Danish researchers make ADHD breakthrough

August 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Research

The Local in Denmark reports:

Danish researchers think they may have made a breakthrough discovery about the causes of ADHD.

A study carried out on mice by researchers at Aarhus University concluded that ADHD-like conditions might be caused by a gene defect.

If the gene is defective, it’s 100 percent certain that it will lead to ADHD-like symptoms in mice. But humans also have this gene and it has been suspected that it could be involved in the development of ADHD in people. Our study confirms this,” the lead researcher, Anders Nykjær of the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University, told Science Nordic.

The researchers discovered that if the gene in question, SorCS2, is missing or defective, brain cells are not able to properly communicate, potentially leading to behavioural disorders.

“The mice in our experiments became hyperactive and had attention disorders, just as we find with ADHD patients,” Nykjær said in an Aarhus University press release. “If we gave them a Ritalin-like substance, which is the most common ADHD medicine, then they became relaxed, which is unusual to see in mice.”

Nykjær stressed that not all cases of ADHD could be explained by the genetic defect.

Read more on The Local.

Brain imaging shows brain differences in risk-taking teens

August 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, Research

By: The Center for BrainHealth
Thursday, August 14, 2014

According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for adolescents. Compared to the two leading causes of death for all Americans, heart disease and cancer, a pattern of questionable decision-making in dire situations comes to light in teen mortality. New research from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas investigating brain differences associated with risk-taking teens found that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens more prone to risk.

“Our brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making,” explained the study’s lead author, Sam Dewitt. “Antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network.

The study, published June 30 in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, looked at 36 adolescents ages 12-17; eighteen risk-taking teens were age- and sex-matched to a group of 18 non-risk-taking teens. Participants were screened for risk-taking behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, and physical violence and underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scans to examine communication between brain regions associated with the emotional-regulation network. Interestingly, the risk-taking group showed significantly lower income compared to the non-risk taking group.

Read more on Center for Brain Health.

Federal Investigators Crack Down on Two Virginia Schools’ Use of Restraints

August 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Advocacy

Federal Investigators Crack Down on Two Virginia Schools’ Use of Restraints
by Heather Vogell ProPublica, Aug. 11, 2014, 11:06 a.m.

Federal investigators have faulted two Virginia schools for pinning down and isolating disabled students improperly, saying the schools used the practices routinely as a “one-size fits all” response to disruptive behavior despite evidence they didn’t work.

Rather than focusing on specific incidents, the investigators found a systematic breakdown in how educators at the schools employed restraints and seclusions. The school-wide scope of the findings signals that the federal education department’s Office of Civil Rights expects schools to pay close attention to how they are implementing the potentially dangerous tactics.

“It says our default response to misbehavior can’t be restraint and seclusion,” said Angela Ciolfi, a lawyer with the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center, which worked on the complaint that prompted the investigation.

ProPublica reported in June that students nationwide were restrained or secluded more than 267,000 times in the 2012 school year. Our analysis of federal data revealed that despite a near-consensus that the risky practices should be used rarely, some schools rely on them regularly 2014 even daily 2014 to control children.

Hundreds of students have been injured 2014 some seriously 2014 as a result.

The civil rights office’s July 29 findings come at a time when federal action on the issue appears to be otherwise in a holding pattern. Congressional bills to limit the practices have stalled amid opposition from some school groups and Republicans.

The complaint that started the investigation was filed by a teenager who was sent to PACE East in Prince William County southwest of Washington, D.C., because of unruly behavior. The boy 2014 referred to as M.C. in the complaint 2014 had “significant” mental health problems that included depression and anxiety, said his lawyer, Bill Reichhardt. His family, who is Hispanic, spoke limited English.

Instead of providing the services the boy needed, Reichhardt said, PACE East staff often responded to relatively minor infractions 2014 such as refusing to follow directions 2014 with harsh measures such as physically restraining him.

“In many cases staff put their hands on him,” Reichhardt said. “And that escalated very quickly.”

One confrontation with staff was so volatile police were called in. The boy said an officer “busted his lip” while handling him, according to the original complaint.

Reichhardt said he noticed while looking into the boy’s case that other students had encountered a similar pattern of routine restraints and seclusions 2014 including at PACE East’s sister school, PACE West. The two schools function as “last stops” before institutional care for district students with serious emotional and behavioral problems.

Staff got into the habit of regularly using the tactics as a way of controlling children’s behavior, Reichhardt said. “That is extremely problematic and, in my opinion, dangerous.”

