Category Archives: > Health and Development

Information about general health and wellness, particularly as it affects learning

+ Disaster Preparedness

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From the LDA Newsbriefs (May/June 2011) here are some thoughts  about emergency preparedness .

Get a small waterproof and fireproof strong box for

  • social security cards
  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • death certificates
  • copies of driver’s licenses
  • insurance policies
  • home deeds
  • credit cards
  • health care/benefit cards
  • any other vital records

These records can help smooth the way if it should be necessary to apply for any type of disaster aid.

The American Red Cross has a website: http://www.recross.org.   You will find lists of Preparedness Fast Facts on topics such as

  • Coping with Shelter-in Place Emergencies
  • Pets and Disaster Safety
  • Power Outage
  • Taking Care of Your Emotional Health after a Disaster

These emergency facts are in English, Spanish and several other languages.

The Red Cross Store (http://www.redcrossstore.org) carries a variety of items:

  • Emergency radios
  • Personal Safety Emergency Packs
  • Emergency Preparedness Kits
  • Planning Kits
  • LED Glowsticks
  • and other items.

Visit the site to order items or use as a guide to develop your own kit. 

Tip: if you decide to store water, ensure that containers are classified as PETE (1), HDPE (2), LDPE (4), or polypropylene (5) to avoid toxic chemicals.

Visit http://www.healthychildrenproject.org for additional information on plastics.

sole source: Article in LDA Newbriefs, May/June 2011, prepared by their Public Policy/Advocay Committee.  Visit http://www.ldaamerica.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

 

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+ Responding to Students’ Depression

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An article in the October 2010 Educational Leadership , ASCD’s publication for educators, outlines characteristics of depression in children and adolescents, as well as suggestions for dealing with their problems in a school setting.

The article, by R. Marc A. Crundwell and Kim Killu, states that depressed young people often don’t ask for help at school because of negative thinking patterns.

And they may lack the necessary language skills and self-awareness to report — or recognize — their depressed state.

Characteristics of Depressed Children

  • Irritabilityat school: complaints of feeling sick, frequent absence, lack of participation, sleepiness.
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks/activitiesat school: isolation from peers, problems with social skills, defiance.
  • Short-term memory impairments at school: poor work completion.
  • Difficulties with planning, organizing, and executing tasksat school: forgetting to complete assignments, difficulty concentrating.
  • Facial expressions or body language indicating depression or sadnessat school: working slowly.
  • Hypersensitivityat school: easily hurt feelings, crying, anger.
  • Poor performance and follow-through on tasksat school: poor work completion.
  • Inattention at school: distractability, restlessness.
  • Forgetfulnessat school: poor work submission, variable academic performance.
  • Separation anxiety from parents or caregiverat school: crying, somatic complaints, frequent absences, school refusal.  

Characteristics of Depressed Adolescents

  • Depressed self-esteem and feelings of self-worthat school: self-deprecating comments.
  • Mild irritability — at school: defiance with authority figures, difficulties interacting with peers, argumentativeness.
  • Negative perceptions of student’s past and presentat school: pessimistic comments, suicidal thoughts.
  • Peer rejectionat school: isolation, frequent change in friends.
  • Lack of interest and involvement in previously enjoyed activitiesat school: isolation and withdrawal.
  • Boredomat school: sulking, noncompliance.
  • Impulsive and risky behaviorat school: theft, sexual activity, alcohol or drug use, truancy.
  • Substance abuseat school: acting out of character, sleeping in class.

The authors suggest that establishing a “touchstone teacher” who can be a non-threatening liaison between the student and other teachers.  They might meet once a week — perhaps on Monday morning — to target areas that need attention, review work, and set goals.  This teacher might communicate clear guidelines and coordinate work across subjects, as well as help with follow-through on a self-management checklist.

Crundwell and Killu also suggest teaching study strategies, such as establishing timelines, breaking schoolwork into discrete tasks, outlining or creating graphic organizers, setting up the use of recording devices to make sure class information isn’t lost and can be reviewed.

In addition, some students need help staying socially interactive.  Teachers can make a deliberate effort to promote an accepting and inclusive environment and to set up cooperative group work activities.

Sometimes, communicating with the student’s family is not only appropriate, but necessary.  Developing a robust home-school relationship can mean that everyone understands what is happening in both milieus.  When parents know about classroom events and deadlines, they can support their child’s engagement with school. 

