This weekend, PAR staff took part in Walk Now for Autism Speaks Tampa Bay. Funds raised from walks like these are earmarked for research into the cause, treatment, and possible cure for autism. In addition to walking as a team to raise community awareness for autism, we held a raffle and a silent auction the week before the walk to generate additional donations. In all, we are proud to have raised $4,015 for this great organization!

Want to get involved with Autism Speaks in your community? Here’s a list of other communities hosting local walks to raise awareness for autism.

 
We are used to thinking of alcohol dependence as black or white: Either someone is or isn’t an alcoholic. Dr. John Mariani, who researches substance abuse at Columbia University, says that the field of psychiatry now recognizes shades of gray between someone who doesn’t drink at all and someone who suffers from an alcohol addiction.

At least 38 million adults drink too much. Binge drinking, high weekly use, and any alcohol use by pregnant women or people under the age of 21 are included in this category. In the United States each year, about 88,000 deaths are alcohol related, and alcohol abuse costs the U.S. economy about $224 billion each year.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 90% of excessive drinkers were unlikely to need addiction treatment, and another revealed that only 1 in 6 adults talk with their doctor, nurse, or other health professional about their drinking. Among adults who binge drink 10 times or more a month, only 1 in 3 have discussed drinking. And only 17% of pregnant women have talked about drinking.

The CDC recommends that physicians and other health providers include basic alcohol screening and brief counseling as part of routine medical practice by:

  • talking directly with patients about how much and how often they drink;

  • providing information about the health dangers of drinking too much;

  • offering options for patients who may want to stop drinking, cut down, maintain their current level of drinking, or seek further help; and

  • referring patients who need specialized treatment for alcohol dependence.


Screening and brief counseling have been proven to work by reducing how much alcohol a person drinks on an occasion by 25% and by improving health and saving money in the same way that blood pressure screening, flu vaccines, and cholesterol or breast cancer screening do.

Drinker’s Checkup, an online confidential screening tool, is a good resource to share with clients; it provides detailed, objective feedback for people who aren’t sure whether their drinking is excessive and provides help with making a decision about whether to change drinking habits. An app called Moderate Drinking can be downloaded to help monitor drinking habits; its effectiveness has been demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
In the context of mental illness, the word “asylum” conjures, for many of us, some very negative images. We picture a scene with characters like the abusive Nurse Ratched from the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” or even worse, tragic true stories of the overcrowded, understaffed psychiatric hospitals of the last century where healthy, sick, disabled, and poor patients alike were locked away for years with no effective treatment or hope of release.

These images may be the reason that a JAMA viewpoint published last month has garnered so much attention: Bioethicists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are calling for a return to asylums for long-term psychiatric care.

At Penn, Dominic Sisti, PhD, Andrea Segal, MS, and Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, have been studying the current system for treating the chronically mentally ill and the evolution over the past half-century away from inpatient psychiatric hospitals. They observe that although the United States population has doubled since 1955, the number of inpatient psychiatric beds has been cut by nearly 95 percent to just 45,000—a very small number when compared to the 10 million U.S. residents who are currently coping with serious mental illness.

According to Sisti and his colleagues, the result of this trend has not be “de-institutionalization” but rather “trans-institutionalization.” That is, people with chronic mental illness are being treated in hospital emergency rooms and nursing homes at best, and more often receiving no treatment and living on the street. “Most disturbingly, U.S. jails and prisons have become the nation’s largest mental health care facilities,” say the authors, in a January 20 Penn Medicine press release. “Half of all inmates have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder; 15 percent of state inmates are diagnosed with a psychotic disorder…. This results in a vicious cycle whereby mentally ill patients move between crisis hospitalization, homelessness, and incarceration.”

As a solution, the authors propose a modern and humane asylum—but they use the word in its original sense, that is, a place of safety, sanctuary, and healing. In addition, they advocate reforms in the psychiatric services offered in such institutions, including both inpatient services, for those who are a danger to themselves and others, as well as outpatient care for those with milder forms of mental illness.

