Monday, July 30, 2012

A Study That I Used to Know! - Video parody

Dyslexia and the Arts: My Suggested Interview Questions

Hi, I am seeking more insight into what your life is like, and has been like, as a Dyslexic person. I know that you have an untold story that wants to be broadcast and would like to help you with that.

I am particularly interested in hearing from Dyslexic people who are in the Creative and Performing arts, in whatever capacity.

My understanding is that the Creative and Performing Arts contain a higher proportion of Dyslexic people because of their ability to visualise and innovate in a non-literal form.

The other possibility is that the Creative and Performing Arts acts as a sanctuary and natural safe harbour for like-minded people, where literacy is less relevant.

I have short list of Questions that may help you tell your story and describe how you feel about You, Dyslexia and the Arts.

Thank you for your input. Add your comments below or send me an email at



When did you discover you had Dyslexia?

How did this change your outlook on life?

Exclusion and Inclusion

How does Dyslexia affect making friends and maintaining relationships?

What support did you get from family, friends, teachers, boy or girlfriends when they know you have Dyslexia?


What do you believe are the advantages of having Dyslexia?

How spontaneous are you compared to other people?


How difficult is it to move from familiar circumstances to a new one? Example: School, House, Job, relationship, etc.

What other support or help did you want or need at the time?

Career Openings

How has Dyslexia affected your career decisions in life?

What made you go into the performing arts?

How suitable is it for Dyslexic people to take up the arts?

What do you get from the arts that you can’t get elsewhere?

Self Image

How well are you understood, as a Dyslexic person?

Looking Back

What would you say to a younger self, about friends, school, family, jobs, etc.?

What was the best piece of advice about Dyslexia you were given?


How has the world become more aware and helpful to Dyslexic people?

What is left to be done?

What other stories are left untold that you are keen to tell?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Estella and Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 - YouTube

Estella was a beautiful baby girl who passed away from Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, aged 8 months.
This video was created to tell Estellas story.

Follow her on twitter

Please sign the petition and campaign for screening.

Find out more about her here;

or here

or finally here

Diabetes: New Compund Prevents Retina Damage

A compound that prevents damage to the retina caused by diabetic retinopathy has been developed by scientists. University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center scientists have developed a compound that targets two mechanisms: inflammation and the weakening of the blood barrier that protects the retina that is the root cause of the disease. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels in the retina, and can cause blindness in adults. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.
Crystal structure of Vammin, a VEGF-F from a snake venom
Until now, scientists believed that retina damage was caused by the activity of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that weakens the protective blood-retinal barrier. Drugs, created to treat diabetic retinopathy, have been desigend to block the protein but now, researchers have found that inflammation could also contribute to the disease. "In diabetic retinopathy and a host of other retinal diseases, increases in VEGF and inflammatory factors - some of the same factors that contribute to the response to an infection - cause blood vessels in the eye to leak which, in turn, results in a buildup of fluid in the neural tissue of the retina," said David A Antonetti, a Kellogg Eye Center researcher, in a statement. "This insidious form of modified inflammation can eventually lead to blindness."
Scientists created the new compound while studying kinase C (aPKC), a protein that was common to both mechanisms as an important target in regulating the disease process. They claim that the new compound blocks the kinase C (aPKC) protein, which in turn blocks the VEGF protein and reduces inflammation. "This is a great leap forward. We've identified an important target in regulating blood vessel leakage in the eye and we have a therapy that works in animal models. Our research is in the early stages of development. We still have a long way to go to demonstrate effectiveness of this compound in humans to create a new therapy but the results are very promising," Antonetti said.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dyslexia: Is it Big in Japan?

Many psychologists and cognitive scientists are convinced that Dyslexia is a complex cognitive disorder that only affects people trying to learn and read particularly difficult languages, ones which are full of exceptions to their own grammatical rules and which are more conceptual and not graphical in nature.

With this in mind, Dyslexia is thought to be very rare or non-existent in oriental languages because of the graphical nature of their language and writings.

Below is an extract from The Asahi Shimbun article that not only considers Dyslexia an issue in Japan but has first hand knowledge of the difficulties incurred by students.

Satoru Inoue
"Satoru Inoue and other people in Japan with dyslexia, a learning disorder that makes reading and writing difficult, have begun speaking out about their experiences by writing books and appearing in documentary films.

"I'd like teachers to know that children have the right to learn,” Satoru said, explaining why he wrote the book. “I want to do what I can so that there are fewer people like me."

Awareness of the disorder has been slow to develop in Japan, while support has been lagging that of Western countries.

Since the support is limited, many only become aware that they have dyslexia after reaching adulthood."

A Second extract from the same article:

"Like Satoru, Hiroko Sunanaga reached adulthood not knowing that she had dyslexia.

Her daily life is now featured in "DX (Dyslexia) na Hibi: Bin-chan no Baai" (DX days: The case of Bin-chan), an 81-minute documentary.

Sunanaga, whose nickname is Bin-chan, is now in her 30s.

A professor at an art university in London, where Sunanaga was studying in her early 20s, was the first person to suggest she had dyslexia."
Read the full article here

AirPiano 3D: Allows the user to trigger invisible keys and faders in midair

Credit to

The airpiano is an innovative MIDI and OSC controller. It allows the user to trigger invisible keys and faders in midair.

Touch-Free Interface

The airpiano is the first musical interface to introduce an intuitive and simple touch-free interaction. Most touch-free interfaces require users to stare at a display.

The user’s hand gestures in 3D space control elements on the screen. However, musicians and performers need to be able to play their instruments in a more free and intuitive way.

The airpiano’s keys and faders are therefore not on the screen, but above the airpiano surface. The performer knows the position of each controller in the air, so no display is needed, and the interaction becomes much more natural.

Discrete and Continuous Control

The airpiano is often compared with the Theremin. The Theremin is a wonderful instrument which is quite difficult to play. One reason for this is that it provides only continuous control.

