Aspirin & Advertising

Staff & Wire Reports

This Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 photo shows an arrangement of aspirin pills in New York. New studies find most people won't benefit from taking daily low-dose aspirin or fish oil supplements to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Results were discussed Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

This Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 photo shows an arrangement of aspirin pills in New York. New studies find most people won't benefit from taking daily low-dose aspirin or fish oil supplements to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Results were discussed Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Aspirin disappoints for avoiding first heart attack, stroke


AP Chief Medical Writer

Monday, August 27

Taking a low-dose aspirin every day has long been known to cut the chances of another heart attack, stroke or other heart problem in people who already have had one, but the risks don’t outweigh the benefits for most other folks, major new research finds.

Although it’s been used for more than a century, aspirin’s value in many situations is still unclear. The latest studies are some of the largest and longest to test this pennies-a-day blood thinner in people who don’t yet have heart disease or a blood vessel-related problem.

One found that aspirin did not help prevent first strokes or heart attacks in people at moderate risk for one because they had several health threats such as smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Another tested aspirin in people with diabetes, who are more likely to develop or die from heart problems, and found that the modest benefit it gave was offset by a greater risk of serious bleeding.

Aspirin did not help prevent cancer as had been hoped.

And fish oil supplements, also tested in the study of people with diabetes, failed to help.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty among doctors around the world about prescribing aspirin” beyond those for whom it’s now recommended, said one study leader, Dr. Jane Armitage of the University of Oxford in England. “If you’re healthy, it’s probably not worth taking it.”

The research was discussed Sunday at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich. The aspirin studies used 100 milligrams a day, more than the 81-milligram pills commonly sold in the United States but still considered low dose. Adult strength is 325 milligrams.


A Boston-led study gave aspirin or dummy pills to 12,546 people who were thought to have a moderate risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke within a decade because of other health issues.

After five years, 4 percent of each group had suffered a heart problem — far fewer than expected, suggesting these people were actually at low risk, not moderate. Other medicines they were taking to lower blood pressure and cholesterol may have cut their heart risk so much that aspirin had little chance of helping more, said the study leader, Dr. J. Michael Gaziano of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

One percent of aspirin takers had stomach or intestinal bleeding, mostly mild— twice as many as those on dummy pills. Aspirin users also had more nosebleeds, indigestion, reflux or belly pain.

Bayer sponsored the study, and many researchers consult for the aspirin maker. Results were published by the journal Lancet.


People with diabetes have a higher risk of heart problems and strokes from a blood clot, but also a higher risk of bleeding. Guidelines vary on which of them should consider aspirin.

Oxford researchers randomly assigned 15,480 adults with Type 1 or 2 diabetes but otherwise in good health and with no history of heart problems to take either aspirin, 1 gram of fish oil, both substances, or dummy pills every day.

After seven and a half years, there were fewer heart problems among aspirin users but more cases of serious bleeding, so they largely traded one risk for another.


The same study also tested omega-3 fatty acids, the good oils found in salmon, tuna and other fish. Supplement takers fared no better than those given dummy capsules — 9 percent of each group suffered a heart problem.

“We feel very confident that there doesn’t seem to be a role for fish oil supplements for preventing heart disease,” said study leader Dr. Louise Bowman of the University of Oxford.

The British Heart Foundation was the study’s main sponsor. Bayer and Mylan provided aspirin and fish oil, respectively. Results were published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Other studies are testing different amounts and prescription versions of fish oil, “but I can’t tell people go spend your money on it; we think it’s probably better to eat fish,” said Dr. Holly Andersen, a heart disease prevention specialist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell who was not involved in the study.

The new research doesn’t alter guidelines on aspirin or fish oil, said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association spokeswoman. They recommend fish oil only for certain heart failure patients and say it’s reasonable to consider for people who have already suffered a heart attack.

Marilynn Marchione can be followed at MMarchioneAP .

