Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Children's Sugar Consumption Too High

U.S. children and teens are getting too much sugar in their diets, mostly from processed and prepared foods, according to a new study.

Sugar consumption decreased since 1999, although added sugars make up 16 percent of youth diets and contribute to the ongoing problem of childhood obesity.

Researchers followed 7,100 children and teens between 1999 and 2008 and found the majority of them had unhealthy eating habits.

Boys consumed 362 calories and girls consumed 282 calories from added sugar daily, a number that increased as the children got older. Forty-one percent of calories from additional sugar came from soda and other beverages, according to the study.

"If you look at individual items, the one that has the biggest contribution [to added sugar consumption] is soda," Cynthia Ogden, lead study researcher and epidemiologist of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that between 5 and 15 percent of daily calories come from sugars and fats combined.

The National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief published the study on Wednesday.

Lessening the number of calories children consume is imperative to curb childhood obesity. Over 12.5 million children ages 2-19 are obese, according to the CDC. The number has tripled since 1980.

In addition, childhood obesity-related healthcare costs $3 billion annually, according to a 2009 study published in Nature.

Parents need to watch what they buy and cook more at home to curb the calories their children eat, one dietician said.

"Whoever is the gatekeeper for the family food supply needs to take a good, hard look at their choices. Obviously, junk foods, cookies, desserts and sodas are high in sugar and non-nutritive calories," Samantha Heller, a dietitian and nutritionist based in Connecticut, reported.

However, many unexpected foods are high in sugars. Parents need to check ingredient lists for hidden sugars such as brown rice syrup, dextrose, fructose, molasses, sucrose, corn sweetener, barley malt syrup, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, cane juice syrup and sorghum, reported.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Dyslexia by Philip Schultz: Interview - YouTube

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and founder/director of the Writers Studio
Philip Schultz read from his new book, My Dyslexia, at the Churchill School in NYC.
Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz also sat down with him to talk about his dyslexia.

Alison Gopnik at TED Edinburgh: What do babies Think?

"Babies and young children are like the R&D division of the human species," says psychologist Alison Gopnik. Her research explores the sophisticated intelligence-gathering and decision-making that babies are really doing when they play.

Alison Gopnik takes us into the fascinating minds of babies and children, and shows us how much we understand before we even realize we do. Full bio »

Friday, February 24, 2012

BishopBlog: Neuroscientific interventions for dyslexia: red flags

Views about interventions for dyslexia and related disorders. In recent years there has been a proliferation of interventions offered on the web, many of which claim to treat the brain basis of dyslexia.

In theory, this seems a great idea; rather than slogging away at teaching children to read, fix the underlying brain problem. If your child is struggling at school, it can be very tempting to try something that claims to re-organise or stimulate the brain.

The problem, though, is sorting the wheat from the chaff. There's no regulation of educational interventions and it can be hard for parents to judge whether it is worth investing time and money in a new approach.

The aim here is to provide some objective criteria that can be used.

First, there is scientific evaluation: does the intervention have a plausible basis, and how has it been tested? Where claims are made about changing the brain, are they based on solid neuroscientific research?

Second, there are red flags, some of which are listed in a previous post on ‘Pioneering treatment or quackery?” Here I've gathered these together so that there is a ready checklist that can be applied when a new intervention surfaces.

Read more: BishopBlog: Neuroscientific interventions for dyslexia: red flags

The Role of Primitive Reflexes in Learning Disabilities - YouTube

Learn about the role of primitive reflexes in learning disabilities. To learn more about treating primitive reflexes through a simple movement program, go to

The long version of this video, "Get Ready for School", can be purchased at

Related posts from :
  1. Us and Our Education – Documentary exploring Learning disabilities in School and Work
  2. The Future of Learning Disabilities: A Virtual Town Hall Meeting
  3. Learning Disabilities / Home Environments Impact Learning Abilities / Educational Video
  4. Learning Disabilities
  5. Learning Disabilities Debunked (Part I)

Dyslexia: How to blend sounds - YouTube

Dyslexia - how to help children learn to blend sounds together so they can learn to read. This is how LetMeLearn helped a group of dyslexic children learn to blend with the help of their teddy bears.

Read more at LetMeLearn website

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Children have highest exposure to Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles in M&Ms, Smarties, etc.

Children may be receiving the highest exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in candy, which they eat in amounts much larger than adults, according to a new study.

Published in ACS' journal, Environmental Science and Technology, it provides the first broadly based information on amounts of the nanomaterial, a source of concern with regard to its potential health and environmental effects, in a wide range of consumer goods e.g. M&Ms and Smarties.

