Friday, December 31, 2010

Dyslexia eBook: Help your child to read

Click on the picture to be directed to the Reading Horizons website.

Empowering Learning: the simplest ideas are often the best

This month we should like to share with you some simple tips that will really assist you and your youngsters.

Whilst doing several lectures over the past few months Olive Hickmott says she was reminded how really simple ideas can make a huge difference to those who are challenged with various study skills.
  • Copying down from the board - look at the board and write onto paper without looking at the paper. You don't need to look at the paper and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well you can write. This is much faster and more accurate than looking up at the board and then down to the paper, for every letter.
  • Improving your handwriting - copy down, as above, some good handwriting, pinned to the wall. This is the most effective way to improve handwriting and proves to you that there is nothing wrong with your hand, arm, brain etc. With just a little practice your handwriting will improve dramatically.
  • Keep looking up out of negative emotions - when you are working on a desk sit back, look up and just imagine what you are going to write, looking up at words from your visual memory whenever you need. Don't collapse on the desk, even write on paper on the wall, if you need to - anything to keep you out of looking down and accessing negative emotions.
All of these and many more we cover in our Empowering Learning training programmes. They are so simple to do and will dramatically help with school work or your career. Try them out for yourself, teach them to your children and watch the results. You are always very welcome to contact me for more details than I can cover here.

The 1st research project from us is the International Association for Health and Learning
There is also a special FREE teleclass for learning difficulties on Thursday 20th January, 7:30 when Olive will be talking about how grounding affects learning difficulties.

Just email olive@empoweringlearning.co.uk to book your place. They have more research planned for 2011, so this is your opportunity to make a real difference, whether you are a parent, teachers or practitioner - we can all contribute.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting the Most Out of Speech Recognition Software

Many people feel speech recognition isn't good enough for every day use, but several devotees couldn't live without it. If you're looking to start using speech recognition, here are some tips to make it more effective.

Neuroimaging helps to predict which dyslexics will learn to read

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have used sophisticated brain imaging to predict with 90 percent accuracy which teenagers with dyslexia would improve their reading skills over time.

Their work, the first to identify specific brain mechanisms involved in a person's ability to overcome reading difficulties, could lead to new interventions to help dyslexics better learn to read.

"This gives us hope that we can identify which children might get better over time," said Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, an imaging expert and instructor at Stanford's Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research. "More study is needed before the technique is clinically useful, but this is a huge step forward."

Hoeft is first author of a paper, which will be published online Dec. 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The senior author is John Gabrieli, PhD, a former Stanford professor now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dyslexia, a brain-based learning disability that impairs a person's ability to read, affects 5 to 17 percent of U.S. children. Affected children's ability to improve their reading skills varies greatly, with about one-fifth able to benefit from interventions and develop adequate reading skills by adulthood. But up to this point, what happens in this brain to allow for this improvement remained unknown.

Past imaging studies have shown greater activation of specific brain regions in children and adults with dyslexia during reading-related tasks; one area in particular, the inferior frontal gyrus (which is part of the frontal lobe), is used more in dyslexics than in typical readers. As the researchers noted in their paper, some experts have hypothesized that greater involvement of this part of the brain during reading is related to long-term gains in reading for dyslexic children.

For this study, Hoeft and colleagues aimed to determine whether neuroimaging could predict reading improvement and how brain-based measures compared with conventional educational measures.

The other exciting implication, Hoeft said, involves therapy. The research shows that gains in reading for dyslexic children involve different neural mechanisms and pathways than those for typically developing children. By understanding this, researchers could develop interventions that focus on the appropriate regions of the brain and that are, in turn, more effective at improving a child's reading skills.

Hoeft said this work might also encourage the use of imaging to enhance the understanding (and potentially the treatment) of other disorders.

"In general terms, these findings suggest that brain imaging may play a valuable role in neuroprognosis, the use of brain measures to predict future reductions or exacerbations of symptoms in clinical disorders," she explained.

The authors noted several caveats with their findings. The children were followed for two-and-a-half years; longer-term outcomes are unknown. The study also involved children in their teens; more study is needed to determine whether brain-based measures can predict reading progress in younger children.

Hoeft is now working on a study of pre-readers, being funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Journal Reference:
  1. Fumiko Hoeft, Bruce D. Mccandliss, Jessica M. Black, Alexander Gantman, Nahal Zakerani, Charles Hulme, Heikki Lyytinen, Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, Gary H. Glover, Allan L. Reiss, and John D. E. Gabrieli. Neural systems predicting long-term outcome in dyslexia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1008950108

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ADHD and alcohol exposure: Deficits in number processing

Both ADHD and fetal alcohol exposure are linked to poor academic performance in cognition and attention, so researchers decided to try to pinpoint the exact brain areas affected by each disorder, with the hope that this research could lead to the creation and development of new and improved treatments.

The results will be published in the March 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

Joseph L. Jacobson, lead author of the study and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, said that the goal of the study was to determine if alcohol-related deficits in magnitude comparison (the ability to mentally represent and evaluate relative quantities) seen in children with prenatal alcohol exposure would also be true for ADHD.

"We thought it very interesting that this is not the case. The arithmetic deficit in ADHD is mediated primarily by poorer executive function and attention problems rather than magnitude comparison, which is more often impaired in children with fetal alcohol exposure."

The researchers assessed 262 African-American adolescents at 14 years of age. Their mothers were recruited during pregnancy and interviewed extensively regarding their use of alcohol to determine the amount of alcohol the child was exposed to prior to birth. The children were evaluated for ADHD symptoms at ages 7.5 and 14 by parent/guardian and teacher reports, and their number processing abilities were assessed at 14 years.

The results showed that children with fetal alcohol exposure demonstrated strong deficits in number comparison, while children with ADHD demonstrated deficits in attention and memory. Thus, although number processing is affected in both ADHD and fetal alcohol exposure, the exact cause of the difficulties appears to be different.



Deficits in number processing in children with ADHD and alcohol exposure: Similar but different

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dyslexia and E-Readers: Are they useful?

The many bells and whistles of e-readers are fun to use, but for dyslexics, they can be essential tools for basic reading.

For example, the book reader for the iPad has a text-to-speech feature built in called VoiceOver and the Intel Reader can take pictures of text and convert it into audio files within seconds. Readers can then choose the speed of playback for those audio files, helping them sound out words they’re struggling with.

E-readers with built-in dictionary features can also help readers quickly see the pronunciation and the order of syllables in a word. And readers can customize reading modes, such as font, size, and color. “All the books I’ve found so far tend to be on white, but there’s an option to make it a dark yellow which is good for me,” notes one member of an online forum.

