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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The 8 Life Skills All 18-Year-Olds Should Have: A Checklist for Parents

From NBC's Today Show

By Julie Lythcott-Haims
January 25, 2016

"...our kids must be able to do these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they're calling us to ask how, they do not have the skill."

If we want our kids to have a shot at making it in the world as 18-year-olds, without the umbilical cord of the cell phone being their go-to solution in all manner of things, they're going to need a set of basic life skills.

Based upon my observations as dean, and the advice of parents and educators around the country, here are some examples of practical things they'll need to know how to do before they go to college — and here are the crutches that are currently hindering them from standing up on their own two feet:

1.) An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers — faculty, deans, advisers, landlords, store clerks, human resource managers, coworkers, bank tellers, health care providers, bus drivers, mechanics—in the real world.

The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers — respectfully and with eye contact — for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.

2.) An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around a campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad.

The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don't know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.


3.) An eighteen-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines.

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it— sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them; thus, kids don't know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.

4.) An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household.

The crutch: We don't ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work; thus, kids don't know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.

5.) An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems.
The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them; thus, kids don't know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6.) An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs of courses and workloads, college-level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.

The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults; thus, kids don't know that in the normal course of life things won't always go their way, and that they'll be okay regardless.

7.) An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money.

The crutch: They don't hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don't develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn't inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8.) An 18-year-old must be able to take risks.

The crutch: We've laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them; thus, kids don't develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. "grit") or the thick skin (a.k.a. "resilience") that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

Remember: our kids must be able to do all of these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they're calling us to ask how, they do not have the life skill.

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Julie Lythcott-Haims is the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and the author of "How to Raise an Adult."



In her new book, Lythcott-Haims has delivered a provocative manifesto that exposes the detrimental effects of helicopter parenting and puts forth an alternative philosophy for raising self-sufficient young adults. She draws on research, conversations with educators and employers, and her own insights as a mother and student dean to highlight the ways in which over-parenting harms children and their stressed-out parents. While empathizing with parents' universal worries, she offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success. 

Relevant to parents of toddlers as well as of twentysomethings, come hear a rallying cry for those who wish to ensure that the next generation can take charge of their own lives with competence and confidence.

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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.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Number of College Students Seeking Mental Health Treatment is Growing Rapidly

From the HuffPost College Blog

By Tyler Kingkade
January 14, 2016

The increase of students seeking mental health treatment is vastly outpacing enrollment growth. And no one knows why.


A new report from Penn State University, pictured, shows that
demand for counseling centers on college campuses nationwide
grew significantly over the past five years.

An increasing number of college students are seeking help for mental health issues, at a rate outpacing the growth in enrollment by five-fold, a new report shows.

Data collected at 139 college and university counseling centers, from 2009-2010 through 2014-2015, reflects "slow but consistent" growth in students reporting depression, anxiety and social anxiety. And 20 percent of students seeking mental health treatment, the report found, are taking up about half of all campus counseling center appointments.

The 2015 annual report that was released earlier this week from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University is based on data that focused on 100,736 college students nationwide seeking mental health treatment.

CCMH's report reflects several years of students speaking out about problems on campus dealing with mental health, and a growing conversation about burnout in college.

One-in-8 student clients said sleep was a problem for them, a rate that is 30 percent higher than those needing help for alcohol, and almost three times the rate of students who needed help from counseling centers to overcome drug abuse.

Campus counseling center leaders have said for years that they perceive there to be an increase in demand for their services. As New York magazine noted last year, surveys of college providers show counselors seem to always think things are getting worse. And this set of data confirms their suspicions, at least over the past five years.


The data also explains why students have routinely complained about long wait times to get appointments at counseling centers, said Ben Locke, executive director of CCMH.

The campus centers are continually understaffed because their budgets are often based on some kind of historical calculation of the number of students enrolled and previous rates of students requesting appointments, Locke said.

"This is the reason we hear those stories that 'I called my counseling center to get help and they said it'll be a three or four week wait,'" Locke said.

The report still leaves the question unanswered of why more students need help. CCMH concluded that "rates of prior treatment are not changing and therefore unlikely to be the cause of the increased demand for services."

"The jury is still out on whether it reflects a sicker student body," said Dr. Victor Schwartz, medical director of the Jed Foundation, a group that works with colleges to prevent suicide, "or are we making headway in getting people to come in sooner, which would be good news."

Another possibility Schwartz floated, is that there are more resources available for mental health services on campus, compared to off campus.

The report and Locke also point to the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004, which is designed to award millions of dollars in grants to prevent suicide among young people.

The percentage of students using counseling services seeking help for harassment or sexual assault, drug and alcohol use, or existing mental health disorders has remained constant.

One issue in particular, however, stood out: There's been a steady increase in students reporting self-injuries, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts. 

Locke suggested that as college becomes more accessible, bringing in lower income students who may never have had mental health services available, this could account for a slight increase of students going to counseling centers. He said, however, that demographic changes alone don't explain the trend.

