Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dyslexia: TUC Guidelines

The TUC has published the third edition of its guide to dealing with dyslexia in the workplace.

Several million working age adults have dyslexia, which can cause problems with performance, organisation of work and time management, with around four per cent of the population seriously affected by the condition.

Workers can face real difficulties at work if their dyslexia is not diagnosed or if appropriate adjustments to their working conditions and environment are not made.

Union reps can play a vital part in supporting work colleagues with dyslexia and negotiating solutions with employers, says the guide.

The new edition of Dyslexia in the Workplace is a major rewrite of the original handbook, taking account of changes in the law and in good practice.

The guide includes an outline of the main issues around dyslexia, how to identify whether an employee is dyslexic, how to undertake proper workplace assessments and how companies can do more to support staff with the condition.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “All too often, workers with dyslexia can find themselves facing disciplinary action over perceived failures, when early awareness of the condition could have led to sensible solutions being identified.

“Our new workplace guidance gives union reps and employees the information they need to support dyslexic work colleagues and sort out any workplace problems.”

  • Dyslexia in the Workplace: a TUC Guide by Brian Hagan (3rd edition 2014) is available from TUC publications for £5 (trade unions and union members) or £15 (all others).
  • Readers can view a copy of the handbook here 
  • The TUC is organising Fair Pay Fortnight from Monday 24 March to Sunday 6 April. It will be a series of events across England and Wales to raise awareness about falling living standards. 
  • All TUC press releases can be found here

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mobile devices enable reading in those with dyslexia - Dr. Matthew H. Schneps

Dr. Matthew H. Schneps
The widespread advent of electronic books is beginning to break down barriers that previously restricted access to high-quality content for education, needed to support the economic betterment and well being of peoples worldwide. 

Even as electronic books promise to improve access to text, many will nevertheless be unable to benefit from these advances because of neurological disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) that make reading a struggle.

In this presentation Dr. Matthew H. Schneps describe new research that shows; when handheld mobile devices capable of displaying text (e.g., smartphones) are configured in prescribed ways, many with dyslexia are able to read with less effort and more quickly, with better comprehension, making fewer errors in reading.

Virtually no training is required on the part of the reader to benefit from this effect on mobile devices.

However, for the method to work, text material must be prepared and displayed in specific ways, and this requires an understanding of the relevant parameters at play.

The Smithsonian Institution in the US has initiated an outreach program to help educators learn how to use mobile devices in this way, and are seeking help and guidance from participants of UNESCO Mobile Learning Week 2014 to help disseminate this information outside the US.

Watch the Presentation here - Matthew H. Schneps

Dr. Matthew H. Schneps is the director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning (LVL) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

A founding member of the Science Education Department there, Schneps has been carrying out research and outreach in science education since 1983.

He is well known for his work in educational television media that includes the award-winning programs "A Private Universe", and "Minds of Our Own" broadcast worldwide (famous for scenes of Harvard and MIT graduates struggling with concepts about the seasons).

In recent years he has been conducting research in cognitive psychology to investigate how individual differences in neurology, including those associated with dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders, effects how people learn science.

An outgrowth of this work is the development of an innovative technique for reading for people with dyslexia using mobile devices, research carried out through funding from the National Science Foundation in the US, and other sources.

Schneps was awarded the George E. Burch Fellowship in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences in 2010 – 2012.

Schneps has been continuously employed at the CfA since receiving his PhD in physics from MIT in 1979.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

AspienGirl: A book series on girls and women with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism

Tania Marshall, M.Sc. is a psychologist who specializes in Autism Spectrum Conditions.

In particular, Girls and Women with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism.

Tania is currently undertaking doctoral studies and is excited to be releasing her book series, designed specifically for females on the Autism spectrum and their carers, friends, family members and professionals.

Tania currently spends her professional time divided between private practice, research, and writing and looks forward to releasing the next installment in her AspienGirl™ book series.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Decoding Dyslexia Poster

Easy to remember list of accomodations for students with Dyslexia. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strategies for teaching common core to teens with autism show promise

Credit: High school classroom in Newark, Delaware, public domain image, courtesy of Wikimedia

Scientists at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) report that high school students with autism can learn under Common Core State Standards (CCSS), boosting their prospects for college and employment.

Newly published recommendations from FPG's team also provide strategies for educating adolescents with autism under a CCSS curriculum.

Veronica P. Fleury
"The number of students with autism who enter high school settings continues to grow," said Veronica P. Fleury, lead author and postdoctoral research associate with FPG's Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA).

"Many educators may find that they're not prepared to adapt their instruction to meet both state standards and the diverse needs of these students."

In 2010, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the CCSS for English and mathematics in an effort to better prepare students for college and careers.

According to Fleury, the greater demand for a technologically advanced workforce also makes academic skills now even more essential for high school graduates.

"But the college enrollment of people with autism is among the lowest for all categories of disabilities," Fleury said.

"In addition, less than 40% of the population with autism is employed, and most of those with jobs only work part-time, without benefits."