There’s even an iPad and iPhone app called “Tips and Tricks for Beating Adult Dyslexia” includes general information about diagnosis, techniques for dealing with symptoms, and first-person stories.

Still, there’s little significant research to date that supports the claim that e-readers help students with disabilities — it’s primarily anecdotal evidence so far, since all of this is so new. An article in Education Week explores the use of e-readers in special-needs education and concludes that “the jury’s still out.”

This might be because some students might need to rely on the physical pages to skim headings and subheadings quickly to organize their thoughts, one researcher says.

But the advantages are clear to those who use them – students show independence without help from adults. According to one teacher, “It is not only liberating for the kids, but also liberating for the teachers.”

Hans Asperger - Who Was He?

Hans Asperger - Who Was He?

One of the cooler aspects of discovering a new syndrome or disease, aside from making medical history, is that you get to name the disease after yourself. In the case of Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), the name is derived from Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician, Feb. 18, 1906 - Oct. 21, 1980. Hans Asperger was a prolific writer, penning over 300 publications, most of them to do with autism in children.

Uninterested Classmates
Asperger was born to a farming family in the rural town of Hausbrunn, which lies on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria. The eldest of two boys, as a youngster he had a talent for languages and liked to quote the poet Franz Grillparzer to his uninterested classmates.

Quoted Himself
Some say that Asperger exhibited many of the tendencies of the syndrome he so well described. Hans found it hard to make friends and was seen as somewhat introverted. He was known to refer to himself in the third person and would often quote his own words.

He studied medicine in Vienna, becoming a doctor of medicine in 1931. Asperger practiced at Vienna’s University Children’s Hospital. In 1935 Dr. Asperger married and went on to father 5 children.

Toward the end of World War II Asperger served as a medical officer in Croatia. His younger brother perished in The Battle of Stalingrad.

After the publication of Asperger’s landmark paper on autism symptoms in 1944, he was given a tenured position at the University of Vienna. Just after the war ended, he was made the director of a children’s clinic in that city. 

Asperger was appointed chair of pediatrics at the university and served in that position for 2 decades. He later took a position in Innsbruck. In 1964 he agreed to head the SOS-Kinderdorf in Hinterbrühl, becoming professor emeritus in 1977.

Dr. Asperger first wrote up his definition of Asperger’s syndrome in 1944 but his work was little recognized during his lifetime. This is due to the fact that his work was in German and translations were rare. The first paper to mention Asperger’s Syndrome was published in 1981 by Lorna Wing, a British researcher. 

Wing’s paper on the subject, Asperger's syndrome: a clinical account, served as a challenge to the accepted model of autism as presented by Leo Kanner in 1943.

Once Asperger’s findings began to be translated into English in 1989, the English-speaking world sat up and took note. At that point, his findings gained notice and Asperger’s syndrome received recognition as a diagnosis.

Asperger had identified a certain pattern of behaviors and special abilities in four boys which he called “autistic psychopathy.” This pattern of behavior included, "a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships, one-sided conversations, intense absorption in a special interest, and clumsy movements." 

Asperger spoke of children with AS as "little professors" because they could speak on a favourite topic in great detail.

Dr. Asperger believed that these children would make use of their special talents when they reached adulthood. One of the children, Fritz V., later became a professor of astronomy and managed to solve an error in Newton’s work that he had noticed in his childhood.

Dr. Hans Asperger
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Asperger’s work is his positive description of Asperger’s syndrome which is striking in comparison to Leo Kanner’s depressing description of autism. Asperger’s syndrome is considered a higher-functioning form of autism.

The original publication of this blog can be found here

Friday, December 10, 2010

Overcoming Dyslexia

The history of medicine is filled with dyslexic surgeons and physicians who were at the top of their profession or pioneering new disciplines.

However, but the road to success is never easy and it was not straightforward for them either.

Gaining the skills to practice medicine and surgery was the easy part; lower education and overcoming the obstacles of standard testing, were the most difficult. You may have already experienced this for yourself.

Read more about Dyslexic Doctors at Dyslexic Advantage

White Belt in Dyslexia: Dyslexic Brian

Dyslexia the Gift: Picture at Punctuation and Reading Comprehension

An extract from the Davis Dyslexia site:


"Picture at Punctuation" is a multi-faceted tool that builds many dyslexic weaknesses into strengths if it
becomes a habit by being practiced every day for the first 30 days after a Davis program. It is the third and final tool introduced as part of Davis' "Three Steps to Easier Reading." — but it offers much more to students than merely improving reading skills.

The tool begins with a mental picture, that is formed by the reader whenever encountering punctuation in print. The key is to take the words, stopping at the end of each thought, segment, or sentence, and translate them into the pictures the dyslexic mind processes and retains. It can be used effectively with spoken as well as written words.

The picture can be very simple. It needs to depict every important thing in the sentence or clause, and it should not have anything that doesn't belong. Just as with the clay models formed in Davis Symbol Mastery, it should be "as simple as possible, as complex as necessary".

This process teaches the dyslexic and builds in the reader the ability to harness the imagination and limit it to what the writer intended. If the author didn't mention a dog, but that dog is "necessary" to the reader in order to picture the "comfy home" the author did mention, the reader may picture it until it becomes confusing and a detriment to comprehension/retention — but recognize the author didn't place the dog there, the reader did.

The purpose of writing is to pass the thoughts of the writer across time and space — it is the responsibility of the picture thinking reader to get the writer's intention/inflection by limiting his picture to what is written and properly using the punctuation to gain intention/voice inflection.

When a reader/listener adds too much to the picture, the intention of the written/spoken word is lost as the reader "writes" his or her own story or instructions. Likewise, when a dyslexic reader/listener cannot picture something, it doesn't exist for him or her and is not included in the retained picture.

Forming pictures helps with oral expression and the ability to listen and follow instructions.

For more information click here Dyslexia the Gift: Picture at Punctuation and Reading Comprehension

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Orton-Gillingham Language Training System

The Orton-Gillingham approach is described on the Special Education Advisor website as
'.....a unique language training system that was designed by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham.  Dr. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading failure and related language processing difficulties.   

He revolutionized modern thought concerning learning disabilities, determining that language-based disorders were biological and not environmental in origin. 

He brought together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation, having extensively studied children with the kind of language processing difficulties now commonly associated with dyslexia and formulating a set of teaching principles and practices for such children.  

He strongly believed that such disorders would respond to specific training if properly diagnosed and if the proper training methods to meet the needs of each particular case were instituted.

Anna Gillingham was a gifted educator, psychologist, and school administrator.  Working with Dr. Orton, she devised methods of teaching these students based on the principles formulated by Dr. Orton, and she compiled and published instructional materials.  