The proposal has been controversial, to say the least.  Some in the mental health community find the idea of a return to asylums misguided and even frightening. In her article called “Asylum or Warehouse?” author Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, asserts that although Sisti and his colleagues accurately describe the problems of the current mental health system, their solution is to “just simply lock some people up” and that “the simple solution offered, recreating asylums, is not helpful—it’s dangerous.”

Others have viewed the proposal in a more positive light. Christine Montross, a staff psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island and author of “Falling into the Fire: A Psychiatrist’s Encounters with the Mind in Crisis” wrote an op-ed piece in the February 18 New York Times in support of a move toward modern asylums.

“The goals of maximizing personal autonomy and civil liberties for the mentally ill are admirable,” says Montross. “But as a result, my patients with chronic psychotic illnesses cycle between emergency hospitalizations and inadequate outpatient care. They are treated by community mental health centers whose overburdened psychiatrists may see even the sickest patients for only 20 minutes every three months. Many patients struggle with homelessness. Many are incarcerated. A new model of long-term psychiatric institutionalization, as the Penn group suggests, would help them.”

What do you think? Are modern, reimagined asylums a potential solution for the chronically mentally ill, or has history proven that institutions cannot work? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 
The PARty Animals have a lot to bark about this year!

A group of animal-loving PAR employees, known as the PARty Animals, led the pack at this weekend’s Bark in the Park event, benefitting the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. As the top fundraising team this year, we will be proudly displaying the Bark in the Park trophy in the PAR lobby for another year.

Last year’s Bark in the Park event raised enough money to:

  • save 5,611 animals

  • transfer 2,765 animals from high euthanasia shelters

  • achieve a 96% save rate

  • treat 25,857 owned pets at the Animal Health Center

  • trap, neuter, and return 5,399 feral cats

  • perform 11,506 spay/neuter surgeries for the public

  • give 1,708 free pet vaccinations in disadvantaged neighborhoods

  • give 286,150 pounds of free pet food to the pets of disadvantaged and homebound citizens
 

We are so proud to be able to support such a wonderful cause. We can’t wait to see what this year brings for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.
This week’s blog was contributed by PAR Author Adele Eskeles Gottfried, PhD. Dr. Gottfried is the author of the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (CAIMI). The study she describes in this blog is part of a broader investigation in which she examines the importance of home environment and parental stimulation on the development of children’s academic intrinsic motivation.

In a longitudinal study spanning 28 years, new research just published in Parenting: Science and Practice examined the long-term effect of children’s home literacy environment during infancy and early childhood on their subsequent reading intrinsic motivation and reading achievement from childhood through adolescence and their educational attainment during adulthood. This type of motivation, which is the enjoyment or pleasure inherent in the activity of reading, is found to relate to various aspects of children’s literacy behaviors.

Literacy environment was assessed from infancy through preschool using the amount of time mothers read to their children and the number of books and reading materials in the home. Analyzing the data using a statistical model, the study examined literacy environment as it related to children’s reading intrinsic motivation (measured with the Reading scale of the CAIMI) and reading achievement across childhood through adolescence and their educational attainment during adulthood. Results demonstrated that it was the amount of time mothers spent reading to their children—not the number of books and reading materials in the home—that significantly related to reading intrinsic motivation, reading achievement, and educational attainment. Specifically, when mothers spent more time reading to their children across infancy through early childhood, their children’s reading intrinsic motivation and reading achievement were significantly higher across childhood through adolescence. In turn, higher reading intrinsic motivation and reading achievement were significantly related to educational attainment during adulthood. These findings were found regardless of mothers’ educational level.

The implications for practice are clear: Reading to children during infancy and early childhood has significant and positive long-term benefits, and this information must be disseminated. Mothers, fathers, and other caregivers need encouragement and support to read to infants and young children, and they need to know what a difference it will make to children’s intrinsic motivation to read and learn.
PAR is delighted to announce the publication of the new Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™) by renowned pediatric neuropsychology experts Elisabeth M. S. Sherman, PhD, and Brian L. Brooks, PhD.

