Discussions Regarding the World of Psychology (www.lapsych.com)

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A new study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior supports the notion that certain facial irregularities which are developed during the first and second trimester of pregnancy are positively correlated with future pedophilia. This study also found that left-handedness is also more common in pedophiles. I see positive and negative implications of this study based on the way it can be interpreted by people with various agendas. If used as a potential tool for early intervention, I believe that it can be a great benefit to help kids and adolescents who are at risk for becoming potential future pedophiles learn their triggers and coping mechanisms for such urges. However, if this study is misinterpreted by individuals, it can be used to alienate and red-flag individuals with possible features and can lead to discriminatory actions. It also brings up the argument of nature versus nurture and how much of this behavior is controlled by genetic predisposition or the environment and manner in which one was raised. Very interesting study…

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


Please tune in to ABC7 at 5:30pm today to watch me speak with Health Reporter, Denise Dador, about how to emotionally prepare kids for summer camp!!! I’d love to hear your feedback after it airs!!!


A new study released in April 2012 in Current Biology has found a significant causal link between Visual Spatial Attention and Reading Acquisition.  In plain English, what this means is that parents and clinicians may now be able to identify as well as intervene to better prevent a child from being held back by the handicap that dyslexia can cause for them as they grow older. 

The study found that poor readers demonstrated an impaired ability to scan and search through visual material when they were prereaders.  In addition, the study reports that 60% of poor readers displayed visual-attention deficits when prereaders.  The causal relation was made that visual attention in preschoolers specifically predicts future reading acquisition.   

This study can be tremendously helpful to parents, teachers, and clinicians in our ability to identify and help these children.  Parents can take notice of their child’s ability to maintain visual attention and practice these skills in a fun manner such as ‘Visual Search & Find’  (i.e.: Where’s Waldo type games).  Preschool teachers and programs can make it a point to incorporate such activities into their curriculum to help build these skills in children.  Lastly, clinicians can focus greater attention on the use of visual scanning assessment tools as one of the various measures used to identify dyslexia at a younger age. 

For parents who are interested in practicing these skills with their young children but who need some guidance in how to begin, a good starting place is to discuss it with your child’s teacher.  Another option would be to work with a psychologist who specializes in educational assessments and can tailor a plan for you to work on these skills with your child.   In addition, if your child is demonstrating significant difficulties in his/her visual attention at a young age (approximately 3-5), you may want to closely track their growth in attaining reading skills as they grow older and get them evaluated for dyslexia in early elementary school if you are concerned.  Never dismiss your gut feelings as a parent… if you feel like something is not right, it’s important to get them evaluated early.  After all, nobody knows your child better than you do. 

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


We’ve all heard the saying ” I perform better under stress”.  Although this may be true for some of us, it is not the case for everyone.  A recent study from the University of Chicago found that during times of stress (measured by elevated levels of cortisol), people who tend to perform better are the one’s who have a higher level of confidence to begin with.  However, people who are anxious and unsure of themselves tend to perform poorly when faced with situations of increased stress.  It appears that the cortisol associated with stress helps individuals who are confident but it hinders those who are anxious.

This study is very helpful for individuals living with anxiety as well as for the general public.  It also brings home the importance of self-confidence and esteem in future success.  It appears that stress is a benign entity, but rather, it’s your mind’s interpretation of that stress that causes one to succeed or to fail.  Confident people seem to interpret the stress as a driving force.  On the contrary, anxious people interpret this same stress in a negative manner, engage in a series of negative thoughts regarding themselves, end up failing or performing poorly, and  as a result of the poor performance, they increase their negative thoughts and level of anxiety.  It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be addressed.

Psychological treatment can be very helpful for individual with anxiety.  With the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, one can learn to identify the negative thoughts and work toward stopping and replacing them with positive ones.  In addition, therapy can help one identify the source of their anxiety and work through those issues.  In addition, this study brings up thoughts of the importance of positive parenting.  More than ever, the research is showing us that the most important thing that we can give our children is a high level of self-confidence.  It is more important for them to believe that they will be able to solve a problem as opposed to being the first to solve it.  For example, it’s more crucial for the healthy development of a child for his/her parents to teach the child to believe that he/she is good at math as opposed to instilling in the child the need to get the answer correct every time.  We can’t be next to our children at every moment to make sure that they do every problem correctly, but we can instill the self-confidence and positive thought patterns to help them get through those future stressful situations in a successful manner.  It’s not the stress that causes us to fail; it’s how we interpret the stress that makes or breaks us…

Dr. Sheyda Melkonian


ADHD and it’s link to substance abuse is a topic that has been discussed at great length in both the media as well as the world of scientific research.  However, I felt that this particular study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital is significant in that it is one of the only longitudinal studies that followed the participants for over a decade to determine the risk of substance abuse.  In addition, this study specifically examined whether any of the specific symptoms of ADHD such as impulsive behavior, cognitive problems, school problems, accompanying conditions such as bipolar disorder or conduct disorder, or family factors were each individually responsible for the risk or whether it was the diagnosis as a whole. 

The results of the study found that participants diagnosed with ADHD had a one and a half times greater risk of developing substance abuse than did control participants.  In addition, it was determined that the factors of gender, cognitive difficulties,  mood disorders, or school problems were not responsible for the risk.  Having been diagnosed with conduct disorder, however, increased the chances of substance abuse by three times when coupled with ADHD. 

