Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Children’s School Absenteeism Linked to Mental disorder

Being absent and missing out on class can be hard on children as they get to miss out on valuable lectures.

This can often times lead to poorer performances, and worse, can lead to ridicule from peers but the reason behind children's absenteeism may be far more problematic than missing out on class as new research finds it may be linked to their mental health.

Students who are frequently absent from school are more likely to have symptoms of psychiatric disorders, according to Jeffery Wood, associaten professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at University of California, Los Angeles, who led the study.

In the study, researchers looked at more than 17,000 children in 1st through 12th grades and found that between grades 2 and 8, students who already had mental health symptoms missed more school days over the course of a year than they had in the previous year and than students with few or no mental health symptoms.

These frequent absents, researchers said, is linked with a higher prevalence of mental health problems later on when they reach adolescence.

Findings al show that middle and high school students who were chronically absent in an earlier year of the study tended to have more depression and antisocial problems in subsequent years, leading to missing additional school days in the following years.

Wood noted that their findings may aid others in helping students address mental health issues that in turn, prevent the emergence of chronic absenteeism.

And indeed, mental illness among children must be addressed soon. This is because the problem has become so common that about 20% of American children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, and that around 5 million American children and adolescents suffer from a serious mental illness, according to MedicineNet.com.

The most common among the mental illnesses in children are anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, eating disorders, learning and communication disorders, and even schizophrenia.

But in order to successfully deal with a mental illness, a person must be able to identify when a child is suffering from them. Though symptoms may vary from one mental illness to another, some symptoms that generally appear when a child has a mental disorder are:

- Inability to cope with daily problems and activities

- Changes in sleeping and eating habits

- Defying authority, skipping school, stealing, or damaging property

- Frequent outbursts of anger

- Long-lasting negative moods

- Changes in school performance, such as getting poor grades

- Loss of interest in friends and activities they usually enjoy

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kindle Fire for Kids: Best Children’s Books, Apps and Child-Friendly Settings

The Kindle Fire is one of the most popular holiday gifts this year for adults and children alike.

The Kindle Fire can be used to read magazines, books and watch movies, but it can also be used for educational purposes to help kids learn to read interactively.

We took a closer look at some of the most popular children's books, top apps for kids and some child-friendly settings parents can use to protect their children.

Best Children's Books
The Amazon Online Store offers an impressive collection of colorful children's books and easy readers for young book enthusiasts (some Free!). With over 1,000 tiles, kids can enjoy reading the vibrant and popular books on the crisp Kindle Fire screen.

The Kindle Fire also offers special features to help children read the books including singsong text, a read-aloud option and "Text Pop-Up," which allows children to zoom into text over images to read the smaller font.

Some of the most popular children's books for the Kindle Fire include:

1. "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Eric Carle

2. "A Wolf Pup's Tale" by Rachel Yu

3. "Hooray for Fish!" by Lucy Cousins

4. "Curious George and the Firefighters" by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey

5. "Fireman Small" by Wong Herbert Yee

6. "Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed" by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus

The children's books can be downloaded directly from the Kindle Fire by entering Amazon's Online store (UK).

Top Apps for Kids
There are an endless number of fun and educational apps that children will enjoy using. The most popular children's apps are iStoryBooks, Dr. Seuss books, Kids Place - With Child Lock and Angry Birds.

1. iStoryBooks: This free app allows toddlers and young children to interact with storybooks through pictures, text and audio. The app is targeted for kids between the ages of 2 and 8 with stories for different reading levels. Some of the popular books included are: Cinderella, Snow White, A to ZX Animals, The World of Trucks and Children's Ramayana.

2. Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss: This app is $2.99 and gives children an interactive way to follow along with the Dr. Seuss classic. The app provides a book-like experience where children can read the book themselves, have the Kindle Fire read the book aloud, or use "auto play." The book includes the original Dr. Seuss illustrations. Other Dr. Seuss books are also available in app form, including: The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Dr. Seuss's ABC, and more.

