Monday, December 12, 2011

Spark Halloween 2011

Another Smashing Halloween Party at Spark Development Centers!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Coffee and ADHD?

                        Did anyone catch Good Morning America today?  A mom, who suspects her son has ADHD (there’s been no formal diagnosis, but she stated that her son is very active and has trouble concentrating and finishing tasks. . . .) gives him two, four ounce cups of coffee, each day.  She says it calms him down and helps him to focus.
                        Well, according to GMA, this has the “Mommy Blogs buzzing” with many people questioning this mother’s actions.
                        Really??  You have got to be kidding me.  How can giving a child eight ounces of coffee a day (that’s just one cup) be controversial when giving a child a drug like Ritalin raises few, if any, concerns?
            Understand a couple of things.  First, Ritalin, and drugs like it such as Concerta and Adderall, are STIMULANTS designed to control impulsivity.  Thus, the caffeine in the coffee is most likely just acting in the same manner.  Indeed, the literature talks about many adults “self-medicating” with caffeine.
Second, and far more importantly, amphetamines like Ritalin, can have VERY serious side-effects.  Aside from the fact that Ritalin is in the same drug classification as cocaine (and, you can check this out), Ritalin, and drugs like it, have been associated with stroke, chromosome damage, and even death.  And, let’s not even mention the other psychotropic medications (including antidepressants) that often are prescribed for these kids.
New research points out the benefits of dietary changes and supplementation when it comes to treating disorders like ADHD.  Cut out the artificial sweeteners, the artificial colors, cut back on the sugar, and see what happens.  Look into supplementation, especially with essential fatty acids.  Talk to a nutritionist with experience in this field, and find out what a difference diet can make.  (Not the first time this was discussed:
Kudos to this mom for finding something far safer than heavily controlled, often abused, pharmaceutical concoctions to help her son.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Importance Of Nutrition

In updating the research for my book about our experiences with our son Robert, I came across a study that highlighted the importance of examining diet when it comes to addressing disorders such as ADHD.  A far cry from the “diet has absolutely nothing to do with Robert’s problem” proclamation by those doctors who treated Robert some fifteen years ago, it now seems that “nutritional management” is a CRUCIAL component of any treatment plan.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is multidetermined and complex, requiring a multifaceted treatment approach.  Nutritional management is one aspect that has been relatively neglected to date.  Nutritional factors such as food additives, refined sugars, food sensitivities/allergies, and fatty acid deficiencies have all been linked to ADHD.  There is increasing evidence that many children with behavioral problems are sensitive to one or more food components that can negatively impact their behavior.  Individual response is an important factor for determining the proper approach in treating children with ADHD.  In general, diet modification plays a major role in the management of ADHD and should be considered as part of the treatment protocol.

 Schnoll R, Burshteyn D, Cea-Aravena J, “Nutrition in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a neglected but important aspect.” Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2003 Mar;28(1):63-75.
                        Indeed, dietary factors including, but not limited to, (i) breastfeeding practices; (ii) the intake of processed foods, artificial dyes and sweeteners; (iii) food sensitivities and allergies; and (iv) essential fatty acid deficiencies all have been linked to the symptoms associated with, and/or the treatment of, disorders like ADHD.
                        If you’d like to learn more (and there is plenty more to learn), I invite you to visit or website (, contact our exceptionally knowledgeable nutritionist, Tina Stevens, for an appointment, or read my book (when I get it published . . .).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Autsim and the Environment

Coming on the heels of the Cold Spring Harbor research that supposedly indicted “bad” genes as the cause of autism, are two new studies published in the July 4th edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry that indicate environment plays the key role.  While a surprise to some scientists, it comes as no surprise to us.

In an article published in Newsday entitled “Environment May Be Especially Key to Autism: Study,” by Jenifer Goodwin, it is reported that:

[T]he . . .  environment -- and this could be in utero or in early life -- has to play a major role [in the incidence of autism].
According to [the researchers’] calculations, . . . genes account for 37 percent of the risk of "classic," or severe autism and 38 percent of the risk of milder autism spectrum disorders. By the same calculations, environmental factors would explain 55 percent of the risk of autism and 58 percent of the risk for an autism spectrum disorder, the Stanford team concluded.