However, she said that academic performance in high school plays an important role in opportunities for a college education and employment.

Yet, while the CCSS outlines expectations of what educators should teach, it provides no guidance on how to teach these skills to students with or without autism.

Fleury believes the most effective high school instruction requires understanding the complex profile of students with ASD, who possess both strengths and weaknesses.

People with autism have some social deficits and may process language at a slower rate, she said, while many also have enhanced visual processing.

Some may have difficulty learning to make calculations, but others are mathematically gifted.

"It's extremely hard to draw general conclusions about academic performance for these students," Fleury said. "But adolescents with autism often do have difficulties comprehending texts, and many find writing a burdensome task."

Fluery added that work in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) are replacing manufacturing jobs and may provide viable opportunities for many people with ASD.

She said people with autism often gravitate to these fields in college, highlighting the need to equip them as high school students with skills that will enable them to compete and achieve.

"While the very structure of high school poses challenges for students with autism, being able to anticipate and understand activities, schedules, and expectations can improve their ability to respond to classroom demands," she said. "Establishing routines and creating written schedules also helps."

In a new article in Remedial and Special Education, Fleury and her co-authors recommended several strategies to educate students with ASD effectively, including exposing them to assignments before presenting the work in class.

The researchers also noted a variety of techniques for delivering the highly explicit instruction that teenagers with autism require, such as teaching mnemonic devices for remembering steps in a task.

"High school students with ASD also need ample opportunities to practice skills across settings throughout the school day," she said. "And teaching them to monitor their own behavior can help them to use their skills in a variety of settings."

Fleury added that because there is a strong link between social and academic skills, new research should focus on developing interventions for students with autism that can address both areas of need together.

"We know that when students with autism receive appropriate instruction and support, many of them are capable of learning academic content that is aligned with state standards, AND better academic performance often leads to a more successful outcome after high school." she said.

Autism: Low doses of antianxiety drugs may rebalance the autistic brain

New research in mice suggests that autism is characterized by reduced activity of inhibitory neurons and increased activity of excitatory neurons in the brain, but balance may be restored with low doses of a well-known class of drugs currently used in much higher doses to treat anxiety and epileptic seizures.

The findings, which are reported in the March 19th issue of the Cell Press journal Neuron, point to a new therapeutic approach to managing autism.

William Catterall
"These are very exciting results because they suggest that existing drugs, called benzodiazepines, might be useful in treatment of the core deficits in autism," says senior author Dr. William Catterall of the University of Washington, in Seattle.

In addition to finding that mice with autistic characteristics had an imbalance between the inhibitory and excitatory neurons in their brains, Dr. Catterall and his team found that reducing the effectiveness of inhibitory neurons in normal mice also induced some autism-related deficits in social behaviour.

Classical benzodiazepine drugs had the opposite effect, increasing the activity of inhibitory neurons and diminishing autistic behaviours.

"Our results provide strong evidence that increasing inhibitory neurotransmission is an effective approach to improvement of social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and cognitive deficits in a well-established animal model of autism, having some similar behavioral features as human autism," says Dr. Catterall.

Therapeutic approaches to treat autistic traits in animal studies or in clinical trials have primarily focused on reducing the activity of excitatory neurons, with only modest success to date.

The results reported by Dr. Catterall and his colleagues suggest that augmenting the activity of opposing, inhibitory neurons could be an alternative strategy.

Clinical trials of classical benzodiazepines and next-generation drugs that have a similar mechanism of action are now needed to determine whether the researchers' findings in mice are relevant to humans.

Astra-Zeneca and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have initiated one such trial.

More information: Neuron, Han et al.: "Enhancement of Inhibitory Neurotransmission by GABAA Receptors Having 2,3-Subunits Ameliorates Behavioural Deficits in a Mouse Model of Autism."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Parenting: Feeding Issues in childhood

Helping children learn to eat well can sometimes be a challenge. 

Some children happily eat whatever is put in front of them while others seem to eat like birds and exist more on air than food.

A new study by a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine shows that parents influence how much children eat more than they may think.

In this collaborative study between the CU School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine and University of Alabama Birmingham, researchers observed normal, everyday mealtimes in the homes of 145 parents and their preschoolers recruited from a Head Start program in the Houston area.

They investigated the relationships between how much parents served themselves at mealtime, the amounts of foods they served to their children and how much children ate at dinner time.

The results revealed that parents served children very similar amounts to those they gave themselves and that the amounts children were served strongly predicted the amounts they ate.

For some children, this resulted in the consumption of adult-sized portions.

"The good news," said Susan Johnson, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the CU School of Medicine and a lead investigator for the study, "is that parents influence their children much more than they may feel they do."

"The challenge remains as to how to encourage children to consume a healthy diet and to eat amounts that help them grow appropriately."

"Clearly, family habits and behaviours are both incredibly important in this regard."

Johnson suggests paying attention to the portions offered to children and for parents to ensure that they offer child-sized portions of healthy foods.