3. Kids Place - With Child Lock: This free program is the dream app for worried parents who may not trust their children with the Kindle Fire. The app allows parents to block certain programs and capabilities on the Kindle Fire so parents can control what their kids see and which apps they have access to. The app also allows parents to set a password PIN to protect parental data through a Child and Toddler lock.

4. Angry Birds: The extremely popular "Angry Birds" game can be purchased for free in the Kindle Fire App Store. Users fling birds across the screen to try to strategically destroy structures and boundaries. This puzzle game is fun for people of all ages, but children will especially enjoy watching the colorful birds fly across the screen.

Child-Friendly Settings for Kids

In addition to the "Kids Place - With Child Lock," there are a number of other ways parents can make their child's Kindle Fire more secure.

A major complaint with the initial Kindle Fire software was the lack of privacy controls and security features that allowed children, for example, to browse the web freely giving them access to adult content. The new software update allows users to turn on "restrictions" to make their Kindle Fire more secure and prevent security breaches or wandering children.

The restrictions option can be found under the Kindle Fire's settings menu. Select restrictions and then select "turn on." Users will then be prompted to give a password and confirm that password. Once a password has been chosen, users have the option of whether or not to password protect web browsing.

If you have children using the device, the password protected Wi-Fi option will prevent your child from browsing adult content. Once your Kindle Fire is password protected, a small key icon will be located in the top right hand corner of the screen next to the battery.

*NB: The Kindle Fire is not avaialble in the UK until January 2012 at the earliest. 

Related Article: How-To Get The Most Out of Your Kindle Fire: Top 10 Tips And Tricks

Autism: Communication and Language Development - Talkbox

Talkbox is a conceptual communication system targeted at autistic children with severe speech impairment.

Unlike popular communication systems that are predominantly text/voice based. talk box aims at creating a evolving and personalised visual language for children with autism.

At the core of Talkbox, lies an intelligent speech processing engine working in tandem with an object detection and identifying system.

Talkbox has a single arcade style button that can be used by the child or his/her parents, to take pictures of objects and people in the setting that the child inhabits.

These images can then be printed out on specifically formatted paper by the talk box and segregated by the parents according to the time/place.

The images on the left panel consists of people the child might need to contact and these can also vary based on time/place.

To create a message, the child taps on the button to release the lid and place the characters in the creation zone.

As soon as the child keeps the first message on the surface the camera begins recording.

The child taps on the image of the person he/she wants to message and tap the button to send the message.

The recipient can respond to the message using touch based smart phones by accessing the child's visual vocabulary online and using the same visuals the child knows.

For one to one communication the child can just use the visuals from his Talkbox and can physically construct the stories for communicating with others.

Elements of the child's vocabulary and messages can also be posted by the parents in a closed online community to create a richer vocabulary and examples for parents new to the system.

Talkbox is a personalisable communication system that enables a child with autism to communicate with his/her loved ones using a language he/she knows and lives in.

It takes advantage of the repetitive behavior that autistic children have to create an uncluttered time/place based vocabulary and connection list.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NFB: Early Explorers

The National Federation of the Blind - Early Explorers Program - A Cane Travel Program for Blind and Low Vision Children Ages Infant to Seven

NFB Early Explorers is a free program designed to introduce young blind children and their families to the long white cane.

Providing children with an early start to independent movement and travel ensures that children will be more confident and curious travelers throughout life.

Possessing these skills allows young blind children to learn and play alongside their peers with ease.

Program participants will receive
• Travel Tales, a quarterly parent e-newsletter filled with ideas about how to foster age-appropriate movement in young children through the use of the long white cane
• An informational DVD
• A child-sized white cane
• A subscription to Future Reflections (a quarterly publication for parents and educators presenting articles on a variety of topics)
• Access to a network of resources devoted to serving parents of blind children

Mission of the NFB Early Explorers Program
• Introduce young children and their families to the long white cane
• Provide parents strategies to teach their children cane travel
• Make parents aware of essential resources for promoting success for their young blind children
• Help parents teach beginning cane travel skills
• Help parents instill in their child a love of traveling with a long white cane

Here’s How the Program Works…
1. Complete the Early Explorers Program Registration form online. For any question you may have, the contact information is listed at the bottom of this page.
2. Soon after you register, you will receive your child-sized long white cane and your packet of materials for the program.
3. Read the quarterly parent e-newsletter for tips and ideas for travel activities you can do with your child.
4. As often as possible encourage your child to take his cane with him everywhere he goes and have fun exploring and discovering exciting features of his environment with his favorite new tool, the long white cane.

