Thursday, December 31, 2009

More "Good" News About Cell Phones . . .

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned the problems with electromagnetic radiation (like that generated by high voltage towers, cell phones and microwave ovens) at some point in these blogs. Seems that there is research that demonstrates that electromagnetic radiation ("EMR") makes the blood brain barrier more permeable than it was meant to be. While none of these studies talked about autism, one must remember the theory that toxins that enter the brain may have some relationship to autism spectrum disorder. It's not too much of a stretch to think that if the blood brain barrier has been compromised, potential substances and/or toxins that might never have reached the brain are now getting in and causing damage.

Recently, there was a study out of Europe that found that constant exposure to cell phones adversely affects bone density.

Now, the state of Maine is considering requiring that cell phones carry warnings that they might cause brain cancer. In an article entitled Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning, Glenn Adams reports that

"A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer. . . .

The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no U.S. states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco. . . .

Maine Rep. Andrea Boland, D-Sanford, said numerous studies point to the cancer risk, and she has persuaded legislative leaders to allow her proposal to come up for discussion during the 2010 session that begins in January, a session usually reserved for emergency and governors' bills. . . .

While there's been no long-term studies on cell phones and cancer, some scientists suggest erring on the side of caution.

Last year, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, sent a memo to about 3,000 faculty and staff members warning of risks based on early, unpublished data [what did this research say, and why is it unpublished??]. He said that children should use the phones only for emergencies because their brains were still developing and that adults should keep the phone away from the head and use a speakerphone or a wireless headset.

Herberman, who says scientific conclusions often take too long, is one of numerous doctors and researchers who have endorsed an August report by retired electronics engineer L. Lloyd Morgan. The report highlights a study that found significantly increased risk of brain tumors from 10 or more years of cell phone or cordless phone use.

Also, the BioInitiative Working Group, an international group of scientists, notes that many countries have issued warnings and that the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for governmental action to address concerns over health risks from mobile phone use.

But the National Cancer Institute said studies thus far have turned up mixed and inconsistent results [which obviously means that some studies do show that cell phones cause harm], noting that cell phones did not come into widespread use in the United States until the 1990s.

'Although research has not consistently demonstrated a link between cellular telephone use and cancer [again, by definition, that means that some research HAS shown a link between cellular telephone use and cancer], scientists still caution that further surveillance is needed before conclusions can be drawn,' according to the Cancer Institute's Web site."

This is pretty scary stuff. There is obviously research that shows a link between cell phones/cordless phones and cancer -- by the way, why haven't we heard about any of this? -- and even the scientist and researchers are worried.

And, we wonder why so many children are diagnosed with ASD today. It's not just the diagnostic criteria. We, as a society, have created this problem over the past three decades. It's the way we eat, what we eat, the chemicals, pesticides and toxins to which we expose ourselves. It's the way we live and raise our children.

Isn't it obvious? We really need to put our children's development, safety, and happiness before convenience, efficacy and economics.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Well, It's Been Over a Week . . .

Well, it's been over a week and I'm still on track with both my marathon training and my blogging.

I have to admit that I did miss one day of training, but it wasn't my fault (don't I sound like a five year old?). There was this little bit of snow, and I had to spend a little while digging out. My oldest son went to work, so he was no help.

My youngest son offered to help, but for a price. He wanted five dollars to clear a path down the sidewalk. Recognizing a bargain when I see one, I jumped all over the deal. (I was tempted to squeeze a little more work out of him for the same price, you know, "throw in the walkway to the front door, and you got yourself a deal," but I didn't want to take advantage.)

I walked off to buy some coffee for Tina. When I came back, I found three feet of sidewalk cleared, and an exhausted young man panting, "I don't want to do this anymore . . ."

So, I finished it all off, packed up my gear to go to the gym to hit the treadmill, and guess what? The gym was closed. What nerve! I made the effort to come and they didn't even bother to show up. Don't these people know I've got some training to do?

Wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas and A Most Wonderful, Happy and Joyous New Year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ADHD, Lead Exposure & Smoking -- "Shocking New Findings?"

My sister directed this AOL article to me: "Smoking, Lead Exposure Increase ADHD Risk," by Stephanie Booth.

In it, is the not surprising conclusion that children, exposed in utero, to tobacco smoke and/or lead, had a statistically higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD. Specifically, "children exposed prenatally to tobacco smoke had a 2.4-fold increased likelihood of ADHD diagnosis. Those whose blood showed what researchers categorized as high lead levels were 2.3 times more likely to have ADHD. Exposure to both lead and prenatal tobacco triggered what head researcher Tanya Froehlich, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatric specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,called an alarming 'synergistic effect.' Children in this category had eight times the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD."

I say these "findings" are "not surprising" because, as I've been saying for many years, everything from a ADD (and even speech and language delays that eventually lead to further diagnoses) to full blown autism are probably caused by the same thing ? a genetic predisposition to harm and an exposure to one or more environmental insults. The only thing that varies is the severity and manifestation of harm.

Throw in societal "insults," e.g., over exposure to television, video games, computers (both in terms of content, format & presentation, and the devices themselves), and poor eating and nutrition, and you have a perfect recipe for brain and nervous system development problems.

I think it interesting that science can find links to ADHD and ASD etc., but they can't find "the cause." Why? Well, if you want my humble opinion, no one will ever find "the cause" because there probably is no single cause. The combination of factors ? exposure to environmental insults, the timing of that exposure, the extent of that exposure, the nutrition/eating habits of the mother and child (before, during and after pregnancy (if breast feeding), breast feeding habits, vaccination issues (timing, content, number), exposure to smoking, lead, mercury, airplane fuel, electromagnetic radiation, etc., childrearing practices, and media exposure. The list goes on and on.

Who could possibly device a test for all these things and the infinite combinations possible? And, note, the combinations are worse than the sum of the parts.

Worse, and I hate to say it, who really wants the truth? I mean, what happens if someone definitively proves that vaccines really do cause harm? Or overprescription of antibiotics? Or exposure to cell phones, microwaves, Wi-Fi? Or too many video games? Or that fast food, convenience foods, genetically engineered foods, baby formula, is actually harmful?

Can we, as a society, deal with the economic impact of such findings? Are you ready to give up your cell phone?

So, instead of pouring resources into the Sisyphean Task of finding "the cause," why not focus on prevention and treatment. Admit that there is potential danger out there. Take steps to minimize the risks these children face. And, figure out a way to reverse the damage.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Boston Marathon

I didn't think I'd run another marathon, but today starts my official training for the 2010 Boston Marathon.

Why am I doing this?

Partially because I can. What I mean is, I'm allowed to run the Boston Marathon. You see, you have to qualify for Boston, and somehow, I managed to do so this year when I ran the Long Island Marathon. (Why did I run a marathon in the first place? See my 6/23/09 post). It was gruelling, and I didn't think I'd ever want to run another one, but some things happened to change my mind.