The Gillingham Manual, which she wrote with Bessie Stillman, still serves as the leading instruction manual of the Orton-Gillingham approach. 

The Orton-Gillingham approach has been the most powerful intervention designed expressly for the remediation of the language processing problems of children and adults with language-based learning disorders such as dyslexia. 

However, due to its design and manner of implementation, research supports that all students can and will benefit from a multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, flexible, emotionally sound, and diagnostic-prescriptive approach.  

The Orton-Gillingham process places students in position to master the eighty-five percent of the English code that is phonetic.  Further, and most importantly, it allows them to make intelligent choices towards mastering the remaining fifteen percent of the English code that must be analyzed in order to be applied properly.

The Orton-Gillingham approach revolves around the scientifically-based concepts that humans acquire and master language through three distinct neurological pathways:  visual processing (seeing), auditory processing (hearing), and tactile-kinesthetic processing (feeling). 
To read more about the Orton-Gillingham Process click here to go to their website

Inclusion: Children With Disabilities Reveal their concerns

The playground can be a daunting place for any kid trying to join in and be one of the gang. For kids with disabilities it's just as important to feel included, be accepted and valued -- particularly by their peers.

In a study to understand the perspectives of children with disabilities around inclusion in physical activities during free play, recreational sports and recess, Dr. Nancy Spencer-Cavaliere, an adapted physical activity expert, in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, interviewed children with a range of disabilities about their thoughts on what made them feel included or rejected during these activities.

"Children were asked to theorise about other fictional children who are like them, so they didn't have to pour their hearts out initially if they didn't want to. So I'd start by saying, 'Imagine if you were…'

"I found that as children theorised, they would float in and out of the first, second and third person. They would weave their own experiences into those of the fictional child they were theorising about.

Final questions would ask, 'How about you? How would you feel?'"

Three themes emerged from the data: gaining entry to play; feeling like a legitimate participant, and having friends.

"Many children spoke about initiating play," says Spencer-Cavaliere, "and either being invited to play or asking to play and being rejected or not being invited or not being allowed. Making that initial step into a play environment is really a critical step for children."

One of the children gave an example of wanting to play freeze-tag, a game he enjoyed. "He asked to play and was rejected. He asked the teacher to help and the teacher did nothing. Eventually he walked away. 'It feels like you're treated like an insect,' he said.' So a major part of being included was being asked to take part, or another child saying, "Yes, you can play."

Children frequently expressed the need to feel valued, evolving the second major theme: feeling like a legitimate participant. Says Spencer-Cavaliere, "For the children this meant that once within a physical activity or play environment, taking on roles that were meaningful, feeling a part of the game: feeling important, as though you had a valued role."

In the third theme, having friends, children stressed the value of true friendships, having someone they could depend on and trust. "That allowed children to be less concerned about their performance and more invested in being part of the game and having a good time because they were in a safe place with people who accepted and valued them."


One surprise for Spencer-Cavaliere: "Children were given a broad spectrum of things they could talk about but they never mentioned physical education when discussing feeling included," she says. "This may mean they don't consider physical education as inclusive because it's very structured by adults. It seems that other children and their behaviour make the distinction between feeling included or belonging that could arise in other play settings where children could direct and make decisions about who takes part.

"With that said, the free play setting is a major challenge for children with disability," says Spencer-Cavaliere, "simply because you're really dependent on other children who are not always mature, or understand or appreciate difference and value that."

So what's a teacher, coach, parent to do to help kids with disability feel included? "When in doubt, ask the child," says Spencer Cavaliere. "You get valuable information and it gives them a say."

Spencer-Cavaliere cautions there is no one solution. "All children need to be in places where they feel included, whether they experience disability or not," she says. "This could mean specialized or integrated settings. Children need to have legitimate choices to have meaningful experiences in a variety of physical activity settings, and we should not be limiting the type of setting."
The research was published in the Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, and named a landmark study by the journal.

Targetting Core Social Deficits of Autism

Targeting the core social deficits of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in early intervention programs yielded sustained improvements in social and communication skills even in very young children who have ASD, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

The study was published online December 8, 2010, in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Although some research suggests that ASD may be reliably diagnosed earlier than the current average age of 3 years, few interventions have been tested in children younger than 3.

During the course of typical development, children learn to interact with others in socially meaningful ways. Measures of social communication include:
  • Initiation of joint attention -- spontaneously directing others' attention to something of interest, such as by pointing or holding something up to show for social purposes rather than to ask for help
  • Affect sharing -- sharing emotions with others through facial expressions paired with eye contact
  • Socially engaged imitation -- imitating others' actions while showing social connectedness through eye contact.

Deficits in such measures are hallmark symptoms of ASD and can severely limit a child's ability to engage in and learn from interactions with others or from the world around them.

"This new report is encouraging, as the effects on social behavior appear to provide a scaffold for the development of skills beyond the research setting," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "We need better early interventions for the core deficits of autism."


The interventions were designed to encourage children to make frequent and intentional efforts to engage others in communication or play. The single difference between interventions was that the IS group received more opportunities for joint attention, affect sharing, and socially engaged imitation. The toddlers were assessed at the start and end of the intervention and again six months later.

Children in both groups made improvements in social, cognitive and language skills during the six-month intervention period. Children who received IS made greater and more rapid gains than those in the non-IS group.

The researchers also noted that children in the IS group used their newly acquired abilities with different people, locations, and type of activity. This is noteworthy because children with ASD have particular difficulty doing so. They tend to use new skills mostly within familiar routines and situations.

Journal Reference:
  1. Rebecca J. Landa, Katherine C. Holman, Allison H. O’Neill, Elizabeth A. Stuart. Intervention targeting development of socially synchronous engagement in toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02288.x

Fewer Synapses, More Efficient Learning: Molecular Glue Wires the Brain

Yale University researchers have found that a single molecule not only connects brain cells but also changes how we learn. The findings, reported in the December 9 issue of the journal Neuron, may help researchers discover ways to improve memory and could lead to new therapies to correct neurological disorders.

The junctions between brain cells over which nerve pulses pass -- called synapses -- are crucial for regulating learning and memory and how we think. Aberrations in the structure and function of synapses have been linked to mental retardation and autism, while synapses are lost in the aging brains of Alzheimer's patients.

However, the mechanisms that organize synapses in the living brain remain a puzzle. Yale scientists identified one critical piece of this puzzle, a molecule called SynCAM 1 that spans across synaptic junctions.

"We hypothesized that this molecule might promote new synapses in the developing brain, but were surprised that it also impacts the maintenance and function of these structures," said Thomas Biederer, associate professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and senior author of the study. "We can now define how this molecule supports the brain's ability to wire itself."