And, what environmental factors could be at issue?  Well, the second study found a connection between the occurrence of autism and antidepressants taken by mothers during pregnancy:

            In another study also published in the online issue of the journal, researchers found a 
            two-fold risk of autism spectrum disorder among children whose mothers took 
            antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) during
            pregnancy, and that the risk was more than three times higher if the mothers took
            the drugs during early pregnancy, compared to children without the disorder.

            SSRIs include widely used antidepressants such as Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One in Thirty Eight

Anyone catch the article in Newsday today, “Study in South Korea finds higher rate of autism,” by The Associated Press Carla K. Johnson (AP Medical Writer) (  Seems that South Korea puts the autism rate at one (1) in thirty eight (38)!  Is autism truly that prevalent?  It seems like it sometimes . . .

Personally, I don’t know what to say about the study.  It was based on an extremely large survey (55,000 students), follow up and some testing, although there is speculation that the population that responded to the survey may have been disproportionately made up of parents with children with issues, and it was indicated that very few of the children actually went through an entire diagnostic procedure.  How accurate was the survey?  And, how can it be so very different from our own CDC’s estimate of one (1) in one hundred (100) (although, I have mentioned it before, that estimate is probably low).

But it makes you think.  How do we define “autism”?  How do we diagnose it?  How accurate can we possibly be when it comes to disorders that are so subjective in nature?

What’s really at issue, though, is once it is diagnosed, what do we do about it?

And, again, sorry to anyone following this blog.  I am still working on my book about my son, and how we helped him “recover” from ADHD, ODD, and PDD.  The first half is done – the part about our story (from a father’s perspective).  The second half, the one with all the relevant research about the methods we used, is taking a while.  Seems there’s a whole lot of stuff that supports what we did.  I’m still trying to glean through the best of it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't you love being right?

My friend (and a Spark Development supporter), Donna, sent me an email with this title a couple of days ago.  She was referring to an article that appeared in Newsday entitled "The dark side of brightly colored food" (at A34, March 29, 2011) (it appears on the web as: "Opinion: Danger of artificial food dyes" (

Written by a Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University (David W. Schab) and The Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (Michael F. Jacobson), the article makes some excellent, and disturbing, points about (i) artificial dyes and their PROVEN connection to attention and behavior issues; and (ii) the FDA's previous reluctance to admit any such link even though that link had been addressed in Europe some SEVEN years ago!

Specifically, the article notes that "According to a growing number of scientific studies, [artificial dyes] are causing behavioral problems and disrupting children's attention. . . .  In a significant turn from the agency's previous denials that dyes have any influence on children's behavior, an FDA staff report released last week concluded that synthetic food colorings do affect some children."  Emphasis added.

The sad part is, that nutritionists, like the one who helped my son, Robert, recover from ADHD and PDD, knew about this DECADES ago!  And if that wasn't enough, studies about artificial dyes and their effects on behavior have been coming out of Europe for the past several years.

In fact, the article notes, that "In 2004, one of us, David Schab, co-wrote an analysis of the best studies of food dyes' effects on behavior. That analysis found striking evidence that hyperactive children who consumed dyes became significantly more hyperactive than children who got a placebo.

At the same time, the British government funded two studies, each involving almost 300 children. Their results were even more startling: Artificial food dyes, in combination with a common preservative, could make even children with no known behavioral problems hyperactive and inattentive. Health officials in the United Kingdom urged manufacturers to stop using the six dyes -- including Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 -- involved in those studies. Next, the European Parliament required that foods containing those chemicals bear a label warning that the dyes 'may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.'"

No such research or warnings ever came from the good, old FDA.

Anyone get the feeling the FDA isn't really on our side?

Another interesting little tidbit in this article, and one that should really get you mad, is the fact that "[a]rtificial colorings are meant to manipulate consumers' perceptions. Manufacturers tout research showing that redness enhances the impression of sweetness, and that in tests with beverages and sherbets, color did more to influence consumers' perception of the flavor than the flavor itself."  Emphasis added.

Anyone feeling a little controlled by marketers?

Our diets really do impact the way we feel, the way we act, our attention, our behavior, and our ability to learn.  This simple FACT cannot be stressed enough.  Indeed, it's why nutrition counseling is a part of our program.