First, a lot of real runners, when they heard I qualified for Boston, told me I HAD to go.

That, alone, wasn't enough to convince me.

I ran a couple of more races -- much shorter races -- and, I managed to take home a second place and third place medal. Yeah for me!

Not bad for an old man. I'm actually having more success running now than when I ran track in high school. . . .

Then I read a couple of books -- Chi Running by Danny and Katherine Dreyer, and Run Fast by Hal Higdon. I realized that I had been severely over-training. Me, over-training, imagine that . . . .

Anyway, I got a hold of a Hal Higdon marathon running plan (Advanced version -- why completely stop torturing myself?). Liked what I saw. Tried it out. And, you know what? Not so bad.

I also, somehow, managed to forget the pain of training for, and running, the Long Island Marathon.

But most importantly, I still feel like I have something to prove to myself. I really want to do this.

So, here we go again. One workout down -- 89 to go.


How do you motivate a child that refuses to be motivated?

What is wrong with my daughter?

I work with all sorts of kids whose parents tell me that their kids will never do that which I ask, and yet, time and again, we get them to work. And work hard.

Why can't I do that with my own kids?

When Robert was young, it was tough to get him to listen, but he had an excuse or two. So did Tina and I. Much of Robert's issues was simply beyond anything Tina and I could handle.

When things got better for Robert, it was still tough to get him to do everything we asked, but at least he tried. While he never really pushed hard to excel in school (Whenever I told him he had to study more, he would tell me he did study. I said there's a difference between studying and studying more.), he did manage to get by and do reasonably well.

We weren't that worried about him, though. When he was interested in something, he worked hard at it and did well. We saw him do that with fencing, and guitar, and bass, and his band, and his artwork.

He even got into his first choice college.

Enter my daughter, Katherine, now a senior in high school.

What can I say about Kat? She's a beautiful, talented, gifted, carefree, underachieving, social butterfly. Unfortunately, she is the daughter of two average, overachieving, high strung perfection seeking homebodies.

She's gifted in math. She's got a great eye with the camera. She has a beautiful voice and took to piano and violin with surprising ease. She's strong and coordinated. And, she can bake (best chocolate chip cookies I ever had!)

Does she do any of these things? No.

Is she excelling in school? No. Most mornings, I have to threaten her with grounding just to get her to class on time.

Also, one more call from a teacher or one more progress report about missing assignments or homework, and she's really in for it.

Is she looking for a college? If she is, she's doing it very secretly.

How does she spend her time? Hanging with her friends, Dunkin Donuts, cell phone, TV and an Ipod.

We talk, we urge, we argue, we yell. She tells us that "it's just the way she is." School's not that important to her. She doesn't understand why we're so upset.

She's killing us.

But, maybe she has a point.

She is having fun, and she does seem happy, and man, does she have a lot of friends. In fact, she brings all her friends together. She's their focal point.

She looks at us, and sees the stress. Raising three kids, keeping the house together, both of us working, Tina with two jobs, me hustling to keep the business going. We hardly ever go out. Always fixing, always cleaning. Kat tells us we should go do something "romantic" (usually when we're telling her to do some chores).

I'm not complaining. I think I have a great life, and God knows I've been blessed, but sometimes I wish I could just turn off my mind sometimes. I'm always worried about what needs to be done. I always have two or three lists going. Nothing I undertake is ever just "good enough."

Maybe Kat has a point.

I was pretty miserable in high school. All honors, AP classes, and sports. I went to practice right after school, and then to the library for a couple of hours. Dinner, a little more work, and then bed.

I did graduate as the class Valedictorian. Not that it got me much of anything, but I'm sure it helped with my college applications.

And, I did well in college. Worked all the time because I was convinced I got in by accident. I was miserable for two years, but I did maintain a 4.0 for my first three semesters at Brown. . .

I had a disastrous end to my second year -- lots of personal issues, and an absolutely killer final exam schedule, and I lost the 4.0. But, it made me think. Maybe I was working too hard. Maybe I should take it easy and enjoy the college experience more.

I did. My grades went down a bit (I still managed to graduate magna cum laude), but I had a lot more fun. And friends, too!

Maybe Kat has a point.

I'm worried for her in a way. I want her to do well. I want her to go to college and enjoy it. I want her to do well in life.

But, in another way, I am supremely confident in her. She is simply too bright and too strong to let life pass her by.

I know one day she will find her passion. I would love to be there when it happens.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another Long Delayed Post -- and a promise . . .

Well, it's been a while since I blogged about anything. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I'm not sure that anyone is actually reading these things. Yes, I know that at least one person out there is following this blog, and whoever you are, a sincere "THANK YOU!"

But, much to my chagrin, I learned that even my dear wife, Tina, doesn't read my blog.

We were watching "Julie & Julia" (or is it "Julia & Julie"?) last night, and she turns to me and says, "you should blog for your business." To which I replied tersely, "I do."

"Oh," she said, "how do I find it?"

Ah, it's nice to know she cares.

Second, I feel like I must sound like a broken record. "Vaccines are bad." "The pharmaceutical companies are bad." "Meds are bad." "Nutrition is good." "Exercise is good." Blah, blah, blah.

Doesn't everybody know this already? And, if you don't, why would you listen to me?

Finally, this is all a bit discouraging. I LOVE my job. I love working with the kids. I love the creative process of designing and refining programs. I love writing. I love learning about this stuff. I love my staff, and the families with whom I work. I love seeing the progress my kids make.

Tina and I saved our son, Robert. I wrote a book about it. It is a good book that was almost published -- twice. But, both deals never fully materialized.

I wrote children's stories. I almost had a top-notch New York Agent represent me. But, that fell through, too.

I have a tremendous program that works. My kids get better!!

I thought that if I built a better mouse trap, the world would beat a path to my door.

I did. The world didn't.

I have discovered an ugly truth about business. It's not what you sell, it's how you sell it.

Ridiculous products, marketed correctly, sell. Pet rocks? Ginsu knives that can cut a can? Snuggies -- you know, the robe you put on backwards?

But, even the best products, marketed poorly, fail. Beta Max anyone?

Unfortunately, I am not a good salesman. I know this. I am an educator. Tina says I'm an advocate. I know my stuff. I am honest. I don't promise people miracles -- although sometimes miracles do happen . . .

That brings us to today. I've got a great program, but not nearly enough students. I like to write, but I've got no publisher. I've got things to say, but no one to say them to. I want to learn more, but who will teach me?

I am truly not sure what to do. But as Willie Mays said, no matter how good or bad things are, you just gotta keep on swinging.

So, I'll keep going.

And, I promise to start blogging regularly. At least once a week, even if I've got nothing to say.

Let's see where this leads . . .

PS For those interested in some good stuff on healthly living, nutrition, and natural medicine, check out Dr. Mercola's site www.

