Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dyslexia: Bullying is a serious issue

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.

Screen Magnification: Dolphin Release New version of SuperNova

The screen magnification market looks set for a significant shake up following the recent release of an updated screen access solution from one of the World's original accessibility experts - Dolphin Computer Access.

As with previous releases, SuperNova version 12 boasts screen magnification, screen reading suitable for users with no useful sight, as well as Braille display support - all fully synchronised. Notably however, for low vision computer users,

SuperNova now also delivers four new magnifier innovations that should re-ignite the whole magnifier debate.

Immediately available in UK English, US English, Australian English, Welsh, Dutch, French, Belgian French, Belgian Dutch, Spanish, Swedish and Slovak.

SuperNova version 12 now includes support for multiple monitors, a brand new text smoothing technology called "True Fonts", large scalable mouse pointers and an interestingly named and unique feature called "Mouse Buffer"!

These new Dolphin innovations have been developed by Mike Hill, Dolphin's Development Director, who also brought the first combined magnification and screen reading software to the access technology market in 1998, in the form of SuperNova version 1. Reported by some as having 'rediscovered his magical touch'

NB: We do not endorse any product or service from this, or any other provider. We simply include it in this blog for information and encourage you to investigate it fully before committing any monies.
Read more at the Dolphin website

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Slideshow: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Procedural Learning Deficits

To see the complete slideshow click on the first slide

To view other slideshows from the IDA Conference, Reading, Literacy and Reading, click on the link here

Dealing with Adult Dyslexia

One of the first things you should do if you think you might have adult dyslexia is to go for professional testing and diagnosis. This will allow you to work on accurate strategies to help you address and overcome your issues.

Many people with adult dyslexia try to hide their daily struggles, which can only make things worse, because neither you nor the people around you will know what’s really going on. You will only spend a lot of time and effort on developing coping strategies instead of getting to the root of the problem.

Try to manage your time better
Many adults diagnosed with dyslexia have time management issues and one way of overcoming this is to maintain a daily planner, in which they write absolutely everything down, within reason.

Remember your mother's diary, the old yuppie filofax, well we now have a startling number of low and high tech devices to help us take notes and keep track of our time.

Pick something that you find simple and convenient to use, something that fits with your life style, a planning touchstone to refer back to, as frequently as you need to, to check on what, how and when things are due.

Gadgets can help
Around the house you can use a simple wind up cooker timer to keep track of activities but when you are out and about you can use some of the newer electronic gadgets on the market today. Something with alarms you can set to remind you in advance that you have an appointment to keep or a presentation to make, etc,.

Other, more expensive gadgets can take a snapshot of a sign, document or other text and read it back to you through an earpiece or out loud, depending on what you prefer.

These capabilities are now built into or loaded on to mobile devices and smartphones, which can travel with you when you travel and are particularly helpful if you are going to a strange city. These devices are discussed at length in other postings on this blog.

Lack of short-term auditory memory
One of the characteristics of dyslexia is a lack of, or deterioration of short-term auditory memory. By repeating instructions or directions back to someone after hearing them, and writing them down or even recording those directions in your diary, is a simple method to help overcome this particular obstacle.

You should also try to focus on key words and perhaps try to visualise these words in a series of mental pictures.

Improve your reading and writing
One way to work on improving your reading and writing skills is to break words into their basic sound components i.e. blends, graphs, diphthongs. etc, and then learn to rearrange the sounds to produce different words.

This technique has been shown to help adult dyslexics develop better reading fluency while producing fewer errors in their writing.

If you have been diagnosed with dyslexia, you shouldn’t despair. It may take some time to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence, especially if you’ve been trying to manage this disorder without external or additional support.

You should keep in mind that being dyslexic does not mean you’re unintelligent or unable to learn; it just means your brain is wired differently.

If you have any questions or comments on this post please let us know at dyslexiauntied@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pixar Video: It gets better - Acceptance of Homosexuality

Don't get me Wrong : Mental Health

Erik bravely declares his mental health issues to potential flat mates and girlfriends to see how it affects their response

Dyscalculia: Working with business

Imagine waking in the morning without being able to tell the time, or buying groceries and being unable to check your change. All seemingly simple mathematical tasks for most people, but for up to an estimated six percent of the UK adult population with dyscalculia, this is a daily reality.

Tested only in children until now, an estimated three to six¹ percent of adults could have the ‘hidden disability’ dyscalculia which affects the fundamental ability to acquire arithmetical skills.

