Experts available to discuss back-to-school issues

Media Release: 27 August 2019 – R00135

The end of summer means big changes to the schedules of parents, children and teachers.

The start of the school year brings with it a variety of interesting topics for discussion. Brock University has numerous experts available to be interviewed by the media covering a range of subjects.

Karen Patte, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences, studies a wide array of issues related to mental and physical health in youth, with a special emphasis on adolescent sleep.

Patte says sleep has traditionally taken a back seat to the focus on physical activity or screen use, yet her team’s recent research found sleep to be the most consistent predictor of youth mental health and depressive symptoms.

“To support their continuing development, youth aged 14 to 17 are advised to get an average of eight to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night,” she says. “However, more than one-third of adolescents fall short of this guideline. We see a consistent decline in sleep duration as students advance in age and grade over high school.”

Patte recommends practising healthy sleep hygiene, such as avoiding stimulating activities before bed, and maintaining consistent bed and wake times. She also says education officials should consider delaying school start times to support students in getting enough sleep.

Louis Volante, Professor of Education, who researches migrant integration policies and social inequality in education, encourages parents and education officials to take a number of actions that would help immigrant students adjust well to a new education system.

These include:

  • Clearly communicating language and special programming provisions with parents and students so they understand new school routines, expectations and “out of school” strategies for parents to support their child.
  • Teachers becoming familiar with new immigrant groups that may include cultural customs they aren’t familiar with and extenuating circumstances, such as parent-child separation and trauma from exposure to war, among others.
  • Conducting diagnostic assessments for all children, especially new immigrant students, to ensure programming is appropriate.

Volante says education officials should pay particular attention to ‘streaming’ practices that begin when students enter high school.

“Immigrant students are disproportionately streamed into lower academic tracks, lower ability tracks, which sort of closes that opportunity for post-secondary education,” he says. “So, we need to be really aware of the options available to those students and where they’re directed.”

Michael Holmes, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and a Canada Research Chair in Neuromuscular Mechanics and Ergonomics, says parents should stop worrying about the long-rumoured risk of backpacks ruining the back health of children.

Holmes says there is little evidence to support links between backpack use and back pain or damage.

“My philosophy is that, for the most part, as a parent you don’t have to worry too much about it,” he says. “If a backpack has a reasonable amount of weight in it and fits correctly, children are not wearing it long enough for long-term damage to occur.”

Holmes recommends purchasing properly-fitting and high-quality backpacks over shoulder bags, messenger bags or purses.

He suggests:

  • A good backpack should have a waist strap, wide, padded shoulder straps, a padded pack and compartments so weight can be evenly distributed.
  • The pack should be light when empty, have reflective strips for added safety and be proportional to the size of the person.
  • Parents should encourage the pack to be worn properly with both shoulder straps, encourage children not to overload the bag and stay generally active.

Patte, Volante and Holmes are available for in-person and phone interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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