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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Have We Taken the Wrong Approach to Treating Kids with ADHD?

From the HuffPost Science Blog

By Carolyn Gregoire

April 22, 2015

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often told to be quiet and sit still in the classroom. But new research suggests that letting them move around may actually be a more effective way to help them learn. 

The study, recently published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, suggests that physical motion is critical to the way that children with ADHD recall information and solve problems.

"Our research indicates that targeting reduced movement in children with ADHD may not be in their best interest," Dr. Mark Rapport, a psychologist at the University of Central Florida and the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. "They need to move more than other children when engaged in learning tasks that require the use of critical executive functions such as working memory."

The study's findings suggest that traditional behavioral methods of treating kids with ADHD -- which emphasize reining in impulsivity and hyperactivity -- may be misguided. It appears that allowing children to move around (within reason) actually helps them maintain a certain level of alertness.

Roughly 11 percent of school-age children in the U.S. have ADHD, along with as many as 19 percent of high school boys. The majority of children who have been diagnosed are treated with medications like Adderall and Ritalin, either in place of or in addition to behavioral therapy, which is recommended as the first line of treatment.

For the study, the researchers recruited 52 boys between the ages of 8 and 12, roughly half of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD. The boys were asked to perform a series of tasks designed to measure working memory, an important aspect of learning and intelligence. During the study, cameras recorded the children's movement and their attention to the task.

The boys with ADHD who moved more during the test performed better than the boys with ADHD who did not move around. They also performed better than the boys who moved around but who did not have ADHD.

Rapport has shown in previous research that kids with ADHD only show excessive movement when they're using executive functions like working memory, reasoning and problem-solving. The new study appears to show that physical movement not only occurs alongside these important brain functions, but seems to facilitate them.

Instead of encouraging children to sit quietly in their chairs, we should consider allowing them to sit on activity balls or at exercise bikes while they work, according to Rapport.

"Movement is functional rather than purposeless," Rapport told HuffPost.

Children with ADHD, he said, should be given "the necessary means by which to engage in controlled, non-disruptive movement while they work on classroom or home activities that require executive control."

Free "Ask the Lawyer" Night with Dan Perlman in Somerville Monday, May 11th

From the Somerville SEPAC

April 29, 2015

Dan Perlman and dinner, too? Whoa...

This event is free and open to the public.

For additional information, please contact Debby Higgins. Email dhiggins@k12.somerville.ma.us, or call 617-625-6600, x 6829.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pediatric Neuropsychologist and BCBSMA Provider Dr. Jessica Geragosian Joins NESCA


April 29, 2015

She is a provider to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (and wicked good!).

Early in April, Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Jessica Geragosian joined NESCA's clinical staff. A psychologist licensed in Massachusetts, she earned her doctorate from the MA School of Professional Psychology, concentrating in Health Psychology.

Dr. Geragosian completed postgraduate training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Mass. General Hospital for Children at North Shore Medical Center, where a focus of her work was neurodevelopmental assessment of young children with developmental challenges.

She enjoys working collaboratively with families and other professionals to address the needs of children with developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders.

In the hospital, school and clinic settings, she has had diverse clinical experience working with children and adolescents presenting with a wide range of cognitive, learning, social and psychological challenges.

She has conducted research in the area of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, particularly focusing on the social and psychological consequences for adolescents. She has provided wide-ranging school-based services, including assessment, consultation and therapy, in several Massachusetts schools.

Dr. Geragosian lives in Boston with her husband and husky, Niko. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.

Young Adults with Autism More Likely to be Unemployed, Isolated

From the NPR Health Blog "Shots"

By Maanvi Singh
April 21, 2015

The transition to adulthood marks a big turning point in life for everyone, but for young people on the autism spectrum that transition can be really tough.

Young adults with autism had lower employment rates and higher rates of complete social isolation than people with other disabilities, according to a report published Tuesday by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.


Disconnection after High School

Percentage of young adults with autism who never worked or continued education after graduating high school.

Credit: NPR; Source: National Longitudinal Transition Study-2/A.J. Drexel Autism Institute


Two-thirds of young people with autism had neither a job nor educational plans during the first two years after high school. For over a third of young adults with autism, this continued into their early 20s, the report found.

And 20-somethings with autism were less likely to be employed than their peers with other disabilities, with 58 percent employed. In comparison, 74 percent of young people with intellectual disabilities, 95 percent with learning disabilities, and 91 percent with a speech impairment or emotional disturbance were employed in their early 20s.

The results are based on data gathered for two large longitudinal studies: the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, which followed young people in special education programs; and the Pathways survey of children with physical, developmental, mental and behavioral disorders.

"We don't really know at this point why that's happening," says Paul Shattuck an associate professor at Drexel University's School of Public Health, who led the study.

The economic shift in the United States to more service sector jobs hasn't helped, he notes. "Starting in the early to mid-1970s, there's been a historic shift in the balance of jobs in the manufacturing sector to the service sector. And those types of jobs, which require lots of social interaction, are exactly the types of jobs that people with autism have difficulty with."

At the end of high school there's also what Shattuck refers to as the "services cliff." Though the 12th grade, public school students with autism can get tutoring, mental health services and other support through their school's special education program.

"Then, all of a sudden, when you graduate high school, the special ed services go away. What you're left with is a hodgepodge patchwork of different public services that are pretty difficult to access," Shattuck says. Community programs for adults with autism generally have the capacity to help only the most severely impaired.

"Federal law for special education requires that high schools help students and families develop a transition plan," Shattuck adds. But that doesn't always happen.

Only 58 percent of high school students with autism had a transition plan by age 14, as required by federal law. "That's a big accountability problem," Shattuck says.

Further complicating the issue, he says, is the fact that many people with autism also have an intellectual disability, a seizure disorder or mental health issues. "Although the core of the disability is an inability to relate easily to other people, the majority of people on the spectrum do have some amount of social appetite," Shattuck says.