The airpiano has a matrix of 24 discrete keys and 8 faders, which makes it much more simple to use.

Actually, the airpiano software makes the device so versatile that there is no real reason for a comparison.

These are completely different instruments.

Check out the airpiano features. User Experience Some people ask: why not just use a box with lots of buttons and shiny LEDs? what can i do with an airpiano that i can’t do with other controllers?

Well, we love all kinds of musical interfaces, and there are many wonderful and innovative alternative controllers out there.

However, we strongly believe that the airpiano introduces a new user experience, a magical and cool performance tool and an experimental instrument to explore.

The airpiano software allows setting the device in numerous ways and since there are no “rules” of how to play an airpiano, new creative ideas and playing techniques will come to life!

Dyslexia software success for India D-Labs

A team from Birla Institute of Technology-Patna has won People’s Choice Award at the finals of Microsoft Imagine Cup, 2012, in Sydney for their software to help dyslexic students. 

The seven-member team, The D-Labs, won $10,000 as prize money, at the event held between July 6 and 10.

In April this year, the team had won the national final in New Delhi, which gave them the ticket to the global finals.

The software, also named The D-Labs, aimed at enhancing the learning abilities of school students suffering from dyslexia. The device records minute details of a child’s activities and then creates solutions customised to their needs.

Davesh Kumar, a member of the team, said: “More than 350 students from 75 countries travelled to Sydney after competing in their respective national competitions.”

The event is the world’s premier student technology competition. The theme of this year’s event was: Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The seat of meta-consciousness in the brain - Sleep

This shows the brain regions activated more strongly during lucid dreaming than in a normal dream.

Studies of lucid dreamers visualize which centres of the brain become active when we become aware of ourselves. 

Which areas of the brain help us to perceive our world in a self-reflective manner is difficult to measure.

During wakefulness, we are always conscious of ourselves. In sleep, however, we are not, but there are people, known as lucid dreamers, who can become aware of dreaming during sleep.

Studies employing magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) have now been able to demonstrate that a specific cortical network consisting of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the frontopolar regions and the precuneus is activated when this lucid consciousness is attained.

All of these regions are associated with self-reflective functions. This research into lucid dreaming gives the authors of the latest study insight into the neural basis of human consciousness.

The human capacity of self-perception, self-reflection and consciousness development are among the unsolved mysteries of neuroscience.

Despite modern imaging techniques, it is still impossible to fully visualise what goes on in the brain when people move to consciousness from an unconscious state.

The problem lies in the fact that it is difficult to watch our brain during this transitional change. Although this process is the same, every time a person awakens from sleep, the basic activity of our brain is usually greatly reduced during deep sleep.

This makes it impossible to clearly delineate the specific brain activity underlying the regained self-perception and consciousness during the transition to wakefulness from the global changes in brain activity that takes place at the same time.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes of Psychiatry in Munich and for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and from Charité in Berlin have now studied people who are aware that they are dreaming while being in a dream state, and are also able to deliberately control their dreams.

Those so-called lucid dreamers have access to their memories during lucid dreaming, can perform actions and are aware of themselves – although remaining unmistakably in a dream state and not waking up. As author Martin Dresler explains,

"In a normal dream, we have a very basal consciousness, we experience perceptions and emotions but we are not aware that we are only dreaming. It's only in a lucid dream that the dreamer gets a meta-insight into his or her state."

By comparing the activity of the brain during one of these lucid periods with the activity measured immediately before in a normal dream, the scientists were able to identify the characteristic brain activities of lucid awareness.

"The general basic activity of the brain is similar in a normal dream and in a lucid dream," says Michael Czisch, head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry.

"In a lucid state, however, the activity in certain areas of the cerebral cortex increases markedly within seconds.

The involved areas of the cerebral cortex are the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, to which commonly the function of self-assessment is attributed, and the frontopolar regions, which are responsible for evaluating our own thoughts and feelings.

The precuneus is also especially active, a part of the brain that has long been linked with self-perception." The findings confirm earlier studies and have made the neural networks of a conscious mental state visible for the first time.

More information: Provided by Max Planck Society

PreDICT-TB: European Develop a new Technique to deal with Pulmonary TB

A European team of scientists is working on making new tuberculosis treatments a reality by developing better diagnostic imaging technology. 
The study is supported by the PREDICT-TB ('Model-based preclinical development of anti-tuberculosis drug combinations') project, which has clinched almost EUR 14.8 million from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). IMI is a public-private partnership between the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The PREDICT-TB team is working together with the European pharmaceutical industry; the project's coordinator is the United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. Results will help the many patients suffering from this airborne infectious disease: almost 9 million people worldwide currently have tuberculosis. The researchers are developing a set of in vitro and in vivo trials that will give them the information they need to make key decisions about effective treatments. They also plan to optimise the clinical studies of novel combinations of drugs to fight this disease.
'These data will, first, offer us an early evaluation of the efficiency of the combinations of drugs used to treat tuberculosis, and second, they will allow us to optimise the clinical studies with patients,' said Juan José Vaquero from the Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering Department at the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) in Spain, one of the PREDICT-TB partners. The UC3M group is researching and developing the new preclinical imaging technology, and is working on methods for processing and analysing images for the assessment and follow-up of illness in animal models. 'We are going to develop new in vivo molecular image devices and also work on the synthesis of very specific probes for the biomarkers of this illness that have been identified by other partners in the consortium,' Professor José Vaquero said.
'We are collaborating very closely with GlaxoSmithKline, whose laboratories are going to use our equipment, as well as with specialists from the Infectious Disease and Microbiology Service of Gregorio Marañón University General Hospital in Madrid, who have a great deal of experience working with both the biology and the clinical aspects of tuberculosis. This facilitates the transformation of our results into clinical applications.' The objective of UC3M, in the short term, is to develop a tomographic X-ray technique that screens quickly yet inexpensively. This technique will give researchers the opportunity to keep an eye on the evolution of the disease and to determine how effective the treatments are in animal models. The team's long-term objective team is to perfect this technique and make it more sensitive and specific. Positron emission tomography (PET) will be included, a nuclear medicine imaging technique that generates a three-dimensional image for pictures of functional processes in the body. Quantitative measurements can be taken with this more sensitive technique. The group also plans to introduce changes in imaging technology to ensure that better resolution is obtained. 'This way, with just one examination, we will be able to visualise the complete lung of a rat or guinea pig, with enough detail to detect the disease at its earliest possible stage,' Professor José Vaquero explained. The PREDICT-TB project is pioneering research in tuberculosis by investigating the use of quantitative molecular imaging. Each year, tuberculosis affects 5 million patients in developing countries. A cure is possible for only 60 % of them, and one of the biggest challenges in fighting tuberculosis is to ensure that patients are treated for 6 to 24 months. Both support and financing for trials are limited. For more information, please visit: Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI):

