Monday, May 31, 2010

ABC Chairs for Dyslexia

ABC Chairs

Création du designer hollandais Roeland Otten basé à Rotterdam, un petit clin d’oeil pour l’excellente série « ABC Chairs » composée de 26 assises uniques reprenant chacune la forme des différentes lettres de l’alphabet. Un travail intéressant à découvrir en détails dans la suite !

Review - Dyslexia, Learning, and the Brain

ReviewInside - Dyslexia, Learning, and the Brain

An opportunity to review the first chapter of the book - Dyslexia, Learning and the Brain

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dyslexia Garden in RHS Chelsea Flower Show

RHS Chelsea Flower Show | RHS Gardening

This garden highlights some of the charitable work carried out by the Dyslexia Research Trust, analysing how the brain processes visual information differently depending on its colour.

The garden depicts the barrier to learning that reading can be to dyslexia sufferers. A mosaic-style path leads from the side of the garden with white planting, through an opening in a natural stone wall partly blocked by books, to blue and yellow planting on the other side.

A beautiful seat beside a blue crystal water feature offers a tranquil place to sit and read, whilst reflecting on achievements in overcoming dyslexia.

Baby Hears his Mother's Voice for the First Time

For the first eight months of his life, baby Jonathan had never heard the sound of his mom’s voice, but a cochlear implant changed all that. Jonathan’s dad captured the touching moment on video:

Technology Review: Reading Baby Brains

Technology Review: Reading Baby Brains

Magnetoencephalography (MEG), a technology used to study brain function and to pinpoint diseased areas of the brain, capitalizes on the very weak magnetic fields created whenever a cluster of neurons fires at once.

A helmet, resembling a salon hair dryer, with 306 sensors hovers over the subject's head and detects where the magnetic pulses are occurring. Unlike magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines--which only show snapshots of data and require people to lie still inside a noisy, narrow tunnel while subjected to a powerful, rotating magnetic field--the MEG is pin-drop quiet and open, allowing subjects to interact with their surroundings. The resulting data can show researchers precisely where activity is occurring in the brain in real time.

A maelstrom of neural connections develop in a child's brain during the first five years of life. Understanding how interconnected circuits develop, and how babies think, could lead to a host of new insights into everything from autism to language acquisition. But gathering such information has been tricky: infants can't be ordered to stay motionless, which is required for most advanced neuroimaging techniques. Now a system that works in concert with existing imaging machinery can account for head movement and, for the first time, let researchers see detailed activity in an active baby's brain.

to study babies that were wide awake and socially engaged, researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Studies (I-LABS) worked with Helsinki-based medical device company Elekta to create a "head-positioning" system remarkably similar to GPS. Scientists strap a soft nylon cap to the baby's head.

The cap has four embedded coils, each of which emits a high-frequency wavelength indicating its relative position at all times. As the hardware system tracks the skull's movement, the software interprets the results and merges them with MEG-sensor data.

To read the full article follow this link

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reading is the Gateway to Learning

Reading is the Gateway to Learning

A poor reader will have difficulties reading to learn. He or she does not have the foundation skills to be fluent with words. There can be a problem with a lack of vocabulary and comprehension abilities that are required as he moves onto more complex learning. Often times he can have problems with processing oral language also. A lack of working memory may compound the issues. Overall he or she processes the information too slowly to be an effective reader and learner.

Thus he may display poor concentration in class, have trouble provessing what is being said to him and miss out on vital areas of learning. He may easily tire when reading. He can struggle to make himself understood. Any one of these things can prevent him succeeding academically.

The causes of language and reading problems are varied. It can include a lack of phonemic awareness and phonics, poor fluency, weak vocabulary and comprehension. Additionally there may be weaknesses in cognitive skills, memory, attention and concentration, processing and sequencing. Reading is a complex skill and even one glitch can prevent a person from being an effective reader.

The implications for the student are that he can underachieve compared to his true potential. Weak reading skills become a block to learning. Class is a strain and homework a long and difficult struggle. He can fall behind his classmates, get embarrassed by his difficulties and retreat into himself. A lack of self-confidence may set in and sometimes even personal despair.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Newly discovered gene variants lead to autism and mental retardation

Newly discovered gene variants lead to autism and mental retardation

Inner structure of nerve synapses defective in patients; human geneticists from Heidelberg publish in Nature Genetics
Researchers working with Professor Gudrun Rappold, Director of the Department of Molecular Human Genetics at Heidelberg University Hospital, have discovered previously unknown mutations in autistic and mentally impaired patients in what is known as the SHANK2 gene, a gene that is partially responsible for linking nerve cells.

However, a single gene mutation is not always enough to trigger the illness. In some cases, a certain threshold of mutation must be exceeded. The researchers conclude from their results that a correct inner structure of the nerve cell synapses is necessary to enable the normal development of language, social competence, and cognitive capacity.

