Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients Have Reduced Activity in Basal Ganglia; the Brain’s 'Reward Center'

Chronic fatigue syndrome, a medical disorder characterized by extreme and ongoing fatigue with no other diagnosed cause, remains poorly understood despite decades of scientific study.

Although researchers estimate that more than 1 million Americans are affected by this condition, the cause for chronic fatigue syndrome, a definitive way to diagnose it, and even its very existence remain in question.

In a new study, researchers have found differing brain responses in people with this condition compared to healthy controls, suggesting an association between a biologic functional response and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The findings show that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have decreased activation of an area of the brain known as the basal ganglia in response to reward.

Additionally, the extent of this lowered activation was associated with each patient's measured level of fatigue.

The basal ganglia are at the base of the brain and are associated with a variety of functions, including motor activity and motivation.

Diseases affecting basal ganglia are often associated with fatigue. These results shed more light on this mysterious condition, information that researchers hope may eventually lead to better treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome.

The study was conducted by Elizabeth R. Unger, James F. Jones, and Hao Tian of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More Fatigue, Less Activation
Dr. Unger, says that she and her colleagues became curious about the role of the basal ganglia after previous studies by collaborators at Emory University showed that patients treated with interferon alpha, a common treatment for chronic hepatitis C and several other conditions, often experienced extreme fatigue.

Further investigation into this phenomenon showed that basal ganglia activity decreased in patients who received this immune therapy.

Since the fatigue induced by interferon alpha shares many characteristics with chronic fatigue syndrome, Unger and her colleagues decided to investigate whether the basal ganglia were also affected in this disorder.

The researchers recruited 18 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as 41 healthy volunteers with no symptoms of CFS.

Each study participant underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging, a brain scan technique that measures activity in various parts of the brain by blood flow, while they played a simple card game meant to stimulate feelings of reward.

The participants were each told that they'd win a small amount of money if they correctly guessed whether a preselected card was red or black.

After making their choice, they were presented with the card while researchers measured blood flow to the basal ganglia during winning and losing hands.

The researchers showed that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome experienced significantly less change in basal ganglia blood flow between winning and losing than the healthy volunteers.

When the researchers looked at scores for the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory, a survey often used to document fatigue for chronic fatigue syndrome and various other conditions, they also found that the extent of a patient's fatigue was tightly tied with the change in brain activity between winning and losing. Those with the most fatigue had the smallest change.

Read the full article here

The study was conducted by Elizabeth R. Unger, James F. Jones, and Hao Tian of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Andrew H. Miller and Daniel F. Drake of Emory University School of Medicine, and Giuseppe Pagnoni of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. An abstract of their study entitled, "Decreased Basal Ganglia Activation in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Subjects is Associated with Increased Fatigue," will be discussed at the meeting Experimental Biology 2012, being held April 21-25 at the San Diego Convention Center.

The abstract is sponsored by the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), one of six scientific societies sponsoring the conference which last year attracted some 14,000 attendees.

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

Ampligen: Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and ME rejected by FDA

Ampligen, the first drug ever seeking approval to treat chronic fatigue syndrome /myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), recently hit another roadblock with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In its long quest to treat 1 million Americans suffering from this debilitating illness, the FDA advisory panel did not recommend the drug to be sold on the market, largely because CFS/ME doesn't have clear biomarkers such as blood tests to define patients who most likely to respond to the drug.

Data from clinical trials of Ampligen has not convinced the FDA so far.

Nancy Klimas, M.D., one of the world’s leading researchers and clinicians in chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encepahalomyelitis (CFS/ME), is the director the NSU Institute for Neuro Immune Medicine.

"The real loser is not Ampligen, but CFS/ME patients whose daily suffering continues to be unabated," she says. "CFS/ME feels like you've been run over by a truck -- pain, inflammation, utter exhaustion and trouble concentrating."

Klimas has been caring for patients with CFS/ME for 26 years now. "It's heartbreaking seeing them struggle and suffer from this serious illness that has been trivialized by science and society. One of the early controversies quickly disproven suggested that CFS/ME is a form of depression. This led to enduring public policies that allowed insurance companies to limit coverage to CFS/ME to either mental health or exercise therapy, neither get to the root cause of CFS/ME," she explains.

"CFS/ME researchers, including myself, have seen major advances in our understanding of the biology of CFS/ME. It seems to resemble an illness we know how to treat like multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic viral diseases and autoimmune diseases."

Around since the late 1980s, this drug is not new to science and medicine. Two phase 3 clinical studies have been completed. The data shows that a subgroup of CFS/ME patients showed marked improvement, even recovery on the drug.

"Yet, that's not enough evidence for the FDA advisory committee to approve because they would like to see a conclusive biomarker," notes Klimas. "As a physician, I could live with this decision if I had other effective therapies to treat my CFS/ME patients. But I do not. Moreover, it defies common logic in used in drug approval for other complex immune mediated diseases."

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Nova Southeastern University, via Newswise.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

UK MPs Support Employment Fair for Dyslexia and Autism

UK Sheffield MPs are joining forces to back an employment fair for people with autism and other hidden disabilities. The event, on Friday, February 1, is the brainchild of Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge, and is being supported by Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam. The fair, part of the National Autistic Society’s Undiscovered Workforce campaign, is at the Adsetts Partnership building, Bridge Street in the city centre, from 1pm until 3.30pm. It is aimed at people with autism and other hidden conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, speech and language difficulties and ADHD. The idea is to help such people learn about employment opportunities in Sheffield and to raise awareness among employers of the benefits of having them in the workplace. Mrs Smith said: “I’m working with the NAS on this campaign because I think it’s important adults with autism have the same opportunities as everyone else. “People in my constituency tell me they experience difficulties in finding and staying in employment, often due to inadequate support and misunderstandings related to their condition. “In these challenging economic times, we cannot afford to let the skills and talents of people with autism go to waste.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Brain Structure of Infants predicts Language Skills at one year

Using a brain-imaging technique that examines the entire infant brain, researchers have found that the anatomy of certain brain areas – the hippocampus and cerebellum – can predict children's language abilities at 1 year of age. 

The University of Washington study is the first to associate these brain structures with future language skills. 

The results are published in the January issue of the journal Brain and Language.

"The brain of the baby holds an infinite number of secrets just waiting to be uncovered, and these discoveries will show us why infants learn languages like sponges, far surpassing our skills as adults," said co-author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the UW's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

Children's language skills soar after they reach their first birthdays, but little is known about how infants' early brain development seeds that path.

Identifying which brain areas are related to early language learning could provide a first glimpse of development going awry, allowing for treatments to begin earlier.

"Infancy may be the most important phase of postnatal brain development in humans," said Dilara Deniz Can, lead author and a UW postdoctoral researcher.

"Our results showing brain structures linked to later language ability in typically developing infants is a first step toward examining links to brain and behavior in young children with linguistic, psychological and social delays."

In the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brain structure of a mix of 19 boys and girls at 7 months of age.

The researchers used a measurement called voxel-based morphometry to determine the concentration of gray matter, consisting of nerve cells, and of white matter, which make up the network of connections throughout the brain.

The study is the first to relate the outcomes of this whole-brain imaging technique to predict future ability in infants.

The whole-brain approach freed the researchers from having to select a few brain regions for study ahead of time, ones scientists might have expected to be involved based on adult data.

Read the full article at: Medical Express

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Apps for Autism and/or Asperger’s

Over the past several weeks and months, we have received a number of requests for apps to help children and adults on the autism spectrum

So, we thought that this week’s article might be a good vehicle for providing our readers with an answer to these many requests.

What is new in the world of apps for autism /Asperger’s? We hope you will find a few new resources here to tap into for yourself or for the person in your life challenged with an autism-spectrum disorder.

Please tell us what you think of these apps when you have had an opportunity to try them. We would love to receive your valuable input!

New Apps for Autism/Asperger’s
Autism Apps for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad---FREE (Updated: Jan 10, 2013)
Educational Autism Apps is simply a comprehensive list of apps that are being used with and by people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs.

It also includes links to any available information that can be found for each app. The Apps are also separated into over 30 categories, and the descriptions are all searchable, so any type of app is easy to find and download.