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), a division of the National Federation of the Blind, is a great resource for parents of young blind children. Please visit the NOPBC main page for more great information.

The NFB Early Explorers Program is sponsored by the NFB Jernigan Institute and NOPBC.
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions about the NFB Early Explorers Program, please contact:

Meleah Jensen
200 East Wells Street
at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, Extension 2418

Read More: NFB - Early Explorers

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rules Your Children didn't Learn at School

Acetaminophen and Asthma

The sharp worldwide increase in childhood asthma over the past 30 years has long perplexed researchers, who have considered explanations as varied as improved hygiene and immunizations. Over the last decade, however, a new idea has emerged.

The asthma epidemic accelerated in the 1980s, some researchers have noted, about the same time that aspirin was linked to Reye’s syndrome in children. Doctors stopped giving aspirin to children with fevers, opting instead for acetaminophen.

In a paper published in The Annals of Allergy and Asthma Immunology in 1998, Dr. Arthur Varner, then a fellow in the immunology training program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, argued that the switch to acetaminophen might have fueled the increase in asthma.

Since then, more than 20 studies have produced results in support of his theory, including a large analysis of data on more than 200,000 children that found an increased risk of asthma among children who had taken acetaminophen.

In November, Dr. John T. McBride, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, published a paper in the journal Pediatrics arguing that the evidence for a link between acetaminophen and asthma is now strong enough for doctors to recommend that infants and children who have asthma (or are at risk for the disease) avoid acetaminophen.

Dr. McBride based his assertion on several lines of evidence. In addition to the timing of the asthma epidemic, he said, there is now a plausible explanation for how acetaminophen might provoke or worsen asthma, a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs.

Even a single dose of acetaminophen can reduce the body’s levels of glutathione, an enzyme that helps repair oxidative damage that can drive inflammation in the airways, researchers have found.

“Almost every study that’s looked for it has found a dose-response relationship between acetaminophen use and asthma,” Dr. McBride said. “The association is incredibly consistent across age, geography and culture.”

A statistical link between acetaminophen and asthma has turned up in studies of infants, children and adults. Studies have also found an increased risk of asthma in children whose mothers who took acetaminophen during pregnancy.

Read more of this article here

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dyslexia and Teacher Training: Kelvin Hopkins

Here's a fact you probably don't know... one in 10 of us has some form of dyslexia.

Luton MP, Kelvin Hopkins, highlighted the fact during his debate in Westminster Hall over concerns that children with dyslexia could be losing out.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia looks at the problems dyslexic people face.

Mr Hopkins, its vice chairman, is campaigning for better training for teachers. Set up in 2007, it lists among its members Brian Binley, the MP for Northampton South and Matthew Hancock (West Suffolk).

Mr Hopkins told MPs that one in 10 of the population experiences some form of dyslexia.

'Hidden' condition
"The condition stays with people for life. Some people can accommodate it to an extent, others find it more difficult. "Like colour blindness, it is a condition that is hidden and sometimes not even recognised."

Start Quote
Many thousands of children across the whole ability range are not getting the help they need and are not even being diagnosed, because of the lack of specific training for teachers”

Kelvin Hopkins MP (Lab) Luton North "Many thousands of children across the whole ability range are not getting the help they need and are not even being diagnosed, because of the lack of specific training for teachers," he said.

It was a problem, he added, that was not only distressing for the children and youngsters involved but ultimately it was damaging the economy, as many would drop out of education.

The last government commissioned a report on education and dyslexia by Sir Jim Rose, a former director of OFSTED.

He proposed that initial teacher training should include dyslexia and special learning difficulties and that 4,000 specialist teachers should be created to support dyslexia sufferers.