Prompting children to eat according to their feelings of hunger and fullness, rather than parents deciding how much is enough, also is an important step towards promoting healthy eating and growth.

This study will be published in the April 2014 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More Information: 'Portion sizes for children are predicted by parental characteristics and the amounts parents serve themselves' Susan L Johnson, et al., Am J Clin Nutr April 2014 ajcn.078311 - doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.113.078311

UC PlayScape: Educational and health benefits of specially created outdoor play environments

UC PlayScape

University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers are reporting on the educational and health benefits of specially created outdoor play environments for children.

Victoria Carr, a UC associate professor of education and director of the UC Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center, and Eleanor Luken, a former UC research associate for the Arlitt Center and current doctoral student at City University of New York, take a look at this growing trend around the world in an article published this month in the International Journal of Play.

The researchers say nationally, children are spending less time on playgrounds as well as less time in just play.

Victoria Carr
"The advantages of building playscapes over traditional playgrounds are considerable," write the authors.

"Children have opportunities to learn about scientific inquiry, mathematics and other embedded concepts as required by curricular methods."

"Not only does it engage children in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at an early age, but it also fosters future stewards for a sustainable environment while providing a developmentally appropriate play and learning venue for the 21st century," the authors state in the article.

The article highlights other countries, Sweden, Australia, Scandinavia, Germany and the United Kingdom among the examples, which are making strides in reconnecting children with nature through play venues in natural settings, as well as international research indicating that these environments not only sharpen attention skills but also reduce depression and symptoms of attention deficit disorders.

Eleanor Luken
"They provide a sense of play that also addresses parental concerns about safety, creates pleasant play environments, supports child development and nurtures nature exploration, setting the stage for environmental stewardship."

"In essence, playscapes can sanction play and recess as an academic learning venue while serving as an early educational model for the next wave of environmentalism," write the authors.

"It appeals to a child's sense of being in a special place, promotes curiosity and demonstrates sustainable practices."

Published by Routledge, the International Journal of Play is an interdisciplinary publication that focuses on all aspects of play.

The $401,000 signature UC PlayScape is a wheelchair-accessible outdoor play and learning lab.

The concept was developed as part of a partnership with the Cincinnati Nature Center (CNC) to promote children's free play in natural settings.

The UC PlayScape is believed to be the nation's first college campus, architecturally designed outdoor play and learning environment.

UC's PlayScape is open to the public and is also a spot for adults to take in nature. Here are some of the features:

  • A tree house to elevate children into the tree canopy and give them a clear view where they play.
  • An open lawn for running, rolling and even sledding.
  • A controlled water feature for children to drink and use for play and learning.
  • A log fort for children to play, hide and look out over the landscape.
  • A sensory garden for children to plant, grow and harvest vegetables and herbs.
  • A "bird blind," which is a discreet observation area where children can watch birds in action.
  • Gathering decks for children to play, draw, do dramatic work or projects, or rest.
  • An observation post for education researchers to examine how this natural setting enhances learning for young children.
  • A perimeter fence, providing a safe and secure environment for children to explore within the PlayScape.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Intro to website listing Apps for the Visually Impaired

It has been said that technology has made the world smaller, but for the blind or those with poor vision, iDevices are opening up a whole new world. 

Stella's website and particularly her AppList, highlights some of the most innovative and entertaining apps available to the vision impaired. 

Now, with the aid of an iPhone, the blind or visually impaired can virtually see colour, light, paper money and much more. 

See the full list of Apps for the Visually Impaired on Stella's website.

Send questions and suggestions directly to 

Another website that lists Apple Apps for the Visually Impaired is AppleVis

AppleVis displays iOS Apps that have been developed specifically for the Blind or People with Low Vision

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Assistive technology: Samsung Galaxy Core Advance

Samsung Electronics introduced a trio of accessories that are designed to help users who are disabled and visually impaired, those with partial or greater loss of vision.

Their smartphones can be transformed in this way into tools that enable easier handling of messages and more.

The three newcomers are called the Ultrasonic Cover, Optical Scan Stand, and Voice Label.

The three are designed for the Galaxy Core Advance mobile device.

Samsung said that the accessories are already available and are offered separately from the device.

To be sure, smartphone handling, not to mention struggles reading small-screen text, have been barriers for those with special needs for vision support.

Back in December, Samsung had already revealed its intentions of providing an Android smartphone with accessibility options.

Assistive technology was on its agenda. The company referred to the Core Advance, which it said would be available early 2014.

At the time, it spoke of an Optical Scan which "can automatically recognize text from an image and read it aloud to disabled and visually impaired users."

Samsung officially described the three on Friday as the Ultrasonic Cover, which allows users in unfamiliar places to detect obstacles and navigate by sending an alert through a vibration or TTS feedback.

"By holding the Cover in front of the user," said the announcement, "it can enhance a visually impaired user's awareness of their surroundings by sensing the presence of a person or object up to two meters away."

The Optical Scan Stand positions the device to focus on printed materials; doing so automatically activates the Optical Scan application, which recognizes text from an image and reads it aloud to the user.

