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Friday, October 30, 2015

Include Your Child in the Evaluation Process

From Smart Kids with LD

By Lisa Rappaport, Ph.D.
October 26, 2015

At a Glance
  • From evaluation to team meetings, children with LD or ADHD should be involved in every aspect of their educational planning at an age-appropriate level.
  • Sharing evaluation results helps them understand strengths and weaknesses and provides a framework to understand why they’re being asked to do things that their peers are not.

The decision to have your child evaluated for learning disabilities or ADHD sets in motion a process that, at times, can feel all-encompassing. Finding the right professional, undergoing the actual evaluation, reviewing the results and recommendations, and meeting with school personnel is time-consuming, if not anxiety-producing.

And, what often gets lost in the hubbub is the most important component: the child.

It is vitally important to involve your child in the process from beginning to end. Sadly, that is rarely the case.

Why Include Your Child

There are two crucial parts to the evaluation process: Ensuring that the psychologist gives sound, detailed recommendations about how to help your child, and making sure everyone involved in your child’s education is on the same page—everyone, including your child.

By age six or seven, children know if they are struggling in school. When your child gets pulled out of class to sit with a psychologist he knows something is up. To fail to include him in the process instills doubts and uncertainty; including him sends the message that his problems can and will be addressed.

It’s in your child’s interest to understand his diagnosis and feel comfortable with it. He needs to be knowledgeable about his strengths and weaknesses and buy into the recommendations for addressing his deficits. Having that information makes it palatable for him to sit with a learning specialist to do more of something he “hates” (such as reading or over-learning math facts).

What to Share

There should be two feedback conferences after an evaluation: one with the parents to go over the results, diagnosis, and recommendations, and another with the child. If your child is young, it is best to have a parent attend; however if your child is older or requests it, he should be encouraged to meet with the evaluator independently.

When meeting with the child, it is important that the evaluator and the parents avoid using numbers in their explanation. Children should never be given an IQ score or numerical test results.

They should, however, hear about their particular strengths and weaknesses. The fact is, your child already is aware of his academic challenges, even if he can’t articulate them. Explaining weaknesses in terms of his performance on the battery of tests may help him understand.

For example, if your child struggles with auditory discrimination, it should be explained as one of the reasons it is hard for him to understand what the teacher is saying at the front of the room and why he becomes frustrated or loses focus in class. He now has a framework for understanding why he is being moved to the front row: It’s not a punishment; it’s a way to help.

It is also important to explain his strengths. Children who are struggling in school usually suffer from low self-esteem, and hearing from a professional about their strengths can be uplifting.

Providing Context

Your child must understand that a disability is a difference—not a death sentence or a declaration of stupidity; that weaknesses can be overcome and compensated for with time and hard work.

The best way for your child to accept the extra work required of him is to understand why he’s being asked to do it and how it will benefit him. He also may be more willing to sit with a tutor or review math facts nightly if the psychologist explains that this is her recommendation and not his parents’ idea.

If your child is given accommodations (e.g. extended time), he must understand the reasoning behind it: It will “level the playing field” so that he can perform to his best ability and is necessary because he has slower processing in that particular area.

By bringing your child into the evaluation process, you’re telegraphing your belief in his ability to handle the situation and help manage his learning issues. That’s a vote of confidence that could pay dividends for years to come.


Lisa Rappaport, a member of the Smart Kids Professional Advisory Board, is a neuropsychologist specializing in the treatment of children with LD, ADHD, and developmental disorders. She is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. To learn more about Dr. Rappaport access her website at http://drlisarappaport.com/index.php

Related Smart Kids Topics

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Do Kids Have Tantrums and Meltdowns?

From the Child Mind Institute

By Caroline Miller
September 29, 2014

Like fevers, these behaviors may have many triggers.

It will come as no surprise to parents that the problem which brings the most young children to the attention of a psychologist or psychiatrist is emotional outbursts—tantrums and meltdowns.

Indeed, these episodes are among the biggest challenges of parenting. They're hard to understand, hard to prevent, and even harder to respond to effectively when they're happening.

And, when they occur with frequency past the age in which they're developmentally expected—those terrible twos—they can become a big problem for the child, not just the beleaguered adults who endure them.

Tantrums vs. Meltdowns

Many people make a distinction between tantrums and meltdowns, though neither is a clinical term. "Tantrum" is commonly used to describe milder outbursts, during which a child still retains some measure of control over his behavior. One benchmark many parents use is that a tantrum is likely to subside if no one is paying attention to it.

This is opposed to a meltdown, during which a child loses control so completely that the behavior only stops when he wears himself out and/or the parent is able to calm him down.

Whether mild or severe, tantrums are symptoms that a child is struggling with emotions she can't regulate. Anger, of course, is the No. 1 emotion that causes children to lose their heads and blow up—think of it as the kid version of road rage, says child and adolescent psychiatrist Steven Dickstein. The child feels she deserves or needs something that is being deliberately withheld from her—the cookie, the video game, something she covets at the toy store—and is overwhelmed by her frustration and sense of injustice.

But anxiety is another big trigger; it causes kids to freak out, overriding the logic that would enable her to see that her anxiety is out of proportion to the situation.

Underlying Causes

When children don't develop emotional regulation as part of normal development, the causes are varied. "The thing is, there's no such thing as tantrum disorder, or meltdown disorder," notes Dr. Dickstein. "Tantrums and meltdowns are like fevers—they can be triggered by so many different problems that we can't make them stop until we understand what's triggering them.

Sometimes the inability to regulate emotions is the result of an underlying problem. Some of the common causes of frequent meltdowns are:
  • ADHD: 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 been diagnosed 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."
  • Anxiety: Anxiety is another major contributor. Even if kids don't have a full-blown anxiety disorder, they may still be overreactive to anxiety-provoking situations and melt down when they are stressed. Kids who have undiagnosed learning disabilities or who have suffered trauma or neglect may react this way when confronted with an uncomfortable or painful situation.
  • Learning problems: When your child acts out repeatedly in school or during homework time, it's possible that he has an undiagnosed learning disorder. Say he has a lot of trouble with math, and math problems make him very frustrated and irritable. Rather than ask for help, he may rip up an assignment or start something with another child to create a diversion from his real issues.
  • Depression and irritability: Depression and irritability also occur in a subset of kids who have severe and frequent temper tantrums. A new disorder called disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, or DMDD, describes kids who have severe outbursts with chronic severe irritability in between. "Kids who are highly irritable are like water at 90 degrees—always on the cusp of boiling," says Dr. Lopes. "Parents of these kids are always walking on eggshells because they respond to very subtle things, like the slightest thing not going their way."
  • Autism: Children on the autism spectrum are also often prone to dramatic meltdowns. These children tend to be rigid—dependent on consistent routine for their emotional comfort—and any unexpected change can set them off. And they may lack the language and communication skills to express what they want or need.
  • Sensory processing issues: Sensory processing challenges, often seen in autistic children and teens as well as many with ADHD, may cause kids to be overwhelmed by stimulation, and short-circuit in inconsolable meltdowns.