Many are still unidentified. Developed by Loughborough University’s Mathematics Education Centre (MEC) in partnership with assistive technology specialist iansyst Ltd (www.iansyst.co.uk) and public sector service provider Tribal, DysCalculiUM is the UK’s first online screener to highlight adults displaying signs of dyscalculia.

Only recognised in recent years, in the same way dyslexia was 30 years ago, dyscalculia has led to many people being labelled (or labelling themselves) as stupid because they cannot do ‘simple sums’.

With statistics showing that people with poor numeracy skills are twice as likely to be unemployed as those who are competent², dyscalculia can impact dramatically on the life chances of those with the condition.

The average person uses maths up to 14 times a day³, resulting in dyscalculics facing many challenges and frustrations with simple tasks such as household budgeting, calculating credit card interest rates or helping their children with homework.

As up to sixty percent of people with dyslexia have difficulties with maths₄, very little research has focused solely on dyscalculia and how to overcome it.

Following the study of a student with fundamental numerical and mathematical difficulties displaying no signs of dyslexia, experts at Loughborough University’s MEC identified the need for an adult dyscalculia screener. DysCalculiUM now marks the first step towards identifying dyscalculia and enabling individuals to seek further help.

More at Loughborough University - Working with business

Monday, November 15, 2010

Children are Prone to Ear Infections

Though researchers don't yet have a way to stop this suffering, they are working on at least three experimental vaccines with the potential to prevent ear infections.

Developing vaccines for ear infections is tricky because more than 100 types of germs cause such infections, Rosenfeld says.

Because children develop ear infections so often, and because parents miss so much work because of them, certain vaccines against ear infections could actually be cost-effective, even if they cost $65 to $125 each, says Tracy Lieu of Children's Hospital Boston, co-author of the Pediatrics paper.

Three candidate vaccines might offer relief:

Prevnar 13
The Prevnar vaccine, licensed in 2000, prevents infection with seven of the bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis and blood infections, which can be fatal. The same bacteria also cause ear infections, Rosenfeld says.

Prevnar has helped reduce cases of invasive pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia and meningitis, by 34%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the vaccine has barely made a dent in the number of ear infections, Rosenfeld says. That's because many other types of pneumococcus also cause ear infections, and these strains have proliferated to replace the bacteria blocked by the vaccine.

Wyeth, which makes Prevnar, has applied for approval of a second-generation vaccine to block 13 strains of pneumococcus, hoping to offer even better protection against pneumonia and meningitis.

The company expects the Food and Drug Administration to decide on approval by the end of September, says spokeswoman Lili Gordon.

Doctors don't yet know how the new vaccine will affect ear infections, Rosenfeld says.

GlaxoSmithKline has developed a vaccine called Synflorix, approved in Europe in March, against 10 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause ear infections and more serious illness. 

In a 2006 study in The Lancet, an early version of Synflorix reduced ear infections by 34%. GlaxoSmithKline doesn't know how well the final version will prevent ear infections, because researchers haven't yet completed a definitive trial, says company spokesman Jeff McLaughlin. The company has not yet applied for FDA approval.

A topical vaccine
Hoping to spare children from the pain of shots, researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, are testing a topical vaccine against ear infections. The vaccine — so far tested only in chinchillas, a type of rodent — is rubbed into the skin around the ear.

The topical vaccine still needs to be tested in humans. And even if it's successful, it would take years before it would be ready for approval, says researcher Lauren Bakaletz, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

If the vaccines are approved, Gordon says she would definitely consider them for her boys. "I see what my son goes through," she says. "The pain is really bad."

Until then, parents and children are left to take comfort in the fact that children eventually grow out of ear infections, Rosenfeld says. Ear infections tend to become much less common by age 3 or 4 and almost disappear by age 7.

"It's an occupational hazard of childhood," Gordon says. "The only cure is to feed them and water them and let kids grow up."

No Gender Differences in Learning

The notion that "boys and girls learn differently"—now sadly an article of faith among many educators—is largely lacking in empirical support. Neither psychologists nor neuroscientists have identified any meaningful differences between boys' and girls' mental or neural processing as they learn how to speak, read, or memorise their times tables.

Boys and girls obviously differ in their interests, but as extensive meta-analyses have shown, their differences in cognitive and emotional abilities—ranging from verbal and mathematical skill to attention span, memory, empathy, and even activity level—are far smaller than the range of such abilities among girls or boys alone.

