to a watershed discovery in 1992. Professor Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist and M.D., had been working with a research team at the University of Parma to understand the relationship between intent and motor function: How does our intention to do something result in us actually doing it?

They conducted experiments on macaque monkeys, a genus of primates that includes some 20 species. Macaques were used in Harry Harlow’s infamous "Pit of Despair" experiments in the 1970s, and they have been subjected to experimentation to understand a wide range of diseases, including Parkinson’s, eye degeneration, HIV, and, most recently, the Ebola virus.

The group immediately perceived the importance of the discovery. If seeing was, in terms of the brain, the same as doing, the entire canon of human behavior would have to be rewritten. A journal eventually published details of the experiment, and several years later, another journal published a follow up set of findings. In that second installment, Rizzolatti and his team coined a term for the neurological phenomenon they were witnessing: mirror neurons. The term would make him famous.

In the early 1990s, Rizzolatti and his team had been conducting a series of experiments involving the monkeys and peanuts. A portion of the monkeys’ skulls had been removed, and the scientists had connected a series of wires directly to the brain. The wires conveyed electrical currents from the brain to sophisticated recording devices that could read the neurological patterns of the monkey’s actions and, presumably, its thinking.

The experiment proceeded as expected until one day, when one of Rizollati’s team members noticed something unusual. When a monkey witnessed a researcher reaching for a peanut, the neurons in the monkey’s brain fired in precisely the same way that they did when the monkey itself reached for a peanut. In other words, as far as the brain is concerned, simply seeing someone grab a peanut is the same as actually grabbing it oneself.

The idea of mirror neurons continues to prompt considerable controversy; some researchers argue that empirical evidence for the existence of such cells is scant, while others suggest that neuroscience has yet to fully grasp the implications of neurons behaving like mirrors. Regardless, the discussion about mirror neurons has pressed neuroscience into new frontiers, and it has suggested new avenues of inquiry for not only scientists, but also for doctors and psychologists.

Among those avenues is a relatively recent field of study called interpersonal neurobiology. The growth of that field is virtually unimaginable without the discoveries by Rizzolatti and his Parma team.

Dan Siegel is the forefather of this recent movement, coining the term "interpersonal neurobiology" in the late 1990s, though others can be attributed with new discoveries in the field as well. Bryson is one of the many researchers to follow Siegel into the field and who've found their own footing as international experts and sought-after speakers; they reflect the expanding influence of interpersonal neurobiology as a way of thinking about family relationships.

Meanwhile, Siegel's ideas are still finding their ways into not only parenting networks and the popular press, but also schools across the country. Some, like the Blue School in New York City, even shape their entire curriculum around his ideas.

Interpersonal neurobiology envisions the brain as a social organ, one whose processes can best be understood by its interaction with a variety of complex systems. Among those systems, and one that sets the field apart from simply neurology or biology, is the emotional system that develops in relationships. In terms of what happens inside the brain, that system is just as real as, say, the system that processes our eyesight and deciphers it into meaningful images for us.

Siegel, Bryson, and others in the field simplify the science behind their work by relying on a longstanding theory of the brain that divides the organ into three general parts: the cerebral cortex, the brain stem, and the limbic system The cerebral cortex is our rational, human brain, and the brain stem is our "reptilian" or lizard brain, the one that basically exists to keep us alive in times of threat. The limbic system functions as a connector but remains primitive, often encouraging behaviors without giving the cortex time to process and encourage a different, frequently better course of action.

When we discipline, argue Siegel and Bryson, our limbic system can become reactive and emotional; or worse, the lizard brains take control in not just our child, who is raising hell and biting and hissing like a pissed-off gecko, but in us as well, as we raise our voices and flail about trying to scare off the lizard by transforming into a bigger, meaner one. Will the Komodo dragon beat the gecko? In some ways, sure.

But that little lizard learns one thing, and that is for it to win, it needs to grow stronger, get bigger, and bite harder. If, however, parents can channel their inner Steve Irwins and find ways to approach the lizard child with respect for how it is acting—which is ultimately an adaptive and useful way to keep it alive in the face of danger and stress—then we might not only make contact with the creature, but teach it that it has nothing to fear so that it can back away, return to its cave, and let the less hissy, more rational kid come back out to play.

The brain's activities can be observed, documented, and, to some extent, measured. Relationships forge and develop neurons and neural pathways, which means that close observation of what actually occurs in the brain can help us understand what kinds of relationships work well and which do not.

Equally important, the "brain" extends well beyond the organ within our skull. Nerves spread throughout the body, and those nerves are part of a larger body-wide brain that, for lack of a better term, wires together our thinking, our feelings, and our senses. They help us make sense of those very systems because we are capable of turning inward and becoming to some degree aware of the processes that make them work.