Skills that May Be Lacking

Whatever the trigger, most mental health professionals believe that children who have frequent emotional outbursts are lacking certain skills that would help them better handle situations that cause them frustration, anxiety or anger.

They include:
  • Impulse control
  • Problem solving
  • Delaying gratification
  • Negotiating
  • Communicating wishes and needs to adults
  • Knowing what's appropriate or expected in a given situation
  • Self-soothing

A Vicious Cycle

A good deal of tantrum behavior that parents see as intentional or manipulative is much less voluntary than they realize, Dr. Dickstein notes. But that is not to say that it isn't learned behavior.

Kids with serious temper problems aren't consciously calculating throwing tantrums, but they may have learned, through reinforcement from adults, that tantrums get results. "There's no question that kids who haven't outgrown tantrums do have lagging skills in emotional regulation," says Dr. Lopes, "but then I think that weakness is maintained and exacerbated by conditioned learning."

If a child encounters a problem, doesn't know how else to handle it, and resorts to tantrums, he may well learn that, over time, this helps him get his way.

"It becomes a vicious cycle," says Dr. Lopes, "because instead of honing and practicing the adaptive skills that kids normally learn to solve problems collaboratively, these kids are learning maladaptive responses when they get frustrated. And by continuing to practice thoseskills, they are strengthening these behaviors over time and using them in a greater number of situations."

Parents Are Primary

Whatever the cause, clinicians stress that in managing outbursts, the first step is understanding the triggers and testing ways the environment can be changed to reduce the incidence of outbursts. And when it comes to looking for ways to adjust a child's environment, parents are primary.

"We don't blame parents for tantrums," Dr. Dickstein says, "because parents are only part of what goes into a child's behavior patterns, along with temperament and development. But parent behavior is adjustable, so it's the most powerful tool we have for helping young children."

Monday, October 26, 2015

HUH? Math Gets More Rigorous for Some Preschoolers

From Education Week

By The Associated Press
August 10, 2015 

Pre-K teacher Julia Brady uses handmade beads on pipe-cleaner
boards with her students during a recent math lesson at South
Shore Pre-K School in Seattle. The games are being used to
teach pre-kindergartners about math concepts.
Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/AP

On a recent morning in South Seattle, Kristin Alfonzo challenged her preschoolers to make the number 7 using beads strung across two rows of pipe cleaners.

One 5-year-old boy slid four beads across the top and three across the bottom. Another did the reverse, and one kid pushed all seven on one row.

"I see many different ways of making 7!" Alfonzo said over the ruckus of kids counting out loud.

Preschools typically leave math for grade school, in the belief that 4- and 5-year-olds aren't old enough to understand what 7 stands for. Decades of brain science now show that waiting is a mistake.

Even in the crib, research shows, infants can tell the difference between eight dots and 16 using an innate "number sense" we share with other species that helps us make some size comparisons without counting.

By the time they are preschool age, students like the ones in Alfonzo's class can grasp simple addition - three beads plus four beads makes seven beads - even if they can't yet write the equations.

They're getting a strong start in math with games and playful activities that show all the ways they can use numbers and shapes to describe and measure differences and relationships between things.

Overall, 95 percent of the kindergartners at South Shore PreK-8 - a combination preschool and elementary school - arrive with the basic skills they'll need for elementary-school math, the highest rate in the district and far above the state average, which stands at about 53 percent.

That figure is even more impressive given almost two-thirds of South Shore's students live in low-income families, a group that, on average, tend to arrive behind rather than ahead.

Such success - at South Shore and a growing number of preschools across the nation - is fueling big changes in how math is taught to young children, which typically gets little class time and doesn't go any deeper than basic counting and memorizing a few shapes.

The city of Seattle's new subsidized preschool program, which voters approved last year, wants to boost math instruction in many more places, using an approach that's similar to the one used at South Shore - and in Boston Public Schools, an urban district that has boosted third-grade math scores by improving how math is taught to 4-year-olds.

Such investments may reap gains in reading, too.

A groundbreaking study in 2007, done by Northwestern University professor Greg Duncan and others, found that math skills in kindergarten predict third-grade test scores in both reading and math - a surprising result that scientists are still working to understand.

But it suggests that a good start in math is key because research also shows that kids who start out behind in the early grades don't tend to catch up.

Boston and South Shore educators aren't swapping play time for flashcard drills and work sheets, the fear of those who worry that preschool is becoming too focused on academics.

Instead, teachers infuse math into games such as "not my way" - which Alfonzo plays with her students after they've warmed up by making the number 7.

Alfonzo made the number 4 with her beads, but clutched the board close to her chest, challenging the class to guess how she did it. The kids groaned each time she checked a student's board and said, "That's a good way to make 4 . but it's not my way."

Then she called on the 5-year-old with the kitten-ears hair band.

"Rose, how did you do it?"

"I put two on the top and two on the bottom," Rose said.

"She did it my way!" Alfonzo said.

Boston's Example

When the city of Boston launched its universal preschool program 10 years ago, educators searched for ways to teach young kids math in an age-appropriate, but rigorous, way.

They understood that the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget - a towering figure in early-childhood development in the 20th century - had mistakenly led educators to vastly underestimate what 4-year-olds can understand about numbers.

Based on his research, Piaget thought children under the age of 7 didn't understand what numbers represented. In his experiments, for example, he found that children believed the number of objects in a row increased if those objects were spread out to make the row longer.

Researchers have since shown that children are not fooled if experimenters explain the problem in simpler language, and use objects kids care about - like M&M's.

