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May 2011



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Archive for May 20th, 2011


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 17, 2011

The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, but according to a new study, it can backfire and make some people feel worse.

Authors of the review in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, said that happiness shouldn’t be thought of as a universally good thing.

According to June Gruber of Yale University, who co- wrote the article with Iris Mauss of the University of Denver and Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, often people may end up worse off than when they started. And although the advice in the self-help literature on happiness is not necessarily bad, doing things with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy lead to disappointment and decreased happiness.

For example, one study by Mauss and colleagues found that people who read a newspaper article extolling the value of happiness felt worse after watching a happy film than people who read a newspaper article that didn’t mention happiness —presumably because they were disappointed they didn’t feel happier.

Too much happiness may also be a problem. One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers.

Extreme perceptions of happiness has been found by researchers to be unrealistic as scientists find people often do not think as creatively and tend to take more risks. For example, people who have mania, such as in bipolar disorder, have an excess degree of positive emotions that can lead them to risky behavior like substance abuse, driving too fast, or spending their life savings.

But even for people who don’t have a psychiatric disorder, “too high of a degree of happiness can be bad,” Gruber said. Inappropriate happiness also occurs in people with mania, such as feeling happy when you see someone crying over the loss of a loved one or when you hear a friend was injured in a car crash.

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ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — Greater awareness of ‘specific language impairment’ (SLI), a language disorder, is needed to ensure better outcomes for the 3-6 per cent of UK school children affected by this disability. Children with SLI have difficulties with most or all aspects of language including grammar, vocabulary and literacy as well as with short term memory. According to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), they also have problems with higher order thinking skills. SLI may have a greater impact on these children than the better know disorder, dyslexia.

“The lack of understanding of specific language impairment contrasts markedly with the broader understanding and acceptance of similar disabilities such as dyslexia,” says researcher Professor Lucy Henry of London South Bank University.

SLI and dyslexia are similar in that both involve a ‘specific’ disability, which is generally believed to affect one particular aspect of a child’s thinking and ability to deal with information. In the case of dyslexia, the dimension that is affected concerns reading. In the case of SLI, the dimension affected is language with grammar, vocabulary, the understanding of meaning, and the ability to use sounds appropriately all potentially being affected.

“SLI is often diagnosed when it is noticed that a child’s speech is poorer than his or her other abilities. The speech difficulties can involve grammar, a small vocabulary or other aspects of language. In addition, because language is important for reading, around half of children identified with SLI also have difficulties with reading. These problems are not due to them having a general learning disability, autism, hearing impairments or brain injury, ” Professor Henry explains.

This new research also found significant weaknesses with higher order thinking skills — including multi-tasking while trying to remember something, generating ideas, finding solutions to new or demanding tasks, and ignoring irrelevant information where necessary.

With these added difficulties children with SLI may struggle to cope with many classroom learning activities. As Professor Henry highlights: “The key aspect for children in the classroom is learning new skills and dealing with novelty — and as higher order thinking skills are exactly the tools required to do this successfully, children with SLI often fall behind their peers.”

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By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Associate Editor

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression commonly occur together. According to Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in ADHD and wrote the book More Attention, Less Deficit: Successful Strategies for Adults with ADHD: “ADHD makes people’s lives harder, so it makes sense that they have more to be depressed about. This is especially true because ADHD difficulties usually persist — it’s not like going through a bad break-up where things get better with time.”

Because ADHD is lifelong, it “robs the person of optimism that things will ever improve, at least before a diagnosis is made and treatment started.”

Below, Tuckman talks about both disorders, which is treated first and what readers can do.

Depression Signs

At first glance, depression and ADHD have a lot in common. They both make it difficult to concentrate, initiate projects or sleep well. They’re also associated with mood changes and irritability. But, according to Tuckman:

“Once you get into the details, they look very different. The biggest difference is that ADHD has been lifelong and pretty much existed across most aspects of the person’s life. Depression comes and goes or the person spent big parts of their life not depressed so the symptoms wouldn’t be present then if they were from the depression.”

Here’s what depression looks like, he said:

“People who are depressed generally don’t enjoy life as much as they used to. They may feel sad or empty or even irritable and angry. They don’t feel like themselves and have more trouble getting going on things, even activities that they would otherwise enjoy. They may sleep more than usual, or less. They may also eat more than usual, or less. They may also find that their concentration and memory don’t feel as strong.”

