Parents Education Network e-Newsletter November 2009


Annual Fund Appeal 2009

Make a difference in the lives of kids with LD/ADHD.

"I have lectured in all 50 states. I work at all levels in the LD world, and without exception, PEN is one of the most innovative, progressive and important LD advocacy organizations in America."

- Jonathan Mooney, LD/ADHD activist and author

We have 2 months left to raise $60,000!

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Upcoming Events

The Science of Exercise and the Brain: 
How Exercise Can Improve Attention, Mood and Performance

2 Workshops with John G. Ratey, M.D., for parents and teachers

Monday, November 16, 2009

For parents: 9am - 12pm. Our Lady of Mercy School, Daly City

For teachers: 6pm - 9pm. Burke's School, San Francisco

John Ratey is a clinical psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School He is a nationally-recognized expert in the areas of autism, ADHD, aggression, psychopharmacology and the mind body connection In addition, he is the author or co-author of more than 60 journal articles and eight books, including Driven to Distraction, Shadow Syndromes and A User’s Guide to the Brain. Dr. Ratey’s recent book, SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, has transformed the way health professionals, educators, executives and policy-makers around the world view the role of exercise in maintaining good health and improving cognition, mood and performance.

The Science of Exercise and the Brain: Parent Workshop

Monday, November 16, 2009
9am - 11am. Our Lady of Mercy School, Daly City.

Bestselling author Dr. John G. Ratey will explain why exercise may be the best defense we have against ADHD, mood disorders, substance abuse, and the effects of hormone fluctuations and aging.   Don’t miss this chance to learn how certain forms of exercise can actually change one’s brain, make learning easier, combat anxiety and depression, and increase levels of attention and motivation within our families. Click here to register!

The Science of Exercise and the Brain: Teacher Workshop

Monday, November 16, 2009
6:30pm - 9pm. Burke's School, San Francisco.

Would you like to see lowered stress and increased harmony among your students?  How about an increase in their focus and intellectual capacity?  Harvard professor John Ratey has a simple, but profound plan of action that will radically expand your concept of  “peak performance.” In these ground-breaking presentations, Dr. Ratey will share cutting edge medical research that demonstrates how exercise sparks new brain cells and promotes both physical and psychological well-being in ways we are only beginning to understand.  Click here to register!

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Book Review: SPARK

SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

By John J. Ratey, MD, with Eric Hagerman

Exercise is good for you. We have all heard that before, but probably not the way John J. Ratey, M.D. explains it. According to him (and the many studies he cites), it is good for everything that ails your brain as well as your heart, but particularly for its impact on learning.

Dr. Ratey points to an innovative program, “The New PE” in Naperville, Illinois School District 203 to illustrate the importance of exercise. A physical education teacher named Phil Lawler decided to teach his students something they could use for life: how to be physically fit. Instead of grading on performance and skill, he decided to grade the students on their effort. If they worked hard enough to keep their hearts in aerobic training range (70-80% of maximum heart rate), they got good grades.

What is most remarkable about the New PE is its correlation with test scores. Naperville consistently ranks among Illinois' top 10 school districts even though it not among the top spenders per pupil. What's more, struggling students who participate in gym before school raise their grades significantly. It turns out exercise is good for learning. Why would this be? Because our biology evolved for the life of the hunter-gatherer, so that "the relationship between food, physical activity, and learning is hardwired into the brain's circuitry." Exercise boosts dopamine which improves motivation and jump starts the attentional system. There is a strong relationship between movement and attention. This is significant for those who have ADHD or who struggle with inattention.

In addition to learning, Dr. Ratey has chapters on exercise's effects on stress, anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, hormonal changes, and aging. While he goes into detail about the structures, chemicals, and processes that make our brains tick, it is interesting and readable. Dr Ratey summarizes brain research and relates interesting stories that illustrate the research. In addition to the underlying science and case studies, each chapter is filled with practical advice regarding the type and amount of aerobic exercise that is helpful in a given condition. Everyone can benefit from reading SPARK, but particularly those who struggle with attention themselves or in their children.

John J. Ratey, MD is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author or coauthor of eight books, including Driven to Distration, Shadow Syndromes and A User’s Guide to the Brain.

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EdRev 2010

Parents Education Network EdRev 2010

EdRev 2010: The LD Journey – From Self Awareness to Independence

EdRev 2010 will again be held at the unique venue, AT&T Park in San Francisco, on Saturday, April 17, 2010 from 9 am to 4 pm.  This year’s theme, The LD Journey – From Self-Awareness to Successful Independence, highlights the need for supportive services spanning the child’s journey from early intervention through career launch. In keeping with PEN’s mission to empower and bring academic success to students with learning and attention difficulties, the conference offers a wide range of information, education and support opportunities for these students, their families and the educators and professionals who work with them.  Last year’s event was an unparalleled success with over 1,250 people in attendance.  This year’s conference promises to be even better with attendance expected to exceed 2,500.

The day begins with two speakers renowned for their work in the field of learning and attention difficulties:  Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., Director of The Hallowell Center and author of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction, and Jonathan Mooney, Co-Founder of Project Eye-to-Eye and author of Learning Outside the Lines and The Short Bus.  The day continues with a resource fair, additional speaker sessions, technology demonstrations, field activities and much, much more.

