Sunday, January 29, 2012

Babies have ‘intuitive physics’ knowledge at birth?

A US Northwestern University study has found that the evidence for intuitive physics occurs in infants as young as two months – the earliest age at which testing can occur.

Intuitive physics includes skills that adults use all the time. For example, when a glass of milk falls off the table, a person might try to catch the cup, but they are not likely to try to catch the milk that spills out.

The person doesn’t have to consciously think about what to do because the brain processes the information and the person simply reacts.

The majority of an adult’s everyday interactions with the world are automatic, and researchers believe infants have the same ability to form expectations, predicting the behaviour of objects and substances with which they interact.

But the world is not made up of objects alone, and Northwestern researchers looked at whether babies can distinguish between objects in their different forms i.e. one's that can be held, touched or thrown, versus substances such as gas, liquids that can flow and may be drinkable.

According to a review of literature, infants show an understanding that unsupported objects will fall and that hidden objects do not cease to exist. Scientific testing also has shown that by five months, infants have developed the expectation that non-cohesive substances like a gas, sand or water are not solid.

“I think liquid is the best example of a non object that you interact with — a baby has to drink liquid every single day,” said lead author Susan J. Hespos, associate professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“It’s a universal experience with milk or water. We did studies on whether babies expected water to pour or tumble from an upended cup.

By five months of age, babies expect both water and sand to pour, so we have clear evidence that this type of physical knowledge is available early in development.”

While the intuitive physics knowledge is believed to be present at birth, co-author Kristy van Marle, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, believes parents can assist skill development through normal interaction, such as playing and talking with the child and encouraging him or her to interact with objects.

“Natural interaction with the child, such as talking to him or her, playing peek-a-boo and allowing him or her to handle safe objects, is the best method for child development,” van Marle said.

“Natural interaction with the parent and objects in the world gives the child all the input that evolution has prepared the child to seek, accept and use to develop intuitive physics.”

Read more on 'Intuitive Physics' in this paper by McCloskey 

Also you can read another, older (2001), paper; "Are 'intuitive physics' and
'intuitive psychology' independent? - Testing children with Asperger Syndrome

Friday, January 27, 2012

Autism: Brainwaves 'show risk from age of six months'

It may be possible to detect autism at a much earlier age than previously thought, according to an international team of researchers.

A study published in Current Biology identified differences in infants' brainwaves from as early as six months.

Behavioural symptoms of autism typically develop between a child's first and second birthdays.

Autism charities said identifying the disorder at an earlier stage could help with treatment.

It is thought that one in every 100 children has an autism spectrum disorder in the UK. It affects more boys than girls. While there is no "cure", education and behavioural programmes can help.

One of the researchers, Prof Mark Johnson from Birkbeck College, University of London, told the BBC: "The prevailing view is that if we are able to intervene before the onset of full symptoms, such as a training programme, at least in some cases we can maybe alleviate full symptoms."

His team looked for the earliest signs of autism in 104 children aged between six and 10 months. Half were known to be at risk of the disorder because they had on older sibling who had been diagnosed with autism. The rest were low risk.

Older children with autism can show a lack of eye contact, so the babies were shown pictures of people's faces that switched between looking at or away from the baby.

Sensors attached to the scalp looked for differences in brain activity.

In low-risk babies, or high-risk babies that did not develop autism, there was a large difference in the brainwaves when looking at each type of image.

There was a much smaller difference in the brainwaves of babies who developed autism.

'Very effective'

Prof Johnson said: "It is important to note it is not a 100% predictor. We had babies who flagged up warning signs who did not develop autism."

There were also babies who did develop autism who had low-risk brainwaves. The test would need to be more accurate before it was used routinely.

Prof Tony Charman, Centre for Research in Autism and Education at the Institute of Education, said: "Differences in the use of eye gaze to regulate social interaction are already a well-recognised early feature in many children with autism from the second year of life.

"Future studies will be required to determine whether measurements of brain function such as those used in our study might one day play a role in helping to identify children at an even earlier age."

Christine Swabey from the charity Autistica said: "The hope is that this important research will lead to improved identification and access to services for future generations.

"Ultimately, the earlier we can identify autism and provide early intervention, the better the outcomes will be."

Dr Georgina Gomez-de-la-Cuesta from the National Autistic Society said: "Further research to investigate these differences will eventually lead to earlier recognition of the condition.

"Early intervention is very effective in supporting those with autism, so recognition in infancy can only be beneficial in helping individuals with autism reach their full potential.

"However, this important research is still in its early stages, and larger studies looking at several early markers of autism will be necessary before a robust clinical diagnosis could be possible at such a young age."

When “OK?” is not OK!

When asking a child to do something positive, like go to bed or to stop doing something negative, like whining, some mothers and fathers routinely attach the word “OK?” to the end of their response.

It sounds like this:
“It’s time for bed now, honey. OK?”
“I want you to stop whining and use your big girl voice, OK?”

This is bad practice. Why?

First of all, there’s no need for the extra comment. Requests should be kept simple, short and straightforward.

Second, the “OK?” is not a benign comment, it’s a troublemaker. The “OK?” communicates to the child that the parent is anxious about whether or not the youngster is going to cooperate.

Kids can sense this anxiety in their parent’s voice immediately, even though the child may be only two or three years old. The “OK?” tells the child right away that the parent is vulnerable and unsure of herself or himself.

Third, the troublesome “OK?” implies that at this point the child has a choice in the matter.

Now how many kids like to go to bed at night or actually want to stop whining? Not very many.

So combine the kid’s natural aversion to cooperating with the parent’s uncertainty and what do you get? You get the potential for a bad scene complete with arguing, yelling and tantrums.

So next time you want a child to cooperate and you need to make a simple request, DO NOT put “OK?” on the end of it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dyslexia: Coloured Reading Rulers

If your child is having problems with reading he or she might be suffering from visual stress. The symptoms of visual stress whilst reading are: whole words or letters moving on the page, blurred text, distorted text, spinning text, seeing shapes within the text and feeling sick whilst reading, headaches and migraines.

As you can imagine, the effect of visual stress on a reader is profound. Speaking from my own experience I used to feel sick whilst reading and understandably hated reading for most of my childhood.

The symptoms of visual stress effect how a child learns to read and understand what they have read because it inhibits the ability to recognise words quickly and to read smoothly.

How can you tell if your child has visual stress?
This is a question that pops up over and over again but is fairly simple to answer. Ask you child about how they feel when they read. Do they feel sick, dizzy or do they start to get a headache?

Ask if the words stay still or move around the page or blurr. You may also notice that they turn their head or slide the book to the side as they read.

Often children with visual stress report that the text is clearer if they move the book to the side and look at the words through the corners of their eyes.

There is a useful software package to determine if you or your child is suffering from visual stress and I would recommend it for schools and colleges.

If you’re a parent there is a simple way to find out if your child’s reading problems are caused by visual stress.