In the study, Paul Westerhoff, Ph.D., and colleagues point out that titanium dioxide is a common additive to many consumer products, from food to paint to cosmetics.

Westerhoff explained that the body releases the nanoparticles in feces and urine, sending them to wastewater treatment plants, which cannot prevent the smallest particles from entering lakes and rivers.

Only one previous study, done a decade ago, reported on titanium dioxide content in a few commercial products.

To fill the knowledge gap about the sources of humans' exposures, the researchers bought and tested food, personal care products, paints and adhesives and measured how much titanium dioxide they contain.

The group found that children consume more titanium dioxide than adults because sweets like candies (M&Ms, Smarties, etc.), marshmallows and icing are among the products with the highest levels.

The paper lists the names of the products tested and their titanium dioxide content.

Westerhoff recommends that regulators shift their focus from the type of titanium dioxide used in paints and industrial processes to food-grade particles, because those are much more likely to enter the environment and pose a potential risk to humans and animals.

Dyslexia - TTRS Website: Touch-Type, Read and Spell

TTRS is a computer based course for children and adults who have spelling and reading difficulties, dyslexia and other learning differences.

Now in it's 20th year, TTRS has helped thousands of students to touch-type, read and spell and is used in hundreds of schools and institutions in Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and other parts of the world

Learning is promoted by a unique multi-sensory approach:

A systematic programme of seeing, listening, speaking and typing

  • Seeing the words written on the screen as they are typed out

  • Hearing the words pronounced as they are typed

  • Student and computer are interactive allowing for immediate self correction of errors and feedback of results

  • The structured ttrs course is finely graded in modules and levels building from words to sentences

  • With each successful module completed the student is encouraged to progress further

  • Students develop their own learning speed, therefore there are no peer group pressures

  • ttrs gives focus and support for a positive learning experience
  • Malaria treatment: Impact on disease risk for babies

    Mothers who receive treatment for malaria infection could pass on lower levels of natural immunity to their babies, a study has suggested.

    Edinburgh University experts found mice treated with malaria infection drugs before they became pregnant passed on fewer antibodies to their young.

    Full-blown malaria gives the immune system the chance to produce protective antibodies to pass on.

    However, it is thought the drug treatment shortens the process.

    The mothers benefit while children's immunity is decreased, putting them at greater risk.

    The researchers said their results highlighted the need to look at how treatment might be tailored most effectively for women and their babies.

    Malaria affects millions of people worldwide, mainly in developing countries. One child dies from the disease in Africa every minute.

    Dr Vincent Staszewski, of Edinburgh University's school of biological sciences, said: "How an infection plays out in an individual can impact on the immunity of the next generation.

    "Some treatments against disease before or during pregnancy might be beneficial for maternal health but impair infant survival."

    The study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society.

    People with learning disabilities deserve a safe NHS | Opinion | Nursing Times

    Individuals with learning disabilities are admitted more frequently to hospital compared with the general population. Mencap’s report in 2007, Death by Indifference, detailed the stories of six people with learning disabilities who Mencap and their families believed died unnecessarily in healthcare settings. The report focused on the care decisions taken suggesting that they were based on assumptions about learning disability and quality of life, and not on the life-saving interventions required.

    In 2009 the Parliamentary health service ombudsman, in a report examining these deaths, noted: “The quality of care in the NHS and social services for people with learning disabilities is at best patchy, and at worst an indictment of our society.” Health inequalities start early in life for people with a learning disability and can act as barriers to receiving appropriate care. In order to address these inequalities, reasonable adjustments need to be made to ensure that treatment is equitable.

    Read more of this article here in the Nursing Times

    Carla Lohr: Isolating a Child With Disabilities Can Do Life-Long Damage

    Shielding a child with disabilities from life experiences is a sensitive subject. Unfortunately, it is one all too often ignored by many well-meaning parents of children with disabilities. While most of them only want what is best for their children and will go to great lengths to do what they must to protect them, they often do not realize that being over-protective can cause just as many problems as it appears to solve.

    Naturally, parents want to protect their children. Many parents of special needs children feel that their children may need more protection than if they didn't have such a diagnosis. To many people, this makes sense and in some circumstances it may be true -- but not always.

    In an effort to protect their children, some parents will only seek out other disabled children for potential friendships. A recent episode of Parenthood on NBC TV gives viewers the impression that people with disabilities can or should only befriend other people who are disabled.

    This may make sense to a lot of people; however, restricting a disabled child's relationships can have devastating effects on his or her personal development and ability to function in the adult world.