With the Voice Label, users can make notes and tag voice labels on-the-go.

"With NFC technology enabling a seamless connection to their smartphones, users can record, stop and access their notes.

This feature can also help a user distinguish how to use electronics by allowing them to record a short explanation."

In the United States alone, approximately 10 million people are blind or visually impaired, though estimates vary.

Samsung said the accessories are the result of research and in-depth interviews, resulting in their being specially designed with the needs of specific communities in mind.

Among the tech sites responding favorably to Friday's announcement TechCrunch made the point that "these hardware add-ons really show Samsung is committed to provided the best phone experience possible for those who might ordinarily find smartphone operation frustrating."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dyslexia: An Introduction to BookShare

Do you have a print disability? Do you live in the US or UK?

With a Bookshare membership, you can access over 93,000 accessible eBooks.

Bookshare, the world’s largest online library for individuals with print disabilities, offers a wide range of books including bestsellers, novels, children's books, mysteries, science fiction, nonfiction, foreign-language books, and more, direct from publishers.

Who may join?
Anyone with a qualifying print disability, such as blindness or low vision, a physical disability that prevents using a physical book, or a learning disability that affects reading, like severe dyslexia, may join Bookshare.

Organisations such as schools may also join Bookshare to serve and support their students or clients with print disabilities.

Dyslexia: An Introduction to Learning Ally

Here are a couple of screenshots from a Dyslexia support group Learning Ally who provide talking books and other multimedia resources.
Dyslexia support group Learning Ally also provide an App on iTunes, to aid access to their talking books and other multimedia resources.

NB: This is a US based organisation and the App may not be available in the UK and Europe.

Headstrong Nation: Inside the Hidden World of Dyslexia & ADHD

In Headstrong's first film, we provide an overview of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder while exploring the brave lives of diverse individuals persevering in a world not designed with them in mind.

Learn more about Headstrong Nation here

Dyslexia: An Introduction to Headstrong Nation

Headstrong Nation is a non-profit dedicated to serving the dyslexic community.

We want to end the isolation of the world's largest disability group (it's true!) by providing information about dyslexia, self-advocacy and new technologies.

There is no reason why dyslexia should be tied to higher drop-out rates, unemployment or social isolation, when the opposite is entirely possible.

Our vision is to create a movement in which people with dyslexia and related profiles do not merely survive. They thrive.

Learn more here:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Autism: Superior visual thinking key to independence for ASD high schoolers

Researchers at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and UNC's School of Education report that teaching independence to adolescents with autism can provide a crucial boost to their chances for success after high school.

"We explored many factors that contribute to the poor outcomes people with autism often experience," said Kara Hume, co-principal investigator of FPG's Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA).

"It's clear that teaching independence to students with autism should be a central focus of their activities in high school."

Kara Hume
According to Hume, independence is the biggest indicator of which students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are likely to live on their own, have a job, and participate in their communities after high school.

"However, adolescents with ASD have trouble observing their peers and picking up on skills important for developing independence," she said.

Hume also said students with ASD experience difficulties with communication that inhibit their ability to ask questions and express preferences, and many have trouble dealing with new situations.

This resistance to change can create problems when teachers and caregivers try to reduce their roles.

"When an adolescent with ASD has a pen that runs out of ink, that student may be more likely to wait for prompting from the teacher before asking for a new pen or just finding a new one," she said.

Hume added that it isn't easy to change this default setting from reliance on others to independent action.

Although adolescence is usually a time of increasing autonomy, research shows that the independence of young adults with ASD begins to plateau and then decline.

According to Hume, though, other scientists have demonstrated that many high schoolers with ASD also possess unique skills that teachers and caregivers can emphasize in order to teach independence.

"Brain imaging studies and research on visual tasks show that many people with autism have enhanced mental imagery and superior visual thinking, compared to typically developing people," Hume said.

She added that people with ASD also describe their own reasoning as a series of images.

"For high schoolers with autism, the old adage really is true," she said. "A picture really is worth a thousand words."

Last month, an FPG team released a new report and Fact Sheet for the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC), which screened 29,000 articles to determine the most reliable evidence-based interventions for children and youth with ASD.

Hume served on that team, helping to determine 12 evidence-based practices for high-school-aged students, and some of these interventions have a strong visual emphasis.

"Visual schedules, for instance, allow students with ASD to act independently, because they don't involve verbal prompting from teachers," Hume said.

"Visual information that explains what to do also can be useful in home, school, and employment settings, because it eliminates the need for continual monitoring and support."

Hume also said that video modeling, which the NPDC's report showed to be effective with other age groups, might also prove useful for high school students with ASD.

Prompting from teachers can be edited out over time as students become accustomed to behaving independently.

The new issue of Remedial and Special Education published recommendations from Hume and colleagues for promoting independence in adolescents with autism.

She and her co-authors also noted that new technology has the potential to capitalize on the visual strengths of people with ASD.

"IPads and iPhones are everywhere for typically developing teens," Hume said.

"The social acceptability of cell phone or tablet interventions for students with autism could lessen the stigma they face—and contribute to transformative outcomes after high school."

More information: Remedial and Special Education journal

UK links deprivation and literacy levels

A UK study, commissioned by Booktrust, reveals worrying indications that the UK is divided into two nations - the 'Haves' and the 'Have-nots' of literacy.

The 'page turners,' those who read daily or weekly and reap the benefits that books offer, make up 50 per cent of the population.

Across the cultural divide, the 'button pushers', who prefer more intuitive activities such as watching TV and DVDs, make up 45 per cent.

The study indicates links between deprivation and not reading books, those who never read live in more deprived areas, with a higher proportion of children living in poverty.

Those who read less are also more likely to be male, under 30, and have lower levels of qualifications, happiness, and satisfaction within their lives.

Viv Bird, Chief Executive of Booktrust, said: "This research indicates that frequent readers are more likely to be satisfied with life, happier and more successful in their professional lives. But there is a worrying cultural divide linked to deprivation."

"There will never be a one size fits all solution when it comes to social mobility, but reading plays an important role – more action is needed to support families."

Led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown from the University of Sheffield's School of Education, the research suggests that there are strong indicators of the importance of literacy, reading, and writing, among other factors, in contributing to positive social mobility.

The study also suggests that reading 'rubs off' in the home, with families playing a crucial role in fostering a love of reading.

At the launch of the research findings today (11 March 2014), academics from the Sheffield University attended a conference organised by Booktrust, an organisation which promotes the lifelong benefits of reading and writing, in a bid to kick start a national conversation about improving social mobility by encouraging reading earlier and more often.

Booktrust commissioned the Sheffield University School of Education to investigate the historical relationship between attitudes to reading and writing and social mobility.

The review draws on a range of literature, archive material, family interviews and data gathered using social media to explore this issue.

Levels of key brain chemicals predict children's reading ability

Reading-impaired young children have higher levels of the metabolites glutamate and choline in their brains, and these higher levels continue to be indicative of difficulties in developing typical reading and language skills, a Yale study has found. 

The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Although anatomical and functional brain networks involved in reading disabilities have been well characterised, the underlying chemical bases of these differences in reading development have been poorly understood.

This study is believed to be the first to examine neurochemistry in a longitudinal study of children during the critical period when they are considered "emergent readers," the age at which neurocircuits that support skilled reading and speaking are still developing.

The Yale team measured levels of glutamate, choline, and other metabolites in 75 children, aged 6 to 10, whose reading abilities ranged from what is considered impaired to superior.

The researchers conducted behavioral testing to characterize the children's reading, language, and general cognitive skills, and used MR spectroscopy to assess metabolite levels.

They found that children with higher glutamate and choline levels in their brains tended to have lower composite scores for reading and language.

In follow-up testing two years later, the same correlation still existed for initial glutamate levels.

Kenneth Pugh
"Reading disabilities affect significant numbers of children," said first author Kenneth Pugh, associate professor of linguistics and president and director of research in the Haskins Laboratories at Yale.

"Our findings suggest new pathways for research into the connection between genes, brain development, and behavioural outcomes in children who struggle with reading."

The researchers also note that higher glutamate and choline levels have been implicated in hyperexcitability in children, another possible factor in cognitive impairment.

Robert Fulbright
"Further research may show whether there is a chemical basis that contributes to learning deficits among the reading-disabled children," said senior author Robert Fulbright, also of the Haskins Laboratories, and associate professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale School of Medicine.

More Information: 'Glutamate and choline levels predict individual differences in reading ability in emergent readers' Journal of Neuroscience Mar 2014 - K.Pugh, R.Fullbright, et al.

Are You Helping or Hurting Your Child’s Self-Esteem?

What does it take to raise competent, good-natured children who can feel a healthy respect for themselves?

Research has shown over and over that good parenting involves two basic components. One will not surprise you, but the other one may catch you off guard.

We are very aware today that children develop different, independent personalities and temperaments. Although they are genetically connected and influenced, they are not fully formed by their parents.

Nevertheless, parents need to get back on track regarding what children’s self-esteem is really all about.

What are the parenting ingredients that make for good self-esteem? 
First, good parents are;

  • warm and sensitive to a child’s needs. 
  • understanding of their child’s positive as well as negative feelings. 
  • comforting in times of crisis and pain, as well as appreciative in times of triumph. 
  • willing to recognise and celebrate accomplishments. 
  • supportive of a child’s individuality and 
  • encouraging of his or her child's growing independence.

Good Parents are Also Demanding (Fair and Disciplined)
What we often overlook, though, is that good parents are also demanding. Also known as being fair and disciplined, but not punitive.

NOT Recommended
They clearly communicate high expectations for their children’s behaviour but must realise and accept that their expectations may not be realistic.

Good parents recognise good behaviour and achievements, and ensure that these behaviours are appreciated and reinforced when they occur.

On the other side, when the kids act up Mum and Dad respond with firm and fair limits. It is vital that any corrective response is not delivered with fits of temper or righteous indignation.

After a child makes a mistake, the parents’ message is, “I understand your reasons for doing that but it was wrong, selfish or poorly thought out and I’m sure you know that and will do better next time.”

Parents whose child-rearing philosophy involves both warmth and “discipline” tend to produce competent and balanced children.

There are of course no guarantees, but children will have a better chance of becoming more self-reliant, self-controlled and happier.

They will have a better chance of being accepted and well-liked by their peers, and of having a real sense of belonging and participation.

Sometimes parents are distracted or have blinkers on. We’re busy, we don’t have, or take the time to do some of the things that will really foster self-esteem and help our children develop social skills as well as academic and physical competence.

Remember that your childrens’ self-esteem is ultimately going to be earned or not earned in the real world not in a cosseted family home or an imagined, over-romantic fantasy world.

Children Learn Better When They Have Known Boundaries
The demanding, disciplined part of the parenting equation implies not only that parents ask more of their children, but also that parents ask more of themselves.

Parents often doggedly follow the misguided belief that self-esteem and creativity are both higher when children can ‘do their own thing’ and when they are not exposed to external limits imposed by adults, but this can also be an excuse for not taking full parental responsibility for monitoring and managing childrens' actions.

Building the Berlin Wall
Children feel better about themselves, are more secure and perform better, creatively and otherwise, when they learn the boundaries for reasonable behaviour.

The world has all kinds of limits and rules, not all of which are known or recognised by children and parents are the ones who introduce and guide children through life’s boundaries.

How parents establish rules and set limits (or avoid /fail to set limits) has a tremendous effect on the self-esteem of a child.

Your kids will not like all the rules and regulations that you or the world imposes, but if they don’t recognize and work within these constraints, they will face disappointment and will get hurt repeatedly (more often mentally than physically) and sometimes the consequences will be severe (life changing).

However, not all self-esteem building strategies should be unpleasant or focus on hard, repetitive work.

One of the best “tactics” for encouraging healthy self-respect in children is FUN! 

We need to take time with our kids and we need to enjoy taking time with our children.

Keep in mind that one-on-one, face-to-face time and having fun together is one of the most potent self-esteem builders.

This means that one parent spends time with one child. Clearly, this will need organising if you have more than 1, 2 or more children.

Also, you cannot allow the excuse of 'work pressure' to stop or avoid this happening.

Busy people need good planning and busy people should Plan to spend time with your children! 

Children really like having a parent all to themselves. It makes them feel all the important feelings you want them to feel; loved, important, worthy, cherished, contented, etc.

Your Relationship With Your Child, require that parents be supportive and nurturing while at the same time they are expecting constructive behaviour as well as hard work from their kids.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gesturing with hands is a powerful tool for children's learning

A recent study from the University of Chicago's Department of Psychology showed that use of abstract gestures is a powerful tool for helping children understand and generalize mathematical concepts. 

Credit: Goldin-Meadow Lab

Children who use their hands to gesture during a math lesson gain a deep understanding of the problems they are taught, according to new research from University of Chicago's Department of Psychology.

Previous research has found that gestures can help children learn. This study in particular was designed to answer whether abstract gesture can support generalization beyond a particular problem and whether abstract gesture is a more effective teaching tool than concrete action.

"We found that acting gave children a relatively shallow understanding of a novel math concept, whereas gesturing led to deeper and more flexible learning," explained the study's lead author, Miriam A. Novack, a PhD student in psychology.

The study, "From action to abstraction: Using the hands to learn math," is published online by Psychological Science.

The researchers taught third-grade children a strategy for solving one type of mathematical equivalence problem, for example, 4 + 2 + 6 = ____ + 6.

They then tested the students on similar mathematical equivalence problems to determine how well they understood the underlying principle.

The researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material.

In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula.

For example, for the problem 4 + 2 + 6 = ___ + 6, they picked up the 4 and 2 and placed them on a magnetic whiteboard.

Another group mimed that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations.

In the abstract gesture group, children were taught to produce a V-point gesture with their fingers under two of the numbers, metaphorically grouping them, followed by pointing a finger at the blank in the equation.

The children were tested before and after solving each problem in the lesson, including problems that required children to generalize beyond what they had learned in grouping the numbers.

For example, they were given problems that were similar to the original one, but had different numbers on both sides of the equation.

Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalization problems.

Susan Goldin-Meadow
"Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between," said senior author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology.

"Our findings provide the first evidence that gesture not only supports learning a task at hand but, more importantly, leads to generalization beyond the task."

"Children appear to learn underlying principles from their actions only insofar as those actions can be interpreted symbolically."

More information: Miriam A. Novack, Eliza L. Congdon, Naureen Hemani-Lopez, and Susan Goldin-Meadow. "From Action to Abstraction: Using the Hands to Learn Math." Psychological Science 0956797613518351, first published on February 6, 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0956797613518351

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dyslexia: UK Charity teaches prisoners how to read and write

Patron: Rebecca Harris MP

A PIONEERING scheme aimed at cutting reoffending rates in prisons has been hailed as a success.