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

The Conversation

Advertising is obsolete – here’s why it’s time to end it

August 20, 2018


Ramsi Woodcock

Assistant Professor of Law, University of Kentucky

Disclosure statement

Ramsi Woodcock does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Since it first became clear that Russian agents spent thousands of dollars a month on political advertising on social media in the runup to the 2016 presidential election, Americans have been asking how the powerful advertising infrastructure run by Google and Facebook could have been thrown open to foreign agents.

But fewer have stopped to ask whether there is a good reason for this infrastructure to exist at all. Why, exactly, is it a good thing for Facebook and Google to be selling advertising to anyone, let alone Russian agents?

The obvious answer seems to be so that legitimate advertisers, meaning the likes of Coca-Cola and General Motors, can inform consumers about the products they offer.

But herein lies the paradox of all advertising in the information age, online or otherwise. If there is one thing that the internet has made it easy for consumers to access without the help of advertising, it is information – and especially information about products.

As I argue in a recent article in the Yale Law Journal, if the only justification for advertising is that it informs, then advertising is now seriously obsolete. Not only that, it could even count as anti-competitive conduct in violation of the antitrust laws – as the Federal Trade Commission once believed.

Advertising as information

Imagine a world wiped clean of advertising of all kinds – from the sponsored links at the top of the Google search results page and the banner ads on your favorite websites or mobile apps to the sponsored posts in your Facebook feed and the TV commercials and billboards in the offline world.

Would you still be able to find all the information you could ever want about products in this alternative world?

Of course you would. Your friends, family and the host of complete strangers you follow on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and half a dozen other sites would continue to bombard you with information about their lives, including all the products they are using. And if you want to go out and learn more about a particular product, or find something new, a thousand little blue links optimized to meet your search criteria are just a Google search away.

In other words, we live in a world so immersed in easily accessible information that advertising is no longer needed to inform us about products. Advertising is obsolete.

Advertising as manipulation

But if advertising is out of date, then why is it everywhere?

The answer, I argue in my article, is that advertising has always done more than just inform. And that other function is if anything more powerful today – and more valuable to advertisers – than ever before. It is what scholars of advertising euphemistically call advertising’s power to persuade, and what the rest of us call its power to manipulate.

As sociologist Emily Fogg Mead once put it during the dawn of mass advertising a century ago, ads are a “subtle, persistent, unavoidable presence that creeps into the reader’s inner consciousness. A mechanical association is formed and may frequently result in an involuntary purchase.”

That – and not the ability to inform consumers about products they might not otherwise hear about – is the value of advertising for which advertisers paid US$200 billion in total in the United States last year. Advertising remains so common today not because it informs but because it persuades.

That power to sway, which has always been a part of advertising, has been magnified by Google and Facebook, which have invested billions in turning the internet into a vast infrastructure of persuasion that includes the data collection tools running behind all of our favorite free services, the algorithms that decide based on that data how best to target advertising to make us succumb to its blandishments and the screen real estate where ads are displayed.

Google and Facebook put all this in place to help corporate America, not Russian agents, reach us. If it seems credible that Russian agents could have used this infrastructure to alter the outcome of a U.S. presidential election, it is equally credible that the largest American advertisers can use it every day to their own ends, inducing consumers to buy products that they don’t want.

The antitrust case against advertising

And just as Russia’s political advertising may have put one candidate in the election at a disadvantage, commercial advertising can put companies selling products that consumers might actually prefer, but are less well advertised, at a competitive disadvantage.

That gives the Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws, a legal basis for going beyond current limits on advertising that is false or aimed at children, to sue to put an end to all advertising.

The courts have long held that Section 2 of the Sherman Act prohibits conduct that harms both competition and consumers, which is just what persuasive advertising does when it cajoles a consumer into buying the advertised product, rather than the substitute the consumer would have purchased without advertising.

That substitute is presumably preferred by the consumer, precisely because the consumer would have purchased it without corporate persuasion. It follows that competition is harmed, because the company that made the product that the consumer actually prefers cannot make the sale. And the consumer is harmed by buying a product that the consumer does not really prefer.