Coloured Overlays
Coloured overlays are a simple and inexpensive solution to visual stress for children with reading difficulties.

They won’t cure dyslexia but they can significantly help with reading. A coloured overlay ruler is similar in size to a 6 inch school ruler and comes in a variety of colours.

By placing the right colour overlay over text reading becomes much easier because the contrast stops the words from moving or blurring.

How do you know which colour to use?
The overlays come in 10 colours and there are 5 which have proven to be the most popular. So you can order a set of 5 or 10 overlays and simply test them by placing them over the text and seeing which colour works best.

Further info and where to purchase coloured overlay reading rulers and reading overlays.

Mrs. Books - Apples Gosh Golly - YouTube

A Children's Educational video. Sharing Fun with the whole Family! Counting Funny, Silly Apples from 1 to 10 with Mrs. Books. Wonderful Music to Sing and Dance Along with too!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Audio Description - RNIB

Audio Description

On the RNIB website is:

Everything you need to know about audio description (AD) and where it is available.

Amazon eBook readers and apps - RNIB

Amazon eBook readers and apps

You will find the following on the RNIB website:
Amazon are a US company that make some of their products available in the UK. The first four items mentioned below are available in the UK now, the next two are expected to be available soon and the last - the Kindle DX - is only available through the US Amazon website.
Apart from the differences between readers and apps given below, there are other differences which are not so obvious. For example, some newspaper and magazine titles are available for the readers but not the apps.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dyslexia: MRI Brain Scans Spot Early Signs

Instead of waiting for a child to experience reading delays, scientists now say they can identify the reading problem even before children start school, long before they become labeled as poor students and begin to lose confidence in themselves.

Although typically diagnosed during the second or third grade of school - around age 7 or 8 - a team from Children's Hospital Boston said they could see signs of the disease on brain scans in children as early as 4 and 5, a time when studies show children are best able to respond to interventions.

"We call it the dyslexia paradox," said Nadine Gaab of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children's, whose study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Gaab said most children are not diagnosed until third grade, but interventions work best in younger children, hopefully before they begin to learn to read.

"Often, by the time they get a diagnosis, they usually have experienced three years of peers telling them they are stupid, parents telling them they are lazy.

We know they have reduced self esteem. They are really struggling," Gaab said in a telephone interview.

Her study builds on an emerging understanding of dyslexia as a problem with recognizing and manipulating the individual sounds that form language, which is known as phonological processing.
In order to read, children must map the sounds of spoken language onto specific letters that make up words. Children with dyslexia struggle with this mapping process.

"The beauty is spoken language can present before written language so people can look for symptoms," said Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University.

Signs of early dyslexia might include difficulty with rhyming, mispronouncing words or confusing similar-sounding words.

"Those are all very early symptoms," Shaywitz said.

Dyslexia affects roughly 5 percent to 17 percent of all children and up to 1 in 2 children with a family history of the disorder will struggle with reading, have poor spelling and experience difficulty decoding words.

In her study, Gaab and colleagues scanned the brains of 36 preschool children while they did a number of tasks, such as trying to decide if two words start with the same sound.

They found that during these tasks, children who had a family history of dyslexia had less brain activity in certain regions of the brain than did children of similar ages, intelligence and socioeconomic status.

Older children and adults with dyslexia have dysfunction in these same areas of the brain, which include the junctions between the occipital and temporal lobes and the temporal and parietal lobes in the back of the brain.

Gaab said the study shows that when children predisposed to dyslexia did these tasks, their brains did not use the area typically used for processing this information. This problem occurred even before the children started learning to read.

"The important point of this paper is it shows the need to look for signs of dyslexia earlier," said April Benasich, director of the Carter Center for Neurocognitive Research at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, who was not part of the study.

Benasich studies language processing in even younger children - babies who have a family history of learning disorders.

"There is evidence to suggest that what is thought to be reading failure is there before the kids fail," she said.

Gaab said her study is too small to form the basis of any test for dyslexia but her team has just won a grant from the National Institutes of Health to do a larger study.

Ultimately, she hopes parents will be able to go to their pediatrician and ask for their child to be assessed.

"Families often know that their child has dyslexia as early as kindergarten, but they can't get interventions at their schools," she said in a statement.

"If we can show that we can identify these kids early, schools may be encouraged to develop programs," she said.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism & Special Needs: Touch

Fox TV's new Kiefer Sutherland series Touch premieres in two days, on Wednesday January 25th. We're intrigued, and watchful.

The series revolves around a non-verbal child, Jake, who understands numerical patterns other people can't perceive -- and his father Martin's attempts to understand not only what Jake is trying to communicate, but Jake himself.

From the series description at
Blending science, spirituality and emotion, the series will follow seemingly unrelated people all over the world whose lives affect each other in ways seen and unseen, known and unknown. At the story’s center is MARTIN BOHM (Kiefer Sutherland), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his emotionally challenged 11-year-old son, JAKE (David Mazouz). Caring, intelligent and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything to reach his son. But Jake never speaks, shows little emotion, and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Jake is obsessed with numbers—writing long strings of them in his ever-present notebooks—and with discarded cell phones.
Some folks are already skeptical. Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress is critical of series co-creator Kring for "inventing a magical alternative to autism," and Ellen Seidman at says:
I like it in concept because it’s a TV program about a kid with special needs, which isn’t very common (understatement alert). I don’t like it concept because I’m concerned it’s going to take the focus away from the amazing reality of our kids—something many people still don’t get. And, count on it, some people are going to think kids with autism actually can do this, feeding into the stereotype of savant abilities.
Matt Web Mitovitch of TV line reports that series star Sutherland believes Touch will highlight the potential of those with autism, and the need for the rest of society to try to better understand autistics:
“The Danny Glover [professor] character is interesting,” says Sutherland. “He believes that we have misdiagnosed a group of people that actually are at a much more advanced form of communication, but because we don’t understand it we’ve diagnosed them with what we can best understand.”
That exploration of what autism is and could be was born of the fact that [series co-creator] Kring has a son who lives with the condition; as such, he’s taking care to see that Touch‘s fictional aspects are founded in scientific fact.
Autism is no longer mentioned on Fox's official Touch site, but Fox secured an autism and special education expert, Joanne Lara, as technical consultant on the pilot. Joanne also advised on the role of Jake, the eleven-year-old protagonist. We spoke with Joanne last week; here's the part of our conversation that centered on the series' special needs themes.

Improve handwriting with small changes

The best way to encourage children to change is to offer them something they want and then let them find out how to go about getting it. A bit like the carrot on a stick.

Find out how to write neatly by observing someone who is a neat writer and notice what they do that is different from what you do, be like a detective and watch them really closely, just what is it that they are doing differently?