    Read more of this article here

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    BrailleTouch App: Helps blind to send text messages

    Researchers at Georgia Tech produced the app - to be made available on Apple and Android devices - based on the Braille writing system.

    It is claimed typing with the app is up to six times faster than existing methods for texting without sight.

    Access to technology for the visually-impaired is a growing issue due to the proliferation of touchscreens.

    Experts say currently available tools, such as Apple's Voiceover technology, are functional but too slow to be used effectively.

    Brailletouch, which the team hope to release in the next couple of weeks, uses a system that is controlled with six fingers and, crucially, does not require any movement of the hands.

    "Users who know how to type Braille well never move their hands," explained Mario Romero, lead researcher on the project.

    "When users hold the phone they hold the phone with the screen facing away from them in landscape mode.

    "They wrap the index, middle and ring finger in each hand around the phone.

    "It's not like the Qwerty keyboard where you move up and down. That's why this thing works - we can get away with only six keys."

    "This is not for texting and driving” Mario Romero Lead researcher

    Eyes-free kit
    Brailletouch will be free and open-source, its makers say, and it is hoped it could even become an "eyes-free" solution for fully-sighted people who want to text while visually pre-occupied with something else.

    "Learning to type Braille is learning to memorise where the the dots fall," Mr Romero said.

    "It took me and my colleagues a few hours to memorise things so we could start typing at around 10 words per minute. It's not something that takes years.

    "We're hoping that, if not Braille, a similar system may solve the issue of having too many keys that are too small that force everybody to look at the screen when they're typing."

    However, Mr Romero was quick to dampen any possible hopes that the software could be used to text while behind the wheel.

    "They need to concentrate on what they're doing. This is not for texting and driving," he said.

    'Truly blind'
    Mr Romero highlighted a growing anxiety shared among the blind community that the widespread adoption of touchscreens for many machines and devices is making them "truly blind".

    "There is extreme concern about this new trend.

    "A lot of equipment today - from copying machines to machines at the gym - is all coming with touch screens."

    He added that while research into tactile screens, which give users feedback by moulding, is taking place, we are still some way from having touchscreens which adequately cater for the visually-impaired.

    "Blind people say I 'see' things with my fingers," Mr Romero said.

    "But on touchscreens they are truly blind."

    The Recovery Position: A Step by Step guide

    A step-by-step guide to putting someone in the recovery position.

    You can now get FREE a photo version of this guide on your phone! Find out more about the Epilepsy Society free app here:

    For more epilepsy information visit their website:

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Dyslexia: READRight Kindle Screen Filter - Coloured Overlays

    READRight incorporates both a protective cover and a colour tinted screen which when placed over the e-reader, enables the background colour to be changed.

    This reduces visual stress while reading e-books and enables the user to track and focus on words.

    Available in a choice of 3 colours users can select the overlay colour that best suits them.

    This simple yet effective tool supports inclusivity and makes the latest technologies accessible for everyone.

    As well as being practical READRight has a stylish leather look finish, and is the must-have Kindle accessory for anyone suffering from Dyslexia or visual impairments, or just wants to protect their Kindle's screen.

    This READRight product was discussed on Radio 2's Simon Mayo Drivetime on the 10th February - you can listen to the interview with TTS MD Andy Wilson and Simon Mayo here.

    The READRight product is also available from other outlets e.g. TTS-Group

    Penfriend: Predictive text and screen reader features for dyslexic, visually impaired

    Word prediction
    Word prediction is very valuable for those with dyslexia where recognising a correctly spelt word offered by the predictor is easier than thinking how to spell it in the first place.

    Better spelling, grammar, thesaurus, dictionaries

    Better spelling and grammar helps many but particularly those with dyslexia. Knowing that Penfriend provides correctly spelt words gives greater confidence.

    The access provided by Penfriend XL to Microsoft Word's spell checking, thesaurus, dictionaries and translation is of great help to any with dyslexia.

    Speech Feedback and Screen Reading
    Another benefit of Penfriend for those with dyslexia is it's speech feedback and in Penfriend XL its screen reading features.

    Being able to hear each letter, word or sentence vocalized as you type is of very obvious value to those with dyslexia, but Penfriend also allows you to highlight a block of text or an entire document and have it read back to you. This not only allows dyslexic people to understand the contents of a document they may not be able to read, but also helps them to associate the sound of a word with how it looks on the page.

    On-screen keyboard
    Penfriend's on-screen keyboard reduces the strain of glancing between screen and keyboard, a valuable tool for the dyslexic using a computer.

    Check out the Penfriend Newsletter (PDF)

    Sam and Friends: Visual Thinking - YouTube

    Fifty-six years ago today, Sam + Friends, the early live-action puppet TV show by Muppets creator Jim Henson and his eventual wife Jane, made its official debut.

    Its characters, all of whom Henson voiced himself, presaged not only modern icons like Kermit and The Muppets, but even some of today’s cultural archetypes. (One of Sam’s friends was named Harry the Hipster.)

    This vintage kinescope from the show’s early days offers a rare look at the dawn of a cultural icon and explores visual thinking, particularly in music.

    For more on the story of Sam + Friends, see Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, as well as Chapter 2 of the altogether fantastic Kermit book, Before You Leap: A Frog’s Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons.

    Cystic Fibrosis: New Bone Density Technology to Benefit Queensland Children

    Queensland children who are affected by diseases that impair skeletal health like cancer or cystic fibrosis would soon experience the benefits of a new bone density technology.

    The University of Queensland's (UQ), Children's Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) have just received a Major Equipment and Infrastructure (MEI) grant from the University in order to purchase a DXA machine.

    The DXA machine is a non-invasive x-ray technology that can measure body composition, bone loss, and bone mineral density in one simple scan.

    Professor Peter Davies, CNRC Director remarked that aside from clinical testing, the scanner could contribute the in the centre's research capacity, minimize research costs, and foster collaborations with other research groups.

    "Body composition testing has long been available in our Body Composition Laboratory, but we have been missing the ability to measure bone mineral density," Professor Davies said.

    "The ability to test bone mineral density is vital for our research, as it allows us to understand the impact of disease, and any necessary treatments, on a child's ability to accrue bone.

    "For example, children with conditions such as cancer, or cystic fibrosis, now have an improved life expectancy, but if they underwent cancer treatment at an age when they would normally be undergoing rapid bone growth they are at risk of future deficits in bone mineral density.

    "This new machine will allow us to determine the long term impacts of treatment on their body composition and bone mineral density.

    "Research in this area could enable us to improve the long-term outcomes for these children, and ensure their long-term health is protected with the right nutritional intervention.

    "We are thrilled with this grant success and conscious that the capacity for in-house DXA scanning will reduce research costs for our centre, and many other research groups on campus.

    "Previously, the CNRC and other research groups incurred considerable expense to outsource DXA scanning."

    The Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute and Cancer Prevention Research Centre have contributed to the purchase of the DXA machine, a partnership which will see many research groups benefit from the ability to measure bone density, without incurring additional expenditure.

    The DXA machine will reside in the CNRC's Body Composition Laboratory, based at the Royal Children's Hospital at Herston.

    The laboratory is used for paediatric nutrition research and clinical testing of sick children, and is one of the best equipped of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Autism: New Theory Explains Face Recognition Barriers

    Face recognition is something that people have difficulty with. For people with autism, the process of face recognition is much harder.

    A popular theory states that the difficulty in facial recognition starts from childhood.

    Children with autism are likely to avoid encountering different faces during childhood, which harms the development of the brain area for processing faces.

    Darren Hedley, a PhD graduate from Flinders University proposes another theory that could explain this situation.

    According to Hedley, people with autism might have an early or unconscious memory of faces and the problem is the way they process the information in their later years.

    "People with autism have difficulty recognising peoples' faces and that's believed to contribute to social impairments such as understanding emotion and the thoughts and feelings of others, which is a characteristic of autism," Hedley said.

    "But we think that part of the facial recognition deficit in autism may be because of difficulties with complex information processing, which may affect the person's ability to combine and process all that incoming sensory information and to then make an accurate response," he said.

    During his doctoral studies, Hedley performed a series of "eye-tracking" tests on adults with autism to determine their conscious and subconscious reaction to new and familiar faces.

    Hedley said the findings indicated that people with autism may have "dissociation between implicit processing and explicit face recognition", as opposed to an early memory deficit.

    "It's not so much the face isn't recognised by the brain but there's a problem in them being able to then use that information to say 'I recognise this person'."

    In addition to his PhD research, Hedley has been involved in a cross-cultural partnership to evaluate the effectiveness of an early detection tool for children with autism that was developed at Flinders University and tried out in Mexico from 2004 to 2008.

    A paper on the Autism Detection in Early Childhood assessment tool was recently selected as a winner of Flinders inaugural Best Student Paper Award, which aims to recognise excellence in student research across the University.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    Study finds child abuse and stunted brain development connection

    A small team of researchers has found that various forms of child abuse can lead to stunted development in certain regions of the brain. The research carried out by Martin Teicher, Carl Anderson and Ann Polcari, all working in the Boston area, relied on questionnaires.

    MRI brain scans were used to determine that certain parts of the hippocampus, all known to be sensitive to stress, were up to six percent smaller in adults who as children had been sexually, verbally or physically abused. The team has published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The three areas affected: the cornu ammonis, the dentate gyrus and the subiculum, all located in the hippocampus, are known to be vulnerable to stress which leads to less cell development than would normally occur in the absence of abuse.

    To test the relationship between brain development and childhood abuse, the research team enlisted a group of otherwise healthy adult volunteers: 73 men and 120 women, all between the ages of 18 and 25.

    All were given questionnaires that delved into their childhood, specifically addressing issues of verbal, mental and physical abuse and other types of stresses such as the death of someone close to them or problems between parents.

    All were also given brain scans using an MRI machine. The team then compared the answers given on the questionnaires to the possibly impacted areas in the hippocampus of each volunteer. In so doing, they found that the brain regions under study were 5.8 to 6.5 percent smaller than average for those that reported such childhood stresses.

    The researchers suggest that smaller brain regions due to childhood stress may help explain the abnormally high levels of mental illness (depression, bi-polarism, anxiety, etc.) seen in adults who have endured abuse as children and why so many wind up with drug dependency problems.

    They also noted that one of the regions impacted, the subiculum, serves as a relay, moving information in and out of the hippocampus, which can have a direct impact on dopamine production. Those with reduced volume have been found to have problems with drug addiction and in some cases develop schizophrenia.

    The researchers believe that increased stress leads to higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which in turn can slow or even stop the growth of new neurons in the brain which can result in permanently stunting certain brain regions.

    The researchers are hoping their results will further highlight the damage that is done when children are subjected to adverse living conditions, leading perhaps to earlier interventions and possibly a means for developing treatments that may aid in preventing the stunting of brain regions, thus helping to pave the way for a better quality of life for those that have been abused as children.

    More information: Childhood maltreatment is associated with reduced volume in the hippocampal subfields CA3, dentate gyrus, and subiculum, PNAS, Published online before print February 13, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1115396109

    Childhood maltreatment or abuse is a major risk factor for mood, anxiety, substance abuse, psychotic, and personality disorders, and it is associated with reduced adult hippocampal volume, particularly on the left side.

    Translational studies show that the key consequences of stress exposure on the hippocampus are suppression of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) and dendritic remodeling in the cornu ammonis (CA), particularly the CA3 subfield.

    The hypothesis that maltreatment is associated with volume reductions in 3-T MRI subfields containing the DG and CA3 was assessed and made practical by newly released automatic segmentation routines for FreeSurfer.

    The sample consisted of 193 unmedicated right-handed subjects (38% male, 21.9 ± 2.1 y of age) selected from the community.

    Maltreatment was quantified using the Adverse Childhood Experience study and Childhood Trauma Questionnaire scores.

    The strongest associations between maltreatment and volume were observed in the left CA2-CA3 and CA4-DG subfields, and were not mediated by histories of major depression or posttraumatic stress disorder.

    Comparing subjects with high vs. low scores on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and Adverse Childhood Experience study showed an average volume reduction of 6.3% and 6.1% in the left CA2-CA3 and CA4-DG, respectively.

    Volume reductions in the CA1 and fimbria were 44% and 60% smaller than in the CA2-CA3. Interestingly, maltreatment was associated with 4.2% and 4.3% reductions in the left presubiculum and subiculum, respectively.

    These findings support the hypothesis that exposure to early stress in humans, as in other animals, affects hippocampal subfield development.

    Sleep Standards are Slipping

    Kids never got enough shuteye, even back in grandpa's day.

    That's according to a century's worth of expert advice and sleep studies, which a team of researchers has now distilled into a brief report in the journal Pediatrics.

    "There is a common belief that children are not getting enough sleep and that children's total sleep time has been declining," Lisa Anne Matricciani of the University of South Australia in Adelaide and colleagues write.

    And while it's true that kids aren't getting as much sack time now as they were in the late 1800s, that doesn't mean experts weren't worried back then, too.

    In fact, as the Australian researchers combed through older and older literature, the recommended sleep time was always a good half-hour higher than what kids, or their parents, said they got.

    "No matter how much sleep children are getting, it has always been assumed that they need more," the team says.

    So why are the standards slipping?

    According to Matricciani and company, there just isn't any good science on which to base recommendations. They went through 32 sets of sleep advice, and only one provided any reasoning for its guidance: the actual sleep of 500 healthy kids.