But many of them lack social support. The study found that 1 in 4 young people with autism was completely isolated — meaning he or she had not seen or spoken with friends in the past year.

Most autism research is focused on children with autism or on preventing the development of autism, he adds. "But autism doesn't go away when people turn 18. We need to figure out how to help adults on the spectrum as well."


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.

Free Talk in Watertown Thursday, May 14th: Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up

From the Watertown SEPAC

April 28, 2015

Join the Watertown SEPAC on Thursday, May 14th at 7:00pm to hear Dr. Ellen Braaten talk about her new book, "Bright Kids Who Can't Keep Up: Help Your Child Overcome Slow Processing Speed and Succeed in a Fast-Paced World."

Do you find yourself constantly asking your child to "pick up the pace"? Does he or she seem to take longer than others to get stuff done—whether completing homework, responding when spoken to, or getting dressed and ready in the morning? Dr. Braaten has worked with thousands of kids and teens who struggle with an area of cognitive functioning called "processing speed," and who are often mislabeled as lazy or unmotivated.

Learn how to obtain needed support at school, what to expect from a professional evaluation, and how you can make daily routines more efficient—while promoting your child's social and emotional well-being.

When:   7:00pm Thursday May 14, 2015

Where: Cunniff School Library, 246 Warren Street, Watertown

This presentation is free and open to the public. Childcare is available.

About Ellen Braaten, Ph.D.

Ellen Braaten is associate director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Mass. General Hospital. She is the co-author of Straight Talk about Psychological Testing for Kids, a classic book for parents and professionals. Braaaten also wrote The Child Clinician’s Report Writing Handbook, called “the most comprehensive child assessment handbook available.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Transition from High School to College: 3 Tips for Parents

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog 

By Brittany Wadbrook
April 17, 2015

Congratulations! Your son or daughter has just been officially accepted by The University of All Universities. While your household spent months focused on getting into school, now it’s time to shift its attention to staying in school.

Today we'll share three tips for parents to help smooth their child's transition from high school to college:

The Toughest Part of Transitioning from High School to College: Time Management

Our coaches have worked with hundreds of college students, and one of the biggest challenges facing incoming freshmen is the management of unstructured time. The way time is organized in high school (all-day classes five days a week) means students don’t really need to think about using free time, because there isn’t that much of it. When clubs/sports/dinner/homework are finished, students barely think twice about rushing to the TV, computer, or a friend’s house.

But college freshmen living on campus experience free time much differently. One of the first things they notice is how much free time there is, and how little monitoring of their time anyone is doing (no parents haranguing them about doing their homework or studying for that Algebra test tomorrow).

For example, for a student who piles all five courses onto a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, that means Tuesday and Thursday are entirely free. For a student who spreads courses out across multiple days, it can mean nothing scheduled before noon.

To really make this clear, here’s a visual contrast (high school schedule at the top, and college below):

Typical High School Schedule

Possible College Schedule

That’s a whole heck of a lot less time in the classroom than they’re used to.

But this free time isn’t really free. It’s time that gets filled with competing demands: finish a reading assignment or go out for lunch with a roommate; begin researching for an essay or watch reruns of Friends; go to the gym or sleep in.

For students who struggle with Goal-Directed Persistence and Time Management, having an abundance of time to fill -- and having to constantly make choices about how to fill it -- can be one of the most challenging aspects of a student’s first semester.

What You Can Do to Help Your Child Transition from High School to College

Knowing that your son or daughter will be asked to make daily choices about how to spend out-of-class time, you’re in a great position to help them prepare for this dramatic transition. Here’s what you might try.


Using the two weekly layouts above can help your son or daughter get a visual sense for the kind of shift university-level schedules can pose. At first, they’ll probably be excited to have that amount of flexibility (or as they might call it: freedom). But for every credit hour a student takes, the out-of-class homework and studying expectation is double to triple that amount of time.

So, for a student taking five classes, or 15 credits, the expectation is between 30-45 hours of out-of-class work time.

When we consider that ratio, a student working for 30 hours outside of class would look like this:


It might seem like all your college-bound child wants to do is plan a graduation party, get to Bed, Bath & Beyond and connect with their future dorm-mate via Facebook. But discussions about how your son or daughter plans to manage their free time can be key.

Some essential questions to open up dialogue include:
  • Are they a morning, midday, or night worker? Developing self-awareness around their energy levels and personal preferences can encourage them to plan when during the day they’ll spend time on their work.
  • What’s their ideal work environment look like? For students who need minimal distractions, the library can be great. Other students might pick the cafeteria if the ambient noise of conversation is preferable to the quiet cubicles in the library. Some students might need to work in groups, and others might prefer to study off-campus at a cafe where the chances of seeing someone they know are much lower.
  • How comfortable are you saying “no”? When your child’s new friends want to pull an all-night World of Warcraft session or binge-watch Scandal until nearly dawn, it’s going to take a lot to reject those tempting, social-bonding offers. And, they can’t default to the often-used “sorry, my mom won’t let me” that worked like a charm when living under your roof. Therefore, helping them learn to set boundaries will be essential. 


By alleviate, I mean FOR YOU! Begin to pull back on the planning and managing of your child’s schedule now so that he or she can practice making decisions independently. Allowing your son or daughter to experience some pitfalls of poor planning and then reflecting on what they did or did not do can help them restrategize the next time around.

And, if you’ve illustrated how time will shift drastically and communicated with them throughout the springtime of senior year, they’ll be much more prepared to transition in September.

About Brittany Wadbrook

Brittany Wadbrook is a college instructor, certified writing tutor and senior executive function coach at Beyond BookSmart. She began her career in education at Quinnipiac University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Masters degree in Secondary Education. While at Quinnipiac, she became a College Reading and Learning Association-certified Master Level Writing Tutor, and spent three years working for the University's Learning Center. Wadbrook holds a second Masters degree in Composition and Rhetoric from UMass Boston. She is now a full-time lecturer at UMass, where she teaches first-year composition.

