Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From School Bully To Internet Bully

image by femmeannie, sxc.hu

Remain Aware Of The Child's Internet Habits

As if the bullying taking place on the school's playgrounds and in the lanes and bylanes of the town weren't enough. The child, after experiencing repeated physical and mental torment at the hands of more aggressive peers and seniors, enters the home which is like haven to them. And then they switch on the internet-connected machine to do some homework, share information and generally chit-chat... and wham! There they are again, the bullies in the new avatar - the cyber-bully.

image by duchesssa, sxc.hu

If you are a parent whose child has had to encounter bullying in school, then know this: 85% of the kids who are victimized at school are also victimized on the internet. Ergo, the bullies do not restrict themselves to the compound wall of the school. They follow the child home too. Usually it is the same bully in both the places. And their presence in the child's life is pervasive to the extent of being on the computer screen and on the mobile display for all twenty-four hours.

image by memoossa, sxc.hu

Cyber-bullying, despite the malicious pleasure of hitting a physical body and watch it writhe in pain not being available, has twin advantages. One is that there is nobody to rush at the scene, baton in hand, to the rescue of the victim. Cyber policing is still sadly in its infancy. And two, the anonymity of the internet avatar increases the pleasure of perversion manifold. Not only can you stalk and harass the victim any time of the day or night, but you also get to expand the scope and reach of your aggression: the world is truly your oyster.

image by rawku5, sxc.hu

On the other hand, the kind of psychological distress that the victim has to undergo is equal to, if not worse than, what the doctors at the Gestapo would inflict upon their subjects. The more the frequency, length and severity of the bullying, worse is the impact on one's mental health and social life. There is a sudden drop in the grades of such students. The double whammy of physical bullying at school and cyber-bullying at home boxes the child into a very insecure and fearful state of mind, impacting not only their levels of concentration on studies, but also their confidence in themselves. Kids who internalize the problem and do not inform the adults about it express the problem in the usual ways of truancy, withdrawal from social activities and general complaints about health that draw a blank in diagnostic tests. Left unchecked, deprecated self-esteem, social anxiety, persecution complex and paranoia set in, and the result is one more addition to the statistic of depressed and affective-disorder children.

image by hoefi, sxc.hu

As parent, counselor, teacher and self-developer, we need to be alert of changes in the behavior of the child, especially the quality of interaction they have in the chat rooms on the internet. Creating nom de plume identity that reveals nothing about oneself, and keeping this identity restricted to one's closest and most trusted peers, and also changing this identity if there is a suspicion of the identity having been compromised, is one very simple but cunning tactic that the children of the innocent age might be introduced to. Even more importantly, bullying is an opportunity to build a personality that is robust enough to handle any and all forms of bullying, whether now or later in life.

image by bluegum, sxc.hu

[Every individual comes into this world with certain temperamental traits that are an outcome of the genetic material that has gone into forming the zygote. These traits evolve as the individual builds up their experience while interacting with other individuals in their environment. Interpersonal interactions mould the person's concept of their self as well as of the world around them. How has your self-concept evolved after all these years of your existence on this earth? Read up on this article for an insight into how one's self-concept impacts and is in turn impacted by such interactions: "Don't Cry, Shopgirl".]

image by hirekatsu, sxc.hu
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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Is Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet The Answer?

image from cdc.gov

April Is Observed As Autism Month In The US

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, as we know, is a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that covers the gamut of autism, Asperger Syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders. Children with ASD have difficulty in communication and social interaction, their imagination is restricted and they exhibit stereotypic behaviors. Conditions that are co-morbid to ASD include depression, intellectual disability and epilepsy. CDC 2006 data reveals that 1 in 110 children has ASD.

image from CDC

One treatment that has become hugely popular is to put the ASD children on a diet that is free from cereals (gluten) and dairy products (casein). The Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) diet is an outcome of a theory known as the Opioid-Excess Theory, which postulates that ASD children have an impaired gastrointestinal function which is unable to completely digest proteins from gluten and casein, because the relevant digestive enzymes are insufficient. The peptides that are formed from gluten/casein proteins do not get converted into amino acids, instead they leak into the blood stream and cross the blood-brain barrier, resulting in ASD aggravation.

image by jan-willem, sxc.hu

However, research literature is tied up in knots on this issue. For example, one research paper reported that upper gastrointestinal endoscopy conducted on 36 children with ASD showed mal-absorption of specific food ingredients in the gut. Another group of researchers conducted a similar exercise on 96 ASD children and reported that no evidence was found that could link gastrointestinal disorder to ASD. Meanwhile, however, parents continue to give their ASD kids GFCF diet.

image by straymuse, sxc.hu

So is GFCF diet safe? Granted that this intervention is easy to implement and is also widely accepted, but is there any side-effect to this diet? The answer apparently is: yes. There is a health risk involved. GFCF diet deprives the kids of some vital nutrients that are specifically found only in gluten and casein, and nowhere else. The lack of these nutrients can cause deficiency of neurotransmitter precursors such as tyrosine and tryptophan, which are required for a host of bodily functions. A systematic search of 14 studies has shown that neither this diet, nor the Opioid-Excess theory, passes sufficient muster in the context of ASD treatment. The conclusion: by insisting that your ASD kid eats only gluten-free and casein-free diet at parties and social get-togethers, you may only be drawing further attention to the child's issue and contributing to the stigma. The inference: wait for some more time before research conclusively determines the truth. Meanwhile, shift the kid from GFCF food to one with moderate gluten+casein.

image by dgburns, sxc.hu

[By now we know very well the mechanics of how the food we eat gets broken down into the right constituents, and how out of these, only a few cross the blood-brain barrier to reach the inner recesses of the brain in order to nourish it. The question is, where do "we" stand in this entire cycle of physical processes? We are certainly not the soggy lump of matter boxed in the skull! You, me, we all are "something else", we are different and beyond these physical processes and entities. And there is a very subtle link that connects "us" with our bodies. Here is an article that ponders the link: "Wellbeing And The Science Of Matter-Energy Continuum".]

image by thirdaxis, sxc.hu
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