UK charity The Cascade Foundation has been carrying out a three-month pilot project in Doncaster Prison to provide education for inmates with dyslexia-related learning difficulties.

The charity teaches offenders basic literacy skills and diagnoses those suffering with learning difficulties.

It is hoped the work will stop prisoners reverting back to a life of crime and provide the skills to keep them on the straight and narrow.

The charity was set up by campaigner Jackie Hewitt-Main in her home in Kents Kill Road, alongside Benfleet councillor Andrew Sheldon and Chelmsford resident Karen Osman.

Ms Hewitt-Main said: “A large number of offenders in British prisons have learning difficulties. If offenders haven’t learned to read and write by the time they finish their sentence, they have little hope of properly interacting with society, getting a job and staying on the straight and narrow.

“We are taking them out of the traditional prison classroom environment with our teaching and setting up a support network of mentors amongst the offenders themselves to give them these skills and get them one step closer to rehabilitation.

Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris, who is dyslexic herself and a founding patron of the charity, added: “I am very proud to be a patron of the Cascade Foundation and it was great to travel up to Doncaster to see first-hand how their efforts are changing the lives of these offenders and through education, cut the chances of them committing further crimes.”

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Learn basic facts about dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and ADHD - Video

Learn basic facts about dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and ADHD and visit for resources on how to get the most out of your relationship with your child's doctor.

Credit for video goes to the National Center for Learning Disabilities

Dyslexia: Is it time to rethink or examine the diagnosis?

Some years ago, a student informed me that she was encountering a problem with my classes.

When asked to explain a little further, she told me that she had been diagnosed as dyslexic.

I asked if she could be a little more specific about the particular difficulties she was encountering.

Responding, “I can’t understand what you are talking about”, she explained that the ideas I was expressing were complex and she found them difficult to grasp.

I enquired how I might help her with this problem. She replied that she would welcome a single sheet of A4 for each lecture containing a set of bullet points that summarised the key points.

This anecdote exemplifies some of the confusion that surrounds “dyslexia”, a term used to describe a variety of problems. Researchers tend to describe as dyslexic all those who struggle to decode text.

Others, often clinicians, argue that only some poor decoders are dyslexic. Still others contend that decoding difficulty is but one part of a much broader dyslexic condition.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that diagnosis is deemed to be highly subjective and lacking in scientific rigour. 

While special tests and symptom profiles are commonly used, there is no means of making a consistent and meaningful judgement.

As the list of so-called signs and symptoms is lengthy, most people reporting reading difficulties will demonstrate some of them.

Many such symptoms are found in good readers, and those diagnosed as dyslexic often differ substantially from one another.

Many clinicians still employ IQ tests as a basis for diagnosis, even though this practice has been discreditted and no longer has any scientific support.

Meanwhile, research studies in neuroscience and genetics, often used by proponents to justify the dyslexia construct, are typically conducted with poor decoders (not a so-called dyslexic subgroup), and currently offer no additional diagnostic information.

The key problem is that dyslexia diagnoses have moved far away from their original focus (severe reading difficulty) to incorporate an ever-increasing range of cognitive and self-regulatory deficits including poor working memory, processing speed limitations, attention/concentration problems, difficulties in analysing and synthesising complex information, and in organising and expressing ideas.

For any students who struggle to cope with academic demands for such reasons, there are obvious equity issues within our highly competitive higher education sector between those who are diagnosed dyslexic and those who are not and, instead, are considered to be academically weaker performers.

Read the full article here

Friday, March 7, 2014

Diversity at CERN: Great science needs great people

Great science needs great people, a look at diversity at CERN. 

A word from the DG: Strength in diversity 

The CERN Diversity Programme 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thirty percent of adults with ADHD report childhood physical abuse

Thirty percent of adults with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) report they were physically abused before they turned 18.

This compares to seven per cent of those without ADD/ADHD who were physically abused before 18. The results were in a study published in this week's online Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma.

"This strong association between abuse and ADD/ADHD was not explained by differences in demographic characteristics or other early adversities experienced by those who had been abused," says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Professor and Sandra Rotman Chair at University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

"Even after adjusting for different factors, those who reported being physically abused before age 18 had seven times the odds of ADD/ADHD."

Investigators examined a representative sample of 13,054 adults aged 18 and over in the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey including 1,020 respondents who reported childhood physical abuse and 64 respondents who reported that they had been diagnosed by a health professional with either ADHD or ADD.

"Our data do not allow us to know the direction of the association. It is possible that the behaviors of children with ADD/ADHD increase parental stress and the likelihood of abuse," says co-author Rukshan Mehta, a graduate of the University of Toronto's Master of Social Work program.

"Alternatively, some new literature suggests early childhood abuse may result in and/or exacerbate the risk of ADD/ADHD."

According to co-author Angela Valeo from Ryerson University, "This study underlines the importance of ADD/ADHD as a marker of abuse.