In this light, teachers must carefully consider statements "boys are much more likely than girls to be graphic thinkers and kinesthetic learners." Indeed, this highlights a classroom in which the majority of girls opted for a visual-spatial over a written project, counter to the claim that boys' brains are more “graphically-oriented.”

The truth is that all people learn kinesthetically, including medical students, both male and female, and who need to get their hands on real human brain specimens to consolidate their understanding of neuroanatomy. Children, both male and female, are even more kinesthetic than adults, as Piaget and Montessori first taught us.

Gender differences in academic performance are an important issue, but they are not going to be resolved through the propagation of pseudoscience. It's time teachers appreciate the true, nuanced science of sex difference—that boys and girls are not from separate planets, and must be treated, first and foremost, as individuals, rather than gender stereotypes.

Lise Eliot, PhD, Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, IL.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) - Background

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder described as a prolonged disturbance of personality function in a person (generally over the age of eighteen years, although it is also found in adolescents), characterised by depth and variability of moods.

The disorder typically involves unusual levels of instability in mood; black and white thinking, or splitting; the disorder often manifests itself in idealisation and devaluation episodes, as well as chaotic and unstable interpersonal relationships, self-image, identity, and behaviour; as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self.

In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation. BPD splitting includes a switch between idealising and demonising others.

This, combined with mood disturbances, can undermine relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. BPD disturbances also may include self-harm.

Without treatment, symptoms may worsen, leading (in extreme cases) to suicide attempts. There is an ongoing debate among clinicians and patients worldwide about terminology and the use of the word borderline and some have suggested that this disorder should be renamed.

The  ICD-10 manual has an alternative definition and terminology to this disorder, called Emotionally unstable personality disorder.

There is related concern that the diagnosis of BPD stigmatises people and supports pejorative and discriminatory practices. It is common for those suffering from borderline personality disorder and their families to feel compounded by a lack of clear diagnoses, effective treatments, and accurate information.

This is true especially because of evidence that this disorder originates in the families of those who suffer from it and has a lot to do with Axis IV factors, rather than belonging strictly in Axis II.

Conceptual, as well as therapeutic, relief may be obtained through evidence that BPD is closely related to traumatic events during childhood and to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), about which much more is known.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dyslexia: 37 Common Symptoms

Most dyslexics will exhibit about 10 of the following traits and behaviours. These characteristics can vary from day-to-day or minute-to-minute. The most consistent thing about dyslexics is their inconsistency.


  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  • Labelled lazy, dumb, careless, immature, "not trying hard enough," or "behavior problem."
  • Isn't "behind enough" or "bad enough" to be helped in the school setting.
  • High in IQ, yet may not test well academically; tests well orally, but not written.
  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  • Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering.
  • Seems to "Zone out" or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention; seems "hyper" or "daydreamer."
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.

Vision, Reading, and Spelling

  • Complains of dizziness, headaches or stomach aches while reading.
  • Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
  • Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
  • Complains of feeling or seeing non-existent movement while reading, writing, or copying.
  • Seems to have difficulty with vision, yet eye exams don't reveal a problem.
  • Extremely keen sighted and observant, or lacks depth perception and peripheral vision.
  • Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
  • Spells phonetically and inconsistently.

Hearing and Speech

  • Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds.
  • Difficulty putting thoughts into words; speaks in halting phrases; leaves sentences incomplete; stutters under stress; mispronounces long words, or transposes phrases, words, and syllables when speaking.

Writing and Motor Skills

  • Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; handwriting varies or is illegible.
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated, poor at ball or team sports; difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills and tasks; prone to motion-sickness.
  • Can be ambidextrous, and often confuses left/right, over/under.

Math and Time Management

  • Has difficulty telling time, managing time, learning sequenced information or tasks, or being on time.
  • Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can't do it on paper.
  • Can count, but has difficulty counting objects and dealing with money.
  • Can do arithmetic, but fails word problems; cannot grasp algebra or higher math.

Memory and Cognition

  • Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
  • Poor memory for sequences, facts and information that has not been experienced.
  • Thinks primarily with images and feeling, not sounds or words (little internal dialogue).

Behavior, Health, Development and Personality

  • Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly.
  • Can be class clown, trouble-maker, or too quiet.
  • Had unusually early or late developmental stages (talking, crawling, walking, tying shoes).
  • Prone to ear infections; sensitive to foods, additives, and chemical products.
  • Can be an extra deep or light sleeper; bedwetting beyond appropriate age.
  • Unusually high or low tolerance for pain.
  • Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
  • Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.
The Davis Dyslexia Correction® program helps people with these characteristics every day. The disabling aspects of Dyslexia are correctable and can be overcome.