Till next time, be well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Should Kids Take Vitamins? A Response.

Came across a simply awful article in the July issue of Queens Family Magazine by Laura J. Varoscak entitled “Healthy Kids Take Vitamins – but should they?” Just from the title of the article, you know where this one is heading.

Let me highlight some of my favorite points made by the author:

-- Children whose diet consists of “fistfuls of Cheerios or Mac-n-Cheese” apparently are adequately nourished.

-- The “vitamin industry” (i) disseminates false information regarding nutrition; (ii) plays upon parents’ fears by “target[ing] worried parents looking for a magic pill;” and (iii) “succeed[s] in luring innocent parents to buy their fraudulent cure-alls by bombarding them with medical terms that cannot be supported by scientific evidence or undocumented ‘success stories.’”

-- Parents with concerns about “deficiencies” should “always consult” a pediatrician who can “screen individual children and determine whether . . . supplements are needed and in what dosage.”

-- Vitamins can be harmful, and should a pediatrician recommend a vitamin, parents must be careful because “[u]nlike medications, dietary supplements are not held to any set of federal standards.”

-- “Replacing a proven effective drug like Ritalin with a ‘natural’ dietary supplement may cause more damage than good.”

-- The best source of nutrition for “healthy” children is the Food Guide Pyramid.

-- “No research exists which proves supplements can lead to improved health.”

-- “Dr. William Sears, a pediatric practitioner for over 30 years, recommends a multivitamin containing the following ingredients: omega-3 fats, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins C and E.” Emphasis added.

-- “While it is true that vitamins and minerals are essential . . . a diet consisting of a variety of wholesome foods, not pills, is the safest and most effective way to maintain good health.”

Let’s just start with the most obvious two problems of this article:

First, what do you mean by “healthy”? If healthy is defined as “not nutritionally deficient in any way,” then, duh, of course you don’t need any vitamins. You don’t give cough syrup to a kid who doesn’t have a cough (oh, wait a minute, you don’t give cough syrup to kids anymore . . . but, more on this later).

More importantly, how many kids really are “nutritionally” sound? Certainly not one whose diet consists of “fistfuls of Cheerios or Mac-n-Cheese.”

Second, how can we be told that kids don’t need vitamins and that vitamins may be harmful, and then be told, in almost the same breath, that the experienced and oft-quoted pediatrician Dr. William Sears recommends a vitamin?

But, there are more problems with this article, and I must guess that they stem from a prejudice in favor of the medical/pharmaceutical industries. Let’s go point by point.

It is not doubt true that certain producers/sellers of vitamins are less than truthful in their claims, and that some will try to sell their products by making concerned parents feel that their products are needed. But, is that any reason not to trust every single vitamin maker out there and disregard vitamins all together?

I mean, how is this any different from any other product being sold on the market today? EVEN FOOD itself!

Are not the people who make diet food playing upon the fears and insecurities of those who feel fat (whether these people are “fat” is also subject to question – who decides and how – the fashion industry? the athletic clubs? Weight Watchers?)

Do you need a cigarette to be cool?

Do Nike sneakers make you faster, jump higher or “just like Mike?”

Also, if you really want to get into this, is anyone worse at playing upon your fears, pushing “magic pills” and “bombarding [us] with medical terms” than the pharmaceutical industry??

Legs shake at night? You have Restless Leg Syndrome or “RLS” – talk to your doctor about this pill. High cholesterol? Talk to your doctor about this pill. Sexual Dysfunction? Depression? Allergies? Attention problems? Talk to your doctor about this pill, that pill and the other.

Funny, how except in the most fleeting, dismissive way possible (if at all), do the ads for these drugs suggest exercise, better diet, or lifestyle changes.

And, for every one vitamin ad, how many more pharmaceutical television commercials, radio commercials, full page magazine and newspaper ads, promotional mailings, press releases and DVD’s sent right to your door are we hit with? Who's bombarding whom here?

And who gets the government to mandate taking their products??

I’ll bet the “vitamin industry” only wishes it had the financial and political power wielded by the pharmaceutical giants.

Speaking of the pharmaceutical giants, exactly how safe are the products they sell – you, know, the ones that have gotten government approval?

While it is true that overdoses of certain vitamins can be harmful (another duh moment – by definition, isn’t that why it’s called an “overdose”?), the fact is that the same can be said of nearly every single prescription and over the counter drug out there. Hell, you can even overdose on food and drink!

Moreover, if the author was attempting to somehow equate the safety of vitamins and supplements with medications like Ritalin, you’ve just got to be kidding. Even taken properly, under a doctor’s supervision, these unbelievable powerful, psychotropic drugs are dangerous. And, they all have side-effects. See the previous posts about the dangers of these medications.

I gotta be honest with you. I’ve never heard of anyone suffering from taking a multivitamin. I can't say the same about Ritalin.

Government approval does not make a drug safe nor prove its efficacy. Let’s see. DES was approved for pregnant women, but it caused cervical cancer. There was a vaccine for Swine Flu back in the mid- 1970's, but that caused a nerve disorder and killed more people than the Swine Flu itself. Vioxx was approved, but it’s off the market now. Seems it killed some people. Adderall XR was pulled from the market in Canada for a while because of health concerns. You can’t give your kids cough medicine anymore because it’s too dangerous.

Do I really need to continue?

And speaking of Adderall and Ritalin, believe it or not, there are effective, alternative treatments for attention issues. Do they work with every child diagnosed with ADD? No, but then neither does Ritalin. So, exactly how can trying a “'natural’ dietary supplement … cause more damage than good” especially when studies have shown that supplements can improve your health?

A few examples:
Children who received fatty acid supplementation demonstrated “significant improvements . . . in reading, spelling, and behavior” (“The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Dietary Supplementation With Fatty Acids in Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder,” Pediatrics, Vol. 115, No. 5, May 2005);
Children diagnosed with ADHD show a “significant decrease of hyperactivity” when receiving magnesium supplementation (“The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with ADHD”);
Supplementation with probiotics is a “safe effective way to reduce fever, rhinorrhea, and cough incidence and duration and antibiotic prescription incidence as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness for children 3 to 5 years of age (“Probiotic Effects on Cold and Influenza-Like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children,” Pediatrics, Vol. 124, No. 2, August 2009).

Next, your child's pediatrician should know about any supplements you want to give your child. You don't want to run into any issues regarding allergies/adverse reactions, drug prescriptions and/or problems with any other medical actions the doctor might recommend. However, what makes doctors the “go-to-experts” with respect to nutrition and supplementation? I'll tell you right now, a nutritionist knows far more about diet and supplements than most doctors. While there are some exceptions, the fact is that doctors simply are not traditionally trained in this area.

