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Your Child

Early Treatment For Dyslexia

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If your child has dyslexia, he or she is not alone.  Dyslexia is a reading disorder that happens when the brain doesn’t properly recognize and process certain symbols. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, spelling, and writing difficulty and about 70%-80% of all people with poor reading skills are likely to be dyslexic.

The good news is that dyslexia is treatable. Students who receive specialized education often thrive. Most dyslexics are of average or above average intelligence and just need to be taught in a different manner. In fact, many individuals that have dyslexia also show extraordinary skills in other areas to compensate for the difficulties in reading and spelling.

A new study from Italy found that the learning disability might be linked to problems with children’s visual attention. Researchers said their findings could lead to earlier diagnosis and new treatments for those with the condition.

"Visual attention deficits are surprisingly way more predictive of future reading disorders than are language abilities at the pre-reading stage," Andrea Facoetti, of the University of Padua, said in a journal news release.

Researchers followed children in Italy for three years beginning when they were in kindergarten and just starting to learn to read. They continued their study till the children were in second grade. The scientists analyzed the children’s visual spatial attention, or their ability to distinguish between what is relevant and what is irrelevant, by asking them to identify certain symbols while they were being distracted. The children were also given tests on syllable identification, verbal short-term memory and rapid color naming.

The study found that children who had problems with visual attention also had trouble reading, the researchers said.

"This is a radical change to the theoretical framework explaining dyslexia," Facoetti said. "It forces us to rewrite what is known about the disorder and to change rehabilitation treatments in order to reduce its impact."

The study's authors stated that simple visual-attention tasks would help identify children at risk for dyslexia early on. "Because recent studies show that specific pre-reading programs can improve reading abilities, children at risk for dyslexia could be treated with preventive remediation programs of visual spatial attention before they learn to read," the researchers said in the news release.

The study was published online in the journal Current Biology.

Children with dyslexia who are not diagnosed early may grow frustrated and show signs of depression and low self –esteem. MedicineNet.com has an excellent review of dyslexia with causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

Sources: http://news.yahoo.com/study-suggests-treating-dyslexia-kids-learn-read-160311968.html

http://www.medicinenet.com/dyslexia/article.htm

Your Teen

Teens Getting Less and Less Sleep

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Today’s American teens are getting a whole lot less sleep than they did in the 90s according to a new study. Too little sleep makes focusing difficult and depletes one’s energy. As a result, school performance often suffers and unhealthy and/or unwise decisions are much easier to make.

Just 63 percent of 15-year-olds reported getting seven or more hours of sleep a night in 2012. That number is down from 72 percent in 1991, according to the study.

Between the ages of 13 and 18, teens getting 7 hours or more of sleep a night plummets. At 13, roughly two-thirds of teens get at least seven hours of sleep a night; by 18 that percentage drops to about one-third.

"After age 16, the majority are not meeting the recommended guidelines," said study author Katherine Keyes, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

Why is it so important that teens get enough sleep? A lack of sleep can impact just about every part of their life. Hormones are escalating, social interactions are fragile, school demands are heightened, self-image is developing and many begin testing boundaries with parents, teachers and each other. It can be a rugged time for teens and those around them.

For the study, researchers from Columbia University looked at sleep data from a national survey of more than 270,000 teens from 1991 to 2012. Each year, teens reported how often they got seven or more hours of sleep, as well as how often they got less sleep than they need.

The most recent recommendation from the National Sleep Foundation says teens aged 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours a night and people aged 18 to 25 need seven to nine hours.

The largest declines in those getting enough sleep occurred between 1991 through 2000; then the problem plateaued, Keyes said.

Researchers also found that girls were less likely to get an adequate amount of sleep compared to boys.

So what’s causing the decline? There a several theories about what may be contributing to this downward slide in teen sleep.

Keyes did not have access to information about the teens' use of electronic media, a factor often blamed for lack of sleep as teens text, check social media, play video games and work on laptops late into the night. However, that might be a factor, she said.

"On an individual level, excessive use of technology may impair an adolescent's ability to sleep," Keyes said.

Caffeine may also be a culprit. It’s estimated that about 30 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks which are packed with caffeine. Many teens drink specialty coffees as well.

