Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Magic or Impossible Triangle

You're probably familiar with the Penrose triangle, an impossible object that can't exist in ordinary 3D space, and the Kanizsa triangle, an illusion that makes a triangular shape appear thanks to carefully-placed fragments. Now Christopher Tyler from the Smith-Kettlewell Institute in San Francisco has creatively combined the two brain tricks in an animation to produce a dual effect.

In the video above, the inner markings of an impossible triangle appear first. With the twirl of an animated magic wand, you start to see the full shape as the spinning stick induces illusory contours.

Then three red spheres appear, reminiscent of the circles in Kanizsa's famous trick, moving across the screen in different ways to infer contours once again. Finally, the balls settle into the corners of the triangle, superimposing the two classic illusions and creating the most pronounced combination of the two effects.

According to Tyler, depth processing, which occurs in the occipital lobe of the brain, helps us perceive the impossible triangle. Since the shape displays conflicting orientations, our brain picks one of these possible realities and switches between them. The triangle at the end of the video appears thanks to illusory contours, which are created as our brain choosees the most likely configuration given the visual information provided.

The illusion was short-listed at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest which took place last week in Naples, Florida. You can see the other winning illusions here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PAS: Parental Alienation Ayndrome and Divorced parents

The American Psychiatric Association is contemplating adding something called "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS) to the new edition of the DSM, scheduled to be published in May 2013, and the question has launched a national lobbying in the US and letter-writing campaigns on both sides.

Angry letters and editorials should not play any part in a debate about mental health and custody disputes but the fact these are being listened to tells you most of what you need to know about the validity of PAS.

What is parental alienation syndrome? William Bernet, a professor of psychiatry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and an advocate for its inclusion in the DSM-5, describes it as "a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, and rejects a relationship with the other parent, without legitimate justification."

There is no doubt that an ugly divorce can affect kids' relationship with their parents or cause children to choose sides, often in anger. In fact, that probably happens more often than not.

But Bernet and others who argue for adding PAS to the new edition of DMS, the official catalogue of mental health, want to see it recognized as a legitimate mental health disorder because it will "spur health insurance coverage, stimulate more systematic research, lend credence to [the] charge of parental alienation in court, and raise the odds that children would get timely treatment."

In other words, they want to affix a name, some blame, and also a price tag on a broad range of child responses to a custody fight (some may be perfectly justified and some may not) in the hopes of expanding its use in court.

There are downsides to including PAS in the DSM. A minimum of three participants are needed to diagnose PAS therefore it looks less like a mental health disorder than an epidemic.

It assumes that one unbalanced person (the mother) brainwashes or unduly influences, a second unbalanced or suggestable person (the child) into telling lies about a third person (the father).

Simply because a number of parents have experienced the frustration of blocked visitation rights and unreturned phone calls, doesn't mean that this conduct is the result of a medical "syndrome."

Joan S. Meier, a professor of clinical law at George Washington University School of Law, has explained it this way:

"PAS is a label that offers a particular explanation for a breach in relationship between a child and parent, but insofar as that breach could be explained in other, more rational, ways, it is not in itself a medical or psychological diagnosis (a certainty) so much as a particular legal hypothesis."

Read more about PAS here

Personal Experiences and Adjustment of Dutch Adults with Dyslexia

Twenty-seven Dutch adults (ages 20-39) with dyslexia participated in individual in-depth interviews about the way they coped with their life and their disability. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and qualitatively and quantitatively analysed.

Most participants felt a strong impact of the dyslexia on daily life and experienced many educational and career problems. School memories were mostly negative, but family relations were predominantly felt as positive and supportive.

Parent-school cooperation was perceived as almost nonexistent. Many respondents reported social and emotional problems, but still perceived themselves as persevering and responsible.

Parental support appeared to be a powerful predictor of adult adjustment and well-being. Those with positive elementary school experiences were more accepting of their disability. Some implications for parents and schools are discussed.

Personal Experiences and Adjustment of Dutch Adults with Dyslexia: Remedial and Special Education

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are E-Readers The Answer To Dyslexia?

Are E-Readers The Answer To Dyslexia?

They seem made to order for the dyslexic, so it’s no wonder educators are turning to e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, for instance, to give an assist to school kids with dyslexia. No one really knows how successful these tools are in providing help to those for whom reading is a chore. That’s because educators have only now begun testing these reading tools on students who struggle with reading disabilities.

Close Look

Researchers are taking a very close look at e-readers right now. No matter what they end up discovering, it’s clear that the new generation of children is acculturated to a digital landscape. Experts and educators need to change their approach to literacy.
A Variety of E-Readers
A Selection of available E-Readers

E-Reading Comfort
The modern student has an intimate knowledge of technology and so may feel more comfortable reading with an e-reader rather than from a book. One recent survey discovered that one-third of 9-17 year-old students said they’d read more books for pleasure if they owned an e-reader. On the other hand, there’s not much research to support any claims that e-readers can ameliorate reading issues.