Last but not least, the bit about healthy eating. Yes, I agree that in a perfect world, we all should get our vitamins and minerals from eating a variety of wholesome foods, not pills. However, eating most of the food now produced and sold in the market, and worse still, using the Food Guide Pyramid as your guide, is simply not going to supply your body with what it truly needs.

First, read “In Defense of Food,” by Michael Pollan. You'll discover that as a result of the way food is grown, processed, and shipped, the food we eat is severely deficient in the vitamins, minerals and essential fats that we need.

Moreover, take a glance at “Food Politics,” by Marian Nestle, and you'll learn what an absolute joke the Food Guide Pyramid is -- unless of course, you think lobbyists and politicians fearful of losing their office should be telling you what you should eat.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The True "Effectiveness" of Medications

Just a note about the supposed "effectiveness" of the psychotropic drugs used to treat issues like ADD or ADHD.

It has been my experience that the vast majority of parents with whom I have had the privilege or working and who have tried medications on their children, have found that such medications do not work as they had hoped. I would guess that less than 10% feel the meds do (or did) that which they were supposed to do. Moreover, nearly 100% of those parents informed me that their children had experienced some sort of negative side-effect from those meds.

Now, don't get me wrong. In talking to these parents, it was clear that the meds had some sort of noticeable effect almost all the time; the question was whether the effect was that for which the parents had hoped.

I always had found this curious since every doctor that prescribed such medications (including the ones that treated my son, Robert) stated in no uncertain terms that such meds were "highly" effective, "perfectly" safe, and that side-effects were "rare." (From previous posts, I think you already know what I think about the "perfectly" safe claim....)

I chalked up the numbers I heard to what I supposed were the more "unique" experiences of the parents that sought my services.

However, in a completely unscientific manner, I put my experience, assumptions, and the doctors' statements to a test.

During a SEPTA presentation, I asked the parents how many of them had tried meds on their kids. 17 couples raised their hands. I then asked how many of those 17 experienced no side-effects. Not a single hand went up. 100% of those parents' children had some sort of side-effect from the meds.

Then I asked how many parents were satisfied with the effects of the meds -- not whether they were happy that their kids were on meds -- but, whether they thought the meds did what the meds were supposed to do. Four hands went up.

Four. Four out of 17, less than 24%.

I repeated this experiment at another meeting, except this time the audience was decidedly in favor of the traditional, medical approach to the treatment of attention and behavior issues. Needless to say, my talk about sensory integration, nutrition and cognitive work was not particularly well received. In fact, after explaining the wonderful success we had with a non-medication based approach for Robert, one parent (whose job it seemed was to question every single statement I made that night) looked at me, shook her head, and said with a clear note of disdain, "well, that might have worked for your child."

Despite the obvious bias, I asked my meds questions. And, here's what I found:
100% of the children whose parents tried meds experienced some sort of side-effect.

Less than 50% of those parents thought the meds were truly effective.

So, if we take the numbers so far: less than 10%, less than 24%, even less than 50%, are psychotropic meds really "very effective"?

But, wait, there's more.

Lauren Slater, psychologist and author of Opening Skinner's Box, writes about an individual suffering from OCD who did not respond to any of the psychotropic drugs prescribed for him. "[B]ut," she notes, "he's not among the minority in his lack of response, despite what the industry would lead us to think."

"The statistics drug companies and many psychopharmacologists like to quote are that seventy percent of people who try medication will get better, and thirty percent won't.... If we look closer though, a diffent sort of story emerges. It's true that roughly seventy percent of people who take medication will respond, but in reality only thirty percent will respond robustly; the rest experience only minimum or moderate relief, and of the total patient population, some estimate that up to sixty percent will develop a drug tolerance that makes their mediciation eventually useless."

On the subject of side-effects, Slater writes that drugs cannot target with single- minded specificity -- even though we are told by the doctors that meds used to treat things such as ADHD target/affect only one or two very specific neurotransmitters (a strange boast, in any event, given the fact that there are tons of different neurotransmitters, and doctors will be the first to admit that no one really understands or knows how these medications really work!).

As Slater puts it, "Drugs are like oil spills; they leak everywhere...."

So, maybe, just maybe, my very unscientific surveys really do reflect reality. At a minimimum, I think it's fair to say that these psychotropic medications aren't nearly as effective or safe as we are led to believe.

By the way, I get way better results at my center -- just ask my parents. And, guess what? The only side-effects my kids suffer from are better health, stronger bodies, and new friends.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Bad News About Too Much Television

Just a quick post on a subject touched upon before in this Blog.

Get your kids away from the television! Yet another study shows that too much television interferes with your kids' development. Specifically, too much television interferes with language development -- even if your kids are watching DVDs that are supposed to enhance language and development.

HealthDay News reports that "[t]elevision reduces verbal interaction between parents and infants, which could delay children's language development, says a U.S. study that challenges claims that certain infant-targeted DVDs actually benefit youngsters." Check out:

The study appears in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unexplained Sudden Death and ADHD Meds

On June 15th, Good Morning America aired a piece regarding possible dangers associated with many of the drugs used in connection with ADHD. “ADHD Drugs Linked to Sudden Death” ( reports about a study that has found a link between children taking stimulant medication and sudden unexplained death.

Specifically, the piece notes:

"In the study of 564 children and teens who died suddenly, researchers led by Madelyn Gould of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University in New York City found that that those who died suddenly were 7.4 times more likely than not to have been taking the stimulant medications. The results of the study are reported online in The American Journal of Psychiatry."

This piece appears, in stark contrast, to a news report on ABC News that aired just about one year ago (June 13, 2008 to be exact ( that reported on the American Heart Association's recommendation that all children be screened for potential heart problems prior to the administration of these drugs, and the American Academy of Pediatrics' (“AAP”) disagreement with such a suggestion and denial of any possible link between these drugs and heart problems. In what I can only deem a pro-medication report, the anchor person states that the AAP is fearful that any such required screening might pose a “A barrier to [children] getting on these important medications.” (emphasis mine).

This was followed by a discussion with a doctor who stated that while, on the one hand, she always takes a full history prior to administration of these drugs, such testing is not always necessary.

Are you kidding? Once again, the ridiculousness of the medical world staggers the mind. Chances are, you're not going to get into a car accident when you drive. However, we all put on seat belts. Why? Just in case.

These are our children. If there any possibility that there is some connection between these drugs and death (and now we know there is – correction, now it has been confirmed that there is), why wouldn't you run a few tests first?

Why? Because the anchor hit it right on the nose. You might be justifiably scared of these drugs, decide not to give them to your kids, and then the how would the pharmaceutical companies survive?

Unfortunately, none of this should come as a surprise. Problems, side-effects and dangers associated with these medications is nothing new. See my February 7, 2009 Post.

Please, remember, there are alternatives.

Use of these medications should only be an absolute last resort.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Long Overdue Post

Well, the month of May has come and gone, and what a tough month it was.

Our family experienced injury and loss. We have done much in terms of healing. There is still much to do.