Free Workshop in Arlington Wednesday, May 6th: Suspensions and Discipline in Special Education

From the Federation for Children with Special Needs
via the Arlington SEPAC

April 26, 2015

A presenter from the Federation for Children with Special Needs will conduct this workshop, which explains the discipline rules, due process and procedural safeguards required under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Learn to recognize and assess the function of school behaviors, and how to proactively approach behavior management in a way that can yield positive results. Discussion will include the role of school discipline codes and suspension/expulsion policies.

When:   7:00 – 9:00pm Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Where: Ottoson Middle School Media Center
                 63 Acton Street, Arlington, MA

This program is free and open to the public.

For additional information, please contact Matthew Pallett by email to matt@pallett.com, or call (781) 626-0958.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Study of 95,727 Kids Re-Confirms that MMR Vaccine Not Linked to Autism

From Reuters Health
via the HuffPost Healthy Living Blog

By Andrew M. Seaman
April 21, 2015

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is not linked to development of autism spectrum disorders, even among children considered to be at risk, a large new study finds. 

Among nearly 100,000 children, receipt of the MMR vaccine did not increase the risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), regardless of whether kids were at higher risk because an older sibling already had the condition, researchers write in JAMA.

"Even for children who are high-risk, the vaccine does not play a role," said lead author Dr. Anjali Jain of healthcare consulting firm The Lewin Group in Falls Church, Virginia. "We don't know what does unfortunately, but it's not the MMR vaccine."

The results should be reassuring, she said.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a range of symptoms that often includes difficulties with communication and social interaction, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. It's may also include restricted and repetitive behaviors.

The 1998 study that claimed to find a connection between the MMR vaccine and ASD was later debunked. The Lancet, the medical journal that originally published it, withdrew it. Studies continue to vouch for the safety of the vaccine.

Still, some people continue to believe that the vaccine is connected to ASD.

Parents of children with ASD may also believe there is a genetic component, and so they decline to vaccinate their other children, Jain and colleagues noted in their report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the new study, the researchers used insurance claims data on 95,727 children followed from birth to at least age five between 2001 and 2012. They also had data on the children's older siblings.

Overall, about 2 percent of the children had an older sibling with ASD. Those children were more likely to go on to develop ASD themselves whether they were vaccinated or not, according to the report.

The vaccine didn't increase their risk, the researchers say.

For example, among high-risk five year olds, ASD developed in 23 of 269 who weren't vaccinated (8.6 percent), compared to 30 of 796 (3.8 percent) who received two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Among kids not at high risk of ASD, 7,735 were unvaccinated at age five and 56 (0.7 percent) were diagnosed with the condition. That compared to 244 of 45,568 children (0.5 percent) who received two MMR doses.

Furthermore, children with an older sibling with ASD were significantly less likely to have received the MMR vaccine in the first place.

By age five, about 92 percent of the children without ASD in the family had received at least one MMR dose. By comparison, only 86 percent of children with an older sibling with ASD had been vaccinated by that age.

"I think it's important to show that the degree of undervaccination in the families with children with autism spectrum disorder was significant," Jain told Reuters Health.

Alongside the lack of association between the vaccine and ASD, the undervaccination rate deserves attention, she said.

Roughly a dozen studies have shown that age of ASD onset and its severity do not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, wrote Dr. Bryan King, program director of the Autism Center at Seattle Children's Hospital, in an editorial accompanying the new study.

The new study, King added, now shows that "the risk of ASD recurrence in families does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children."


Abstract of the Study

Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism

Despite research showing no link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), beliefs that the vaccine causes autism persist, leading to lower vaccination levels. Parents who already have a child with ASD may be especially wary of vaccinations.

To report ASD occurrence by MMR vaccine status in a large sample of US children who have older siblings with and without ASD.

A retrospective cohort study using an administrative claims database associated with a large commercial health plan. Participants included children continuously enrolled in the health plan from birth to at least 5 years of age during 2001-2012 who also had an older sibling continuously enrolled for at least 6 months between 1997 and 2012.

MMR vaccine receipt (0, 1, 2 doses) between birth and 5 years of age.

ASD status defined as 2 claims with a diagnosis code in any position for autistic disorder or other specified pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) including Asperger syndrome, or unspecified PDD (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification 299.0x, 299.8x, 299.9x).

Of 95 727 children with older siblings, 994 (1.04%) were diagnosed with ASD and 1929 (2.01%) had an older sibling with ASD. Of those with older siblings with ASD, 134 (6.9%) had ASD, vs 860 (0.9%) children with unaffected siblings (P < .001). MMR vaccination rates (≥1 dose) were 84% (n = 78 564) at age 2 years and 92% (n = 86 063) at age 5 years for children with unaffected older siblings, vs 73% (n = 1409) at age 2 years and 86% (n = 1660) at age 5 years for children with affected siblings. MMR vaccine receipt was not associated with an increased risk of ASD at any age.

For children with older siblings with ASD, at age 2, the adjusted relative risk (RR) of ASD for 1 dose of MMR vaccine vs no vaccine was 0.76 (95% CI, 0.49-1.18; P = .22), and at age 5, the RR of ASD for 2 doses compared with no vaccine was 0.56 (95% CI, 0.31-1.01; P = .052). For children whose older siblings did not have ASD, at age 2, the adjusted RR of ASD for 1 dose was 0.91 (95% CI, 0.67-1.20; P = .50) and at age 5, the RR of ASD for 2 doses was 1.12 (95% CI, 0.78-1.59; P = .55).

In this large sample of privately insured children with older siblings, receipt of the MMR vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD, regardless of whether older siblings had ASD. These findings indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD.

Free Proctored Practice SAT, ACT, SSAT or ISEE Tests

From Our Chapel Bridge Park Neighbors
The Summit Educational Group

April 24, 2015

Students: now is the time to prepare for your standardized tests. Before you take the real thing, try a free proctored practice SAT, ACT, SSAT, or ISEE test with Summit!

