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Behavior ’ Category
Monday, July 30th, 2012
I’ve been excited to get my almost-7-year-old, Julia, into following the games. We got off to a rocky start Friday night, when I let her and her younger sister stay up later than usual to watch the opening ceremonies. Very quickly this “privilege” felt like more of a punishment. The girls were beyond confused by what they were watching; it was a downright brutal thing to view with inquisitive children. “What’s the Industrial Revolution?” “Why do they wear those clothes?” “Why is that lady jumping out of that plane?” “What do you mean, she’s not really jumping out? What is she doing? Who is jumping out, then?” and so on. I asked Julia to stop asking so many questions, but as she fairly pointed out, “Mommy, I like to understand what’s going on!” Finally I had to turn it off and call it a night.
Last night we let her watch some of the women’s gymnastics, and she was glued to the screen. She immediately picked a favorite (McKayla Maroney); announced to me and my husband that she’s going to be in the Olympics, too (we let it go); and tried to predict who was going to get the best score and why. Around 9:30 p.m., when NBC switched back to swimming, it was bedtime. She hopped into bed, bringing her dad’s Sports Illustrated featuring the Fab Five on the cover. I taped the rest and promised we’ll watch it tonight, and then I went to sleep, too.
Now I know that Jordyn Wieber had her shocking loss, and I’m dreading watching it with Julia. My little girl feels things tres deeply, and gets emotionally invested in pretty much everything we watch together. In fact, we couldn’t even continue with “American Idol” this season because she would dissolve into hysterics at every elimination, and talk about the fallen competitor for days and weeks afterward. (Not long ago she named a goldfish Shannon after Shannon Magrane, who was one of the first to be kicked off, back in March.) How did I not think of this when I suggested it’d be a fun thing to watch together?
Yeah, yeah–I know the Olympics give me the chance to reinforce the lessons that someone always has to lose, that life isn’t always fair, and so on, but the fact remains that it’s going to be a loooong two weeks in our home. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes tonight.
Image: Professional gymnastic balance beam in sport palace via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
We’re halfway through National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and we wanted to make sure you knew about an important event that’s happening: Friday at 12 p.m. EST, our friends at Child Mind Institute, as part of their Speak Up For Kids initiative, will present a live Facebook talk called “Managing Behavior: Strategies for Parents and Teachers.”
The presenter is Melanie Fernandez, Ph.D., ABPP, a clinical psychologist with expertise in treating kids’ behavioral problems. Dr. Fernandez is especially well-versed in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, and she’s the director of Child Mind Institute’s Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Program. PCIT is a fascinating technique where parents are coached (behind a one-way mirror and while wearing an earpiece) by experts as they’re playing with their child and given specific suggestions on how to monitor and reinforce their child’s positive behaviors, ignore mild negative ones, and give commands with calm, consistent follow-through.
To watch the hour-long presentation, go to CMI’s Facebook page at 12 p.m. on Friday, where you can post questions for Dr. Fernandez and chat with fellow attendees.
In the meantime, check out all of the events happening around the country through Saturday, May 12, as part of Speak Up For Kids. Mental health professionals in 48 states (and 14 countries!) are leading free talks on childhood mental health disorders and topics of concern to all parents including ADHD, anxiety, depression, behavioral challenges, bullying, trauma, and online safety. Check here for events near you. And for those of you in the New York City area, consider tomorrow’s talk at the 92nd Street Y: “Parenting 2.0: Raising Healthy Children in a Digital Age.” Steven Dickstein, M.D., pediatric psychopharmacologist at CMI, will discuss how much and what kind of exposure is appropriate for kids, and give parents pointers on how to manage children’s screen (and phone!) time, monitor social media participation, and protect them from cyberbullies. It’s free; RSVP at email@example.com.
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92nd Street Y, ADHD, Behavior, Child Mind Institute, cyberbullying, mental health, screen time, Speak Up For Kids | Categories:
Behavior, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News, Your Child
Thursday, March 29th, 2012
That’s the question you can’t help but ask when you read the latest news from the Centers for Disease Control about the prevalence of autism. The alarming figure so many of us are familiar with–1 in 110 children have autism–is actually rising. The number is now 1 in 88. (And when you look at the number of boys who are found to have autism, it’s frighteningly higher: 1 in 54.)
The CDC’s data reports that the median (not average) age at which children are diagnosed with autism is 48 months. It’s 53 months for autism spectrum disorder/pervasive developmental disorder, and 75 months for Asperger disorder. Considering how greatly kids can benefit from early intervention, those ages are worrisome. Our friends at Easter Seals raise concerns: “We are completely missing the mark on early diagnosis, given that autism can be accurately identified at 24 months,” says national director of autism services Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH. “We have a lot of work to do in the area of early identification.”