I've been meaning to blog for a while, but have not found the time nor, more importantly for someone like me, the inspiration.

This is a personal blog. If you're looking for something about medications and kids, skip down to the next post. A great story was aired on Good Morning America last week re: the dangers of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD.

This post is about running the Long Island Marathon. It was difficult, emotional, and as it turned out, a perfect reflection of my life.

I'm not sure why I'm writing about it. Who would be interested? I mean, don't most people just wonder why anyone would even want to run a Marathon? What kind of a nut am I?

But, it meant an awful lot to me. Probably far more than it should have, and that's why I'm writing. I often gain a better perspective on events once they're written down.

I've been running, on and off, for years, but never anything more than two or three miles, two to three times a week. That is, when the weather was nice, and I was feeling good. It was the convergence of two events that led to the marathon. First, I saw the movie “Run, Fat Boy, Run!” which climaxed with the main character, an out-of-shape guy who never, ever finished anything, completing a marathon on three weeks training and a sprained ankle just to prove a point to the woman he loved.

Second, a neighbor of mine started some serious running. She threw down the gauntlet when she said, “well, I see you running, and if an old guy like you can do it, so can I.” With that, we began a friendly game of oneupmanship.

I discovered, much to my surprise, that I was handling longer runs pretty easily (“longer” as in, six to eight miles), and a running friend of mine suggested we try a half-marathon together.

“What a great idea!” I thought. “And, while I'm at it, why not try a full marathon. I've got five months to train, and the Long Island Marathon is right in my backyard.”

Ah, Reflection: if I shoot at all, it's always for the stars.

As I trained, the Marathon took on more and more meaning for me. It was no longer just some run. I was putting more and more effort into the training – sacrificing days off, running in the snow and rain in the dead of winter (dreadful time to undertake this, which brings us to the next Reflection: I have really bad timing. We bought our house at the height of the market in the 1980's; we bought our tech stocks right before the bubble burst; we had Robert just when the spike in ASDs began; start a business as the recession hits; the list goes on and on.) I was getting on Tina's nerves as I began to devote more and more attention and energies to this.

Reflection: obsessing over a new project? Yeah, a little bit. It's all or nothing with me. Always has been, always will.

And, I began to need to prove something to myself. Life has been a bit rough lately – not bad in any way (God knows I am exceptionally thankful for everything in my life), but over the past several years, a lot of things have not really gone my way, despite my best efforts. I wanted to prove I could still be successful, to do something exceptionally challenging.

I thought the Marathon might be the key. It was challenging, and most importantly, its outcome was something over which I believed I had control. Or at least, the illusion of control. (We can never be fully in control of anything, can we?)

And you know what? It was really hard – much harder than I had anticipated. When I started to get into the real mileage (15+ mile runs), it wasn't at all easy, but I would get through this.

(I guess it's like a first-time pregnancy for women. Sounds like a wonderful thing to experience, but you really have no idea what you're in for.)

Then the inevitable happened. I raised the bar. I started to push myself harder and harder. There were no “easy” runs. I changed my diet, I became obsessed with the Weather Channel, I combed the Internet for training advice. And, I set myself a goal. Not only was I going to finish the Marathon, I was going to run it fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon – anything less, and I would be disappointed.

Ridiculous, I know, but – there it is again, Reflection – always with the highest expectations for myself. I can't seem to do “good enough.” Everything has to be done right. (And, maybe that explains why I often hesitate to take on a new challenge. I'll study it to death before I begin. Will I be able to do it as well as it should be done? I doubt my abilities and think about everything that could go wrong. . .)

Of course, in the days leading up to the race, I grew nervous. I should have trained more -- more miles, more days running. More practice races – longer runs. Reflection: I NEVER feel like I've done enough.

But, I simply could not allow myself to fail – again.

“Again.” When did I add that word to the sentence? Then I understood why this stupid run meant so much to me.

I was good through high school – all honors, class valedictorian. I got into my first choice college. But, then, things didn't quite go as well as I had hoped. Yes, I graduated magna cum laude, and the school was ranked number one in the country at the time, but, I didn't make any of the sports teams, and I dropped out of the honors' program. Success?

From there, I got into a prestigious law school, but not my number one choice. Success?

I got a job in Midtown Manhattan at a very good law firm, and while according to my reviews, I was a good lawyer, I discovered that I didn't love the job. And, when Robert started having problems, I put family before work, and my “career” suffered. I did not move up the ranks as others did, and soon was behind everyone in my starting class. Suffice it to say, I don't look back to my life as a lawyer as a “success.”

No wonder that when presented with the opportunity to change careers and engage in something that I found infinitely more interesting and rewarding (i.e., working with children like my son), I jumped at the opportunity. And, as always, threw myself 110% into the job. However, I worked for a boss who managed to run an effective, successful business into the ground. I lost money, and I lost time. I stuck it out for a long time – too long – waiting for it to turn around. It didn't.

I was severely disappointed. That venture was not a success.

I left and helped create a development and learning program that was even better. My new company got our program into three schools as a pilot with the promise of more funding and more schools to come. But despite great results, the funding never materialized (hell, the schools couldn't even afford to pay their own staff), and once again, circumstances seemed to conspire against me. That venture was not a success.

So, I decided to give it one last try. I would open my own center – I would do it right, do it my way.

My illusion of control.

Which brings us to today. Spark Development is in its fifth year – an accomplishment in and of itself. We have helped dozens of families, and they willingly and enthusiastically sing the praises of our program to anyone who will listen. Surely, that's the whole point of this venture – to help others who experienced the same problems, pain and obstacles that presented with children like my son.

The fact is, the program is better than ever. There has never been so much science supporting our approach. There have never been better, nor faster, results for our students.

And yet, I don't have multiple centers, Tina still needs to hold down a job at the hospital. Between the recession, the banks, and the issues many of my clientèle and would-be clientèle must face on a daily basis, this business is not making me financial secure.


And, so I heap even more significance on the outcome of the Marathon. How can my ability to run 26.2 miles have any bearing whatsoever on my sense of self-worth? I don't have an answer to that, but it did.

I ran the Marathon in 3 hours, 27 minutes, and qualified for the Boston Marathon by four minutes.

I did it. I did not fail.

And, in a moment of peace and insight, I realize that I am confusing my sense of satisfaction with an outcome with what it means to be “successful.” Hell, what is “success” anyway?

We have three healthy, beautiful, happy children. I love my family dearly, and we want for nothing. We have developed a business and a program that saved my son and dozens of other like him, I am passionate about what I do, and the business continues despite the worst of business-related circumstances.

So, maybe, just maybe, I have been “succeeding” all along.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Told you so . . .