"That is quite a tall order but that is what he recommended," said Mr Hopkins. "If we are going to approach and attack the problem seriously, we need to follow that recommendation."

The review also wants schools to work more positively with the parents of children who have dyslexia. Mr Hopkins and other MPs who spoke in the debate had stories about people they knew whose conditions had not been picked up while at school.

"Dyslexic children have just as much a right to a good education as all other children," Mr Hopkins told the chamber.

Government review
The Schools Minister Sarah Tether replied that 78,000 pupils receive support for a specific learning difficulty, including dyslexia and dyspraxia.

The government, she said, was in the process of reviewing the provision for children with special needs and would publish its recommendations in the new year.

School pupil

One in 10 of the population experiences some form of dyslexia
But she said that already her department had introduced a new phonics screening check for children in year 1, which, she hoped, would pick up children struggling with early literacy because of dyslexia.

Teachers were being encouraged to "improve and extend their knowledge and expertise when working with pupils with special educational needs" (although there was no mention of any extra money to help them train).

"We are absolutely committed to reforming the support for children with special educational needs and disability and we will say much more in the new year," she promised.

Mr Hopkins and his committee will be watching very closely, as will the British Dyslexia Association.

It has just launched a petition on the Downing Street website calling for all teachers to be trained in recognising and dealing with the difficulties faced by those with dyslexia.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dyslexic Space boss boldly goes on mission to get children learning science

A space scientist has told how she fought dyslexia to make it to the top of her profession.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who tours inner-city schools urging pupils to study science, said students with passion can overcome any obstacles.

She has won a Women In Film And TV award for her work presenting BBC2's Do We Really Need the Moon?

The 43-year-old, who has a daughter aged two, has spoken to 100,000 children in the last year to bust stereotypes about science.

She said: "I go to London schools where pupils may be disillusioned and tell them to find something they have a passion for. If you enjoy the subject it's so much easier to learn.

"Many kids think, 'I have had a slow start in life, my parents have broken up and I have dyslexia'. But I say even if things don't look rosy for you now, that can turn around.

I tell them to have a dream: it can take you very far. But you have to study to fulfil that dream." Dr Pocock was diagnosed with dyslexia at school and "shunted into remedial classes".

It was not until she discovered science at the age of 10 that she became passionate about schoolwork.

"The dyslexia does not go away, but I have found ways of working around it," she said. "In space science I attend international delegations where I have to write onto a screen and everything comes up in big letters.

Sometimes people say, 'You don't spell that word like that.' But I like to be open about my dyslexia so people understand.

"The most important thing is to not give up because you can't spell."

Dr Pocock is the lead scientist at British space technology company Astrium. She is helping to develop the mid- infrared instrument for the James Webb space telescope, which will orbit earth, peering into deep space to discover secrets of the birth of the universe.

She added that some girls still think science is for boys, and when she first told a teacher she wanted to be an astronaut, it was suggested she try nursing "as that was science too".

She said: "There are not that many women and not many black women in science. We aren't doing a good job getting people into science - we need to get it to everybody. Many girls think it's boys' stuff. I am trying to say it's a wonderful subject."

Dr Pocock went to La Sainte Union convent school in Camden, gained A-levels in maths, physics, chemistry and biology, and did a degree in physics and a doctorate in mechanical engineering at Imperial College London.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Autism: Associated Deficits in Temporal Processing

Currently idiopathic autism is typically diagnosed according to an observational assessment of certain behavioral, social, and cognitive tendencies across dimensions of language, social interaction, imaginative play, and restricted or repetitive cognitions and behavior.

Parent interview is required to confirm presence of specific tendencies within the first 3 years of life. There is, as yet, no bio-medical test or marker for autism, although certain neurological, genetic, and physiological differences are known.

There are often common co-morbid disorders, such as problems with sleep, motor function and attention-hyperactivity. An individual is diagnosed along spectrum of impairment (autistic disorder or autism spectrum disorder).

