Decriminalizing School Discipline

September 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Advocacy

Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund, had a column in Huffington Post this week that begins:

I believe the purpose of public schools is to educate not exclude children and to help identify and meet child needs, not make children serve adult convenience, self interest, and systems. So huge reforms are required in school discipline policies and practices across our nation as school pushout has worsened in past decades with the criminalization of children at younger and younger ages aided and abetted by school expulsion and suspension policies which funnel children into the prison pipeline often crippling them for life.

Nationally, the number of secondary school students suspended or expelled during a school year increased about 40 percent from 1 in 13 in 1972-73 to 1 in 9 in 2009-10 — although we know suspensions are more harmful than helpful to children. Schools with higher suspension and expulsion rates have worse school climates, lower student academic achievement, and are often less safe. Racially discriminatory school discipline policies contribute to the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis with a Black boy born in 2001 having a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy a 1 in 6 chance of the same fate.

Read more on HuffPo.

Effects of Exercise on Anxiety and Depression Disorders: Review of Meta- Analyses and Neurobiological Mechanisms

September 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Research

Exercise is of greater benefit in reducing depression than anxiety, according to a new review of studies by Mirko Wegner, Ingo Helmich, Sergio Machado, Antonio E. Nardi, Oscar Arias-Carrion and Henning Budde. The study was published in CNS & Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets, Vol. 13(6). 

Anxiety and depression are the most frequently diagnosed psychological diseases showing a high co-morbidity. They have a severe impact on the lives of the persons concerned. Many meta-analytical studies suggested a positive anxiolytic and depression-reducing effect of exercise programs. The aim of the present article is to synthesize metaanalyses on the effects of exercise on anxiety and depression and to describe average effect sizes. For this purpose 37 meta-analyses were included reporting 50 effect sizes for anxiety scores of 42,264 participants and depression scores of 48,207 persons. The average documented anxiolytic effect of exercise in these reviews was small, 0.34. In contrast, the effect of exercise on depression was significantly higher and at a moderate level, 0.56. Data of randomized controlled trials suggest higher sizes for the effect of exercise on anxiety and depression leading to increases up to moderate and large effects, respectively. Additionally, exercise seems to be more beneficial for patients compared to participants within a non-clinical, normal range of psychological disease. Especially for the effect of exercise on anxiety, more high quality meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials are needed. Finally, possible neurobiological explanations are suggested for the positive effect of exercise on psychological disorders like anxiety and depression.

Important alert for parents in Lowell and Lawrence areas of Massachusetts

September 16, 2014 by  
Filed under News

I don’t normally post these types of news stories, but because it could impact children’s evaluations and IEPs, I’ve decided to do so.

A story in yesterday’s Boston Globe reports that two sisters who posed as licensed psychologists provided testing/evaluation services to children with special needs.

Sara Morrison reports:

According to the attorney general’s office, Nita Guzman and Nina Tischer are 49-year-old twins who ran two psychological service corporations based in Lowell. They are accused of assuming the identities of psychologists, a mental health counselor, and a social worker to provide services in the Lowell area. They then allegedly billed various agencies for those services to the tune of about $580,000.

If the charges are true, the sisters’ victims (besides the taxpayers) are children with special education needs and people with mental health disabilities.

They are accused of performing $60,000 worth of psychological evaluations of special education students in the Lawrence public school system. They allegedly used a licensed psychologist’s credentials to do so. Neither sister is a licensed psychologist.

They’re also accused of pulling the same scam on UMass Medical School when the duo evaluated people applying for mental health disability benefits.


Additional details can be found in a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, including the allegation that Nita Guzman, through her company New England Psychological Consultants, Inc., allegedly billed Medicaid, Medicare, and Lawrence Public Schools more than $550,000 for unlicensed mental health services. Her twin sister, Nina Tischer, through her company PsychSupport, Inc., billed a division of UMass Medical School more than $30,000 for unlicensed psychological examinations. If those names appear on your child’s evaluation, you may wish to contact your child’s school district.

Influence of gender on Tourette syndrome beyond adolescence

September 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Featured, Research

Most readers probably already know that Tourette’s is more common in males than females. But what about in post-adolescence? Do gender differences make a difference in tic symptoms later in life? A newly published study by Lichter and Finnegan suggest that symptoms may be more common and more severe in women than in men. Gender, by itself, however, does not account for much of the differences in tic symptoms and does not account for gender differences in psychosocial functioning. The latter seems more related to tic severity and comorbid disorders:


Although boys are disproportionately affected by tics in Tourette syndrome (TS), this gender bias is attenuated in adulthood and a recent study has suggested that women may experience greater functional interference from tics than men.

The authors assessed the gender distribution of adults in a tertiary University-based TS clinic population and the relative influence of gender and other variables on adult tic severity (YGTSS score) and psychosocial functioning (GAF score). We also determined retrospectively the influence of gender on change in global tic severity and overall TS impairment (YGTSS) since adolescence.

Females were over-represented in relation to previously published epidemiologic surveys of both TS children and adults. Female gender was associated with a greater likelihood of tic worsening as opposed to tic improvement in adulthood; a greater likelihood of expansion as opposed to contraction of motor tic distribution; and with increased current motor tic severity and tic-related impairment. However, gender explained only a small percentage of the variance of the YGTSS global severity score and none of the variance of the GAF scale score. Psychosocial functioning was influenced most strongly by tic severity but also by a variety of comorbid neuropsychiatric disorders.

Eur Psychiatry. 2014 Sep 2.
Influence of gender on Tourette syndrome beyond adolescence.
Lichter DG, Finnegan SG.

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Does watching yourself tic in a mirror increase tics or decrease them?

September 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Research

A new study suggests that watching yourself tic in the mirror may increase tics:


Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (GTS) is characterized by motor and phonic tics. It is unknown how paying attention to one’s own tics might modulate tic frequency. We determined tic frequency in freely ticcing GTS patients while they were being filmed.

In Study 1, we investigated 12 patients (1) alone in a room (baseline); (2) alone in front of a mirror. In Study 2, we replicated these conditions in 16 patients and additionally examined how watching a video, in which the individual was shown not ticcing, affected their tic frequency.

In both studies, tic frequency was significantly higher when patients watched themselves in a mirror compared to baseline. In contrast, tic frequency was significantly reduced in the video condition.

Paying attention to one’s own tics increases tic frequency when tics are not suppressed and appears to be specific for attention to tics, rather than attention to the self.

Cogn Neurosci. 2014 Sep 4:1-7.
Visual feedback of own tics increases tic frequency in patients with Tourette’s syndrome.
Brandt VC, Lynn MT, Obst M, Brass M, Münchau A.

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