ChildsWork News, April 27, 2012: Developmental Delays, ADHD and College Prep…Oh My!

April 27, 2012

ChildsWork News, April 27, 2012: Developmental Delays, ADHD and College Prep…Oh My!

This morning on CW News, I want to offer a variety of articles that touch on some of CW’s most popular subjects. The first comes from Education Week blogger Nirvi Shah who reports on a the Easter Seals foundation and its efforts to convince Washington lawmakers to dedicate more funding to early intervention programs for children with developmental delays. They cite that only 1 million children receive early intervention each year despite the suspicion that more than 5 million actually exhibit signs of developmental delays. Next, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered a clear link between diet and some ADHD children. Though their study was merely preliminary, there is strong evidence to support that changing certain ADHD children’s eating habits may affect the manifestation and symptoms of the disorder. Finally, a report from the New York Times suggests that students are being over-diagnosed as unprepared in college. With the number of remedial classes increasing on college campuses each year along with the nationwide push to better prepare students for higher education, the opinion of Judith Scott-Clayton from Columbia University’s prestigious Teacher’s College should not be ignored. 20 Percent of Kids with Developmental Delays Identified Late By Nirvi Shah writing for Education Week Today, Easter Seals is trying to spread the word about the underidentification of young children who have developmental delays. The organization, which is pushing for a $100 million increase to the federal budget for services to young children with disabilities, is pushing for better detection of developmental delays in infants and toddlers. The current budget is about $440 million. President Obama has proposed a $20 million increase. Easter Seals says that each year there are about 5 million children at risk for developmental delays, but only about 1 million actually get early intervention services. Last month, Easter Seals launched a new questionnaire for parents that gives them guidance about whether, based on their answers, they should talk to their children's doctors. The new Ages & Stages Questionnaire can also be mailed upon request to parents and is available in Spanish. The free screening tool can be used repeatedly. While considered a precise gauge, "it's designed so you don't have to have a Ph.D.in early childhood education to fill it out," said Patricia Wright, the national director of Easter Seals' autism arm. While states are tasked with finding and serving children with disabilities before kindergarten, "it's really up to parents" to identify possible delays, the effects of which may be something that can be eliminated or diminished greatly before formal schooling begins, said Katy Neas, a senior vice president of Easter Seals. Wright pointed to recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that 1 in 88 children age 8 and younger have autism. The CDC also found that the median age of diagnosis of some type of autism spectrum disorder was older than age 6. "You can accurately diagnose all of those at 24 months," she said. In the long run, Neas said, early diagnosis and intervention will reduce special education costs. Some 11 percent of children who are served in federally funded early intervention programs end up not needing special education services, she said. Dietary Changes Help Some Children with ADHD From the University of Copenhagen Together with child and adolescent psychiatrists, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have just completed an extensive report which reviews the studies which have been done so far on the significance of diet for children and young people with ADHD. The report shows that there are potential benefits in changing the diets of children with ADHD, but that key knowledge in the area is still lacking. The comprehensive report covers the scientific literature on the significance of diet for children with ADHD: “Our conclusion is that more research is required in the area. There is a lot to suggest that by changing their diet, it is possible to improve the condition for some ADHD children,” says professor in paediatric nutrition Kim Fleischer Michaelsen from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, who is heading the study. Professor Kim Fleischer stresses that more research is needed: “Several of the studies show, for example, that fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms. Other studies detect no effect. Elimination diets are also promising. These look at whether there is anything in the diet which the children cannot consume without adverse side effects. However, we still lack knowledge about which children with ADHD benefit from dietary changes, how positive the effect is in the long term and what the changes mean for children’s health.” Dietary changes not beneficial for everyone The report shows that not all ADHD children benefit from changes to their diet, and that there are still many unknown factors. Tine Houmann, a consultant at the Centre for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, says: “There are different types of ADHD, and the disturbance is probably due to both genetic and environmental factors. We know that children with ADHD react very differently to both medication and dietary changes. We therefore need to study which children benefit from dietary changes, and whether we can identify genetic or environmental factors that can predict this.” Bigger studies needed The experts hope that, by acquiring more knowledge on the subject, it is possible to reduce the use of medication and instead develop special dietary advice for the children: “It is promising that many research results indicate that dietary changes can help some ADHD children. However, it is crucial that bigger studies on dietary changes are conducted on children with ADHD to see how effective this is and how long the benefits last,” says Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, while stressing that parents should always seek professional advice before changing their children’s diet. Are College Entrants Overdiagnosed as Underprepared By Lily Altavena for The New York Times Placement exams are directing too many students into remedial classes, Judith Scott-Clayton, an assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, wrote recently in the Economix blog. Those placement exams, she said, are flawed: they are not strongly linked to success in college classes. Research has found that some students placed in these remedial math and English courses could have passed college-level versions. Ms. Scott-Clayton writes: In education as in medicine, the logic behind early detection seems unassailable: colleges want to catch the underprepared early, so students can get help before they begin to struggle. But in both fields, evidence is beginning to accumulate that early detection and treatment, in some cases, may harm the healthy more than it helps those truly ailing. While remediation rates have risen slightly over time — to 22 percent of all first-time first-year students in 2003-4 from 18 percent in 1995-96, according to Department of Education statistics — the increases have been striking for students with strong high school grades. For students with high school grade-point averages between 3.5 and 4.0, remediation rates have more than doubled. This is not a result of high school grade inflation – the percentage of students with G.P.A.’s in this range has not changed – but is consistent with increasingly ubiquitous placement testing. Screening seemingly prepared students for remediation is questionable for at least two reasons. First, the benefits of remediation are far from obvious: remediation has been referred to as the Bermuda Triangle of postsecondary education, because the majority of those who enter never make it out. Across several rigorous, quasi-experimental studies of the causal impact of remediation, only one found positive effects on college outcomes, while others found null to negative effects.



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