Dyslexia and ADHD: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Online Movie

Percy, who is dyslexic and has ADHD is visiting The Museum of Metropolitan of Art and is attacked by a Fury disguised as his teacher, Ms Dodds. A Storyline that many will be able to relate to.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spatial skills may be improved through scientific-based training.

The research published this month in Psychological Bulletin, the journal of the American Psychological Association, is the first comprehensive analysis of credible studies on such interventions.

Improving spatial skills is important because children who do well at spatial tasks such as putting together puzzles are likely to achieve highly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

David Uttal and fellow researchers at Northwestern University with Nora Newcombe, professor of psychology at Temple and principal investigator of the National Science Foundation's Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, reviewed 217 research studies on educational interventions to improve spatial thinking.

"There are limitations involved with looking at individual studies one by one. What we found when we brought together this large body of literature on training effects and analyzed it was a very powerful message, said Newcombe.

"People of all ages can improve at all types of spatial skills through training, period." Although recent research confirms that spatial abilities uniquely predict STEM achievement, there has been some debate about whether spatial skills can be improved — and whether such improvement lasts or transfers to new tasks.

The new meta-analysis answers all those questions in the affirmative. The researchers found that spatial skills are indeed malleable and that spatial training transfers to other fields.

"Our findings have significant real world implications by showing that training can have an impact on a technological workforce.

With the right training more high school students will be able to consider engineering and other scientific fields as a career option," said Newcombe.

One example of the type of training that can increase spatial abilities is having physics students use three-dimensional representations. Video game playing also increases spatial skills.

"Perhaps the most important finding from this meta-analysis is that several different forms of training can be highly successful," the authors say.

"Our hope is that our findings on how to train spatial skills will ultimately lead to highly effective ways to improve STEM performance," said Uttal, the lead author on the study.

The study looked at gender and age differences in relation to spatial thinking and found that in males and females, adults and children, even a small amount of training can improve spatial reasoning and have long-lasting impact.

Journal reference: Psychological Bulletin website
Provided by Temple University website

Read more at:

Reinventing the Classroom - YouTube

Dyspraxia and Motor Skills: Interactive Video Games Help to Sharpen

Mothers tell their children not to play video games because they believe that the games have a major impact on the child's brain, but now researchers have found that interactive video games improve motor skills among preschool children.

Researchers from Deakin University and the University of Wollongong have found that pre-schoolers who play interactive video games have better motor skills. The discovery was made while studying the link between electronic games and children's fundamental movement skills.

During the study, researchers monitored the physical activity levels and movement skills of 53 children aged between three and six years. Then they asked the children's parents to provide a report of the time spent playing interactive games such as Nintendo Wii/Eyetoy and non-interactive electronic games such as Nintendo DS/ Gameboy in a typical week.

Among the 53 preschool students, 35 per cent played non-interactive electronic games while the other 23 per cent played interactive games.

The study found that children who spent more time playing interactive electronic games were more competent in object control skills, such as kicking, catching, rolling, and bouncing a ball, but there was no association with locomotor skills such as hopping, jumping, running.

The findings have been published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills.

"While we found that greater time spent playing interactive electronic games is associated with higher object control skills in these young children, we cannot say why," said Dr Lisa Barnett, researcher at the Deakin University's School of Health and Social Development.

Dr Lisa Barnett claims that interactive game players have higher object control skills because the games help develop these types of skills. Playing interactive electronic games may also help eye-hand coordination.

Previously, researchers had found that children with better fundamental movement skills became more active adolescents compared to children who have poorer movement skills.

"What our findings do point to is a need to investigate further to determine if playing these games improves object control skills or if children with greater object control skill proficiency prefer and play these games," Dr Barnett said.

Conclusions: If the relationship between object control skill and physical activity is viewed as a ‘‘positive feedback loop,’’ skill development and increasing physical activity should simultaneously be targeted in physical activity interventions. Increasing perceived sport competence should also be an intervention focus.

View the paper here

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dyslexia: Is It Closely Lined to Creativity?

Good news for those who can spell, the answer is no. It appears that more dyslectic people simply elect to work very committedly in the non-linguistic creative professions.

To be successful, dyslectic people actually have to work harder to overcome their linguistic challenges.

Fortunately, the best predictor of anyone's performance is not their IQ or personality, it is the amount of time one spends on a particular task.

Dyslexia is hereditary and, fortunately, one can learn to live with even severe dyslexia. A dyslectic person may not be well suited for teaching English or working as an editor in a publishing house, however, it does give them a distinct advantage in other creative professions.

Having struggled with reading and writing, the dyslectic person has failed early and often, thereby teaching them to persevere.

As Winston Churchill, another famous dyslectic and creative individual, noted: "Never give up - -never, never, never give up."

