Tag Archives: aap

More sleep leads to better academic success, says the AAP

In a technical report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last month, chronic sleep loss among middle and high school students was cited as a “serious threat to academic success.” There are many contributing factors to a generation of sleepyheads—among them increased caffeine consumption and the use of electronic devices, whose low-intensity light can disrupt circadian rhythms and suppress melatonin production. The AAP study outlines that one key contributor could be best manipulated to help alleviate this problem: later school start times.

Beside extending sleep duration, this delay would have significant positive effects on self-reported sleepiness and academic achievement, says the Academy. But according to a U.S. Department of Education 2011-12 survey, of the 18,000 high schools in America, less than 15% start at 8:30 a.m. or later, and more than 40% start before 8 a.m.

Dr. Bob Weintraub, headmaster of Brookline High School in Massachusetts from 1992 to 2011 and now professor of educational leadership at Boston University, says that during his tenure the high school moved start times for most students to 8:30 a.m. But he also points out that these shifts raise concerns like how to have maximum participation in after-school activities like athletics, drama, and music when later start times means later end times (which means in the dark during winter months in the Northeast).

Despite these challenges, the AAP argues that communities nationwide have been creative in coming up with solutions to this challenge, including providing free periods and study halls at the end of the day, exempting student athletes from PE, and installing lights for athletic fields.

In sum, the Academy “strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students and urges high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the opportunity to achieve optimal levels of sleep and to improve physical and mental health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life.”

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Words Will Never Hurt Me?

The old playground rhyme got it wrong. Although sticks and stones do break bones, words can have devastating consequences as well. And when those words come from a child’s parent or caregiver, the repercussions for the child’s psychological and emotional health can be long lasting.

A recent clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (Pediatrics, July 20, 2012) describes the behaviors of emotionally abusive parents/caregivers and outlines the risks to children who are subjected to this abuse. Lead author Roberta Hibbard, MD, director of child protection programs at Indiana University and Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, asserts that the emotional maltreatment of children deserves the same level of attention that physical and sexual abuse is given.

Hibbard and her coauthors describe the different forms that psychological abuse of children can take, including:

  • spurning, that is, belittling or ridiculing the child in public;
  • terrorizing, or exposing the child to dangerous or chaotic situations;
  • isolating, or shutting the child out of interactions or relationships;
  • exploiting or corrupting the child; and
  • neglecting the child’s health or education.

According to the report, emotional abuse by a parent/caregiver may be verbal or nonverbal, active or passive, and with or without intent to harm. But regardless of the form or intent, these behaviors are harmful to a child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and even physical development. “Psychological maltreatment has been linked with disorders of attachment, developmental and educational problems, socialization problems, disruptive behavior, and later psychopathology,” says Hibbard.

In her July 30 article, “Childhood Mental Abuse Under the Radar?,” MedPage Today staff writer Nancy Walsh summarizes the AAP report and describes some of the challenges for mental health care providers in identifying and treating emotional abuse. “Although it can be difficult to determine the actual prevalence of psychological and emotional maltreatment of children, an estimated 4% of men reported having experienced some form of this abuse as children, as did 8% to 9% of women,” says Walsh. “The problem most often is found in families with high levels of conflict, and where substance abuse, violence, and parental mental health difficulties such as depression exist.”

Support for parents and early intervention may be the key to reducing these numbers, according to the AAP report. “Prevention before occurrence will require both the use of universal interventions aimed at promoting the type of parenting that is now recognized to be necessary for optimal child development, alongside the use of targeted interventions directed at improving parental sensitivity to a child’s cues during infancy and later parent-child interactions,” says Hibbard. “Intervention should, first and foremost, focus on a thorough assessment and ensuring the child’s safety. Potentially effective treatments include cognitive behavioral parenting programs and other psychotherapeutic interventions.”

What do you think? What can be done to increase awareness about the emotional maltreatment of children and to support parents who may be at risk for these behaviors? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

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Education Unplugged?

Although touch-screen phones have only been in existence for about the past three years, and iPads only hit the market within the last two years, these digital tools have completely changed the way people look at the world – including how we learn.

According to new research, 40 percent of all 2 to 4-year-olds have used touch screen technology. About 10 percent of babies less than a year have used it as well. Many schools have introduced iPads in the classroom. At the Catherine Cook School in Chicago, they teach kids to write letters, identify shapes, and interact with each other using the tablet technology.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time for those in the 2 to 4-year-old bracket, the organization says that it can be enriching if there is interaction with an adult. Though proponents of technology in the classroom believe that access to these tools at younger ages may spur growth and development in children’s abilities to use and create technology, any real research on the topic is still years away – and by then, today’s technology will be obsolete.

However, there is a growing opposing school of thought, and it comes from a very interesting place – the heart of technology in the U.S. The Waldorf method, nearly a century old, uses a teaching philosophy that focuses on physical activity and learning through hands-on, creative tasks. Proponents believe that computers inhibit creative thinking, human interaction, and attention spans. Of the 160 Waldorf schools in the country, 40 of them are in California, many of those in tech-heavy Silicon Valley, where 75 percent of the students have parents with careers in high-tech fields (students include offspring of executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo, and more). Waldorf schools have no computers, frown upon home use of screen technology, and only begin to introduce the use of gadgets in the eighth grade. Instead of iPads, Waldorf schools employ blackboards, pencils, even encyclopedias.

Is learning through activity more effective than learning with technology? It’s hard to compare – as Waldorf schools are private schools, they do not administer standardized tests. Furthermore, they admit that their youngest students may not perform well on such measures, as they do not cover a standardized curriculum. However, advocates will point to the schools’ effectiveness by showing that 94 percent of graduates from Waldorf high schools from 1994 to 2004 attended college, with 91 percent stating that they are active in lifelong education.

What is your take on technology in the classroom? Is it a distraction or is it the new way of learning?

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