Helping children learn from each other and discovering the information in a fun and enjoyable way will help them be better at remembering the things they must do to improve their handwriting.
If you don’t get the chance to observe someone, here are some things that you can do:
  1. Ensure that your child is sat with both feet flat on the floor and sat up straight. This helps concentration and gets children ready to write. Slouching over their desk and resting their head on their hand is not good for being alert and concentration. It could also mean that they need to visit an optician that specialises in helping children with handwriting and vision problems.
  2. Turn the paper about 20 degrees away from the hand that they write with, this will give their elbow room to move as they write and their hand can relax on the paper.
  3. Hold the pencil with a tripod grip, this is the most effective way to hold a pencil for neat handwriting.
  4. Grip the pencil by imagining it is a baby bird, you don’t want it to fly away but you don’t want to squash it either. This is helpful for
    children to understand just how tightly they need to hold it, especially for children who hold on to their pencil so tightly their fingers go white at the knuckles.
  5. If your child is having problems holding the pencil then invest in a good quality pencil grip to help them master the tripod grip with ease.
Sometimes there’s resistance to these changes which could mean your child is not ready or wanting to change. Encourage small changes with lots of fun practise focusing on pencil holding skills regularly, not just with writing but with drawing and painting. They will take time to master, but once mastered, they will lead to success in handwriting for a lifetime.
You can learn more about how to hold a pencil properly and find the right kind of pencil grips for adults and children here
Improve handwriting with small changes

Dyslexic Brian: Pav's home page video - YouTube

Scottish Police Introduce Alert Card for Autistic Adults

A new card to help emergency services deal with people with autism has been launched.

The Autism Alert card will be carried by adults with the condition in Lothian and Borders and can be shown to the emergency services.

It will include details of a personal contact and expert contact who can tell police and other services how best to deal with the autistic person.

People with autism can have severe communication and social problems and dealing with the police can be hard for them.

Jennifer Bruce from Kirkliston in Edinburgh said the card was "vital" after her own experience with the police.

The 25-year-old said: "It is so important that police and emergency services know that a person has autism.

"I was at a friend's house when police were called, following a complaint from neighbours. I was not directly involved, but still found the situation frightening. The police, in their black and yellow uniforms looked intimidating to me.

"My Asperger syndrome means I can find reading non-verbal communication such as body language a real challenge. The police didn't know I had autism so didn't explain to me what was going on in a way I could understand. If I could have produced an Autism Alert card, I believe it would have helped make the situation less stressful."

The card has already been launched in Strathclyde and the Highlands and will be rolled out across the country.

Dr Robert Moffat, national director of NAS Scotland said: "NAS Scotland is delighted to be in a partnership that addresses the unique challenges faced by people with autism in such a sensible, straightforward and effective way.

The new Autism Alert card is a crucial step in ensuring Lothian and Borders Police are autism aware, and helps people with autism in the local area access the same rights most of us take for granted."

Steve Allen, deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police said: "We welcome the introduction of the new Autism Alert card which will allow our officers to quickly identify a card-holder's condition, improve understanding of their needs and offer them the best possible support.

"Supporting our communities and reducing risk, especially for those with the greatest needs, is at the heart of Lothian and Borders Police. Our staff will continue to support and encourage those who would benefit from using the card, to apply for and use it each and every time they need our help or assistance."

People with autism can apply for the card by calling 0131 551 7260 or email

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

You know what I am talking about. Any parent raising a special needs child knows about the setbacks.

The kick in the stomach, racing heart, internal restlessness, sleepless nights re-evaluating and reassessing the situation until you can’t think straight.

That fear that grips you and makes you doubt yourself as a parent, yup, welcome to special needs parenting setbacks.

If there is one thing I can tell you with absolute confidence it is this, there will be setbacks, many setbacks.

There will be those days that out of no where you are struck with the enormity of it all, the days that you just break down and need a good cry.

I remember the days that I measured progress and setbacks in hours. Days that drained me both mentally and physically.

With time and with my childs acquirement of calming and coping skills the hours turned into weeks then turned into months and dare I say, with fingers crossed and pajamas inside out , now years.

I can catch my breath, I can go to the store without a knot in my stomach and a cell phone on loud
clenched in my hands.

Its been a long road of two steps forward and one step back. Smooth sailing you are thinking, not quite, the fear and insecurity I believe will say with me for many years to come.

The panic and constant state of anxiety parents of special needs children experience almost become a part of you. It consumes you.

The nature of the beast becomes embedded in our brains and we know that with so many variables to triggers that we can never completely let our guard down.

Read more of this article here: Two Steps Forward One Step Back Still Gets You Ahead

Specialist Teachers Borrow From Brain Studies

In a corner of a classroom at the Ivymount School, a frustrated 7th grader tells himself to take a deep breath. Slowly, without distracting his classmates, he calms down.

This exercise is among many strategies derived from brain-science research that educators at this private school are using with students with disabilities. In this case, the technique is being taught to students with Asperger syndrome, for whom self-control in a moment of frustration can be elusive.

The five steps to regaining calm—including breathing deeply, reading directions, and telling oneself to give something a try—are taped to many of the desks of students in the Model Asperger Program.

Ivymount is one of a growing number of schools trying to adapt techniques based on brain research to special education settings, a practice that many teachers and parents may not have even envisioned a few years ago.

While some educators remain skeptical, brain research is slowly migrating from the lab into the classroom, both in predicting which students may have learning difficulties and intervening to help students diagnosed with disabilities.

Opportunities Emerge

Among the efforts under way:
  • In Cambridge, Mass., a Harvard University center is devoted to training those who want to use neuroscience and cognitive science to improve teaching, including for students with disabilities.
  • In Washington, George Washington University has created a doctoral program in applied neuroscience in special education.
  • The Center for Applied Technology, in Wakefield, Mass., employs specialists in neuropsychology, along with other experts, to expand learning opportunities for students with disabilities.
  • A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is using brain-imaging to predict which children in a given kindergarten class might eventually struggle with reading, because of dyslexia or other reasons, so intervention can take place as early as possible.
"We are just beginning to understand how big this is," said Maxine B. Freund, a professor in George Washington's department of special education and the associate dean of research and external relations. "It's an opportunity we treasure."

That's especially so for students with disabilities, said Kurt W. Fischer, a Harvard professor of psychology and human development and the founder of the graduate school of education's Mind, Brain, and Education program.

"What we need to do is figure out how to harness those differences instead of making everyone learn the same way," he said.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't still be some caution about translating brain research into educational techniques, he said.

"There are people that are skeptical, and they ought to be skeptical," Mr. Fischer said. "There are lots of things happening," he added, but "it's still early."

Turning a Corner

At MIT, neuroscientist and professor John D.E. Gabrieli has been working on using brain imaging to predict which students may eventually struggle with reading. He is clear about connecting his research with the classroom.

One of his current projects involves working with about 20 Boston-area kindergarten classes in inner-city charter schools, suburban district-run schools, and Roman Catholic schools.

As many students as possible are brought to his lab for brain imaging—through the use of noninvasive functional magnetic-resonance imaging, or FMRIS—and the students get additional help based on the results.

Mr. Gabrieli will follow the students for several years to see if the targeted interventions can stave off reading problems.