Of course, the maker of the substitute can advertise back, but there is no reason to think that the company that wins the advertising battle with the catchiest slogan or the most famous celebrity endorsements will be the one that sells the better product. Coke’s advertising is so good that consumer brain scans light up at the mention of Coke, but not Pepsi, which may explain why Coke’s market share is double Pepsi’s, even though consumers cannot distinguish the two colas in blind testing.

The FTC and the courts understood all this in the 1950s, when advertising was taking another new medium – television – by storm. The FTC launched a series of lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest television advertisers, including Procter & Gamble and General Foods. In the FTC’s greatest success of the era, the commission managed to convince the Supreme Court that the advertising of Clorox bleach illegally put rivals at a disadvantage. According to the court, the profusion of Clorox advertising “imprint[s] the value of its bleach in the mind of the consumer,” allowing Clorox to charge a premium over store brands, even though all bleach is chemically identical.

The reason advertising never went away, and Clorox still advertises, is that in the early 1980s the FTC embraced the view of advertising as usefully informative and ended its lawsuits.

But now that the information function of advertising is obsolete, as I’ve shown, the FTC should pick up where it left off and once again challenge the business of advertising.

Freedom and consequences

A renewed FTC campaign would force the reorganization of some important industries.

Google and Facebook would of course have to find new ways to generate revenue, such as by charging users for their services, and newspapers would probably have to embrace a public funding model to survive without the advertising that has long been their lifeblood.

But, arguably, since consumers already pay for Google and Facebook with their personal data, it may not be too much to ask that they pay with their money instead. And given journalism’s well-documented woes, public funding is probably its future anyway.

The only things to fear from a renewed FTC campaign against advertising are freedom and peace of mind; the freedom to decide what to buy on your own, and the peace of mind that would come from the demise of an advertising infrastructure that foreign agents are already trying to exploit again.

Teens who feel down may benefit from picking others up

August 24, 2018


Hannah L. Schacter

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Psychology, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Disclosure statement

This material is based upon work supported by a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship awarded to Dr. Hannah L. Schacter under Grant No. 1714304. This project is also based on work supported by NSF BCS-1627272 (Dr. Gayla Margolin, PI) and NIH-NICHD R21-HD072170 A1 (Dr. Gayla Margolin, PI). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.


University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Think about the last time you helped someone out. Maybe you sent a supportive text to a stressed-out friend or gave directions to a lost stranger.

How did it make you feel?

If you said good, happy, or maybe even “warm and fuzzy,” you’re not alone. Research shows that helping others offers a number of important psychological and health benefits.

In daily life, people report better mood on days that they assist a stranger or offer an empathetic ear to a friend. Adults who volunteer, spend money on others and support their spouses also experience improved well-being and reduced risk of death.

Helping others is beneficial in part because it promotes social closeness and feelings of personal competence.

As a researcher who studies adolescent development, I decided to investigate how all this might play out in teenagers. I’m interested in studying teens’ prosocial behavior – things like helping, comforting and sharing – in the context of their close relationships. Given that adolescence is a time of heightened emotional intensity, do teens reap mood benefits from helping out others in everyday life?

Teens and depression

Looking back on your own high school years, you might recall feeling intensely anxious about looking cool in front of classmates or being liked by your crush. During adolescence, youth become increasingly preoccupied with the opinions of their peers, including their friends and romantic partners. Indeed, adolescence is a time when experiences of social exclusion or rejection can sting particularly badly.

The teenage years are also a high-risk time for developing depressive symptoms. Almost 1 in every 11 adolescents and young adults in the U.S. experience a major depressive episode. And, even youth with depressive symptoms who don’t meet criteria for an official diagnosis of depression are at risk for adjustment problems, such as loneliness and romantic relationship difficulties.