The Yale team focused on SynCAM 1, an adhesion molecule that helps to hold synaptic junctions together. They found that when the SynCAM 1 gene was activated in mice, more synaptic connections formed. Mice without the molecule produced fewer synapses.

When we learn, new synapses can form. However, the strength of synaptic connections also changes during learning, based on the amount of stimuli received -- a quality scientists termed "plasticity." Together with a group in Germany led by Valentin Stein, the team was surprised to find that SynCAM 1 controls an important form of synaptic plasticity.

Unexpectedly, Biederer and colleagues also found that mice with high amounts of SynCAM 1 are unable to learn while mice lacking SynCAM 1 -- and having fewer synapses -- learn better. Apparently an excess of the molecule can be damaging. This builds on recent theories suggesting that having too many connections isn't always better and that the balance of synaptic activity is crucial for proper learning and memory.

"Synapses are dynamic structures. It appears that SynCAM 1 ties synapses together; some of this molecule is needed to promote contact but too much glues down the synapse and inhibits its function. It may act a bit like a sculptor who helps give synapses their shape." Biederer also said that the molecule is almost identical in mice and man, and likely has the same roles in human brains.

Journal Reference:
  1. Elissa M. Robbins, Alexander J. Krupp, Karen Perez De Arce, Ananda K. Ghosh, Adam I. Fogel, Antony Boucard, Thomas C. Südhof, Valentin Stein, Thomas Biederer. SynCAM 1 adhesion dynamically regulates synapse number and impacts plasticity and learning. Neuron, 2010; 68 (5): 894-906 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.11.003

Parenting techniques: Releasing Anger

Shifting YOUR attitude and perceptions so that you can experience more joy and peace in your life.

Here are some techniques for rapidly diminishing anger in any situation:

1. Chi Gong Exercise for Releasing Anger:

Think of an issue that makes you feel angry. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands at your sides. Tuck in your pelvis and slightly bend your knees, as if you were sitting on an imaginary tall stool behind you.

As you breathe in, slowly bring your hands up at your sides to the level of your shoulders with your arms straight and as you reach the height of your shoulders, turn your palms upward facing the sky.

Then continue to raise your arms, bringing your hands over your head. Make a fist with each hand. While making a loud 'Tchu' or 'Chew' sound, forcefully exhale while rapidly bringing down your arms all the way to thigh level and opening your fists, flinging and releasing the angry energy into the earth.

Feel the tension releasing from your muscles as you perform this manoeuvre. Repeat this motion at least 3 more times or until you feel the anger completely released.

2. Ceremonial Anger Release:
Write down on a piece of paper the issue that is creating anger or resentment for you. This may be in a form of a letter to the person with whom you have the issue or may just be your own angry thoughts that you are feeling.

We present three ways of performing this ceremonial release. You may, of course, create your own ceremony that feels appropriate for you.

  • 1) The first ceremony involves tying your note to a helium balloon and releasing the note into the air to be carried away.
    • NB: Make certain that you have no identifying information on the note that you have written if you choose to use this method as the balloon will inevitably pop once it reaches a high altitude and your note may return to the earth several miles away. (You do not want your anger returned to you)
  • 2) The second ritual involves burying your note in the ground to allow the anger to be released and transformed by the earth.
  • 3) The third way of transforming anger is performed by burning your note outside in a ceremonial fire or in a fireplace. 
    • NB: Make sure to contain your ceremonial fire in a safe manner; never leave a fire untended, and make certain you have water, sand, or a fire extinguisher to put the fire out when you are finished with your ceremony. (Avoid anger spreading with the fire)

3. The ‘La Cucaracha’ Technique:
If you have to be around a person that you harbour anger towards and you are not yet ready to transform the anger or resentment, then this technique may be helpful to you.

Picture the person as a giant cockroach. Although this may sound a little bizarre, it can really work because a cockroach is completely predictable; it will come out in the dark and runs to hide when the light is on. It is the nature of the creature.

We do not get angry at a cockroach for not coming out when the lights are on because we understand its nature and motivation.

If you think about someone who repeatedly annoys you, their behaviours are also predictable after a while. The circumstances may change but the overall pattern remains stable over time.

Consider that person to be like a cockroach; or, for those of you squeamish about cockroaches, like an ant or another insect.

Now, think of the person you are harbouring anger towards and see them as if they are a giant ant or cockroach wearing human clothes, with their antennae bobbing around on the top of their head and their little insect arms dangling off their sides.

If you picture this image when you are around the person in question, then you will become less fixated on their behaviours and will not take what they say or do seriously or personally.

Sometimes it can help to hum softly under your breath, “La cucaracha, La cucaracha”. The Spanish term for cockroach is ‘cucaracha’.

You will definitely be more relaxed towards the person angering you, your self, and the situation in general if you use this technique.

NB: You should always remove your self from any abusive situation. This would not be an appropriate means of dealing with someone who is physically or emotionally abusive towards you.

I trust this information helps you get a better perspective on yourself, your own anger and on situations that cause you to become angry.

Parenting Techniques - Stop shouting!


Behavioural Techniques to change children's behaviour:

1. “Whisper Technique“- Mystify your child by whispering a request or command to them rather than shouting. We learn at an early age that anything that is being whispered MUST be something secretive worth listening to.

Therefore, your child is more apt to pay attention to a whisper rather than to shouting, AGAIN. We respond to behavioural conditioning. If we are given the same stimulus ie, shouting over and over, then we desensitise and eventually, extinguish any response to it.

This is why our children just continue going about their business unabated, even if we are shouting at them. Our shouting just becomes “background noise”.

Whispering, however, would be a novel stimulus and more likely to get their attention. It will also set a calmer atmosphere than the shouting stimulus and may lead to a more peaceful home environment.

2. “Chore Charts” – If many of the arguments in the home are about household chores and perceived inequalities in workload, it can really help to post a simple chore chart in a prominent area where everyone will see it every day.

Be sure to allocate tasks equally and don't forget to put down what the parents are responsible for, because the older children get, the more observant they are as to what the parents are doing to contribute to house work.

It's also important to rotate the less desirable jobs, so that no one “always gets stuck with the worst job” e.g. taking out thetrash or like cleaning out the litter box.

3. Token Economy System- If behavioural issues are a major problem for certain children, then you may create a weekly or monthly calendar or chart that shows how behaviours are progressing through the week.

Establish specific target behaviours with your child, which would include undesirable behaviours and also what behaviors might be rewarded.

Make a list of the behaviours that can gain positive points and the behaviours that would accrue negative points. Make certain the points are weighted appropriately.