To that end, Easter Seals’ Make the First Five Count initiative, with help from CVS Caremark, has launched a free online screening tool that gives all parents of children up to 5 years old access to Brookes Publishing’s Ages & Stages Questionnaires. This tool does not diagnose (that’s important to note), but it allows you to figure out whether your child is developing appropriately and help you pinpoint concerns you may want to discuss with your child’s doctor. It only takes between 10 and 20 minutes for you to answer the questionnaire and you’ll have results emailed to you within two weeks. Please share the link with other parents of the 5-and-under set, and we can help lower that too-old age of diagnosis.
Photo via Shutterstock.
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Asperger's Syndrome, autism, autism awareness month, autism spectrum disorder, Easter Seals, Make the First Five Count, pervasive developmental disorder | Categories:
Babies, Behavior, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News, Your Child
Thursday, February 16th, 2012
We’ve been hearing a lot these days about a disorder called PANDAS. Maybe you’ve read about 15 teenagers in upstate New York who suddenly developed what was originally described as a tic disorder? It’s now believed to be PANDAS.
PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections. Essentially it means that for some children, being exposed to a bacterial infection such as strep can trigger severe symptoms of OCD. How? The infection triggers the immune system to produce antibodies intended to attack the infection. But the antibodies attack the brain instead—specifically, the basal ganglia, which is the part that controls emotions, behaviors, and physical movements.
It’s turned out to be a very controversial diagnosis. Some doctors say there just isn’t enough evidence to prove that strep or a similar infection can lead to OCD. Or that the studies proving its existence are flawed. They’ll say that the children who are “suddenly” acting vastly differently have probably been showing signs of OCD for months or years, and the parents just haven’t picked up on them.
We’ve just published a report on PANDAS, and the moms in our story would beg to disagree. They say their child’s personality radically changed—from one day to the next, literally. (PANDAS researchers say that’s the number-one hallmark of the disorder.) Can you imagine your previously well-adjusted second-grader becoming terrified of, say, radiation poisoning from the electronic devices in your home? That happened to one of the families in our article. What would you do if your happy-go-lucky 5-year-old started regularly kicking, hitting, and spitting at you and her siblings? That’s another example from our piece.
Despite the growing body of research behind PANDAS, and from organizations as esteemed at the National Institute of Mental Health, there’s lots that experts don’t know. For one thing, no one knows how common it is. Some experts say it affects up to 30 percent of all children with OCD (which affects between 1 and 2 percent of children). Others will go so far as to say it’s as prevalent as autism, and that doctors just don’t understand the condition well enough to diagnose it. Another sticking point: treatment. While some kids with PANDAS can be successfully treated with an extended course of antibiotics–because it halts the antibodies going after the brain–others take the meds long-term (as in months or years). This brings up the problem of antibiotic resistance, and doctors are not in agreement as to how risky long-term antibiotic use is.
When children don’t respond to antibiotics, parents can consider giving their child intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy, thought to boost the immune system by delivering concentrated amounts of antibodies from healthy blood donors. But IVIG is expensive and not usually covered by insurance, and not studied well enough for doctors to know exactly how many treatments are needed. And it doesn’t always work.
Some parents don’t buy PANDAS, either. When we posted our story on Facebook, some moms and dads expressed concern that PANDAS is just another way to excuse a poorly behaved child. Others said that there’s nothing odd about a kid who acts differently when he’s sick–though our story explains that the children don’t show signs of OCD until after their illness. We know this much: The topic generates a lot of passion, a lot of theories, and a lot of misinformation. When you read our story, let us know what you think.
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Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Margret Ericsdottir, of Iceland, has a 14-year-old son named Keli. Keli has severe autism and cannot speak. (That’s Keli in the photo.) In 2010, Margret made a documentary about her son and her quest to understand what’s happening in her son’s mind and other children like him. You can watch the trailer here.
Through a stroke of luck—or fate—involving both the First Lady of Iceland and the wife of the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair—”A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism” ended up being narrated by Kate Winslet. As Kate says in the March issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, “I knew I couldn’t just lend my voice to this documentary and go home.” She forged an immediate friendship with Margret and Keli, and together they created the Golden Hat Foundation to raise awareness about children and adults with autism—specifically those who are nonverbal and whose abilities are mistakenly believed to be severely limited.