Autism Apps from Autism Speaks (for Android & Apple)
Long list of autism apps that provides app titles, platform compatibilities, prices, content categories and online app access (click links), an excellent online resource from a most reputable organization.


MySocius Model by BehaviorApp - MySocius is an iPhone and iPad app designed for parents who want to help their child with autism communicate.

This app uses evidence based, Naturalistic Teaching Procedures that “embeds teaching within the activities of everyday life.” Naturalistic Teaching Procedures have proved to be effective in clinical practice.

Price: $24.99 (Expensive, but for what it claims to provide, only you can decide if it's worth the price.)


Autism Apps List from the TCI Tech Review Blog
Short list of Apple-compatible autism apps from last half of 2012 to January 2013.

Individual reviews provide pricing, summaries, iTunes access links and more.

(All have prices that are from $1.99 to $99.00)


For more information on sensory-appealing reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Modafinil and Sleep: A Sociologocal Speculation

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution is a major proponent of the Great Stagnation thesis: that new innovations are not having the same impact on productivity as those we saw in the previous 150 years.

Think of iPads versus electricity and cloud computing versus the railroad.

Hence, we can expect to see slowing growth in GDP per capita as future productivity gains will take much more effort to unlock.

This week The Economist took up this line of thought with a thorough briefing on the subject that broadly agreed with Cowen, although with some equivocation.

Overall, I think the argument has a lot of merit but there may be at least one more piece of low hanging fruit: a vast reduction in our need for sleep.

The American Time Use survey reports that an average American work day includes 8.8 hours of work and 7.6 hours of sleep.

Sleep is the second largest single use of time. However, new drugs such as Modafinil appear to vastly reduce the need for sleep without significant side effects (at least so far).

Based on reports from users, it seems that people could realistically [edit: potentially (see update)] cut their sleep requirements to as few as 2.5 hours a night without a decrease in mental acuity. That gives us another 5 hours to distribute over the day.

Workers would probably prefer to allocate the bulk of that extra time to leisure but I doubt employers will let that happen.

Let's make a generous breakdown and give work an extra 3 hours and let workers spend another 2 as they wish. This increases working hours by around 34% and potentially increases leisure time by 80%.

This increases the number of hours a worker spends at work from around 1800 hours a year now to about 2,400.

The argument against the use of drugs such as Modafinil, is that a rapid introduction of these pills would amount to an increase in the labour supply and cause a fall in hourly wages or unemployment.

However, it's likely that individuals would generally still see an increase in their overall income and their additional leisure time (2 hours extra) would allow this to be translated into an increase in demand in the economy through increased consumption.

 Overall the transition to a sleepless world seems beneficial to humanity. There's nothing special about the 7 hours of sleep we get right now and I think people would rightly be opposed to a change that made everyone spend an extra hour asleep every day.


  • I've never used Modafinil. This is because I don't know where to buy it, I have some moral qualms about using it when the rest of the world is not and because it is still a bit early to conclude that there are no long term health effects; 
  • Some people I've talked to have raised the issue of environmental damage. I think the total environmental impact of a sleepless world could be positive or negative but surely the damage would be lower per unit of output (because there are a lot of fixed carbon outputs per work day such as commuting and building overheads). At the very least, a sleepless world looks like a more environmentally friendly growth strategy; 
  • This argument is premised on the safety of these drugs. Clearly the calculus will change if they are shown to have negative long term consequences; 
  • For those people who already work long hours with little sleep, these drugs should at least make that lifestyle less dangerous. There is convincing evidence that chronic lack of sleep is harmful in normal circumstances; 
  • The precise amount of sleep that a Modafinil user can get by with seems to vary but all sources I've seen suggest it is dramatically lower; 
  • The short term costs of a rapid change might be substantial so gradual adoption is probably preferable from the standpoint of welfare.

Real the full article here

Dyslexia: Taking a Different Path

Dealing with Dyslexia is not about taking the easy option, it's about finding the right path that suits the learner. 

Teaching Dyslexic children means helping them find their most appropriate learning style and guiding them down a different path from the others. 

Pupils that scan their words from right to left can be taught to read, spell and be interdependently creative, just like Leonardo da Vinci.

Having the gift of Dyslexia means seeing the world another way from others. It's not a curse. 

None of us really knows how others perceive their world until we talk to them and ask them to explain and describe what and how they feel.

Acceptance is the beginning of understanding, which should lead to teaching and mentoring. Persistence and determination also help.

It's not the easy, well trodden path that leads to discovery, it's often the most difficult route that leads to breakthrough and discovery. 

Are you ready to accept the challenge, as a dyslexic learner or as a teacher of dyslexic children? I believe you are.

You've come this far, start the rest of your journey of discovery today. Which path you take is for you to decide.

Monday, January 14, 2013

PRIK: A strong case for Child Immunisation

"The name of this condition is Purposeful Rejection of Immunization in Kids (or PRIK) but it also overlaps with other disorders such as Kyle Sandilands(?)." Photo: Allen Donikowski

What renders this disease unique is its displaced transmission: the full physical brunt is passed onto the hosts’ children, while stupidity and paranoia actually bolster within the adult hosts themselves.

The first clues can be gleaned in the clinic itself. A toddler, deviously put forward as the subject in need of medical attention, is given an examination. The doctor will then request the child’s immunization history.

Alarm bells should ring if the adult displays any of the following: ignorance, confabulation and the production of internet print-outs. The latter all look cute and eco-friendly - colonic irrigation is good for the self- starter - but take a darker hue when you actually begin to read the articles.

Closer examination will reveal paranoia, moral panic and purported evidence of a grand conspiracy between governments, doctors and drug companies. However, wingnuttery’s full force is always unleashed on the same topic: vaccination. Vaccinations cause dangerous side effects.

Vaccinations don’t work. There’s the claimed link between vaccination and autism, debunked so many times that wearing a tinfoil hat whilst dancing the Macarena actually begins to feel life-affirming.

My mother encountered a well-meaning PRIK who had deprived her daughter of vaccinations. Sure as eggs, the child contracted whooping cough and recovered normally due to herd immunity (their chances of getting sick was lessened due to the sense of responsibility of the immunized majority).

When the parent was gently pressed over the fact that her actions could conceivably have killed a baby, even a partially immunized one with whom her child had come in contact, a response was not forthcoming.

It later turned out that a huge number of children at her kids’ school became afflicted with whooping cough, the end of year festivities had to be cancelled and most tragically, a child with a disability was robbed of his first big chance to perform on stage.

If there is a conspiracy here, it’s not Zionists, Freemasons or NASA goblins – it’s called the cult of the individual.

Nobody likes reading scientific studies. Unlike headlines, they’re not even remotely sensational. Science is ball-busting, bleary-eyed work with lots of numbers and digits and words like hypovitaminosises and subacute sclerosing pan encephalitis that are beyond most people’s comprehension.

As a result, science is best left to the scientists. As well as the luminaries who make the discoveries, there are also other scientists who pore over every corpuscle of data to make sure there’s no margin for error.

This is called Peer Review. PRIK’s really like glossing over this stuff because it’s way more exciting to say that crystals will stop your kids from getting sick or that Aunt Daphne died at age 95 and was a PRIK all her life.

But it’s never too late to get informed. Take a science class. Read a book (not titled Melanie’s Marvellous Measles).

Go and visit a cemetery, littered with the graves of those who died prematurely due to childhood infective diseases.

Best of all, consult some statistics. Whereas once, a mother needed to give birth to fifteen children just to ensure three or four of them survived to adulthood, now we have been given the ultimate defensive weapon – an ability to fight the organism by building up antibodies. This is the essence of vaccination. An article written (passionately) by Simon Tedeschi for Daily Life (Australia)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dyslexia: Cognitive subtypes of dyslexia

Recent research into Dyslexia and the large range or variations in perception and experience accorded to those who have this condition.

Different theories conceptualise dyslexia as either a phonological, attentional, auditory, magnocellular, or automatisation deficit.

Such heterogeneity suggests the existence of yet unrecognised subtypes of dyslexics suffering from distinguishable deficits.

The purpose of the study was to identify cognitive subtypes of dyslexia.

Out of 642 children screened for reading ability 49 dyslexics and 48 controls were tested for phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, motion detection, visual attention, and rhythm imitation.

A combined cluster and discriminant analysis approach revealed three clusters of dyslexics with different cognitive deficits.

Compared to reading-unimpaired children;

  • cluster no. 1 had worse phonological awareness; 
  • cluster no. 2 had higher attentional costs; 
  • cluster no. 3 performed worse in the phonological, auditory, and magno-cellular tasks. 

These results indicate that dyslexia may result from distinct cognitive impairments.

As a consequence, prevention and remediation programmes should be specifically targeted for the individual child's deficit pattern.

You can access the research paper here at

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dyslexia: The Davis Method - NéoSanté article

NéoSanté, a Belgian magazine devote to Global Health, includes a detailed article about the Davis program in a recent issue.

The article, written in French, is titled La Méthode Davis: Un espoir pour les dyslexiques (translation: The Davis Method: Hope for Dyslexia)

The article is written by Davis Facilitator Betty Rossitto. There are now more than 50 licensed European facilitators who provide French language services.

A Gift of Dyslexia workshop is scheduled in Paris from May 3-6.

More information;

Dyslexia: The Davis Method - Symbol Mastery

Davis Symbol Mastery — the modeling of words in clay – is based on the idea that each word has three parts: what it means, what it looks like, and how it sounds.

When all three parts are fully understood and learned, the word is mastered.

Brain research shows that all skilled readers make this connection, but the balance struck between sight, sound, and meaning may differ depending on the written form of language.

In languages that are phonetically consistent, such as Italian, readers tend to rely first on letter-sound correspondence (phonology).

Readers of a character-based alphabet, such as Chinese, rely more heavily on the correspondence between letter shape and meaning.

English uses an alphabetic system but an orthography (spelling system) that is influenced largely by word meaning (morphology). That is why English spelling is inconsistent.

Noted psychologist and research professor Uta Frith, explains that skilled readers make instant mental links between the sounds, appearance, and meanings of words.

English readers rely more heavily on the meaning element, because knowing the meaning is often also the key to knowing how the word sounds.

Dyslexic readers typically struggle because it is harder for them to make the connections automatically.

That is why the Davis system relies on modeling word meaning together with mastering the visual sequence of letters and the sound of the whole word.

Learn more:
Three Parts to a Word
Davis Symbol Mastery Support
Davis Symbol Mastery Kit

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dyslexia: BoyZone Shane Lynch speaks out

Shane Lynch has bravely revealed that when he left school at the age of 15 he couldn’t read or write.

As part of a new Channel 5 documentary called My Secret Past (due to air on Monday at 10pm), the Boyzone singer has admitted that his teachers thought he was a bad student and didn't realise he had a problem,

“I was kicked out of school at 15 for being lazy. I couldn’t read or write but I was too ashamed to ask for help,” Shane confesses.

The Boyzone singer was tested for dyslexia as part of the documentary and discovered that he is indeed dyslexic,

“The diagnosis makes my past more acceptable. I wasn’t lazy, I had a genuine problem,” he says.

Thanks to the help of expert tutors, Shane is now able to read to his two daughters Billie Rae, four and four-month-old Marley Mae.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dyslexia: An alternative Definition

Olivier Messiaen: Synaesthesia - Music and Colours

Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992)

Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, widely regarded as a major composer of the 20th century.

Messiaen was gifted with Synaesthesia, whereby he perceived colours when he heard sounds and musical chords. He cited the importance and relevance of using these colour combinations in his compositional process.

His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations.

Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism.

Messiaen was deemed as 'a bit eccentric' and he had a particular fascination for birdsongs; he believed birds to be the greatest musicians and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer.

He notated bird songs worldwide and incorporated birdsong transcriptions into most of his music.

His innovative use of colour, his conception of the relationship between time and music, his use of birdsong and his desire to express religious ideas are among features that make Messiaen's music distinctive.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why do girls get better grades in elementary school than boys

Why do girls get better grades in elementary school than boys—even when they perform worse on standardized tests? 

New research from the University of Georgia and Columbia University published in the current issue of Journal of Human Resources suggests that it's because of their classroom behaviour, which may lead teachers to assign girls higher grades than their male counterparts.

"The skill that matters the most in regards to how teachers graded their students is what we refer to as 'approaches toward learning,'" said Christopher Cornwell, head of economics in the UGA Terry College of Business and one of the study's authors.

"You can think of 'approaches to learning' as a rough measure of what a child's attitude toward school is: It includes six items that rate the child's attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization.

I think that anybody who's a parent of boys and girls can tell you that girls are more of all of that."

The study, co-authored by Cornwell and David Mustard at UGA and Jessica Van Parys at Columbia, analyzed data on more than 5,800 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

It examined students' performance on standard tests in three categories—reading, math and science—linking test scores to teachers' assessments of their students' progress, both academically and more broadly.

The data show, for the first time, that gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favour girls.

In every subject area, boys are represented in grade distributions below where their test scores would predict.

The authors attribute this misalignment to what they called non-cognitive skills, or "how well each child was engaged in the classroom, how often the child externalized or internalized problems, how often the child lost control and how well the child developed interpersonal skills."

They even report evidence of a grade bonus for boys with test scores and behavior like their girl counterparts.

This difference can have long-reaching effects, Cornwell said. 

Read the full article here

Emotional Quotient (EQ): Good for Leaders and Autism

Experts in the field of leadership believe that truly effective leaders possess a high level of emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ) focusing on self and relationship management. 

It’s about social competence. Raising a child with autism can assist with elevating your own emotional intelligence.

The 5 Components of  EQ
Dr. Daniel Goleman, psychologist, brought EQ to the mainstream public in 1995. His research concluded that EQ is made up of five components:
  1. self-awareness,
  2. self-regulation,
  3. motivation,
  4. empathy and
  5. social skills.
Those with a high sense of self-awareness understand how their emotions impact others and their job performance; they can regulate their feelings successfully. 

How we manage our emotions or regulate them makes the difference for leadership success. 

Goleman states that without EQ, a person can have the best training, analytical mind and be good technically, but won’t make a great leader. 

Some leaders possess these traits naturally; however, can EQ be learned?

How to Teach EQ
As  started training leaders in the corporate setting with regard to EQ, she realised that there was not much offered on “how” to raise EQ. 

There are countless articles and books that address “what” it is but no real tools offered to improve EQ. 

Lori started thinking about tools used with Social Cognitive Deficit Disorders (SCDD) since it is about social competence. 

Over the decades these tools became ingrained in her as she taught her son, which in turn assisted in raising her own EQ. 

The best way to learn is to teach. Since the components that support EQ equate to social competence, then why couldn’t these tools used for SCDD work to raise EQ? 

 started bringing forward these techniques in her leadership and customer service development trainings which have proven to be very successful. 

Those who attend her classes are, generally, excited to head back to their jobs with new tools for success.
  • Empathy: Tools that have shown success include Michelle Garcia Winners’ perspective-taking behavioural map to enhance empathy. This tool helps one visually and concretely map out behaviors by showing “how” it can make others feel and the consequences or outcomes associated with them. Taking it a step further, you can ask your audience to develop a plan in which to better display empathy, the next time.
  • Social Skills: Another effective strategy to help develop appropriate social skills was created by Winners; imaginary “friend files” in the brain. This technique helps store information about others to help initiate conversations. This interactive exercise of getting to know someone by interviewing them, writing down three items about that person, and then storing the information in an imaginary file in the brain help to initiate future conversations. Also, one can keep a journal or card index file to help organise “friend” information.
  • Self Regulation: The Incredible 5-point Scale developed by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis can help regulate moods recognising and managing emotional responses. This tool focuses on the “how” by rating the mood on a scale according to intensity and matching it to solutions. According to the authors, how we act, react, and interact in difficult situations depends on our ability to quickly and efficiently assess what is happening and consider the consequences of our actions. This tool can be extremely effective.
As we focus on social competence for our kids with Social Cognitive Deficit Disorders, we can also benefit by raising our own emotional intelligence. A key to effective leadership.

BDA's Adult Dyslexia Report 2012

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) has published a report examining progress on issues facing adults with dyslexia over the past four decades.

Produced to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the charity’s foundation, the document identifies a range of issues that continue to affect dyslexics negatively.

Access to written information in formats appropriate for those with dyslexia is cited as a prime example of how organisations are still failing those with condition.

While the requirement to provide information in alternative formats was enshrined in law with the Equality Act of 2010, the charity says that not enough businesses take heed of this and provide information in a way that dyslexics can use.

The Report, produced following consultation with over 100 organisations and individuals working with dyslexics, also points to some of the strengths that those with the condition enjoy.

The report says that roughly 20 per cent of our successful entrepreneurs are thought to be dyslexic.

Margaret Malpas, Joint Chair of the BDA, has called for an extension of the collaboration it secured in the production of its Report.

“I think we have a real opportunity here to collaborate to tackle the problems identified and resolve some of them”, she said.

“This would result in less cost and pain for individuals but also significantly reduce to the costs to society which are estimated at £1billion a year to the UK economy."

The BDA’s Adult Dyslexia Report is available here

Babies Absorb Sounds and Languages Traits in the Womb

Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered.

The study indicates that babies begin absorbing language while still in the womb, earlier than previously thought.

Sensory and brain mechanisms for hearing are developed at 30 weeks of gestational age, and the new study shows that unborn babies are listening to their mothers talk during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy and at birth can demonstrate what they've heard.

"The mother has first dibs on influencing the child's brain," said Patricia Kuhl, co-author and co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington.

"The vowel sounds in the mother's speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them."

Previously, researchers had shown that newborns are born ready to learn and begin to discriminate between language sounds within the first months of life, but there was no evidence that language learning had occurred in utero.

"This is the first study that shows fetuses learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother's language," said Christine Moon, lead author and a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.

"This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth."

The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Acta Paediatrica. Forty infants, about 30 hours old and an even mix of girls and boys, were studied in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.

While still in the nursery, the babies listened to vowel sounds in their native tongue and in foreign languages.

Their interest in the sounds was captured by how long they sucked on a pacifier that was wired into a computer measuring the babies' reaction to the sounds.

Longer or shorter sucking for unfamiliar or familiar sounds is evidence for learning, because it indicates that infants can differentiate between the sounds heard in utero.

In both countries, the babies at birth sucked longer for the foreign language than they did for their native tongue.

The researchers say that infants are the best learners, and discovering how they soak up information could give insights on lifelong learning.

"We want to know what magic they put to work in early childhood that adults cannot," Kuhl said. "We can't waste that early curiosity."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tim Roberts the Poet speaks of his Dyslexia

In this post I have attached an extract from Tim Robert's blog, describing how he discovered he had dyslexia, at the age of 45.

Tim  is a talented poet and you can read some of his poems here but for the rest, I will let Tim speak for himself.

"I was only diagnosed as being a dyslexic in January 2010. I was 45. It happened when I met a brilliant psychologist whose methods differed from anyone else’s.

When assessing me, very early on in our work, he asked me to give him an example of what made me really frustrated. I told him of a recent shopping trip to HMV. I wanted to find a DVD and its title began with an R but left the shop empty handed.

He asked me a few more questions. He then told me that his original job as a psychologist was in education in the early 1980’s and how he worked with kids with learning difficulties. He also told me that he was dyslexic.

Until then, I thought people like me ended up in the ‘stupid class’ - that is what it was named in my inner city comp in South East London. But here was a man who has this great title but is dyslexic.

​I was 7 when I was sent to stupid class. I was given a huge piece of paper and asked to write the letter S over and over again. I was asked to join the S’s together so as to join my letters up. I was told, at 7, that this was a huge failure of mine. My world would end if I could not join up a bloody letter."

You can read the entire article on Tim's blog site here

5 Things Parents can do to Help Children Enjoy Life

There is clear evidence that how parents interact with their children has a lasting effect on the kind of person the child grows into, how happy they will become and how much they will enjoy life.

Whilst at Chicago University, Kevin Rathunde conducted a number of family behaviour studies and observed that teenagers who had a certain type of relation ship with their parents were significantly happier, more satisfied and stronger in most life situations than their peers who did not have this relationship.