"How to diagnose and classify children—the more that we can make that scientific and less arbitrary, the better," he said. "If something about the brain—the luck of the draw of their brain—is making reading extra hard for them, maybe we could just intervene early and spare them a lot of grief."

Typically, reading problems aren't diagnosed until students are in 3rd or 4th grade. Not only do reading problems at that age hamper students' ability to learn many subjects, they've lost hours of reading practice outside of school, essentially falling even further behind, Mr. Gabrieli said.

Children who enjoy reading passively hone their skills by reading for pleasure, something poor readers are less likely to do.

One research-based product that already appears to be helping some students is based on existing practices in special education.

Using BrainWare Safari, software made by Learning Enhancement Corp., based in Chicago, students play what seems like a video game for 30 to 45 minutes a day, several times a week, for three months.

The exercises build students' memory skills, their visual- and auditory-processing skills, thinking abilities, and sensory integration, said Betsy Hill, the president and chief operating officer of Learning Enhancement.

The program replicates the work of speech and language therapists, vision therapists, and psychologists, work that is tedious for both students and therapists.

Different exercises require students to click to a beat and deal with other distractions that can compete for what's known as the working memory.

Working memory allows students to do things like take notes at the same time the teacher is talking—a skill not all students easily master.

"Kids are doing one level of an exercise 100, 200, 300 times," Ms. Hill said. "You need that kind of repetition to change those neuropathways."

While students with disabilities may need to spend more time with the software for their brains to be reprogrammed, in a sense, all students have been shown to benefit, she said.

One small study in the 550-student Harbor Beach community school district in Michigan, conducted by a district speech-language pathologist without Learning Enhancement's knowledge, showed students' average improvement on cognitive tests was three years and one month in learning progress after using the program for 12 weeks, confirming results published in a scientific journal.

The district was one of the first users of the program, now in about 300 schools across the country.

Harbor Beach was so convinced of BrainWare Safari's effectiveness, it is now required for all 3rd grade students new to the district.

How Do Students with learning Disabilities Learn?

In this insightful interview, Associate Professor, The Pennsylvania State University, Altoona College, Barbara Hong defines what a learning disability is, and tells us what elements we should start looking for, when analyzing educational websites to ensure children with learning disabilities are integrated in the educational process.

VOCAs: Assistive Technology for People with Speech Impairments

“More important than the right to speech is the right to speak.” The world renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking knows this exactly to be true.

Having been robbed of his ability to speak to a motor neuron disease, Stephen Hawking had to struggle with crude communication systems just to be able to tell his wants and needs…until he discovered VOCAs.

If it had not been for VOCAs, Stephen Hawking’s insights into the nature of space and time would not have been known.

This assistive technology has allowed him to communicate, write and publish his works, and give lectures to live audiences around the world in spite of losing his ability to speak.

In this post we will explore what VOCAs are and how these instruments give people an ability that most of us take for granted.

What are VOCAs?

VOCAs refer to voice output communication aids. These are electronic devices used by people who are either unable to speak or whose speech is difficult to understand.

VOCAs are used for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The term refers to different communication methods used by people who are unable to speak, have difficulty speaking, or have restrictions in understanding spoken or written communication.

Who uses VOCAs?

VOCAs are used by people who have limited or absent speech to communicate with the people around them. These include people who suffer from neurological disorders, such as autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

VOCAs are also used to help an individual regain his ability to speak that might have been lost due to stroke, brain damage, or a motor neuron disease. An example of a motor neuron disease is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with.

Are there different types of VOCAs?

Just as there are different types of people who use VOCAs, there are also different types of VOCAs. These vary in all shapes, sizes, and complexity.

Dedicated Communication Devices vs. Communication Software Programs

VOCAs may be dedicated communication devices or laptop computers with specialized software installed.

Dedicated communication devices are designed primarily for communication, while computer based VOCAs are typically programmed to include additional features, such as an environmental control system.

An environmental control system allows the VOCA user to independently turn on electronic devices, such as the lights or television, via remote control.


Some VOCAs use digitized speech or a recorded natural speech of a person for voice output. Frequently used words, phrases, or sentences are recorded and stored into the device by somebody else other than the VOCA user. The VOCA user then pushes a button or turns a switch to play the message.

A VOCA with digitized speech can only say what someone has already recorded into it. However, they are easier to program than the VOCAs that use synthesized speech.

VOCAs that use synthesized speech make use of a speech synthesizer to produce artificial speech. These VOCAs use text to speech systems. This type of device is more flexible because users are not dependent on pre-recorded messages on their device. The speech synthesizer can say any combination of words, phrases, or sentences that the user chooses.

Representation of Messages

VOCAs may use text-based or symbol-based programs to represent messages on the device. Symbol-based VOCAs use pictures or symbols to represent messages which are supplied through symbol organizational systems. This type of device is typically used by individuals whose literacy level makes it difficult for them to use text-based VOCAs.

Text-based VOCAs typically have a keyboard for entering messages. They often feature a “word prediction” facility which helps reduce the number of keystrokes a user has to make. It also functions as a support tool for people whose spelling is not consistently reliable.

How are VOCAs accessed and controlled?

VOCAs can be adjusted according to its user’s needs.


Some people that use VOCAs have fine motor skills and they are able to press buttons on the devices. Adjusting the sensitivity of buttons and keyguards can help VOCA users that may have limited motor skills. Keyguards are plates that sit above the buttons of a VOCA device or a keyboard. They help the user to press the right key with more precision.

People that have limited fine motor skills input messages to a VOCA device through visual scanning. This technique is used by Stephen Hawking. Professor Hawking uses a switch to move through the letters on an onscreen grid. He then presses the switch to select the letter that he wants.

Other Access Methods used in VOCAs

Other access methods include:
  • a standard mouse;
  • mouse that can be controlled by the head;
  • joysticks; and
  • rollerballs.
It is truly hard to imagine living a life of silence, where your thoughts and dreams stay locked within you. VOCAs have given people with communication problems the freedom to express themselves and live life fully.

Blind users gain Internet access via Smartphones

Jessica Rathwell holds her iPhone close to her ear while she types out a tweet using special voiceover technology. With remarkable speed, she navigates her way through her tiny keyboard, adding and deleting letters.

Rathwell is blind, and she is a self-described huge Apple fan and tech geek.

Her technology skills have led her to a career in teaching other blind and low-vision people to use Apple computers and devices as they come out of the box, with no additional technology or modifications.

She got her first Apple computer in the 1990s, but had to give up the operating system when they took a big step away from assistive technology.

That meant years of working on a Microsoft system. In 2008, Rathwell saw the Tiger 10.4 operating system for Apple computers that had voice-enabled software. It was the first time Rathwell could take a stock unit out of the box and use it as is.

"For me, it was the joy of inclusion," she says. "When you spend your life in school having to always have some sort of assistive technology, it feels so good when you no longer have to."