In recent years, pundits have pointed to anecdotes of students asking to use "trigger warnings" in classes, and complaining about "microagressions" as examples that undergraduates today are less resilient and too "coddled."

But Locke outright dismissed that as an explanation for the report's findings of a significant increase in the number of students seeking out counseling services.

"You don't see a 38 percent relative increase because of a sudden disappearance of resilience at the national level," Locke said.

To criticize students for seeking out help for their mental health concerns, he added, would be "blaming the victim."

"We need to avoid judging students as lacking a characteristic," Locke said.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reminder: Free Workshop in Rockport Thursday, 1/28 on LBLD and NVLD

From the Rockport SEPAC

January 26, 2016

Melody O’Neil from Landmark School will discuss differences between LBLD and NVLD, and how to understand and interpret the evaluation process.

The focus will be on identifying students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD); understanding the differences between LBLD and a non-verbal learning disability (NVLD); and understanding/interpreting the evaluation process including neuropsychological, educational, and speech-language testing.

Topics will also include how to interpret the scores (what it all means and what the specific tests measure). A brief overview of receptive/expressive language disorders will also be addressed.

When:   7:00 - 8:30pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

Where: Rockport Elementary School Library
                   26 Jerdens Lane, Rockport, MA 01966 

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP: eventbrite

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Prior Written Notice: Your Right to Hear About Changes

From Understood

By Andrew M.I. Lee
January 15, 2106

At a Glance
  • Prior written notice is a legal right guaranteed to every parent.
  • Prior written notice requires the school to send written explanations of any proposed changes in your child’s educational plan.
  • Prior written notice also requires the school to send a written notice if the school denies a parent request.


Schools make changes to student services all the time. As the parent, you need to be informed. You need to know what the changes are and why the school is making them. You also get to participate in the decision-making. The law is on your side.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents have legal rights called procedural safeguards. One of these safeguards is called “prior written notice.”

This provision says the school must give parents written notice any time it adds, changes or denies educational services to their child, or wants to change the child’s placement.

Here’s what else you need to know about prior written notice.

What the Written Notice Should Contain

Prior written notice must include a full description of what the school plans to do or refuses to do. It must also give parents the following:
  • An explanation of why the school wants to make this change, or is refusing to make the change you requested;
  • A description of other options that were considered and why those options were rejected;
  • A description of each test or record the school used in making the decision;
  • A reminder that parents have legal rights to procedural safeguards;
  • Information about how parents can get a written copy of their legal rights;
  • Contact information for help in understanding their rights.

When the School Sends Written Notice

Any time the school proposes to start or change nearly anything related to your child’s education, it must send prior written notice. For example, if the school wants to change your child’s IEP, it needs to send you prior written notice. The school also must give written notice if it rejects any parent requests.

Here are a few more examples of when you should get notice:
  • When the school wants to conduct an initial evaluation of your child;
  • When the school says no to your request for an evaluation, services or placement in another educational setting;
  • When the school wants to change how it identifies your child’s disability;
  • When the school wants to change a child’s educational placement, such as switching from a general education classroom to a special education classroom;
  • When the school wants to reduce, add or in any way change your child’s educational services.

If the school informed you of the change in a phone call or a meeting, it still has to send you written notice.

What if the school does not give prior written notice?

You can ask for written notice if the school doesn’t send it. If the school fails to send you prior written notice, it’s violating the law.

Prior written notice gives you an opportunity to respond before any changes are made. If you don’t agree with the action the school plans to take or the school refuses to send you prior written notice, you can put your objections in writing.

If you ask for mediation or a due process hearing in your letter, you’ll trigger the “stay put”provision. That means no changes can be made until you and the school resolve your differences. You may be able to work out your disagreement in a meeting.

Sometimes there are misunderstandings about changes in your child’s education. Prior written notice guarantees that you’re kept up to date on the important decisions being made. Understanding this right is important to being a strong advocate for your child.

Key Takeaways
  • The school must send prior written notice even if a teacher notified you verbally about a change.
  • If the school fails to send you prior written notice, it’s violating the law.
  • Prior written notice gives parents time to respond before changes are made.

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Andrew M.I. Lee, J.D., is an editor and former attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education and parenting issues. More by this author

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Should You Look for in a Diagnosis?

From the Child Mind Institute

By Caroline Miller
January 19, 2016

Signs a clinician is evaluating your child with care.


When a child is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems, there are no blood tests or scans that will tell you what's wrong. Add to that the fact that children are often not able to tell you clearly what's bothering them. We hear from many parents who are frustrated because they can't understand why their child is acting out, or unhappy, or struggling in school.

The key to getting good help is getting a good picture of what's happening. And that's not always as simple as we would like. It can be difficult to sort through the many kinds of professionals who diagnose mental health and developmental problems.

And, if the clinician you see is in a hurry or unfamiliar with the kinds of issues your child is having, you may get a faulty or incomplete picture.

That's why it's important to know how to tell whether the clinician you're seeing for a diagnosis, whether it's your pediatrician or a mental health professional, is following best practices in determining what's troubling your child.

