PAR Author Ira L. Cohen Presents New Research at IMFAR

Ira L. Cohen and colleagues from the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities presented their research on video tracking as a valuable way to study autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at last month’s International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

Using EthoVision XT, a video tracking software that analyzes behavior, movement, and activity, the team examined correlations between data from various ASD rating scales (including the PDD Behavior Inventory™ [PDDBI™]), and information gathered through video tracking. Researchers studied 31 children between the ages of 2 and 14 in a large room with toys on the floor and on a table. Twenty-two of the children in the study were diagnosed with an ASD. The child’s parent was seated in the corner of the room during the free play time. Data was collected on mean distance from the parent, mean time spent in different zones in the room, path complexity, and other factors.

Researchers were able to draw correlations between the tracking data and the results on the rating scales, finding that the tracking data could be used as a predictor of the scores on the rating scales. Results from this study may be a basis for creating new objective methods of assessing children with ASD as well as measuring the results of intervention.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Stretching Your Way to Better Executive Function?

If you are looking to exercise both your body and your mind, then you may be interested in some new research conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Neha Gothe, a graduate student at Illinois who is now a professor of kinesiology at Wayne State University, led a research team to uncover data that shows a 20-minute session of hatha yoga significantly improved participants’ speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control. Participants showed significantly better results on these tests of retention of new information after a yoga session than after completing a moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.

Participants underwent a 20-minute progression of seated, standing, and supine yoga postures, concluding with a meditative posture and deep breathing. They also completed a 20-minute aerobic exercise where they walked or jogged on a treadmill for 20 minutes, with each subject maintaining 60 to 70 percent of her maximum heart rate throughout the workout. All subjects in the study were female undergraduates. No significant improvements in working memory or inhibitory control were found after the aerobic exercise.

Researchers believe that following a yoga practice, participants were better able to focus because the breathing and meditation exercises aim to calm the mind and body, possibly translating into better mental performance beyond the yoga practice. Furthermore, meditation and breathing exercises are known to reduce anxiety and stress, which may help improve scores on some cognitive tests.

The full study is available in the May issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Community PARtners: Creating Connections and Changing Lives

2013 has been a very busy year so far for PAR’s volunteer team!cp_02

PAR staff members and their families kicked off a chilly January with a children’s clothing drive for the Redland’s Christian Migrant Association, a group that serves migrant farm workers and their families here in Florida.

In February, PAR staff members helped organize the annual “Stars and Pars” golf tournament and auction to benefit The Children’s Home in Tampa. The Children’s Home provides a spectrum of social services for families in crisis including foster care, adoption, emergency shelters, child abuse prevention, and more.

What’s a corn-hole toss? Here at PAR, it’s an excuse to come together, test our pitching arms, laugh a lot—and raise funds to support Suncoast Hospice. A not-for-profit organization that serves local families, Suncoast Hospice helps those living with chronic and terminal illnesses, nearing the end of life, or experiencing grief. This year’s “toss,” held in February, helped raise funds—and awareness—for this vital community resource.

In March, several members of the PAR team gathered for a special breakfast in support of the PACE Center for at-risk girls. At the breakfast, recent PACE graduates described how their lives have been truly turned around by the caring, supportive environment at PACE. PAR is delighted to support this wonderful organization.

And let it be known throughout the kingdom (the animal kingdom, that is!) that the Tampa Bay Humane Society “Bark in the Park” trophy has been returned to its rightful place, here in the lobby at PAR! Once again this year, PAR claimed the title of top fundraising team at this annual Humane Society event.

Every April, a team from PAR dedicates one Saturday to Paint Your Heart Out, an organization that helps our elderly neighbors to maintain their homes with a fresh coat of paint. The PAR team takes things a step further, planting shrubs and doing some light landscaping chores to help spruce up the homes even more.

And while one part of the PAR team was painting houses…another team was heading out for the annual Walk for Autism Speaks! This year’s event was a huge success, raising thousands of dollars for autism research.