    Today, the National Institutes of Health (NIH US) says adults commonly need between eight and eight and a half hours of sleep, whereas newborns should get 16 to 18 hours a day.

    Children fall in between, with preschoolers needing 11 to 12 hours of slumber and older kids and adolescents 10 hours.

    Those standards are based on how long people sleep when they're not interrupted but one expert reported that there is still little ironclad science behind the numbers.

    "We need to do due diligence and do the nitty-gritty effort of measuring sleep in a large group of the population to find out what's normal," said Dr. David Gozal, an expert in childhood sleep problems at the University of Chicago. "That has never been done."

    He went on, "If you don't know what's normal because you haven't measured it, then your recommendations are going to reflect what you believe is normal, although that's not necessarily correct."

    That also explains why expert recommendations have been shifting downward over time, Gozal said, because physicians are influenced by changing societal expectations the same as everybody else.

    "It only reflects the nature of our parental expectations," mused Gozal.

    Based on 218 articles that contained self- or parent-reported sleep for children, the Australian researchers estimate that kids' actual sleep duration fell by 73 minutes over a century.

    By comparison, recommended sleep times dropped by 71 minutes, but remained 37 minutes above the estimates of real sleep.

    Like other researchers, Gozal blames our shorter nights on the accelerated pace of modern society with its 24-7 demands on parents and kids alike.

    "The concern that kids aren't sleeping enough is real," he said. "More than 80 percent of parents need to wake up their kids, indicating that their kids don't get enough sleep."

    Although it's next to impossible to prove conclusively that diminished shuteye is taking a toll on our health, several studies have linked it to a plethora of ailments, from obesity in American kids to attention problems in Korean high school students to heart disease around the globe.

    "We are in fact reducing the amount of sleep as a society, and that is translating, at least in my mind, to an increased risk of many diseases," said Gozal.

    So how do you know when your kid has had enough sleep?

    "You will know that your child is sleeping enough if they wake up on their own rather than being awoken," Gozal advised. "If they don't get up on time, make them go to bed earlier."

    SOURCE: Pediatrics, online February 13, 2012.

    For more good advice and support on how to solve children's sleep issues visit

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Vodafone 155 Targets Senior UK Citizens with Physical Disabilities

    Vodafone has released a new phone for senior citizens in the UK called "Vodafone 155". The device is a basic phone and has been specially designed for elderly people with physical disabilities such as limited dexterity, vision or hearing impairments.

    It has been priced at £25.

    The phone offers user-friendly features such as speed-dialling and listening to recorded calls besides automated texting capabiities through the SOS button. The emergency button (or the panic button) is a trigger that sends calls or messages to pre-designated numbers stored on the phone.

    The phone also ports a built-in alert sound to alarm neighbours in case of emergency. Apart from being significantly more affordable than most other phones aimed at senior citizen, it stands out with an oversized keypad with big buttons and large display fonts alongside support for hearing aids, high volume ring tones and noise cancellation technology. It also adds a sliding keylock on its side to prevent accidental pocket dialling.

    The display is perhaps a little too small at 1.7-inches with a lowly resolution of 128x160 pixels; however, this, it must be remembered, is a basic phone meant for the visually impaired.

    However, the phone does boast of a powerful battery rated to last up to 29 days in standby mode and offers up to 10 hours of talk time.

    The phone is available for purchase at all Vodafone stores, under a Pay As You Go (PAYG) scheme. In addition, Vodafone can also import data and contacts from other handsets, free of cost.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    Baby knows best: Baby-led weaning promotes healthy food preferences

    A new study by psychologists has shown that babies who are weaned using solid finger food are more likely to develop healthier food preferences and are less likely to become overweight as children than those who are spoon-fed pureed food. (Credit: © Anna Omelchenko / Fotolia)

    A new study by psychologists at The University of Nottingham has shown that babies who are weaned using solid finger food are more likely to develop healthier food preferences and are less likely to become overweight as children than those who are spoon-fed pureed food.

    The research just published by BMJ Open set out to examine the impact of weaning style on food preferences and Body Mass Index in early childhood in a sample of 155 children.

    Co-author of the study, Associate Professor in the School of Psychology, Dr Ellen Townsend, said: "Although numerous studies have focused on when to introduce solid foods into an infant's diet there is a dearth of evidence concerning the impact of different weaning methods on food preferences and health prospects.

    We believe our report is the first piece of research to examine whether weaning method can influence food preferences and the future health of the child."

    Co-researcher Dr Nicola Pitchford, added: "Our study has produced some very interesting findings. The research suggests that baby-led weaning has a positive impact on the liking of foods that form the building blocks of healthy nutrition, such as carbohydrates.

    Baby-led weaning promotes healthy food preferences in early childhood which may protect against obesity."

    The researchers enlisted the Nottingham Toddler Lab, based in the School of Psychology, and various relevant websites to recruit parent volunteers for the study.

    They all had children between the ages of 20 months and 6½ years and agreed to complete a questionnaire about their experiences of infant feeding and weaning style. 92 parents used baby-led weaning in which the baby is allowed to feed him or herself from a range of solid finger food after the age of 6 months.

    63 parents surveyed used traditional spoon-feeding in which they fed their babies smooth purees and increased the texture and range of foods as they grew.

    The study also examined the child's preference for 151 different types of food in the common food categories of carbohydrates, proteins and dairy etc. It also took into account the frequency of consumption of each food type and the effect of age on food preference.

    Between the two weaning groups, significant differences in preference were found for only one food category -- the baby-led group liked carbohydrates more than the spoon-fed group.

    In fact, carbohydrates was the most liked food category for the baby-led group whereas sweet foods was most liked by the spoon-fed group.

    The psychologists believe that understanding the factors that contribute to healthy nutrition in early childhood is crucial as this could be the best time to modify food preferences to encourage healthy diets.

    The findings show that baby-led weaning has a positive impact on the liking of carbohydrates -- foods that form the building blocks of healthy nutrition. This is a significant result since, up to now, the factors thought to be most influential on early food preferences are sweetness and frequency of exposure.

    It was found that children's preference and rate of exposure to foods were not influenced by socially desirable responding, i.e. parents putting down what they think they should report, or socio-economic status, although an increased liking of vegetables was associated with higher social class.

    There was an increased incidence of underweight children in the baby-led group and higher obesity rates in the spoon-fed group. But, no difference in picky eating was found between the two weaning groups.

    The research project concludes that weaning style does have an impact on food preferences and health in early childhood.

    The results suggest that infants weaned through the baby-led method learn to regulate their food intake in a way which leads to a lower BMI and a preference for healthy foods like carbohydrates.

    The research team believe their work has important implications for combating the well-documented rise of obesity in contemporary society.

    The full report 'Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and Body Mass Index in early childhood in a case-controlled sample' can be found at

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    New changes to GCSE 'will penalise dyslexic pupils'

    Ministers have been accused of discriminating against dyslexic pupils by announcing plans to award 5% of marks in GCSE exams for spelling, punctuation and grammar as part of a drive to improve communication skills.

    Dyslexia experts, educationists and teachers' unions say the new rules on marking, announced by the Department for Education last month, will penalise hundreds of thousands with a genuine spelling disability and make it more difficult for them to reach target grades.

    At the same time dyslexia groups have reported mounting disquiet and confusion among parents and pupils, who are concerned at the lack of trained staff available in schools who can help them overcome their disadvantage and guide them on how to gain extra time, or other assistance, in exams.

    In a white paper in 2010, the DfE expressed the government's determination to better equip young people for the jobs market by placing a greater emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar in GCSE marking.

    It stated: "When young people compete for jobs and enter the workplace, they will be expected to communicate precisely and effectively so we think that changes in the last decade to remove the separate assessment of spelling, punctuation and grammar from GCSE mark schemes were a mistake.

    "We have asked OfQual [the Office of Examinations and Qualifications Regulation] to advise on how mark schemes could take greater account of the importance of spelling, punctuation and grammar for examinations in all subjects."

    Last month, OfQual announced that for GCSE courses beginning in September, 5% of marks would be awarded for performance in spelling, punctuation and grammar in English literature, geography, history and religious studies.

    A spokesman for OfQual confirmed there would be no special exemptions from the marking regime for dyslexic pupils.

    However, as was the case previously, a pupil with a statement of special educational needs can gain up to 25% of extra time in exams.

    This can also be made available for a pupil with an evidence-backed recommendation from a suitably qualified teacher or psychologist. But the process of attaining extra time is difficult for many pupils and parents, particularly when expert help is not on hand in schools.

    One headteacher of a large state comprehensive school said the change would mean that a pupil who had shown a good knowledge and understanding of, for example, history – but who had spelling problems due to dyslexia – could well end up with a worse grade than a good speller who had done less well on the history questions.

    Dr Kate Saunders, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said: "We are greatly concerned that these changes may penalise dyslexic individuals. We feel that it is discrimination.

    Dyslexic candidates are not seeking advantage but merely a level playing field in order to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Our continuous efforts to improve conditions have now regressed."

    In 2009 the then Labour government announced a £10m package to train 4,000 specialist dyslexia teachers over the following two years after a review of services for children with the learning difficulty, published by the education expert Sir Jim Rose.

    The BDA says that many of these specially trained teachers are now being made redundant. It has also had its government funding of £107,000 a year for a helpline withdrawn.

    Read more of this article here in the Observer

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Dyslexia: There is an upside

    THE word “dyslexia” evokes painful struggles with reading, and indeed this learning disability causes much difficulty for the estimated 15 percent of Americans affected by it.

    Since the phenomenon of “word blindness” was first documented more than a century ago, scientists have searched for the causes of dyslexia, and for therapies to treat it. In recent years, however, dyslexia research has taken a surprising turn: identifying the ways in which people with dyslexia have skills that are superior to those of typical readers.

    The latest findings on dyslexia are leading to a new way of looking at the condition: not just as an impediment, but as an advantage, especially in certain artistic and scientific fields.

    Tucker Nichols

    Dyslexia is a complex disorder, and there is much that is still not understood about it. 

    But a series of ingenious experiments have shown that many people with dyslexia possess distinctive perceptual abilities. 

    For example, scientists have produced a growing body of evidence that people with the condition have sharper peripheral vision than others. 

    Gadi Geiger and Jerome Lettvin, cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), used a mechanical shutter, called a tachistoscope, to briefly flash a row of letters extending from the center of a subject’s field of vision out to its perimeter. 

    Typical readers identified the letters in the middle of the row with greater accuracy. 

    Those with dyslexia triumphed, however, when asked to identify letters located in the row’s outer reaches.

    The discovery of such talents inevitably raises questions about whether these faculties translate into real-life skills.

    Although people with dyslexia are found in every profession, including law, medicine and science, observers have long noted that they populate fields like art and design in unusually high numbers.

    Five years ago, the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity was founded to investigate and illuminate the strengths of those with dyslexia, while the seven-year-old Laboratory for Visual Learning, located within the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is exploring the advantages conferred by dyslexia in visually intensive branches of science.

    The director of the laboratory, the astrophysicist Matthew Schneps, notes that scientists in his line of work must make sense of enormous quantities of visual data and accurately detect patterns that signal the presence of entities like black holes. 

    A pair of experiments conducted by Mr. Schneps and his colleagues, published in the Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society in 2011, suggests that dyslexia may enhance the ability to carry out such tasks.

    Read more of this article here at NY Times

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    TED Dimitri Christakis - Media and Children - YouTube

    Young children who have early exposure to television are more likely to develop an increased risk of behavioural and learning problems, according to a recent study.

    The research, led by Dr Dimitri Christakis, paediatrician and director of the Seattle Children's Research Institute's Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, has found that too much time spent viewing rapid screen images and sounds can make real-time activities seem boring, causing attention problems when children enter the classroom.

    "Parents are surprisingly poorly informed about this and in our studies we're working hard to educate them. Parents need to know TV and other media have real and powerful effects on their kids," Christakis said.

    He compared the ages of children's exposure to television and discovered that the average age for a child in the 1970s was four years old. Today, it is four months.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Teaching Number Bonds

    Number bonds.
    An extract from the SJBWriting blog:
    "We all use them in our adult life without even realising it. When adding up items in our basket at the supermarket, we know that 3p and 7p is 10p, and that 2x 50p is £1.

    When we buy something for £5.60 at the market and hand over a £10 note, we know that £5.60 + 40p is £6 and another £4 makes £10, so we know to expect £4.60 change.

    Knowing our number bonds is extremely useful, but a lot of children struggle to learn them.

    Over the years I have successfully taught many children how to remember their number bonds. As with times tables, the key is to find multi-sensory ways to teach, and to make practising fun.

    Some children respond very well to visual clues, and to help these I use colour sticks.

    These are strips marked out in 10 sections and coloured in contrasting colours, so that children can see clearly that 2 red squares plus 8 green squares equals 10 squares altogether, and that 8 green squares plus 2 red squares also equals 10 squares altogether.

    They are small enough to hold in the hand, and I tend to use them in conjunction with other methods. The children I tutor find them really useful to refer to during games.

    Snap and pelmanism are always popular games, and I have made two sets of cards for this. The first set is colour-coded, so when the children turn the cards over there is a visual clue as to whether the two cards add up to 10.

    When they turn over the first card, I encourage them to work out what number they need to find to make 10.

    When the children are a little more confident I switch to the black and white ones to remove the visual clue, but we still play the same games to keep some familiarity."

    If you find this interesting and want to read more of this article, go to SJBWriting