What then are the advantages, if any, of being dyslexic in overcoming challenges? The early age confrontation of apparently insurmountable challenges teaches the dyslectic person to persevere in the face of difficulty and failure.

They learn early to look at problems from multiple angles and use other skills to succeed.

Dyslectic people often colour-code information to aide their learning, using three-dimensional drawings to solve algebra problems and come up with intricate mnemotechnical cues to improve retention.

Working on small creative tricks to overcome challenges may help make them better prepared to solve problems.

It has been said that "luck is when opportunity meet preparation" and dyslectic people could thus appear to be "luckier" problem solvers.

Are people who are actually good at spelling be at a disadvantage? 
Since reading, writing and arithmetic are given a high priority in most school systems and IQ and other standardised tests favour people with linguistic skills, perfecting what one is being rewarded for can narrow one's development in other areas where there was also the possibility to excel.

One of the secrets to life is to avoid repeatedly chastising oneself over what is not done well.

A dyslectic may never become the best speller; however, a person can live happily with being mediocre in this area and simply delegate the more demanding writing tasks.

Being content with being average in one area, dyslectics are freed up to invest the over 10,000 hours required to become an expert in another area.

They can then leverage their inborn abilities and turn those abilities into a strong competitive advantage in an area in which they excel.

The Creative Economy may be the fastest growing segment of the Western World and creativity is now, more than ever, the source of this progress.

By encouraging people early on to find and grow their unique natural abilities to innovate and appreciating them for what they create, rather than for what they consume, we will have created yet another novel way of spelling success.

Credit this article to Soren Petersen

Children in Foster Care develop Resilience through Compassion CBCT - Mindfulness

Negi with HH Dalai Lama
A new study shows that a therapeutic intervention called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) appears to improve the mental and physical health of adolescents in foster care.

CBCT is a tool that provides strategies for people to develop more compassionate attitudes toward themselves and others.

It is well documented that children in foster care have a high prevalence of trauma in their lives.

For many, the circumstances that bring them into the foster care system are formidable; sexual abuse, parental neglect, family violence, homelessness, and exposure to drugs.

In addition, they are separated from biological family and some are regularly moved around from one place to another.

Emory researchers conducted the study in collaboration with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS).

The study was recently published online in the journals Psychoneuroendocrinology and Child and Family Studies.

Thaddeus Pace
“Children with early life adversity tend to have elevated levels of inflammation across their lifespan,” explains Thaddeus Pace, PhD, lead author on the paper in Psychoneuroendocrinology, and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory.  

“Inflammation is known to play a fundamental role in the development of a number of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and depression.”

The study finds that adolescents who practiced CBCT showed reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP), reduced anxiety and increased feelings of hopefulness. The more the study participants practiced, the greater the improvement observed in these measures.

Charles Raison
“The beneficial effects of CBCT on anxiety and feelings of hopelessness suggest that this intervention may provide immediate benefit to foster children,” says Charles Raison, MD, corresponding author of the study in Neuroendocrinology, now at the McClelland Institute, University of Arizona.

“We are even more encouraged by the finding that CBCT reduced levels of inflammation. Our hope is that CBCT may help contribute to the long-term health and well being of foster care children, not only during childhood, but also as they move into their adult years.”

Additionally, an article recently published in the journal Pediatrics reported that a high proportion of children in foster care programs across the United States are on psychiatric medications, many inappropriately e.g. AntiPsychotic Treatment

Linda Craighead
“In light of the increasing concern that we may be over-medicating children in state custody, our findings that CBCT can help with behavioural and physical health issues may be especially timely,” says Linda Craighead, PhD, senior author for the paper published in Child and Family Studies, and professor of psychology at Emory.

The Study

CBCT is a multi-week program developed by the Psychology dept. at Emory University by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, one of the study’s co-authors. Although derived from Tibetan Buddhist teachings on compassion, the CBCT program has been designed to be completely secular in nature.

Geshe Negi
The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS) identified 71 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 as eligible for study participation.

All of the children lived in the greater metropolitan Atlanta area, and were in state custody (i.e. foster care) at the time of the study.

The participants were randomised to six weeks of Cognitvely-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), or to a wait list control group. Before and after these interventions the adolescents were assessed on various measures of anxiety and hope about the future. They also provided saliva samples for the measurement of C-reactive protein.

The researchers found that within the CBCT group, participation in practice sessions during the study correlated with reduced CRP from baseline to the six-week assessment.

The researchers are careful to emphasize that further studies will be needed to determine if there are long-term benefits with CBCT.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dyslexia Aids and the Livescribe Smartpen - Description


The Livescribe smartpen captures everything that you write and everything that is spoken. Inside the pen is a camera that takes a picture of your notes as you write them.

It also has a built-in microphone that lets you record what is being said. Once the pen is turned on, which requires the click of a button, the pen will begin taking a picture of the notes that you write.

The Livescribe smartpen works with Livescribe dot paper which comes in a variety of sizes. You can print your own paper if you have a compatible laser printer.

If you choose not to take notes, you can record audio and replay the session.

If you are a slow writer, have difficulty taking notes, or simply want to record the speaker, tap on the “record” icon at the bottom of the page and the pen will record what is said from that moment on.

Stop the recording whenever you want by tapping on the “stop” or “pause” icon. If you choose to record and take notes simultaneously, you can spend more time listening to the speaker and then write only the most important information.

Later on you can go back and listen to any part of the audio recording by tapping anywhere on your written notes. The audio will begin from that point in your notes.

If when listening to the audio recording you discover you have missed important information, you can add it to your notes at that time.

In addition to listening to the audio recording by tapping on your notes, you can transfer notes to your computer through Livescribe Desktop software.

Your notes appear just as they were written. If you have used the audio recording you can place your cursor on a word and the audio playback will begin at that point.

You can also search for a particular word and listen from there. You can add notes to your notebook at any time and then re-dock your pen to the computer.