A Broad Evaluation

For an effective diagnosis, a clinician needs to gather information on all aspects of your child's emotional and behavioral functioning-not just the short list of things you find problematic. One of the most common causes of misdiagnosis is focusing only on the parents' preconceptions about what's wrong with the child.

The bigger picture of the child's mood and behavior is essential because the root of the symptoms you're concerned about might not be obvious. For instance, a child who seems angry or aggressive might actually be intensely anxious. A child who has trouble paying attention in school might not have, as is commonly assumed, ADHD, but instead be depressed or, again, anxious.

Anxiety, in fact, is often missed in children because it masquerades in such a wide range of behaviors.

"Often the presenting symptoms can have many different causes," explains Ron Steingard, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute. "A full, rigorous interview needs to cover all the potential contributors."

A Complete History

Your clinician should ask questions not only about your child's current mood and functioning, but about your child's history, too. Knowing how your child's behaviors have evolved and changed as he developed can make a big difference in understanding what's bothering him now, and how to treat it.

"We need to think of diagnosis as a narrative, not just checking a series of boxes," says Dr. Steingard, an expert in diagnosing children with complex problems. "We need to ask about all the things that have brought the child to this moment."

For instance, he notes, take a child who is severely anxious about school at age 10. If he was already unusually anxious about, say, separating from his parents, at 3 or 4, you would suspect that he has a fundamental problem regulating his internal alarm system.

You might treat him differently than a child whose became fearful only after he started school, who is more likely to have learned anxiety in response to problems there.

Consider More than One Problem

Another of the goals of detailed interviewing is to avoid the mistake of assuming that all of a child's behaviors have a single source. This is particularly important because it's very common for kids to have a number of overlapping challenges. Kids who have autism may also have ADHD. Children who have learning disabilities may also have developed depression or anxiety, which won't go away automatically if they get help on the learning front.

Dr. Steingard gives the example of a child who was described by his parents as hyperactive and impulsive, and was treated with medication for ADHD. His parents noticed a robust response to the medication in his behavior at home. But, surprisingly, his teachers reported that his performance was less reliable and thereby less improved at school.

What had been missed is that in addition to ADHD he was also experiencing serious anxiety. The stimulant medication didn't work at school because school was the focus of his anxiety, and that made it very hard for him to concentrate and settle down.

Multiple Sources

A clinician should also not depend solely on parents for information on a child's functioning. Some children behave very differently in different settings, such as at home and at school. If a child's symptoms are appearing only when he's at home, or only at school, or only with one set of people, they may be interpreted quite differently than if they are occurring across several settings.

That's why it's important for a clinician to gather information from the child himself, parents, teachers, and other adults who have knowledge of him. Screening tools, in the form of questionnaires and rating scales, are often used to collect information from other sources.

Diagnostic Tools

There are many specialized diagnostic tools clinicians use to help get an objective take on a child's behaviors and symptoms.

Some of these tools take the form of structured interviews, in which a clinician asks a set of specific questions about a child's behavior. The questions are based on the criteria for psychiatric disorders as they appear in children. The answers are used to guide the clinician's thinking in diagnosis.

Common tools that are structured interviews include something referred to as ADIS (Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule), and the K-SADS (Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia).

Some of the tools used to aid in collecting information are rating scales, in which the child is rated numerically on a list of symptoms. For instance, BASC (Behavior Assessment System for Children) is a set of questions that are customized for parents, teachers, and the patient, to utilize multiple perspectives to help the clinician understand the patient's behaviors and emotions, and indicate where further exploration is necessary.

For children who may have ADHD, tools commonly used include the SNAP (Swanson, Nolan and Pelham) rating scale for teachers and parents, which scores kids on how often each of a list of 18 symptoms occur.

On the other hand, the CPT (Continuous Performance Test), which rates a child's ability to complete a boring and repetitive task over a period of time, is the gold standard for differentiating kids whose inattention is a symptom of ADHD rather than some other cause, such as anxiety.

ADOS (the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) is a set of tasks that involve interaction between the tester and the child which are designed to diagnose autism.

Finding a Qualified Professional

When looking for a mental health specialist to provide an evaluation for your child (see our guide to the kinds of professionals who diagnose and treat children), you'll want to be prepared with questions that will help you decide if a particular clinician is a good match for your needs:
  • What kind of training do you have?
  • Are you board certified and/or licensed?
  • How much experience do you have diagnosing children whose behaviors are similar to mine?
  • How do you arrive at a diagnosis?
  • Will you recommend treatment options and make referrals to other professionals if needed?

Avoid Trial and Error

One final thing to be wary about is accepting treatment from a clinician who offers to write a prescription without offering a diagnosis or explanation for your child's behavior.

Just as a headache can be caused by many different things, worrisome behavior or moods can be symptoms of a range of psychiatric and developmental disorders. It's a mistake to try medications to see if they work on the symptoms without a serious effort to understand the causes.

This happens, in particular, when a child is hard to manage. Putting a child who's out of control on medication may be necessary, but it shouldn't be done in lieu of careful diagnosis, especially since behavioral therapy is surprisingly effective for many children with disruptive behavior.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Welcome Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Elizabeth Lops to NESCA!

