Friday, May 31, 2013

Chronic Illness on the Rise in Children - LA Times

Chronic Illness on the Rise in Children: LA Times

This article from the LA Times explains that children today are chronically sicker than their counterparts 50 years ago. Despite "well" visits at 2 weeks, 2,4,6,9,12,15,18,24 months and then yearly, our kids appear to be headed downhill as far as their health goes. How will they fare as adults? And how can you say that children with asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, food allergies, autism, learning disabilities aren't "less healthy?" The article points out that there are fewer congential defects (perhaps the result of prenatal testing leading to abortion and the addition of Folic Acid to stave off spina bifida) infectious disease, (yes, there is less chicken pox and measles and mumps, the traditional childhood diseases from which most children recovered) and accidents. Is it a necessary tradeoff? What has happened to childhood in America? Sounds to us that Ms. Roans is saying we are making our children sick. Wow.

By Sahri Roans
More than a quarter of all U.S. children have a chronic health condition, new research suggests, a significant increase from the rate seen in earlier decades and a statistic that looms large for the nation's efforts to subdue rising healthcare costs.

But the report doesn't suggest that children are less healthy. The comprehensive look at children from 1988 through 2006 also revealed that health conditions themselves have changed.

Fewer children today are affected by congenital defects, infectious diseases and accidents than they were 50 years ago; instead, cultural, lifestyle and environmental conditions appear to be the root cause of many pediatric illnesses.

"The study speaks to the fact that children need continuous access to healthcare," said Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, a pediatrician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston and the lead investigator of the study. "But with good treatment, a lot of these conditions will go away."

The paper was released online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., ahead of print publication Wednesday.

Researchers analyzed the prevalence of illnesses by surveying the mothers of approximately 5,000 children. Data from three time periods were analyzed: 1988 to 1994, 1994 to 2000, and 2000 to 2006. In each time frame, the children, ages 2 through 8 at the start of each period, were followed for six years.

The rate of chronic conditions increased from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006. Latino and black youths and males were more likely to have health problems.

The findings mean that children today suffer from different illnesses than those seen in previous generations, said Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities. And many behavioral and mental health conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, weren't diagnosed decades ago.

"We have a whole different set of conditions we're looking at today and a broader set of definitions for illnesses," said Halfon, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "We're seeing bigger increases in obesity, attention deficit disorder and other mental and behavioral conditions. Part of that has to do with the kinds of environments in which children are growing up."

Obesity and related conditions accounted for a large percentage of child illnesses, although the study reflected previous research showing obesity rates are stabilizing among U.S. children.
But that is little comfort when a quarter of children have some type of chronic health problem, said William Gardner, a principal investigator of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who was not involved in the study.

"Asthma, attention deficit disorder, obesity -- there aren't robotic surgeries to fix these things," he said. "It's a situation where we need to have a really strong primary care system where kids have what we call a medical home and they have regular contact with a primary care doctor or nurse practitioner."

Unlike adults, chronic health conditions in children appear more capricious, with symptoms waxing, waning or even disappearing. Only 7.4% of the children had a chronic health condition at both the start and end of the six-year observation period, Van Cleave said.
Addressing health problems early on is likely to yield large dividends financially for the nation, Halfon said.

"Not that the die is completely cast in childhood," he said, "but it is showing a certain kind of epidemiological trajectory that we should not be ignoring."


Monday, May 13, 2013

IGNITE! Summer Enrichment Classes in Gig Harbor, WA

IGNITE! Your Child's Love of Learning!

Summer Enrichment Classes are innovative summer enrichment
programs brought to you by Hands On Learning Solutions in Gig Harbor.
Courses are taught by incredible, certified teachers and content experts who
have a passion for fun and engaging programming.
Classes include:
Science Magic for students 4th - 7th grades
Math Madness for students 4th - 7th grades
Study Smart (study skills) for students entering 9th - 11th grade
Learning on Purpose (study skills) for students entering 6th - 8th grade
For more information go to

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The 7 Pieces of an Effective Assessment

Individual: An effective assessment must be administered individually and identify both the strengths and weaknesses of a student.

Relevant: A Functional Assessment should be relevant to the individual student. It must be designed to collect information and scores that are specific to the concerns of the parents and teacher. It should not be a standard comprehensive test battery that is used for every student that is tested regardless of the presenting problems.

Direct: A student’s academic skills should be directly assessed with the use of curriculum or skills related to learning. The level at which the student is able to perform as well as trends over skill areas should be recorded.

Observational: Behavior of the student as well as the environment should be evaluated by direct observation. 

Norm-referenced: Assessments that use norm-referenced comparisons of peers of the same age or grade should be part of the Functional Academic Assessment in order to determine where a student falls within their developmental group or grade. This method alone does not produce information that will lead to intervention or remediation planning because the information does not identify the specific weak underlying processing skills.

Multi-dimensional: A Functional Academic Assessment should look at variables that can affect the student’s  achievement and learning. Examination of the use of multiple tasks such as distractibility, speed of completion of work, need for reward or motivation, balance, and memory.

Interventional: The assessment should allow the examiner to create a plan of remediation after identifying the specific processing skills deficits and academic skill deficiencies. The results should also identify potential modification or accommodations that may be necessary in order for a student to experience success.

Monday, May 6, 2013

What is a Functional Academic Assessment?

A Functional Academic Assessment is not designed to predict the learning potential of a student like a traditional I.Q. test. In the past a great deal of emphasis has been placed on determining a student’s cognitive ability in order to predict how well they can learn. I.Q. tests do not foretell a child’s potential, instead they give a measurement of the child’s current level of mental skills which can allow us to predict how well they will do in school at this moment. In order to figure out what kind of help is needed you have to look for the cause of the learning problem, not the symptom and you won’t find the cause by looking at an IQ score.


The challenge is that measuring a student’s potential for learning does not give us information we can use to know how to teach the student best or how to design remediation activities in order to improve a student’s performance. In some cases knowing a student’s I.Q. can be detrimental because some parents or teachers may develop lower expectations for the student’s achievement.

Another reason a Functional Academic Assessment may be the most beneficial for a student who is struggling is because all of the areas of functioning are examined. Areas that should be covered are visual processing, visualization skills, auditory processing, listening skills, attention/focus, distractibility, large and small motor skills, balance, rhythm, processing speed, reading, word attack skills, memory, and logic, and reasoning skills. If a student has a strong visual memory teaching them to read through sight word or whole word instruction may seem like the logical choice but may not necessarily bring success. Other areas of functioning must be taken into consideration such as which visual memory is strong for a student – letters, words, sentences, numbers, symbols, or pictures. A student may be strong in one memory subcategory and yet very weak in another because different areas of the brain are accessed according the type of memory being used. In order to determine the best teaching method and potential remediation all areas of functioning must be looked at.

Welcome to the Missing Piece

If you are the parent of a child with special needs or a learning disability then you know how difficult it can be to get answers to your questions. For many of us we have been disappointed when we were unable to find others who could help identify causes and solutions that help. This can be a lonely journey and that is why we are here. Our desire is that this would be a source of information, hope and humor for those of you who are struggling on the same path.
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