Just a little follow up to the "Drugs for Everybody" post. In that post, we talked about an article entitled, Feed brain with pills, published in Newsday, where so-called experts stated that “’[w]e should welcome” the idea of allowing otherwise healthy people to take powerful, psychotropic, Class II narcotics in the hopes of “improving our brain function.” That sentiment appeared in an opinion article published in the journal Nature.

Now, in an article entitled "'Smart Drug' Might Be Addictive, Experts Say," also published in Newsday, it turns out that one of the drugs that the above-noted Nature opinion article was pushing - Provigil (also known by its generic name, Modafinil) - causes "changes in the brain's pleasure center, very much like potentially habit-forming classic stimulants."

The Newsday article goes on to state that "Modafinil once was thought to be safer than conventional stimulants because it was believed that it did not engage the brain's dopamine system, which is linked with addiction. Studies in mice and monkeys have suggested otherwise. The new study [in the Journal of the American Medical Association] is the first human evidence that a typical dose of modafinil affects dopamine as much as a dose of Ritalin, a controlled substance with clear potential for dependence."

"It would be wonderful if one could take a drug and be smarter, faster or have more energy," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who led the study with a team that included several members of Brookhaven National Laboratory. "We currently have nothing that has those benefits without side effects."

But, here's the best part . . .
"One author of [the Nature opinion letter], brain scientist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania, said the new study "goes to show that we need a little caution and a little humility when we're messing around with our brain chemistry."

Really?? Did you just think of that? For how many years have drugs like Ritalin been pushed on our kids, and it's just NOW that you experts think some "caution and humility" are in order?


Monday, March 16, 2009

Heal Thyself!

Came across two interesting articles about "natural cures". The first was a post about vitamin supplements that appear to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

"According to researchers, . . . it may be possible to create a pill that protects against noise-induced and even age-related hearing loss in humans."

My immediate thought was, "Uh-oh. A new med for 'NIHLD' ('noise-induced hearing loss disorder'(not a real disorder, I just made that up (or did I?))).

Cynicism (as one psychologist so eloquently put it, "the world is always warped by the lens we are looking through")? No, there was an earlier article that reported our auditory systems can actually adjust themselves to filter out damaging noises to which they are repeatedly exposed in order to prevent long-term damage. (This, by the way, offers fascinating support for auditory training programs like The Listening Program ()(Yeah, I know it's a plug, but it's a good plug)). Anyway, the article then went on to suggest that this finding would point to new treatments for hearing loss prevention. I expected to then read about auditory training programs, and the like, but no, the excitement was about using this research to create new "MEDICATIONS"!

But, much to my surprise, the "pill" the latest article was talking about was not medication related at all. It was about natural supplements!

"Two studies found that giving supplements containing antioxidants [beta carotene and vitamins C and E] and the mineral magnesium to test animals before they were exposed to a loud noise prevented both temporary and permanent hearing loss.

In the first study, vitamin supplements protected guinea pigs exposed to four hours of 110-decibel noise, similar to levels reached at a rock concert. In the second study, vitamin supplements prevented hearing loss in mice exposed to a single loud noise. . . . Previous research showed that antioxidants can also protect hearing days after exposure to loud noise.

What is appealing about this vitamin 'cocktail' is that previous studies in humans, including those demonstrating successful use of these supplements in protecting eye health, have shown that supplements of these particular vitamins are safe for long-term use,' according to University of Florida researcher Colleen Le Prell, senior author of the studies.


The second article appeared today in Newsday, and was about fighting (dare I say, "curing") peanut allergies. What was done? Under close medical supervision, incredibly minute amounts of peanut/peanut flour were given to allergic children over time [WARNING: DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME! There's no way to dice a peanut as small as the treatment doses required!]. Eventually, over several years, the children's bodies learned to tolerate peanuts.

So, basically the doctors helped these children's bodies to "heal themselves" without resort to medication.

This, by the way, is what much of the nutrition intervention practiced by our nutrition counselor, Tina Stevens, BS, MS clinical nutrition, is all about (yeah, yeah, another plug. Shoot me.)

Heal the gut, heal the immune system. Strengthen the body, and what was once troublesome may not present trouble anymore.

Of course, because doctors were involved, the peanut treatment gets a neat name: "oral immunotherapy".

I kid you not.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How NOT to diagnose ADD

Got a call from a mom the other day. Concerned that her son might have ADD, she brought him to the family pediatrician. However, the doctor said he could not diagnose ADD with certainty. Instead, Mom told me the doctor said, "he would prescribe the ADD medication, and if it worked [?], then they would know for sure her son had ADD."

My jaw dropped into my lap. This is so wrong, that in my humble opinion, it borders on malpractice.

First, how on Earth can you prescribe a powerful, psychotropic drug to a child without having at least a reasonable certainty that the child suffers from the disorder which that drug is supposed to treat? These are serious drugs with serious known side-effects we're talking about!

Imagine fearing you had cancer, and you seek a diagnosis from your doctor. Your doctor says he can't tell for sure whether you have cancer, but, he'll start you on chemotherapy. If it works -- whatever that means -- then you'll know you had cancer.

Sound right to you?

Second, using drugs to diagnose ADD was rejected as an approach over a decade ago! The fact of the matter is, when given in prescription appropriate doses, these drugs have the SAME effect on "normal" folks as they do on those with ADD. Thus, the drugs "work" no matter to whom they are given.

Finally, has this mom's doctor not read anything about these drugs being abused on college campuses by students seeking an edge? If these students are using these drugs to enhance their attention and studying skills, how can you possibly use them as a diagnostic tool?

When did the prescription of these drugs become so commonplace, so automatic, so nonchalant, that we forget that there are dangers attached to the practice? That it is not "normal" to need these drugs? That we are doing no more than putting these poor children into a drug-induced state?

Again, I understand the use of medications. When you've tried everything else, and nothing is working, and you are desperate for your child to have a happy, successful life. I get it. I've been there. I've done that.

But, it is a last resort! One taken after very careful consideration. You would think a doctor would know that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Do you think the pharmaceutical companies have something to do with it?

I came across an article entitled “Drugmakers draw criticism for pushing fibromyalgia” in Newsday, distributed by the Associated Press. While the article was about fibromyalgia, I couldn’t help but think otherwise.
WASHINGTON - Two drugmakers spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year to raise awareness of a murky illness, helping boost sales of pills recently approved as treatments and drowning out unresolved questions . . . . 

Key components of the industry-funded buzz over the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia are grants, more than $6 million donated by drugmakers Eli Lilly and Pfizer in the first three quarters of 2008, to nonprofit groups for medical conferences and educational campaigns, an Associated Press analysis found. 

 . . . Fibromyalgia draws skepticism for several reasons. The cause is unknown. There are no tests to confirm a diagnosis. Many patients also fit the criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome and other pain ailments. 

Experts don't doubt the patients are in pain. They differ on what to call it and how to treat it. 