Par example; taking the garbage out or cleaning a room might gain 1 or two points. Not putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket might be minus 1 but pinching a sibling might be minus 2 or minus 3. Punching a hole in the wall would be minus 5, etc.

Everyone must know what the “rules” are and all caregivers in the home must agree on the point system for it to be reinforced and to work well.

At the end of the week you tally up all the points and see what the results are. You then must have a reward system that all again agree upon, so as to appropriate rewards (bonuses such as a friend sleepover, movie, ice cream, allowance, or extra television or computer time, etc.) versus punishments (less TV or computer time, less allowance than usual, etc).

Good luck!

NASA - 'S' is for Space Station

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are helping children learn their ABC's and vocabulary through educational demonstrations of how they live and work in space.

NASA collaborated with Sesame Workshop, including the popular children’s television programs, "Sesame Street" and "The Electric Company," to create science, technology, engineering and math-related education resources, or STEM, for children ages 2-5.

"The space station environment provides a unique classroom in space to teach young children about the words such as 'float' and 'astronaut' by showing them how astronauts float in space," said Matthew Keil in the Teaching from Space Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Space station astronaut Soichi Noguchi completed four educational videos for "Sesame Street" during his stay on the International Space Station from December 2009 to June 2010. 

The four videos are airing on "Sesame Street" throughout the fall 2010 season. On the episode "F is for Float" -- show number 4214 -- Noguchi held up the letter "F" to represent the word "float" while he floated around the space station to demonstrate the word.

"Word on the Street" -- show number 4222 -- featured Noguchi explaining to the character "Murray" what the word "float" means, using similar demonstrations with a lemon, socks and a ball.

On the episode "A is for Astronaut" -- show number 4225 -- Noguchi held up the letter "A" to represent the word "astronaut." Noguchi sounded out the letter and the word for children.

On the "Countdown to Space" episode -- show number 4234 airing on PBS December 27 -- Noguchi counted down from 10 to one. Noguchi counted down and said "blast-off!" while floating from the floor to the ceiling.

Sesame Workshop approached the NASA Teaching from Space Office for assistance in implementing more science and math curriculum into their programming by using the unique educational environment of the space station, NASA centers and facilities and the unique people who work at NASA.

"I am an educator who is very interested in making connections between curriculum and everyday life experiences that students encounter," said Keil.

"There are many teachable moments that exist in every NASA mission. Our job is to make sure educators and students are aware of these moments and assist them in connecting these moments to what they are teaching or learning in school and at home."

The shows are repeated and archived at the following link by using the show numbers to locate individual segments:


http://www.sesamestreet.org/onair/episodes

Intro to Mind mapping to help study

Mind maps help you produce a more visual representation of linked ideas, allowing you to dig deeper without losing sight of your original purpose.

You can take the research journey full circle by using your sub-links to find more information, then by re-associating your new findings through the key concept you started with.

If you’ve not seen them before, or want a recap of the basics, check the video at the bottom of this post for an example of a mind map in development.

For remembering key facts and forming a basic, overall awareness of something, they’re great. You can easily add more to them and shape them in a way that benefits you.

There are a huge number of services for creating mind maps on computer and online. Chuck Frey has put together a huge resource list of all the mindmapping tools currently available. There are so many tools out there, you’re spoilt for choice.

But be warned. Mind maps aren’t a perfect study tool: “A disadvantage of mind mapping is that the types of links being made are limited to simple associations. Absence of clear links between ideas is a constraint.” (Davies)

Mind mapping to help study | TheUniversityBlog

Suggested Blog Reading: Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs

I was recently contacted by DDuck and they suggested I check out the Typ-O TTS Word Prediction Text App. I have done so and find it very encouraging but I will need feedback from my readers before I could say that I have comprehensively reviewed it.

Will you help? Send me your feedback on this app and tell me what you like and don't like.

In the meantime here is an extract from DDuck's blog, and vey interesting it is too:

I am trying out a new iPad App called Typ-o HD It is a word prediction App for those with dyslexia As a dyslexic I have found spelling on the iDevices to be the most frustrating thing I can think of. The automatic word replacement nearly always does not use the word I meant. It is crazy making to have a text you worked hard on read like a Mad Lib. Additionally I often times touch a misspelled word only to have the pop up show that there is no word that is close enough to what I spelled for it to make suggestions.

The best spelling correction program I have ever used is that which is built into the web browser Firefox. It works for me because it underlines misspelled words and then gives me a list of possible words when I right click on the underlined word; infrequently I have spelled something so incorrectly that this method doesn't work for me, but then I can usually get pretty close to what I meant with a few attempts at sounding out the word (phonetic encoding).

I have used word prediction programs in the past, usually Write:Outloud by Don Johnston, but I often times do not find word prediction to be that useful. Luckily I can usually pick the word I want from a list of potential words. So I am capable of using word prediction. Typeo is nice because you can click the "play" icon next to any word and hear it said to be able to find out if it is the word you meant Thus far typeo seems to be working OK for me except it is hard to get used to looking at the word prediction for words I might misspell.

Check out the full article at Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs

Widening our perceptions of reading and writing difficulties

2 new studies shed light on different types of dyslexia and dysgraphia

Learning to read and write are complex processes, which can be disrupted in various ways, leading to disorders known as dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Two new studies, published in a recent special issue of Elsevier's Cortex (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00109452) provide evidence of this variety, suggesting that effective treatment needs to take it into account.

A group of researchers from the Universities of Bari and Rome in Italy studied the reading and writing abilities of 33 Italian dyslexic children, comparing their performance with that of children with normal reading ability.

Italian is an "orthographically transparent" language, meaning that letters tend to correspond to the same sounds, whereas many letters in the English alphabet change their sound from word to word (like the "c" in car and city).

However, the new study showed that even in Italian, in which it is relatively straightforward to convert sounds into letters, children still have difficulties in spelling.

Younger children with dyslexia generally performed worse than proficient readers; however, the older ones showed a more selective impairment when spelling words, suggesting that knowledge of vocabulary may be more important in spelling than previously thought.

The other study, from Tel Aviv University, Israel, provided the first systematic description of a type of reading disorder called "attentional dyslexia" in which children identify letters correctly, but the letters jump between words on the page, e.g., "kind wing" is read as "wind king".

Teachers and neuropsychologists often notice that children substitute letters when reading, but in this type of dyslexia the substitutions are not caused by inability to identify letters or convert them to sounds; they result from migrations of letters between words.

The findings showed that letters would mostly migrate to the same position in another word, so the first letter of one word would switch places with the first letter of another word.

Awareness to the existence of this type of dyslexia is important, because it suggests a straightforward way to assist these children in reading - by presenting a ‎single word at a time, e.g., with the help of a word-sized window cut in a piece of cardboard.