By all accounts, Rathwell is a whiz on all things Apple, and teaches other people at the Nanaimo and Region Disability Resource Centre to use a computer and gain full access to the Internet.

Rathwell's Microsoft counterpart is Aedan Staddon. The two have a friendly rivalry, and Rathwell has started learning on Mac computers as well.

"Learning from a blind person is better because they teach you what you realistically can and can't do," he says.

He is currently taking online courses in computer programming through the Cisco Academy for the Visually Impaired.

A room full of people who have sight issues discuss their pre-ferred operating system, and talk about Twitter and Facebook. Before Rathwell and Staddon started teaching, their students' experience with the technology could be kind of scary and frustrating. That's changed now, and their students at NRDRC, a volunteer charity, are happy.

"The Internet is a conversation point," says Rathwell. "And it's nice to be able to use it the same way anybody does."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Listen up: Does Abnormality in auditory processing underlie dyslexia

People with dyslexia often struggle with the ability to accurately decode and identify what they read.

Although disrupted processing of speech sounds has been implicated in the underlying pathology of dyslexia, the basis of this disruption and how it interferes with reading comprehension has not been fully explained.

Now, new research published by Cell Press in the December 22 issue of the journal Neuron finds that a specific abnormality in the processing of auditory signals accounts for the main symptoms of dyslexia.

"It is widely agreed that for a majority of dyslexic children, the main cause is related to a deficit in the processing of speech sounds," explains senior study author, Dr. Anne-Lise Giraud and Franck Ramus from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France.

"It is also well established that there are three main symptoms of this deficit:
  • difficulty paying attention to individual speech sounds, 
  • a limited ability to repeat a list of pseudowords or numbers, and 
  • a slow performance when asked to name a series of pictures, colors, or numbers as quickly as possible.
However, the underlying basis of these symptoms has not been elucidated."

Dr. Giraud and colleagues examined whether an abnormality in the early steps of auditory processing in the brain, called "sampling," is linked with dyslexia by focusing on the idea that an anomaly in the initial processing of phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can be used to make a word, might have a direct impact on the processing of speech.

The researchers found that typical brain processing of auditory rhythms associated with phonemes was disrupted in the left auditory cortex of dyslexics and that this deficit correlated with measures of speech sound processing.

Further, dyslexics exhibited an enhanced response to high-frequency rhythms that indirectly interfered with verbal memory.

It is possible that this "oversampling" might result in a distortion of the representation of speech sounds.

"Our results suggest that the left auditory cortex of dyslexic people may be less responsive to modulations at very specific frequencies that are optimal for analysis of speech sounds and overly responsive to higher frequencies, which is potentially detrimental to their verbal short-term memory abilities," concludes Dr. Giraud.

"Taken together, our data suggest that the auditory cortex of dyslexic individuals is less fine-tuned to the specific needs of speech processing."

Studying the Causes of ADHD/ADD

Doctors do not know exactly what causes ADHD. Through the years, they have speculated that toxins, abnormal foetal development, diet, injury or poor parenting are to blame.

The earliest research into what is now known as ADHD dates back to 1902, when a British pediatrician described 20 children who were "passionate," obstinant and unable to control their impulses.

At the time, he suggested a brain injury might be the key. This has not been confirmed as a cause in most cases. Since then, practitioners have observed that faulty genetics is the more likely culprit.

Today, scientists are scrutinizing genetics for answers. Many now suspect a series of malfunctioning genes may obstruct the normal secretion of chemicals that guide communication among cells in areas of the brain responsible for inhibition and self-control.

This breakdown leads to a loss of self-control, impeding other brain functions responsible for maintaining attention.

In fact, the brain regions involved have been shown to be smaller and less active on scans taken from children with ADHD compared to those taken from healthy children.

Just what may be causing the reduced size of these brain regions is not yet known. Again, researchers hypothesize a genetic mutation may be to blame.

Many now believe that more than one gene plays a role in ADHD. Evidence shows relatives of children with the disorder are significantly more likely to develop it than children from unaffected families.

Furthermore, the children of a parent who has adult ADHD have up to a one in two chance of also developing it.

Studies of twins have placed the risk of ADHD in a child whose identical twin has the disorder at up to 18 times that of a non-twin sibling of a child with ADHD.

While birth injuries and maternal alcohol or tobacco use may be factors in some cases of ADHD, most experts agree those factors account for less than 10 percent of cases.

As scientists seek clues in the hunt for a definitive cause, many insist that a number of the world's great inventors, artists and thinkers have exhibited traits of attention deficit disorder — and have succeeded because of it, not despite it.

Robert Frost, Frank Lloyd Wright, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are examples of creative individuals whose behavior could also be interpreted as the inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity of ADHD.

Does poor parenting cause ADHD?
No. But some parenting practices can complicate the course of ADHD and lower the success of treatment, such as inconsistent discipline, inconsistency between parents or between parents and the child's caretaker, or inconsistency over time (such as enforcing rules one day but not the next).

These practices do not cause ADHD, but they can make life more difficult for these children and complicate treatment.

Dyslexia: It’s not all about Phonics!

There has been so much news about phonics and how it works lately that I thought I’d tell you that IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT PHONICS!

You wil find that sum childrn are sow ust to lerning fonics that thay downt tayk eny notis of wot the werds look liyk.

And in case you couldn’t read that it says: You will find that some children are so used to learning phonics that they don’t take any notice of what the words look like.

It’s a bit of a shame that all words aren’t spelt phonetically because then ‘we’ wouldn’t have such a big task when it comes to learning how to spell. This is why it can’t all be about phonics when teaching children how to spell.

Don’t get me wrong, phonics is an excellent place to start and when children can’t spell a word using sounds to work out what comes next is a great way to help them and even if the spelling is wrong it can still be read by them or others.

So what am I talking about?! After your child writes the word phonetically he or she needs to look at the word and ask “Does it look right?” Just asking that simple question can make all the difference.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Childrens' vision-testing device could catch problems

According to figures reported by the University of Tennessee, even though 85 percent of a child’s learning is vision-related, about 80 percent of American children have never had their eyes tested before starting kindergarten.

Even when tests are performed, they are usually only capable of detecting no more than a couple of conditions.

Unfortunately, this means that vision-related learning disabilities such as dyslexia can be missed, and may not be noticed until they are well established.

Now, however, researchers at U Tennessee’s Space Institute have developed a new type of vision-testing system for young children, that could catch a variety of vision problems while they’re still reversible.

The device, known as the Dynamic Ocular Evaluation System (DOES), is reportedly inexpensive, kid-friendly, and only takes about a minute to learn how to use.

It was invented by Ying-Ling Ann Chen, a research assistant professor in physics. She was assisted by Lei Shi, a post-doctoral research associate in laser application, and Jim Lewis, a professor emeritus in physics.

"Vision screening is important at an early age to detect several different causes of vision disorders," said Chen.