Seigal calls this ability to observe and intentionally notice our own body and brain processes "mindsight." Just as our five senses collect information that we use to discern the world around us, our mindsight can provide us with clearer views of our own internal world so that we can better relate to the people around us. This allows us to delve deeper into the significance of our relationships.

Much of what Siegel wants us to consider can be condensed into a simple phrase: "what fires together wires together." The idea is that when a set of neurons are stimulated, they link up with all those other neurons that are simultaneously firing. Whether the groups of neurons that are linking make sense to us as observers on the outside is beside the point. Odd pairings can occur, strange juxtapositions of feelings and sensations that, outside of the experience of a particular individual, seem almost impossible to the rest of us.

I’m reminded of a case study that describes an individual who had come to associate sexual arousal with being covered in insects. As a child, that individual had been locked into closets for unimaginable amounts of time, and during those times, bugs would frequently fill the space and crawl on him. The child, trying to seek some sort of escape from the reality of his experience, found comfort only in sexual release—even though he was too young to even know what sex was or meant. His body knew only that it felt good, and it provided the only possible escape available to him.

In his mind, those associations became, quite literally, wired together. Siegel wants us to become aware of those types of associations, as well as types that are more mundane.

Despite their potential horror, these surprising pairings illustrate the complexity of the brain, and they suggest that if problematic associations can be wired together, so too can more uplifting ones. They suggest that we can forge positive associations to create more meaningful, more encouraging, and more beautiful change when we discipline our children.

We have known, though not always why, that if we can help a child associate certain behaviors and ways of being with positive stimuli, the child will likely want to replicate the behavior. Siegel and his followers argue that we will be less effective in helping children grow until we understand that children’s actions often have odd pairings at the heart of them. Our role is to help children makes sense of those actions and, with any luck, shift them.

Each generation, of course, has its own child-rearing prophet, complete with magical gospels, and Siegel may be just another. In the 19th century, conduct manuals were bestsellers in America. They typically preached the need to limit undue stimulation of children lest they become perverted or uncivil, and as the century advanced, they increasingly associated discipline with corporeal punishment, to the degree that by the end of the century, parents and educators were rebelling.

Some educators pointed out that while prisons (sometimes called "disciplinary barracks") were moving away from physical punishment, schools were codifying it to allow its systematic use. In the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton demanded that "more discipline" be enacted at schools to combat the image of inner-city schools as war zones, and in the wind up to his first term in office, President George W. Bush argued for legislation that would limit legal culpability of teachers using more stringent "discipline" in their classrooms.

Today, the classroom remains the center of much debate about discipline, but it will likely be in the home that Siegel’s and Bryson’s ideas are put to the test. The most telling point of conflict is one of the vexing questions of parenting that lingers from generation to generation: to spank or not to spank.

For some parents, spanking is tantamount to abuse, yet for others, it's a required part child rearing. The division between the two camps is apparent, as some researchers have suggested, along racial and, probably more tellingly, socioeconomic lines. Some opportunistic pundits have even connected the act of spanking to the cultural and economic realities of the black community.

The division can also be drawn, if imperfectly, geographically. In the South, a growing movement has sought to ensure that parents have the right to use corporeal punishment with their children. The difference is that the new spank world is not the swack-in-an-instant belting of our parents’ generation. This one is based on the idea that genuine love can be conveyed with a whack on the tush, and that children, because of their little lizard brains, understand and respond to physical stimuli better than verbal.

They are at least in part right. The animal brain of the child is quite sensitive to touch of all sorts. It recognizes the safety of a hug as well as the danger of a slap without the slightest bit of explanation, and it learns rather quickly that certain behaviors can lead to danger and a red butt. The problem, for folks like Siegel and Bryson, is that children enter a world of emotional chaos when their attachment figure, from whom they are wired to seek safety and security, becomes the figure who also inflicts physical harm.

You might picture Curly running around in circles looking for a place to find safety from Moe, who pops him repeatedly on the forehead. Like poor Curly, lizard brain has very few ways to decipher what is happening and so just circles round and round, occasionally slapping anything or anyone (presumably Larry) nearby.

Decades of research into spanking demonstrates what happens in the brain when we hit a child, even though it’s only been recently that we’ve been able to make sense of some of the findings. Children who are spanked are, according to most studies, more likely to commit crimes, more likely to suffer from depression, more likely to go to jail, more likely to get into fights, more likely to commit suicide, and more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. They also typically have lower IQs and poorer academic performance.

The studies are, of course, mixed, and they suggest correlations, not causations. Still, a mountain of evidence suggests that spanking does very little good, if any at all. Most of this we know when we care to slow down and remember our own responses to spankings. Ask yourself, when you were spanked, did you absolutely, never again take an extra cookie from the cookie jar? In all likelihood, you probably just developed ninja-like stealth.

