Halloween horror: Healthy treats

Nothing is more horrifying than Halloween without candy proclaims an ad featuring a focus group of children fed healthy treats such as veggie fruit chews and “tofu ghost mellows.” The message from Crest and Oral-B: Let kids eat candy and then brush their teeth.

Beware!

Instead of giving candy to “moderately obese” children, a Fargo, North Dakota woman will hand out a letter to parents, she told  Y94.

The letter states: “You child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.”

It continues: “My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”

The quality of “tricks” must not be very high in Fargo.

ADHD or narcissism?

Many children diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may simply be slow to grow out of “normal childhood narcissism, writes psychologist Enrico Gnaulati in The Atlantic.

In the 1970s, a mere one percent of kids were considered ADHD. By the 1980s, three to five percent was the presumed rate, with steady increases into the 1990s. One eye-opening study showed that ADHD medications were being administered to as many as 17 percent of males in two school districts in southeastern Virginia in 1995.

ADHD symptoms — “problems listening, forgetfulness, distractibility, prematurely ending effortful tasks, excessive talking, fidgetiness, difficulties waiting one’s turn, and being action-oriented” — aren’t all that different from normal childhood challenges, he writes. In the past, a distractible, fidgety child would have been considered slower to mature and learn social skills. Now that child is quickly diagnosed with ADHD.

The core symptoms of ADHD resemble childhood narcissism, which is characterized by “overconfident self-appraisals, attention-craving, a sense of personal entitlement” and weak empathy for others, writes Gnaulati.

“Jonah” falls apart when he can’t master a task immediately. It could be a symptom of ADHD, writes Gnaulati. Perhaps he can’t retain the information needed. But it could be the “magical thinking” common for young children.

He believes mastering tasks should somehow be automatic—not the outcome of commitment, perseverance, and effort. Jonah’s self-esteem may also be so tenuous that it fluctuates greatly. For instance, when Jonah anticipates success, he productively cruises through work, eager to receive the recognition that he expects from parents and teachers. He is on a high. He definitely feels good about himself. But in the face of challenging work, he completely shuts down, expects failure, outside criticism, and wants to just give up.

“Parents who think their kid has ADHD often describe scenarios at home where the kid reacts to minor setbacks with bloodcurdling screams or to modest successes with over-the-top exuberance,” writes Gnaulati. For kids who really have ADHD, completing homework can be torture. But, for others, “dramatic displays of emotion are attempts to get out of tasks that warrant commitment, application, and effort.”

If parents give in, “these kids often do not acquire the emotional self-control necessary to buckle down and do academic work independently.”

I think the technical term is “spoiled brat.”

Gnaulati is the author of  Back to Normal, which is subtitled “why ordinary childhood behavior is mistaken for ADHD, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders.”

Brainy, introverted boys are over-diagnosed with autism, he writes in Salon. ”If we don’t have a firm grasp of gender differences in how young children communicate and socialize, we can mistake traditional masculine behavior for high-functioning autism.”

No time to play

Today’s children don’t have time to play independently – and to develop social skills — writes psychologist Peter Gray on Aeon. The adults are always in charge.

Growing up in the 1950s, Gray had a “hunter-gatherer education” in addition to formal schooling. The neighborhood kids played after school, often till dark, in mixed-age groups. They played on the weekends and in the summer.

We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us.

Since then, adult-directed sports for children have replaced “pickup” games, Gray writes. free-to-learn Adult-directed extracurriculars have replaced hobbies. Parents are afraid to let kids play without supervision.

As children’s free play has declined, children have shown more signs of anxiety and depression, he writes on psychological surveys. Since the ’50s, “the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.”

In addition, surveys show “a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism.”

Children aren’t learning social skills through play, writes Gray. At school, an authoritarian setting, they learn to compete rather than cooperate. Extending the school day will widen the “play deficit” even more, argues Gray.

A Boston College professor, Gray writes the Freedom to Learn blog, and is the author of a new book, Free to Learn.

Kids who want to work — mowing lawns — face “safety” barriers, writes Mollie Hemingway. On the neighborhood listserv, someone asked for feedback on “a group of adorable and entrepreneurial kids (young, maybe 9-11 years old)” looking for mowing jobs. “We didn’t see a parent with them supervising.”

A link was provided to Mowing the Lawn Can Be a Dangerous Chore, which recommended “polycarbonate protective eyewear” for anyone mowing — or in the vicinity.

Pediatricians check up on reading



Pediatricians are “prescribing” books
 to low-income children who don’t attend preschool, reports PBS. Reach Out and Read encourages doctors to discuss reading aloud with parents.

Via This Week In Education.

Michelle O backs healthy hip hop

Hoping to get young people moving, First Lady Michelle Obama will appear  in a new hip-hop album, Songs for Healthier America, reports U.S. News. It’s just a cameo with no singing involved. 

In June, Mrs. Obama appeared in a hip-hop video urging kids to “work hard/eat right” with rapper Doug E. Fresh, singer-songwriter Jordin Sparks and TV medical personality Dr. Oz.

The full album, which includes songs with names like “Veggie Luv,” by Monifah and J Rome, “Hip Hop LEAN,” by Artie Green, and “Give Myself a Try,” by Ryan Beatty, will be released on Sept. 30 by Partnership for a Healthier America and Hip Hop Public Health.

“U R What You Eat” (featuring Salad Bar, Matisyahu, Travis Barker, and Ariana Grande) and “We Like Vegetables” (featuring Los Barkers!) also are on the album.

Black and Hispanic children, who are the biggest fans of hip-hop music, are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese compared to white children.

ADHD drugs don’t raise kids’ grades

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medications don’t improve academic achievement, according to new studies, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Stimulants used to treat ADHD like Ritalin and Adderall are sometimes called “cognitive enhancers” because they have been shown in a number of studies to improve attention, concentration and even certain types of memory in the short-term.