You’ll find a list of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms here.

Missing ADHD

It’s not uncommon for professionals to diagnose a person with depression but to miss their underlying ADHD — which can happen especially with girls and women, Tuckman said.

“People find what they are looking for and tend to not find what they aren’t looking for. If a clinician doesn’t think about ADHD often, they won’t see it in their patients.”

Which Disorder To Treat First

If “ADHD struggles are driving the depression,” Tuckman said, then he focuses on the ADHD first. This results in a “two-for-one,” he said, because “treating the ADHD improves their depression,” making the person “more effective and feel better about themselves.”

But he’ll focus on the depression, “if the depression is severe enough that it is interfering with their ability to address their ADHD.” He added that: “Most of the time, though, we are treating both simultaneously, at least in therapy. For medication, patients are usually started on something for one condition first, before adding in a second medication.”

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Article Date: 20 May 2011 – 2:00 PDT

Urgent action must be taken to ensure Australians with disabilities – including children and young people – are protected from unnecessary restrictive practices that put their lives and wellbeing at risk, along with those of the people working with and caring for them, according to the Australian Psychological Society (APS).

Training is urgently required to ensure that those working in residential homes, disability services, prisons, special and mainstream schools and aged care facilities are able to use simple strategies which research has shown are safer and more effective in dealing with the challenging behaviours that can result when individuals with disabilities become distressed. The strategies are contained in expert guidelines which have been researched, developed and recently released by the Australian Psychological Society in collaboration with leading disability experts. The guidelines were highlighted in a recent investigation into the use of restrictive practices on children with autism on ABC’s 7.30.

Dr Rebecca Mathews, psychologist and manager of practice standards at the Australian Psychological Society said: “Challenging behaviours in people with disabilities can arise for a number of reasons and we need to take the time to assess each individual’s social, emotional and psychological needs to ensure that they receive appropriate support to avoid these distressing incidents. It is misguided to just blame staff, who deserve better training and support to help them provide the best possible care and services to people with disabilities.”

It is believed that at least a quarter of all people with an intellectual disability will be subject at some time to some form of restraint, including physical restraint (someone holding them down) chemical (through the use of sedatives or other drugs), mechanical (by harnesses or straps) and seclusion (which can include confinement and withdrawal of privileges or special objects).

Yet proactive interventions as simple as providing appropriate activities and stimulation, skills for communication or reducing noise in the environment can significantly reduce instances of stress and difficult behaviour.

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ScienceDaily (May 19, 2011) — Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Department of Psychology participated in a multi-site study to examine different teaching models for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study is one of the first to look at the fidelity of treatment models for preschoolers with autism. The findings are published online in the current issue of the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The report concludes the first phase of a four-year project to analyze the comparative efficacy of preschool programs for children with ASD. It involves developing and validating assessment measures to demonstrate that the classrooms in the study are actually implementing the teaching models at high levels of adherence.

The researchers found that the assessment instruments they developed accurately measured how well the models were executed in the classrooms and that these measurements were able to discriminate between diverse teaching approaches. The goal is for these tools to provide an evaluation method for intervention programs for children with autism, all over the country, explains Michael Alessandri, clinical professor of Psychology, in the College of Arts and Sciences, executive director of UM/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, (UM-NSU CARD), director of the Division of Community Outreach and Development at UM and principal investigator for the UM component of the project.


“This is an important first step. We hope that the utilization of these kinds of fidelity tools will enable schools to more closely monitor the degree to which intervention methods are being delivered, relative to what the model intends,” he said. “If these useful methods are adopted, parents will have a way to assess the quality of their child’s treatment.”

The scientists looked at two comprehensive programs for autistic children in preschool: the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Learning Experiences and Alternative Programs for Preschoolers and Their Parents (LEAP). The two models were chosen because they are well established and widely used in public school systems in the U.S.

The study took place in 34 classrooms, during four months of the school year. A maximum of four observations were made in each class. The findings may help explain differences in children’s responses to different intervention treatments, explains Anibal Gutierrez, assistant scientist of UM-NSU CARD and co-author of the study.

“If we can ensure that the different programs are all good programs, implemented at a high level of fidelity, then we may be able to attribute differences in outcomes to individual child differences,” said Gutierrez. “We could explain why children with a particular profile may benefit from one program over another.”

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