More information on this report - Widening our perceptions of reading and writing difficulties

Dyslexia: Simulation Exercises Prepare Teachers

If trying to teach students with the learning disorder of dyslexia is frustrating for most teachers, consider what it must be like from the student’s point of view.

That’s exactly the point of dyslexia simulation exercises that every teacher candidate must experience before graduating with a degree in early childhood, elementary or secondary education at Southeastern Louisiana University.

“The role of an insightful teacher in working with a child with dyslexia is critical, and their perceptions play an important role in learning,” explained Elizabeth Wadlington, professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education and Human Development. She coordinates dyslexia simulation exercises for students at Southeastern every semester.

Dyslexia, the most common language-based learning disability that impairs an individual’s ability to read, write and spell, affects between 17 and 20 percent of the U.S. population. It is not related to intelligence, Wadlington said.

“Dyslexia causes difficulty in language processing,” she added. “The kids may be bright and intelligent and can see and hear just as well as everyone else, but they have a problem processing the information in their brains.”

The simulation exercises she and her colleagues present are designed for the future teachers to feel the frustrations these children feel when they are in the classroom.

After attending lectures on dyslexia to gain a basic understanding of the issue, the students participate in the simulation exercise, rotating through a variety of stations that focus on simulating reading difficulties, writing and visual-motor difficulties, and visual perception and visual processing difficulties while trying to read.

Meanwhile, faculty facilitators play the role of teachers, demonstrating the impatience, exasperation and lack of understanding that Wadlington says are all too common in many classrooms. After each station, the students go through a debriefing session, reflecting on their experiences.

To read the full article click here at NewsWise

Prosopagnosia: A Podcast with Oliver Sacks

A NEUROLOGIST’S NOTEBOOK is about prosopagnosia, or the inability to recognise faces and places. The writer describes his own difficulties recognising and remembering faces. He also has the same difficulty with places and often becomes lost when he strays from familiar routes.

At the age of seventy-seven, despite a lifetime of trying to compensate, he has no less trouble with faces and places than when he was younger. He is particularly thrown when seeing a person out of context, even if he was with that person five minutes before.

The writer gives several examples of his inability to recognize familiar people out of context, including his therapist and his assistant. After learning that his brother suffered from the same problem, the writer came to believe that they both had a specific trait, a so-called prosopagnosia, probably with a distinctive genetic basis.

He mentions several other people who have the same trait, including Jane Goodall and the artist Chuck Close. Face recognition is crucially important for humans, and the vast majority of us are able to identify thousands of faces individually, or to easily pick out familiar faces in a crowd.

People with prosopagnosia need to be resourceful and /or inventive in finding strategies for circumventing their deficits: recognising people by an unusual nose or beard, or by their spectacles, or a certain type of clothing.

The Notebook describes research done on the way the brain recognises facesand tells about the work of Christopher Pallis, Charles Gross, Olivier Pascalis, Isabel Gauthier, and other scientists. Above all, the recognition of faces depends not only on the ability to parse the visual aspects of the face—its particular features and their over-all configuration—and compare them with others, but also on the ability to summon the memories, experiences, and feelings associated with that face.

The recognition of specific places or faces goes with a particular feeling, a sense of association and meaning. He also briefly discusses déjà vu and Capgras syndrome and considers the difference between acquired prosopagnosia—through trauma, stroke or Alzheimer’s —and congenital prosopagnosia.

The writer discusses the work of Ken Nakayama and Brad Duchaine, who have explored the neural basis of face and place recognition. They have also studied the psychological effects and social consequences of developmental prosopagnosia. Severe congenital prosopagnosia is estimated to affect two to two and a half per cent of the population—six to eight million people in the United States alone.

A Podcast with Oliver Sacks : The New Yorker

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Parental influence on children's feeding habits

As primary caregivers, parents are often believed to have a strong influence on children’s eating habits and behaviours. However, previous findings on parent-child resemblance in dietary intakes are mixed.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reviewed and assessed the degree of association and similarity between children’s and their parents’ dietary intake based on worldwide studies published since 1980. The meta-analysis is featured in the December issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

“Contrary to popular belief, many studies from different countries, including the United States, have found a weak association between parent-child dietary intake,” said Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, MS, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health.

“This is likely because young people’s eating patterns are influenced by many complex factors, and the family environment plays only a partial role.

More attention should be given to the influence of the other players on children’s eating patterns such as that of schools, the local food environment and peer influence, government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, and the broader food environment that is influenced by food production, distribution and advertising.”

He added, “Parents need to be better empowered to be good role models and help their children eat a healthy diet.”

More on this story at Science Blog

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Flow of water in the brain fingers autism

An analysis of brain scans correctly distinguishes between people with autism and controls more than 90 percent of the time, according to a study published last week in Autism Research.

This type of analysis is at least several years away from being used in the clinic, but the findings represent a solid step toward an objective test for autism, scientists say.

The study focuses on two brain regions implicated in autism: the superior temporal gyrus, which is involved in language, emotion and social behavior, and the temporal stem, one of the major conduits of information between the temporal lobe and other parts of the brain.

The researchers used a method called diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, to explore the flow of water molecules through the brain. Applying several layers of analysis to this, they found that in one region, the water flow pattern in people with autism is a mirror image of the pattern in controls.


Read more here: Flow of water in the brain fingers autism - Current Articles - Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Scottish Government's Strategy for Autism - Document in PDF format


The Scottish Government, working in partnership with the Autism Specturm Disorder (ASD) Reference Group, have developed a draft Scottish Autism Strategy.

The Strategy sets out what the Scottish Government in partnership with users, carers and professionals proposes to do to meet the needs of people with ASD in response to growing concerns that, whilst much has been achieved in Scotland to date, much has yet to be done.

Click on the picture to view the document

Children's coats and car seats

Parents of small children, we know it takes a lot of effort to get your kids ready to go out in the summer, but in the winter it seems like an eternity, especially for those who have to park on a busy street.

Unfortunately, the latest safety measure for kids and cars recommends taking off your child’s coat to make sure they don’t slip out of their safety harness, in the event of an accident.

Here are some tips for keeping the wee ones safe this winter and at the same time making the whole operation a little simpler for the parent:

1. Put your child into the car seat without their thick jackets, before tightening the harness to a safe but snug setting.

2. Now you can leave the harness set to the same setting, or tightness, when you put your child in with their jacket on.

3. Pull the jacket off the child's shoulders a little and unzip or open it down the front; push the harness to the inside of the jacket so that most or all of the straps contact with the child's regular shirt instead of the jacket.