Another issue may be early school start times. Some sleep disorder experts believe that starting school – even an hour later- could help teens get more valuable sleep. Starting school, for instance at 8:30 a.m., is an approach favored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Other studies have noted that a lack of sleep is linked with many other teen health problems including obesity, car accidents, depression and a drop in school performance.

When kids are younger, parents are more likely to set limits on bedtime behavior as well as bedtimes. Once kids reach their teens, some of those limits may get a little lax, but this is the time when they are needed most.

Parents still have the authority to set a bedtime and require that computers, tablets and phones are off at least an hour before bedtime. Many kids (and adults) are addicted to their smartphones, so it’s a tough rule to set; it takes a strong commitment and a good example for it to work.

Lack of sleep is hard on everyone, but teens really need the extra help to stay healthy and function well in school. It has such a big impact not only on their present but for their future as well.

Source: Kathleen Doheny, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20150216/us-teens-getting-less-sleep-than-ever

Your Baby

Kid’s Exposure to Dogs May Help Prevent Asthma

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It may sound like the opposite would be true, but a new study suggests that when children are exposed to dogs and other animals early on, they’re less likely to have asthma later in life.

Researchers looked at more than one million Swedish children. They found that those who grew up with dogs in the home were nearly 15 percent less likely to develop asthma than those not exposed to dogs.

This ties in with an earlier study that showed children who grow up on farms also have lower rates of asthma.

The study was led by author Tove Fall, assistant professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a university news release, she noted that "earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child's risk of asthma to about half. We wanted to see if this relationship also was true for children growing up with dogs in their homes."

Fall said, "Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 percent less asthma than children without dogs. Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socioeconomic status."

Study senior author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, stressed that the finding is only relates to children who have not yet developed asthma or allergies.

"We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them," she said in the news release.

What about other pets, such as cats, birds or hamsters?  The jury is still out on that one.

"In this study, early exposure to dogs and farm animals reduced asthma risk, and this may or may not include other types of pets that children keep," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The takeaway is that early exposure may reduce the incidence of a later pathological process," he said.

Experts have begin to warn parents that children raised in too sterile an environment are more prone to developing allergies and reactions to common bacteria and pet dander.  A little dirt and dander may be just what the doctor orders now to help prevent allergies and asthma later.

The findings were recently published online in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/dogs-in-the-home-may-lower-kids-odds-for-asthma-study-finds-704764.html

Your Teen

Mental Health Clues Found in Teen Brain Scans

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If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many ups and downs in your teenager’s moods- there’s a very good reason; their brain is still developing. Brain scans from a research team at the University of Cambridge identified the areas of the brain that change the most during the teen years. It’s no surprise that areas associated with complex thought and decision-making are the ones going through a growth spurt during this time.

The scientists also discovered a link between teenage brain development and mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

The team from Cambridge's department of psychiatry scanned the brains of 300 people between the ages of 14 and 24.

They found that basic functions such as vision, hearing and movement were fully developed by adolescence. However, complex thinking processes and decision-making were still in a growth stage.

These areas are nerve centers with lots of connections to and from other key areas.

You can think of the brain as a global airline network that's made up of small infrequently used airports and huge hubs like Heathrow where there is very high traffic.

The brain uses a similar set up to co-ordinate our thoughts and actions.

During adolescence, this network of big hubs is consolidated and strengthened. It's a bit like how Heathrow or JFK have become gradually busier over the years.

Researchers found that genes involved in the “hub” were similar to those associated with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

The discovery is in line with the observation that many mental disorders develop during adolescence, according to researcher Dr Kirstie Whitaker.

"We have shown a pathway from the biology of cells in the area through to how people who are in their late teenage years might then have their first episode of psychosis," she told the BBC.

Genetics are not the only reason for mental illnesses. Older studies have also linked stress during childhood and the teenage years as a possible contributor. Recent findings have shown an association between maltreatment, abuse and neglect and brain development during childhood and adolescence. In addition, these types of stressors may also contribute to the emergence of mental illness.

Lead researcher, Professor Ed Bullmore, whose work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, believes the discovery of a biological link between teenage brain development and the onset of mental illness might help researchers identify those most at risk of becoming ill.