"The few children that do get screened today aren't being screened adequately. For instance, many current screening methods do one eye at a time and studies show young eyes will accommodate significantly, and this causes inaccurate results."

Children using DOES simply sit and watch a three-minute cartoon, or play a computer game. No scary eye dilation is necessary, nor are any verbal responses from the child - this point is particularly important, as children taking eye tests are sometimes simply too young to know what their vision should be like, so what they tell clinicians can be misleading.

As the cartoon begins, a three-second procedure uses infra-red light to assess the child's ocular alignment, and checks for binocular refractive risks, high-order aberrations, ocular scattering, and significant neural problems.

This is followed by dynamic tests for less significant signs of abnormal ocular alignment, neural responses, and amblyopia (lazy eye).

The researchers plan on adding more tests, that would use the child's vision to check for mental problems including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and dyslexia.

All of the data and images are digitally recorded, and can be sent electronically to specialists if needed.

Chen and her U Tennessee colleagues hope that DOES could someday become a standard piece of equipment in pediatrician's offices.

"By not testing our youth, we are potentially missing the window for effective treatment for a lot of conditions," she stated.

Transitions: Preparing for Adulthood

Click on the image to visit the Preparing for Adulthood website

The Preparing for Adulthood Programme
A programme of work is now underway to explore these proposals, working with SEND green paper pathfinders. The Preparing for Adulthood programme will also provide knowledge and support to all local authorities and their partners, including families and young people, so they can ensure young people with SEN and disabilities achieve paid work, independent living, good health and community inclusion as they move into adulthood. We will be working with the Department for Education and its partners to:
  • Build on the learning from past initiatives
  • Support peer to peer learning at a local level to improve outcomes
  • Share knowledge of what works, the challenges and solutions with Government, local agencies, families and young people.
The Preparing for Adulthood Programme has three strands of work:
  • Best practice and information sharing
  • Wider support for all local areas
  • Pathfinder support.

Help Children Make their own Learning Games

Click on the pictures to visit GamestarMechanic.

We are excited to think that children can use platforms like to make math games to help stimulate the learning process.

Let us know your experiences with this product.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

UK children's speech therapy cuts - Warning!

In an exclusive interview with The Independent , Ms Gross said parents needed more information about children’s speech development arguing that many families were still unaware how to help their youngsters.

She called for parents to be offered information via smart phones and social networking sites, saying parents were willing to make dramatic changes to their lifestyles once the dangers of their children’s excessive television viewing or dummy use were explained to them.

In her final report, Two Years On, Ms Gross warns that the improvements made in children’s speech during 2011, the national year of communication, risk being overturned because of the “significant cuts” to front-line services.

The cuts come as levels of communication problems identified in children continue to rise, with a 58 per cent growth in numbers of pupils with communication as their primary special need over the last five years.

Ms Gross told The Independent her visits to 105 out of 152 local authorities during her two years in the job had made her “very worried” about the effect of the cuts on children with communication problems.

Ms Gross said she feared that children would face significantly longer waits to see speech and language therapists for assessment. She said: “If you are three and have to wait around 18 months to be seen then it is going to be much harder to catch up. If children can have help and catch up by the time they are five and a half then there progress should be normal from then on. But research shows that a child whose problem persists after five and a half will struggle.”

Ms Gross was appointed the Government’s communication champion in January 2010 in order to boost awareness of the importance of developing children’s communication skills.

Autism: Are apps the key to revolutionising learning?

Technology has completely and utterly changed Veronica's life.

"She has gone from being a little girl who had no way of showing us how much she knew, to a little girl who now has a portable device she can laugh, play and engage with," says her mother Sam Rospigliosi, from Edinburgh.

"Who knows, she might even use it as her voice in the years ahead if she never learns how to speak again."

Veronica is six years old and severely affected by autism. She has significant learning difficulties and finds many social situations very difficult. She lost all her speech three years ago.

But in common with many other children like her, touchscreen computers have provided a way of learning and communicating that plays to her strengths.

As a result, devices like iPads are fast becoming a 'must-have' for many families of children with autism.

Find Me App Demo from Interface3 on Vimeo.

Richard Mills, head of research at Research Autism and the National Autistic Society, says the technology is an opportunity to take "a huge step forward in our understanding of autism".

"They allow us to have an insight into how children think. People with autism have a different kind of intelligence. Their visual memory is strong, so PCs are highly motivating."
Token incentive

When Veronica took part in the trial of a new iPad app called FindMe, designed by a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh, she loved the experience.

"Every time Veronica got an answer right, she got a token and she knew she had to get five tokens to get to the musicbox," her mum says.

"She was very motivated to answer the questions."

Aimed at non-verbal children from the age of 18 months upwards, the app encourages players to focus on other people and their needs, something people with autism find difficult.

Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson, a psychologist from the University of Edinburgh who led the app's development, says using touchscreen technology is crucial.

"A mouse and keyboard are not accessible for the youngest children. Early intervention is key for the most severely affected and iPads have allowed us to design for youngest ages.

"The app allows children to rehearse simple social skills over and over again. Practice makes perfect."

Read more of this article here

SIDS: 50% Infant Deaths occur during Co-Sleeping

An Adelaide pathologist calls on mothers to let their babies sleep in their cribs and avoid couches as well as other soft surfaces.

In an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), University of Adelaide forensic pathologist Professor Roger Byard said research confirmed adults sleeping beside a baby could increase risk of infant suffocation.

When infants die in their sleep, pathologists look into the possibility of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) along with suffocation.

Prof Byard said half of all infants found unexpectedly dead were sleeping beside an adult at the time, which means the babies may have died from suffocation and not sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

"Accidental suffocation appears to be a more likely mechanism of death than subtle processes leading to SIDS," the professor said.

While many parents believe that sleeping next to their baby is related to establishing a more solid bond between them, Prof Byard said the risks far outweighed any of the perceived gains.

Prof Byard also raised the issue on letting babies sleep on couches and other soft surfaces, as these are also high risk factors for shared-sleeping death.

He explained that adults do not necessarily have to be lying over an infant completely for respiration to be compromised. He said surfaces and the immediate surroundings of a sleeping baby should be free from anything or anyone that could reduce oxygen flow for the baby.

Parental obesity and fatigue are also among the risk factors, he said.

"Some infants are particularly vulnerable to the effects of compromised breathing and there is often no clinical predictor of this vulnerability," Prof Byard wrote in his column.

Fixing the Problem
Apart from being dangerous to the young child, co-sleeping has a serious affect on the adults' lifestyle, their own sleep and their relationship with their partner, if present.

Co-sleeping can be used as a barrier between partners at a particularly difficult time in their relationship. The child is introduced into the bed to avoid addressing the real problem.

Do Not Despair
If you have gone down the route of co-sleeping and now find it is not working for you or is seriously affecting your relationship with your partner, do not despair, it is possible to teach your child to sleep on their own in their own bed.