"Since Piaget's days, the field has changed completely and people now recognize that children come to school with quite rich conceptions of number," said Daniel Ansari, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario who studies how the brain gets wired for math.

Yet Boston educators also understood that Piaget was right about the need for preschoolers to learn through play, and looked for a curriculum with lots of games and puzzles.

They settled on one called Building Blocks, which has received the highest effectiveness rating from the U.S. Department of Education. The department based that rating on two studies in New York state that showed that kids in a number of Building Blocks preschools learned as much as students who receive individual tutoring.

A recent analysis in Boston shows that district is getting results, too - on third-grade math tests, the passing rates of students in Building Block preschools were 10 percentage points higher than those who may have attended preschool elsewhere but weren't enrolled in the city's program.

With Building Blocks, students don't just learn to count and add. One key part of the curriculum is geometry, which its co-creator, University of Denver professor Douglas Clements, says is key for understanding mathematical relationships. Boston preschoolers are taught, for example, that triangles don't always resemble a witch's hat, the only version most kids their age see.

"I expect them to pick up scientific words like 'waterproof,' so why not teach them the word rhombus, right from the start?" said Laura Shea, a preschool teacher at the Curley K-8 School in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

She and other teachers help students learn those terms using a game called "feely box."

In that exercise, the teacher places a thin foam shape in a box that has holes on two sides. The students slip their hands in the holes, then try to get classmates to guess what it is by describing what they feel.

"It has four L (right) angles and four sides," said Hoang-Son, a boy at Everett Elementary, as he cupped his hand around a rhombus.

"Can you tell us anything else about the sides?" asked his teacher, Sara Gardner.

"All the sides are the same length," he said.

Someone guessed correctly that it was a square, but Gardner pushed for more, until Hoang-Son confirmed that the equal sides meant it was a rhombus, too.

Starting in the Crib

The Building Blocks curriculum is rooted in decades of research into how children learn math, starting in the crib.

Researchers have shown that infants' ability to tell the difference between two groups of dots is part of an ancient perceptual system we share with mammals and birds.

German neuroscientists, for example, recently found that crows have specialized neurons that fire when they see a specific number of dots on a touch-sensitive computer screen. The birds could indicate, by pecking at a screen, whether the number of dots they saw (between one and five) matched a previous display.

Crows, of course, can't write equations. Humans develop that skill through developing new connections in different parts of the brain that tie our natural intuition about numbers to the words and symbols of formal mathematics.

How fast children make those connections depends on many factors, including genetics and learning opportunities at home.

Wealthier children tend to build them more quickly because, on average, they talk more with their parents about the differences in quantity - noticing which tree in the park is tallest or measuring flour and sugar to make cupcakes.

One big step in children's mathematical development occurs when they realize that the last M&M they count in a handful is special because it represents the total quantity - the principal known as cardinality. That's also a concept that children learn through board games, when they don't count the square they're sitting on because it was counted in the previous turn.

Children typically learn that by age 3 or 4, but some struggle with it late into elementary school.

Sharon Griffin, a cognitive psychologist and leading authority on early-childhood math, said she often saw children from low-income homes who couldn't do simple addition because they hadn't mastered that concept.

When asked to add 4 and 2 in their heads, they would include the number 4 in their count and say the answer is 5, said Griffin, professor emerita of education and psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts.

Preschools, many believe, can help prevent that, by infusing playful math instruction throughout the day.

In Boston, teachers have found that students love math games as much as listening to stories.

"It's just math," a 5-year-old gushed one June morning at Everett Elementary.

"You can count whatever you want: insects, butterflies, rubber duckies, even rubber people. I count how many sisters I have. Guess how many sisters I have? Six, and I have one brother."

A Matter of Training

There's no guarantee that Seattle's preschool program will see the same results as the one in Boston.

One key to Boston's success is that the school district provides most of the city-funded preschool classes, and keeps a tight leash on quality. In Seattle, preschool classes will be run by a number of organizations.

While Seattle's providers will get coaching, it may not be as intensive as the training teachers get in Boston - or even at South Shore, which benefits from a private annual grant of $1 million.

And Seattle did not choose Building Blocks, although its new preschools will use approaches that draw from the same well of research and have been used successfully elsewhere.

In New Jersey, for example, fifth-grade students who spent two years in state-funded preschools were ahead of other classmates by about three-quarters of a year, according to a 2013 study.

No one approach will work on the same timetable for all kids.

In Alfonzo's class, for example, one girl still had trouble understanding numbers past four near the end of the year.

But the hope is to ensure that most are like Zachary, a South Shore 5-year-old who, in making 10 in the "not my way," game, slid two groups of five beads across in a single push, without counting.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Progress Monitoring of Kids with LD

From Smart Kids with LD

By Linda J. Talbert, MAT
October 15, 2015

At a Glance
  • An important function of the IEP is to provide you with a tool to monitor your child’s progress
  • Use SMART goals to establish measurable benchmarks to assess your child’s status
  • Effective progress monitoring allows you and the team to make meaningful changes in a timely manner

One purpose of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is to provide parents and teachers with a tool to monitor the progress of a student with learning disabilities. While progress is not guaranteed in an IEP, it is predicted. By law, an IEP looks forward and must be “reasonably calculated to confer an educational benefit” that is likely to produce progress.

Progress in any context is forward movement, with starting and ending points. In IEP terms, a child is predicted to move from present levels of achievement to annual goals that are, or should be written in a way that a stranger could understand.

Smart Goals

To pass the “stranger test,” goals should be written using the SMART acronym:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Action-Oriented
  • Realistic or Relevant
  • Time-Limited.

Because State Departments of Education train on this concept, school districts know about this. There is no excuse for an IEP to be anything other than SMART.

The same federal law that gives you the right to inspect and review your child’s records, The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also gives you the right to “reasonable explanation.”

You have the right to understand the progress or regression that is occurring between one IEP and the next, even to review instructional materials.

It’s great if your child’s school is already using objective means to calculate progress, perhaps with scores from classroom tests and quizzes or from other objective, curriculum-based measures, which consist of frequent, brief assessments on material or skills that your child has been instructed in.