Thus any psychological theory of autism is required to describe differences, and similarities, across a range of behavioral, social and cognitive abilities, within and between affected individuals. Arguably the three most dominant theories of autistic disorder relate to weak central coherence (or information processing), executive functioning, and theory of mind.

There may be another hitherto, rather unacknowledged possibility: a deficit in temporal processing.

An adaptive sensitivity to the duration of events, and time between them, is critical to adaptive cognitive, behavioral, and social function. There are anecdotal and clinical reports of problems with time in autistic disorder, and successful applied behavioral educational and therapeutic supports with this population often include external signals to indicate the passage of time, temporal structure, and upcoming events.

Currently, the empirical literature on temporal processing in autistic disorder is relatively scant, and encompasses findings spanning a range of psychology; neurological, genetic, behavioral, and cognitive, observational, and computational assessments.

These include reports that children with autism experience difficulties imaging past and future changes of a current situation and understanding that successive events are part of a unitary process; differences in temporal reproduction and duration perception (in the interval range); and electrophysiological reports of disordered temporal binding of stimulus input, apparently over extended periods (than is typical).

These findings are usually complementary, although vary greatly in the nature of the methods and analysis used (for a review, see Allman and Meck, 2011). There is preliminary evidence from data modeling to suggest that aspects of the perception of duration might be “developmentally delayed” in this population (see Allman et al., 2011).

Consistent among these aforementioned findings is the interpretation of results within the context of a deficit in (some aspect of) temporal processing in autistic disorder (e.g., Boucher et al., 2007).

These range from suppositions that affected individuals experience problems thinking about time and higher temporal cognition, to notions that there are fundamental differences in the quality of the “subjective present” as it relates to the temporal processing of sensory information.

Clock gene anomalies have been related to sleep, memory, and timing problems in autistic disorder. There have been several attempts to assert a hypothesis of temporal processing disturbance in autistic disorder, both within the discussion of published reports, or in more speculative accounts which go so far as to describe diagnostic features of autistic disorder as manifestations of atypical aspects of temporal processing (for details, see Allman and DeLeon, 2009).

However, there is as yet, no well-defined profile of temporal processing abilities in these individuals, and no sufficiently specified theory.

Read more of this article and published paper: Deficits in Temporal Processing Associated with Autistic Disorder

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Multiple sclerosis starts in brain’s outer layers

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic have reversed the traditional understanding of how multiple sclerosis (MS) begins and travels in the brain.

The common view is that the disease starts in the centre of the brain, in the white matter mostly found there, and then moves toward the outer layers, such as the cortex.

But this study, which is unique because it focused on the brain tissues of patients in the very early stages of MS, shows the opposite: that it moves from the outside in.

It begins in the “subarachnoid space,” which surrounds the brain, cushions it and is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. From there it moves into the white matter. This animation shows how the two hypotheses differ.

The findings are also significant because they support the hypothesis that inflammation, not neurodegeneration, is a main driver of the disease.

The authors conclude that it is “overwhelmingly likely” that MS is fundamentally an inflammatory disease, and not a neurodegenerative disease similar to Alzheimer’s.

Researchers are not entirely sure exactly causes MS, but the prevailing theory is that it is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys its own myelin, a fatty substance essential to the nervous system. It protects the crucial nerve fibres enable different sections of the brain to communicate.

When myelin is damaged (as in MS), messages between the brain and the body are delayed or blocked, leading to MS symptoms such as blindness, numbness, paralysis, and thinking and memory difficulties.

“Our study shows the cortex is involved early in MS and may even be the initial target of disease,” co-lead author of the study and Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Claudia F. Lucchinetti stated.

“Inflammation in the cortex must be considered when investigating the causes and progression of MS”, she says. She and her co-author, Dr. Richard Ransohoff of the Cleveland Clinic, published the results of their study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Equal Futures newsletter

Netbuddytips's Channel - YouTube

Welcome to Netbuddy
Over 1,000 tips from people with first-hand experience of learning disability. Brushing teeth, challenging behaviour, bed-wetting, constipation ... there's a tip for that!
Netbuddy is an award-winning site for swapping practical tips and information on all aspects of supporting people with learning disabilities.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread typewriter is entirely edible

Patti from Baked Ideas made this amazing edible gingerbread typewriter for benefit of City Harvest, and it is displayed at NYC's Parker Meridien Hotel.
So…. typewriter came to mind… a sort of gingerbread house for the letters that live inside!! Christmas unplugged, a letter to santa, granny’s laptop …… it was fun to think about.