From NESCA

January 22, 2016

Pediatric Neuropsychologist Elizabeth Lops, Ph.D. joined NESCA in December, 2015.

Elizabeth Lops, Ph.D.
She conducts comprehensive neurodevelopmental and psychological evaluations, and provides psychological and behavioral treatment with individuals with a broad range of developmental, behavioral, learning and emotional challenges.

Dr. Lops specializes in early diagnoses of autism in children as early as 12-months of age. In addition, she has a particular interest in working with individuals with anxiety related disorders, self-regulation challenges and ASD.

Dr. Lops earned her Ph.D. at the University of Maine, with a specialization in Developmental Clinical Psychology. She completed her pre-doctoral internship at Westchester Jewish Community Services in New York, followed by a fellowship at the Developmental Medicine Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Prior to her work at University of Maine, Dr. Lops received her B.A. in Psychology at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and completed her M.A. in Counseling Psychology at Boston College. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, running, cooking, and practicing yoga.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Free Workshop Tuesday, February 23: Failure to Launch! How to Get Your Kid Off the Couch and Into Life Outside the House

From NESCA

January 14, 2016


RSVP to info@nesca-newton.com.

5 Ways to Improve School for Behaviorally Challenged Students

From Simon & Schuster's Blog
"Tips on Life & Love"

By Ross W. Greene
October 1, 2014


Teachers, parents, and students enter each school year with anticipation and trepidation, perhaps especially so when a student has a history of behavioral challenges. Dealing with behaviorally challenging students and their parents has been identified as one of the greatest stressors for teachers, and student behavior problems are commonly cited as a leading factor causing teachers to leave the profession prematurely.

In the U.S. and Canada, rates of office discipline referrals, detentions, suspensions, and (in 19 American states) corporal punishment, remain at astronomical levels.

Understanding and helping behaviorally challenging students is hard, and traditional school disciplinary practices frequently aren’t up to the task. Effective intervention often requires new lenses and new practices. I’ve gone into great details about the foregoing guidance in my book, Lost at School, but here are some key points that should help.

Stop Blaming

While this has become a bit of a cliché, it’s still very common for parents and educators to blame each other for a child’s behavioral challenges at school (and, of course, both sets of adults frequently blame the child). School personnel often point toward less-than-ideal family circumstances as the cause of these challenges.

It’s worth noting that the parents aren’t at school when their child exhibits challenging behavior. It’s also worth pointing out that many well behaved students come from family situations that are less than ideal.

Parent bashing simply causes the folks at school to become distracted by factors they can do little about, and to lose sight of the fact that a lot of good can be done in the six hours a day, five days a week, and nine months that a student is in school every year, irrespective of adverse circumstances at home.

And, parent bashing also makes it much harder to collaborate with parents, who are usually well aware of the fact that they’re being viewed as “the problem.”

Blaming is just as common in the opposite direction. Educators often feel that parents don’t appreciate how hard it is to handle the classroom disruptions of behaviorally challenging students, especially when classroom teachers are under enormous pressure to get every student over the increasingly high bar set by high-stakes testing (the standard by which teachers are judged).

While many educators are invested in helping their behaviorally challenging students, they often haven’t received training on how to best accomplish the mission.

Focus on Lagging Skills Rather than Lagging Motivation

Perhaps the most compelling finding from the research that has accumulated on behaviorally challenging kids over the past 40-50 years is that lagging skills (rather than lagging motivation) is the primary factor contributing to challenging behavior.

That probably explains why characterizations such as “attention seeking,” “unmotivated,” “manipulative,” and “limit-testing” aren’t very accurate, and why all those sticker charts, time-outs, trips to the office, detentions, suspensions, and paddlings aren’t helping very much.

It’s far more productive to identify the skills a child is lacking–skills such as flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem-solving–so as to come to a more accurate understanding of the true factors making it hard for a child to meet academic and behavioral expectations at school.

In other words, behavioral challenges are a form of developmental delay, and are really quite similar to other forms of developmental delays (reading, writing, language, math) that are commonly seen in schools. Of course, identifying lagging skills also helps adults stop blaming the student for his behavioral challenges.

If he could do well, he would do well.

Focus on Problems Rather than Behaviors

It’s very tempting for adults to focus primarily on the behaviors a student exhibits—hitting, biting, screaming, swearing, belligerence, and so forth—when he’s having difficulty meeting expectations. But it’s usually far more productive to focus on the problems that are causing those behaviors (I call them unsolved problems): for example, difficulty getting along with a particular classmate at recess, difficulty standing in line for lunch, difficulty sitting next to a particular peer during circle time, difficulty on a particular academic task.

The switch in focus helps shift the adult role from behavior modifier to problem-solver. It’s not uncommon for classroom teachers, counselors, and administrators to focus exclusively on a student’s behaviors for an entire school year and never solve any of the problems that are causing those behaviors. This is demoralizing for educators, parents, and students, and, over time, causes kids to become hopeless, alienated, and disenfranchised.