Getting Started

If the measures are too vague or subjectively reported to determine progress, request an IEP meeting. Make sure that your child’s goals are SMART and that evaluation criteria effectively monitor his progress. The elements of the reliable determination of PROGRESS include measurements that are:
  • Predictive: Perform an Internet search for a particular interest (e.g., “progress monitoring to predict reading fluency”) to find specific evaluation measures most likely to predict progress. Adapt what you find to your child’s particular situation.
  • Research-driven: The IDEA calls for research-based instructional methodologies and progress monitoring; make this a cornerstone of your discussions at IEP meetings.
  • Observable: Most measurement criteria should be quantifiable rather than dependent on selective anecdotal narrative. Remember that the M in SMART stands for measurable.
  • Graphed: Represent progress visually. You’ll find this suggested in best-practices for both academic and behavioral programming. The school-based members of your IEP team, whether at a Bachelor’s or Ph.D. level, have been trained in educational statistics and the visual representation of data. Ask for this. If necessary, open up Microsoft Excel on your own to graph results that the school reports so that you can clearly see and show the progress, regression, or flat line that is occurring.
  • Reported: Data collection is not sufficient; data must be reported, analyzed, and used to drive program changes.
  • Efficient: Time is not an issue; ample research identifies various ways to measure progress objectively and efficiently. Respectfully point out that effective, objective progress monitoring reduces disputes and the meetings required to resolve those disputes.
  • Scientific: When reliable research identifies a shortcut, use it. When research shows the need for more samples or data points, go with that. Follow the science.
  • Summative: Never mind the needless detail, but resolve to act on what effective progress monitoring leads you to conclude, whether that means no change at all; a new or revised goal; or an increase, decrease, or reallocation of services and supports.

SMART goals monitored effectively will validate the current IEP or establish the need for change—and will help you secure the free and appropriate education to which your child is entitled.

For more information on progress monitoring, explore these websites:

Linda Talbert runs her own practice as a non-attorney parent advocate and researcher for special education law firms.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Tech Tools for Note-Taking

From Smart Kids with LD

By Shelley Lacey-Castelot, ATACP, M.S.
October 5, 2015

Once students with learning disabilities begin to take notes in class, their challenges with spelling, handwriting, simultaneous processing, and reading can overwhelm them. Even those who are good auditory learners can become flummoxed.

There are, however, really good note-taking tools to help these students, including the following three options:
  • For students whose handwriting challenges make note-taking with a pen too difficult, AudioNote is a good solution. It is available as an iOS app, an Android app, a Windows program, and a Mac program and can synchronize notes across platforms in the cloud. AudioNote does not synchronize recordings and notes by microdot as the Echo SmartPen does, but does synchronize by each line. The trade-off in precision can be worth it for students who simply cannot manage the handwriting task but who are proficient typists. I’ve found myself at meetings when I unexpectedly needed to take notes, and have been glad to be able to pull out AudioNote on my phone.
  • The top contender is the Livescribe Echo SmartPen, a ballpoint pen and voice recorder combination that preserves synchronized digital copies of your notes and recordings. The digital recordings can be replayed, saved to your computer, and shared with others. When the class lecture begins to go too fast for note-taking, students can simply mark the spot on the paper, note the “big idea” and leave a large white space on the paper to fill in later as they listen to the recording. Students do not have to listen to an entire class; they can simply tap on the paper where they need clarification and listen in that place. Students tend to prefer the pen over some other note-taking technologies because they say it is unobtrusive and looks less different. Handwritten notes can be converted to digital text for text-to-speech read-back. The Echo pen is recommended over the other Livescribe SmartPens because students can replay notes simply by tapping anywhere on the paper itself. With other versions, students need an iOS device to record to.
  • Although not something parents generally acquire for their students, there is one more note-taking device that can be useful for all students in the class. The Smart kapp whiteboard, from the folks at Smart Technologies, is a very reasonably-priced electronic whiteboard upon which teachers can write and students can easily capture notes—in incremental boards, no less. So, rather than students having just a finished math problem in their notes, for example, they can capture steps of the problem to help them remember and understand the process to guide them as they work independently. Equally exciting for students, they can pair their smart devices (phones, iPads, etc.) easily and independently with the Smart kapp with an NFC tag or a QR code to capture the notes themselves discreetly and easily during class. It’s easy to use so teachers don’t have to change how they teach and students don’t feel different. Content can be saved as JPEG or PDF snapshots and stored in the cloud for easy sharing.

Shelley Lacey-Castelot is the Director of Literacy Solutions in Oxford and Norwalk, CT, and is an expert in the evaluation and use of AT for students with LD and ADHD. She is also a member of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities’ Professional Advisory Board.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When I Realized Why My Son Melts Down at Home but Not at School

From The Mighty

By Michelle Myers
October 16, 2015

Michelle Myers
Tonight my son walked through the door from school, and immediately I knew. He didn’t have to say or do anything. I just knew.

Call it mother’s intuition, or call it years and years of practice, but I knew something was wrong. It was the delayed effect. My son has had a tricky day at school. He has held it together for nearly seven hours. Then he walks through the front door, and bam!

He’s somewhere safe and familiar, and he can’t contain the pressure anymore.

It creeps out of every fiber of his being. His face is tense, and he has red cheeks. His body is stiff and awkward. His words are fast and loud, and he’s agitated. He’s hungry, he’s not hungry. He wants a snack but not what’s in the cupboard. So he gets angry and swears because he’s not in control of his body anymore. He wants to say hello to the dogs, but their overexcitement is too much for him, so he’s too rough with them and he gets cross with himself.

I ask him how he’s feeling, and it’s like there is a red fog surrounding him. He can’t process what I’m saying. His sisters walk in chatting and laughing. They sound like a crowd of people to him, and he shouts to them to be quiet. They snap back at him as only sisters do, and wham — the volcano explodes. We have liftoff.

Meltdown. There’s no turning back now. It all has to come out.

Then comes the exhaustion — for him and for me. He can’t reflect on it because it’s all just too much. He just needs to recharge now, as do I. It’s so hard being a mom on the receiving end of the delayed effect because it holds no prisoners, and it doesn’t care who it hurts in the process. So I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel for my son.

As his mom, I know there would have been telltale signs throughout the day. But they’re small clues that can be easily missed, as he would have been largely compliant, so therefore no one would have realized there was any problem. But I know as the day progressed, his complexion would have become paler as the energy sapped out of him with each passing hour.

