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ATTORNEY/ADVOCATE MATT COHEN recently posted a rather impassioned plea for -- well, lots of change in the way we educate our children and in the ways we treat learning challenges. Cohen, a special ed attorney who has written for 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter, begins with five examples of how "different" kids could -- and should -- have been served better at school. The examples range from dealing with bullying to acknowledging that a bright kid with Asperger's might need some help; each example is drawn from a client served by Cohen. The attorney then begins a litany of "we must's" that represent his imperatives for improving the educational system for all involved. If you're concerned with educational reform -- or just with good education -- read Cohen's blog posting from May 14. (A bonus: His preceding post is titled "Myths, Legends and Realities -- Legal Rights of Kids with AD/HD at School.")
OPTOGENETICS is a technology that combines light and genetic engineering to allow the control of selected neurons. By changing cells in a particular neural circuit to be sensitive to light, and then implanting optical fibers to stimulate those cells, scientists were able to make anxious mice behave in a less anxious manner. One of the researchers discussed the specificity of the treatment, compared to flooding the brain with psychotropics: “Psychiatric disorders are probably not due only to chemical imbalances in the brain. It’s more than just a giant bag of serotonin or dopamine whose concentrations sometimes are too low or too high. Rather, they likely involve disorders of specific circuits within specific brain regions.” The technology is seen as a way to investigate -- and, eventually, to treat -- a variety of mental problems. Read more.
COMPETITIONS. The winners of the 2011 Siemens "We Can Change the World" competition have been announced. Go to the competition website to see what kind of environmental solutions competition entrants from high school, middle school, and elementary school came up with.
ARE YOU HAPPY? Is your child happy? Psychologist/author Martin Seligman's book "Flourish" defines five crucial elements of well-being: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Seligman has consistently urged his colleagues to focus on more than mental illness; this book is one result of his belief in "positive psychology." Find an interesting article about Seligman's ideas.
ARE YOU DEPRESSED, MOM? Successfully treating depression in mothers benefits her children as well. According to a Wall Street Journal article, about half of kids whose mothers are depressed will develop depression. The article quoted a Pediatrics study: "As early as two months of age, the infant looks at the depressed mother less often, shows less engagement with objects [and] has a lower activity level." Researchers are looking into the link between depression in fathers and kids as well. Read the article
GENETIC PATTERNS VERSUS DIAGNOSTIC SYSTEMS. Sometimes they don't coincide -- that's the suggestion in a Scientific American article on using  CNVs (copy number variations), deletions or repetitions of stretches of DNA on chromosomes. For example, it turns out that people with one particular CNV deletion may be diagnosed with schizophrenia, autism, or AD/HD. The author's contention: " may be that these diagnostic categories are just describing particular symptoms of certain genetic disorders." Read more.
AD/HD DRUGS may present no risk for heart problems in kids, according to a study reported in HealthDay. Find it.
AND FINALLY, THIS, today's story from "There are lives I can imagine without children but none of them have the same laughter & noise."