Depressed adolescents, in addition to feeling hopeless and lacking self-esteem, often respond to social stress with intensified negative emotions. For example, adolescents with major depressive disorder take peer rejection harder than do their healthy peers.

If depressed adolescents feel especially bad after negative social encounters, might they feel especially good after positive social encounters? Psychologists know that in general adolescents’ concerns about social approval can make positive interpersonal interactions – like offering a peer support or assistance – all the more rewarding. I wanted to see if that held even for teens who were feeling down.

Did you help someone today?

In our recent study, my colleagues and I examined teenagers’ prosocial behavior in their everyday interactions with friends and romantic partners. Our goal was to understand whether giving help is particularly mood-enhancing for youth with depressive symptoms.

We recruited 99 late adolescents from the community around us in Los Angeles. Most of them were high school students or recent high school graduates. First we assessed their depressive symptoms in the lab so we could find out how they’d been feeling the prior couple weeks.

Then we asked them to complete 10 consecutive days of short surveys at home. Each of the 10 days, participants told us whether they helped out their friends or romantic partners – things like doing them a favor, or making them feel important. They also reported their own mood.

On days that teens helped their friends or dating partners, they experienced increased positive mood. Even if their mood wasn’t great the day before or if they themselves didn’t receive any social support that day, helping someone else was still related to a boost in their spirits.

But does helping help some teens more than others? The positive effects of day-to-day prosocial behavior on mood that we saw were strongest for teens with higher levels of depressive symptoms. So youth with elevated emotional distress reaped the greatest mood benefits from lending their peers a helping hand.

While we often talk about the importance of receiving social support when we’re feeling down, these findings highlight the unique value of providing support to others.

Helping others helps yourself

This study provides a glimpse into the potential benefits of help-giving for teens, particularly those experiencing depressive symptoms. Our finding builds upon previous research demonstrating that prosocial behavior is most rewarding for people experiencing social anxiety, neuroticism and body dissatisfaction.

Although we did not test for underlying mechanisms for why this might be, it’s possible that providing help can make individuals feel appreciated by others or promote their sense of purpose and self-esteem. For youth with high levels of social-emotional distress, opportunities to strengthen social connections and feel competent within close relationships might be especially important for improving mood.

Many studies linking prosocial behavior to mood, ours included, are correlational — we cannot conclude that helping friends or romantic others causes more positive mood. Experimental studies that randomly assign some participants to engage in acts of kindness and others to engage in non-helping social activities will help rule out the possibility that it’s actually positive mood that drives subsequent prosocial behavior.

It’s also important to keep in mind that very few of our participants were clinically depressed. Research still needs to determine whether prosocial behavior is similarly linked to positive mood among adolescents with a diagnosed depressive disorder. An interesting question is whether some depressed youth experience emotional “burnout” from very frequent help-giving.

Although the word “adolescence” may conjure up images of reckless teens experiencing interpersonal conflict and emotional turmoil, the adolescent years are a time of great social opportunity and growth. Understanding when, how and why teens behave prosocially – and for whom help-giving most promotes well-being – can contribute to our understanding of adolescent social development.

Here’s what you need to know about homework and how to help your child

September 2, 2015


Ellen Amatea

Professor of Education, University of Florida

Disclosure statement

Ellen Amatea has received funding in the past from the Florida Department of Education.


University of Florida provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Many parents and educators view homework as an important indicator of classroom rigor. The Back-to-Basic movement, which emphasizes the need for schools to teach basic academic skills in particular, has increased the emphasis on homework as a measure of a school’s success.

In fact, many parents and students judge the difficulty of a course or teacher by the amount of homework assigned. Furthermore, many educators believe that asking parents to help their children with homework is a particularly effective strategy for enhancing children’s achievement.

Many parents, too, agree that their involvement will make a positive difference. In a 2014 study conducted by the US Department of Education, 90% of parents reported that they set aside a place at home for their child to do homework, and 85% reported that they checked to see that homework had been completed.

