Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
A new study has confirmed what doctors have long advised–that children who suffer concussions should engage in “brain rest” and abstain from cognitively challenging activities including reading, playing video games, and sending text messages for several days after the injury. More from The Boston Globe on the study:
A new study conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital tracked 335 student athletes who were treated for concussions incurred on the playing field. They found that those who took the most time off from tasks that required a lot of thinking had the quickest recovery from headaches, dizziness, nausea, and other concussion symptoms.
A majority of those who got the most cognitive rest were symptom-free 40 days after their head injury, but it took 100 days for symptoms to resolve in the majority of those who got the least amount of rest, according to the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
While the study couldn’t determine exactly how much rest was optimal, study co-author Dr. William Meehan said the results confirmed the sensibility of recommendations to avoid mental challenges right after a concussion.
“For the first three to five days, we tell our patients with concussions that they should really aim to be at a zero level or complete cognitive rest,” said Meehan, director of the sports concussion clinic at Boston Children’s. That means no reading, homework, text messaging, or video game playing; basically, it’s fine to lie in bed quietly, watching TV or listening to music with the volume on low.
“Those experiencing severe symptoms may prefer to be resting anyway,” Meehan said, “but those with mild symptoms may think they can go back to school or resume exercise right away, which may delay their recovery.”
After a few days, kids can slowly add mental activities such as doing a crossword puzzle or sending a few text messages to see how they feel. “If symptoms exacerbate, they should go back to resting,” Meehan said. If they’re feeling okay, they can continue to gradually add mental challenges, resuming some school work on a lighter schedule. Throughout, they should continue to assess their symptoms and cut back if the headaches or dizziness return.
The brain likely needs to rest from mental processing to reserve its precious energy to balance its systems after the injury. Neurologists believe that the blunt trauma to the brain triggers nerve cells to release a flood of chemicals causing an imbalance that leads to concussion symptoms. At the same time, there’s often reduced blood flow to the brain following an injury which lowers the brain’s supply of glucose for energy. Any glucose expended for mental challenges means less energy is available to restore a biochemical balance.
“Concussions are really a problem with brain function and the movement of ions, or charged particles, around the cell membrane,” Meehan said. This type of malfunction, though, doesn’t appear on brain imaging tests, though technological advances may enable such imaging in the future.
For the time being, parents helping their kids recover from concussions may need to explain why rest is necessary when the brain scan looks fine.
Image: Kids playing soccer, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
American teenagers are continuing to slip in the rankings of high school achievement internationally, according to the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Americans were found to be roughly average in science and reading, but below the international average in math. NBC News has more:
Vietnam, which had its students take part in the exam for the first time, had a higher average score in math and science than the United States. Students in Shanghai — China’s largest city with upwards of 20 million people — ranked best in the world, according to the test results. Students in East Asian countries and provinces came out on top, nabbing seven of the top 10 places across all three subjects.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan characterized the flat scores as a “picture of educational stagnation.”
“We must invest in early education, raise academic standards, make college affordable, and do more to recruit and retain top-notch educators,” Duncan said.
Roughly half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems representing 80 percent of the global economy took part in the 2012 edition of PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.
The numbers are even more sobering when compared among only the 34 OECD countries. The United States ranked 26th in math — trailing nations such as the Slovakia, Portugal and Russia.
The exam, which has been administered every three years to 15-year-olds, is designed to gauge how students use the material they have learned inside and outside the classroom to solve problems.
U.S. scores on the PISA have stayed relatively flat since testing began in 2000. And meanwhile, students in countries like Ireland and Poland have demonstrated marked improvement — even surpassing U.S. students, according to the results.
Top Talkers: Teenagers are making no progress on international achievement exams, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment results show. Jon Meacham, Julie Pace and Mike Barnicle discuss.
“It’s hard to get excited about standing still while others around you are improving, so I don’t want to be too positive,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told the Associated Press.
Image: Students taking a test, via Shutterstock
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Monday, September 23rd, 2013
E-reader devices may help children with the learning disability dyslexia learn to read. The technology in an e-reader screen was found in a new study to make text more legible to children who otherwise would struggle to read. One reason for the finding may be that lines of text are shorter in e-readers than in books. Fox News has more on the study:
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The study’s authors said they are excited about the potential for e-readers to supplement traditional methods of therapy for dyslexic students.
“The high school students we tested…had the benefit of many years of exceptional remediation, but even so, if they have visual attention deficits they will eventually hit a plateau, and traditional approaches can no longer help,” said study author Matthew H. Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and lead author of the research, in a news release. “Our research showed that the e-readers help these students reach beyond those limits.”
Dyslexia is characterized by an inability to concentrate on letters within words, or entire lines of text on a page, and it affects 10 percent of children in the U.S.
Monday, June 24th, 2013
Though 87 percent of parents say they read bedtime stories with their children, only one out of every three children reads with a parent every night, according to a new survey conducted by the non-profit organization Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and the retail store Macy’s. The survey, which was conducted online by Harris Interactive, found that 50 percent of parents say their children spend more time with TV or video games than with books. More than 1,000 families from across the country completed the survey.
The survey’s release coincides with a partnership between Macy’s and RIF to donate books to local communities. Starting June 21 and ending July 21, customers at Macy’s can donate $3 to deliver a book to a local child. In exchange, customers will receive a coupon for $10 off an in-store purchase of $50 or more. Last year, the fundraiser helped deliver 1.6 million books to children who did not otherwise have access to books.
“Bedtime stories build the foundation for future achievement. For a decade, Macy’s and RIF have worked together to get books and literacy resources to children in need, giving children and parents tools they need to dream big,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental in a statement. “While much news in this survey is encouraging, there is more work to be done – work that Be Book Smart and our partnership with Macy’s will help make possible.”
Image: Bedtime story, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 11th, 2013
Boys who act out or otherwise misbehave in their school classrooms may actually be doing themselves an academic disservice, a new study published in The Journal of Human Resources suggests. The study found that in many classrooms, boys earned lower grades than their standardized test scores would have predicted, because their teachers hold their behavior against them. More from NBC News:
According to the study, disruptive behavior may indeed be working against the wiggle worms of the world.
[Study co-author Jessica] Van Parys and co-researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics involving about 6,000 mostly white, black and Hispanic students from around the country who were followed from kindergarten through fifth grade, starting in the 1998-1999 school year.
Students were given tests in reading, math and science, while teachers also rated students’ abilities in all three areas, as well as rated them on classroom behaviors. The study found that when assessing kids’ academic abilities, the teachers factored in their classroom behaviors.
This ultimately helped the girls and hurt boys. The girls scored about 15 percent higher in behavior (also called ”non-cognitive skills”), which meant they earned better grades than boys, even though they didn’t score as high on the tests.
“Our point is that teachers take into account other factors, either consciously or unconsciously, when they rate the child’s ability on all kinds of subject areas,” Van Parys said. “It’s hard for teachers to be completely objective when they’re giving an assessment.”
Image: Boy in school, via Shutterstock
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