The schools’ records contained no evidence of injuries to children. But the decision said restraint and seclusion were “widespread” and “repeated” at the schools, with no indication that staff tried less restrictive alternatives first.

As much as 40 percent of the student body at PACE West experienced a restraint or seclusion in the 2012 school year, according to the federal decision, amounting to 219 uses. PACE East records showed 33 students were restrained or secluded 144 times that year.

Despite the frequent use of restraints and seclusion, the two schools and the district had reported zero instances of either practice to federal data collectors, investigators noted. The schools also failed to “consistently and adequately notify” parents when their children had been subjected them to the techniques.

Children missed out on academics while stuck for hours in a time-out area and more restrictive padded seclusion room, or while being placed in holds, investigators found. The schools often failed to properly evaluate students’ behavior and develop plans to prevent the sort of crises that often bring on restraints or seclusions, investigators found.

Furthermore, administrators and staff viewed school policies differently. The district’s director of special education, for instance, told investigators a student screaming threats was not enough to justify restrictive techniques like restraint or seclusion; staff, however, said screaming was disruptive enough to warrant using them.

As a result, the federal investigators found, the schools denied students a proper education. The school district has agreed to a corrective plan in which the district will re-evaluate every student who had been restrained or secluded more than twice over two years. The district will provide additional educational or other types of services to any students who need it.

Prince William County Schools spokesman Phil Kavits said that the district does not agree with everything in the investigators’ findings. He declined to offer specifics, and he said the district will make the changes requested.

“Our plan is to move forward by taking a look at a range of cases and ensure that we are indeed following the appropriate procedures,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure we are giving students the proper educational and therapeutic services.”

The boy at the center of the investigation settled his complaint with the school district and is receiving the services he needs, Reichhardt said.

Through a statement her lawyers translated, the mother of the boy said the decision will help other students who are mistreated 2014 including those who neither speak English nor understand their rights. She said she was happy “knowing that other children will not have to go through what we did.”

Read more about restraints and seclusions in public schools across the country, who’s fighting federal limits on the practices, and whether your state law says it’s ok to pin down kids in school.

Researchers link exercise and self-control in ADHD

July 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Research

Stacy Hsu reports that new research again suggests that exercise can be beneficial for children with ADHD. In this case, exercise was linked to improved impulse control:

… “As exercise has been proven to help spark dopamine production, my research team started a series of studies in 2011 to find the most effective ‘physical activity prescription’ for children who have the diagnosis,” he said.

The research team found in its first study that children with ADHD who have good motor skills tend to perform better on inhibitory control tasks.

It then assigned 27 children aged between eight and 12 with ADHD to either an aquatic exercise or a waiting-list control group to determine whether exercise interventions could improve impulse control among the kids.

Participants were given what is known as a “go/no-go test” — which required them to press a button whenever a green light appeared and refrain from doing so when seeing a red light — before and after an eight-week exercise intervention that involved two 90-minute-sessions each week.

“There was no significant difference between the performances of the two groups in the pre-test, with the exercise group yielding an average accuracy rate of 88.64 percent and the control group a rate of 88.85 percent,” Hung said.

However, after the intervention, the accuracy rate of children in the exercise group increased by about 6 percent to 94.31 percent, Hung said.

Read the full story on Taipei Times.

Teen arrested for making threats on Facebook

July 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Commentary

Deborah Wrigley recently reported that a 13-year-old girl from Splendora, Texas faces felony prosecution for making a “terroristic threat” on Facebook. What was the threat? “I am going to kill everyone in Splendora on July 13th.”

Why did she make that threat? Did she mean it or was she just trying to get a reaction? It’s not known, but it seems to have started as a cyber-bullying incident:

Read more on ABC13, and then ask yourself whether you know what your child is posting on Facebook.

Certainly, we can ask if the child should have been charged with a felony or just referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist – or if she just needed educating about appropriate conduct on the Internet. But this incident could result in her being sent away and her life ruined.

In the wake of Columbine and other tragedies, there are those who will undoubtedly think law enforcement was correct to take this as a serious threat and to prosecute it as such. But is this another instance of over-reaction and our failure to understand kids and teens and to help them instead of punishing them? In any event, parents need to walk a fine line between respecting their children’s privacy and supervising them enough so that they don’t run into serious problems like this one. In this case, could the parents have even known? It seems that the teen used a fake name to set up the Facebook account.

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