I was honored to meet Margret yesterday at an event hosted by Ladies’ Home Journal (our sister publication) to spread the word about the Golden Hat Foundation. Its first high-profile project is a book called The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism, out March 27. The book was all Kate’s idea and the premise is simple: She’d send one of her favorite hats to celebrities, who had to take a self-portrait with it and provide one quote that was important to them. She got everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Conan O’Brien to Leonardo DiCaprio to Michael Phelps to Meryl Streep to participate.
The book contains a breathtaking section featuring the first thoughts communicated by nonverbal children, which were articulated on a letterboard used to spell out words. Keli’s: “I am real.” An 11-year-old girl named Carly’s: “Teeth—hurt—help.” Keli now writes poetry on his letterboard, and among his poems is one about a hat who speaks for a boy with autism who cannot talk. It’s called, of course, “The Golden Hat.” (And in a bizarre coincidence, Kate didn’t know about that particular poem when she came up with her book idea.)
Margret was effusive in her praise for Kate Winslet, calling her “a light in the darkness.” She said that with Kate’s help, the Golden Hat Foundation is progressing rapidly (“nothing moves slowly with her”). She also shared a wonderful video clip from a visit Kate and her children made to Margret’s home in Austin, Texas; they spent Thanksgiving together in 2010. In the clip, Kate is meeting other nonverbal children with autism, mostly teenage boys. One boy, thanks to his letterboard, tells her she’s beautiful; she gives the camera a wink and a thumbs’ up, and repays the compliment right back to him. We saw footage of Kate giving Keli a big bear hug when he told her he loved her—and we all laughed, since Margret had told us that Keli really, really doesn’t like being hugged. She said it was a struggle for Kate not to embrace Keli for their book cover shoot—but if you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see that Keli reached out to hold Kate’s hand.
Aside from helping society understand how intelligent nonverbal kids with autism can be, Margret and Kate have a more tangible goal: to build assisted-living campuses where children and adults with autism can live, learn, and work. I don’t know if anyone at yesterday’s event wasn’t in tears when Margret read an email to Kate that said, in essence, “I cannot leave this place until I know that my son has somewhere to go.”
If you’d like to help support the Golden Hat Foundation, click here. You can pre-order the book here. And for those of you who will be in NYC on World Autism Day, Monday, April 2, you can meet Margret and Keli at the United Nations Bookshop for a book signing. (Wondering how Keli will sign books if he can’t write? His mom wondered the same thing. His answer, via letterboard: “Stamp.”)
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A Mother's Courage: Talking Back to Autism, autism, Golden Hat Foundation, kate winslet, Ladies' Home Journal, Margret Ericsdottir, nonverbal autism, The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism | Categories:
Babies, Behavior, Doing Good, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News, Your Child, Your Life
Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that is more commonly diagnosed during childhood. Children diagnosed with ADHD are unable to focus or stay still for a long time and act impulsively. According to the CDC, an average of 5.4 children (9.5%) between ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls (13.2% vs. 5.6%). ADHD is also a more common term than Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), although both are still used interchangeably.
This guest post was written by Ben Glenn, the author of “Simply Special, Learning to Love Your ADHD.” In grade school, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, but he wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until an adult. Glenn travels the country and the globe, sharing his personal experiences with ADHD. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife and two children. For more information, visit www.SimpleADHDExpert.com.
Despite the amount of press, websites, and books explaining Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it is still one of the world’s most misunderstood psychiatric disorders. At its simplest, ADHD is the inability to sustain attention, and the person who has it is generally restless, fidgety, impulsive, and struggles with sustaining productivity. The deeper issue is that people with ADHD have problems with the part of the brain that controls executive functions (also known as the pre-frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex), such as initiating tasks, knowing when to put on the brakes, transitioning easily from one task to another, being systematic and maintaining order, self-monitoring and controlling one’s emotions, and holding onto information vital to completing a task.
While the bulk of scientific data about ADHD has increased in the last quarter century, ADHD is not a new disorder. In fact, it has been around for decades (some speculate even centuries). ADHD was officially recognized in British medical literature for the first time in 1902 (it was labeled as “morbid defect of moral control“) and has, since then, undergone several more name changes (including minimal brain dysfunction). The 2013 revision of The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders might see yet another name revision. While the exact definition of ADHD is still evolving, there is no doubt that ADHD is real and affecting the lives of millions of children and adults. I am one of them.
I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was an adult because I didn’t have the “hyperactive” element, but the schools did catch my dyslexia in third grade. I hated being labeled. Going to a Special Education classroom was hell. I was teased and treated like a dummy. I struggled with things that were easy for everyone else and done in no time at all, I was walking around feeling like a mistake, like a loser with no future. For a while I really lost all hope. This is a terrible way to grow up.
