Thursday, 31 May 2012

ADHD diagnosis and gender-bias

From me to learning has allowed me to spend so much time thinking and writing about contemporary issues in mental health...loving it.

ADHD can appear as early as infancy (Seligman and Rider, 2012) and appears to have neurological foundations resulting in impaired frontal lobes (Seligman et al., 2012). There is some concern that over diagnosing may be occurring; for every two boys diagnosed, one girl is diagnosed (Seligment et al, 2012)—some have wondered what causes the disproportionate number of male diagnoses.
Harrison (2010) suggests that female adolescents with ADHD are an increased risk of “antisocial, addictive, mood, anxiety, and eating disorders” (Harrison, 2010). Harrison’s analysis is particularly relevant because as she points out, the majority of existing research consists of male dominated control groups (Harrison, 2010).  “Despite a possible difference in ADHD symptoms exhibited by boys and girls, our study clearly shows that exactly the same symptom picture is evaluated differently in boys than in girls.” (Bruchmüller, Margraf, Schneider, 2012, p136)
Gender based studies are important for several reasons, mainly because there are such clear behavioural differences between genders, that these variables must be considered in both diagnosing and treating ADHD. ADHD is considered by some to be on the Autism spectrum; females are diagnosed Aspergers far less frequently than males, and it is often attributed to social conventions (that is, it is acceptable for a female to be shy, smart and eccentric). I wonder if this is the case with ADHD; are females better at hiding symptoms, or coping and developing adaptive behaviours to compensate?  There are three times more males diagnosed with ADHD than female and the diagnostic  process is largely heuristic (Bruchmüller et al., 2012) leaving a bit too much grey area.

Bruchmüller, K., Margraf, J., & Schneider, S. (2012). Is ADHD diagnosed in accord with diagnostic criteria? Overdiagnosis and influence of client gender on diagnosis. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology80(1), 128-138. doi:10.1037/a0026582

Monday, 28 May 2012

Video Resources for Autism

Everything is better when you can see are some great supports.
Fill in the Missing Number Interactive Activity Book by Blue Cat Pie
"How much Longer?" Visualizing time
Pre-Pecs: Object Schedules for early learners
Pre-school classrooms with Picture Schedules
First Then Matching Schedules

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cognitive neuroscience, brain imaging, language disorders

Written for a Masters level biopsych. class; thought I would post in case anyone find it relevant. Find references at the bottom.

An innovative therapist draws from a repertoire of treatment options, chosen for their suitability to meeting individual client needs; considering the neural basis of each diagnosis, is essential for an effective practitioner. In understanding principles of cognitive neuroscience, therapists can develop a comprehensive understanding of language-based disorders like Autism, Dyslexia, Aphasia and Apraxia. “The cognitive neuroscience approach is (...) dominating research on language and its disorders” (Pinel, 2007, p.471); it is informing new technology like brain scanning, allowing for a deeper understanding of the factors that impact language acquisition (Pinel, 2007). Understanding cognitive neuroscience under the umbrella of a holistic treatment approach that explores social, emotional, behavioural and psychological factors, allows practitioners to predict and understand the variables that influence the development of language in patients with language related disorders.
Understanding the characteristics of a diagnosis is essential for creating individualized, successful interventions. Providing individualized assessments based on investigation of client strengths and weaknesses provides the secondary component to effective treatment. Information acquired through cognitive neuroscience has informed practitioners about diagnoses, from a neurological perspective.  Aphasia and Apraxia, for example, are the result of left hemisphere damage; although interestingly, symptoms appear in both hemispheres (Pinel, 2007). Dyslexia is a “difficulty in reading” (Pinel 2007, p.475), though not always associated with a cognitive delay; Aphasia is a “brain-damaged produced deficit in the ability to produce or comprehend language” (Pinel, 2007, p.444). Apraxia, on the other hand, leaves patients unable to complete basic motor tasks on demand, despite being physically capable of completing the action without forethought. Autism is a communication and socially based disorder, not always associated with cognitive delay, resulting in language impairments from moderate to severe.  It is clear from what is known of cognitive neuroscience, that language develops in a systematic way (Pinel, 2007). Understanding the factors that contribute to language acquisition from a cognitive science perspective, will prove to be a vital starting point for clinicians working with individuals with language based disorders.
Pinel, J. (2007). Basic of Biopsychology. Toronto: Pearson. Allyn & Bacon

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Dreaming about warm weather, on a dreary day

It is a dreary day in Toronto and the summer seems far, far away.

It is times like these that I find myself thinking a warm summer breeze, sitting outside eating watermelon, or wearing flip flops on a walk to the park. I love the energy of the summer, the spirit of the our space changes--it switches into much more socially, play-based and I dare to even say...outdoorsy kind of vibe.

This year we have switched it up to include activity rotations that the campers rotate between; the idea is that each age group will have their own tailor-made activity at each activity rotation throughout the day. Activities are lead by our Senior programming staff, and campers are supported by their cousellors/teachers at a ratio of 1:4. We have additional support for those who require it, just let us know. Everyone learns together with specialized methods called on as needed and with social opportunities sought and facilitated.

We are fortunate to have a playground on-site, as well as an even larger sensory-playground (I might even say an  out of this world sensory playground) within walking distance from us. We have 4 indoor classrooms, a sensory-motor gym space and a property that permits outdoor exploration from chalk art to outdoor water play; we have shaded areas for a cool break, like snack time, and plenty of sunshine (we PROMISE to wear sunscreen). If you're wondering how we got so lucky in the heart of York (that is, Toronto), well you are not the only one wondering that.

We are so fortunate to have landlords that permit our use of their space with open arms and with the attitude "our home is your home"; we are located at 47 Glenbrook Avenue, in the lower level of the Beth Torah Congregation. We are very proud of the space we have created for our kids.

We're 10-second walk to the local grocery store (the wonderful Lady York), Dairy Queen (a summer time staple) and a dollar store, all serving to provide valuable social opportunities for our bigger kids. We're 1 block away is a community center that open it's doors for free swim every afternoon in the summer; anyone up for swimming and making some friends? We're excited to be planning regular trips to the pool, which is monitored by a lifeguard at all times to ensure safety.

In between walks to the sensory park, recess in our playground, snack in the shade, soccer on the lawn, water works in the rear-lot, arts and crafts on the lawn, sensory play inside and out, team sports in the gym, science for a break from the heat and lunchtime in your cabin group, you'll want to make sure to drink plenty of water! 

So when it's really dreary, and it seems like summer is a long way away...these are the kinds of thoughts I like to think! Here's to a short May....
Cheers! if this sounds like something your kids would like!