He may have struggled to eat his lunch due to high anxiety. A nervous giggle would have squeaked out when his teachers tried to speak to him. He would have put his head down on the table during lessons, or possibly rocked back and forward on his chair to calm himself down. And as the pressure mounted and the clock ticked toward home time, there may have even been some finger picking and sleeve chewing.

My son shows these signs of stress through his body language and gestures. He can’t always communicate his needs verbally, so they can get missed. And to be honest, I don’t think he’s able to recognize this rising pressure himself until it’s too late most of the time.

The delayed effect can be a common challenge facing many children on the autism spectrum. Some children are able to contain their feelings all day at school, with the teacher blissfully unaware there’s a problem. However, the stress hormones are slowly building and building inside these kids. This creates a Jekyll and Hyde sort of situation that can put incredible pressure on families — especially if teachers don’t understand or believe what the parents are telling them. So let’s think about it this way for a minute…

Imagine yourself as a bottle of pop. Your ingredients include autism, sensory processing difficulties, ADHD and a hidden speech and language delay. The world’s a confusing place, and your difficulties are largely hidden to the wider world, so not many people understand things from your perspective.

This is your day:

Going to school is just one big worry for you… so give that bottle a shake!

You get to school and your teacher says, “Let’s start a new topic.” What does that mean? … Give it a shake!

You don’t understand what you have to do… shake it up!

You make a mistake… shake, shake, shake!

The lights in class are buzzing, and it’s annoying… shake it a little more!

It’s assembly. You have to sit still while your insides are wiggling and jiggling around… shake it up!

The timetable changes and it’s not math like it should be, it’s now music… and shake again!

The car gets stuck in traffic, and the wrong radio station is on in the car… that’s a few more shakes!

You get home and the lid blows off with the pressure!

That’s the delayed effect. It’s a real thing… trust me. The times over the years I’ve felt so confused and isolated when teachers have said to me, “Well, that is a surprise. We don’t see any of that here at school.” Or I’ve heard, “Well, he can behave for me, so maybe you’re being too soft on him.” I spent many a sleepless night wondering if it was me. Was it my parenting?

But I am his mom, and my gut instinct is always right. I knew there was something my child was struggling with, and all I had to do was understand what his behavior was telling me. My child explodes at home with me because I’m his safe place. I am predictable and calm, and he can really be himself at home. He is fully accepted at home.

So this tells me there are many things that can be done in order to reduce this build-up of stress hormones for children like my son — making them feel more safe and accepted for who they are. And that means really embracing their individual needs. Not just trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.


A version of this post originally appeared on Kathybrodie.com. Follow this journey on A Slice of Autism.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why It’s So Difficult to Diagnose Autism in Girls

From Spectrum
via Slate 

By Somer Bishop
October 6, 2015

Clinicians need to look beyond tools developed for boys.

Subtle, significant. In a nutshell, these two words capture the symptoms of many girls with autism. Like many in my field, I’ve seen this subtlety firsthand.

One 6-year-old girl I met several years ago seemed, at first, to have good social skills. She responded appropriately when I introduced myself, complimented my outfit, and politely answered all of my questions. It was only when I saw her again a few days later that I understood her family’s concerns: She made nearly identical overtures, as if our interaction were part of a play she had rehearsed.

I also met a teenage girl with autism who was highly intelligent. Because she could not relate to the other girls at her high school, she began interacting exclusively with boys, whose social behaviors she found easier to imitate. She even went through a period of wanting to become a boy, reasoning that she might have more success navigating the social world as a male.

The past several years have seen an explosion of studies aimed at backing up these one-off observations about how autism presents differently in girls than in boys. This is a welcome development, as understanding the unique presentation of autism in girls will help us to better identify and treat the disorder.

Consistently recognizing autism in girls can be challenging, however. This is not only because girls with autism are as diverse as any other group of individuals with the disorder but also because most autism screening and diagnostic tools were developed based primarily on observations of behaviors in boys.

As a result, we may still be missing girls whose symptoms do not match the “prototypical” boy presentation. These challenges in recognition may also help to explain why many parents say clinicians initially dismiss their concerns about autism in their daughters. Had I not seen that 6-year-old girl a second time, I too might have been guilty of this.

Early studies on sex differences in autism suggested that, compared with boys who have autism, girls with the disorder have lower intelligence and more severe symptoms. But because these studies were conducted during a time when higher-functioning children with autism were less likely to be identified, such studies likely missed girls with high intelligence quotients and milder social difficulties—whose autism may have been particularly difficult to detect. Excluding this group would not only drive down the average IQ of girls with autism but also push up the ratio of boys to girls with the disorder, which stands at around 4 to 1.

As clinicians recognize greater numbers of high-functioning girls and women with autism, our outdated views on gender differences in autism are crumbling. Researchers are investigating whether girls with autism as a group exhibit less severe social and communication difficulties and fewer repetitive behaviors than boys with the disorder.

Some researchers theorize that girls are better than boys at camouflaging their symptoms, particularly during highly structured interactions such as clinic visits. For instance, a colleague of mine described girls with autism as “caricatures” in social interactions. These girls may be motivated to interact, but their behaviors seem exaggerated.

Because autism symptoms are so variable in girls, the team behind the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders emphasized that any examples in the book are just that: examples. Unfortunately, a clinician’s ability to effectively extrapolate beyond the written descriptions depends heavily on experience—not just with girls who have autism but also with girls who don’t. After all, if clinicians are not well-versed in how a child of a given age and developmental level behaves, then they will struggle to assess the abilities of a child with autism.

Until we are confident that our standard assessment methods can reliably recognize autism in girls, clinicians may need to gather evidence of a girl’s difficulties through other means. This might involve observing the girl in more naturalistic settings as she interacts with her peers.

Meanwhile, to better understand how girls and boys with autism differ, researchers are actively recruiting more girls into studies—a move that we hope will provide more concrete examples of what autism looks like in girls. But we should also consider less traditional ways to explore sex differences.

For instance, instead of scoring girls with autism using existing instruments, expert clinicians could observe them and compare them with girls who don’t have the disorder. This approach would force us to generate fresh examples of the ways that social and communication impairments and repetitive behaviors manifest in girls. Based on these observations, as well as interviews with the girls’ parents or teachers, clinicians could start to identify behaviors that may be specific to girls with autism. We could then verify whether current screening and diagnostic tools adequately capture these behaviors.