Summit offers students the opportunity to take a practice test under simulated proctored and timed conditions. These practice tests are a free service we offer as part of Summit's commitment to helping students maximize their test scores. Students will receive a diagnostic analysis of their results in the mail after they complete the proctored practice test.

Register for a FREE Practice Test on our website or call Summit at: 1-800-MYTUTOR (800-698-8867).

Click here for more information about Summit's Practice Tests!

Upcoming Practice Tests


When:   9:00am - 1:00pm Sunday, May 3, 2015 

Where: Summit's Newton Office
                   90 Bridge Street, Newton, MA

Tests Offered: SAT or ACT, ISEE or SSAT


When:   9:00am - 1:00pm Saturday, May 23, 2015

Where: Merrimack College
                   315 Turnpike Street, North Andover, MA

Tests Offered: SAT or ACT 



When:   9:00am - 1:00pm Saturday, May 2, 2015

Where: Summit New Canaan Office
                   161 Cherry Street, Main Floor,
                   New Canaan, CT

Tests Offered: SAT or ACT


When:   9:00am - 1:00pm Sunday, May 10, 2015

Where: Homewood Suites
                   2 Farm Glen Boulevard, Farmington, CT

Tests Offered: SAT or ACT

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Autistic and in Love: Stars of Powerful New Documentary Share How to Make Romance Last (with Video)

From MTV News

By Kase Wickman
April 23, 2015

"We all need to feel loved and I think a lot of people believe in this misconception that people with autism don’t love or are capable of love or need to feel love from other people, that unconditional aspect of love. We need to feel love, we need to be loved to survive."

At first glance, “Autism in Love” may not seem like your typical love story. After all, the documentary, which premiered at this week’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, follows three stories, the main players in which all fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

To say that “Autism in Love” isn’t totally relatable, however, would be wrong. There’s Lenny, who’s looking for love, frustrated and unsure of what he wants, and feeling limited by his own personality.

Stephen’s wife Geeta is slipping away into sickness. He’s desperate to spend as much time with her as he can.

And then there’s Dave and Lindsey, who are in love and have been together for years, but are struggling to make that last leap into commitment. They just can’t quite seem to get on the same page.

Will they ever?

“Autism in Love” isn’t so different from your life after all, which is exactly what filmmakers Matt Fuller, who produced and directed the film, and producer Carolina Groppa, intended.

“I think [the movie] removes a little bit of that distance that we like to put between ourselves and the world,” Groppa told MTV News. “We like to live like ’this is my world, and my feelings, and you don’t feel what I feel,’ and I think it just demystifies that a little bit. We all feel the same things, we all have the same struggle regardless of what labels you’ve been given, the diagnosis you may have, that’s real.”

Fuller agreed: “I think it’s just about humanizing people with autism,” he said. “They’re not the label. They’re complex people who, yes, have disabilities, but also are unique and they have lots of perspectives and desires.”

Fuller said that parents of autistic kids, when asked what they want for their children, most often answer that they want them to love and be loved.

That’s exactly what Dave Hamrick and Lindsey Nebeker have found. Throughout the course of filming, weeks-long visits from Fuller and his camera, the production of the documentary sparked conversation between the couple, bringing them closer together. During Fuller’s last production visit, in Hamrick’s hometown of Colonial Williamsburg, Hamrick proposed to Nebeker. Fuller — and his camera — watched from a distance.

“I was so inspired and encouraged by how vulnerable all of our subjects were,” Fuller said, revealing that he’d learned about his own life by so closely watching others. “I started to see that as a quality that I really admired and liked and I feel like I’ve become more open as I’ve spent more time with them and been inspired by their movement in that direction.”

Chatting with Hamrick and Nebeker in New York and seeing them in “Autism in Love,” the strength of their relationship is clear. Having a diagnosis of autism has benefited the two in some ways: Nebeker and Hamrick said that their methodical and learned interactions make them communicate better with one another. And they stressed that not only is autism more common than you might think — the statistics vary, but even out to a little more than 1 percent of the population by most estimates — but that those on the spectrum and off have so much in common when it comes to relationships and everyday life.

“A lot of times, they’re just like us deep inside,” Hamrick said. “We process things similarly, but sometimes the way that we communicate is different, there are different social deficits that others may not possess and most importantly as it pertains to our story, people with autism can love. They may not show it in the way that we’re used to seeing it, but love is a concept that is blind to things such as disability, religious belief, race, ethnicity, everything. People with autism are fully capable of loving somebody and feeling like they’re loved.”

Now, planning their wedding later this year, Hamrick and Nebeker shared the tips that have made their relationship last.

Communication is key.

“Autistic people especially, in order for us to really like be able to really be compatible and respect each other and honor each other, we have to — especially in our younger years when we’re trying to make friends — we have to learn a lot of interpersonal skills,” Nebeker said. “That requires a lot of learning in communication skills and learning how to relate to people. I don’t mean social skills or learning how to speak verbally: we’ve had to do our homework in learning how to communicate effectively with people.

“I think that’s given us an advantage in when there is conflict or issues or something we disagree with, we know how to take the time to acknowledge if, say, you are experiencing a concern and it has to do with me or something you wish would change or something like that, I would listen to you. I would acknowledge what your issue is and I would, if I had any responsibility, I would submit my responsibility in the role.”

In short: take the time to listen.

Learn the art of compromise.

Just listening isn’t quite enough, you also have to come to a solution. “Respect their viewpoint too,” Hamrick said, “even if you may not agree with it.”

Nebeker chimed in as well: “I think a lot of people make the mistake and think that compromise is 50/50,” she said. “It never is 50/50. Compromise is when one partner is willing to go with the other partner’s situation or preference. But the part of compromise or the idea is to take turns with one partner compromising to the other.”

Don’t rush it.