But does helping with homework really improve student achievement? As a high school and college teacher who has assigned homework, and a mother of two sons who were not always too enthusiastic about completing homework, I have studied the many ways that families from different income levels support their children’s academic success.

I have come to believe that homework can not only enhance children’s achievement but can be a powerful opportunity for parent-child nurturing. But research also tells us that it is not just any homework assignment that will have that kind of impact.

Here is what we are learning about homework.

When parent involvement helps

Despite a widespread belief that parent involvement in homework is good for kids, researchers are discovering that it can have both positive and negative effects.

In 2008, three researchers – Erika A Patall, Harris Cooper and Jorgianne Civey Robinson – conducted an extensive review of research on the effects on students of parent involvement in homework. They found that the effects of parent involvement appear to be strongly influenced by four factors:

  • the nature of the homework assignment
  • the particular involvement strategy used by the parent
  • the child’s age and ability level
  • the time and skill resources in the home.

The researchers found that homework assignments in which students are expected to memorize facts, and the parent is expected to teach school skills, provide less meaningful opportunities for parent and student interaction in the learning process.

In contrast, homework assignments in which students choose a project that requires in-depth investigation, thought and some creative license enable meaningful parent participation. Parents can play supportive roles in discussing the project with their child, which is more enjoyable both for the child and parent.

For example, students may demonstrate math skills; share ideas and obtain reactions to written work; conduct surveys or interviews; gather parents’ memories and experiences; apply school skills to real life; or work with parents or other family partners in new ways.

Strategies for parents

In addition, how parents help their child with homework appears to have distinct effects on student achievement.

Most parents engage in a wide variety of involvement strategies, such as creating “school-like routines” in which they make rules about when, where or how homework is done. They also interact with the teacher about homework and provide general oversight or monitoring of homework completion.

In some instances, parents control these structures; in others, parents follow the student’s lead.

For instance, parents may engage in the learning processes with the child (eg, engage in homework tasks with the child or in processes that support the child’s understanding of homework). Parents may also help their child learn self-management skills (eg, coping with distractions).

The strategies that parents use may vary depending on their beliefs about child-rearing and broader cultural values. Yet these different parent involvement strategies appear to have distinct effects on student achievement.

Strategies that support a child’s autonomy and also provide structure in the form of clear and consistent guidelines appear to be the most beneficial.

For example, in a 2001 study, researchers reported that parent homework involvement that supported autonomy was associated with higher standardized test scores, class grades and homework completion.

In contrast, direct aid (doing the homework for the student) was associated with lower test scores and class grades.

In another study, parent involvement in homework was reported by students to have a detrimental effect if the parent tried to help without a request from the child or was perceived as intrusive or controlling by the child.

Age matters

Researchers have also noted that the age and ability level of a child strongly influenced the amount of help with homework that parents provided and its subsequent benefits to the child.

Parents reported spending more time helping their elementary-age children with homework than their secondary school-age children. Parents of low-ability students reported spending more time helping with homework than did parents of high-ability students.

While teachers and parents of elementary-aged children were more likely to work together to help students complete their assignments, parents of secondary school students often did not monitor their adolescents’ homework as faithfully as when their children were younger. This, in part, is because they were not expected or asked to do so by secondary teachers.

As a result, low-ability students in middle and high school were less likely to complete homework or to achieve academically.

Another factor was that parents of older students often reported feeling increasingly less able to help with homework.

What can educators do?

These research findings have important implications for how teachers design homework assignments and how parents and teachers might participate in the homework process.

First, students (and parents) need to know why they should be doing a particular homework assignment. What skill is to be practiced/reinforced? Why does this skill matter?

Teachers need to explicitly communicate the purpose of a particular homework assignment and emphasize how the skills they are learning in a homework assignment can be applied in the real world.

Second, educators should design homework assignments that are more meaningful and allow for creativity. Students should be able to have a choice in how they carry out an assignment.