It is also important to note that gender is only one factor that can influence the appearance of autism. At a meeting on sex differences last year, Ami Klin, director of the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia, stressed that other demographic variables, such as ethnicity and socioeconomic status, can affect the assessment and diagnosis of autism. Both clinicians and researchers need to carefully consider all these variables.

We also should keep an open mind when it comes to our assumptions about girls with autism. For example, we must be just as open to the possibility of very few sex differences between boys and girls with autism as we are to the possibility of many.

At the same time, we should focus on appropriately identifying as many girls (and boys) with autism as possible so that these children can access interventions. Even if a girl has subtler difficulties than other children with the disorder, those problems may nevertheless have a tremendous impact on her life.


Somer Bishop is assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Does Your Child Need a Special Education Evaluation?

From Beyond BookSmart's
Executive Functioning Strategies Blog

By Bree Leggio
October 9, 2015

Special education and the process of school evaluations can be a tricky and confusing experience for parents. It seems like a whole different language--with a ton of new acronyms, frequently discussed legislation, and those stories on the news about the rising incidences of various childhood health problems, it can be hard to understand the process, even while going through it.

Whether your child was recently referred for a special education evaluation, currently receives specialized instruction on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), or you are looking for information on help for your kid struggling in school, this article aims to clarify information about the referral process and the steps that take place in a public school evaluation.

The Referral Process for Special Education Evaluations

School-aged children and adolescents can be referred for a special education evaluation for many reasons, either by a parent or by a staff member. Referred students are typically struggling for a period of time, despite receiving intervention in many forms, such as small group or one-to-one help, and may not be making consistent or adequate progress.

Concerns may be related to the student’s academics, behavior or social-emotional adjustment or functioning, communication abilities, motor skills, or a combination of these areas.

Depending on your state, and whether your school district is using Response to Intervention (RTI), which is a tiered system of support, students may go through a series of interventions before being referred for a special education evaluation.

One example of a special education referral may be for a child who has been struggling in reading and is not making progress on reading assessments given by his teacher, despite participation in a small intensive reading group and one to one time with the teacher or a reading specialist.

Another example may be of a high school age student who, in the past, has been an average student, both academically and in her motivation toward school, has a sudden plummet in grades and attitude. This student may be referred by the parents, citing specific concerns of their child’s changes in attitude, motivation, behavior, and progress in school.

What's the Timeline for a Special Education Evaluation?

The evaluation, either parent requested or staff referred, must be completed within the federal or state established timeline. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal law states a 60-day timeline for the completion of initial evaluations, but states may determine their own timeline.

For example, Massachusetts state law notes a 30-school-day timeline from the signature date on the parent consent form to complete all evaluations.

The federal or state law also dictates the timeline in which the Team must come together to review the evaluations. In Massachusetts, the Team must meet within 45 days of that signature date to determine eligibility, based on formal assessments, observations, review of school records and educational history, as well as data and information brought to the team by the classroom teacher, parents, and any other individual who may work with the student (e.g. a reading specialist, counselor, etc).

Who's on Your Child's IEP Team?

Members of the IEP Team may consist of the following: parents or legal guardians, classroom teacher(s), school psychologist, special education teacher, other relevant service providers, such as occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech language pathologist, school counselor, dependent on the purpose of the assessment, and at times, a school administrator.

Outside supports, such as Executive Function coaches or therapists, are sometimes invited to participate in these meetings.

In some school districts, a Team Chair will facilitate the meeting, while in others, a special education teacher, school psychologist, or other selected member of the team may serve as the meeting facilitator. The Team meets to review information, as well as determine whether the student is eligible and in need of specialized instruction. If found eligible, the Team sets out to develop the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) together.

While an evaluation can often uncover useful information that aids in proper educational decision making, some states may require medical documentation or diagnosis by your child’s physician in order to receive individualized and unique instructional supports and accommodations within the classroom. The sharing of testing results with your child’s doctor may be beneficial in order to gain the most appropriate supports when your child is struggling in school.

For information related to Federal Guidelines, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Your state's specific regulations for special education eligibility are typically easy to locate via a google search.

In an upcoming article, I will explain the details of the assessment process, beginning with the psychological assessment, and provide some helpful tips for families to prepare for the Team meeting.

Whether or not your child is receiving special education services, Executive Function coaching helps many students who are struggling in school. Click below to learn more about how Beyond BookSmart can help your child become more confident and successful in school and beyond.

About Bree Leggio, Ms.Ed., NCSP

Bree Leggio, Ms.Ed., NCSP, is an Executive Function coach and a state licensed and nationally certified school psychologist, with a specialization in multicultural school psychology. She received her Master's degree in Education from CUNY Queens College in Queens, NY, and is currently working as a school psychologist. She has experience providing individualized intervention, assessment, and support services for children and adolescents with academic and emotional challenges.

Bree believes that a collaborative environment, where families, administrators and other support providers work as a team, is one of the most important parts of building an effective learning environment that allows all children to succeed.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Position Announcement - Executive Director: The Gifford School

From The Gifford School

October 14, 2015

The Gifford School, a private nonprofit coeducational therapeutic day school in Weston, Massachusetts, is seeking a dynamic and dedicated new Executive Director. 

The Gifford School provides educational services in a clinical environment to students with special academic, behavioral and emotional needs so that they may achieve their full potential.

The School

The Gifford School (Gifford) has been providing a quality specialized educational and clinical program for students since 1964, first in Cambridge and at its present location in Weston since 1971. Gifford currently serves over 100 students from age eight to twenty-two who come from over 60 Massachusetts cities and towns. Located on a 27-acre campus, Gifford is approved by the Massachusetts Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The entire School community is committed to helping students increase their self-esteem, gain academic knowledge, and develop social skills. Gifford values a diverse community and strives to maintain a safe, accepting environment that respects individual differences and provides all community members with a sense of belonging. Please visit the Gifford website at www.gifford.org.

Gifford employs an interdisciplinary staff of 80 who work in partnership with the students' families, their public school systems, and a 17-member Board of Directors who represent a wide variety of professional expertise. Gifford has made major progress over the past five years. Educational and clinical programs were enhanced, the science curriculum was expanded, and a new lab was created. The food program was expanded, and the studio performing arts program was implemented with great success. Professional development was strengthened, and graduate opportunities were expanded through a new formal affiliation with Regis College.