Davis Dyslexia Association International, Dyslexia the Gift Web site

Bad memory for faces? Blame your reading skills

Busily erasing social skills? (Image: Gary John Norman/Getty)
Busily erasing social skills? (Image: Gary John Norman/Getty)

Have you ever been embarrassed by introducing yourself at a party to someone only for them to point out that you've met before? 

Don't feel too bad: your superior reading skills may be to blame, according to a new brain-scan study.

Stanislas Dehaene at the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit in Saclay, France, has previously proposed a "neuronal recycling" theory, which suggests that new skills are handled by existing brain-cell circuits with older but related functions.

To test the hypothesis Dehaene and colleagues carried out functional MRI brain scans on 10 people who could not read, 22 who learned to read as adults and 31 who did so as children, while they were shown text and images.

The scans firstly confirmed which regions of the brain are associated with reading: as expected, the visual word form area, which is known to enable people to link sounds with written symbols, became active during reading, demonstrating that it plays an important role.

Unsurprisingly, those who were better readers had more activation in this area when they were reading compared with the others. And when volunteers listened to spoken sentences, all their brains showed similar responses in the visual word form area.

Bad memory for faces? Blame your reading skills - New Scientist

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Film Maker donates money to dyslexia charity BDA

Film-maker Dan Evans has completed his first feature - which promises to pull in the pounds for dyslexia charity BDA.

Musik, about a lonely dyslexic student who turns her life around after discovering a latent musical talent, has been months in the making - but is now available to buy online.

Around 20 per cent from each sale will be donated to the British Dyslexia Association.

Dan hopes the 65-minute movie, which stars Gornal singing sensation Natasha Bennett (Taisa), will raise awareness of the condition as well as boosting charity funds.

He said: "The British Dyslexia Association really enjoyed the film and will be featuring the movie in their e-newsletters and magazines, plus their facebook and twitter pages.

“We also hope to show the film in schools as part of an educational awareness day.”

Written by Joanne Naylor from Sedgley - Musik features a wealth of Black Country talent plus a guest appearance by Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett in the Star Wars trilogy).

Available to buy from websites www.musikthefilm.com or www.eapfilms.com - it costs 45p to stream SD, 60p to stream HD, 95p to download the film to a hard drive and £4.50 for the DVD with special features.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Number talk is important for preschool children

The amount of time parents spend talking about numbers has a much bigger impact on how young children learn mathematics than was previously known, researchers at the University of Chicago have found.

For example, children whose parents talked more about numbers were much more likely to understand the cardinal number principle–which states that the size of a set of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set (e.g., a set of 10 items is larger than a set of seven items).

“By the time children enter preschool, there are marked individual differences in their mathematical knowledge, as shown by their performance on standardized tests,” said University of Chicago psychologist Susan Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology and the leader of the study. Other studies have shown that the level of mathematics knowledge entering school predicts future success.

The results of the study were published in the article, “What Counts in the Development of Young Children’s Number Knowledge?” in the current issue of Developmental Psychology. Joining lead author Levine in the study were four other scholars.

“The findings underscore the important role that caregivers can play in children’s early mathematical learning,” said Soo-Siang Lim, program director for the National Science Foundation’s Science of Learning Centers Program. NSF partially funded the research.

“The frequency with which parents’ talk with their toddlers about numbers, such as counting the number of objects in spatial arrays and labeling these set sizes, predicts their children’s understanding of numbers,” said Lim.

“These findings suggest that encouraging parents to talk about numbers with their children, and providing them with effective ways to do so, may positively impact children’s school achievement,” said Levine.

Hypertension in kids linked to ADHD learning problems

A new study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, also finds “that children with hypertension are more likely to have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder),” says Heather R. Adams, assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Rochester.

“Although retrospective, this work adds to the growing evidence of an association between hypertension and cognitive function. With 4 percent of children now estimated to have hypertension, the need to understand this potential connection is incredibly important.”

Among the study’s 201 patients, all of whom had been referred to a pediatric hypertension clinic at University of Rochester Medical Center’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, 101 actually had hypertension, or sustained high blood pressure, determined by 24-hour ambulatory monitoring or monitoring by a school nurse or at home.