Further, the research suggests that spanking may be (and I offer this tidbit without comment) more likely to be connected to political orientation than other traits. Spankers and spankees trend toward Republicanism. This could help explain why changing methods of discipline is so difficult and why science faces an uphill battle in facilitating change. Upending years of habits is hard enough with family politics, but when the issue becomes entrenched in national politics, it becomes even more difficult.

Discipline has always been politicized. The 19th-century debates that focused on whether or not corporeal punishment was appropriate for children gave way in the mid-20th to similar debates about school discipline and the right of teachers to strike kids. Today, 19 states permit school officials to use corporeal punishment, and the controversy around school discipline has been heating up as discussions about local school governance have come up against federal education mandates.

Children who are spanked are more likely to commit crimes, suffer from depression, go to jail, get into fights, commit suicide, and abuse alcohol and drugs.

Legislators have conveniently divided along party lines to enter the fray. In Kansas, legislation that would allow teachers to use more forceful corporeal punishment has been proposed (but recently rejected), while in Texas a recent law allows parents to place their child on a "no-paddle" list, a position which allows spanking to remain in schools while granting certain parents (read: godless liberals) the ability to opt out of the paddle.

And the issue is not restricted to the United States. In Sweden, a furious debate has erupted over authoritarian parenting as a way to toughen up kids and prevent them from becoming "brats." And in certain churches around the world, spanking does more than just toughen a kid up; it ensures they move on the path of righteousness. Spanking is biblical mandate, and it works its way into the politics of parenting.

The theory is that teaching children "logical" consequences for their actions will help them internalize the lesson on a kind of primal level. Spanking is the obvious example, but perhaps the most widely known method is one that reaches across political boundaries and seems to work for many, regardless of socioeconomic conditions: the "cry-it-out" method, which teaches children to go to go to sleep on their own and has become a right of passage for many parents.

Wander around a toddler playground, and most parents will be talking about sleeping. As children leap around like monkeys and infants list in strollers, a bubble of drool gathering at the corners of their mouths, parents will be sharing sleep war-stories. They will not be debating the benefits of Montessori education or discussing the virtues of early childhood music lessons. They will certainly not be discussing the benefits of breast-feeding or the nature of spousal relationships after childbirth. And the conversation centers around one, dreaded, judgment-laden query: "Is your kid making it through the night?"

This question, more than any other these days, seems to mark us as either successful or unsuccessful parents. Good parents somehow are able to make their children sleep through the night, whereas the rest of us struggle with finding a good bed time, "putting the child down" (a phrase that reveals our desperation), and ensuring uninterrupted, ongoing, blissful, and quiet sleep. Those good parents may at some point decide that "cry-it-out" is the path to peace in our households.

The method works for many. With ruthless efficiency. If, by eight months or so, your child has not learned to go to sleep on his or her own, your job as a parent is to, through a process of gradual denial, remove yourself from the baby's presence. Three or four nights after starting the process, the wee-one learns that the crying results in absolutely nothing but exhaustion. "Self-soothe" as the literature often calls it. Ouila! Sleeping baby, sleeping parents. Playground bragging rights secured.

The problem is that this type of "discipline" has consequences that are largely invisible to us but no less real than the silence in the house. The biological and neurological effects of cry-it-out are visible only when the brain is unmasked by technology that peers into brain functioning and bears witness to the complex ways our own chemistry responds to stress and to nurturing. That technology provides rather stark appraisals of what we do when we discipline in ways like allowing children to cry it out.

The science of sleep has mixed responses to whether or not the method causes any sort of long-term, measurable problems. Some researchers argue that such a wash over the brain may lead to unforeseen emotional and biological issues (including poor health as the child ages). Others argue that sleep is so important that the consequence of a three- or four- night, cry-it-out cortisol spike is minimal in comparison to the ongoing stress caused by poor sleep, which has been linked to any manner of issues that strike fear in the hearts of parents: poor academic performance, disobedience, lethargy, the Victorian brain fever, and downright nastiness.

Still, such a tremendous surge of stress hormone probably should not be dismissed. And questions like who was involved in the event may have more significance than simply the presence of the hormone alone because it indicates which parts of the brain will be involved in processing the stress. In the case of children, the stress initiated by a caregiver may be more significant in terms of brain neuroscience than the stress associated with, say, little Timmy’s school-yard friend Ginny, who knocks him off the swing set from time to time. That stress may cause the boy some difficulty, but the stress associated with an attachment figure leaving him at night to cry alone in his crib may be more significant.

The child’s brain can only process that as an abandonment—it has no other way to make sense of it—and while the results of that abandonment vary considerably in any given household and certainly don’t sentence the child to a lifetime of despondency—or, worse, mediocrity—the child’s brain experiences a lesson it simply cannot order or regulate except by associating care with something other than the parent. When using cry-it-out, then, parents not only teach sleep, they also teach the associations the child’s brain makes in order to help him or her feel soothed.