First we made a model of the typewriter in cardboard, and then baked all the parts and crafted the roller, paper and metal keys out of sugar paste.

The “glue” is royal icing, and cookies, stacked up, are the inner supports. The keyboard letters are cookies, iced in ivory and trimmed in silver.

The iced gingerbread alphabet letters are frolicking in the sugar snow, sometimes spelling out words (fun, skip, eat, joy.)
I am glad we chose to make a typewriter. It is an image that is a reminder of a simpler time … wintery, happy and unexpected. I hope both kids and adults enjoy looking at it.
It’s 100% edible, down to the rice paper ribbon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New features in Dolphin's SuperNova version 12 - YouTube

This short video is a quick guide to the new features, functionality and application support included in SuperNova version 12.

Link Between Childbirth and Bipolar Affective Disorder

New research show that risks of developing bipolar affective disorder is increased if a woman experiences a psychiatric episode within the first 30 days after childbirth.

"Childbirth has an important influence on the onset and course of bipolar affective disorder, and studies have shown that episodes of post-partum psychosis are often best considered as presentations of bipolar affective disorder occurring at a time of dramatic psychological and physiological change," the researchers said in the report which was published in Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers led by Trine Munk-Olsen, Ph.D., of the National Centre for Register-Based Research, Arhus University in Denmark, collected data on 120,378 women from 1950 to 1991who had a history of a first-time psychiatric contact with any type of psychiatric disorder excluding bipolar affective disorder.

A total of 2,870 of these women had their initial psychiatric contact within the first year after delivery of their first child. During follow-up, 3,062 of the 120,378 women were diagnosed of bipolar affective disorder, of which 132 had their initial psychiatric contact 0 to 12 months post-partum.

Researchers found a significantly higher conversion rate to bipolar affective disorder in women having their initial contact within the first post-partum month. In addition, evidence that the severity of the initial post-partum psychiatric episode may be important, as inpatient admissions were associated with a higher conversion rate than were outpatient contacts, were found.
After fifteen years from initial psychiatric contact, 13.87 percent of women with onset in the immediate post-partum period (0 to 30 days) had converted to bipolar disorder, the study said.

"The present study confirms the well-established link between childbirth and bipolar affective disorder and specifically adds to this field of research by demonstrating that initial psychiatric contact within the first 30 days post-partum significantly predicted conversion to bipolar affective disorder during the follow-up period," the authors conclude.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Podcast on Dyslexia and Autism - The Life Scientific, Uta Frith

Listen to The Life Scientific by Uta Frith

Professor Uta Frith came from a grey post war Germany to Britain in the swinging sixties, when research into conditions such as autism and dyslexia was in its infancy.

At the time many people thought there was no such thing as dyslexia and that autism was a result of cold distant parenting, but Professor Frith was convinced that the explanation for these enigmatic conditions lay in the brain and she set out to prove this through a series of elegant experiments.

Together with her students (Prof) Francesca Happe and (Prof) Simon Baron Cohen she developed the idea that people with autism find it hard to understand the intentions of others, known as theory of mind.

Neuro-imaging experiments carried out with her husband Professor Chris Frith, meant she was able to show that there is a region in the brain which is linked to dyslexia.

Uta Frith talks about her pioneering work that has changed how we view these brain disorders with Jim Al Khalili.

Friday, December 2, 2011

TEDxLondon - Sir Ken Robinson - YouTube

Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world's leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.

He works with governments in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies and some of the world's leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government.

All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education(The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999. He was the central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, working with the ministers for training, education enterprise and culture.

The resulting blueprint for change, Unlocking Creativity, was adopted by politicians of all parties and by business, education and cultural leaders across the Province.