Just because you hear it all the time doesn’t make it untrue: “Don’t try too hard,” Hamrick said. “Oftentimes, people who are desperately trying to find somebody have poor luck, but if you’re spontaneous and you’re not actively seeking, sometimes they come to you and it’s a pleasant surprise.”

Have a life without your partner, and respect that they have a life as well.

“You want to respect and honor each other’s individuality as well,” Nebeker said. “I think that’s very important. We have extreme differences and preferences. Some people think we’re roommates when they see us because we look so different and we have such different interests.”

Give each other room to breathe.

Even if you live together, like Nebeker and Hamrick do, it’s important to take (and give) a little alone time. It’s often mentally important for those with autism to have time to themselves, but it’s an important habit to develop overall.

“That’s very important for people with autism in general is having some downtime where it’s just them, with space,” Hamrick said.

“I think it’s just a matter of respecting each other’s need for solitude when we need it,” Nebeker agreed.

Let’s talk about sex.

Like, really, actually talk about sex with your partner. “When it comes to sex, communication is very key, especially when it comes to autistic people as well,” Nebeker said. “Especially since, I don’t know if it applies to other people, but a lot of us have various sensory sensitivities and so forth, so you have to communicate with each other to really respect each other’s consent and know how to respect boundaries and know what is sensorily comfortable for you and not comfortable for you.”

Don’t like something? Do like something? Speak up.

Accept that you deserve — and need — love.

“I think love is the essential non-physical ingredient for survival,” Nebeker said. “I’m not talking romantic love, just love in general. We all need to feel loved and I think a lot of people believe in this misconception that people with autism don’t love or are capable of love or need to feel love from other people, that unconditional aspect of love. We need to feel love, we need to be loved to survive. And also we need to remind ourselves to give love to those who need it too. We all need it from each other.

The Ely Center's Social Skills Summer Camps Registration Now Open!

From The Ely Center

April 23, 2015

The Ely Center, at 84 Rowe Street in Auburndale, is once again offering a full slate of social skills and social cognition summer camp options for students of varying ages. These excellent programs offer flexible scheduling and fill quickly. Registration has just opened.

For additional information and to register, please call (617) 795-1755 or email office@elycenter.com.

Download a registration form HERE

Saturday, April 25, 2015

This is Your Teen's Brain Behind the Wheel

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
via ScienceDaily

April 22, 2015

Summary: A new study of teenagers and their moms reveals how adolescent brains negotiate risk -- and the factors that modulate their risk-taking behind the wheel. Researchers observed that teens driving alone found risky decisions rewarding. Blood flow to the ventral striatum, a "reward center" in the brain, increased significantly when teen drivers chose to ignore a yellow stoplight and drove through the intersection anyway.

A mother's presence, however, blunted the thrill of running the yellow light. 

Teens are less likely to take risks and also find
responsible behavior more rewarding when
their mother is present, researchers found.

A new study of teenagers and their moms reveals how adolescent brains negotiate risk -- and the factors that modulate their risk-taking behind the wheel.

In the study, reported in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14-year-old subjects completed a simulated driving task while researchers tracked blood flow in their brains. In one trial, the teen driver was alone; in another, the teen's mother was present and watching, said University of Illinois psychology professor Eva Telzer, who led the study.

Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, developed the driving task and evaluated how the presence of peers influenced teen risk-taking, Telzer said.

"He found that peers significantly increase risk-taking among teens," Telzer said. "I wanted to know whether we could reduce risk-taking by bringing a parent into the car."

Telzer and her colleagues observed that teens driving alone found risky decisions rewarding. Blood flow to the ventral striatum, a "reward center" in the brain, increased significantly when teen drivers chose to ignore a yellow stoplight and drove through the intersection anyway.

Previous research has demonstrated that the ventral striatum is more sensitive to rewards in adolescence than during any other developmental period, Telzer said.

"The prevailing view is that this peak in reward sensitivity in adolescence underlies, in part, adolescent risk-taking," she said.

A mother's presence, however, blunted the thrill of running the yellow light, Telzer and her colleagues found.

"When mom is there, the heightened ventral striatum activation during risky decisions goes away," Telzer said. "Being risky, it appears, is no longer rewarding in the presence of mom."

Not surprisingly, teens stepped on the brakes significantly more often at yellow lights when their moms were present than when they were alone.

"The teens go from about 55 percent risky choices to about 45 percent when their mom is watching," Telzer said. "That's a big effect."

Another brain region, the prefrontal cortex, kicked into gear when the teens put on the brakes -- but only when their mom was watching, the researchers found. The PFC is important to behavioral regulation, also called "cognitive control," Telzer said.

"When they make safe decisions, when they choose to stop instead of going through that intersection, the prefrontal cortex comes online," she said. "It's activated when mom is there, but not when they're alone." (See infographic.)

The PFC (the control center) and the ventral striatum (the reward center) are key brain regions involved in adolescent risk-taking behavior, Telzer said. But in the absence of a well-developed control center, adolescents are more susceptible to the stimulating allure of risky behavior.

"Here we're showing that mom reduces the rewarding nature of risk-taking and increases activation of the prefrontal cortex during safe behavior," Telzer said. "And so these two mechanisms help adolescents to think twice before running the intersection. A parent's presence is actually changing the way the adolescent is reasoning and thinking about risk -- and this increases their safe behavior."

Journal Reference

E. H. Telzer, N. T. Ichien, Y. Qu. Mothers know best: redirecting adolescent reward sensitivity toward safe behavior during risk taking. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2015; DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsv026

More Praise for Hannah Gould and Yoga Connects - A Visual Yoga Curriculum for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders


April 16, 2015

Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT
NESCA's therapeutic yoga program director Hannah Gould, M.Ed., RYT and her groundbreaking new "Yoga Connects" visual curriculum for children on the autism spectrum continue to earn effusive praise from clients.

Here's the latest, received last week:

"I have a 6-year-old who is on the autism spectrum and has stress, anxiety and some behaviors. I myself am certified to teach yoga to kids with special needs, but have been unsuccessful in bringing it to my own child.