Many doctors and patients say the drugmakers are educating the medical establishment about a misunderstood illness. But critics say the companies are hyping fibromyalgia along with their treatments, and that the grant-making is a textbook example of how drugmakers unduly influence doctors and patients. 

"I think the purpose of most pharmaceutical company efforts is to do a little disease-mongering and to have people use their drugs," said Dr. Frederick Wolfe.
Couldn’t you just sub in any number of so-called childhood psychiatric disorders wherever it says “fibromyalgia”? I mean, there is no denying that the pharmaceutical companies “spent hundreds of millions of dollars” to “raise awareness” of these disorders. Just look at their full page ads in magazines, full length, prime time commercials, and the videos, CDs and mailings that are sent directly to consumers about these “disorders.” Equally true is the fact that such direct to consumer advertising helps increase sales of the pharmaceutical companies’ products.
There is also no denying that drug companies have contributed lots of monies to “nonprofit groups” to “educate” people about these disorders. CHADD (a national nonprofit group that deals with attention deficit disorder) immediately comes to mind. That organization alone had has received hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars from the makers of Ritalin.
Similarly, the cause of childhood psychiatric disorders is unknown; there are no biological tests to confirm a diagnosis – only observation and questionnaires; many patients diagnosed with a particular disorder also fit the criteria for other disorders or other conditions. Experts don’t doubt that the patients are experiencing difficulties, but many experts disagree on what exactly is wrong and how best to treat it.
We are talking about a billion dollar industry, after all.
It just makes you wonder . . .

Monday, February 9, 2009

Drugs for Everyone

Okay, so now we’re going to start medicating “healthy” people because "’[t]his takes prevention to a whole new level, . . . appl[ying] to patients who we now wouldn't have any evidence to treat,’ said Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, a Detroit cardiologist and president of the American College of Cardiology.”

Yes, you read that correctly. In an article entitled Cholesterol drug Crestor cuts deaths, heart attacks in healthy people; could see wider use, by Marilynn Marchione, and reported in Newsday, it is suggested that we medicate otherwise healthy people with Crestor (manufactured by AstraZeneca) in order to prevent possible heart attacks when the risk for such attacks is nearly non-existent.

Of course, I’m all for taking care of people, and certainly do not want anyone to suffer from a heart attack, however . . .
“[S]ome doctors urged caution. Crestor gave clear benefit in the study, but so few heart attacks and deaths occurred among these low-risk people that treating everyone like them in the United States could cost up to $9 billion a year — ‘a difficult sell,’ one expert said. About 120 people would have to take Crestor for two years to prevent a single heart attack, stroke or death, said Stanford University cardiologist Dr. Mark Hlatky.” (Emphasis added.)

Also, consider that:
1. AstraZeneca paid for the study, and the study’s authors have consulted for the company and other statin makers.
2. More people in the Crestor group saw blood-sugar levels rise or were newly diagnosed with diabetes.
3. Crestor also has the highest rate among statins of a rare but serious muscle problem.

Where does something like this stop? Should we start giving Vioxx to healthy people to prevent arthritis? (Oh wait, Vioxx isn’t on the market anymore . . .) Or let’s give Diethylstilbestrol (DES) to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages and avoid other pregnancy problems. (Oh wait, doctors did that and it turned out to be a really, really bad idea . . .) I know, let’s all take Aricept to prevent Alzheimer’s. (what could possibly go wrong?)

Call me crazy, but wouldn’t eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising get the same, or even better, results at a cost substantially less than nine (9) billion dollars and without the dangerous side-effects?

But, it gets better.

In an article entitled, Feed brain with pills, published in Newsday, so-called experts stated that “’[w]e should welcome” the idea of allowing otherwise healthy people to take powerful, psychotropic, Class II narcotics in the hopes of “improving our brain function.” This sentiment appears in an opinion article published in the journal Nature (note the irony).

Perhaps even more disturbing is the comment that using such drugs is “no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night’s sleep.”

I kid you not!

OUTRAGEOUS. There is simply no other word for this.

When did exposing otherwise healthy people to dangerous, mind-altering drugs become “okay?” In fact, according to the "experts," it is not only “okay” but it should be equated to eating right, getting a good night’s sleep and, one must presume, exercising. Wow.

Let’s see. Eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising are healthy, free, non-addictive (although, sometimes exercising can be addicting – in a good way), and have no side-effects other than improving brain function, improving mood, slowing aging, preventing heart disease, fighting obesity and improving the immune system.

Drugs like Ritalin help people sustain attention. They also carry with them the risks of, among other things, heightened anxiety, radical mood swings, growth inhibition, sleep problems, addiction, strokes, sudden death, and possible chromosomal changes. On the other hand, prescribing these drugs for otherwise healthy people opens up a brand new, multi-billion dollar market for the pharmaceutical companies and most likely extra fees for the doctors who get to write so many more prescriptions for such medications.

Yeah, the two approaches can obviously be equated.

Note that two of the authors of the Nature article consult for pharmaceutical companies.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

On the subject of MEDICATIONS

I wrote this piece a little while back. While the information is a bit dated, based on my recent conversations with parents at the center, it is important information that is still applicable today. (Also, it serves as a good introduction for forthcoming blogs.)

Anyone who has had experience with any of the medications typically prescribed for ADD/ADHD is well aware of the fact that these medications have side-effects. In fact, at two separate SEPTA meetings at which I was fortunate enough to speak, ONE HUNDRED (100!) PERCENT of all parents whose children who had tried medications indicated that their child had some sort of side-effect.

So much for the “rare” occurrence of such issues.

Some of the more common side-effects are weight loss, sleep disturbance, tics, mood swings, and “rebound.”

However, far greater problems are being discovered in connection with the use of many of these drugs. Adderall XR, Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera and almost all antidepressants, drugs commonly prescribed for children and adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, have come under new fire. Researchers have warned that each of these drugs may carry additional, and very serious, side-effects ranging from depression and suicidal thoughts to stroke, cancer and death.

Adderall XR was pulled off the market in Canada after reports linked the use of the drug to a dozen strokes and twenty sudden deaths. Fourteen of the sudden deaths and two of the strokes were suffered by children.

Researchers at the University of Texas and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have found chromosome damage in twelve children that used Ritalin for three months. The chromosome damage was similar to that caused by known cancer-causing drugs.

After reviewing recent relevant studies and psychiatric reports, the Food and Drug Administration warns of suicidal thinking and behavior in children who have taken Strattera and antidepressants. The same concerns, as well as hallucinations and violent behavior, were expressed in connection with Concerta,

Similarly, after reviewing relevant scientific studies, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency concluded that there was “no solid evidence that the benefits outweigh the possible side effects” of antidepressant use by individuals under the age of 18. (American researchers were quick to fire back with a study of their own that concluded the risks associated with depression outweighed any potential harm caused by antidepressants.)