Remember, dietary issues usually fall into one of these categories:

--  Food Allergies or Sensitivities.  While some people may experience adverse physical reactions to foods such as itching, hives or swelling, other people may have adverse behavioral reactions to eating certain foods.  Thus, while there may be no physical manifestation of an issue, certain foods can, like the artificial dyes noted above, cause behavior problems including, but not limited to, hyperactivity and inattentiveness.  Other common culprits include artificial sweeteners, dairy products, and even wheat and corn.

--  Nutritional Deficiencies.  Given our love of processed and fast foods, is it any wonder that many children are deficient in nutrients essential to optimal development?  Probably at the top of the list are essential fatty acids.  Indeed, research has shown that the vast majority of children diagnosed with ADHD are deficient in essential fatty acids.

--  Injured/Impaired Gut.  I've written about this before.  Exposure to environmental insults, including the overuse of antibiotics, can impair a child's ability to properly digest food.  Thus, even if he or she is eating properly, his or her body simply cannot process the food correctly.  Or, in more severe cases, the child's gut may allow improperly digested substances to pass into their systems, or may even be producing toxins that affect behavior and development.

So, if your child is having these types of attention and behavior issues, take a good, hard look at what they are eating.  If you suspect an issue, I urge you to consult with a knowledgeable nutritionist immediately.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Just a Quick Update

Hi Everyone,

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  I know I haven't blogged in a while, and for those who follow, I do apologize.  I just tend to get drawn into one project at a time -- I admit, I'm not the world's best multi-tasker.

So, what have I been up to?  Well, several years ago, I wrote a book about our experiences with our son, Robert.  You know, the kid originally diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and PDD?  Well, I've dusted off the cobwebs, and in this age of digital self-publication, have been revising the text, getting feedback, editing, and in general, getting the book ready for the internet.

Perhaps some of you will even read it.  That would be cool.

Anyway, working on that has taken me away from this.  But, not for long.  There's some interesting stuff in the news, and I'm sure I'll blog about it here.

One last note:  Congratulations to my son, Robert.  He was just accepted into a very competitive design program at FIT -- only 50 spots open each year, and my Poppy got one!

That's my boy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eat Smart -- That Is, Eat To Be Smart

A new study reports that what you eat affects your IQ.

"Startling," "new" research shows that if you eat junk food (i.e., high in fat and sugar, and processed foods) during the critical years of neurodevelopment (i.e., up to the age of three), your IQ will be lower.  Conversely, if you eat healthy food (fruits, vegetables, etc.) during this time period, your IQ will be higher. 

And it only took a team of researchers in the year 2011 to figure this out . . .

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Genetics vs. Environment

“Study: Spacing babies close may raise autism risk,” by  CARLA K. JOHNSON (AP Medical Writer) (Jan. 10, 2011):  

“Close birth spacing may put a second-born child at higher risk for autism, suggests a preliminary study based on more than a half-million California children.  Children born less than two years after their siblings were considerably more likely to have an autism diagnosis compared to those born after at least three years. The sooner the second child was conceived the greater the likelihood of that child later being diagnosed with autism. The effect was found for parents of all ages, decreasing the chance that it was older parents and not the birth spacing behind the higher risk.

‘That was pretty shocking to us, to be honest,’ said senior author Peter Bearman of Columbia University in New York. The researchers took into account other risk factors for autism and still saw the effect of birth spacing.

‘No matter what we did, whether we were looking at autism severity, looking at age, or looking at all the various dimensions we could think of, we couldn't get rid of this finding,’ Bearman said. Still, he said more studies are needed to confirm the birth spacing link.”

So, if birth spacing puts a child at “considerably more” risk of having ASD, and “no matter what [the researchers] did . . . [they] couldn’t get rid of this finding,” then how on earth can ASD be a purely genetic disorder that is inherited?  I mean, assuming the mother and the father of the second children in this study are the same, how can the genetics be any different?

Also, what about the “old days” before the ASD epidemic?  I know my Grandparents had six kids, and my wife’s grandparents had eleven (ow!), all pretty close together, and no ASD issues there . . .

Doesn’t this speak far more to our own frailty?  Do you think, maybe, we’ve weakened our bodies, weakened our immune systems, made ourselves more susceptible to injury from environmental factors through poor nutrition, over use of antibiotics, lack of exercise, etc., and now our children are paying the price?

Don’t write off Wakefield just yet . . .