New notes will appear in a different-colored ink. Individual, customized notebooks can be created--one for science, math or history, for example.

You can also share your notes with your friends through e-mail, Evernote, Facebook, and such. If you choose, you can even purchase additional applications, such as a dictionary for the Livescribe smartpen.

The Livescribe smartpen is an assistive technology aid that facilitates the note-taking and learning process.

Recording classroom discussions and taking fewer notes allows the dyslexic student to spend more time listening and learning.

When returning to the material for homework or review, students have an opportunity to listen to important information a second time, add notes that may be of significance, and review what has already been written.

Overall, the sample group really seemed to find the pen helpful and made use of it.  We feel that for students in honors-level or college-level courses the Livescribe pen is a very powerful study aid.

However, there are students for whom the Livescribe smartpen may not be a useful tool. Someone with significant auditory-processing difficulties who learns little from spoken language may be challenged by listening to the audio playbacks.

Although one of the icons on the Livescribe dot paper allows you to slow down the rate at which the audio recording is played back, this feature did not assist the above-mentioned student, but perhaps it may help others.

Read more here: LiveScribe

Humanising Computer Aids affects trust and dependence

Computerized aids that include person-like characteristics can influence trust and dependence among adults, according to a Clemson University researcher.

A recently published study by Clemson University psychology associate professor Richard Pak examined how decision-making would be affected by a human-like aid.

The study focused on adults' trust, dependence, and performance while using a computerized decision-making aid for persons with diabetes.

The study is one of the first to examine how the design of decision-support aids on consumer devices can influence the level of trust that users place in that system and how much they use it.

Richard Pak
The design and look of an aid are important elements for designers because of the potential dangers associated when users trust unreliable decision aids or lack trust for reliable aids simply because of the their appearance.

"Just as trust is an important factor in how humans deal with other humans, it also can determine how users interact with computerized systems," Pak said. "Trust can be influenced by the aid's reliability and level of computerization as well as the user's experience and age."

Many people interact with computerized decision aids or automation on a daily basis, whether they're using smart phones, digital cameras or global positioning systems. When automation is only reliable sometimes, a person's level of trust becomes an important factor that determines how often the aid will be used.

"Figuring out how trust is affected by the design of computerized aids is important because we want people to trust and use only reliable aids," said Pak.

Pak's research findings have revealed that the inclusion of an image of a person can significantly alter perceptions of a computerized aid when there is no difference in the aid's reliability or presentation of information.

"Humanlike computer aids provide a reduced decision-making reaction time for adults," said Pak. "A plausible explanation is that the increase in trust led to an increased dependence on the aid, which led to faster performance."

Pak's future research will examine the specific aspects of the aid that affect trust in different age groups and gender.

He also is studying the affects of the aids on users when faced with decisions that have either a high consequence, such as making health decisions, or a low consequence, such as deciding what type of computer to buy.

Pak's study was published Tuesday in the journal Ergonomics. The journal article was co-authored by Clemson researchers Nicole Fink, Margaux Price, Brock Bass and Lindsay Sturre.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Crickets, Books, and Bach: Develop a Summer Listening Program

The importance of learning to listen

Listening is an engaging way to learn, a primary approach to developing or strengthening reading strategies, and, in some cases, a necessary means to access information and knowledge.

Listening media, such as audio books and text-to-speech, can be especially helpful to children with learning disabilities, such as those with dyslexia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , who struggle with print-based learning, and central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), who may struggle to listen.

For such students well-chosen listening experiences can open up new vistas of learning, providing access to information and ideas previously 'hidden' in books and supporting the reading process itself.

Such opportunities provide a powerful supplement or alternative to a reading program focused around printed text.

Research has shown that combining reading and listening through the use of audio books or text-to-speech programs improves the literacy skills of struggling readers, including those with learning disabilities.

Reading comprehension, listening comprehension, phonological awareness and blending, and naming skills have shown to be improved with a combined reading-listening program.

Listening while reading helps children learn the patterns of language, the obvious 'code' of letters and words on the page as well as less obvious codes, such as tone, nuance, and implied meaning.

Brain imaging technologies show that when we listen, different parts of the brain are engaged than when we read—or even when we merely hear something.

Listening can provide whole levels of information that are essential to determining the value and validity of a source.

Teaching children to listen to tone of voice not only helps them develop reading skills but can help in the development of their social and conversational skills, too.

For more information, see Plato Revisited: Learning Through Listening in the Digital World by David Rose& Bridget Dalton, published by RFB&D.

Read more here: Crickets, Books, and Bach: Develop a Summer Listening Program | Reading Topics A-Z | Reading Rockets

ACLU alleges Michigan school district violated students’ ‘right to learn to read’

In the first case of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Union is charging that the state of Michigan and a Detroit area school district have failed to adequately educate children, violating their “right to learn to read” under an obscure state law.

The ACLU class-action lawsuit, to be filed Thursday, says hundreds of students in the Highland Park School District are functionally illiterate.

“None of those adults charged with the care of these children . . . have done their jobs,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The Highland Park School District is among the lowest-performing districts in the nation, graduating class after class of children who are not literate. Our lawsuit . . . says that if education is to mean anything, it means that children have a right to learn to read.”

The complaint, to be filed in state court in Wayne County, is based on a 1993 state law that says if public school students are not proficient in reading, as determined by tests given in grades 4 and 7, they must be provided “special assistance” to bring them to grade level within a year.

But at Highland Park, a three-school district bordering Detroit, most of the struggling students are years behind grade level and never received the kind of assistance required by law, the ACLU said.

Sara Wurfel, press secretary for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), said it was “impossible and imprudent to comment on a lawsuit that we haven’t been served or read yet.”

But she said the administration is working to address “a long overdue fiscal and academic crisis that was crippling the district, shortchanging its students and threatening the schools’ very existence.

Everything we have done and are doing is to ensure that the kids of Highland Park schools get the education they need and deserve.”

