Zinc Boosts Kids’ Learning

From the Food and Nutrition column of Science News

Zinc supplements can help children learn certain tasks, a new federal study suggests. Because nearly all the children already had diets supplying the recommended amount of the mineral, the findings suggest that “the recommended intake may need adjustment,” says study leader James G. Penland of the Agriculture Department’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, ND.

Penland recruited 209 boys and girls to drink a 4-ounce glass of juice at the start of school every day for 10 to 12 weeks. He randomly assigned the children to groups that would receive either plain juice or juice fortified with 10 milligrams or 20 mg of zinc. The lower quantity constitutes the recommended zinc intake for these children.

At the beginning and end of the trial, Penland asked the children to perform a battery of tests on a computer. Children who drank plain juice improved 6 percent on tests of their memory of abstract images. However, those getting 20 mg of zinc in their juice improved twice as much, and those getting 10 mg fell somewhere in between. Zinc fortification also raised scores on remembering lists of words and on hand-eye coordination. Penland reported at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego.Blau Bogen

Science News ,
Orange County Learning Disabilities Association
May/June Newsletter 2005
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A Road to Advocacy for Parents and Professionals

From JACKIE’S CORNER, a column written bi-monthly by Dr. Shohet

Former Member of the Executive Board of OCLDA. After retiring from a school district where I had been employed as a psychologist, I searched for another meaningful activity.

As I began a private practice of assessment for youngsters and adults, I discovered that 90 percent of my practice concerned problems young people had learning in school. After giving my report of their young person’s current level of functioning to the parents, I was asked to present my report to the child’s school.

The very first school meeting I was asked to attend was not at all the way my former district conducted IEPs. And I called the parents’ school staff’s attention to my perceptions. I was told by that staff that that is the way they always conducted IEPs and despite the objections I raised, the school staff proceeded to violate the special education laws as I had known them.

That experience taught me that it was imperative to learn the legal facts governing special education and I sought information from the Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK). TASK offered classes on legal requirements and procedures. TASK presented the class with the “California Special Education Programs: A Composite of Laws,” and encouraged us to read it In addition, TASK publications were mailed to those who had membership in TASK. I joined and found they very helpful. My misgivings about the first IEP I had attended were correct and through TASK I learned the next steps to take to assist the parents to obtain services for their child.

Again and again TASK staff emphasized that an advocate had to be familiar with all aspects of special education law, and should use this information to work constructively with school staff and parents to support the learning of the child.

As a psychologist, my primary focus was on the child in question, his/her strengths and weaknesses for learning, the appropriateness of the school program which often determined the progress the child had made.

The third aspect of my concern was the perspective of the child’s parents that had led them to seek out an evaluation for their youngster. Some of the children referred to me had been assessed by their school staff and other youngsters had not been evaluated although their parents had asked for assessment from their school.

An Advocate is a person who “Pleads the cause for another” (Webster’s New Collegiate dictionary); in contract to an Attorney who is defined as a “Legal agent qualified to act for suitors and defendants in legal proceedings.” (as cited above).

An advocate must have knowledge of the laws in cases of special education matters, but can only plead for the parent/child rights. When the school staff and the parents cannot reach agreement, the advocate may advise the family of their rights to a Mediation or a Fair Hearing. Depending on the complexities of the disagreements between the family and the school, the advocate may suggest that the family seek legal counsel. If, in the opinion of the advocate and the family, the matters are less difficult, Mediation may be attempted first, and the advocate may present the matter(s) for a mediator’s consideration; legal counsel may not be needed.

In summary, the first issue an advocate must consider is the learning abilities of the child, his/her school progress, the youngster’s health, vision and hearing skills, and a family history of his/her development.

The second concern for the advocate is the purpose for which the parents are seeking assistance outside of the school. Are their issues legitimate according to the special education laws that govern California?

The third concern for the advocate relates to the child’s school staff and the measures that the school has taken to address the concerns of the parents for their child.

Although an advocate is not an attorney, I have found it helpful to consult others, evaluate the issues presented by the parents, and then judge whether the parent/child issues do indeed appear to present an arbitrary situation that cannot be agreed upon by the parents and the school so that legal assistance must be considered.