Essential for the success of the project were the studies by the Heidelberg research team with the doctoral student Simone Berkel and collaboration with a Canadian research team headed by Steve Scherer. The study has already been published online in the leading scientific journal Nature Genetics.

Autism is a congenital perception and information-processing disorder of the brain that is often associated with low intelligence, but also with above-average intelligence. The disease is characterized by limited social communication and stereotypical or ritualized behavior. Men are affected much more frequently than women.

Autism and mental retardation can occur together but also independently of one another and are determined to a great extent by hereditary factors. Some of the responsible genes have already been identified but the precise genetic mechanisms have not yet been explained.

Genetic makeup of hundreds of patients analysed
Professor Rappold and her team focused their studies on the SHANK2 gene, which encodes a structural protein at the nerve cell synapses. It is responsible for the mesh structure of the basic substance in the postsynapse. Only when the postsynapse is properly structured can nerve impulses be correctly transmitted.

The researchers analysed the genetic material of a total of 396 patients with autism and 184 patients with mental retardation. They found different mutations in their SHANK2 genes in the area of individual base pairs, but also variants in the number of gene copies.

The mutations led to varying degrees of symptoms. None of the observed gene variants occurred in healthy control persons. "Apparently an intact postsynaptic structure is especially important for the development of cognitive functions, language, and social competence," explained Professor Rappold.

Identical mutations as the cause of different diseases
Some of the genetic mutations identified were new occurrences of mutations that were not inherited from the parents, but some of the mutations were also found in one parent.

Since there are also healthy carriers of gene variants, we must assume that a certain threshold of gene mutations must be exceeded for the disease to appear.

"Moreover, the same mutation can be present in an autistic patient with normal intelligence and in a mentally impaired patient," said Professor Rappold. There is some overlap in the clinical symptoms of mental retardation and autism, which can now be explained by a common genetic cause.


More Information on the Internet:

Cognitive subtypes of dyslexia.

CiteULike: Cognitive subtypes of dyslexia.

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 magnocellular 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.

Dudes with Dyslexia!! - Dudes with Dyslexia

Dudes with Dyslexia!! - Dudes with Dyslexia

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Preschool depression: The importance of early detection of depression in young children |

Preschool depression: The importance of early detection of depression in young children

It is difficult to imagine a depressed third-grader. It is even more difficult to imagine a depressed preschooler. Although childhood depression is a well-recognized and treated disorder, only recently have research studies begun looking at depression in children younger than six years old.

In the new Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, child psychiatrist/researcher Joan Luby from Washington University in St. Louis reports on recent findings examining depression in preschool-age children and the importance of early detection.

Depression in preschool-aged children does not always look the same as does depression in older children and adults -- this is one reason that preschool depression has been largely neglected.

For example, in depressed adults, anhedonia (the inability to enjoy pleasurable experiences) tends to show up in the form of a decreased libido. In young children however, anhedonia may appear as an inability to enjoy playtime.

In addition, preschool depression may go unnoticed by parents because the symptoms may not be disruptive; these children may not seem obviously sad (as do many depressed adults) and may have periods of normal functioning during the day. A key advance for the recognition of preschool depression has been the development of age-appropriate psychiatric interviews.

These interviews have shown that preschool-age children do in fact exhibit typical symptoms of depression, including appearing less joyful, being prone to guilt, and changes in sleep patterns.

Research suggests that preschool depression is not just a temporary occurrence but may instead be an early manifestation of the same chronic disorder occurring later on -- studies have demonstrated that depressed preschoolers are more likely to have depression in later childhood and adolescence than are healthy preschoolers.

Due to the potentially long-lasting effect of preschool depression, early identification and intervention become very important. Young children's brains are very "plastic" -- that is, their brains easily adapt and change to new experiences and events. This plasticity may explain why developmental interventions are more effective if started early on and this may also prove true for psychotherapy.

More research is needed for the development of treatments for preschool depression. Luby notes that while one study has shown that SSRI antidepressants may be effective in school aged children, there are concerns about side effects of these medications.

A novel treatment for preschool depression is currently undergoing testing and may be promising. This treatment is based on Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and has been modified to emphasize the child's emotion development (ED).

Early changes in emotion skills may be critical to risk for depression and PCIT -- ED may help to correct those changes very early in development.

For more information about this research, please contact: Joan Luby (


Cultural evolution: implications for understanding the human language faculty and its evolution

Cultural evolution: implications for understanding the human language faculty and its evolution — Philosophical Transactions B

Conclusions on the evolution of the language faculty
Cultural transmission alters our expectations about how the language faculty should evolve. Different language faculties may lead to identical outcomes for cultural evolution (as shown by Kirby et al. 2007), resulting in selective neutrality over those language faculties.

If we believe that stronger prior biases (more restrictive innate machinery) cost, then selection can favour the weakest possible prior bias in favour of a particular type of linguistic structure.