And finally, the topic that must be confronted once it is mentioned: suicide.  When a student suggests that she’s had suicidal ideation, school personnel must faithfully monitor her.  For some students, it is helpful to develop a “no-suicide” contract, an agreement between the student and the school in which she promises that if she’s experiencing such impulses she will inform a health care professional, a family member or a teacher.  Make a list of people who would be contacted.

Strategies to Help Students with Depression

  • Give frequent feedback on academic, social, and behavioral performance.
  • Teach goal setting and self-monitoring skills.
  • Teach problem-solving skills.
  • Coach the student in ways to organize, plan, and execute tasks demanded daily or weekly in school.
  • Develop modifications and accommodations to respond to the student’s fluctuations in mood, ability to concentrate, or side effects of medication.  Assign one individual to serve as a primary contact and coordinate interventions.
  • Give student opportunities to engage in social interactions.
  • Monitor frequently to see whether the student has suicidal thoughts.
  • Develop a home-school communication system to share information on the student’s academic, social and emotional behavior and any developments concerning medication or side effects.

 sole source: article in Educational Leadership, October 2010 (http://www.ascd.org) .  Author R. Marc A. Crundwell is a school psychologist in with Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Ontario,Canada; author Kim Killu is associate professor of special education at the University of Michigan, Dearborn.

tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Instant Recess: A New Approach to Exercise

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In Jane Brody’s “Personal Health” column in the NY
Times, she quotes Dr Toni Yancey,

Being sedentary is the norm in America.  Even activities that we still do regularly demand less exertion.  And the less people have to do, the more quickly they get tired when they exert themselves just a little bit, which of course discourages them from exercising.

Dr Yancey is a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She has published a book titled “Instant Recess,” in which she demonstrates the value of two-a-day 10-minute breaks of enjoyable communal exercise.

She suggests they can be instituted anywhere: schools, day-care centers, workplaces, conferences, places of worship, senior centers —  anywhere people gather.

The secret to motivating more Americans to make regular physical exercise part of their lives is to incorporate it into the everyday routine.

We might, for example, gather a group to take a brisk walk around the grounds twice a day.  Getting people to exercise in groups is easier: “Everybody’s doing it!”

 Yancey calls instant recess “a point of entry, a calling card for national physical activity.”  She sees it as a way to stimulate health promoting activity, especially among people whose lives and value systems have never included it.

These short bouts of activity can spill over to the  rest of a person’s life.  Once people feel more fit and better about themselves, they are more likely to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity during their leisure time.

She thinks of the recess model as

the aerobics of the 21st century — an updated exercise prescription for an increasingly over-scheduled, ethnically diverse, multicultural, media-and-information-technology-driven global modern society.

 When we make instant recess the default option, she says, no one has to decide to exercise, or carve out special time to do it; and some of the rewards are immediate: camaraderie, social interaction with friends and co-workers, stress-relief, muscle relaxation, increased energy, improved mood and better concentration.

AT WORK

At sites around the country, students, employees and older people are taking dancelike musical exercise breaks  that have actually been shown to enhance achievement, productivity, self-esteem and well-being.

Companies including LL Bean and Replacements Ltd are using the kind of breaks Yancey promotes.  They have found that output is increased and injuries and workers compensation claims have decreased.

LL Bean employees who take part in three five-minute stretch breaks each workday have given back “a 100 percent return on its investment,” says Yancey.  Within three years, work related injuries dropped from 14 a year to essentially none.

At Replacements Ltd, 10-minute exercise breaks resulted in less time lost from work because of problems like carpal tunnel or low back pain.

Yancey is now involved in a study of recess breaks at 70 work sites in LA County.

AT SCHOOL

Dr Yancey stresses that 10-minute exercise breaks during the school day could do more to forward the goals of No Child Left Behind than double that amount of time learning math and English. 

She cites a federally funded study by the University of Kansas which found that 10-minute activity breaks, usually done to music, led to improved scores in math, spelling and composition among the participants. 

These students also increased their activity levels outside school, on weekdays and weekends, and they gained less weight than those who did not participate in the breaks.

Since schools around the country are reducing PE and recess time in order to do more test preparation, Yancey feels this study  is especially telling.