Hannah's program was so structured and something (name redacted) could control and take charge of. It took a few weeks, but around week three, (he) was actually doing yoga! By the end of the six weeks, (he) was looking forward to yoga! There is so much research out there now on how yoga helps with stress and anxiety, and with Hannah's patience, we finally found something that worked for (him) and was realistic for our busy schedules.

Really, I can't thank you enough, Hannah. The time you spent with (him) was priceless to our family. (My other son) is now getting involved! It's amazing! He is so proud to show (his brother) his yoga and tell him that, "yoga isn't for babies to act silly". He is proud to show me and his baby brother how to do yoga. Thank you so much.

Just your calm, peaceful, loving energy is something we all see and feel when we sit down to do our yoga together. You know better than anyone that just that phrase, "we sit down to do our yoga together" is more than I could have dreamed was possible.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Just How Common Is ADHD, Really? A New Study May Have the Answer

From ADDitude Magazine

By Devon Frye
April 19, 2015

The rate of ADHD worldwide has been disputed for years. Now, researchers may have identified the benchmark rate of ADHD, to help medical professionals determine whether communities are being over-diagnosed or under-diagnosed.

For as long as ADHD has been recognized by the medical community, the rate at which it occurs in children has been disputed, ranging from as low as 3 percent to as high as 14 percent. The conflicting numbers confuse parents, doctors, and patients, who struggle to determine if the condition is over-diagnosed — and over-medicated — or under-diagnosed.

A new study published in Pediatrics claims to have identified a benchmark estimate for the worldwide rate of ADHD in children. The study’s authors analyzed data from 175 studies from around the world, conducted over 36 years, to reach their estimate: approximately 7.2 percent of children worldwide have ADHD.

By using this rate as a benchmark, the authors say, medical professionals can begin to determine if over- or under-diagnosis of ADHD has occurred in their community. Though a majority of the studies were done in Europe and North America, the total number of studies analyzed was spread evenly enough around the world that the researchers are confident in their conclusion.

Since the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been revised several times over the years, the researchers also looked at whether the rate of ADHD diagnosis had changed along with the DSM. Since the DSM-IV has an updated (and perhaps — as some critics argue — looser) definition of ADHD, researchers expected to see a significant increase in diagnoses as the DSM-IV was widely used.

However, no statistically significant difference was seen between the DSM-III and the DSM-IV criteria, researchers said.

The 7.2 percent estimate is lower than the most recent data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It claims that 11 percent of school-aged children have ADHD. However, since this study looked at a worldwide population — not just the United States — it’s possible that the jump in U.S. diagnoses may be related to other contributing factors, researchers said.

The study, while comprehensive, does have some concerns. Most of the individual studies (74 percent) looked only at school populations, possibly excluding children who were homeschooled or otherwise outside the school population.

In addition, the individual studies were primarily focused on specific communities or regions, which limits the ability of researchers to use them to form generalities about the global population.

Despite the concerns, however, the researchers believe the study to be a major step forward in eliminating ADHD stigma and helping those who are affected get the treatment they need. “Media reports of high rates of diagnosis may cause suspicion regarding the diagnosis overall,"said Rae Thomas, Ph.D., the lead researcher on the study. But, “an accurate diagnosis is arguably the single most important thing a clinician can do for a patient."

These new estimates, he concludes, may give clinicians more accurate tools to use when searching for a diagnosis.

Free Talk May 21st in Needham: Beyond Requesting - An Overview of Communication Possibilities Using the iPad

From Boston Children's Hospital

April 20, 2015

The Autism Language Program at Boston Children’s Hospital has identified seven pragmatic functions for which all competent communicators use language, including:
  • requesting;
  • protesting;
  • commenting/labeling;
  • directives;
  • questions;
  • transitions; and,
  • social pragmatics.
This training will illustrate methods used to promote communication in learners with autism for purposes beyond simple requesting, focusing on the iPad as a comprehensive learning tool.

iPad tips and tricks will be shown, as well as various apps and strategies to support language learning and communication. Jennifer Abramson M.S. CCC-SLP from the Autism Language Program will present this information and answer questions.

When:   6:30 - 8:30pm Thursday, May 21 2015

Where: The Charles River Center
                   59 East Militia Heights Road, Needham, MA

This program is free and open to the public. RSVP to Ellen Kilicarslan: ekilicarslan@charlesrivercenter.org

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Advocates and Attorneys Lists: Additions and Updates Abound (for Which We're Grateful)!


April 23, 2015

Fresh from our expanding egg-on-face department, more important additions and corrections to our rosters of special education attorneys and educational advocates:

Special Education Attorneys

Attorney Stacey Elin Rossi updated her email address and added a link to her website.

Stacey Elin Rossi, Esq.
3 Whitcomb Summit
Drury, MA 01343
Tel. (413) 248-7622; Fax: (775) 548-8474
Email: ser@staceyelinrossi.com

In this iteration, Jeff Sankey somehow fell from our list, where deservedly he's been a fixture for years. Our apologies, Jeff!

Jeffrey M. Sankey, Esq.
Sankey Law Offices, P.C.
25 Braintree Hill Park, Suite 200
Braintree, MA 02184
Tel. (781) 930-3127; FAX: (781) 930-3128

Special Education Advocates

Joan Toussaint's email address has changed; her other contact information remains the same.

Joan Toussaint
Educational Advocate
Maynard, MA 01754
Tel. (978) 897-1622; FAX: (978) 897-1884

Many thanks to Special Education Attorney Lillian Wong for pointing out our egregious omission of Advocate Beth Walsh!

Beth M. Walsh, M.S., OTR/L
Tel. (617) 968-9631

The changes above will appear on our website soon.

Disruptive Behavior: Why It's Often Misdiagnosed

From the Child Mind Institute

April 7, 2015

Most children have occasional temper tantrums or outbursts, but when kids repeatedly lash out, are defiant, or can't control their tempers, it can seriously impair their functioning in school and cause serious family turmoil.