Siegel has suggested several methods of integrating the various neurological systems that comprise the "whole brain," that web of neurons that extend from the brain in our head to the nervous systems distributed throughout our bodies. One of the most important is "time-in." The idea of time-in is that parents direct attention to emotions to help children become aware of their inner lives. While not developed as a counterpoint to time-outs—timeouts ideally foster reflectiveness—the term time-in aims for more consistent and ongoing engagement with emotions, communication, and relationships.

Whereas timeout is typically a punishment ("You go sit there and think about what you’ve done!" hisses mom), time-in occurs throughout each day in order to subtly build awareness of the mind’s inner workings. With more awareness, the child has touchstones to return to in order to make sense of more intense emotional experiences—say when you refuse to buy yet another Skylander figure.

Time-in, then, prevents escalation of bad behavior, because it helps a child learn to pay attention to the range of experiences he or she has on a daily basis.

Of course, most of us are about as likely to implement a daily ritual of "time-ins" as we are to finally begin that morning routine of sit-ups, push-ups, and chia-shakes. It’s not going to happen, and Siegel, I think, knows it. He wants to make time-in and its various permutations seem less of an event or "consequence" and more part of our daily routines. Instead of imagining a time-in as an isolated moment in the way that time-outs are, think of it instead as ongoing communication and building awareness.

For instance, Siegel suggests that after something noteworthy occurs, whether good or bad, you help your child tell the story of it. When I spoke with him, he described it like this: one day you go to the zoo, and an orangutan throws a banana at you and your kids. For a moment, you’re startled, but then you start to laugh, and you go on with your day. Siegel wants you to attend to the fact that when that banana came through the fence, you experienced a genuine and momentarily intense emotional response. As innocuous as it likely was, it occurred, and the odds are your child experienced it, too.

On your drive home, then, you bring that moment back from memory and tell a story about it: "Hey Timmy, remember when that orangutan threw that banana at your head? We were walking up to its cage, and we leaned really close it, and then he threw it. Oh my gosh, that scared me. It caught me by surprise and I couldn’t believe it happened. I was so surprised my heart jumped!"

As many parents know, children will often step in with their own version to extend the story, and at that point, our job as parents is to acknowledge not only the event, but each person’s experience of the event. Even if the child, especially a young child, can’t name the feelings associated with it, we can, and we help them when we do. We put words to the intensity of the feelings, and we, accordingly, make them less mysterious and less intense. The child might say, "Yeah, and he made all those gross noises and shook his arms and that banana came right at my face." And we say, "I can see how that scared you." By teaching in casual moments, our task as disciplinarians becomes easier in more-intense moments.

For children, intense emotions are like a dark forest at night. Trees rustle in the wind, bats circle above, and all manner of insects crawl along the ground, but in the darkness they are almost impossible to see, let alone understand. The brain starts making associations, and the child becomes overwhelmed with dark imaginings.

When we use discipline methods like time-out, we essentially usher our kids into the woods and just leave them there in the darkness. More, we actually tell them to sit there silently and not to move no matter what they experience so that they can "reflect" on their actions.

Siegel attempts to make that journey less frightening and less rigid, possibly even inviting. Time-in encourages kids and parents to embark on a daytime adventure into the woods together and asks them to explore a little bit, to poke around in trees and piles of leaves to see what they can find. Parents hand kids tools to dig up dirt and tie branches together. They talk to them about what the woods look like in the dark and what other critters might come out besides squirrels and chipmunks.

The hope is that by getting to know the woods during the day, they aren’t quite so indecipherable at night, even if they are still dark and bit frightening.

Intense emotions are in fact extraordinarily mysterious and frightening, even for adults. When we take just a moment to talk about how we experience them, we help children listen to that inner experience. We train them to recognize and adjust to them. When we do that, we provide them with access to feelings in an unassuming way, and we help them develop clearer visions of their own inner lives.

Discipline, in this model, transforms from punishment and obedience to teaching and self-regulation. While spanking and "teaching consequences" often aim for immediate compliance, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that they result in that. I challenge you to show me the child whose whining ends after a swift hand to the butt. The crying typically escalates, followed quickly by, some permutation from the parent of the legendary phrase, "If you don’t quiet down, I’ll give you something to cry about."

For those in interpersonal neurobiology, facilitating change is less about enforcing mandates and more about fostering new ways of being and living. Yes, they say, if a child reaches for a hot oven, we must act quickly and decisively, but discipline-as-teaching requires that we take that action and teach with it. In the case of the hot oven or a child darting into the street, we intercede swiftly, but we also demonstrate why it’s so dangerous and, the tough part, own up to our own fear and anxiety at that moment. We help the child see how we experienced it so that the kid understands why we acted in the way that we did.