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?

Why so few French kids have ADHD

At least 9 percent of U.S. children are medicated for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, compared to less than .5 percent of French children, writes Marilyn Wedge in Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD in Psychology Today. Wedge is the author of Pills are Not for Preschoolers: A Drug-Free Approach for Troubled Kids. 

While U.S. psychiatrists see ADHD as a biological disorder treatable with drugs, French doctors “look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context.” They try to treat the underlying problem with psychotherapy or family counseling.

In addition, French parents are  more likely than Americans to teach their children to control their behavior.

Pamela Druckerman highlights the divergent parenting styles in her recent book, Bringing up Bébé

. . . From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means “frame” or “structure.” Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it. French babies, too, are expected to conform to limits set by parents and not by their crying selves. French parents let their babies “cry it out” if they are not sleeping through the night at the age of four months.

. . . Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure.

Raised in families where the adults are in charge, French children learn to control their behavior without the need for medications, concludes Wedge.

What’s the most loving thing you can say to your child? According to my husband, the father of three successful adult children, the answer is: “No.”

CDC: 1 in 5 kids has a mental disorder

Nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. suffers from a mental disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression and autism.

Kids who once would have been called antsy, shy, moody or odd are now being diagnosed with mental disorders and disabilities. How many really need mental health care? The bill is up to $247 billion a year, the CDC estimates.

School cafeteria goes all-vegetarian

A Queens public school is serving all-vegetarian menus for breakfast and lunch, reports Metro. PS 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, now serves “black beans, red roasted potatoes, falafel and brown rice for lunch.”

Principal Robert Groff said the school is trying to encourage healthy lifestyles. “It is about educating their mind, body and character all together.”

What about separation of idiots and state? asks Stephen Kruiser on PJ Tatler.

This isn’t about children’s health, it’s about indoctrination in a fringe lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with vegetarian options for children whose parents have chosen to raise them that way.

. . . This is a decision that is one for the parents to make, not for school administrators who seek to undermine the role of parents, which is what’s really going on here.

My nutritionist stepdaughter designs school lunches for a nonprofit. She says it’s hard to comply with very detailed federal guidelines, use affordable ingredients and produce a lunch kids will eat.

New York Mayor Bloomberg was refused a second slice of pizza at a New York City restaurant in a protest against  his ban on large sodas, reports the Daily Currant. It’s a satire site, but some readers thought it was for real. It’s hard to tell the difference these days.

Attention deficit or sleep deficit?

Some cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may be a sleep disorder in disguise, writes Vatsal G. Thakkar, a psychiatry professor, in the New York Times.

Eleven percent of schoolchildren have been diagnosed with ADHD, he writes. Adult diagnoses are up too.

For some people — especially children — sleep deprivation does not necessarily cause lethargy; instead they become hyperactive and unfocused.

Adults and children are sleeping less, Thakkar writes.

The number of adults who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours each night went from some 2 percent in 1960 to more than 35 percent in 2011. Sleep is even more crucial for children, who need delta sleep — the deep, rejuvenating, slow-wave kind — for proper growth and development. Yet today’s youngsters sleep more than an hour less than they did a hundred years ago. And for all ages, contemporary daytime activities — marked by nonstop 14-hour schedules and inescapable melatonin-inhibiting iDevices — often impair sleep. It might just be a coincidence, but this sleep-restricting lifestyle began getting more extreme in the 1990s, the decade with the explosion in A.D.H.D. diagnoses.

Children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis are likely to also have “sleep-disordered breathing like apnea or snoring, restless leg syndrome or non-restorative sleep, in which delta sleep is frequently interrupted,” he writes.

In a 2004 study, 34 children with A.D.H.D.  all showed a deficit of delta sleep, compared with only a few of the 32 control subjects.

Sleep disorders can be treated, writes Thakkar, who has a rare form of narcolepsy.

Early high school start times don’t fit adolescents’ sleep patterns, research shows. “Tor a teenager, a 7 a.m. alarm call is the equivalent of a 5 a.m. start for people in their 50s,” writes Russell Foster in New Scientist. It’s the hormones.

Online ed works—for sex, alcohol, and health

All-online courses have low success rates, note the Hechinger Report. But computer-based instruction can be more effective than classroom teaching for sex, drugs, and health issues, “subjects in which privacy, personal comfort and customized information are especially important, and embarrassment or cultural taboos can get in the way of classroom teaching.”

Simple video- and animation-based interactive courses in these disciplines turn out to be good ways of teaching subjects you may have giggled through in health class.

. . . “We’re seeing significant and large effects on attitudes, knowledge, and also behaviors” from online courses in nontraditional subjects, says Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who coauthored one study of the subject.

Colombian students who took an 11-week online course in safer sex knew more about safer sex — and practiced what they knew — compared to students who took a conventional health class.

For every 68 students who took the online course instead of the traditional course, researchers estimated by reviewing students’ medical records and comparing them to those of peers who didn’t take the course, up to two sexually transmitted infections were prevented.

Students — and teachers — often feel embarrassed to talk about sex in conventional classrooms, the researchers found.

Years ago, I looked into how contraception was taught in San Jose high schools. One teacher told me sex ed was lumped in with drivers’ ed, anti-drug ed, career awareness, etc. He left sex ed till the end of the school year in hopes he’d run out of time and not have to teach it.

Pushing drugs in school

Diagnosed as hyperactive in first grade, Ted Gup’s son was prescribed Ritalin and Adderall, Gup writes in the New York Times.

In another age, David might have been called “rambunctious.” His battery was a little too large for his body. And so he would leap over the couch, spring to reach the ceiling and show an exuberance for life that came in brilliant microbursts.

When he was older, he sold his Adderall to classmates, who saw it as a performance-enhancing drug.

As a 21-year-old college senior, he was found on the floor of his room, dead from a fatal mix of alcohol and drugs.

“I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable,” writes the grieving father.

Now psychiatrists have defined grief as depression, which “runs the very real risk of delegitimizing that which is most human — the bonds of our love and attachment to one another.”  Gup does not plan to take a pill to dull his grief for his son.

Huck Finn, 2013


– Signe Wilkinson

19% of teen boys diagnosed with ADHD

Nineteen percent of high-school-age boys and 11 percent of school-age children overall have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnosis rates have soared by 53 percent in the last decade, reports the New York Times.

About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.

“Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”

Fifteen percent of school-age boys and 7 percent of girls now carry the ADHD label.

ADHD medications such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and Vyvanse “can vastly improve focus and drive” for students with mild or nonexistent symptoms, reports the Times. An ADHD “diagnosis has become a popular shortcut to better grades, some experts said, with many students unaware of or disregarding the medication’s health risks.”

Ann Althouse wonders about possible side effects of “viewing youthful spirit as abnormal” and “skewing academic competition with performance-enhancing drugs.”

Abstinence ed is now ‘risk avoidance’

Abstinence-only sex education has been rebranded as “risk avoidance” sex ed, writes Ed Week‘s Ross Brenneman.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) wants to increase grants for risk avoidance ed in response to a Centers for Disease Control report that says young people ages 15 to 24 are responsible for half of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections.

Abstinence-education groups claim “risk avoidance abstinence education” is more effective than comprehensive sex education.