Other studies have shown that athlete-led exercise breaks in schools, even via DVDs or CDs, can motivate sedentary kids to get moving and improve fitness levels.

source: Jane Brody’s article on 11/23/2010.  See “Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time,” by Toni Yancey, MD, MPH.  University of California Press, paperback $22.95.  ISBN 9780520263765

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Book: The Evolution of Childhood

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Melvin Konner has published “The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind,” (Harvard University Press).

It has been thought that children’s play, including the testosterone-driven adolescent variants, may have played a part in the development of civilisations.  Michelle Pridmore-Brown’s book review  in the Times Literary Supplement says

Since play is costly in terms of energy expenditure, and it is risky, it must have conferred survival and reproductive advantages.

All mammals play, Pridmore-Brown says, but none play the intricately constructed sorts of games humans do; they don’t have such complex emotional connections to their play; and no other species continues to play into adulthood.

Konner is a professor of neurobiology and anthropology at Emory University.  He has spent a lifetime studying the biological evolution of behavior and its cultural manifestations.

This ambitious book surveys human childhood from three vantage points: an evolutionary and cross-species perspective, that of genes, hormones and brain development, and also from perspectives considering social and cultural issues.

 Konner considers three stages of childhood.

First Stage

The first is birth; and human babies are strikingly immature compared to normative ape development.  Infants ought to be born at eleven months, but they would be so big they would break their mothers’ hips.

Nine  months in the womb is an evolutionary compromise: a standoff between big brains and bipedalism.  Human infants continue fetal growth through their first year.

This makes their survival chances fragile.  So it has been suggested that a reason babies are asocial for the first month is to make it   easier for mothers to postpone attachment.  Ape mothers bond immediately, unconditionally.

By three months, babies are exquisitely in control, using their helplessness as a front.  They are able to manipulate the behavior of the mother/caregiver using a kind of hormonal glue: holding an infant has opiate-like effects, even on men.  

According to Konner, the tripling of the size of the whites of human eyes — since the time of our ape ancestors — accounts for the power of the human gaze.   Infants are able to engage their helpers via a mixture of gaze, smiling and vocalization.

In its first half-year, the infant is indiscriminate with its affections.  But in the second half, it consolidates its attachments, hones its play repertoire, and experiences “stranger anxiety” as a result of limbic circuitry growth.  As this circuitry comes online, the infant needs other minds to develop normally.  If a child is deprived of social contact at this critical stage, it will likely be unable to form emotional attachments later on.

Humans wean their infants radically earlier than Great Apes, and this increases language proficiency and more sophisticated forms of play.  “Needless to say, language is crucial for increasing cognitive and social complexity in general,” writes Pridmore-Brown.

 Second Stage

The human child’s years between six and eleven are a dramatic structural alteration to standard Ape maturation.  Chimps go straight from weaning into puberty.

Homo sapiens experience a long hormonally quiescent “middle” stage before adolescence, keeping sex hormones at bay for several years in order to allow learning.  The evidence suggests that children with longer middle childhoods had an edge over those who did not.

The start of this period can be identified at eruption of the first molar.  In cognitive terms, this “5-to-7 shift” is known as the moment of “school readiness” in the industrialized world.

Instead of brain circuits coming visibly online as in the first period of growth, neural consolidation occurs.  This permits “metacognition” (thinking about thinking), which enables self-talk or interior speech. 

The ability to shift perspective makes for greater variability in play.  As children begin engineering their own games, they are in a sense directing their own brain assembly.  According to Pridmore-Brown

play serves to control emotion, to test limits and measure oneself against others, to acquire spatial skills and indeed culturally valued competencies that will later attract mates.

Play at this age also tends to solidify cultural group identity, an “us” in contradistinction to “them.”

These in-groups and out-groups trouble all playgrounds.  Konner believes these difficulties can be short-circuited through training.

Third Stage

However, with the onset of adolescence this finely enculturated, mostly moral, well-equipped being is assaulted by hormones . 

Testosterone and — in the case of girls, estradiol –transform white and gray brain matter ratios.  This amplifies some brain regions, shrinks others, and leads to sexual behavior, aggression and risk-taking.  After further hormonal surges, brain maturation usually enables adult levels of inhibition and reason.

Susceptibility to peer influence is highly variable, but generally peaks at around the age of fourteen.  Aggression has a remarkably stong genetic component, but can be modulated by environment.  In cultures where adolescents undergo ritualized puberty initiations, this aggression can be channeled; in contexts like our own, “the transition to adulthood is messier.”