Third, students have different learning styles, and educators need to consider how they might need to express their learning differently (via audiotapes, videotapes, posters and oral presentations rather than the standard written report).

Fourth, teachers should design interactive homework assignments that involve students in interactions with peers and with family and community members. For example, authors Alma Flor Ada and F Isabel Campoy have developed an approach of creating family storybooks that are used as reading and writing texts in the classroom.

Another group of researchers designed “interactive” homework assignments that guided students on how to conduct conversations with family members in math, science and language arts.

Another team of educators worked with teachers and parents to develop curricular approaches that brought students’ cultural backgrounds and families’ “funds of knowledge” into the classroom. For example, class lessons and homework were based on how parents use math in cooking or sewing or how workers use reading and math to build a house.

Homework is a daily activity for most students that takes time, energy and emotion, not only for students but for their families as well. Given these investments, it is important that homework be a more beneficial learning experience, in which parents too can bring their interesting and enriching skills.

Helping your student with disabilities prepare for the future

July 25, 2017


Joseph Madaus

Professor of Education, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of Connecticut

Disclosure statement

Joseph Madaus receives funding from the Connecticut State Department of Education; the United States Department of Education.


University of Connecticut provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

Summer is a busy time for high school juniors. They’re getting ready to say goodbye to school as they know it and they’re researching colleges, visiting campuses and trying to figure out what college fits their needs.

Planning is an important part of this process, but for parents and guardians of students with disabilities, this is especially true.

As a professor and researcher in special education, I’ve worked with many students with disabilities transitioning to college. The ones who are typically most successful after high school are the ones who were prepared to be strong self-advocates, who could seek out needed services and supports, and who could manage the multiple demands of being independent.

These are all skills that can – and should – be taught at the middle and high school level. Whether it’s understanding your child’s disability and legal rights or figuring out what accommodations and study habits work best, preparation is key.

Campus tours are a part of many high school students’ planning process. Rob Crandall/

A wide range of disabilities on college campuses

According to a 2016 report by the United States Department of Education, approximately 11 percent of all undergraduates report having a disability – up from 6 percent almost two decades prior. Since nearly two-thirds of all students who received special education services in high school did not self-disclose their disability to a college, the actual number of students with disabilities on campuses is likely much higher.

Most of these students have what are often called “nonvisible” disabilities, including learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and, increasingly, mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Students with autism spectrum disorders are also more often attending college than a decade ago. And on some campuses, programs are emerging for students with intellectual disabilities.

A student and instructor work on skills necessary for college success at the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. AP Photo/Jeff Gentner

A change in legal status

Many of these students receive special education services during some (or all) of their kindergarten through 12th grade school years.

For many, these services are provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). The IDEA requires a free and appropriate education, in the least restrictive environment, that meets the individual needs of students. A team of professionals work with the student’s family or guardians to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP outlines the student’s strengths and needs, sets annual goals and determines what modifications might be required to help the student meet those goals.

Other students with disabilities don’t need IDEA. They qualify for services under Subpart D of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is a civil rights law (not a special education law) that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

However, in both of these cases, services end at graduation. Special education services and individualized support and instruction required by the IDEA are not available in college.

At the college level, students with disabilities may be covered under a different part of the Rehabilitation Act. (Subpart D of Section 504 covers K-12, while Subpart E covers post-secondary.) Subpart E protects college students with disabilities against discrimination and requires that they be provided equal access to all aspects of the academic program and facilities – provided that the student gains admission into college and maintains eligibility to remain enrolled, without consideration of their disability.

If admitted, and if the student would like to receive accommodations, they must seek out disability services and provide the college with required information about the nature of the disability and how it impacts access to the physical environment or to learning. Often called “documentation,” the specific requirements vary based upon disability type and, often, the college that the student attends.

It’s important to note that it’s the student’s choice to seek out and to use services at the college level. But it’s also important to know that students must self-identify as having a disability or else they’re not eligible for services – the college does not need to seek students out.