Also, on a personal note, I have to wonder just how “effective” these medications truly are. If one defines “effective” as having an effect, well, yeah, the meds are very effective. However, if one defines “effective” as having the expected and, more importantly, DESIRED, effect, then, I gotta tell you, I'm not so sure the meds are all they're cracked up to be.

Again, at the SEPTA meeting where I spoke, even though 100% of the parents noted side-effects, LESS THAN ONE IN THREE felt the meds were producing desirable results! (And, in general, I rarely meet any parent who doesn't complain about the meds – maybe it's the business I'm in.)

Maybe that's why there is so much experimenting with different meds and amounts and combinations on our kids. Maybe it's also why these “effective, safe and tested” meds are constantly being replaced by “new and improved” drugs developed to replace the old.

Now, I understand why parents resort to medication. We tried them, too. If there is nothing else, and your child is suffering, and the teachers and doctors are all telling you that this is the right thing to do, with all the requisite assurances, what choice do you feel you have?

Just know, that there are alternatives. Like anything else, there is a chance that these alternatives won't work completely, but hey, I can almost guarantee a better than one in three chance that they will – and all without side-effects!


The Associated Press

New York Times


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Don't Touch That Dial . . . Literally.

How sweet! Little Timmy is watching his favorite cartoons. My, but he is mesmerized. He hardly ever looks away from the set, and although I called him three times to dinner, he is glued to the TV, eyes wide open, mouth slightly agape, a small bit of drool creeping down his chin. . . .

There’s no getting around it. Televisions, computers, video games, and electronic devices of every make and kind are part of our lives. Knowledge of these devices, both in terms of operation and content, is almost mandatory if one wants to successfully interact and function in today’s world. But, everything in moderation! There are serious, documented problems experienced by those who overdo the electronic stuff. In fact, the American Academy of
Pediatrics (“AAP”) recommends that television (and similar activities) be avoided entirely by children under the age of two and that total television time for older children be limited to one to two hours per day. Citing to the fact that “research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers . . . for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills,” the AAP states that exposure of such young children to television should be avoided.

Increased daily television viewing has been associated with poor sleep habits, behavior problems, obesity, poor eating habits, decreased physical activity and fitness, and poor school performance.

Even more alarming is the link between aggressive behavior and a child’s exposure to violent television images. On average, a young viewer is exposed to more than 14,000 sexual references each year, and by the time a child has finished elementary school, he has seen approximately 8,000 murders!

Physically, television and computer over use can lead to dizziness, nausea, seizures, and negatively impact visual processing and cognitive development. Televisions and computer monitors are two dimensional, stationary devises that literally lock the eye in one place, do not offer the eyes different points of convergence, and cause tremendous eyestrain. In addition, television viewing and computer use takes time from other forms of play that develop a child’s three-dimensional skills, depth perception and focusing abilities. It can even distort eye growth and cause muscle and nerve injury.

Television/video/computers also may be responsible for “miswiring” the brain’s visual attention system. A baby’s eyes will instinctively lock onto the rapidly changing television images – images that change every five or six seconds. Known as the “orienting response,” it is a human’s natural and instinctive response to any sudden or novel stimulus. Thus, these ever changing images demand the child’s constant attention on a biological level. Even babies at six to eight weeks attend to television. If a child gets used to viewing an ever-changing panorama of images, when the child is not watching television, the child will start moving his head and eyes around in an attempt to recreate the flow of rapid-fire images!
Indeed, some experts believe television may even be addictive.

Perhaps this is why ADHD children can watch television for hours but not be able to maintain eye contact for ten seconds! A biologically based addiction, television may be wiring children’s brains to seek out ever changing images all the time. However, in real life, images don’t change that rapidly. But, if that is what the brain has come to demand, then the child will replicate the sensation by moving his head and eyes and attention constantly.

While there is no doubt that a discriminating viewer can find a great deal of educational content via television and computers, how much a child actually learns from educational television and educational software is debatable. Moreover, the instant gratification/blur of images makes it even more difficult to teach students using “old-fashioned” techniques like reading.

So, do your children a favor. Turn off the electronic devices, and re-introduce them to sunshine, exercise and a good book.

American Academy of Pediatrics, Media Education, Pediatrics, Vol. 104, No. 2 (Aug. 1999).

AAP Discourages Television for Very Young Children, Press Release (Aug. 2, 1999).

AAP Addresses TV Programming for Children Under Age 2, Press Release (Undated).

Beam, Cris, Babes in TV Land, american baby (Apr. 2000).

Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds and What We Can Do About It, by Jane Healy, Ph.D., Simon & Schuster (1998).

Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, Perennial (2002).

Kubey, Robert, Csikszentmihalyi, “Television Addiction is no mere metaphor,” Scientific American (Feb. 2002).

Owens, Judith MD, MPH, Maxim, Rolanda, MD, et al., Television-viewing Habits and Sleep Disturbance in School Children, Pediatrics, Vol. 104, No. 3 (Sept. 1999).

What’s Going on in there? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, by Dr. Lise Eliot, Ph.D., Bantam (1999).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Finnish Study Questions Long-Term Effectiveness of ADHD Medications

The article is a bit dated, but it’s a MUST READ! Written by Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times and printed in Newsday this past year, the title says it all:

“ADHD Studies Raise Questions On Drug Treatments”

In the article, Ms. Healy cites a series of studies following 457 Finnish children from birth to ages 16 to 18, noting that ”the studies raise provocative questions about the long-term effects of treating those symptoms with medication.”

The studies compared 188 Finnish teens considered to have "probable or definite ADHD" and 103 youths with conduct disorder - behavior that fell short of ADHD but put them at higher risk for similar problems – to a group of Finnish teens with no ADHD diagnosis.

Researchers found the following: “the can't-sit-still kids - the stereotype of the ‘ADHD generation’ - were most likely to mature out of the disease. Among those with persistent ADHD, . . . half have problems with cognitive skills that are key to success in adulthood, but half have no such deficits.”

But, here’s the amazing part:

The researchers found that

“By the time [the ADHD children reach] their late teens, those who receive drugs for attention problems seem to fare about the same as those who do not.”

This finding seems to lend support to the idea that some children do actually grow out of ADHD. See “ADHD Kids Can Get Better,” Krista Mahr,

So, as one of the authors of the study eloquently put it, "This begs the question: Are current treatments really leading to improved outcome over time?"

And, finally, UCLA neuroscientist Robert Bilder said the studies suggest ADHD might best be treated by “shoring up weaknesses in underlying cognitive skills.”

For more about the long-term problems of using drugs to treat ADHD, check out "Talking Back To Ritalin," by Dr. Peter Breggin. For a wonderful discussion of non-medication, neurological approaches to treating attention and learning issues, see "The Mislabeled Child," by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide. In fact, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide describe in great detail, many of the theories and approached utilized at Spark Development!

Neither Dr. Bilder nor Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide received any remuneration from Spark Development.