The first challenge in helping a child manage his behavior better is to understand why he's doing what he's doing. In the same way that a headache or a fever can be caused by many things, frequent outbursts—which clinicians call "emotional dysregulation"—can reflect a number of different underlying issues.

It's easy to jump to the conclusion that a child who's pushing or hitting or throwing tantrums is angry, defiant or hostile. But in many cases disruptive, even explosive behavior stems from anxiety or frustration that may not be apparent to parents or teachers.

Here we take a look at some of the diagnoses that are associated with disruptive behavior. It's crucial to understand what's really behind the behavior because, just as in medicine, the diagnosis will affect the appropriate treatment.

The Common Diagnosis: ODD

Often children who lash out or refuse to follow direction are thought to have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), which is characterized by a pattern of negative, hostile or defiant behavior. Symptoms of ODD include a child frequently losing his temper, arguing with adults, becoming easily annoyed or actively disobeying requests or rules.

To be diagnosed with ODD, the child's disruptive behavior must have been occurring for at least six months.

Other Possibilities

Anxiety Disorders: Children with anxiety disorders have significant difficulty coping with situations that cause them distress. When a child with an untreated anxiety disorder is put into an anxiety-inducing situation, he may become oppositional in an effort to escape that situation or avoid the source of his fear.

For example, a child with acute social anxiety may lash out at another child if he finds himself in a difficult situation. A child with OCD may become extremely upset and scream at his parents when they do not provide him with the constant repetitive reassurance that he uses to manage his obsessive fears.


  • Kids who seem angry and oppositional are often severely anxious and unable to express themselves. READ MORE

We tend to associate anxiety with kids freezing, avoiding things they're afraid of, or clinging to parents, notes says Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. "But you can also see tantrums and complete meltdowns."

"Anxiety is one of those diagnoses that is a great masquerader," explains Dr. Laura Prager, director of the Child Psychiatry Emergency Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It can look like a lot of things. Particularly with kids who may not have words to express their feelings, or because no one is listening to them, they might manifest their anxiety with behavioral dysregulation."

ADHD: Many children with ADHD, especially those who experience impulsivity and hyperactivity, may appear to be intentionally oppositional. These children may have difficulty sitting still, they grab things from other kids, blurt out inappropriate remarks, have difficulty waiting their turn, interrupt others, and act without thinking through the consequences.

These symptoms are more a result of their impaired executive functioning skills—their ability to think ahead and assess the impact of their behavior—than purposeful oppositional behavior.

In a recent study conducted by Dr. Amy Roy of Fordham University, more than 75 percent of children who presented with severe temper outbursts also fit the criteria for ADHD. That doesn't necessarily mean they've beendiagnosed with ADHD—in fact the disorder may be overlooked in kids who have a history of aggression.

"What people don't understand is that a lack of focus, an inability to complete work and tolerate boredom, among other symptoms, can contribute to the escalation toward the explosive outbursts," explains Dr. Vasco Lopes, a clinical psychologist. So you have to get to the underlying cause."

Learning Disorders: When a child acts out repeatedly in school, it's possible that the behavior stems from an undiagnosed learning disorder. Say he has extreme difficulty mastering math skills, and laboring unsuccessfully over a set of problems makes him very frustrated and irritable. And, he knows next period is math class.

"Kids with learning problems can be masters at being deceptive—they don't want to expose their vulnerability. They want to distract you from recognizing their struggle," explains Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a Harvard Medical School professor who specializes in mental health care in school settings.

"If a child has problems with writing or math or reading, rather than ask for help or admit that he's stuck, he may rip up an assignment, or start something with another child to create a diversion."

Paying attention to when the problematic behavior happens can lead to exposing a learning issue, she adds. "When parents and teachers are looking for the causes of dysregulation, it helps to note when it happens—to flag weaknesses and get kids support."

Sensory Processing Problems: Children who have trouble processing sensory information can have extreme and sometimes disruptive behavior when their senses are feeling overwhelmed. They might do things like scream if their faces get wet, throw violent tantrums whenever you try to get them dressed, crash into walls and even people, and put inedible things, including rocks and paint, into their mouths.

Besides tantrums and mood swings, kids with sensory processing issues are also at risk for running away when an environment becomes too overwhelming. The "fight or flight" response can kick in when kids are feeling overloaded with sensory input, and their panicked reactions can put them in real danger


  • Tantrums, clumsiness, impulsiveness. These signs in young children could point to sensory issues that fill the brain with a 'traffic jam' of input. READ MORE

Executive Function: An Essential Part of Early Childhood Brain Development - Free Talk in Littleton Thursday, May 7th

From The Discovery Museums Speaker Series

April 19, 2015

How does executive function develop in early childhood and what do we know about the environments which shape it?

Executive Function refers to a set of cognitive skills which are integral to our ability to focus on goals, stop ourselves from doing things we don't want to do, and can impact future success.

Margaret Sheridan, Ph.D.
Dr. Margaret Sheridan will speak about the brain processes which support the typical development of these skills. In addition, she will report on some recent research which investigates the impact of stressful environments on children’s brain development.

Light refreshments will be served, including hors d'oeuvres and desserts provided by Idylwilde Farms of Acton.

When:   6:30 - 8:30pm Thursday, May 7, 2015\

Where: First Church Unitarian
                   19 Foster Street, Littleton, MA

This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. A wait list is expected.

Register HERE.

About Dr. Margaret Sheridan

Margaret Sheridan, Ph.D. received her degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. After completing her clinical internship at NYU Child Study Center/Bellevue Hospital, she spent three years as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at Harvard School of Public Health and is now an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The goal of her research is to better understand the neural underpinnings of the development of cognitive control across childhood and to understand how and why disruption in this process results in psychopathology. Dr. Sheridan‘s work is characterized by rigorous and novel task design and cutting edge analytic approaches to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Anxiety in the Classroom

From the Child Mind Institute

By Rachel Ehmke
April 13, 2015

Sometimes anxiety is easy to identify—like when a child is feeling nervous before a test. Other times anxiety in the classroom can look like something else entirely—an upset stomach, disruptive or angry behavior, ADHD, or even a learning disorder.