With the purchase of an adjoining property, the campus was expanded, the Fenn Center was rebuilt after a 2009 fire, and a new pavilion and parking areas added. The financial position is strong, with an annual operating budget of $6 million. An experienced Interim Director (Robert McArdle) is supporting a smooth transition from the leadership of the long-time former Executive Director (Michael Bassichis) who retired earlier this year.

With the leadership of the Long Range Planning Committee, the school community has affirmed six strategic directions. The Gifford School will:
  • Continue to strengthen its educational program and clinical offerings to ensure that it provides the highest quality education and clinical support to help students reach their full potential;
  • Enhance staff support and development with the goal of continuing to attract and retain top quality staff;
  • Collaborate with stakeholders including public schools, parents, human service agencies, government officials, special education schools, mental health professionals, higher education personnel, and others;
  • Maintain and enhance its campus and facilities so that they continue to serve the mission;
  • Maintain its financial position and stability so that it can continue to fulfill its mission and provide high quality educational and clinical services;
  • Ensure that it has the organization and governance structures and processes required to fulfill its mission and move forward with its plan.

The Position

The Executive Director (ED) will lead the school, translating the mission and strategic plan into action. Reporting to the Board, s/he is responsible for understanding the special education market and trends in special education in order to position the School for the future. The ED will promote a quality, safe, and positive work and learning environment and an atmosphere which values diversity.

Responsibilities include:
  • Program and policy - ensure development and progress of clinical and educational programs; oversee development and implementation of appropriate policies pertaining to personnel, staffing patterns and job descriptions, health care, parent information, crisis management and other matters; ensure compliance with state and federal special education regulations; respond appropriately and effectively should there be a need for crisis management; and be aware of current and ongoing changes in the field.
  • Staff - oversee hiring of staff and oversee the Administrative Team which in turn manages the education, clinical and support staff in fulfilling their responsibilities; establish and monitor appropriate personnel practices such as performance appraisal, salary structure, benefits and other issues.
  • Finance - oversee development of the annual budget and ensure proper fiscal management; coordinate with auditors.
  • Relationships - ensure strong and positive relationships with regulatory agencies and purchasers of services, special education and mental health colleagues, and parents.
  • Funding - develop relationships with new funders and deepen and sustain partnerships with current funders. Apply for public, corporate, and foundation funding and reach out to individual donors; ensure timely, accurate reporting to funders and the Board.
  • Physical plant - ensure maintenance and long range development of the facilities and property.
  • Public relations - participate in outside activities that contribute positively to the School and its community and seek positive relationships with the media, the special education community, town of Weston and others; serve as the primary spokesperson for the School.
  • Board - work closely with the Board to keep them informed of school plans and programs, students' progress, personnel matters, and relationships with the MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education, Town of Weston, parents and others. Report to the Board on agency finances and funding sources on a regular basis.

Qualifications, Characteristics, Knowledge and Abilities Desired
  • Minimum of ten years administrative experience in private or public special education, the not-for-profit sector, or other related leadership role;
  • Demonstrated leadership ability to work productively with the school's key constituents;
  • Minimum of ten years experience working with students with special academic, behavioral and/or emotional needs;
  • Significant supervisory experience;
  • Evidence of fundraising ability and partnership development;
  • Understanding of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education funding and state and federal special education regulations helpful;
  • Experience in organizational planning and program development;
  • Experience working with a nonprofit board of directors;
  • Strong administrative and financial skills;
  • Advanced degree in education, mental health or related field.

To apply, please send resume, cover letter and recent salary history to Susan Egmont of Egmont Associates, at segmont@egmontassociates.com.


The Gifford School is committed to a policy of non-discrimination and equal opportunity for qualified applicants and employees without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Parent Journal

From Parents Have The Power
to Make Special Education Work

By Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves
September 25, 2015

As a parent, you have an important tool right at your fingertips to help you in your special education experience. This simple tool, developed over time, can be one of your greatest assets in advocating for your child.

It is your parent journal, in which you record your impressions and descriptions of your child’s behaviors, moods, struggles, achievements, and any other notable information.

You may not think that day to day life is worth recording or perhaps you think you are too busy to find the time to write journal entries. We want to tell you that this is valuable information that grows in importance over time.

Remember the scene in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town in which the main character Emily goes back in time to see her twelve year old self at home with her parents for one day? It is a poignant scene of an adult woman seeing herself as a twelve year old girl with her parents. She notices how young everyone is and all the details in her childhood home. She sees everything with fresh eyes, from a different perspective provided by the passage of time. What was absolutely ordinary and common years ago suddenly takes on a new meaning and significance for her.

Your parent journal can do the same for you.

We began our journal when our son started special education in preschool. Initially we just recorded details of phone calls and letters related to school, but as time went by we started recording the details of everyday life: what foods our son ate and his reactions to them, his activities, and how he slept. At an early age he had food allergies, so keeping a journal was essential to pinpoint his sensitivities to certain foods.

The journal evolved as he started elementary school, with details about his difficulties learning to read and write. We recorded our impressions of how schoolwork was going, parent-teacher conferences, and Team meetings. The more we became involved in special education, the more we wrote, since there were so many details to keep track of.

Over time, keeping our journal became a habit. We wrote detailed notes and impressions immediately after Team meetings and phone calls with school personnel. We recorded our son’s mood after he came home from school each day. We followed up these experiences with letters to school personnel.

"By middle school our entries revealed that school personnel were giving us conflicting information about our son’s school experience..."

Writing factual notes became an important part of the special education experience for us. By middle school our entries revealed that school personnel were giving us conflicting information about our son’s school experience, and helped us understand that his placement was not appropriate.

When we began to work with a lawyer to seek reimbursement for a more appropriate placement, she was able to use the facts and dates to strengthen our case. Through her, we began to appreciate the importance of the “trail of paper” we had created. When our school district served us a discovery request we had the information they requested at our finger tips. Notes that we had taken years earlier suddenly became significant and had a new meaning, just like Emily’s experience in Our Town.

For example, in third grade our school had sent us reports saying how well our son was doing, but in our journal we had recorded details of his frustration at not being able to read at grade level.

We could clearly see his struggles with school assignments. He was not excelling in all academic areas as the school had claimed. Testing by professionals independent of our school district confirmed what we had written. Our journal entries were an important part of our case.