The ChAMP is a research-based memory assessment specifically designed to be engaging and relevant to children, adolescents, and young adults ages 5 to 21 years. Covering verbal, visual, immediate, delayed, and total memory domains in a brief, easy-to-use format, the ChAMP takes about 35 minutes to administer—and its Screening Index takes only 10 minutes. With real-life scenarios and colorful stimuli that are appealing to young examinees, ChAMP subtests are focused on learning.  Intervention recommendations for both home and school are included. And especially important for very young examinees—or for those with motor impairments—the ChAMP does not require any motor responses.

On the technical side, the ChAMP allows for in-depth analysis and monitoring through discrepancy score analysis and reliable change scores; a base rate analysis of low scores, a strengths and weakness analysis, and a built-in validity indicator are also included. The ChAMP was standardized using a normative sample of more than 1,200 participants and validated on a large clinical sample including individuals with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, brain injury, and intellectual disability.

The ChAMP is an excellent value, with complete introductory kits available for just $385. To learn more or to place an order, visit www.parinc.com or give us a call at 1.800.331.8378. We’d love to hear from you!
In 1987, Ronald Reagan declared the month of March as National Disabilities Awareness Month. It serves as a formal time to recognize the efforts, struggles, and initiatives surrounding people with disabilities. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, thus officially giving legal rights to those with disabilities regarding workplace discrimination.

According to The Arc, whose mission is to protect the rights of human beings with intellectual and developmental disabilities, at least 4.6 million Americans have a disability. The Arc advocates in many ways for those with disabilities, including shaping public policy, providing services like employment programs and residential support, and preserving and protecting rights through education and activism.


Triangle is a nonprofit organization in Malden, Massachusetts, that “empowers people with disabilities to enjoy rich, fulfilling lives.” Together with the Accessible Icon Project, they are working to transform the original International Symbol of Access into something more visually representative of today’s individuals with disabilities. The new image conjures up words like “active, abled, engaged, ready for action, determined, and motivated…which helps provoke discussion on how we view disabilities and people with disabilities in our culture.” (Read more on the About section of the Accessible Icon Project Web site.)

Follow these suggestions or add your own to raise awareness for those with disabilities:

  • Make the Accessible Icon your profile picture on Facebook, and post a status on social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) like, “I support and celebrate people with disabilities, and you should too!”

  • Volunteer or donate to the cause in your area. Use the Network for Good as a starting place.

  • Contact your legislator to advocate for public policy to assist people with disabilities.

  • Support businesses that employ people with disabilities.

  • Take time to educate yourself and others about the needs of people with disabilities in your area.

  • Make sure that your own words and actions are respectful of those with disabilities.

  • Get involved in community-based activities that raise awareness in your school or business.


 
If you are ambitious in the workplace, new research suggests that you will more likely achieve your goals if you have a spouse who is also conscientious.

Several previous studies have examined how personality predicts workplace success. One such project, by Paul Sackett and Philip Walmsley and published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, used the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality traits— neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness—to examine which of these traits companies value most when hiring. Conscientiousness is at the top of most companies’ lists, but Sackett and Walmsley wanted to see whether this was really the best indicator of employees’ future success.

It turns out that it is. After examining the relationship between personality traits and three work performance criteria— whether an employee is able to complete their work to satisfaction, how often an employee goes above and beyond at work, and how often they engage in negative behaviors—conscientiousness topped the list of traits needed to accomplish these goals, with agreeableness being a close second.

Now a study out of Washington University in St. Louis reveals even more about how important conscientiousness may be to workplace success: you have an increased chance of achieving greater goals in your career if your spouse is also conscientious.

Brittany Solomon and Joshua Jackson examined more than 4,500 heterosexual married participants to measure the effect their spouse’s personality has on their own job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of being promoted. The researchers used the FFM personality traits as their guide.

