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What does the latest research say about TV for toddlers, ADHD vs. sleep disorders, and gifted education issues in the United States? Here’s what we found:

Television in early childhood

In a study conducted by the University of Montreal, researchers found a link between the amount of time very young children spent watching television and their habits as teenagers. The study examined a group of children born in 1997 and 1998 until they were 2 years old, and then checked in on the subjects again when they were 13.

Because this group of children was born before the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, television was a common entertainment tool. The TV was still widely considered harmless.

"Watching TV is mentally and physically sedentary behavior because it does not require sustained effort. We hypothesized that when toddlers watch too much TV, it encourages them to be sedentary, and if they learn to prefer effortless leisure activities at a very young age, they likely won't think much of non-leisure ones when they're older," says Isabelle Simonato.

The study found that the TV habits of 2-year-olds were linked to eating less or no breakfast for older children, and the tendency to eat more junk food. School performance and BMI also were affected.

Debate Over ADHD vs. Sleep Disorders

ADHD diagnoses are more common than ever these days, leading the medical community to dig into what may be causing the steady increase in cases. At a recent scientific conference, psychiatrists discussed the issue and a theory that sleep disorders and ADHD are closely related. At this time, no direct proof of an association has been shown and more study is needed.

According to pediatric sleep expert Dr. Syed Naqvi, children tend to become hyperactive and unable to pay attention when they are tired, symptoms that mirror ADHD. He offers some tips for parents to help identify whether sleep issues may be the culprit for their child’s behaviors:

Watch for signs of breathing issues, such as snoring or short intervals of halted breathing, and get an evaluation by a sleep expert.
Measure the duration of nighttime sleep the child is getting and monitor any sleepiness during the daytime.
Monitor school performance and seek help if it doesn't improve after starting ADHD medications.

Ability Grouping and Acceleration

The practice of how best to educate gifted and talented students is widely debated, and a recent report from Northwestern University takes a comprehensive look at 100 years of research on the subject.

Ability grouping is what it sounds like: placing students in groups or classes with other students at their level. Acceleration is skipping a grade or gaining early admission to college, which gives gifted students earlier access to educational opportunities.

Proponents argue that these practices will benefit millions of publicly educated students by increasing their academic achievement. Still, acceleration is rarely used in today’s public schools. Proponents claim that students functioning above grade level may be overlooked and underserved under the current educational framework, and according to the report by Northwestern, years of research support that theory.

If you think your child may be gifted, the first step is to research the signs. Teachers are often approached by parents who claim their child is a candidate for enrichment programs. Many school districts offer helpful literature about identifying gifted children and the processes in place to test them for special academic programs.

 

Erin McIntosh is a mom of four children, 15, 12, 10, and 6. She works at the Kansas City Art Institute and is also a freelance writer and photographer. She is currently working on her first book, a memoir about single parenting.

 

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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