If you happened to drive past PAR headquarters in April, you would have been greeted by a gorgeous blue “pinwheel garden.” Each pinwheel in the garden represented a person who provided a voice and advocated for children who have been abused or neglected. PAR was proud to be a 2013 Hillsborough County Partner in Prevention during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Several staff members also volunteered this spring at the Dress for Success (DFS) annual sale. Dress for Success helps women who are re-entering the workforce by providing appropriate professional clothing. Later this summer, the PAR team will be heading up a clothing drive for DFS.

In May, PAR recognized Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day by co-sponsoring the “Breakfast of Champions” for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, a leading advocate for children and families in the Tampa area. On the national level, PAR partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on a virtual event for children’s mental health awareness; this year, the event focused on resiliency and social connectedness as important factors in children’s mental health.

Several members of the PAR team also attended and supported the Hillsborough Family Justice Center fundraising luncheon. The Family Justice Center provides hope and support to victims of domestic violence.

Throughout the year, a growing team of volunteers from PAR deliver Meals on Wheels (MOW) to some of our elderly, house-bound neighbors. For many MOW recipients, the smiling faces that accompany their lunch may be the only visitors they receive during the day, so we all try to spend a few minutes checking in with each our MOW friends.

Florida Blood Services continues to send the Bloodmobile to the PAR headquarters parking lot every eight weeks because they know that the PAR team is a regular source of “the good stuff” that saves lives every day. We are particularly proud of several staff members who were first-time donors in 2013!

These are just a few of the many Community Service projects that PAR is honored to support. For more information, photos, and a list of organizations and activities that PAR supports throughout the year, visit the Community PARtners page on the PAR Web site.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Forging a career path after college: The unique position of today’s young graduates

The class of 2013 doesn’t have it easy when it comes to finding a job. The recession has resulted in cut-backs, layoffs, and hiring freezes at many U.S. companies—and, although the recession has technically ended, recovery is slow. A recent Reuters article forecast a tough road for students hoping to join the workforce this summer: Employers will hire just 2.1% more new graduates this year than they did last year, and of 500 hiring managers surveyed by staffing firm Adecco, 58% said they won’t hire any new grads at all.

Meanwhile, it costs more than ever to get that degree: College costs have risen by 6-7% per year for the last few decades—twice the rate of inflation—and, according to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, more than 40% of 25-year-olds have student loan debt—in 2004, that rate was 25%.

“In addition to the substantial share who are officially unemployed, a large swath of these young, highly educated workers have either a job but cannot attain the hours they need or want a job but have given up looking for work,” said Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The numbers back her up: Among college graduates ages 21-24 who aren’t enrolled in grad school, the unemployment rate is 8.8% and the underemployed rate is a staggering 18.3%.

So what’s a bright, eager 22-year-old armed with a diploma to do? Be detailed, be prepared, and look into every option. Some people find that their chosen field, which may have had a decent hiring rate four years ago, has undergone a change in terms of worker saturation. Others may graduate not fully knowing how their degree will translate into the real world. Grads should think creatively about how the skills and knowledge gained during college—including things learned outside of class—could be applied to unexpected fields or careers.  (PAR’s Self-Directed Search family of career inventory tools, designed to match personality types with career fields, can help with this step.)

Resumes should include any experience that might apply to the position, including internships, leadership positions in clubs, and volunteer work. And that resume should be nearly flawless—43 percent of hiring managers surveyed by Adecco said resume spelling errors resulted in “automatic disqualification.” Most colleges have career centers staffed with people who will look over a resume and provide constructive feedback. Grads should prepare for interviews by researching the company exhaustively and knowing how they’ll respond to standard interview questions. Likewise, they should have some questions ready for the interviewer. “The worst thing you can do, if they ask you if you have any questions, is to say ‘no,’” said Vicki Hardin, associate director of Career Services at University of West Georgia.

And one more thing: Young grads should be realistic, both about the length of their job search and about the job they’ll end up with. Grads probably will not be hired by the first company they send their resume to, and they’re “not going to be making $100,000 on [their] first job. Any kind of experience is better than none,” said Hardin. Patience and a healthy dose of humility are required for this journey.

Did you have a hard time finding a job out of college? Or do you have children who will soon encounter this problem? How have you found jobs in the past? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

 

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponEmail this to someone