"As we understand more about what puts people at risk for schizophrenia, that gives us an opportunity to try to identify individuals that are at risk of becoming schizophrenic in the foreseeable future, the next two to three years, and perhaps to offer some treatment then that could be helpful in preventing the onset of clinical symptoms. "

The study also sheds light on the mood and behavioral changes experienced by teenagers during normal brain development.

"The regions that are changing most are those associated with complex behavior and decision making," says Dr. Whitaker.

"It shows that teenagers are on a journey of becoming an adult and becoming someone who is able to pull together all these bits of information.

This is a really important stage to go through. You wouldn't want to be a child all your life.

This is a powerful and important stage that you have to go through to be the best and the most capable adult that you can be."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Story source: Pallab Ghosh, http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36887224

 

Your Teen

Helping Teens Cut Down on Sugary Drinks

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Want to help your teen shed his or her addiction to high-sugar drinks? A new study says that when adolescents are shown the calorie content, and how long they will have to vigorously exercise to burn off those calories, many teens decide to make a different choice as to what they drink.

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

"Most consumers underestimate the number of calories in a can of soda, and they often do not realize that such calories can add up quickly," lead researcher Sara Bleich said in a press release about the study.

Researchers set up in a convenience store and used 3 methods to see if they could discourage teens from choosing drinks packed with sugar. In the first method they posted a sign that noted there are 250 calories in a typical bottle. The second sign noted that the bottle contains about 10% of an average teen’s daily-recommended calorie intake. The third sign told them that they would have to jog for about 50 minutes to burn off the calories.

The results were that all three methods discouraged teens from buying the sugary drinks by approximately 40%, but the third method had the biggest impact. When teens knew how much they would have to jog to burn off the calories, 50% chose water or diet soda instead of the high-sugar drinks.

The size of soda drinks has changed over the years. Most can drinks are 12 ounces, but bottled drinks are usually 20 ounces, with some being as large as 1 liter (34 oz.)

Super sized fountain drinks and “Gulp” drinks can be anywhere from 28 oz. to 55 oz. The 7-11 Double Gulp has 186 grams of sugar (almost a cup of sugar) and 744 calories! How does 3 hours of jogging to burn off those calories sound?  Liquid candy is what some public health officials have labeled these soft drinks.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) looked at teens and high sugar drinks. CSPI’s analyses of 13- to 18-year-olds found that five percent of male soft-drink drinkers down about five or more cans a day and five percent of female drinkers consume more than three cans a day. That’s 80 percent more than 20 years ago. And, because kids are drinking more sweetened beverages than milk, they are getting too little calcium for growing teeth and bones, reports the CSPI. That's especially important for growing girls, who are at highest risk of osteoporosis.

For kids without a weight problem, one sweetened beverage per day -- as part of a well-balanced diet -- is fine, says Sarah Krieger, RD, LD, MPH, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "If children are maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and are active, one soda is OK."

The American Beverage Association agrees. "No single food or beverage is a unique contributor to obesity," says Tracey Halliday, a spokeswoman for the association. "Obesity is a serious and complex problem that is best addressed by living a balanced lifestyle -- consuming a variety of foods and beverages in moderation and getting regular physical activity. Quite simply, all calories count, regardless of the source."

If your child has a tendency to gain weight, however, it's best to keep these beverages out of the house. "Keep it for parties, since for most young kids that's about once a week," says Krieger, who is also lead instructor for children's weight management classes at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Also, limit other sweet drinks -- including 100% fruit juice. "Yes it's healthy, but it can have as many calories as a soda. One serving a day is OK, but that's all," she says.

There have been a lot of articles on teens and obesity. Some say too many. But the reason there is so much attention paid to obesity and children is not because of how children look- but because of the damage obesity can cause to a young person’s health. One third of all kids between the ages of 2 (yes 2) and 19 are overweight or obese.  Young kids and teens are developing health problems that used to affect only adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type2 diabetes.

Helping your child or teen wean themselves off high-sugar drinks is a good start to improving their diet and health.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to require chain restaurants and retail food establishments - companies whose primary business is selling food - with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on their menus. The rule would also require calorie counts on vending machines. The calorie information would have to be "displayed clearly and prominently" and be listed per item or per serving,

The goal is to help people realize how many calories they are consuming so they can make better food and drink choices. It’s a good start towards a healthier lifestyle.