The State of California has provided a system for resolving such disagreements. A family may seek assistance from the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, free of charge, to provide Mediation and if resolution cannot be reached at that level, McGeorge will then provide a Hearing Officer to adjudicate the case. If resolution is not reached at that level, the family may proceed to the Civil Court system.

Advocacy, hopefully, can contribute by resolving disagreements between the parents and school staff. The advocate needs to be well informed to be able to work constructively with the families and the schools.


Orange County Learning Disabilities Association, P.O. Box 25772, Santa Ana, CA 92799-5772. 714-547-4206.

Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK) 100 West Cerritos Ave. Anaheim, CA 92605, 714—533-8275

California Special Education Programs: A Composite of Laws, California Department of Education CDE Press, Sales Office, P.O. Box 271, Sacramento, CA 95812-0271. Or to order, call 1-800-995-4099. May cost $20.00.

Special Education: Rights and Responsibilities. Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI). Southern California Area Office, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 902, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

Wright, Peter, W.D. and Wright, Pamela Darr. Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, Harbor House Law Press, Hartfield, Virginia 23071.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Dr. Shohet is no longer available for testing or for advocacy. We were hopeful that her chemotherapy treatment for her leukemia would be successful. But that was not to be. Dr. Shohet passed away on October 9, 2003. She is an irreplaceable lady who will be terribly missed by us all.

Jacqueline M. Shohet, Ph.D. Psychologist
OCLDA’S Newsletter
September/October, 2003
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The major structure of the Positive Shaping Model is “Reinforce Steps to the Goal.”

EXAMPLE: “Go clean up your room.” One hundred items need cleaning up – the child puts away ten items – the shaping statement is “you got ten items put away – now let’s head for the other ninety.”

You shape children into being good spellers by putting “+2″ on the paper, not “-18.” “You got two words this week – let’s try for three next week.”

In “pottie” training you reinforce steps to the goal. The child might need one hundred and eight steps and an equal number of reinforcements.

If you want your wife to bake more cakes, you positively compliment her cake baking.jumping castle

Red check marks, demerit systems, name on board and check marks, take away points, red, green, yellow tickets for bad behavior, stay after school, etc. all avoid the concept of reinforcement towards the positive goal. They often reinforce and build anger, poor self-esteem and dislike of school, home, and community. They function as a reinforcer towards a negative goal.

Observation and research has demonstrated that positive shaping of appropriate behavior is a powerful system to use in rearing children.

Negative discipline is often powerful in reinforcing the child’s inappropriate behavior.

Upset in your voice, yelling, screaming, sarcasm, put downs, take aways, restrictions, demerits, name on board, and tickets for bad behavior function very well as positive reinforcers towards the goal of bad behavior. They are models for the child’s negative behavior.

The human organism is set up neurologically to respond to positive reinforcers and positive shaping.

If you rear and teach children through positive shaping and reinforcement of steps to the goal – they will be healthier, have positive self-esteem, and be internally self-motivated.

“Merits” for appropriate behavior shape the child towards more appropriate behaviors. “Demerits” can positively shape the child toward dislike of school, poor self-esteem, and lowered motivation.

Many children are “shaped” into their bad behavior by a constant bombarding of negative behavior by adults. Eight to ten years of negatives – reinforcing steps to the goad – an the child becomes a “drop out.”

Red checks, minus marks, sour faces, demerits, and take aways all represent the reinforce steps that produce the school drop outs.

So, in reinforcing steps to the goal, there can be a positive goal or a negative goal!

For healthier human beings we need to explore the idea of reinforcing steps towards positive goals.

We need to take a careful “soul searching” look at those adult behaviors that shape children toward negative goals.

When asking a child why he had a row of black stars on the teacher’s chart, he responded, “That’s my goal for this month.”

To evaluate any discipline or control procedure, ask yourself this question: “How does this procedure function to reinforce steps towards a positive goal?”


“How do demerit systems function to reinforce towards a positive goal?”

“How does ‘take away’ function to reinforce towards a positive goal?”

“How do red check marks for errors function to reinforce towards a positive goal?” ###

Dr. Walters can be contacted at Center for Children and Parents, 714-283-3390

Stanley H. Walters, Ph.D.
Orange County Learning Disabilities Association
January/February, 2004
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