4. Check that the harness still buckles, at the same tightness you set it at, when the child was only wearing it's shirt. Now you can be content that it's tight enough, even with your child's jacket on.

5. To keep your child warm, you can now zip or fasten the front closed, over the harness and straps.

In this way the child's coat or jacket seems to be concealing the harness but the child is held comfortably and safely in place.

Dyslexia: Eddie Izzard talks to the BBC about Creativity

In a frank interview with the BBC, successful comedian, Eddie Izzard discusses his dyslexia and the creativity and inspiration for his comedy, his serious acting roles on stage and film, and the continuing importance of his mother, who died from cancer when he was only 6 years old.

I have great admiration for the man and his tremendous energy, running 43 marathons across the UK in 51 days. Never had I seen a man suffer so much through sheer courage and determination.


Listen here on BBC Radio 4 broadcast

Children's Under-achievement Could Be Down To Poor Working Memory

Children who under-achieve at school may just have poor working memory rather than low intelligence according to researchers who have produced the world's first tool to assess memory capacity in the classroom.

The researchers from Durham University, who surveyed over three thousand children, found that ten per cent of school children across all age ranges suffer from poor working memory seriously affecting their learning. Nationally, this equates to almost half a million children in primary education alone being affected.

However, the researchers identified that poor working memory is rarely identified by teachers, who often describe children with this problem as inattentive or as having lower levels of intelligence.

Working memory is the ability to hold information in your head and manipulate it mentally. You use this mental workspace when adding up two numbers spoken to you by someone else without being able to use pen and paper or a calculator. Children at school need this memory on a daily basis for a variety of tasks such as following teachers' instructions or remembering sentences they have been asked to write down.

Lead researcher Dr Tracy Alloway from Durham University's School of Education, who, with colleagues, has published widely on the subject, explains further: "Working memory is a bit like a mental jotting pad and how good this is in someone will either ease their path to learning or seriously prevent them from learning.

"From the various large-scale studies we have done, we believe the only way children with poor working memory can go onto achieving academic success is by teaching them how to learn despite their smaller capacity to store information mentally.

"Currently, children are not identified and assessed for working memory within a classroom setting. Early identification of these children will be a major step towards addressing under-achievement. It will mean teachers can adapt their methods to help the children's learning before they fall too far behind their peers."


Read more here Children's Under-achievement Could Be Down To Poor Working Memory

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Disney Channel star to tackle dyslexia and Learning difficulties

Bella Thorne is making a splash on the Disney Channel’s new “Shake It Up!” – in fact, the network is banking on the fetching 13-year-old becoming a breakout star as Miley Cyrus moves on into adulthood.

Thorne tells us that, along with the high jinks of the comedy, in which she plays a teen backup dancer on a fictional TV program called and “Shake It Up Chicago,” there’ll be a few serious moments ahead on the show. “We deal with teen issues like having friends, and dealing with my dyslexia and other learning disabilities.” Her character, CeCe Jones, says, “is dyslexic, like me.

“She tries her best to stay in school, to stay on the show. Sometimes it’s really challenging. Sometimes she handles it kind of rough.”

How does Bella handle it? Does she have someone read lines with her?

“I do that with my brother sometimes. I do it with my mother. She will say a line, read a word, and say
‘That’s how it’s supposed to be pronounced.”

To read more go to BeckSmithHollywood.com.

LEGO Therapy for Autism and other developmental issues

File:Lego star wars II-box art.png“In every day life we need to be able to respond to new situations,” says Deborah Napolitano, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester. “If a child has only a repetitive set of skills, and has difficulty being creative, it can be more difficult to be successful.”

Many children with autism spectrum disorder can become frustrated and uncomfortable when asked to break out of their repetitive activities and create something new.

Using Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), is losely defined as, the science of figuring out how to target and systematically change a specific behaviour. In this instance, researchers believe they succeeded in teaching children to play with Lego and building blocks, in a more creative way.

The study’s findings have been published in the Journal of Applied Behavioural Analysis.

By the end of the study the participants, six children between the ages of 6 and 10, succeeded in making changes to the structures they were working on.

According to a behaviour scale assessment that each participants’ parent or teacher completed, five (5) of the six (6) had moderate problems with restricted, repetitive behaviour. One-to-one sessions with building blocks took place at the participants’ schools, in rooms with minimal distractions.

“We really can teach kids just about anything as long as it’s systematic,” Napolitano says.

Baseline
Children received positive verbal reinforcement when they were building with Lego. This allowed researchers to get baseline data and to decide whether the child seemed inclined to change the colour patterns or structures. After acquiring the data, researchers began with the first intervention phase.

First Intervention
The first phase of the study included a set of sessions that took place over several months. An instructor asked a child to build something new at the beginning of each session.

If a child seemed confused about what he or she was being asked to do, the instructor demonstrated how to build something different and then prompted the child to build something different.

If the child then understood and succeeded in building something new, he or she was rewarded with a small prize, such as playing with a favourite toy.

Moving from Lego
In the next phase, the instructor asked the children to build something new with wooden blocks, rather than the plastic Lego blocks they had grown accustomed to, to see whether they could apply the new skills to a slightly different situation from the one they were now accustomed to.

Return to lego
The instructor then returned the Lego to the children once again, without any prompting. Words of encouragement were offered but not a prize to see whether the children would still experiment.  In this last phase, the children were once again rewarded for varying their structures.

Follow-up
A few months later, researchers followed up the activities with the children and found that they were all still able to create new structures in varying colours or shapes.

Summary
“The study’s findings could pave the way for new studies testing interventions that attempt to improve a wide variety of social skills and behaviors among people with ASD,” says Napolitano.

“With positive reinforcement and teaching sessions, such tasks as engaging in novel conversations, posing new questions, and creating new ways to play could be within reach for children with ASD.”

More news from University of Rochester: www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dyslexia: Bullying is a serious issue

Experience
Dyslexia manifests in different ways for every child. But there is one aspect that is bound to be universal: the bullying suffered by the dyslexic child at one point or another during their school years.

The difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling are bad enough, but add bullying on top of all that and the effects can be devastating for the child’s sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

Fantasy Land
You’ll still hear the occasional teacher insist that bullying isn’t an issue in her school. Ten to one, this means that the teacher is just not aware of what’s going on under her own nose within the classroom, and further afield, on the playground during recess.

Suicidal Tendencies
Bullying is beginning to receive wider notice and has been found to bring on depression and even suicidal tendencies in some children, and there’s always an accompanying drop in the child’s academic performance.

The bullying doesn’t have to be physical to earn its title of dubious distinction. Verbal abuse is also a kind of bullying. In that sense, calling a child by a degrading nickname qualifies as bullying, as does ignoring a child or telling him he smells bad, for instance.