With 30 per cent of adults with ADD/ADHD reporting childhood abuse, it is important that health professionals working with children with these disorders screen them for physical abuse."

More information: "Establishing a Link Between Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Childhood Physical Abuse." Esme Fuller-Thomsona*, Rukshan Mehtaa & Angela Valeob. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. Volume 23, Issue 2, 2014 pages 188-198. DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2014.873510

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't suffer from Dyslexia

New guidelines employ a team approach to autism diagnosis and care

Fred Volkmar
Improving diagnosis and treatment for individuals with autism has been the focus of a growing body of research. 

New information from these studies led the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) to revise key parameters for evaluating and treating autism. 

Researchers led by Yale Child Study Center director Dr. Fred Volkmar have published the new practice parameters in the Feb. issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"Early diagnosis of children with autism spectrum disorders means treatments will be introduced that lead to more positive outcomes for children," said Volkmar the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology at the Yale School of Medicine.

According to the parameters, clinicians should routinely look for symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in young children undergoing developmental assessments, and in all psychiatric evaluations.

If significant symptoms are detected, clinicians should then coordinate a careful medical, psychological, and communication evaluation.

These evaluations should differentiate between autism and a variety of developmental and other disorders, as well as intellectual and behavioral disabilities.

"Our goal was advocacy for individuals with autism and their families, and to ensure that services are coordinated across clinical care," said Volkmar.

"Our field is changing rapidly, and these parameters are meant to promote effective care and move professional medical methods closer to current practices."

Volkmar and his co-authors reviewed abstracts from 9,481 research articles on autism that were published between 1991 and 2013.

They then fully studied 186 of those articles based on their quality and ability to be applied more generally.

"Treatment should involve a team approach," said Volkmar, who notes that under these treatment parameters, psychiatrists will closely coordinate diagnosis and treatment with teachers, behavioural psychologists, and speech and language pathologists, and look for commonly occurring conditions.

A key addition to the new parameters is a focus on how clinicians should address the use of non-traditional therapies, like chelation and secretin.

Clinicians are urged to ask families if they are using alternative/complementary treatments and to discuss the therapies' risks and potential benefits.

Volkmar estimates that about 90% of parents of children with autism use some kind of alternative or complementary therapies.

"It is important to encourage a discussion with parents about the potential harms of some of these therapies, as well as to educate them about evidence that supports what they're doing."

More information: Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dyslexia: Ranking the effectiveness of a range of interventions

How can we best treat dyslexia? 

A new meta-analysis of published data, carried out by researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), now provides a means of ranking the effectiveness of a range of current interventions.

Gerd Schulte-Körne
A research group led by Professor Gerd Schulte-Körne, Director of the Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at LMU Munich, has systematically evaluated data from published randomized controlled treatment studies of dyslexia.

The results of their investigation were recently been published in the online journal PLoS One.

The term dyslexia refers to a specific difficulty in learning to read and spell. It affects 5-10% of school children and although it is one of the most common learning disorders of childhood and adolescence, it also affects adults.

Indeed, the condition is often diagnosed relatively late. "Up to 40% of children who show signs of dyslexia also have psychological problems, which often result from discrimination provoked by their learning difficulties.

They are often confronted with comments such as: 'You're just too lazy' or 'You have to work harder'", says Prof. Schulte-Körne.

Furthermore, affected children and their families are often left to cope with the problem on their own, because nobody is responsible for providing support for them beyond the confines of the classroom.

Many popular 'therapies' are, at best, ineffective and some are downright bogus.

"Early intervention and appropriate therapeutic measures that take into account the specific nature of each individual case are urgently needed", says Prof. Schulte-Körne, pointing out that the curriculum offered in normal schools is often insufficient in helping children with severe dyslexia to overcome their disability.

"These children do not receive the necessary attention because school resources are inadequate and teachers are not sufficiently well trained to deal with the problem."

Katharina Galuschka
"More than 20 different 'treatment' methods have been developed which purport to help dyslexic children but in fact very few of them have any real effect," says Katharina Galuschka, who carried out the meta-analysis.

"Systematic training of the very basic process of relating the sound of a word to its orthographic form turns out to be particularly important."

The new study also shows that long-term interventions are significantly more effective than short-term training measures.

In addition, the study reveals that many popular methods which concentrate on single factors such as enhancing visual scanning of text, or improving auditory perception, are ineffective.

"Cognition-enhancing medication or the use of tinted lenses are also unable to improve the reading ability of dyslexic subjects."

"This the first meta-analysis of its kind and it provides a basis for formulating urgently needed guidelines for dyslexia treatment and therapy", Prof. Schulte-Körne explains.

He and his research group are now coordinating a set of medical guidelines for the treatment of dyslexia in Germany, due to be released shortly.

More information: Galuschka K, Ise E, Krick K, Schulte-Körne G (2014) "Effectiveness of Treatment Approaches for Children and Adolescents with Reading Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." PLoS ONE 9(2): e89900. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089900