How families can prepare

There are several things that families can do to get ready for life after high school. The list below is by no means exhaustive. Each student with a disability has unique needs and questions that should be addressed.

In general, however, students and their families should:

• Learn more about the disability and the student’s unique characteristics. When leaving high school, the student should understand his or her own strengths, preferences and weaknesses – to be able to self-advocate, to use and adjust learning strategies that work for him or her, and to independently make life choices.

• Become active in the IEP or Section 504 process and be active members of the team that develops and monitors the individualized plan. Students are often left out of this process, but should be included as early as is appropriate and to the greatest extent possible, based on the student’s skills.

• Learn about accommodation needs. Students and families can work with individual teachers to request and set these up. High school is a great time for a student to learn how to monitor what’s useful and what’s not. Learning which accommodations are really needed will be an important skill in college or work life.

• Transition away from any modifications to instruction, tests or grading, and focus on the use of learning strategies. Changes to teaching methods and tests are generally not provided after high school.

• Work on time management skills. The college day is much less structured than the high school day. This creates many exciting opportunities for students, but also challenges. Students need to be prepared to productively and independently handle this free time.

• Research the disability supports offered at different colleges. Section 504 only requires colleges to ensure access and prohibit discrimination, but many colleges provide more extensive services and supports. This may affect what colleges you want to visit or apply to.

Parents can help their children practice good study habits and time management that will greatly improve disabled students’ chances when they’re on their own. Creatista/

An exciting option

Once you know what life after high school will bring, there’s even more you can do to prepare: Learn about the documentation requirements for the college you’ve chosen, get in touch with disability services and talk about needed accommodations and supports, and if appropriate for a student, think about transportation needs and access to medication or doctors.

But the most important thing is to simply start looking forward to the challenge ahead of you. College presents an exciting and viable option for students with disabilities. With preparation in high school (and knowing what to do when you actually arrive on campus) students with disabilities can succeed in college – or in whatever life after high school they choose.

Stereotypes can hold boys back in school, too

February 1, 2017


David Miller

Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology, Northwestern University

Disclosure statement

David Miller receives funding from National Science Foundation.

By age six, girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as brilliant and express interest in activities described as for “really, really smart” children, according to 2017 research published in Science.

Many major media outlets reported these findings. Most of the coverage, however, overlooked another key finding from the same study: Boys were less likely to say their own gender gets top grades in school.

The beliefs of children matter because they could shape students’ interests and achievement over time, other research suggests. For instance, one 2013 experiment found that telling elementary school children “girls do better than boys” in school made boys – but not girls – perform worse on a series of academic tests. These expectations can work both ways: When researchers told children that boys and girls would perform the same, boys’ academic performance improved.

There are real and persistent gender achievement gaps in the U.S. For instance, boys tend to get worse grades than girls, but girls are few among top scorers on standardized math tests. While much research has studied how stereotypes about achievement can make girls underperform, the gaps where boys do worse have often been historically overlooked. But stereotypes can harm boys too – just in different ways.

Even young students hold beliefs about which gender is better at what. U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud, CC BY-NC-ND

Who gets the grades, who’s super smart?

In the Science study on children’s views about brilliance, developmental psychologists asked 144 children aged five to seven years a series of questions about school achievement. For instance, children had to guess which of two unfamiliar boys and two unfamiliar girls “gets the best grades in school.”

Children tended to favor their own gender, but boys did so to a lesser extent. Among seven-year-olds, 79 percent of girls selected girls as the better student, but 55 percent of boys selected boys.

These results sharply contrasted with those about brilliance. When asked to guess who was “really, really smart,” girls instead expressed less confidence in their gender. Among seven-year-olds, 55 percent of girls selected girls as being super smart, but 66 percent of boys selected boys.

In other words, these young children overall held positive beliefs about their gender. But boys were less certain about their gender getting good grades and girls were less certain about their gender being super smart.