Efforts to reach the Highland Park School District were unsuccessful. The published telephone number at the district headquarters was busy all Wednesday afternoon.

One student in the Highland Park district, a 14-year-old boy named Quentin, just finished seventh grade.

Quentin, whose mother asked that his last name be withheld, reads at a first-grade level, according to an expert hired by the ACLU.

When asked to compose a letter to Snyder to describe his school, Quentin misspelled his own name, writing, “My name is Quemtin . . . and you can make the school gooder by geting people that will do the jod that is pay for get a football tame for the kinds mybe a baksball tamoe get a other jamtacher for the school get a lot of tacher.”

[Click here for samples of writing from Highland Park students who are plaintiffs in the suit, including Quentin.]

During the school year that just finished, Quentin was enrolled in both a regular language arts class and Read 180, an online program designed to help struggling readers.

It was up to Quentin to decide whether to attend his regular class or participate in Read 180 each day, according to the complaint. This was the first year Highland Park used the Read 180 program, according to the ACLU.

In the Read 180 classroom, “the teacher did not provide any instruction while the students read books on their own, or in groups, or completed self-directed work on the computer. . . .

The longest writing assignment Quentin had to complete this year was a three paragraph summary of a book,” according to the lawsuit.

“Kids are getting plopped in front of computers with no teacher in the classroom or the teacher is just sitting there, not engaged,” Moss said in an interview.

“A couple of our plaintiffs were put in the Reading 180 program, but it’s not been made available to every kid. There’s no individualized assessment of what they need, how they’re doing or monitoring of what’s going on.”

The district’s record-keeping is shoddy and student files are incomplete, making it nearly impossible to identify which students need remedial help, the complaint alleges.

The most recent state test scores for Highland Park schools show that 65 percent of fourth-graders and 75 percent of seventh-graders were not proficient in reading.

Read the full article here: ACLU alleges Michigan school district violated students’ ‘right to learn to read’

Attention Towards Special Education Drives Global Special Education Software Market

Special education for students with disabilities is gaining significant attention across the globe.

Pertinently, related institutions are spending more on technologies and software that assist in furthering the dissemination of learning to students with special needs.

Technology remains the answer to all the needs of disabled students in their search for learning, despite their differing disabilities.

Novel technological developments with respect to software and hardware are creating substantial opportunities for students with physical, cognitive or process disabilities to gain from general curriculum.

A recent trend, though, has been the exploration of utilizing this technology for providing skills required by all students.

The growth of digital content and the Internet has emerged as transformative advancements for the disabled, enabling them to speak, read and write.

Assistive technologies in the area of special education have witnessed rapid advancement over the years which has enabled emergence of less costly, portable, and faster devices and software products.

With increasing penetration of web-enabled software programs and classrooms, demand for customizable educational content that is ready-to-use is gaining pace.

Major players profiled in the report include Crick Software Ltd., DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, Excent

Read the full article here: Growing Attention Towards Special Education Drives the Global Special Education Software Market

Reyn Guyer Dyslexic Inventor of 'Twister' - "How I Made My Millions" - YouTube

Because "all of our family have dyslexia", Reyn started an educational company Winsor Learning based on the approach that his children's dyslexia tutor used to help with reading.

"We found some of the problems were that school systems were huge, running $500 million businesses, and a lot of it done by teachers who hadn't been trained. So we focused in on that, too, helping them be more efficient and productive.

It began by helping us be more productive in our program and then it grew into, well, you know efficiencies you are not using are X, Y and Z.

So it's morphed into being broader than just teacher training and student remediation. I'm very pleased we've been able to, as a family really, to do that and make a go of it."

International Experts Resign From flawed DSM-5 Working group

Roel Verheul
Roel Verheul (Amsterdam) and John Livesley (Canada) both felt compelled to resign from the DSM-5 Personality Disorders Work Group. Here is an email from them describing what went wrong in the preparation of this section:

"We resigned from the DSM-5 Personality and Personality Disorder Work Group in April 2012 with a mixture of sadness and regret.

We believed that the construction of DSM-5 afforded an important opportunity to advance the study of personality disorder by developing an evidence-based classification with greater clinical utility than DSM-IV.

John Livesley
The data and conceptual tools for such an undertaking have been available for some time and the field seemed to recognize the need for change.

Regrettably, the Work Group has been unable to capitalize on the opportunity and has advanced a proposal that is seriously flawed.

It has also demonstrated an inability to respond to constructive feedback both from within the Work Group and from the many experts in the field who have communicated their concerns directly and indirectly.

We also regret the need to resign because we were the only International members of the Work Group which is now without representation from outside the US."

Read the full article here: Two Who Resigned From DSM-5 Explain Why

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Caltech Research Finds Link between Immune Irregularities and Autism

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) pioneered the study of the link between irregularities in the immune system and neuro-developmental disorders such as Autism a decade ago.

Since then, studies of postmortem brains and of individuals with autism, as well as epidemiological studies, have supported the correlation between alterations in the immune system and autism spectrum disorder.

What has remained unanswered, however, is whether the immune changes play a causative role in the development of the disease or are merely a side effect.

Now a new Caltech study suggests that specific changes in an overactive immune system can indeed contribute to autism-like behaviours in mice, and that in some cases, this activation can be related to what a developing fetus experiences in the womb.

The results appear in a paper this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We have long suspected that the immune system plays a role in the development of autism spectrum disorder," says Paul Patterson, the Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences at Caltech, who led the work.

"In our studies of a mouse model based on an environmental risk factor for autism, we find that the immune system of the mother is a key factor in the eventual abnormal behaviors in the offspring."

The first step in the work was establishing a mouse model that tied the autism-related behaviors together with immune changes.

Several large epidemiological studies—including one that involved tracking the medical history of every person born in Denmark between 1980 and 2005—have found a correlation between viral infection during the first trimester of a mother's pregnancy and a higher risk for autism spectrum disorder in her child.