Available Research

There is one small Israeli study, performed by Bar Ilan University’s Ofra Korat, who heads up the university’s Early Childhood Program, which finds that kindergartners and first graders who use digital readers show better progress than those who read from printed texts when it comes to word comprehension and reading.
Intel's Classmate PC
Intel's e-reader

Audio Files

Today, teachers who don’t make use of e-readers will scan texts for those students with reading issues or visual impairments and use this scanned text to create audio files with the help of special software. Then the students can just listen to the text.

Ben Foss, who created the Intel Reader comments that this process may be effective, but it’s awkward and takes a great deal of time on the part of the teacher. The Intel Reader, on the other hand, is a mobile e-reader that can capture a photo of text and then convert it to an audio file in just seconds. Foss is the director of Intel’s access technology department in Santa Clara, CA.

Reading Independence

Karen Ann Breslow who piloted the Intel Reader with two students last year says that this technology gave students reading independence from their parents and teachers. The reader allows them to read on their own without any need for help from adults. Breslow is sold, feeling that the Intel Reader is liberating for both student and teacher.

Font Size

Another educator, Robyn Rennick, a program coordinator for the Tallahassee, Fla, Dyslexia Research Institute, says that she is loving her Kindle, received as a gift for Christmas. Rennick says that just being able to change the font size may be of assistance for some troubled readers.

But Rennick does caution that many students with reading deficits are dependent on skimming textbook headings for orientation and context. No physical pages to flip through may be a drawback for many of those with reading disabilities.
iPad as an e-reader
The iPad as an e-reader

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's good to be a Father: Dad's life music video

Dyslexia: Using Food to shape the letters of the Alphabet

One of the great ways of helping children with Dyslexia learn and remember their letters is to use modelling clay or other materials that allow them to form the shapes.

Although it was not intended as such, this link takes you to a very interesting series of pictures showing how food can be used in the same way.

Check Garret Steider’s Flickr Stream for the entire Alphabet Collection! Carved Food Alphabet

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dyslexia and Eye Scanning Movements

Although the quality of this video is not great it is an interesting video that deals with eye movements, visual tracking and visual span.

For more information please go to

Dyslexia and ADHD: Inside the Hidden World

Narrator, Ben Foss discusses what it is like living with Dyslexia and ADHD, the two most common forms of learning differences.

Over 20 million people in the US alone have these conditions, making it difficult to recognize social cues, organise information, direct attention, and recall facts.

Most people go through life trying to hide their Dyslexia and ADHD, while they struggle in school and have a hard time doing entry level work.

HEADSTRONG: Inside the Hidden World of Dyslexia and ADHD

Ben Foss was pushed to a breaking point in law school and he became depressed. He started talking openly about his Dyslexia which helped, and he ended up completing Business School and Law School at Stanford.

Stephanie May was diagnosed with ADHD; she has trouble with information retrieval, speed, and accuracy. She brings a letter of disclosure to her college professors so they are legally obligated to provide special accommodations for her.

Jason Shiver struggles to make it in high school. He is coming up with a plan to become more independent and cope better with his Learning Disabilities, such as using speech software on computers, and taking exams in a separate room so he can read the exam questions aloud.

What to do about Lying

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Are your Kids good at Picking things up?

Bullying: How to raise a child who doesn’t

A research survey showed that 23 percent of children had bullied another youngster in 2003 compared to 35 percent in 2007.

Some factors that increase the likelihood that a child will bully others have persisted from 2003 to 2007.

For example, children are more likely to be bullies if their parents frequently feel angry with them or feel their child bothers them a lot. In addition, children with an emotional, developmental or behavioral problem and those whose mothers report less than very good mental health also are more likely to be bullies.

In fact, about one in five bullies has an emotional, developmental or behavioral problem, more than three times the rate in non-bullies, Dr. Shetgiri noted.

Other factors that seem to protect a child from becoming a bully also have persisted from 2003 to 2007.

Parents who share ideas and talk with their child, and who have met most or all of their child’s friends are less likely to have children who bully, Dr. Shetgiri said.

“Targeting interventions to decrease these persistent risk factors and increase the persistent protective factors could lead to decreased bullying,” she said.

For example, parents can increase involvement with their children by meeting their friends and by spending time talking and sharing ideas with their children, Dr. Shetgiri suggested.

“They also can find effective ways to manage any feelings of anger toward their child and can work with health care providers to make sure any emotional or behavioral concerns they have about their child, as well as their own mental health, are addressed.”

To view the abstract, go to