Thursday, December 30, 2010

Children with Diagnosed Reading Disabilities and ADHD Share Common Genetic Influences

Children who are having difficulties reading and focusing in school are commonly diagnosed with both Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a Reading Disorder (RD). Both disorders share many common traits and appear very similar when children are assessed. The reason for this correlation has remained unknown. However, a new study in the latest issue of Cortex, dedicated to "Developmental Dyslexia and Dysgraphia," has suggested that the disorders have common genetic influences. In addition, both disorders often lead to slow processing speed (i.e., the inability to complete tasks quickly).

The researchers in the study looked at 457 pairs of twins from the Colorado Learning Disabilities Research Center (CLDRC) twin study. The CLDRC twin study is an ongoing study of the causes of reading disabilities, ADHD, and other related disorders. Dr. Erik Willcutt and his colleagues compared groups of participants with and without RD and ADHD, using a variety of tests, including tests assessing cognitive ability, processing speed, reading, and language skills. The researchers then analyzed results from pairs of twins within those groups to determine the genetic causes, if any, of the correlations found. The use of identical twins, who share all of their genes, and non-identical twins, who share only half of their genes, allowed the researchers to distinguish between genetic and environmental influences on the participants' various abilities assessed.

The findings showed that both RD and ADHD are complex disorders, influenced by many factors. ADHD on its own was associated with a reduced ability to exhibit self-control. RDs were associated with various weaknesses in language and memory. however, both disorders were associated with a slow processing speed. the twin analyses further revealed a significant genetic correlation between RD and ADHD. The researchers suggest that processing speed my therefore be a useful marker to look for in future studies of the connection between the two disorder.

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Reading Disabilities and ADHD Share Common Genetic Influences

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Many parents often wonder if spanking is a good idea when discipling their children. It's definitely true that spanking typically yields the immediate results parents often want. However, many researchers suggest that spanking leads to aggressive behavior in children over the long run. In a recent study published in the journal, Pediatrics, researchers at Tulane University provide strong evidence that this may be true.

This study was one of the first to control for other factors that might lead to aggressive behavior in children, such as a mother's depression, alcohol and drug use, spousal abuse, and whether she considered abortion when she was pregnant with the child. After controlling for all these factors, spanking remained a strong predictor of violent behavior. The children who had been spanked were more likely to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, become frustrated easily, have temper tantrums, and lash out physically against other people or animals.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

As many people are aware, there has been a major increase in the incidence of Autism over the last twenty years. Many people have different opinions as to why this is (e.g., environment, vaccines, mother's age, better diagnostic practice, more awareness, etc.); however, there are still many children who have autistic traits that are never diagnosed clinically. Therefore, these children do not receive the support they need through educational or medical services. A recent study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that a large number of undiagnosed children displayed autistic traits (e.g., repetitive behaviors, impairments in social interaction, and difficulties with communication). These traits were at levels comparable to the traits displayed by children who held a clinical diagnosis (all diagnosed between 1 and 12 years old). However, the undiagnosed children were not eligible for extra support at school or by specialized medical services. The lead researcher of the study, Ginny Russell, indicated that a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) currently "holds the key to unlocking intervention from school systems and health programs. Perhaps these resources should be extended and available for children who show autistic impairments but remain undiagnosed." He also pointed out that the study shows that there is a gender bias in diagnosing children with ASD -- boys are more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls, even when they display similar symptoms.

Read the full story here:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A recent article, appearing in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that asthma severity is related to the development of separation anxiety symptoms in children. In addition, predictable family routines, such as family mealtimes, can help alleviate some of the anxiety symptoms in this group of children.

In this study, it was found that supportive family interactions during family mealtimes helps increase a child's sense of security, and therefore, eases separation anxiety symptoms. In addition, when children are less anxious, their lung function improves. It is important to realize that family members play an important role in helping children manage their asthma symptoms, and a supportive family environment, with predictable routines, helps put a child at ease. This is compared to a chaotic, unresponsive environment, which would promote worry and anxiety in children. Children thrive on regularity and predictability. The researchers also suggested that family mealtimes allow an opportunity for family members to discuss their child's current symptoms, remind their children to take their medications, ask about doctor's visits, and make sure they have a supply of emergency medication on hand at all times.

Friday, February 26, 2010

New study to be published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests maternal sensitivity, or defined as the combination of warmth, responsiveness to the child's needs, respect for his/her emerging independence, positive regard for the child, and the way a mother teaches her child in a sensitive way, may influence positive language development in autistic children. This research is important because it shows that early parenting can lead to resiliency in children with autism. In this study, maternal sensitivity influenced language development more so in the children with autism, than normal controls. One possible explanation is that children with autism may be more dependent on their environment to learn basic skills that seem to come easily and more naturally to other children. This illustrates the importance of early intervention, especially in children with developmental concerns, such as autism.

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Early Intervention and Autism

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New study, recently published in the February issue of the journal Autism Research suggests advanced maternal age is linked to a significantly elevated risk of having a child with autism. Researchers at the University of California - Davis investigated births in California during the 1990s and created one of the largest studies to quantify how each parent's age, separately and together, affects the risk of having a child with autism.

The study found that the risk of having a child with autism increased by nearly one fifth for every five-year increase in the mother's age. For example, a 40-year-old woman's risk of having a child later diagnosed with autism was 50 percent greater than that of a woman between 25 and 29 years old.

Previous research has shown contradictory results regarding whether it is the mother, the father or both who contribute most to the increased risk of autism. This study challenges a current theory in autism research that suggests only the father's age is a key factor in increasing the risk of having a child with autism. This study shows that maternal age may be more important.

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder of deficits in social skills and communication, as well as repetitive and restricted behaviors, with onset occurring prior to age 3. Abnormal brain development, probably beginning in the womb, is known to be fundamental to the behaviors that characterize autism. Current estimates place the incidence of autism at between 1 in 100 and 1 in 110 children in the United States.

More research is still needed to understand why older parents put their children at greater risk for autism and other adverse outcomes.

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Autism and Maternal Age

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recent research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that Autism Spectrum Disorders result from a mis-wiring of connections in the developing brain, leading to improper information flow. Specifically, the route between the eye's retina and the visual area of the brain might be deficient. Researchers at the Children's Hospital in Boston included patients in their study with a rare disorder known as Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). Autism Spectrum Disorders affect about 25 to 50 of TSC patients. The finding in this study might also explain why people with TSC have seizures and intellectual disabilities. TSC causes benign tumors throughout the body, including the brain. But patients with TSC may have autism, epilepsy or intellectual disabilities even in the absence of these growths. Now, researchers provide evidence that changes in one of the TSC's causative genes may prevent growing nerve fibers from finding their proper destinations in the developing brain. Researchers believe their findings may have general relevance for the organization of the developing brain. Scientists speculate that in autism, wiring may be abnormal in the areas of the brain involved in social cognition.

Read the full story here: