ADHD Medication Improves Test Scores

Recent research published in the May issue of Pediatrics--Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics--shows improved standardized reading and math scores in a nationally-representative, longitudinal sample of 594 school children from kindergarten through grade 5.

As reported by Tara Parker-Pope, in her New York Times' health blog (A.D.H.D. Drugs Linked to Higher Test Scores, April 27, 2009):
Children with attention deficit problems make bigger academic gains if they are taking stimulant medications compared to similar kids who aren’t receiving drug therapy...
She quotes the study's first author, Richard Scheffler, Ph.D., from the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health:
I think the findings are important because this is the first time that we’ve had objective educational performance measures, to look at whether kids who are taking medications for A.D.H.D. compared to kids who are not, that actually show that they are doing better.
For details, see the journal article's abstract -- . The full article is available on-line to journal subscribers or for a single-use fee.

Protecting Your Child From Sexual Abuse

There are a multitude of resources for parents on preventing child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, many focus on teaching children about "stranger danger" when in actuality, most abusers are known to children and their families. Many are family members themselves--parents, step-parents, older siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents. Others are trusted adults who take care of children (daycare providers, babysitters) and those who work with children (teachers, coaches, youth ministers, and private music, dance or martial arts instructors).

Most parents assume that professionals who work with children pass background checks. Unfortunately, background checks only pick-up convicted sex offenders or those proven to be abusers by child protective services. Abusers who move from state to state may be missed. Religious institutions, sports leagues, and other private organizations often don't require background checks, and no one monitors private instructors.

Here are two general resources that I particularly like from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to help parents protect their children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Both publications are also available in Spanish. Hard copies can be ordered at 10 cents a piece with the first 50 copies free.

Teens, Distracted Driving, and ADHD

Here in Maryland, there’s been much ado about texting while driving. Although it was already banned for teenagers, there’s been a surprising amount of debate among legislators on whether to include adults in the ban.

Regardless, texting is just the latest activity (soon to be replaced by Twitter?) that has been tagged as a driving distraction along with cell phones, multiple passengers, changing music, and eating.

Until now, only teen drivers with graduated licenses were required to limit distractions after a series of highly publicized fatal crashes related to cell phone use and multiple passengers. It also made sense to target teens because being distracted by friends, entertainment, and other pastimes, instead of attending to the task at hand, is their normal state of being.

Parenting Tips to Prevent Child Abuse - Your Tax Dollars at Work

If you are still working on your income taxes, and getting frustrated as a result, it might help to consider what your federal and state tax dollars support. One worthwhile endeavor is the efforts of child protective services to investigate and intervene on the behalf of abused and neglected children across the nation. Although we might have different opinions about paying taxes, I don't believe any of us can really argue against the need to fund these services.

In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let's review the extent and costs of child abuse and neglect in the United States.

(Warning! Statistics ahead, but only a few.)


In 2006 (the year the most recent statistics are available), 3.3 million reports were made to child protective services of suspected child abuse or neglect on behalf of 6 million children in the United States. As a result of these reports, 905,000 children were determined to have been abused or neglected. Approximately 64% were neglected, 16% were physically abused, 9% were sexually abused, and 7% were emotionally abused or neglected. An estimated 1,530 children died due to abuse or neglect. Child Maltreatment, 2006, Washington,DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, 2008.


The direct cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States totals more than $33 billion annually. (This figure includes law enforcement, judicial system, child welfare, and health care costs.) After adding in the indirect costs (special education, mental health care, juvenile delinquency, lost productivity, and adult criminality), the amount is more than $103 billion annually. Ching-Tung Wang and John Holton, Total Estimated Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, Washington, DC: Prevent Child Abuse America, 2007.

(End of statistics. That wasn't so bad, now was it?)

It's in all our interests to do what we can to prevent child abuse and neglect. The Children's Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services provides some resources to do so via it's Child Welfare Information Gateway (along with many more statistics for those inclined).

One set of resources for National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a series of tip sheets for parents and caregivers. All six are available in pdf format individually or as a set. They are also available in Spanish. Titles and descriptions follow.

Bonding With Your Baby

Strong bonds between babies and caregivers help babies' bodies and brains grow. This tip sheet helps parents understand normal infant behavior, the importance of nurturing and attachment, and what parents can do to develop strong bonds with their babies.

Dealing With Temper Tantrums

A young child's tantrums can be stressful for parents. This tip sheet helps parents understand why toddlers have tantrums, what they can do to help prevent tantrums, and how to handle them calmly when they occur.

Connecting With Your Teen

Teens are becoming more independent, but they still need their parents' love, support, and guidance. This tip sheet helps parents understand typical teen behavior. It offers suggestions for how parents can use simple, everyday activities to reinforce their connection with their teens and show they care.

Teen Parents ... You're Not Alone!

Being a teen parent is a 24-hour-a-day job and can feel overwhelming at times. This tip sheet reassures teen parents that these feelings are normal. It offers suggestions for reducing stress, improving parenting skills, and finding help when needed.

Ten Ways to Be a Better Dad

Fathers who spend time with their children increase the chances that their children will succeed in school, have fewer behavior problems, and experience better self-esteem. This tip sheet lists 10 concrete ways that fathers can enhance their involvement in their children's lives.

Raising Your Grandchildren

When children can't be with their parents, a grandparent's home can provide stability and comfort. This tip sheet helps grandparent caregivers understand how their grandchildren may be feeling, how to help children feel safe and secure in their home, and where to find support in their community if needed.

These tip sheets are an example of what's known as universal prevention. They are aimed at everyone, not just parents who are at risk to abuse or neglect their children. The idea is to give all parents and caregivers helpful tips to strengthen their parenting skills and their families. Take a look. You may find you already know most of this, but I'll bet there are some you'd like to practice more often with your own children.

Debate about ADHD Multimodal Treatment Study

A recent front-page article from the Washington Post "Debate Over Drugs For ADHD Reignites: Long-Term Benefit For Children at Issue" by Shankar Vedantam examines the 8-year follow-up of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With ADHD and the differences of opinion among the study's researchers about what the results might mean.

The study looked at which of three intensive ADHD treatments was best--stimulant medication, behavior therapy, or the combination of both. All three were compared to usual community treatment. The initial results showed a clear superiority of medication (whether alone or combined with behavior therapy) over behavior therapy or community treatment. But when the children were followed-up three years later, medication seemed no better than the other treatments.