Contact the Sleep Consultants at Dream Angus and they will be able to help you through the difficult transition of undoing your co-sleeping decision. And they will do this in a sensitive and thoughtful way so as to improve the family dynamics and partner relationships.

Email your questions and contact details to:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anti-Depressants Increase Blood Pressure in Newborns

Antidepressant use in expecting mothers can cause their babies to develop pulmonary hypertension, a condition that increases blood pressure in the lungs, according to a study published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

Babies born from mothers who took the most prescribed type of antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) during pregnancy were twice as likely to develop pulmonary hypertension compared with mothers who did not take the medications.

The study could impact about 1.5 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. - the percentage of expecting mothers who take the antidepressants more commonly known by their brand names of Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa and Lexapro.

Researchers reviewed records from 6 million births from 1996 to 2007 in Nordic countries and found the risk of pulmonary hypertension doubled in infants whose mothers took SSIs.

Experts said that the risk remained low.

Juvenile Huntington's Disease: Symptoms of a Deadly Condition

Huntington's disease is a genetic, incurable neurological disorder that leads to a movement disorder, dementia, and behaviour disturbance and affects one in 10,000 individuals, according to the Huntington's Disease Society of America's Juvenile Huntington's Disease Handbook.

Symptoms don't usually begin until mid-adulthood and less than 10 percent of individuals with the disease develop it before age 20.

However, Fred Taubman, spokesman for the Huntington's Disease Society of America, said that Juvenile Huntington's disease, which affects less than one in 100,000 , has only started being diagnosed over the past decade.

The adult diagnosis of Huntington's disease is usually made in a person who experiences memory or cognitive changes (dementia), and chorea (dance-like movements), often with behavioural or psychiatric problems such as depression, irritability, or mood swings.

That person also usually has a family history of the disease. However, symptoms may be a little different in a child, particularly those under 10.

Symptom groups
HDSA's handbook says that while there is no symptom or group of symptoms that are absolutely required for the diagnosis of Juvenile Huntington's disease, most affected children have several of the symptoms listed below at the time that the diagnosis is made. They include:
  • Positive family history of the disease, usually in the father - The reasons for the father being the more affected parents still remains unclear.
  • Stiffness of the legs
  • Clumsiness of the arms and legs
  • Changes in oral motor function
  • Chorea - This typically occurs more during adolescence.
  • Decline in cognitive function - Adolescents are more likely to lose attention and concentration, while younger children will begin to lose skills such as speech, reading, math and even throwing a ball.
  • Changes in behaviour and behavioural disturbances - In younger children, when aggressive or disruptive behaviour is related to the disease, changes/disturbances are usually seen along with changes in cognitive function and declining motor skills. However, behavioural problems in adolescents with the disease are more severe, including arson, theft, sexual promiscuity, physical or sexual abuse of younger siblings, severe drug or alcohol abuse, and depression with suicide attempts.
  • Seizures - Seizures are said to occur in about 25 percent of children with Juvenile Huntington's disease, and may be a presenting symptom. They may be of any type, and may or may not be severe. NB: The physician should never simply assume that seizures are caused by the disease. Any child experiencing seizures should have cerebral imaging studies and an electroencephalogram (EEG), as well as appropriate laboratory studies to rule out metabolic causes such as low blood sugar or drug or toxin ingestion.
There are different treatments for all the different symptoms listed, but one treatment rule underscores all: because Juvenile Huntington's disease progresses gradually over years, it remains important to attend to the child's general health needs, such as immunizations, dental care, and other age-appropriate evaluations.

That means every child with the disease should have a pediatrician or family doctor who takes care of those needs. As the disease progresses, a general physician can help a family watch for and treat the expected medical complications of HD.

Here are treatments for each of the symptoms that were previously outlined, minus genetic history, according to HSDA's handbook:
  • Stiffness of the legs - Medications such as Baclofen, Tizanidine, Diazepam (and other benzodiazepines) and Dantrolene. For more twisted-looking stiff muscles, Anticholinergic agents (Trihexyphenidyl, Benztropine), Carbidopa-levodopa, Dopamine agonists (Pramipexole, Ropinirole) and a Botulinum toxin (Botox) injection can be used. Physical and occupational therapy are also good options.
  • Clumsiness of the arms and legs - No medications improve control of voluntary movements, such as clumsiness, but both physical therapy and occupational therapy consultation are very useful.
  • Chorea - Medications such as dopamine-blocking agents (Haloperidol, Fluphenazine, Olanzapine, Risperidone), dopamine-depleting agents (Tetrabenazine, which is not yet approved in the US), benzodiazepines (Diazepam, Clonazepam, Lorazepam) and other agents and treatments such as Amantadine can be used.
  • Changes in oral motor function - speech language pathology
  • Decline in cognitive function - No medications have been proven to improve cognitive function in the disease, but many of the cognitive symptoms can be reduced using simple techniques such as breaking tasks down into step-by-step tasks or using checklists to help the child keep on track.
  • Changes in behaviour and behavioural disturbances - Depression is the most common change in behavior/behavioral disturbance. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Sometimes the family doctor or pediatrician will feel comfortable treating a mild depression with medications, while counseling may be helpful at other times. The two can even be used together. Severe depression requires a psychiatric specialist, and on rare occasions, even a young child may need to be hospitalized. Severely depressed individuals should be asked whether they have suicidal thoughts or plans.
  • Seizures - Children with the disease who have seizures usually have what HSDA calls generalised or myoclonic epilepsy, although other seizure types are possible, such as focal or partial complex seizures. Valproic acid and lamotrigine are considered first choices for treatment of myoclonic epilepsy, although other anticonvulsant drugs, such as Phenytoin, carbamazepine, levetiracetam, topiramate and zonisamidecan be used. Selection of a medication should be made carefully after evaluation is completed.
Read HSDA's handbook for more information about symptoms and treatment, including alternative therapies and medications to the ones outlined above.

Because Juvenile Huntington's disease is rare and differs from the typical adult-onset disease, the affected child's family and caregivers will more than likely face unique challenges, including finding financial, emotional and spiritual support and stability.

One of the biggest challenges, though, is providing an educational program that meets the child's changing needs, according to the handbook.

As soon as a child is diagnosed, it's suggested that the family contact the child's school and begins to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for him or her. Although more common in the US it is still advisable to contact the education authorities to determine their policy on Juvenile Huntingdon's.

The US IEP is a plan that is reviewed and updated at least once a year, outlining how the school will address disabilities caused by the disease that interfere with the child's education.

U.S. public schools are required by law to provide for the education of all children through the high school level up to age 21. Because Juvenile Huntington's disease is a disease of many interrelated symptoms, including movement, cognitive and behavioral disabilities, an IEP may include adjustments or variations in academic instruction, physical education, meals, seating, transportation and behaviour control.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Typophile Film: Brent Jackson

Typophile Film Festival 5 Opening Titles from Brent Barson on Vimeo.

Even though it’s been around for a few years, if you haven’t seen this wonderful video created for the 5th Typophile Film Festival by BYU design students, it really is an impressive piece of work, especially seeing as no CG effects were used in its production. Enjoy!