Sources:

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/15/teenagers-buy-fewer-sugary-drin...

http:// children.webmd.com/features/children-and-sweetened-drinks-whats-a-parent-to-do

Your Child

Bullied Kids at Risk for Health problems as Adults

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Being teased or humiliated by fellow classmates in school was once just a part of growing up for many kids. No one took it very seriously and children were basically told to either deal with it or physically fight back.

That began to change when bullying tactics changed from one-on-one painful snubs or pushing in the hallways to shaming and hateful social media taunts. All of a sudden everyone was in on the game and there was no where to hide or seek refuge from the never-ending onslaught of mean spirited and sometimes violent threats to a child’s very existence.

Bullying had reached a new stage of hurtfulness and too often the coping mechanism from children who were bullied was and still is suicide. Schools, parents and peers began to take notice and implement strategies to stop the bullying – at least in public environments.

Some of these strategies have been very effective and kids, as well as parents, are much more aware of the dangers that can come from bullying. However, there is always someone who thinks that they have a right to humiliate someone else. While it is more a reflection of the insecurity and abnormal personality of the person doing the bullying, the recipient still feels the pain and harbors the emotional damage to their self-value.

A new study looks at the possible future health hazards for children who have been bullied. Their findings reveal that adults who were bullied in childhood may be at an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Our research has already shown a link between childhood bullying and risk of mental health disorders in children, adolescents and adults, but this study is the first to widen the spectrum of adverse outcomes to include risks for cardiovascular disease at mid-life," said senior study author Louise Arseneault. She is a professor from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Evidently, being bullied in childhood does get under your skin," she said in a college news release.

The long-term study involved analyzed data from more than 7,100 people.  Participants in the study included all the children from England, Scotland and Wales that were born during one week in 1958. Their parents provided information on whether the participants were bullied at ages 7 and 11.

By age 45, more than one-quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied during childhood were obese, compared to 19 percent of those who never experienced bullying, the study found. Both men and women who were bullied during childhood were more likely to be overweight.

Compared to those who weren't bullied, men and women who were bullied had higher levels of blood inflammation, putting them at increased risk for heart attack and age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.

Like most studies, results didn’t show an actual cause and effect relationship, only an association or link between being bullied and future health risks.

"Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups," Arseneault said. "While many important school programs focus on preventing bullying behaviors, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering. Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood."

Andrea Danese, a study co-author, pointed out that obesity and high blood inflammation can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking steps to prevent these conditions is important, Danese said in the news release.

"The effects of being bullied in childhood on the risk for developing poor health later in life are relatively small compared to other factors," Danese added. "However, because obesity and bullying are quite common these days, tackling these effects may have a real impact."

Counseling coupled with family support for children who have been or are being bullied can offer tremendous value to helping a child disconnect with the hurtful words and actions of others. No one likes to be made fun of or taunted for some slight “imperfection”, but those kinds of things can linger in the mind and wear on one’s self-value. The sooner they are dealt with and put in their true perspective, the quicker one can let them go.

The study was published May 20 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/bullying-health-news-718/bullying-heart-disease-psych-med-kcl-release-batch-1756-699576.html

Your Child

Students Do Better on Tests After Short Break

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As the school day wears on, kids can begin to suffer from mental exhaustion. A new study suggests that students do better on test scores if the testing starts earlier in the day or they are allowed a short break before testing begins.

The study found that students aged 15 and under suffered from mental fatigue as the school day progressed, and that their test scores dipped later in the day. The effect appeared to be the greatest on those who scored the poorest; a hint that tests later in the day might hurt struggling students the most.

They also found that kids who were given a short break before they took the test scored higher.

Many school administrations have toyed with the idea of extending the school day.

"If policymakers want to have longer days, then they should consider having more frequent breaks," said study co-author Francesca Gino, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School in Boston.

The researchers also suggested that standardized tests be given at the same time of day to avoid giving some students an advantage over others and skewing the results in favor of children who are tested earlier in the day. If testing times must be spread out, then the study’s author recommend that students who test later in the day be given time to relax and recharge before the test begins.

The new study is unusual because it's so large and because it explores the role played by breaks during the day, Gino said.

The researchers reviewed results from about 2 million national standardized tests taken by kids aged 8 to 15. The children attended public schools in Denmark from 2009-2010 and 2012-2013.