Hurts Everyone
Bullying hurts both the victim and the one who bullies him. The bully may end up with a false sense of his own power over others in his environment. He may end up the bullying adult in the workplace and in his own home.

Low Spirits
If your child has dyslexia and his spirits seem low, or he seems to be spending too much time on his own in the schoolyard, it becomes your duty as his parent to make inquiries and discover if he might have become the victim of bullying.

Children are often afraid to speak out against a fellow classmate. There’s an unspoken code of honour that feels unbreakable. Even if he thinks he has the right to “rat out” his tormentor, your child may also be afraid of retaliation.

Ask Friends
A good way to discover the truth is to ask your child in the presence of a friend or two. Your child won’t talk, but his friends sure will. They have nothing to lose.

This may just allow the whole issue to be brought out into the light. Even before you deal with the school and the bully himself, your child will have experienced a huge sense of relief. Once you, as the parent, know what’s going on, the burden of your child’s secrecy is lifted, at least.

Don’t Ignore!
Now is the time for action. Never tell your child to “just ignore” the bully. This goes beyond the occasional spat between classmates. In the best case scenario your child has an experienced teacher who knows how to deal with this situation. The teacher must speak to the bully, his victim, and to both sets of parents.

Needs Counseling
Once the bully knows that all eyes are upon him, his behavior may well change for the better. At the very least, a firm stance by the school’s administration will tend to put a damper on the bullying behavior and drive it underground.

Even better, the school will suggest to the parents of the bully that their child undergo much-needed counseling, for the sake of all concerned.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Toys for Children with Special Needs - Blog link

I would very much like to connect you to another blogger, Max's Mum  She has put together a very comprehensive list of toys that would be suitable for children with special needs and, to assist the reader, she has categorised them into different skills development sections.

The picture shown is of Rody the Inflatable Hopping Horse and it is recommended by Kerry, a mother with two boys who have cerebral palsy. She says, "It's great for balance and strengthening muscles."

If you wish to see the full list of toys, games and books shown on Max's Mum's website, click here.

NB: This site does not recommend products or services but does provide links to other websites for information only. Caveat Emptor - Use normal levels of caution when purchasing items over the internet.

The Sensory University - Toys and gadgets to Stimulate young minds?

Quoting from the home page of the Sensory University:

"The Sensory "U" is owned by a group of independent investors, and operated by Peach State Pediatric Therapy Inc.

Being managed by the largest sensory intensive pediatric therapy facility in the southeast gives our company the cutting edge insight that most pediatric supply companies do not have.
When our store initially opened, our primary focus was on special needs products and toys for the children treated in our facility.
Over the years, our inventory has increased to cover a full spectrum of educational items and pediatric fitness products, as well as a library of over 100 titles dedicated to improving the lives of children with many different forms of developmental delay.
While we maintain our core special needs product line, we now offer many products geared towards the everyday cardiovascular, gross motor, sensory, and strength development of all children. We invite you and your family to explore the learning possibilities of the Sensory University"


To view this Triton Ultimate Bike Click on the picture or the link.

We invite you to browse their extensive catalogue but in no way endorse their company, the website or any of their products.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dyscalculia is Maths Dyslexia: Youtube Video

My Dyslexia Life Video Story – By Antonio Farruggia-Bochnak



More at Dyslexic Brian's website

Dyscalulia: What are you afraid of?

Top Ten Things that scare a Dyscalculic:

1. Going into a bank to carry out any sort of financial transaction, especially getting foreign currency for vacations.

2. Cash registers. Either using one or paying at one.

3. Paying bills. Either online or in person.

4. Counting out coins while someone is waiting e.g. the cashier or a customer waiting impatiently behind you.

5. Card games! All those petty rules and stuff. Try and have patience when explaining the rules to a person with dyscalulia, even if it is each time they play.

6. Recalling combinations of numbers e.g. PIN Numbers, social security numbers, etc.

7. Calculators! They don’t always help someone who is dyscalculic. Check for one's that are approved.

8. Other peoples’ puzzled reactions when you talk about or try to explain, dyscalculia.

9. Getting lost! The latest trend of using your GPS to get around helps a lot!

10. The Metric System, especially trying to convert between it and yo olde Imperial measures.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Wonderful World of Service Dogs

When you hear the term "service dog" do you automatically think of a blind person crossing the street holding on to their canine partner.

These days the term "service dog" means so much more. People with limited hearing, seizure disorders, restricted mobility and other disabilities can all make use of these wonderful animals.

Children with autism are not excluded any more for now, they are also benefiting from the use of service dogs.

As you may be aware, Autism has a wide range of symptoms, which can vary in severity on a case by case basis, but difficulty socialising and communicating, a limited range of interests and repetitive behaviours are very common.

How can they be helped? Well, some of the ways that well-trained dogs can help autistic children include:

- physically interrupting or distracting from repetitive or negative behaviours

- alerting a child to an important sound in their vicinity or environment

- moving the child away from a dangerous situation, within reason

- improving spatial awareness and preventing the child from walking into or in front of people

- reducing the chances that a child will run or stray from a safe locality

Another important role that service dogs play in an autistic child's life is encouraging social interactions.

As anyone who has walked a dog knows, a dog by your side is a green light for people to come up and start a conversation.

Autistic children benefit from these interactions, and can work on language development by learning to answer the questions that inevitably arise time and time again, like "what is your dog's name?"

Petting a dog is an anxiety-reducer for everyone, autistic children included, but these kids can benefit from contact with a trusted dog in still another way.

Deep pressure is widely recognised to help calm many autistic individuals when stress starts to build.

Service dogs can be trained to sit right next to a child who is having a meltdown and lean in for a strong and therapeutic hug.

In a potentially overwhelming situation, a dog can also serve as a focal point that can help autistic children avoid becoming overstimulated.

When they aren't working, service dogs can play the role of the family pet -- providing the companionship and unconditional love that pet owners of all types enjoy.

When outside the home, however, these dogs are on the job and should not be distracted. Outfitting them in a service dog vest helps people in the community understand the dog's role and will hopefully eliminate the chances that they will be denied entrance into a facility.

These dogs can even accompany children to school, but parents may have to work hard to convince school administrators of the dog's true role in their child's life.

Service dogs are not appropriate for all autistic children, but for some they can make a world of difference.

Many agencies with a variety of approaches are available to assist with the acquisition, training and placement of autism service dogs.

No particular training or licensing is necessary for a dog to be considered a service animal, so parents can even take on these tasks themselves if they are willing to learn all they can about dog training and the special role of an autism service dog.