What this study tells us is that there is scientifically a significant link between having ADHD and being more susceptible to substance abuse.  For this reason, it is imperative that children who may be exhibiting behaviors associated with ADHD undergo an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional to determine if they, in fact, have ADHD.  Some of the symptoms of ADHD include, but are not limited to, impulsivity, inattention, forgetfulness, hyperactivity, difficulty with time management, etc.  If an individual is diagnosed with ADHD, early intervention and being proactive with that child can be the determining factor in whether they will fall into the group that uses substances to self medicate or the group that employs healthy and functional tools to succeed.  The risk may already be there, but what is done to derail them from heading down a path of substance abuse is up to you.


 Have you ever wondered if your infant realizes it when you’re upset or arguing with your spouse?  New research shows that although infants may not be able to tell us how they are feeling, a conflictual relationship between their parents stresses them out, as demonstrated by the effect that it has on their sleep  patterns.  Research recently published in the journal  Child Development explains that marital instability when the infant was nine months old was related to child sleep problems at 18 months, including difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep.  Although all infants and children go through periods of sleep difficulty, it is important to consider whether exposure to a conflictual relationship may be further worsening the problem.  In other words, not all sleep difficulties in children are due to parental conflict, but if parental conflict is present and your baby is experiencing sleep difficulties, it is likely that the exposure to conflict is having a negative impact on the baby’s sleep pattern.

Sleep in crucial to the healthy development of infants as discussed in a research study from Emory University, which was recently published in the journal SLEEP.  The study shows that longer bouts of sleep in infants end with an increase in weight and body-fat composition tied to an increase in length.  In other words, sleep affects a baby’s physical development by helping them get taller and it also increases the baby’s weight and abdominal fat.  Therefore, preventing a baby from achieving optimal levels of sleep due to environmental stressors such as marital conflict can impact not only their emotional, but also their physical development. 

Although parents do not intend to hurt their infants when arguing with their spouse in front of the infant, it is important to know that it does have an impact on them.  Most parents assume that during infancy, babies have no idea what is going on in the world, so they do not need to filter their behavior or language as they would if they were upset at their partner in the presence of an older child.  More and more, however, we are seeing that this assumption is not true.  Although babies do not have a clear sense of what is being said or why, they sense the emotions that are involved in the relationships surrounding them.  In other words, if you are yelling at your partner, the baby does not understand what you are saying, but they understand that you become angry when interacting with your spouse.  This, in turn, affects your baby’s emotional state and (as this study shows us) their physical development.  Therefore, it is important to stay composed and contain the expression of negative emotions in the presence of infants as one would in the presence of an 8-year-old child.  Otherwise, it can affect their ability to emotionally and physically thrive ( as well as your ability to get a good night’s sleep).   It is important to seek the services of a psychologist if you feel like your baby’s sleep difficulties are caused by emotional difficulties in the home.  Family and/or couples therapy is very helpful in providing healthy outlets for the communication of negative emotions in relationships. 

Dr. Melkonian


When I look back at my elementary school education, an aspect of it which sticks out in my mind is all the spelling instruction we used to have.  I have clear memories of taking my spelling lists home and memorizing how to spell the words and then trying to remember them the next day as my teachers read them aloud for us to spell.  It was not something I necessarily enjoyed doing, but I knew that it was necessary for me to learn how to spell as a means of advancing to the next level of my education.  That’s why I was very surprised when I read the following article regarding the de-emphasis of spelling in elementary schools today. 

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/raising-readers-writers-and-spellers/201008/no-spelling-book-in-your-child-s-book-bag-spells-tr

Spelling is one of the essential building blocks that sets the foundation for successful writing.  Not only does it contribute to your child’s ability to be a good writer in the future, but it also affects the speed of their writing.  Your child’s ability to spell appropriately also has an indirect link to their ability to read correctly, quickly, and to comprehend the content of the material.   Finally, spelling and reading are very significant in building a child self-esteem and confidence in school.  If they grow up to be embarrassed by their ability to spell or to read, it is going to cause them to avoid such tasks and divert attention away from themselves by either becoming the class clown or by being socially withdrawn as a means of not getting noticed. 

Spelling is an issue which is going to follow your child for the rest of their life.  Being a Learning Disability Specialist at the Los Angeles Community College District, I am constantly meeting with college students who are able to understand the content of the courses they are enrolled in, but are held back by their lack of ability to write at age-level.  Many of these students choose to get tested to determine if their weakness in the area of writing would qualify them to be eligible for accommodations under the title of a learning disability.  Although these students may qualify for services to help them get through the writing aspect of their courses more effectively, these services do not solve the problem but instead put a Band-Aid on them.  If the foundation of spelling skills is lacking, it is very difficult to progress in the stages of writing.  When a college student is not confident in their ability to spell and use grammar correctly, they automatically lose their confidence in conveying their knowledge and understanding of the course material within the body of the essay. 

Therefore, it is essential that students are given a strong foundation in spelling at an early age.  If you feel that your child’s school is not addressing their writing skills, please discuss this with the administration.  You will not only be helping your child, but every other child in that school.  If the spelling instruction is appropriate but your child is having difficulty grasping the concept, it is wise to have him/her evaluated for a learning disability in spelling as soon as possible.  The sooner the weakness is identified, the sooner it can be addressed and remediated.  This is not something that your child needs to live with forever.  Once a learning disability is identified at a young age, various methods of instruction can be introduced to help them grasp the information in a why that is effective for them.  However, the longer that you let it go or wait it out, the more difficult it becomes for your child to catch up academically.  

For more information or if you have questions regarding learning disabilties, please feel free to call my office at 818-523-9394 or visit my webpage at http://www.lapsych.com/psycho-educational.asp

-Dr. Sheyda Melkonian



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