The vast majority of children emerge unscathed, although one study estimates that approximately 11 per cent of adolescents have chronic difficulties.

At this age, a child may become idealistic or turn to religion. These young people may choose self-imposed rigid rules of conduct, gaining a bulwark against entropy and anxiety.

If average behavior typically follows a set pattern between birth and five, and between six and eleven, this is no longer the case in adolescence.   Cultural context matters a lot, as does individual biology.

The fact is that hormonal surges that increase risk-taking enable new levels of cognition.  Play takes on a new form, potentially more rebellious but also potentially creative, in the case of young computer tinkerers.

Pridmore-Brown calls Konner a compassionate Darwinist.  He insists on understanding, rather than judgement.  Knowledge of our evolutionary legacy affords us the knowledge that enables better interventions.

sole source for this post is Michelle Pridmore-Brown’s article in the October 1, 2010 issue of the Times Literary Supplement.  Melvin Konner’s “The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, emotion, mind”is published by Harvard University Press, $39.95.  ISBN 978-0-674-04566-8.

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Test the Brain BEFORE Concussion?

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Education Week, the weekly newspaper, frequently contains articles on concussion.

In a letter in the October 13th issue, Sue Klund notes that Bethesda Hospital in St Paul Minnesota specializes in brain injuries.  The hospital offers an online test that anyone can take to document what his or her healthy brain looks like.

After the viewer takes this ImPACT test, she says, no one examines it, but it is saved.

If the test-taker later suffers a brain injury, doctors will have a record of what that “normal”  brain looked like before the injury.

When medical personnel have a baseline with which to compare damage, treatment can be much more specific.

For more information        http://www.healtheast.org/search.html?q=online+brain+test

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Babies Disinterest in Faces Possible Risk for Autism

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Shari Roan’s blog at the L A Times notes research published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology.

Researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and the University of Delaware have observed 25  6-month-old infants who were siblings of children with autism.  (Siblings are at much higher risk of developing the disease.)

These infants were compared with 25 infants from families with no history of autism.

The infants were observed performing a task that measures their ability to learn, and their level of social engagement with a  caregiver.

Researchers found that infants in the low-risk group were more likely to have normal social gazing: they looked at their caregivers, pointed to toys and became excited as they played.

The high-risk siblings, though, spent less time looking at caregivers and more time focused on the toy.

The two groups did not differ in how well they learned the game being played with the caregiver.

Authors are A N Bhat, J C Galloway and R J Landa

Landa says the study provides more evidence for early diagnosis, and that the lack of interest in people’s faces is “a subtle difference that could be easily overlooked by both parents and some professionals.

for access to the complete journal article : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02262.x/abstract.  For Roan’s 9/2 LA Times blog post, find it at  http://www.latimes.com .

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Host a Fresh Air Kid from New York’s Inner City

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If you live in the environs of New York City or New York State, you might want to invite an inner city child to spend part of the summer with your family.

The Fresh Air Fund has been providing country and suburban summer experiences  for many years.  In 2010, they still need some volunteer host families.  Visit http://freshairfundhost.com/ ( or call 800-367-0003) for details.

In 2009, the Fresh Air Fund’s Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, a chance to experience memorable weeks outside their urban setting.

More than 65 percent of all Fresh Air children are reinvited to stay with their host family year after year.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

Visiting the Web site will offer stories from family and their visitors, in addition to details about how to become involved.

Fresh Air Children

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City.  Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. 

Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18.  Many enjoy longer summertime visits year after year.

A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child.  All it takes to create lifetime memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.

The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities.  These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. 

Most inner-city youngsters grow up in toweing apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces.  Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.

Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations, located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. 

These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas.  Each agency is responsible for registering children for the program. 

Fresh Air Host Families

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities.  Host families range in size, ethnicity and background.  They share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an experience they will never forget. 

Hosts say the Fresh Air experience is as enriching for their own families as it is for the inner city children.  There are no financial requirements for hosting a child. 

It should be noted that Volunteers may request the age group and gender of the Fresh Air youngster they would like to host for up to two weeks.

You Might Offer a Child…

Playing in the backyard, laughing in the sunshine, catching fireflies, riding bicyles, learning to swim, running barefoot in grass, looking at stars at night, building sandcastles, making new friends…

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com