I’ve developed a brief instrument to assist in identifying lagging skills and unsolved problems—it’s called the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems, and can be found both in Lost at School and on the website of my non-profit organization, Lives in the Balance.

Solve Problems Collaboratively Rather than Unilaterally

Even when adults are in problem-solving mode, they often come up with unilateral solutions that they then impose on a student. These solutions are usually based on no information or buy-in from the intended beneficiary of the solution: the student.

While there’s no question that adults may have great insights about a student’s difficulties, and outstanding solutions to offer, it’s far better to view the student as a collaborative partner, one with extremely important information to provide about the problems that are causing challenging behavior, and with (often surprising) ideas about how those problems can be solved.

The same notions are equally applicable to problem solving between parents and teachers. Often teachers and administrators impose solutions and expect both students and their parents to abide by their decrees.

Once again, better for the adults to come to a consensus on what’s truly getting in the way for the student (with significant input from the student himself) and then work together toward solutions. There are many benefits to solving problems this way, including the fact that both parents and educators have unique expertise to offer on the same child, and that there’s no one to blame when solutions don’t work as well as hoped (since those solutions were a team effort).

By the way, solutions that aren’t working aren’t cause for returning to old, punitive, unilateral ways of dealing with behaviorally challenging kids; rather, it’s reason to return to the problem-solving table to come up with improved solutions after figuring out why the initial solution didn’t quite accomplish the mission.

Solve Problems Proactively Rather than Emergently

A lot of intervention that takes place in schools occurs emergently and reactively, in the heat of the moment. But that’s very poor timing on solving problems, and helps explain why many problems remain unsolved.

Fortunately, when schools routinely use the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems, challenging episodes become highly predictable, and the stage is set for the collaboration on solving problems to be planned and proactive.

Of course, many members of the school staff wonder when they’ll find the time to solve problems proactively with their students. While it’s true that, in many schools, time had to be carved out of already-busy schedules to solve problems with their most at-risk students, most of the concerns about time come before staff begins solving problems collaboratively and proactively with their students.

Over time–after they’ve been doing it for a while–it’s common for staff to have concluded that solving problems collaboratively and proactively actually saves time.

Lost at School

Dr. Ross W. Greene, author of the acclaimed book The Explosive Child, offers educators and parents a different framework for understanding challenging behavior. Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach helps adults focus on the true factors contributing to challenging classroom behaviors, empowering educators to address these factors and create helping relationships with their most at-risk kids.

This revised and updated edition of Lost at School contains the latest refinements to Dr. Greene’s CPS model, including enhanced methods for solving problems collaboratively, improving communication, and building relationships with kids.

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Dr. Ross W. Greene is associate clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the author of both Lost at School and The Explosive Child. He is also the founder of a non-profit organization called Lives in the Balance (LivesintheBalance.org), through which he disseminates the model of care described in his books, Collaborative Problem Solving. Dr. Greene’s research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Stanley Medical Research Institute, and the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How Depression and Anxiety Don't Mix Well in College

From the HuffPost College Blog

By Jacqueline Gualtieri
Student, Emerson College

January 13, 2016

"In some strange sense, I'm grateful for my friend, the ever growing ball of anxiety in my stomach. It keeps me going when I'm ready to quit."


I've never been a bad student. I always got As and, while the occasional B upset me, I could usually push past it. I had so much else going on in my life: extracurriculars, great friends and a family I loved spending time with.

I didn't love high school, probably because of the occasional teasing, but I moved past the bad parts and such good.

Mentally, it wasn't all roses. I spent time with a therapist trying to figure out exactly why my mood fluctuated the way that it did. He said bipolar once, but over time came to say that he thought it was more depression, since I tended to have not very high highs, but very low lows.

The one thing he did believe for certain was that, even when I was happy, anxiety was a constant presence. I have very high social anxiety, but I was able to move past that as a child and make friends that lasted all through grade school.

I get anxious about grades and the future and who I am supposed to be as a person, but I was able to brush all those fears aside because of what I had that was so good.

High school doesn't last forever, which a lot of people are grateful for. I was too. I was looking forward to a new chapter in my life. Although the ball of anxiety in my stomach that I'd become accustomed to was still there, I was able to calm it, just thinking about the excitement waiting for me.

Until that excitement didn't really happen.

Over time, that ball in my stomach just kept getting bigger and bigger and, all the while, the happiness started to fade. I didn't really realize it at first. I wasn't until I hit sophomore year that I started to find it difficult to smile. Laughter became forced. I'd silently cry myself to sleep, until I became an insomniac, no longer sleeping and instead just crying through the night.

It was around that time I wanted to talk to someone who would understand and I came to understand that I really only had one good friend on campus, my roommate. Second semester, she left to study abroad and I had no one.

All throughout sophomore year, I started to notice a trend with more people being open about their mental illnesses, which is great, don't get me wrong, but I noticed a fairly common thread. All these students kept saying, they weren't getting out of bed, they weren't going to classes, they were failing their classes.