Overall, 18 percent of the children had learning disabilities, well above the general population’s rate of 5 percent. But the percentage among those without hypertension was closer to 9 percent, and among those with hypertension, the rate jumped to 28 percent.

All of the children were between 10- and 18-years-old, and the children’s learning disability and ADHD diagnoses were reported by parents.

The study is part of a series of hypertension studies by Golisano Children’s Hospital researchers, led by principal investigator Marc Lande, a pediatric nephrologist, but it was the first that included children with ADHD. Previous studies excluded them because ADHD medications can increase blood pressure.

Researchers included them this time because, although it is possible that some of the children’s hypertension was caused by medications, it is also possible that the higher rate of ADHD among children with hypertension is a reflection of neurocognitive problems caused by hypertension.

Twenty percent of the children with hypertension had ADHD, only 7 percent of those without hypertension had ADHD among the study participants.

Even when ADHD was factored out of the analyses, there was still a higher rate of learning disabilities in the hypertensive, compared to the nonhypertensive group of children

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Research Suggests Link Between Dyslexia and 'Handedness'

New genetic mapping of children with reading difficulties suggests that those who carry a particular gene mutation are particularly well-skilled in the use of their right hand.

The apparent link between a specific variation of the so-called "PCSK6 gene" and hand-motor control among dyslexic children is the first hard evidence to suggest that there could be an association between "handedness" and language disorders, the researchers said.

"This study provides the first genetic link between handedness, brain asymmetry and reading ability," study author Tony Monaco, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford in England, said in a university news release.

"This is the first study implicating [PCKSK6] with handedness," he added. "The fact that this association also seems to be apparent in people with dyslexia provides an interesting clue to explore whether there is a link between handedness and language-related disorders."

Monaco and his colleagues report their findings in the Nov. 5 online edition of Human Molecular Genetics.

The authors noted that most people -- including most children with dyslexia -- are right-handed. However, the study found that among a group of 192 dyslexic children, those who had the mutation were, on average, even more skilled with the use of their right hand (relative to their left hand) than those who didn't carry the variation.

Giving the finding some context, the researchers pointed out that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body -- and vice versa. Given the general propensity for right-handedness, researchers have viewed the left side of the brain as dominant in terms of motor control. Coupled with the fact that the left hemisphere is also known to exert dominance over language skills, the theory had emerged that "hand favoritism" and language disorders could be associated with one another. But until now efforts to uncover a genetic foundation for this notion had turned up nothing.

The new finding lends this theory some support, the researchers said. And Monaco and his team think their observations could help to expand further explorations into the underlying biology of language-related disorders.

more on dyslexia, visit the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Parents' support is the most important

Researchers reveal that parents' effort is more important for a child's educational attainment than the school's effort, which in turn is more important than the child's own effort.

The study found that the socio-economic background of a family not only affected the child's educational attainment -- it also affected the school's effort.

Researcher Professor De Fraja, who is Head of Economics at the University of Leicester, said: "The main channel through which parental socio-economic background affects achievement is via effort.

"Parents from a more advantaged environment exert more effort, and this influences positively the educational attainment of their children.

"By the same token, the parents' background also increases the school's effort, which increases the school achievement. Why schools work harder where parents are from a more privileged background we do not know.

It might be because middle class parents are more vocal in demanding that the school works hard."

The findings suggest there is a relationship between children's performance and the effort put in by parents in supporting their education.

World of Dyslexia's November Newsletter

World of Dyslexia's November Newsletter

Kids' use of electronic media at night

More than half of children who use electronic media before bedtime may have mood or learning problems during the day, a preliminary study of 40 young people suggests.

The kids in the study, average age 14½, were all treated at the JFK Medical Center Sleep Laboratory in Edison, N.J. About 77% had trouble falling asleep; others had daytime sleepiness.

And it's no wonder: Turns out they sent an average 34 text messages or e-mails a night, according to the study, to be presented today at the meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Vancouver, British Columbia. Texts were sent anywhere from 10 minutes to four hours after bedtime.

"Across the board, all of the children admitted to using electronic media — texting, computers, video gaming — after lights out," says co-author Peter Polos, a physician at the JFK clinic.

Kids texted an average of four people a night. Electronic media woke them up once a night, when they were texted or called by a friend.

Young people who used the most bedtime media — from cellphones to video games — were more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression and learning problems during the day.

Polos notes that the study has limitations: It can't prove that late-night media use caused problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders. He adds that results may not represent all kids; everyone in the study came to the clinic with a problem.