The optimal family relationship can be described as having 5 characteristics;

  1. Clarity - Clarity of family goals should be unambiguous.
  2. Centering - Providing Feedback on the moment or time they are in. Not pre-occupied with future careers or potential outcomes. 
  3. Choice - Provide a Feeling of Control over choices but this also includes Consequences.
  4. Commitment - Concentration on the task in hand. Becoming unselfconsciously involved.
  5. Challenge - Provide increasingly complex opportunities for action or development
The presence of these 5 conditions make possible what is described as the "Autotelic Family Context," because they provide an ideal training for the enjoyment of life.

It is essential that parents provide realistic encouragement, support and motivation to their children in all their activities, leaving room for them to succeed or fail on their own terms and to experience the consequences.

It is equally essential that parents refrain from sugar-coating and soft-padding the reality of life's ups and downs. 

Consequences are a part of life's rich tapestry and the sooner children understand that they are responsible for their own actions the better for them.

The parent is there to provide reassurance that their children are loved and belong as part of a 'family' who support and encourage each other. It is part of the responsibility and consequence of being a parent.

Olive Hickmott: Empowering Learning New Year message

Let me first wish you, my valued reader, a very prosperous and highly successful New Year in 2013.

I am sure you have spent some time in the last week reflecting on your life and family in 2012 and are planning a whole set of new adventures for 2013.

This week I received a message from my original guide and mentor, Olive Hickmott, from Empowering Learning, which may me reflect on how we got started on this path.

I would like to share this message with you and to let you know that Olive has Dyslexia herself but with great fortitude and determination, pursued a very successful career in engineering, before her retirement.

She is herself an example of a talented person with dyslexia developing into a self-determining, success story but not content with her own success she has spent the last 7 years coaching and mentoring dyslexic children.

Her aim; to help children break through their barriers to education and overcome their low self esteem; use the talents they have to learn in their own way, one that makes perfect sense to them; set them on a life-changing path of self discovery and development.

I invite you to read Olive's message. It says a lot of the progress being made in overcoming Dyslexia and other cognitive processing disorders and, I hope it will give you some more cause for optimism in 2013. It may even spark some new ideas and paths for you to follow.

"It is a very different world than when I (Olive) started work back in 2005 on literacy challenges. 

People are much more open to seeing different perspectives, identifying the exceptional talents of learning differently and overcoming the challenges. 

In 2013 we want all our exceptionally talented children and adults, who learn in a different way, to think about how they are being taught, to excel in their chosen areas, that are often very creative.

As our contribution to this, we are looking:

  • to reach as many children and adult across the world as possible, so they can learn how to simply improve their literacy, numeracy, concentration and so much more, even when they have a diagnosis of Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, Asperger's or Autism. - These new skills will further develop their exceptional (mainly visual) skills and eradicate many of the negative symptoms associated with these challenges.
  • to assist families and Practitioners to be as successful as they can be in their communities.
To achieve this we are building a larger and stronger international community of people with the skills to teach people who learn differently. 

The level 1 Practitioner programme is now available as a single day in Hertfordshire, UK, as a set of live weekly tele-seminars and as a home study programme that you can access whenever is convenient for you, plus on-line coaching to answer any questions. 

Recently, we have trained Practitioners and parents on-line in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, USA, throughout the UK and in January we will be adding a Dyslexia school in Kenya plus our first practitioner in New Zealand. 

These are exciting times to join the team, you don't need previous qualifcations, just an enthusiasm to make a difference to others.

In 2013 we will see the results of the Practitioners' research projects in Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Ireland plus my literacy and numeracy research through the International Association for Health and Learning for a community of nursing undergraduates in England.

I also hope to have several practitioners replicating my work in different Universities across the UK. 

In addition we expect to get the level 1 programme its first international accreditation.

When you become a Practitioner, you will have all the tools you need to succeed:

  • Free monthly Continuous Professional Calls
  • Workbooks for literacy, numeracy and more in development
  • An accreditation process and product discount
  • Commission for referrals
  • Free Youtube video introductions for your clients
  • Access to an on-line training platform
  • Low cost upgrade training for those trained before September 2011.
This is a readymade business that can give you immense personal satisfaction and make a real difference to peoples' lives."

I hope that was of interest and you can read more about Olive's work with Empowering Learning here.