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December 9, 2010, 7:48 AM CT

Autism breakthrough

Autism breakthrough
Eastern Virginia Medical School scientists have identified a potential novel therapy strategy for the social impairment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), an aspect of the condition that has a profound impact on quality of life.

"Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant. They often don't understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues," said Stephen I. Deutsch, MD, PhD, the Ann Robinson Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration".

As part of their research, EVMS researchers verified that a specific mouse strain, known as the BALB/c mouse, is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD. In the presence of another mouse, BALB/c mice move as far away as possible and do not interact as normal mice do just like people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.

This finding gave scientists a way to test whether an existing medicine can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others. The medicine used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but prior studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior. In preliminary studies at EVMS, the medicine appeared to resolve the Balb/c mouse's deficits of sociability; it behaved as a normal mouse would when placed near another.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 18, 2010, 7:46 AM CT

IQ scores and academic performance iin autism

IQ scores and academic performance iin autism
New data show that a number of children with autism spectrum disorders have greater academic abilities than previously thought. In a study by scientists at the University of Washington, 90 percent of high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorders showed a discrepancy between their IQ score and their performance on reading, spelling and math tests.

"Academic achievement is a potential source of self-worth and source of feeling of mastery that people may not have realized is available to children with autism," said Annette Estes, research assistant professor at the UW's Autism Center.

Improved autism diagnosis and early behavioral interventions have led to more and more children being ranked in the high-functioning range, with average to above average IQs. Up to 70 percent of autistic children are considered high-functioning, though they have significant social communication challenges.

With early interventions that improve social skills and curb problem behaviors, more high-functioning children with autism are able to learn in regular education classrooms. In Estes' study, most of the participants 22 of 30 were in regular education classrooms. The study was published online Nov. 2 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 17, 2010, 7:43 AM CT

Preterm birth rates improve

Preterm birth rates improve
Eight states earned a better grade on the 2010 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card and 32 others and the District of Columbia saw their preterm birth rates improve.

Following three decades of increases, in 2008 the nation saw the first two-year decline in the preterm birth rate, a 4 percent drop from 2006. The 2008 preliminary preterm birth rate dropped to 12.3 percent, from the 2006 final rate of 12.8 percent. The March of Dimes says 79 percent of the decline was among babies born just a few weeks too soon.

Overall, the United States received a "D" on the report card, when national preterm birth rates are measured against the Healthy People 2010 goals. The United States has a high rate of preterm birth in comparison to top scoring states and, notably, most industrialized countries.

"The policy changes and programs to prevent preterm birth that our volunteers and staff have worked so hard to bring about are starting to pay off," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "The two-year decline we have seen nationwide, though small, are encouraging. We believe this decline is the beginning of a trend, but must be supported by better health care, new research and adoption of intervention programs to lower the risk of preterm birth."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 16, 2010, 6:58 AM CT

Nighttime sleep beneficial to infants' skills

Nighttime sleep beneficial to infants' skills
At ages 1 and 1-1/2, children who get most of their sleep at night (as opposed to during the day) do better in a variety of skill areas than children who don't sleep as much at night.

That's the finding of a new longitudinal study conducted by scientists at the University of Montreal and the University of Minnesota. The research appears in the November/December 2010 issue of the journal Child Development

The study, of 60 Canadian children at ages 1, 1-1/2, and 2, looked at the effects of infants' sleep on executive functioning. Among children, executive functioning includes the ability to control impulses, remember things, and show mental flexibility. Executive functioning develops rapidly between ages 1 and 6, but little is known about why certain children are better than others at acquiring these skills.

"We observed that infants' sleep is linked to cognitive functions that depend on brain structures that develop rapidly in the first two years of life," explains Annie Bernier, professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, who led the study. "This may imply that good nighttime sleep in infancy sets in motion a cascade of neural effects that has implications for later executive skills".

When the infants were 1 year old and 1-1/2 years old, their mothers filled out three-day sleep diaries that included hour-by-hour patterns, daytime naps, and nighttime wakings. When the children were 1-1/2 and 2, the scientists measured how the children did on the skills involved with executive functioning.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 16, 2010, 6:53 AM CT

Stereotyped views in preschoolers

Stereotyped views in preschoolers
Preschool teachers can inadvertently pass on lessons in stereotypes to their students when they highlight gender differences, as per Penn State psychology experts.

A study has observed that when teachers call attention to gender, children are more likely to express stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys and girls and which gender they prefer to play with, said Lynn Liben, Distinguished Professor of psychology, human development and family studies, and education, Penn State.

By highlighting the powerful effect of classroom environments on preschool children's gender-related beliefs and behaviors, the findings have implications for how teachers structure classrooms and interact with children, as per Liben, who worked with Lacey Hilliard, a Penn State graduate student, on the experiment.

"The biggest impact of the study and the findings seems to be that classroom structure really matters," said Liben. "It shows that if teachers emphasize gender--in any way-- it has amazingly profound effects on how children interact with each other".

The researchers, who published their results in the current issue of Child Development, reviewed 57, 3- to 5-year-olds at two preschools over a two-week period. The two schools were similar in class size, teacher-child ratio and populations served. In one set of classrooms, teachers were asked to avoid making divisions by sex, which was the policy of the preschool. In the other, teachers were asked to use gendered language and divisions, such as lining children up by gender and asking boys and girls to post their work on separate bulletin boards, but still avoid making statements comparing boys and girls or fostering competition between them. For example, they were asked to avoid saying, "Who can be quieter: boys or girls?".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 10, 2010, 7:35 AM CT

Number Talk Is Important Before Preschool

Number Talk Is Important Before Preschool
New research published in an article titled "What Counts in the Development of Young Children's Number Knowledge?" in the current issue of Developmental Psychology suggests parents should talk to their children about numbers early and often.