Children and adults with ADHD get a bad rep for being lazy, unmotivated, disorganized, and unable to complete any task on time. Relationships suffer because people with ADHD tend to blurt out what’s on their mind without thinking or lose interest in the middle of the conversation and wander off. While we all have moments where we display these behaviors, the important distinction is that people with ADHD literally can’t help being this way most of the time. It’s not a matter of trying harder to be better. It’s a neurobiological inability to do so. ADHD is also not the result of bad parenting or “broken homes” or lack of parental attention and discipline. While these may worsen the symptoms of ADHD and negatively impact a child’s behavior, ADHD is not caused by any of these things. Research has shown that ADHD symptoms are caused by brain chemistry. ADHD may also be genetic, which supports some beliefs that ADHD is more “nature” than “nurture.”
However, ADHD is one of the most treatable psychiatric disorders and has one of the best outcomes for anyone who gets the right kind of help and support from understanding parents, friends, teachers, and doctors. Thankfully there were teachers who helped and supported me. I credit them for restoring some of my self-confidence. The rest of the credit goes to my wife, my sympathetic enforcer!
Read More About ADHD on Parents.com
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Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
My almost-five-year-old’s transition to a new school–her “big-girl school”–has gone as well as we could have hoped for. She says she likes it, the teacher keeps telling us that Adira is “doing great,” and she doesn’t seem overly exhausted in the evenings, despite a considerably longer school day.
However–not surprising, but still frustrating for us–she utterly refuses to ever tell us anything about what happened during the day, what she did or learned, or who she played with. I know it’s normal, and I try not to push her too hard to spill the beans, and I respect that she wants or needs this space for herself. Occasionally, we get lucky and she volunteers a tidbit about something she learned or relates a story from school.
I thought this impulse was fairly universal. But while dropping her off this morning, I heard a couple of the other parents chatting with the teacher, mentioning all the wonderful things their kids had told them about the school day. It was nice to know they, you know, do stuff during the day, a fact I presumed but had been starting to doubt. Still, annoying to have to hear it third hand. Apprently, some kids do talk about their days to their parents.
One funny thing Adira did tell us about school: There are a lot of children from other countries in her class, and after Day 2, she reported, “I was playing with some kids in the playground, and they were talking, but I didn’t know what they was saying.” We explained to her about foreign languages, and assured her that everyone would get to know each other and learn how to understand each other. She seemed unconvinced and a bit disturbed that they wouldn’t just talk English. As for me, I was just glad to hear something about the school day.
Does anyone have any recommendations on how to get our kids to tell us more about what happens, good or bad, during the day?
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Friday, September 2nd, 2011
In our October issue, out any day now, we have a special report by Darshak Sanghavi, M.D., called “Understanding Autism.” In it Dr. Sanghavi, a member of the Parents advisory board, explores what is and isn’t known about autism’s causes, how the condition is identified and diagnosed, and the growing trend among researchers to focus on early intervention to help children with autism succeed.
What many parents of young children will want to know, of course, is how they can tell whether their child might be at risk for autism (note that they do not diagnose). And there are two important tools available to help moms and dads do just that—fairly simple questionnaires that take only a few minutes to complete. As we explain in our story:
Perhaps the most common one is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), which can be used on children starting at 18 months of age. It consists of two dozen Yes/No questions such as “Does your child ever use his finger to point, to ask for something?” If two or more answers indicate problems, the test usually is considered positive.
A relatively new tool, the Infant-Toddler Checklist, helps determine whether a child from 6 months to 24 months is at risk for autism or a developmental or language delay. Its reliability hasn’t been studied as extensively as other tools. As with M-CHAT, it does not diagnose; it’s meant to help pediatricians decide whether they should refer a child for further evaluation.
Some of the questions might freak out parents needlessly. For example, the M-CHAT asks if a child seems “oversensitive to noise” or wanders “with no purpose,” which are both normal behaviors for many toddlers. But for the purposes of the screening test, it doesn’t count if the action has happened only once or twice — it needs to happen regularly. If you feel uneasy as you answer the questions, try not to panic. But do talk to your pediatrician, who will help determine what you should do next.
Always remember: A positive test doesn’t necessarily mean your child has autism, just as only a fraction of women with a positive mammogram will go on to have an abnormal breast biopsy. “It’s very likely, though, that a child who tests positive has some kind of delay that can benefit from early intervention,” says Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks, the country’s largest autism science and advocacy group.
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autism, autism speaks, autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, Infant-Toddler Checklist, language delay, M-CHAT | Categories:
Babies, Behavior, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety, News, Your Child