Pirate Queen: Making waves with online learning game

She was a legendary pirate of the high seas around Ireland but Grainne Mhaol is now set to help children with dyslexia and other reading problems.

An animator whose child has dyslexia has developed a unique online game to encourage others with the learning disability to read.

Linda O'Sullivan, from Co Clare, came up with the idea for her 'Reading Bridges' programme by combining her background in children's animation with her 10-year-old son Oisin's experience with dyslexia.

"This is the first product of its kind designed in Ireland and it's all about creating a fun environment for children who are struggling with reading, or even reluctant to read.

"Children learn better when they're having fun and this game is all about fun-based learning, without the fear of failure," she said.

To encourage children to embrace the written word, she based the game on the ancient legend of Grainne Mhaol, the legendary pirate 'Sea Queen of Connacht'.

The game follows the adventures of Jack, a modern boy who falls through a time portal. He meets Grace, a feisty 16th century girl, who is determined to become a pirate like her father.

Together they set off on a series of adventures, which take children through games that helps them with word building, word recognition, short-term memory and visual skills.

The animated game uses phonics -- the building blocks of reading -- in which children learn to pronounce words by associating letters or groups of letters with the sounds they represent.

The phonetic pronunciation of the word -- such as "c - a - t" -- is then reinforced with an animated image and sound of the word.

The games -- aimed at children aged 7 to 12 -- are also designed for children who are reluctant to read or who are falling behind their peers' reading levels at school.

"It's all about building up enthusiasm to read," Ms O'Sullivan said.

Children are encouraged to tackle more complex words through a series of rewards -- such as being awarded gold stars on a chart or getting a loyalty badge, she added.

The game can be particularly helpful, she said, for children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia -- a neurological condition which affects their ability to read.

"While these kids have skills that are enormously important in our world, many quickly turn off reading because of difficulties with perceptual or auditory skills related to dyslexia. Their default is often to find any excuse to avoid reading at all and so much learning is lost as a result.

"Everybody knows somebody with either dyslexia or an undiagnosed reading difficulty," she said.

"Approximately 10pc of all children are somewhere on the dyslexic spectrum, and these children are bright, creative and often visually and spatially very talented.

"Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Walt Disney are just a cross section of talented dyslexics who have changed the world we live in," she added.

A free seven-day trial of the game is available on www.readingbridges.com

Interactive Metronome Demo Video - YouTube

The IM program provides a structured, goal-oriented process that challenges the patient to synchronize a range of hand and foot exercises to a precise computer-generated reference tone heard through headphones. The patient attempts to match the rhythmic beat with repetitive motor actions.

A patented audio or audio and visual guidance system provides immediate feedback measured in milliseconds, and a score is provided.

Beating Dyslexia Through Music

Musical skills may translate into reading skills — particularly for children with dyslexia. Research published by Martina Huss, Usha Goswami, and colleagues in Cortex indicates that musical games may be useful in treating dyslexia in young children because an inability to distinguish between strong and weak “beats” is closely related to dyslexia.

Huss and Goswami asked 10-year-old children to listen to pairs of simple songs in which certain notes were accented. To make the songs different, the scientists changed the length of the accented notes.

Non-dyslexic children were able to distinguish between identical and non-identical song pairs by perceiving “rise time,” which is the time it took for notes to reach peak intensity. Dyslexic children had more difficulty using rise time to distinguish between tunes.

According to the research team, these results show that the ability to perceive the pattern of beats in music and the ability to read are closely linked. Early interventions based on music may allow children to perceive the sounds of language more efficiently, leading to greater success when they learn to read.

Non-dyslexic children may benefit from music training too: Research published by Sylvian Moreno in the October issue of Psychological Science shows that preschoolers can improve their verbal intelligence after 20 days of music-based cognitive training cartoons.

References and Further Reading:

Huss, M., Verney, J. P., Fosker, T., Mead, N., & Goswami, U. (2011). Music, rhythm, rise time perception and developmental

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Children: Positive Self Esteem

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Xmas Holiday Stress - Don't Sweat it!

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