Credit: ©2010 Jupiter Images Corporation
The amount of time parents spend talking about numbers has a much bigger impact on how young children learn mathematics than was previously known, scientists at the University of Chicago have found.

For example, children whose parents talked more about numbers were much more likely to understand the cardinal number principle--which states that the size of a set of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set (e.g., a set of 10 items is larger than a set of seven items).

"By the time children enter preschool, there are marked individual differences in their mathematical knowledge, as shown by their performance on standardized tests," said University of Chicago psychology expert Susan Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology and the leader of the study. Other studies have shown that the level of mathematics knowledge entering school predicts future success.

The results of the study were reported in the article, "What Counts in the Development of Young Children's Number Knowledge?" in the current issue of Developmental Psychology. Joining main author Levine in the study were four other scholars.

"The findings underscore the important role that caregivers can play in children's early mathematical learning," said Soo-Siang Lim, program director for the National Science Foundation's Science of Learning Centers Program. NSF partially funded the research.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 28, 2010, 7:43 AM CT

Benefit of breast-feeding

Benefit of breast-feeding
Pediatric scientists at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia describe a successful program in which nurses helped mothers attain high rates of breast-feeding in very sick babies--newborns with complex birth defects requiring surgery and intensive care.

A number of of these highly vulnerable newborns immediately experience a paradoxical situation. Their mother's milk helps to fend off infection and provides easily digestible, nutritious ingredients that can reduce the infant's stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). But because the babies are often in critical condition, breast-feeding may not be considered a priority, or even be feasible, when in comparison to urgent medical problems.

"Human milk is important for all newborns, but particularly for sick infants," said project mentor Diane L. Spatz, Ph.D., R.N.-B.C., nurse researcher, of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Breast milk protects an infant in the NICU from necrotizing enterocolitisa devastating disease of the boweland from a host of infectious diseases. "It is of critical importance that all mothers make the informed decision to provide human milk for their infants, and that nurses provide evidence-based lactation care and support in order for mothers to achieve success," added Spatz.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 28, 2010, 7:12 AM CT

Preschool-age children exceed daily screen time

Preschool-age children exceed daily screen time
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents limit combined screen time from television, DVDs, computers, and video games to 2 hours per day for preschool-age children. In a study soon to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics, scientists observed that a number of children are exposed to screen time both at home and while at child care, with 66% exceeding the recommended daily amount.

As per Dr. Pooja Tandon, "A majority of children under the age of 5 years in the United States spend almost 40 hours a week with caregivers other than their parents, and it's important to understand what kind of screen time exposure children are getting with these other caregivers." Dr. Tandon and fellow scientists from the Seattle Children's Research Institute and the University of Washington studied nearly 9000 preschool-age children who took part in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort (ECLS-b), a longitudinal, observational study of over 10,000 children born in 2001 with diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The ECLS-b used interviews with parents and child care providers to collect data about each child's daily screen time.

On average, children were exposed to 4 hours of screen time each weekday, with 3.6 hours of exposure coming from home. Children in home-based child care spent a combined average of 5.6 hours watching television or videos at home and while at child care, with 87% exceeding the 2 hour recommendation. Center-based child care scored slightly better, with children watching an approximate total of 3.2 hours each weekday at home and while at child care. Children who did not go to child care also tended to exceed the recommendations, however, with the average child watching 4.4 hours a day.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 26, 2010, 8:02 AM CT

Children with frequent ear infections

Children with frequent ear infections
Ear infections are one of the most common health problems for children, with most kids experiencing at least one by their third birthday. Annual costs in the United States alone are in the billions of dollars.

When these infections are left untreated, complications can include hearing loss, speech problems and more severe infections that can spread to bone and brain, causing meningitis. But not all kids have the same access to medical specialists and medicines.

A newly released study by scientists at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Harvard Medical School has observed that racial and ethnic disparities among children with frequent ear infections can significantly influence access to health care resources.

The findings, reported in the November 2010 issue of the journal OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery, show that compared with white children, African American and Hispanic children are at increased odds of not being able to afford prescription medications, not having medical insurance and not being able to see a specialist.

The study also shows that African American and Hispanic children are more likely than white children to visit the emergency room for an ear infection.

"Our goal was to provide an accurate demographic picture of the U.S. so that we could identify disparities to target for intervention," said co-author of study Dr. Nina Shapiro, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and an associate professor of surgery at the Geffen School of Medicine. "Clearly, we observed that children of certain ethnicities who suffer from frequent ear infections are more likely to face greater barriers to care. This information provides an opportunity for improvements in our current health care reform."........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


October 11, 2010, 7:35 AM CT

Computer time and psychological problems

Computer time and psychological problems
Children who spend longer than two hours in front of a computer or television screen are more likely to suffer psychological difficulties, regardless of how physically active they are.

The PEACH project, a study of over a 1,000 children aged between ten and 11, measured the time children spent in front of a screen as well as their psychological well being. In addition, an activity monitor recorded both children's sedentary time and moderate physical activity. The results showed that more than two hours per day of both television viewing and recreational computer use were correlation to higher psychological difficulty scores, regardless of how much time the children spent on physical activity.

The authors of the report, reported in the November edition of the American journal Pediatrics, conclude that limiting children's screen time appears to be important for ensuring children's future health and wellbeing.

As per the activity monitor, the children in the study who spent more time sedentary had better psychological scores overall. Those children who did more moderate physical activity fared better in certain psychological areas, including emotional and peer problems, but fared worse in some areas correlation to behaviour, including hyperactivity.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

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