Their work revealed that job satisfaction, pay increases, and promotions were all more likely for those people who had a spouse (male or female) with high scores on one particular personality trait: conscientiousness.

“Our findings indicate that highly conscientious partners help improve their spouses’ occupational success, as measured by job satisfaction, income, and promotion. This benefit does not arise from partners doing their spouses’ work; rather, it is due to partners creating conditions that allow their spouses to work effectively,” Solomon and Jackson reported.

A short video by TouchVision gives an entertaining explanation of their findings.

What personality traits do you think are most important in an employee?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But an image is not always a true representation of reality. From Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr to fashion magazines and reality shows, we are bombarded with images that have been created, filtered, manipulated, and staged. And it’s often very difficult to sift through what’s real and what’s not.

This is precisely why Dove began its Campaign for Real Beauty—to start a global discussion surrounding the definition of real beauty. It first conducted a study titled “The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report,” which revealed that less than 2% of women worldwide considered themselves beautiful. In a Dove Real Sketches video, participants were asked to describe themselves to an artist, who drew them behind a curtain, using only their descriptions of themselves as a guide. Then the same women returned to describe fellow participants. The difference between the two drawings was astonishing, and it revealed how hard we are on ourselves versus how others see us.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), 30 million people will be affected by an eating disorder during their lifetime. A full 69% of American school-age girls who read magazines say that the pictures they see influence how their concept of an ideal body shape. Boys are also affected, and largely because of cultural bias and stereotypes, they are much less likely to seek treatment. In addition, teen athletes are more at risk of developing an eating disorder or having a negative body image.

It is daunting to compete with society and media, so the NEDA has developed an Educator’s Toolkit to help those in schools reach out to students suffering from an eating disorder. It covers everything from myths surrounding these disorders (e.g., that eating disorders are a choice; p. 6) to school strategies for assisting these students (p. 11). NEDA also has a Feeding Hope Fund, which grants funding to researchers who are seeking out new ways to combat this illness.

Some of the most groundbreaking work has been done related to connecting genetics to eating disorders, according to Amy Novotny in an article published in the American Psychological Association publication the Monitor. One study by Kelly Klump in Psychological Medicine demonstrates that heritability influences disordered eating most when estrogen levels are highest, and another suggests that in some females, bulimia may be hard-wired.

Organizations like Project Heal are contributing to the healing process in a different way: the organization, started by two women who suffered from eating disorders, provides scholarship funding for those who can’t afford treatment. And still others are trying innovative interventions, including art therapy and yoga, which could encourage participants to view their bodies in a more compassionate way.

The NEDA Web site offers a plethora of resources, including a resource page with contact information and a helpline (1-800-931-2237) for those who may know someone who suffers from an eating disorder. Visit NEDA’s Get Involved page to learn more about how to raise awareness.
Are you attending the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) 2015 Annual Convention? Make sure you stop by the PAR booth (#500) to preview some of the products we will be introducing this year, including the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™). Take advantage of special preorder pricing on these products, plus our special NASP discount of 15% off and free shipping on all orders placed at the convention!

Also, we will be demonstrating some of our newest tools to help school psychologists, like our interactive Training Portal, our newly updated PAR Toolkit app, and PARiConnect.

Three PAR authors will be presenting at NASP 2015, as well. Check your program to verify times and confirm locations:

  • On Wednesday, February 18, from 3:00 to 4:50 p.m. ET, Cecil Reynolds, PhD, will present, “The Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales-2 (RIAS-2): Development, Psychometrics, Applications, and Interpretation.”

  • On Thursday, February 19, from 10:00 to 11:20 a.m. ET, Steven Feifer, DEd, will present, “Integrating RTI with Cognitive Neuropsychology: A Scientific Approach to Reading.”

  • On Thursday, February 19, from 12:00 to 1:50 p.m. ET, Peter K. Isquith, PhD, will present, “Identifying Executive Function Intervention Targets and Measuring Outcomes.”


Hope to see you in Orlando!

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