I was still getting As, and the occasional B which now bothered me to the point of tears. I felt like something was so wrong with me. Clearly, these people had it worse than I did. I must not be depressed at all if I can still keep going on with my day.

Each morning, the ball of anxiety woke me up and dragged me out of bed, my mind kicking and screaming, just wanting to stay in bed all day. I went to class, only missing the amount of days I was allowed before dropping a letter grade.

I hated nearly everything I did. The small moments of companionship, even just a three sentence conversation with a stranger, were the only things that kept me going. I was so grateful, so happy to imagine those people cared.

Day to day, doing anything else became torturous. I didn't like my classes, I didn't like my job, I didn't like any of the clubs I had joined thinking they would make me more social and happier. But I did them all, because my gut was keeping me from doing anything else.

"Medication quelled the depression but not the anxiety. Meditation helped the anxiety but not the depression."

If I didn't work all the time, I would never succeed. I'm surrounded by people already succeeding in their fields of choice. I'm just a loser who is already falling behind.

Every day I try to find some way to fix this, but I can usually only find one answer to one problem and not both. Medication quelled the depression but not the anxiety. Meditation helped the anxiety but not the depression.

Every day I wake up I think, "Well at least, I'm functioning." At least, I'll still graduate, early even, since at this point I'm basically rushing through the years people keep saying are the best years of my life.

In some strange sense, maybe I'm grateful for my friend, the ever growing ball of anxiety in my stomach. It keeps me going when I'm ready to quit.

Mentally, I know it's not healthy for me, but thinking about it that way is the only way I can get a glimmer of hope, the only way I can believe that one day I'll be able to function like a normal person and I won't have to live with either demon.

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If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Kindergarten is the New First Grade

From nprEd - How Learning Happens

By Elissa Nadworny and Anya Kamenetz
January 8, 2016


"What are some of the things that the monsters like to eat in this story?" teacher Marisa McGee asks a trio of girls sitting at her table.

McGee teaches kindergarten at Walker Jones Elementary in Washington, D.C. Today's lesson: a close reading of the book What Do Monsters Eat?

"They like to eat cake," says one girl.

"I noticed you answered in a complete sentence," McGee says. "Can you tell me something else?"

"Stinky socks!"

McGee follows with a line you might not expect in a kindergarten class: "Can you show me the page where you found that?"

Textual evidence. Complete sentences. Welcome to kindergarten in 2016. It's not quite what McGee, 29, says she was expecting when she started.

"When I came into kindergarten, down from first grade, I was like: Yes! What can I order for dramatic play?" McGee says. "And I was told: Kindergartners don't do dramatic play anymore."

If you have young kids in school, or talk with teachers of young children, you've likely heard the refrain — that something's changed in the early grades. Schools seem to expect more of their youngest students academically, while giving them less time to spend in self-directed and creative play.

A big new study provides the first national, empirical data to back up the anecdotes. University of Virginia researchers Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham and Anna Rorem analyzed the U.S. Department of Education's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which includes a nationally representative annual sample of roughly 2,500 teachers of kindergarten and first grade who answer detailed questions.

Their answers can tell us a lot about what they believe and expect of their students and what they actually do in their classrooms.

The authors chose to compare teachers' responses from two years, 1998 and 2010. Why 1998? Because the federal No Child Left Behind law hadn't yet changed the school landscape with its annual tests and emphasis on the achievement gap.

With the caveat that this is a sample, not a comprehensive survey, here's what they found. Among the differences:
  • In 2010, pre-kindergarten prep was expected. One-third more teachers believed that students should know the alphabet and how to hold a pencil before beginning kindergarten.
  • Everyone should read. In 1998, 31 percent of teachers believed their students should learn to read during the kindergarten year. That figure jumped to 80 percent by 2010.
  • More testing. In 2010, 73 percent of kindergartners took some kind of standardized test. One-third took tests at least once a month. In 1998, they didn't even ask kindergarten teachers that question. But the first-grade teachers in 1998 reported giving far fewer tests than the kindergarten teachers did in 2010.
  • Less music and art. The percentage of teachers who reported offering music every day in kindergarten dropped by half, from 34 percent to 16 percent. Daily art dropped from 27 to 11 percent.
  • Bye, bye brontosaurus. "We saw notable drops in teachers saying they covered science topics like dinosaurs and outer space, which kids this age find really engaging," says Bassok, the study's lead author.
  • Less "center time." There were large, double-digit decreases in the percentage of teachers who said their classrooms had areas for dress-up, a water or sand table, an art area or a science/nature area.
  • Less choice. And teachers who offered at least an hour a day of student-driven activities dropped from 54 to 40 percent. At the same time, whole-class, teacher-led instruction rose along with the use of textbooks and worksheets.
  • Not all playtime is trending down, though. Perhaps because of national anti-obesity campaigns, daily recess is actually up by 9 points, and PE has held steady.