There are many different kinds of anxiety, which is one of the reasons it can be hard to detect in the classroom. What they all have in common, says neurologist and former teacher Ken Schuster, PsyD, is that anxiety "tends to lock up the brain," making school hard for anxious kids.

Children can struggle with:
  • Separation anxiety: When children are worried about being separated from caregivers. These kids can have a hard time at school drop-offs and throughout the day.
  • Social anxiety: When children are excessively self-conscious, making it difficult for them to participate in class and socialize with peers.
  • Selective mutism: When children have a hard time speaking in some settings, like at school around the teacher.
  • Generalized anxiety: When children worry about a wide variety of everyday things. Kids with generalized anxiety often worry particularly about school performance and can struggle with perfectionism.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: When children's minds are filled with unwanted and stressful thoughts. Kids with OCD try to alleviate their anxiety by performing compulsive rituals like counting or washing their hands.
  • Specific phobias: When children have an excessive and irrational fear of particular things, like being afraid of animals or storms.
Here are some tips for recognizing anxiety in kids at school, and what might be causing it.

Inattention and Restlessness

When a child is squirming in his seat and not paying attention, we tend to think of ADHD, but anxiety could also be the cause. When kids are anxious in the classroom, they might have a hard time focusing on the lesson and ignoring the worried thoughts overtaking their brains.

"Some kids might appear really 'on' at one point but then they can suddenly drift away, depending on what they're feeling anxious about," says Dr. Schuster. "That looks like inattention, and it is, but it's triggered by anxiety."

Attendance Problems and Clingy Kids

It might look like truancy, but for kids for whom school is a big source of anxiety, refusing to go to school is also pretty common. School refusal rates tend to be higher after vacations or sick days, because kids have a harder time coming back after a few days away.

Going to school can also be a problem for kids who have trouble separating from their parents. Some amount of separation anxiety is normal, but when kids don't adjust to separation over time and their anxiety makes going to school difficult or even impossible, it becomes a real problem. Kids with separation anxiety may also feel compelled to use their phones throughout the day to check in with their parents.


When Kids Refuse to Go to School
  • Everyone misses a few days, but kids with school refusal have a strong aversion to school that can cause real problems. READ MORE

Disruptive Behavior

Acting out is another thing we might not associate with anxiety. But when a student is compulsively kicking the chair of the kid in front of him, or throws a tantrum whenever the schedule is ignored or a classmate isn't following the rules, anxiety may well be the cause. Similarly, kids who are feeling anxious might ask a lot of questions, including repetitive ones, because they are feeling worried and want reassurance.

Anxiety can also make kids aggressive. When children are feeling upset or threatened and don't know how to handle their feelings, their fight or flight response to protect themselves can kick in—and some kids are more likely to fight. They might attack another child or a teacher, throw things, or push over a desk because they're feeling out of control.

Trouble Answering Questions in Class

Sometimes kids will do perfectly well on tests and homework, but when they're called on in class teachers hit a wall. There are several different reasons why this might happen.

"Back when I was teaching, I would notice that when I had to call on someone, or had to figure out who's turn it was to speak, it was like the anxious kid always tended to disappear," says Dr. Schuster. "The eager child is making eye contact, they're giving you some kind of physical presence in the room like 'Call on me, call on me!'"

But, when kids are anxious about answering questions in class, "they're going to break eye contact, they might look down, they might start writing something even though they're not really writing something. They're trying to break the connection with the teacher in order to avoid what's making them feel anxious."

If they do get called on, sometimes kids get so anxious that they freeze. They might have been paying attention to the lesson and they might even know the answer, but when they're called on their anxiety level becomes so heightened that they can't respond.

Frequent Trips to the Nurse

Anxiety can manifest in physical complaints, too. If a student is having unexplained headaches, nausea, stomachaches, or even vomiting, those could be symptoms of anxiety. So can a racing heart, sweaty palms, tense muscles, and being out of breath.


Behavioral Treatment for Kids with Anxiety
  • A behavioral technique called exposure and response prevention teaches kids how to stop avoiding things they fear and handle the bully in the brain. READ MORE

Problems in Certain Subjects
When a child starts doubting her abilities in a subject, anxiety can become a factor that gets in the way of her learning or showing what she knows. Sometimes this can be mistaken for a learning disorder when it's really just anxiety.

However anxiety can also go hand in hand with learning disorders. When kids start noticing that something is harder for them than the other kids, and that they are falling behind, they can understandably get anxious. The period before a learning disorder is diagnosed can be particularly stressful for kids.

Not Turning in Homework

When a student doesn't turn in her homework, it could be because she didn't do it, but it could also be because she is worried that it isn't good enough. Likewise, anxiety can lead to second guessing—an anxious child might erase his work over and over until there's a hole in the paper—and spending so much time on something that it never gets finished. We tend to think of perfectionism as a good thing, but when children are overly self-critical it can sabotage even the things they are trying their hardest at, like school work.

You might also notice that some anxious kids will start worrying about tests much earlier than their classmates and may begin dreading certain assignments, subjects, or even school itself.

Avoiding Socializing or Group Work

Some kids will avoid or even refuse to participate in the things that make them anxious. This includes obvious anxiety triggers like giving presentations, but also things like gym class, eating in the cafeteria, and doing group work.

When kids start skipping things it might look to their teachers and peers like they are uninterested or underachieving, but the opposite might be true. Sometimes kids avoid things because they are afraid of making a mistake or being judged.

Dr. Schuster notes that when kids get anxious in social situations, sometimes they have a much easier time showing what they know when teachers engage them one-to-one, away from the group.