Fall 1999

An article in the recent Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed recorded injuries of various athletic participants across 235 High Schools during the years 1995 through 1997. Specifically, the authors of the study wanted to look at the number of traumatic brain injuries. Of over 23,000 injuries, 5.5 percent were reported as traumatic brain injuries. 63 percent of the injuries were reported to have occurred in football., though every sport reported these type of head injuries with volleyball producing the least.

Another article in JAMA, looked specifically at the injuries of soccer players. Soccer players can receive concussions during games and in training. They may also have had “subconcussions” from repeated uses of their heads during play. Apparently, the average soccer player hits the soccer ball with their head about 8.5 times a game! They took 33 soccer players and measured them against controls (non soccer players) on psychological tests which measure various brain functions such as planning abilities, mental speed, attention span, memory skills, visual perception and verbal fluency. A higher number of concussions were associated with lower performance on these type of tests compared to the control group. The authors conclude that memory and planning are affected and are the direct consequence of head injury from soccer.

A sign in a motor cycle shop read “For a five dollar head, buy a five dollar helmet.” What is being said about children when they are wearing no helmets, in spite of evidence suggests the most popular sport can produce brain damage.

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome is one of the rare diagnoses in psychology that is named after the person who first “discovered it, Henri Asperger, an European physician who wrote about this unique group of boys in the 1940’s. Since is had been recognized widely by psychologists and psychiatrist only in the last 5 to 10 years, it is worthwhile to review the contemporary understanding and treatment of Asperger’s .

First, children with Asperger syndrome have normal IQ and have well developed verbal skills. They are often noted to be in advance of their peers in terms of language and conversational skills, but are very “literal”, that is, they often have trouble with the social aspects of language.

Second, there is sometimes a confusion between autism and Asperger’s because the research is not yet clear regarding sharp distinctions between the two. Autistic children vary in their IQ, that is, their basic abilities to solve problems and especially with regard to language abilities. Autistic children’s IQ’s can range from the impaired range to near or at average. When an autistic child has a near average or average IQ, they are considered to be higher functioning. Higher functioning autistic children and Asperger children may be difficult to distinguish. They both share odd or unusual interests. For example, an autistic child may often find fascination in spinning objects or some hand flapping. Asperger children may be captivated by a singular interest such as train schedules or collecting light bulbs.

Third, Asperger’s children are often victims of teasing and worse. These children have tremendous difficulty fitting in with other children. Parents of Asperger’s children should be aware these children will often not recognize their own vulnerabilities and will need special support and guidance in this area.

Lastly, Asperger’s syndrome may be related to nonverbal learning disabilities. This type of learning disability was first discussed about ten years ago in the literature. Children (and adults) with nonverbal learning disabilities may have pronounced social skill problems, such as “reading” people and understanding prosody and meaning in conversation. However, their verbal skills are typically well developed.

There have been some novel ideas about how to treat Asperger’s. One of the most interesting ideas is to use computer software that teaches a greater awareness of facial expressions. More research needs to be done in this area. Young children with Asperger’s will have difficulty making changes and prefer routine, something that can be addressed through behavior modification. The general consensus by professionals is that Asperger children can profit from treatment and it is possible for them to grow up and have productive lives.

Child Abuse Statistics

Published data in the area of child abuse can be useful in illuminating social trends and inform social policy. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System is the primary informational resource for this type of data. Their data is collected from Child Protective Services in 49 reporting states. The most recent report I could locate is the 1997 report. Educators are by far the largest reporting source for child abuse and neglect followed by law enforcement and anonymous or unknown sources. By far, the statistics indicate that neglect is a larger and more overwhelming problem than abuse. Additionally, neglected children are reported to be younger, ages 8 and under while victims of abuse are more likely to be older, that is, 8 and above.

Most frightening is that the largest single year age group of maltreatment victims reported are infants, that is, children one year or less. They account for 6.9 percent of the all children age 17 and below. Children ages 1 to 9 accounted for about 6 percent for all victims. The older the child, the less likely he or she is a victim of some sort of maltreatment. Females are more likely to be perpetrators than males (62 percent versus 37 percent) and generally, 80 percent of perpetrators are young (less than 40 years old). The exception is child sexual abuse, where 74 percent of offenders are males. Some people might be surprised at the fact that physical abuse tends to be equally associated with both male and female perpetrators though females are likely to be associated with the overwhelming majority of neglect cases. This is likely due to the large majority of single parent mothers in the US and the equally large number of fathers who have abandoned the family.

Both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence have a tendency to abuse alcohol. Excessive alcohol use is more than 50 percent for male batterers and around 20 percent for women victims. (Source, American Psychological Association)

Book Review: Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D., 1998, Published by Taylor Publishing, Dallas, Texas, $14.95

Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS, was first coined by psychiatrist Richard Gardner. It involves one parent consciously or unconsciously undermining another parent’s relationship with their child. This book is written for parents and others who are interested in learning more information about PAS. Dr. Darnall has written an informative book, filled with examples of the many forms PAS can take. One parent is usually the target of PAS and the child’s relationship with that parent is undermined. Visitation or parenting time with the targeted parent is effected by PAS. Some common tactics used by alienating parents are making comparisons between the ex-spouse or ex-partner and the child, calling the other parent names (like stupid) in front of the child, revealing adult business type of information to a child (everything regarding the other parent’s sex behavior), or harassment, like unannounced visits, listening in on your child’s conversation with the other parent. Dr. Darnell has written this book with parents who have been alienated in mind and has specific exercises and thoughtful recommendations to help parents who have been involved in a PAS type situation. He introduces topics that many in the divorce field have not written about including the role grandparents might play in helping or hindering PAS and gives advice to stepparents. If you are looking for a well written book on a subject area that has almost nothing written about for parents encountering PAS, I would strongly urge you to read Divorce Casualties.