We would like to invite LD/ADHD-related service providers to participate as  exhibitors, sponsors and advertisers at EdRev 2010. Please contact us at if you or anyone you know would be interested in learning more about these opportunities.

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Advertising Sales: We are seeking a volunteer who would solicit advertising from relevant providers for the EdRev 2010 Program. Please contact Laura Maloney at if you are interested. Thank you!


Many thanks to the following members who volunteered their time for various jobs this month:

Ellen Curry
Ann Farris
Christine Kantor
Barbara McGettigan
Elena Miraglia
Samantha Tripodi

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SAFE Voices

November promises to be a challenging and rewarding month for our SAFE volunteer panels.  On November 12th, these amazing students will be presenting at French American International School and the International High school at an all day event entitled "Voicing the Unspoken: A Day of Social Action." The SAFE panels provide powerful insight for educators and students and we are delighted that FAIS and IHS have included cognitive diversity in this important event designed to bring this unique form of diversity awareness to the entire school community.

On the evening of November 19th, the students will present to students, parents and educators at St. Matthew's Catholic School in San Mateo.  Finally, they will present to a graduate psychology class at UC Berkeley's Extension in late November.  These dedicated students are true to their mission as they continue to "education, mentor and support students, parents, and teachers regarding the challenges and strengths of LD and ADHD students."  To learn more about SAFE Voices, visit them on the web at The next SAFE meeting is November 14th and it is open to all interested students. 

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Recent Events

Book-signing with Joan Ryan, October 29, 2009

Last Thursday evening PEN in collaboration with NCBIDA and The Reading Clinic hosted Joan Ryan for a reading of her latest book, The Water Giver: The Story of a Mother, a Son and their Second Chance. Joan spoke candidly about her experiences as the mother of a son who struggled with ADHD and of her struggle to accept him for who he was without trying to fix him: a son who at the age of sixteen suffered a traumatic brain injury in a skateboarding accident that gave them both the chance to redefine who they were and what they meant to each other.

She was excited to read in front of a group of parents who she referred to as “her people”; people who would understand first hand about her experiences and feelings as the mother of a son who has ADHD, of a toddler who could not be tamed by straight-out discipline. She relayed how:

"... nothing stopped the tantrums. Nothing stopped the irritability, the lashing out, the aggression with other children, the defiance that triggered my own furious tantrums.

"But for as much as Ryan drove me out of my mind, I loved him with a fierceness that could make me cry just to look at him sometimes. And he loved me too.’"

She told her story of love and best intentions for her son, her story of trying to “fix” her son, her story of ultimate acceptance of a son who though he struggles has many great strengths and is now finding his own path through life. Although not an easy story for a mother to share she wanted to impart what she had learned on this journey so that others might learn the lesson without having to go down a similar path.

We at PEN would like to thank Joan for the courage that she has shown in sharing her story.

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News from the Schools

University High School

From Rebecca Whitney, UHS Learning Specialist:

On Tuesday, October 13, 2009, San Francisco University High School had its first school-wide assembly devoted to the topic of Learning Differences. Before an audience of 400 students and 75 faculty and staff, two speakers shared their experiences of living with LD.

One speaker was former UHS parent Michael Lazarus, co-founder of the private equity fund Weston Presidio, who spoke of growing up with an unidentified learning difference and the dramatic, positive effects that some study skills suggestions from a college professor had on his academic experience. He went on to talk about how, in his career as a venture capitalist, he values hard work and communication skills far more than academic pedigree, whether he is evaluating a potential employee or an investment prospect.

Our other speaker was Phia Bennin, a 2001 graduate of Lick- Wilmerding high school and a veteran of PEN’s high school panels. Although Phia’s dyslexia was identified and remediated when she was in elementary school, it was the experience of speaking on these panels that reframed her disability for her from a personal struggle to an opportunity to make social change. She focused on disability studies at Vassar College and has been working in the disability rights field since graduation, currently at the San Francisco Mayor’s Office on Disability. One of the most memorable details of Phia’s experience was when she told us that she can ready for only about ten minutes before she is too fatigued to continue.

For our students with learning differences, it was tremendously positive to hear these confident and successful adults talk about their early difficulties and how they have learned from them. For our faculty, it was an important reminder of the promise and potential contained in all students. And for the many students in the audience who do not have a specific learning difference, it made a deep impression on them to hear how hard someone with LD has to work and what that effort can lead to, when given time and support.

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Other News

In this New York Times interview, winner of a 2009 Nobel Prize in Science, Dr. Carol W. Greider, discusses her childhood dyslexia:

"My parents were scientists. But I wasn’t the sort of child who did science fairs. One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia. I had a lot of trouble in school and was put into remedial classes. I thought that I was stupid... It was hard to overcome that. I kept thinking of ways to compensate. I learned to memorize things very well because I just couldn’t spell words. So later when I got to take classes like chemistry and anatomy where I had to memorize things, it turned out I was very good at that."

Announcing the 2010 VSA arts International Young Soloists Award Call for Entries

Since 1984, the VSA arts International Young Soloists Program has been seeking to identify talented musicians who have a disability. The VSA arts International Young Soloists Award is given annually to four outstanding musicians, two from the United States and two from the international arena. The award provides an opportunity for these emerging musicians to each earn a $5,000 award and a performance in Washington, D.C. Visit:

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