Your child will change over the years, but change can happen gradually. Sometimes weeks or months go by and you feel like nothing different has happened. But growth is always happening, so be aware, observe your child, and start recording the details of his or her life. You may feel too busy, but if you make it a practice to spend even five minutes a day recording your impressions, either in writing or in a recording, over time you will see details emerge that will pay big dividends in the future as you advocate for your child.

Monday, October 12, 2015

ADA Guidelines for Testing Accommodations

From Smart Kids with LD

September 28, 2015

High-stakes tests are stressful for everyone (hence the name “high-stakes”), but for students with learning and other disabilities, getting approval for test accommodations that level the playing field has historically been its own stressor.

Thanks to newly released ADA guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) students that need test accommodations now have a clear and easy-to-access reference that outlines their rights and the testing entities’ responsibilities.

Necessary Documentation

Among the most valuable information offered is a thorough answer to the question of what documentation is necessary to support a request for testing accommodations. The answer is less burdensome than some testing entities would have you believe:

"Any documentation if required by a testing entity in support of a request for testing accommodations must be reasonable and limited to the need for the requested testing accommodations. Requests for supporting documentation should be narrowly tailored to the information needed to determine the nature of the candidate’s disability and his or her need for the requested testing accommodation. Appropriate documentation will vary depending on the nature of the disability and the specific testing accommodation requested.

Examples of types of documentation include:
  • Recommendations of qualified professionals;
  • Proof of past testing accommodations;
  • Observations by educators;
  • Results of psycho-educational or other professional evaluations;
  • An applicant’s history of diagnosis; and,
  • An applicant’s statement of his or her history regarding testing accommodations."

Depending on the particular testing accommodation request and the nature of the disability, however, a testing entity may only need one or two of the above documents to determine the nature of the candidate’s disability and his or her need for the requested testing accommodation.

If so, a testing entity should generally limit its request for documentation to those one or two items and should evaluate the testing accommodation request based on those limited documents without requiring further documentation.

Reporting Results

In addition, the guidelines dive into the controversy on whether or not tests where accommodations have been used should be flagged when reported. The answer is decisive:

"Testing entities should report accommodated scores in the same way they report scores generally. Testing entities must not decline to report scores for test-takers with disabilities receiving accommodations under the ADA.

Flagging policies that impede individuals with disabilities from fairly competing for and pursuing educational and employment opportunities are prohibited by the ADA.

“Flagging” is the policy of annotating test scores or otherwise reporting scores in a manner that indicates the exam was taken with a testing accommodation. Flagging announces to anyone receiving the exam scores that the test-taker has a disability and suggests that the scores are not valid or deserved.

Flagging also discourages test-takers with disabilities from exercising their right to testing accommodations under the ADA for fear of discrimination.

Flagging must not be used to circumvent the requirement that testing entities provide testing accommodations for persons with disabilities and ensure that the test results for persons with disabilities reflect their abilities, not their disabilities."

We suggest reading the whole document (it’s only a handful of pages) before applying for test accommodations. You can access ADA Requirements: Testing Accommodations at:


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Psychostimulants More Likely to Reduce Rather than Worsen Anxiety in Children with ADHD

From JCAP - Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychopharmacology
via EurekAlert!

By Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Genetic Engineeering News

October 6, 2015

A new review of studies involving nearly 3,000 children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) concludes that, although anxiety has been reported as a side-effect of stimulant medication, psychostimulant treatment for ADHD significantly reduces the risk of anxiety.

Thus, patient reports of new-onset or worsening anxiety with the use of psychostimulants are not likely due to the medication and should not necessarily preclude stimulant use in ADHD, according to the authors of the study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

The article is available free on the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology website until Nov. 6, 2015.

Catherine Coughlin, Michael Bloch, M.D., and coauthors from Yale University, New Haven, CT and University of SaƵ Paulo School of Medicine, Brazil, emphasize the importance of managing anxiety in children with ADHD, as it can affect how they respond to treatment.

In the article "Meta-Analysis: Reduced Risk of Anxiety with Psychostimulant Treatment in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder", the researchers report a statistically significant reduction in the risk of anxiety associated with psychostimulants compared to placebo, and furthermore, higher doses of psychostimulants appear to be associated with a greater reduction in the risk of anxiety .

"This new information on psychostimulants has the potential to change the way we treat kids with ADHD and improve the quality of their lives," says Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology and president of the Child Mind Institute in New York.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1K23MH091240 and the National Center for Research Resources under Award Number UL1RR024139. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About the Journal

Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published ten times per year online with Open Access options and in print. The Journal is dedicated to child and adolescent psychiatry and behavioral pediatrics, covering clinical and biological aspects of child and adolescent psychopharmacology and developmental neurobiology. Complete tables of content and a sample issue may be viewed on the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology website.

About the Publisher

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, Games for Health Journal, and Violence and Gender. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 80 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available on the Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers website.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fidgeting Helps Kids with ADHD Learn

From Smart Kids with LD

June 1, 2015

“Sit still.”

That’s been the mantra for legions of parents, teachers, and others trying to get children with ADHD to concentrate. But new research shows that not sitting still is exactly what those children need to do in order to learn.

According to a study at the University of Central Florida, children with hyperactive attention disorders perform better when moving. Foot-tapping, leg-swinging, chair-scooting, and all that other annoying squirming helps those children engage executive functions and stay alert.

As study author Mark Rapport explained in an article in UCF’s Colleges and Campus News:

“Typical interventions target reducing hyperactivity. It’s exactly the opposite of what we should be doing for a majority of kids with ADHD. The message isn’t ‘Let them run around the room,’ but you need to be able to facilitate their movement so they can maintain the level of alertness necessary for cognitive activities.”

What It Means for Kids with ADHD

The study involved 52 boys, ages 8-12 years old. Twenty-nine were diagnosed with ADHD; 23 showed normal development. Participants were given a number of tasks that gauge working memory, a key component for learning. A camera and observers recorded the children’s movements as they carried out the tasks.

The results showed that when children with ADHD moved the most, they performed better on the tasks. In contrast, the children without ADHD who moved most performed worse.

Although the study was small, it has important implications for how children with ADHD should be handled in learning and testing settings. According to the article,

“The study suggests that a majority of students with ADHD could perform better on classroom work, tests and homework if they’re sitting on activity balls or exercise bikes, for instance.”