Monthly Archives: September 2011

Begin intensive therapy with autistic children sooner rather than later

Heather Rudow September 29, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/AfghanistanMatters)

While there is currently no cure for autism or any autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the use of intensive therapy can help improve social and communication skills, which are commonly problematic in those with ASD. And according to a University of Missouri study, the younger children are when they begin intensive therapy, the more of a benefit they will receive from it.

Researchers collected data from more than 1,000 children with ASD and measured 15 social-communication skills, such as facial expressions, gestures, language comprehension, sharing enjoyment and appropriate social responses. The study found that 95.4 percent of the children showed improvement in these areas over time, but those who had the best outcomes were those who received behavioral, speech, occupational and other forms of intensive therapy. ASD children with higher nonverbal IQs were most responsive to therapy in the study:

“For those children who were nonverbal at age 5, the researchers found that IQ and intensity of speech therapy most significantly predicted the acquisition of speech. The findings indicate that targeted, intensive treatments may be most successful in improving specific skills.”

Researcher Micah Mazurek said it is important that children with ASD receive therapy as soon as possible.

“The more intense or comprehensive the therapy, the better it is in terms of helping children improve social and communication skills,” she said. “With regard to social-communicative symptom severity, our study reveals that it is not IQ alone that contributes to improvements over time. Instead, having a higher IQ may allow children to make greater gains in various types of treatments. Although IQ scores of children with ASD may be strongly influenced by their capacity for attention and ability to comply with tasks, results indicate the need to design and examine alternative treatment approaches for those with intellectual impairments.”

Source: University of Missouri

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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ADHD prescription medication usage increases in children

Heather Rudow September 28, 2011

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In less than a decade, the number of adolescents in the United States prescribed stimulants to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increased by half a million, according to a new study.

In 1996, 2.4 percent of children were being prescribed ADHD medicine, but by 2008, that percentage rose to 3.5, equaling 500,000 kids. A previous study showed that from 1987 to 1997, stimulant medication usage by children with ADHD rose from 0.6 percent to 2.7 percent.

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 were marked with the highest use of stimulants, with 5.1 percent of them being prescribed these ADHD medications in 2008.

“In the past, ADHD was primarily a concern of children in elementary school and middle school,” said study researcher Benedetto Vitiello. “This continuous increase among teens likely reflects a recent realization that ADHD often persists as children age. They do not always grow out of their symptoms.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Sleep learning might be real, study finds

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Flickr/CarbonNYC)

It might sound like the stuff of movies or a plot taken from a ’90s sitcom, but Michigan State University researchers found that people may actually be learning while they sleep.

In the study, which consisted of more than 250 participants, researchers discovered that there could be a link between levels of consciousness and memory, which people yield different effects from.

“We speculate that we may be investigating a separate form of memory, distinct from traditional memory systems,” said researcher Kimberly Fenn. “There is substantial evidence that during sleep, your brain is processing information without your awareness and this ability may contribute to memory in a waking state. … You and I could go to bed at the same time and get the same amount of sleep but while your memory may increase substantially, there may be no change in mine.”

This distinct “sleep memory” is not being captured in the run-of-the-mill aptitude tests such as the SAT or the ACT, Fenn said.

“This is the first step to investigate whether or not this potential new memory construct is related to outcomes such as classroom learning,” she said.

It also perpetuates the notion that a good night’s sleep is necessary for students. Fenn continued, “Simply improving your sleep could potentially improve your performance in the classroom.”

Source: Michigan State University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Aerobic exercise may reduce dementia progression

Heather Rudow

(Photo:Flickr/SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget)

Extensive research by the Mayo Clinic revealed that aerobic activity as simple as raking leaves may reduce the progression of dementia. The key, say researchers, is to increase the heart rate and the body’s need for oxygen, which could help preserve cognitive functions in dementia patients.

“We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue. We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject,” said researcher J. Eric Ahlskog. “We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.”

Ahlskog and the researchers said the study showed that exercise could be an important therapy to utilize when battling dementia.

“Whether addressing our patients in primary care or neurology clinics, we should continue to encourage exercise for not only general health, but also cognitive health,” Ahlskog said.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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Teenage boys want to look average

Heather Rudow September 27, 2011

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman K. Cecelia Engrums/Released)

The media has placed more focus on the male body image in recent years, but a University of Manitoba study suggests that this increased attention has not led boys to become more concerned about their appearance. Instead of trying to look big and muscular like many modern male celebrities, most adolescent boys just want to look average.

The researchers interviewed 32 boys between the ages of 13 and 15. Although researcher Moss E. Norman said the participants correlated being overweight with something “undesirable and associated with a sedentary, immoral lifestyle,” most of them were equally turned off by celebrities such as Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame, who is known for his physique.

“Not all boys aspire to have lean, muscular or idealized male bodies that are commonplace in popular culture,” Norman said. “In many cases, boys who took part in our study were staunchly critical of idealized male images. They found it problematic, feminine or vain to be overly concerned with appearances. Sculpted bodies were seen as unnatural, the product of steroids or zealous weight-lifting.”

The boys preferred to have an average-looking body because it wouldn’t stand out, Norman said.

“Any bodies that fell outside that norm were labeled unnatural, unhealthy or just too much,” he said. “Boys want a body that’s neither too fat nor too skinny; too tall nor too short; too muscular nor too weak.”

Although the boys did feel pressure to be fit, Norman said, they were comfortable getting toned through sports.

“They felt sports could naturally produce a healthier, fitter and more attractive man,” he said. “Sports are used to deflect, obscure and erase their bodily anxieties and desires.”

Source: Eurekalert

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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