. . . However, a growing body of research finds that in the long run, achievement scores, grade-point averages or the likelihood of repeating a grade generally aren’t any different in kids with ADHD who take medication compared with those who don’t.

Boys who took ADHD drugs performed worse in school than those with similar symptoms who didn’t, according to the study, which tracked students in Quebec. Girls on ADHD drugs reported more emotional problems.

City schools dispense morning-after pills

Pregnant girls can get Plan B “morning after” pills at more than 50 high schools, reports the New York Times. Nurses dispense the pills, at no cost, after checking to see if a parent has signed an opt-out form.

After that first time, the girl took Plan B at school two or three more times. She said her mother had not signed the opt-out form, because she had wanted to have sex and so had never given it to her. “My mom, she doesn’t even know they have this stuff,” the girl, a junior from Coney Island, said.

If an independent provider, such as a clinic or hospital, dispenses contraceptives then no parental permission is needed.

Until recently, only those 17 and older could buy Plan B over the counter. But schools in New York City, Baltimore, Chicago, Oakland and Colorado let high school girls of any age obtain the drug in school health centers or nurse’s offices.

By contrast, “half of all school-based health clinics are prohibited from handing out any contraception, including condoms,” according to the School-Based Health Alliance.

Critics say the morning-after pill encourages teens to have sex. A Brooklyn 17-year-old who’d used Plan B “less than five times” this year, thinks it does. Like several other students in the Times story, she did not give her parents the opt-out form. She blames two of her pregnancies on her mother, who took her birth control away. Mercifully, the school nurse set up an appointment for her to have an intrauterine device implanted.

Researchers say the morning-after pill doesn’t increase sexual activity, but also doesn’t decrease the pregnancy rate. Teens have unprotected sex, get pregnant, take Plan B, go out and have unprotected sex again, get pregnant again and say, “I just didn’t think I would get pregnant,” says Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond, senior medical associate with Gynuity Health Projects.

At Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, a 17-year-old junior from Crown Heights said she had taken Plan B at school three times this year. Despite the threat of disease, which is drilled into students during sex education courses, she was less likely to use condoms because she knew she could get the morning-after pill, she said.

Girls who lack the maturity or intelligence to understand the consequences of their actions aren’t likely to become competent mothers. It’s good these girls are deferring motherhood. But why can’t they use Norplant, an IUD or some other form of reliable, long-term birth control?

Please, lunch lady, I want some more

Many Indiana schools are struggling to meet federal guidelines for school lunches, reports the Journal and Courier. Schools must serve less meat and grains and more fruit and vegetables. Students complain the portions are too small, but they’re not hungry enough to eat the vegetables.

School districts are losing money because more students are passing up the school lunch and brown bagging.

“Kids eat with their eyes. When they saw that smaller portion, that freaked them out,” said Jennifer Rice, food service director of Lebanon Community School Corp., where the popular Salisbury steak shrunk. “I’ve been in the school district forever, and they all know me and they’ll go, ‘Mrs. Rice, we are hungry.’”

“They’re teaching our kids with this meal pattern that it’s OK to throw away,” said Lori Shofroth, Tippecanoe School Corp.’s food service director. “We did a waste study on three different schools, and there was a huge amount of waste.”

Amy Anderson, food service director for Carmel Clay Schools, said the rules have turned her into “a food cop.” Her district lost $300,000 on school lunches last year because of a drop in full-price students buying lunch. “Our kids can just wait and just hop in their BMWs and go to McDonald’s, which they’re rebuilding, making it bigger,” said Anderson.

In rural Elmwood, farm kids rejected the black bean salsa, says food service director Jay Turner. He offered to serve garbanzo beans instead. “And they gave me this look like, ‘No,’” Turner said.

Some districts are dropping out of the school lunch program or looking for ways to recoup losses as a result of the new regulations, reports the Washington Times.

My stepdaughter, who’s a nutritionist for a Boston nonprofit, has been designing school lunches. Meeting the guidelines is difficult, time-consuming and so costly her boss will not to renew the contract.

Update: Some British schools may require students to eat school meals instead of brown bagging or going out for lunch. Currently 57 percent bring their own lunch or buy something outside school. “The Government said these meals often contain too many sweets, fizzy drinks and fatty foods and the money would be better spent on healthy school lunches,” reports Sky News.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said, “More children eating school lunches and fewer having packed lunches” would result in “more children being healthier and more energetic throughout the day, and the nation, as a result, benefiting from improved brain power.”

Union: Only nurses can help with insulin

Only nurses should be allowed to help diabetic children inject insulin argues a lawsuit by the nurses’ union and the state teachers’ union. There’s only one nurse for every 2,200 students in California public schools. Currently, any school staffer can assist a diabetic student.

“My experience tells me (the students) really do better when you have a professional nurse working with them,” said Melinda Landau, a nurse and health manager for the San Jose Unified School District.

. . . Parents and a host of groups backing them — notably the American Diabetes Association — argue that school employees who volunteer to provide the shots can safely aid diabetic students, just as parents learn to care for their children at home.

“We all had to learn how to do it, and none of us are licensed medical professionals,” said Tamar Sofer-Geri, a Los Altos woman whose diabetic 12-year-old daughter, Tia, is now able to monitor her blood sugar and inject herself.

I’d bet Tia has been monitoring her blood sugar and injecting herself for years now.

In some schools, students need a doctor’s note to carry sunscreen, a dermatologist Ana Duarte tells Allure.    ”The state of Washington is the only state that banned sunscreen in school, but lots have rules because it’s over-the-counter and there is a possible—but quite rare—risk of being allergic. There’s also the question of who will apply it—a nurse, a teacher?”

What about a child?