The findings revealed that test performance decreased as the day progressed. As each hour went by, scores declined. But they improved after breaks of 20 minutes to 30 minutes, the research showed.

Gino described the effect as "small, but significant."

"We found that taking the test one hour later affects the average child the same way as having 10 days less of schooling," she said.

Gino blames "cognitive fatigue" -- essentially, tiredness that affects thinking. "But a break can counterbalance this negative effect. For example, during a break, children can have something to eat, relax, play with classmates or just have some fresh air. These activities recharge them."

Even though the test score differences were not huge, Christoph Randler, a professor of biology at the University of Tubingen in Germany, believes they were still significant. They could be consequential if they affect a student’s chances of getting into college, he said.

Other academic experts also found the findings had an important message. Pamela Thacher, an associate professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., endorsed the study. She agreed with Randler that small differences in test scores could be important to a student's future.

As for the value of breaks, she said the findings make sense. "Rest restores the ability to perform," she said. "These results are consistent with virtually every study we have that has spoken to the brain's requirements for best performance."

The study appears in the February issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: Randy Dotinga, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/kids-score-better-on-tests-earlier-in-day-study-finds-708062.html

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Teens & Headaches Go Together

I just read an interesting study about teenagers with headaches. About one to two percent of adolescents have chronic daily headaches, defined as greater than 15 headache days per month for greater than three months.

Once school begins, teens stress levels increase with each week of school, and with that come more complaints of chronic headaches. It is not unusual for me to see several teens a week who complain that they have headaches every day. Despite these persistent headaches, the majority of adolescents continue to participate in their school activities, sleep well once they fall asleep and spend their weekends doing whatever it is that teens all do. I see very few teens who look like they are in “severe” pain, although they state that their head is “killing” them while they chatter away about where it hurts, and how often it hurts etc. It is quite reassuring to watch their faces and expressions as they go into detail about their headaches. In these cases it is important to obtain a good history to rule out any underlying pathology, as well as to inquire about family history of migraines. In this study the authors followed adolescents ages 12 – 14 years who met criteria for chronic daily headaches. They followed the group after both one and two years, and then again after eight years. The results showed that after one year 40 percent of adolescents still complained of chronic headaches. After two years, only 25 percent reported headaches. After eight years, only 12 percent reported chronic headaches. Most participants reported substantial or some improvement in headache intensity and frequency during the eight-year follow-up. The most significant predictor for ongoing problems with headaches was onset of chronic headaches before the age of 13 years. For the most part 75 percent of adolescents with chronic daily headaches improved over the eight-year period, which is quite reassuring. This study just seemed to confirm that teens and headaches go together. If a good history and physical exam is performed and there seem to be no underlying problems that contribute to their headaches, it is best to discuss the natural history of chronic headaches. I think it is important to spend time with adolescents to explore ways to alleviate stress as a trigger for chronic daily headaches. Basic changes in lifestyle such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep will often help reduce headaches. Relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy may also be utilized. At least we know that the headaches reduce with time, maybe just a maturational process, like many things! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Child

Kid’s Head Injury Linked to Long Term Attention Problems

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Even mild brain injuries may cause children to have momentary gaps in attention long after an accident occurs, according to a new study.

The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers.

"Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower," said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This loss of focus was apparent even when brain scans showed no obvious damage, the researchers said.

The study’s results are being released as schools gear up for a new academic year combined with some sports programs that can put children at risk for head injuries.

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a blow to the head caused by a fall, traffic accident, and assault or sports injury.

Concussion is one type of traumatic brain injury. In 2009, more than 248,000 teens and children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries or concussions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the study was conducted.  Researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average.

The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries.

The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention -- the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.

As is typical with most studies, the results do not prove a cause and effect relationship, but an association.

The take-home message from this study is that even mild head injury can lead to problems, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was not involved with the research.

"This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior," Adesman said.

This research underscores the need to protect children from head injuries through proper supervision, consistent use of child car seats and seat belts, as well as headgear when bike riding and playing contact sports, he added.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

More information on brain injury in children can be found at the Brain Injury Association of America’s website, http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm.

Source: Kathleen Doheny,  http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/head-injury-may-trigger-attention-issues-in-kids-701821.html

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