Bassok was surprised by her results. "We went into the study seeing a lot of anecdotal evidence" about the ratcheting up of expectations in kindergarten, she says. "I thought part of this was a nostalgia for what we imagined kindergarten may have been. It's pretty amazing to me that, over a 12-year period, we see such drastic changes in teachers reporting what they expect and how they spend their time."

But what do these findings mean? And are they inherently bad?

Sonja Santelises, vice president for K-12 policy and practice at the Education Trust, which focuses on efforts to reduce the achievement gap, says rising expectations are a good thing, though "rigid instruction" is not.

"The report clearly raises important questions about how we are teaching our youngest learners," Santelises says. "But we need to be careful that we're not conflating the challenge of high-quality, engaging instruction and the actual target of learning to read."

Bassok agrees. "The changes that seem potentially troubling are more around how kids are learning, not what kids should be learning," she says. "There are classrooms that are very hands-on and allow kids to explore and also have terrific focus on math and are language-rich. Those things don't need to be at odds at all."

It's easy to make this a story about teachers' responses to high-stakes testing. Especially when you consider that, for every one of these indicators, the trend was even stronger in high-poverty classrooms and in schools with more nonwhite children — schools that no doubt felt accountability pressure under NCLB.

However, the authors caution that there are lots of factors at play here. Since 1998, the number of children attending public preschool has jumped dramatically. There's been an even bigger leap in students attending full-day versus half-day kindergarten, which gives teachers more time to cover every subject.

Parents also appear to be spending more time reading to kids and otherwise introducing language and math. In short, it's possible teachers' academic expectations have risen, at least in part, because more kids are coming to kindergarten better prepared.

Also, kindergartners are older than they used to be: 1 in 5 is 6 years old, in part due to the practice of "redshirting."

It should be said: The data in this study are five years old. It doesn't capture changes that may have taken place in schools since the adoption of the Common Core, for example. Kindergarten changed dramatically in just over a decade; as policies continue to shift, so too could practice. For now, it's less pretend time and more reading for the kids at Walker Jones Elementary.

Monday, January 18, 2016

NESCA Now Offering Therapeutic Yoga on Saturdays!

From NESCA

January 18, 2016

Winter Special (for new students only):
$500 for the first 6 sessions (almost 25% off!)

Yoga, meditation and other mindfulness practices are rapidly gaining recognition as effective treatments for conditions such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, anxiety and depression.

At the cutting-edge of this treatment revolution, NESCA has provided therapeutic yoga services to children and adolescents for the past several years, with excellent results.




Understanding the Causes of Dyslexia for Effective Intervention

From Edutopia

By Dr. Martha Burns
October 22, 2014


For most of the 40-plus years the term "dyslexia" has been in existence -- and although the diagnosis has long been considered a "learning disability" -- it has been based on comparisons with average readers. Simply put, a child could be diagnosed with dyslexia if he or she shows an IQ in the "normal" range but falls at or below the 10th percentile on standardized reading tests.

This cut-off has been arbitrary, often varying from district to district and based on Response to Intervention (RTI) criteria. As a result, a child who falls at the 12th percentile might be considered a poor reader while a child at the 10th percentile would be diagnosed with dyslexia.

For parents who have a child diagnosed with dyslexia, it is obvious early in the educational process that their bright child is not just behind in reading, but dumbfounded by the written word. A child with dyslexia seems to struggle at every turn.

Special educators, neurologists, and psychologists have understood that, too, and since the 1970s have assumed dyslexia has a neurological basis. "Dyslexia" stems from the Greek alexia, which means "loss of the word," and was the diagnostic term used when adults lost the ability to read after a brain injury.

Dyslexia was a term adopted to confer a lesser, though still neurologically-based, form of reading impairment in children. However, determining the neurological basis has been elusive until recently.

The Search for a Neurological Basis

In early attempts at researching the underlying causes of dyslexia in the 1970s, there were no technological medical procedures to study brain processes that might be involved in reading normally or abnormally. Because of the inability to determine the neurological cause(s) of dyslexia, in some educational circles it became synonymous with "developmental reading disorder," and the cause was deemed unimportant.

Rather, the goal was to develop and test interventions and measure their outcomes, without an effort to relate the interventions to underlying causation.

A major limitation to that approach is that it is symptom-based, yet determining the cause is essential to identifying an effective solution. When we clump children together into a single diagnostic category based on test scores, we not only fail to address what might be causing the dyslexia, but we also ignore variability in performance that limits our ability to identify individual differences.

Fortunately, advances in neuroscience, buttressed since the late 1990s by neuroimaging and brain electrophysiological technology, have led to an emerging consensus about the causes of dyslexia -- underlying capacities essential for learning to read, which emerge through brain development, are less developed in children diagnosed with dyslexia.

And the best news is that those processes are amenable to carefully designed training approaches.

The Dyslexic Brain

In the early to mid-2000s, research on the underlying basis of dyslexia pointed to a primary problem with the phonological processing of speech sounds. Early research, summarized in Stanislas Dehaene's Reading in the Brain (2009), identified problems with phonological awareness, or the ability to segment words into their component speech sounds. More recent research has delineated why that problem exists.