To model this in mice, the researchers injected pregnant mothers with a viral mimic that triggered the same type of immune response a viral infection would.

"In mice, this single insult to the mother translates into autism-related behavioral abnormalities and neuropathologies in the offspring," says Elaine Hsiao, a graduate student in Patterson's lab and lead author of the PNAS paper.

The team found that the offspring exhibit the core behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder—repetitive or stereotyped behaviors, decreased social interactions, and impaired communication.

In mice, this translates to such behaviors as compulsively burying marbles placed in their cage, excessively self grooming, choosing to spend time alone or with a toy rather than interacting with a new mouse, or vocalizing ultrasonically less often or in an altered way compared to typical mice.

Read more at:

CSA CanadaARM from Shuttle Endeavour is Going home

A year after the last Shuttle flight an iconic piece of Canadian hardware, the Canadarm from the orbiter Endeavour, has left the Kennedy Space Center and is on its way to the MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) Brampton facility to be "sanitized and refurbished".

Once that is complete, the Canadarm will go on display at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec just south of Montreal sometime in November. The question is, how many Canadians will see it?

The original plan was to display the Canadarm at a Canadian museum and possibly have it move around the country if the arm was in good condition.

However the size and weight of the arm would make it difficult to move from location to location and would be costly so that idea was scrapped. That left the Canadarm heading to a single museum.

Which one was still up in the air. We asked our readers in a poll in May 2011 where they thought the Canadarm should go.

By a narrow margin the vote was for the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto followed by the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.

Neither location would be selected. In a decision that wasn't fully explained at the time, the CSA decided the Canadarm would be located at their headquarters.

While the CSA headquarters is a nice facility, it's not exactly on the tourist circuit or even a place the locals visit and isn't setup for tourists. So why there?

Speaking with Gilles Leclerc, Director General, Space Exploration of the CSA today, SpaceRef was told that the CSA wants the maximum exposure of the Canadarm and that it is the CSA's hope that the arm winds up in a museum, perhaps in a couple of years.

The reason for it being displayed at the CSA headquarters for now is to assess it's viability for display in a museum. The Canadarm weighs 431kg and is approximately 15 meters in length.

The Canadarm was designed for use in space and is incapable of supporting its own weight here on Earth and it must be supported by specialized ground handling equipment.

The first of the five Canadian built Canadarm's went into space on Space Shuttle Columbia on November 13, 1981.

Designed to deploy and retrieve space payloads, the robotic arm worked perfectly on 90 Shuttle missions, spending a total of 944 days in space.

Leclerc said that when the Canadarm goes on display it will be located in the lobby of CSA headquarters and available to the public to view it during regular business hours at no cost.

Learning Disability Liaison Nurses: Transforming NHS patient care for now

Specialist learning disability liaison nurse Jainab Desai is making meticulous checks of the complex arrangements to receive a tricky patient with learning disabilities, with staff of the day surgery unit at Royal Bolton hospital.

She has worked for weeks with staff, family and carers of the profoundly disabled and terrified woman (who needs a vascular procedure).

This is to make sure that the patient will not freak at the entrance to the operating theatre, forcing the cancellation of the operation.

At any time Desai could be co-ordinating the care of up to six people with learning disabilities at Royal Bolton hospital.

This is set to rise as researchers predict that the numbers of people with learning disabilities in the UK will increase by 14% between 2001 and 2021.

They are also 58 times more likely to die aged under 50, often of preventable causes.

The fight to get specialists such as Desai into integrated posts in acute settings has been hard won. She was already in post in 2007 when Mencap's explosive report Death By Indifference, highlighted the cases of six people with learning disabilities believed to have died unnecessarily as a result of receiving worse healthcare than people without learning disabilities. She was a rare breed at the time.

Sir Jonathan Michael's report, Healthcare for All (2008) added fuel to Mencap's campaign by identifying gaps between the law, policy and the delivery of effective services for people with learning disabilities.
Since then progress has been made – 79% of acute settings have a nurse appointed to this kind of role – but there is concern that these roles will be sacrificed in the scramble to reorganise the NHS against a background of service cuts.

Mencap's report earlier this year (74 Deaths And Counting), reveals continued institutional discrimination in the NHS towards people with a learning disability.

The Royal College of Nursing's nursing advisor for learning disabilities, Ann Norman, already knows of cuts to at least four UK's consultant nurse roles (of around 35).

An RCN survey of 500 disability nurses in May showed that three out of four were experiencing cuts in services. Reports from primary care echo this. Norman says: "We are having to run to keep up, to protect frontline services."

How learning disability liaison nurses are transforming patient care | Healthcare Network | Guardian Professional

Health Risks: Being Left-Handed

Left-handers have been the subject of curiosity, stigma and even fear over the centuries.

Researchers now, however, are recognizing the scientific importance of understanding why people use one hand or the other to write, eat or toss a ball.

Handedness, as the dominance of one hand over the other is called, provides a window into the way our brains are wired, experts say and it may help shed light on disorders related to brain development, like dyslexia, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which are more common in left-handed people.

Other recent research suggests that mixed-handedness—using different hands for daily tasks and not having a dominant one—may be even more strongly linked than left-handedness to ADHD and possibly other conditions.

About 10% of people are left-handed, according to expert estimates. Another 1% of the population is mixed-handed.

What causes people not to favour their right hand is only partly due to genetics—even identical twins, who have 100% of the same genes, don't always share handedness.

More important, researchers say, are environmental factors—especially stress—in the womb.

Babies born to older mothers or at a lower birth weight are more likely to be lefties, for example and mothers who were exposed to unusually high levels of stress during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a left-handed child.

A review of research, published in 2009 in the journal Neuropsychologia, estimated that about 25% of the variability in handedness is due to genetics.

