By using state-of-the art imaging technology, new research at the Alberta Children’s Hospital aims to better understand and treat mental health disorders in children and teenagers.
Dr. Frank MacMaster, an American researcher known for his groundbreaking study of brain biology and chemistry, says he was drawn to Calgary by the prospect of continuing his work with a third-generation MRI the hospital will soon install.
“Without these imaging tools, the only way to study brain biology was during neurosurgery, when you’ve got the skull cracked open, or post mortem, when it’s too late,” MacMaster, the new chair in pediatric mental health at the hospital, said Friday.
“We just didn’t have the tools until now.”
They’re the clumsy children who can’t sit still in class and who trip when they’re walking across a room.
Even doing up a button and opening a milk carton can be difficult for them. Not only do they struggle in school, but their clumsiness can set them up as primary targets for being bullied and ridiculed.
Their condition — developmental co-ordination disorder – affects more than 5 per cent of children yet it continues to be the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed mental health syndrome among kids, said Dr. John Cairney, psychologist and researcher at St. Joseph’s Healthcare.
Cairney was one of three speakers at the Open Minds Across Canada Mental Health Symposia held Thursday night at St. Joseph’s Healthcare. Similar symposia were held across Canada all focusing on child and youth mental health.
A commission created a year and a half ago to evaluate Oregon’s approach to autism has returned with hundreds of ideas on how to improve services for affected families.
The 13-member Oregon Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders summarized its research in a 53-page draft report.
It tackles everything from educating kids with autism, to health insurance issues.
In fact, the commission recommends that Oregon lawmakers take up the controversial issue of mandating health insurance coverage for autism services.
Fifty years ago, a diagnosis of childhood leukemia meant you needed to start planning your child’s funeral. Now it’s got an 85% cure rate, largely due to advances attributed to information gleaned from pediatric clinical trials. Yet those same pediatric cancer trials that are such a treasure trove of data are also causing parents of the sick kids considerable angst.
Unlike adult cancer patients, the majority of pediatric cancer patients — or, more accurately, their parents — are asked to take part in a clinical trial. About 80% of parents accept. (More on Time.com: Fertility Preservation for Young Cancer Patients)
Each year, about 10,000 children are diagnosed with cancer. Although it’s the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14, after accidental injuries, “childhood cancer is a rare disease and the only way we are going to make progress is to be very systematic about the way we do research,” says Steven Joffe, an ethicist and pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. “The pioneers in the field realized if we don’t make clinical trials an integral part of what we do, we will never make progress.”
The sleeping patterns of teenagers can provide a clue to their longer-term risk of developing depression or bipolar disorder, say scientists.
Erratic sleeping patterns were an often overlooked feature of “basically all mood disorders and all psychiatric disorders”, explained Naomi Rogers of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Research Institute.
“In people who develop depression, often you can trace back and find they have had early sleep disturbance,” the Daily Telegraph quoted Rogers, as saying.
“We know that disturbed sleep occurs in basically all mood disorders and all psychiatric disorders, and the more disturbed sleep patterns are we tend to see worse mood symptoms.
“But whether (disturbed sleep) is an early sign, or risk factor, we are not yet sure,” she said.
Read more here: Teens` sleeping patterns a clue to mental health risk.
Specially trained dogs may be useful in helping to calm autistic children, researchers have said, after it was found the animals lowered stress and reduced problem behaviour.
The use of specially trained dogs has become commonplace to help blind and deaf people live independently and can also help disabled people with tasks such as getting money from a cash machine and emptying a washing machine.
Now researchers are exploring how dogs may help children with autism as ancedotal evidence over a number of years has suggested they are beneficial.
Read more here: Dogs for autistic children help ‘stress and behaviour’ – Telegraph.
It’s not easy being the brother or sister of an autistic child. “Typical” siblings sometimes feel embarrassed by or responsible for their autistic sib, or may feel jealous of all the attention he gets. Now researchers have found that the siblings of autistic children are affected in another way: up to 20% of these brothers and sisters may have subtler autism-related symptoms of their own. (More on Time.com: Autistic Kids: The Sibling Problem).
The new study involved nearly 3,000 children in 1,235 families with at least one autistic child. All the families had participated in a larger online registry of 35,000 autism-affected families called the Interactive Autism Network.
Of the families included in the current study, 10.9% had more than one child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is consistent with previous research showing that siblings of autistic children are at much higher risk of having an ASD than other children — 22 times higher than children without affected siblings.
But what surprised the researchers was that an additional 20% of the siblings of autistic children showed language delays, and half of these kids had subtle speech problems that are characteristic of autism, such as reversing pronouns or using invented words.
Mental disorders in children are often difficult to identify due to the myriad of changes that occur during the normal course of maturation. For the first time, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health have reported on the prevalence data on a broad range of mental disorders in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents, which show that approximately one in five children in the U.S. meet the criteria for a mental disorder severe enough to disrupt their daily lives.
The prevalence of the mental health disorders as well as the notable link between parental mental health issues and their teen’s disorders are the subject of the article by Merikangas and colleagues in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).1
In the article titled “Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in U.S. Adolescents : Results from the National Comorbidity Study–Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A).,” Dr. Merikangas and colleagues examined the lifetime prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of DSM-IV mental health disorders across broad classes of disorders. The NCS-A is a nationally representative, face-to-face survey of 10,123 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years in the continental United States.2 Diagnostic assessment of DSM-IV mental disorders were measured using a modified version of the World Health Organization (WHO) Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
The researchers found that anxiety disorders were the most common condition (31.9%),followed by behavior disorders (19.1%), mood disorders (14.3%), and substance use disorders (11.4%), with approximately 40% of participants with one class of disorder also meeting criteria for another class of lifetime disorder.
Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine have uncovered more evidence of a genetic basis for autism. Reviewing surveys collected from more than 1,000 families with autistic kids, they discovered that siblings of autistic children who have not been diagnosed with the disease often exhibit mild traits of autism, including speech delays.
The team sifted through information about almost 3,000 children from 1,235 families in which at least one child was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and in which there was at least one full biological sibling. The families were participants in the Interactive Autism Network, an online research registry that collects autism-related data from volunteer families nationwide.
Three months ago, my niece Polly was born. In the short time since, she’s already undergone one extensive surgery to repair two holes in heart. And we’ve now learned that she has one additional opening on her heart that may or may not close without further surgery.
Like one out of every 800 babies born in the U.S., Polly has Down syndrome. But despite the fact that DS is a top genetic issue, perhaps the top genetic issue in the country, funding for it has been consistently reduced. This year, the National Institutes of Health expects to spend just $19 million on Down syndrome research — less than 0.01 percent of its research budget, and less money than it plans to spend studying attention deficit disorder ($73 million), youth violence ($114 million), smallpox ($96 million) and more than 170 other subjects.
We have the power to change this.
Read more here: Kathy Ireland: The Tragic Shortfall in Down Syndrome Research.