Philip Schultz: The Writers Studio Reading Series - YouTube

Philip Schultz is an American poet, and the founder/director of The Writer's Studio, a private school for fiction and poetry based in New York City.

He is the author of several books of poetry, including The God of Loneliness (2010), a major collection of the poet's works; Failure (2007) co-winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; Living in the Past (2004); and The Holy Worm of Praise (2002), all published by Harcourt.

He is also the author of Deep Within the Ravine (Viking 1984), which was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets; Like Wings (Viking 1978, winner of an American Academy & Institute of Arts and Letters Award as well as a National Book Award nomination); and the poetry chapbook, My Guardian Angel Stein (1986).

His work has been published in The New Yorker, Partisan Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Slate, among other magazines, and he is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship in Poetry to Israel and a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry.

He has also received, among others, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (1981), a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (1985), as well as the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine.

His memoir, My Dyslexia, was released by W. W. Norton & Company in September 2011. Philip Schultz lives in East Hampton, NY with his wife, sculptor Monica Banks and their two sons, Elias and August.

Philip Schultz speaking to Writer's Voice

Zeo Sleep System for adults - YouTube

Do you have problem falling asleep? Been dreaming of a resting night? Want to stop waking up in the middle of the night? Do you have an iPhone?

Then you need the Zeo Sleep System that was shown at CES 2012.

With 64 million Americans facing sleep issues every night and an additional 49 million Americans experiencing problems at least a few nights a week, the need for a good night’s sleep as part of optimum health and wellness has become almost epidemic.

The new Zeo Sleep Manager is the only consumer system that tracks all sleep phases and offers science-based solutions to everyday sleep issues that affect health, aging, mental acuity, energy level, stress level and physical performance.

Zeo Sleep Manager is the only consumer sleep tracking system that measures actual sleep phases, including Light, Deep and REM sleep.

The system uses a wireless headband equipped with SoftWave sensor technology to track these sleep phases and provide a nightly ZQ score, a customized sleep quality score.

The new Zeo Sleep Manager Mobile system sends sleep data directly to users’ smartphones, which then sync automatically to their online Zeo accounts, so they can access online analytical tools to see why they’re not falling asleep.

My guess is, it’s because they spend too much time online looking at the analytics on why they can’t sleep.

For more information on sleep and sleep problems, plus real solutions to real issues, go to

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome - BWS Support Network UK and Europe

Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (BWS) is an overgrowth syndrome.

An overgrowth syndrome can cause part or all of the body to grow larger than expected.

In BWS, overgrowth is associated with body overgrowth (increased birth weight, height, and head circumference), macroglossia (large tongue), hemihypertrophy (one side of the body -in part or in whole - growing larger than the other side),
Omphalocele (Abdominal wall defect) and certain types of tumours as well as other physical characteristics.

The syndrome was first described by Dr Beckwith in 1963 and Dr Wiedemann in 1964.

BWS occurs in approximately 1:14,500 births.

There are roughly thirty characteristics that can be associated with BWS. Those which are used to make a diagnosis (the 5 major characteristics) are listed below.

It is very rare for a child with BWS to have all the characteristics; most cases have only a few of them. Some of the distinctive features of BWS may need to be corrected.

Some of the main characterisics to look for in Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (BWS)Large birth weight and length (over 90-95th %)
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the first four months of life
Macroglossia (large tongue)

Omphalocele: Abdominal wall defect (including even a mild navel hernia)
Ear grooves (creases) or pits

we can also be found at:

BWS Support Network UK and Europe

Read more on BWS in the USA - Used and 2nd Hand Disability Equipment is a FREE & easy-to-use website designed to make buying and selling second-hand disability equipment painless.

If you like it, please tell others: the more people that use the site, the better it will work for everyone.

And the free-ads section is, well…. FREE!!

You can always upgrade for extra features with a Prime Account

Read their protect yourself against fraud section - see Information pages - and report any abuse.

A community works best together .

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dyslexia:Synesthesia can improve Memory, Reading and Spelling

We investigated whether functional brain networks are different in coloured-hearing synaesthetes compared with non-synaesthetes.

Based on resting state electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, graph-theoretical analysis was applied to functional connectivity data obtained from different frequency bands (theta, alpha1, alpha2, and beta) of 12 coloured-hearing synaesthetes and 13 non-synaesthetes.

The analysis of functional connectivity was based on estimated intra-cerebral sources of brain activation using standardized low-resolution electrical tomography.

These intra-cerebral sources of brain activity were subjected to graph-theoretical analysis yielding measures representing small-world network characteristics (cluster coefficients and path length).

In addition, brain regions with strong interconnections were identified (so-called hubs), and the interconnectedness of these hubs were quantified using degree as a measure of connectedness.

Our analysis was guided by the two-stage model proposed by Hubbard and Ramachandran (2005).

In this model, the parietal lobe is thought to play a pivotal role in binding together the synaesthetic perceptions (hyperbinding).

In addition, we hypothesized that the auditory cortex and the fusiform gyrus would qualify as strong hubs in synaesthetes.

Although synaesthetes and non-synaesthetes demonstrated a similar small-world network topology, the parietal lobe turned out to be a stronger hub in synaesthetes than in non-synaesthetes supporting the two-stage model.

The auditory cortex was also identified as a strong hub in these coloured-hearing synaesthetes (for the alpha2 band).

Thus, our a priori hypotheses receive strong support. Several additional hubs (for which no a priori hypothesis has been formulated) were found to be different in terms of the degree measure in synaesthetes, with synaesthetes demonstrating stronger degree measures indicating stronger interconnectedness.

These hubs were found in brain areas known to be involved in controlling memory processes (alpha1: hippocampus and retrosplenial area), executive functions (alpha1 and alpha2: ventrolateral prefrontal cortex; theta: inferior frontal cortex), and the generation of perceptions (theta: extrastriate cortex; beta: subcentral area).

Taken together this graph-theoretical analysis of the resting state EEG supports the two-stage model in demonstrating that the left-sided parietal lobe is a strong hub region, which is stronger functionally interconnected in synaesthetes than in non-synaesthetes.

The right-sided auditory cortex is also a strong hub supporting the idea that coloured-hearing synaesthetes demonstrate a specific auditory cortex.

A further important point is that these hub regions are even differently operating at rest supporting the idea that these hub characteristics are predetermining factors of coloured-hearing synaesthesia.

The DOI Paper: DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-6653.2011.02004.x

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mike B's Journey through Dyslexia - YouTube

"It's hard not to be a hovering helicopter mom when you have a child with a learning disability," says Mary Ann B., mother of 18-year old Mike, a Learning Ally member who is dyslexic.

As Mike prepared to start his freshman year at Rhode Island School of Design, mother and son sat down with us to recall the downs and ups of dyslexia in the family.

Click here to Visit the Learning Alley YouTube site