Other research has found that, by fifth grade, both boys and girls say that girls work harder at school, want to learn more, listen better, follow instructions better, are more polite and – perhaps as a result – perform better in school.

Reality of gender achievement gaps

Children’s stereotypes reflect reality to an extent. For instance, girls have gotten better school grades in all subject areas for nearly a century, according to a recent synthesis of 308 studies that included over one million students. This female advantage started in elementary school and continued until college.

Girls get better grades, even in math and science – two subject areas often assumed to favor boys. Women also now earn more bachelor’s degrees, master’s degree and – since 2007 – doctoral degrees than men in the U.S.

Girls get better grades even in math and science. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Transcript Study (HSTS), various years, 1990-2009

Despite their advantage in grades and degree attainment, girls are underrepresented among the highest scorers on standardized mathematics and science tests. For instance, boys typically outnumber girls by between two and four to one among the top 1 percent or higher of math scorers. However, girls tend to slightly outnumber boys among top scorers on standardized reading and writing tests.

Children’s views about who is “really, really smart” therefore partly match the reality of who gets top scores on mathematics (but not reading or writing) standardized tests.

Self-fulfilling stereotypes

But children’s stereotypes may do more than merely reflect reality: They may help create that reality through self-fulfilling prophecies. For instance, if girls doubt their gender can be brilliant, girls might then avoid “super smart” activities like advanced math summer camps and then not develop precocious mathematics talent. In other words, stereotypes and reality could mutually strengthen each other.

Consistent with these hypotheses, the new Science study also found that, by age six, girls expressed less interest than boys in games described as for “children who are really, really smart” (though more research is needed to see if stereotypes directly caused this gap in interests).

Stereotypes could negatively affect boys too. As experiments on elementary school children suggest, beliefs about boys’ academic inferiority or poor reading ability could make boys underperform on evaluative academic tests.

Teachers’ stereotypes also matter. For instance, teachers’ beliefs that girls are better readers predict declines from grade five to grade six in boys’ – but not girls’ – confidence in their reading skills. Researchers also find that teachers often view boys as “lazy, disruptive, unfocused, and lacking motivation.” This stereotype about troublesome boys could negatively bias teachers’ perceptions of boys’ learning, one experiment found.

These results suggest stereotypes contribute to gender achievement gaps, but they certainly aren’t the only factor at work. For instance, girls’ advantage in grades might also be tied to actual differences in classroom behavior or activity level.

Boys’ rowdiness in school — and teachers’ intolerance of it — might also contribute to girls’ advantage in grades, argues philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers.

Maximizing all children’s potential

Stereotypes could therefore hold back both girls and boys, but in distinct domains. Beliefs about brilliance might deter girls from top intellectual pursuits, but beliefs about grades and classroom behavior might harm boys in school more broadly across the achievement spectrum.

Both sets of findings are important. However, people often appear much less concerned with stereotypes negatively affecting boys than those affecting girls. For instance, several tweets about this new study described its results about brilliance as “sad” and “depressing,” but its results about grades went largely unnoticed.

Data on boys’ underachievement also have often been historically overlooked in media attention and educational policies. Some writers even argue that boys’ educational struggles aren’t “worrisome” because “the workplace is still stacked against [women].”

But it’s not constructive to pit one gender against the other. Recognizing contexts that favor females doesn’t erase biases against them elsewhere. More importantly, the goal of education should be to maximize all students’ potential and remove obstacles in their way. Regardless of the individual strengths students bring to school, stereotypes shouldn’t determine how far they go. Realizing that goal requires identifying and mitigating how stereotypes can also hold boys back in school.

This Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 photo shows an arrangement of aspirin pills in New York. New studies find most people won’t benefit from taking daily low-dose aspirin or fish oil supplements to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Results were discussed Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison) Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 photo shows an arrangement of aspirin pills in New York. New studies find most people won’t benefit from taking daily low-dose aspirin or fish oil supplements to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Results were discussed Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Munich. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Staff & Wire Reports