These findings have led to an emerging consensus, well summarized by Jane Hornickel and Nina Kraus in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2012: dyslexia is primarily an auditory disorder that arises from an inability to respond to speech sounds in a consistent manner.

And Finn and colleagues at Yale published research in August 2014 (PDF, 4.7MB) indicating that this underlying problem with perception of speech sounds, in turn, affects the development of brain networks that enable a student to link a speech sound to the written letter.

Based on this research, reading interventions for dyslexia should be most effective if they combine auditory perceptual training and memory for speech sounds (phonological memory) with exercises that require relating speech sounds to the written letter (phonemic awareness and targeted decoding).

And, in fact, neuroscience research bears that out. Temple et al (2003) used fMRI to show that when a program with that type of intervention was used intensively (five days a week for six weeks) with 35 students (as well as three adults) diagnosed with dyslexia, not only did decoding and reading comprehension improve significantly, but brain regions active in typical readers during phonological awareness tasks were activated.

Added to the neuroscience research on causation is additional scientific research conducted by education specialists on variability in patterns of dyslexia and the importance of individualizing interventions.

Some children diagnosed with dyslexia read words as a whole and guess at internal detail, showing major problems with phonological awareness. But other children may over-decode to the point that they have trouble reading irregular sight words and read too slowly to comprehend what they have read.

Ryan S. Baker and his colleagues at Columbia University, Polytechnique Montréal, Carnegie Mellon, and other universities are researching the factors necessary for effective tutoring of students with learning issues (PDF, 682KB). Their research indicates that an effective tutor is one who considers variability and has the ability to diagnose what a student knows and does not know, and then adapt interventions to the diagnosis.

For example, if a student has trouble with decoding, interventions that emphasize phonological awareness and provide additional practice with decoding are often helpful. But for children who over-decode, programs that build fluency through repetitive guided oral reading practice may be more useful.

Baker and his colleagues have taken this research an extra step to determine the most effective intelligent tutoring systems -- technological interventions that can free up the teacher by providing adaptive tutoring programs individualized to each student.

The Potential to Retrain the Brain

Our understanding of dyslexia has come very far in the past 40 years, with neurophysiological models developed in just the past five years explaining the underlying capacities required for reading and the best methods for individualized adaptive interventions.

Fortunately, treatment options have kept pace with the research, and children with dyslexia today have the potential to train their brains to overcome the learning difficulties that earlier generations were destined to carry with them for a lifetime.

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

Dr. Martha Burns is a noted neuroscientist, author, and leading expert on how children learn. Burns has been a practicing speech and language pathologist in Evanston, Illinois for over 40 years. She is a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and is an adjunct Associate Professor at Northwestern University.

Dr. Burns has authored over 100 journal articles on the neuroscience of language and communication, has written three books on language difficulties associated with neurological disorders, and lectured around the world on neuroscience applications to education and clinical intervention for children and adults with communication/cognitive disorders.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Workshop Wednesday, March 2nd: The Impact of Anxiety on Executive Function, Attention and Learning

From NESCA

January 8, 2016

Motivation is an often misunderstood construct. While we often assume it is something individuals have willful control over, in fact, motivation is a highly complex self-regulation skill that first relies on the development of other, more foundational regulatory processes, including emotional management.

Unfortunately, developing motivation in students has become increasingly challenging as they now contend with significantly higher rates of anxiety than ever before.

This presentation will discuss the impact of anxiety on a student’s cognitive resources, such as executive function and attentional control. It will also address how these challenges impact academic, social and emotional functioning. Methods for better understanding the “unmotivated” student and assessing their relative challenges will be shared.

In addition, ways to support the development of self-regulation skills to bridge school and home will be provided.

When:   8:45am - 12:00pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where: TEC Professional Development Center
                   141 Mansion Drive, Suite 200
                   East Walpole, MA 02032

Cost:     $75 TEC Members; $125 Non-Members

Presenter: NESCA Pediatric Neuropsychologist

                   Angela Currie, Ph.D.

Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Dr. Currie specializes in the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders. She has particular interest in the differential diagnosis of learning and self-regulation challenges, including anxiety.

She has extensive experience in the evaluation and treatment of anxiety and is the founder and director of NESCA’s cognitive-behavioral treatment services, which specialize in the treatment of children with co-occurring anxiety and learning challenges.

Register HERE.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sign Up! Social Learning Panel Discussion and Workshop Weds., January 20th

From NESCA

January 16, 2016

Featuring the Directors of Three
Leading Social Development Programs

Moderated by NESCA's Nancy Roosa, Psy.D.
with
Bruce Sabian, M.A., LMHC

Weds., Jan. 20, 2016, 7:30 – 9:00pm

Newton Marriott Hotel, Newton, MA
2345 Commonwealth Avenue
(Near the Intersection of I-90 and I-95)

Admission: $15.00 – RSVP to info@nesca-newton.com
(Please put “Workshop” in the subject line when registering.)

This workshop will use a Q & A format. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions in advance for the panelists. Please send your questions to: rwinston@nesca-newton.com