On average there is no significant difference in IQ between righties and lefties, studies show, belying popular perceptions.

There is some evidence that lefties are better at divergent thinking, or starting from existing knowledge to develop new concepts, which is considered an element of creativity.

Oddly, left-handed people have salaries that on average are about 10% lower than righties, according to recent research performed at Harvard University that analyzed large income data bases, although findings of some earlier studies were mixed.

Left-handedness appears to be associated with a greater risk for a number of psychiatric and developmental disorders.

While lefties make up about 10% of the overall population, about 20% of people with schizophrenia are lefties, for example.

Links between left-handedness and dyslexia, ADHD and some mood disorders have also been reported in research studies.
The Health Risks Of Being Left-Handed -

Children with Dyslexia Read Better with Free App

Parents who have children with dyslexia know the frustration they and their kids feel as they face the challenge of reading.

Now a French-Italian research team have discovered a simple way to help children with dyslexia read 20% faster and make much fewer errors, and you can try it with a free app.

You can help your child with dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning disability that can interfere with an individual's ability to read, spell, write, and even speak in some cases.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability among children, and it continues throughout adulthood.

The severity of dyslexia can range from mild to severe, yet it can be treated, and the sooner the better. Typical warning signs of dyslexia include
  • Letter and number reversals. Although this is common in younger children, after age 7 or 8 it usually disappears. If it does not, children should be tested for dyslexia
  • Difficulty copying from a book, computer screen, or board
  • Difficulty distinguishing left from right
  • Written work is generally disorganized
  • May have difficulty moving to the rhythm of music
The research team, headed by Johannes Ziegler of the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive, discovered that increasing the amount of spacing between characters and words can improve how fast and how accurately dyslexic children read, and without any prior training.

What parents may appreciate even more is that these researchers also developed an iPad/iPhone application, which is available free of charge, that allows parents and dyslexic children to change the spacing between letters and test if this new approach to reading works for them.

What the dyslexia study revealed
The researchers came upon their finding by testing 94 children with dyslexia, ages 8 to 14 years, and their ability to read. The 54 Italian and 40 French children read 24 sentences with normal spaces and then wider than normal spacing.

When the children read the text with wider spacing, their reading speed was an average of 20% faster and they made half as many errors. This finding opens up great possibilities for children with dyslexia, for whom it typically takes one year to read what a "normal reader" can read in two days.

A free app for dyslexia may help
Parents can get the free app for dyslexia here. The free app is currently available in French and English, downloadable from Apple Store, and allows parents and children to alter the spacing between letters.

Children with dyslexia have an impairment in their brain's ability to convert images into language they can understand. However, this difficulty is not related to vision or hearing problems, nor is it caused by mental retardation or a lack of intelligence.

In fact, many highly successful and creative people had or have dyslexia. Some of them include Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Tom Cruise, Cher, Richard Branson, and Winston Churchill.

The authors of this new study report that "our findings offer a practical way to ameliorate dyslexics' reading achievement without any training." They note that "extra large letter spacing, which could even be optimized adaptively on an individual basis, can certainly contribute to achieving this goal."

Children with dyslexia can become easily discouraged by their difficulty in learning to read, and this can lead to development of low self-esteem, depression, behavior problems, and a dislike for school. A free app for children with dyslexia could be a new beginning for this population of young people.

Zorzi M et al. Extra-large letter spacing improves reading in dyslexia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2012. doi:10.1073/pnas.1205566109

Learning About Dyslexia - YouTube

Many language-based disabilities go undetected. Doing their own research, sharing family stories, and extensive testing allowed the Giardinas to understand Michael's disabilities and learn how to help him learn and grow.

Aberdeen Scientists claim artificial light is key to treating Multiple Sclerosis

Aberdeen scientists have found that artificial sunlight can have a “striking effect” in helping treat sufferers of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Researchers from Aberdeen University studied patients in the north of Scotland – which has the highest rate of MS in the UK - who were being treated during winter with artificial UV (ultraviolet)-B light therapy for skin diseases caused by their immune systems acting inappropriately.

The research - published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology – shows how UV-B light boosts vitamin D, as well as cells in our body that are responsible for regulating or balancing the immune system. Vitamin D is made in our bodies by UV-B light from the sun.

Some studies have suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases such as MS.

This possible link might also explain the increasing prevalence of autoimmune disease among those living far from the equator, where there are lower levels of winter sun.

Autoimmune diseases - like MS and type 1 diabetes - are diseases where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues or harmless substances that enter the body.

Dr Anthony Ormerod, clinical reader in dermatology at the university, said: “Our study shows that UV-B light, which mimics sunshine, can have a striking effect on the immune system of patients.

“We found that UV-B light boosted the production of vitamin D, and of regulatory T cells, which play an important role keeping our immune systems in check.

“Our findings have important implications for future interventions including the recommendations for healthy lifestyle and a possible role for phototherapy and/or vitamin D supplementation in the prevention or treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

“While too much exposure to sunlight is harmful and increases skin cancer risk, these results suggest that subjects in our study would have some benefits from small amounts equivalent to summer exposure in the winter but more work needs to determine the role of sunlight and the role of supplementing the diet with vitamin D.”

Dr Helen Macdonald, senior lecturer in nutrition and translational musculoskeletal research at the university and chair of the National Osteoporosis Society Nutrition and Lifestyle forum, said: “There are risks associated with high levels of both therapies, so it is important that we get the balance right.

“We would also want to stress that we are not advocating sun bed use since this is not the same type of radiation produced by sun beds which already have well-documented health risks.

“The average dose of UV light that the volunteers received was the equivalent to sunlight exposure in Aberdeen over spring and summer and further work is required to determine if lower doses are effective.”

Professor Mark Vickers, chair in applied medicine at the university, added: “Ours is the first study to demonstrate in patients a cause and effect between UV light, vitamin D and systemic immune function in people.”