This result, in conjunction with those provided in Smith (2004), leads us to suspect that a domain-specific language faculty, selected for its linguistic consequences, is unlikely to be strongly constraining—such a language faculty is the least likely to evolve. Any strong constraints from the language faculty are likely to be domain general, not domain specific, and owe their strength to selection for alinguistic, non-cultural functions.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Race to the Top may be Leaving Teachers Behind

There are some great teachers, and even some great Teacher Preparation programs, but these are random occurrences where consistency is essential. The reason is simple: Professional Education is missing fundamental standards found in all other professions.

There is no standard curriculum, no sincere effort to identify Best Instructional Practices, and truckloads of weak consultants and players with diluted degrees serving up their own brands of Faculty Development. To be called a profession it is imperative that a profession, one way or another, needs to convene a rolling forum to collect and prioritize the core content of principles and practices that every member ought to know.

Ironically, Teachers worldwide are being held to standards for annual yearly progress of their students. Meanwhile, Professors, Learned Societies & commercial schools, and some painfully self-serving non-profit foundations and Universities never even address the need for solid pedagogic content.

Worse, those that do publish material under titles referencing Best Practices are quite simply hype, if not fraudulent. The current crop of in-charge “Leaders” dangerously resembles the Investment Bankers who remain in charge of the economic systems that they nearly bankrupted.

Perhaps the only way to expose and reform this systemic disaster would be a class action by teachers &/or parents & students against all of us who have been complicit in these myriad layers of self-interest actions bordering on malpractice.

Since the likelihood of legal action is a remote idea it would be wonderfully unprecedented for a leveraged agency to hold a convention of the nation’s leading educators to consider and ideally endorse a covenant of principles and more importantly prescriptive practices ideally on a website that transparently allows these to be challenged, tweaked and further specified for different age-grade-situational conditions.

Additionally, such a rolling convention also could address differentiated staffing based on what schools are expected to do, and with a differentiated set of Best Practices for each function, like doctors and nurses, attorneys and paralegals, etc..

Schools are expected to carry-on three essential although overlapping functions: 1. Teach new concepts, content and a positive disposition toward self-directed learning; 2. Provide assessment and supervised practice in these objectives; and, 3. Operate a massive custodial role that keeps students in school for at least seven-nine hours a day for about 200 days a year for about 13 years, and now through at least 2 more years of college.

Our labour market and economic system depend on schools to meet these criteria at the very least. The problem is not the expectations, but that staffing, and organisation do not reflect these three societal essentials. And, sadly there is no real free market in ideas where one can buy into pre-sifted best practices and principles.

Meanwhile, please consider joining the websites below offering a potentially startup (heuristic) means of getting the current system moving in the right direction for all who teach. As an aside, taxpayers would be grateful since increasing classroom effectiveness and adding differentiated staffing could bring about efficiencies that could save billions of dollars with even the smallest degree of adoption. Please join the narrative. And…

Anthony V. Manzo, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus

Friday, May 14, 2010

Augmented Mobile Face Recognition

Recognizr is an augmented reality application that is in the prototype stage. It was developed as an AR tech demo and experiment for future mobile UI requirements.

The application uses Polar Rose’s FaceLib recognition engine, the prototype is working on Android devices.

Let me know what you think

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Childhood psychological problems create long-term economic losses

A first-of-its-kind study examining the long-term economic consequences of childhood psychological disorders finds the conditions diminish people's ability to work and earn as adults, costing $2.1 trillion over the lifetimes of all affected Americans.

People who suffer from childhood conditions such as depression and substance abuse are less likely to be married, attain less education and see their income reduced by about 20 percent over their lifetimes, according to findings published online by the journal Social Science & Medicine.

"This study shows childhood psychological disorders can cause significant long-lasting harm and can have far-reaching impact on individuals over their lifetimes," said James P. Smith, the study's lead author and corporate chair of economics at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Our findings illustrate what the enormous potential might be of identifying and treating these problems early in life."

Researchers examined information from a large study that has followed American families for more than 40 years and found evidence that the impact of childhood psychological problems have lasting impact across many measures of economic success. The study is unique because siblings from the same family were followed in the panel, allowing the researchers to compare one sibling with childhood psychological problems to a brother or sister who did not have such problems.

People who reported having psychological problems during childhood averaged $10,400 less income per year when compared to siblings who did not have similar problems. The lower income was partly a consequence of working an average of seven weeks fewer per year.

If about one in 20 adult Americans experienced these psychological problems during their childhood years (about the current prevalence), the total lifetime economic damages for all those affected would be $2.1 trillion. This estimate does not take into consideration the non-economic costs such has lower quality of life.

To read the full article click here

Why Mothers are not fully engaged by TV shows - a media concern

A TV media company recently conducted an interesting research with over 400 mothers who have children under the age of 12 living in their homes.

They found that:
  • 75% of respondents watch certain TV shows with their children.
  • 50% of respondents indicated that they’re likely to be doing other things while watching television with their children. (This could mean that although they are watching the program, they aren’t really engaging in it.)
  • Women with very small children indicated that it was “impossible for anyone to watch anything on the TV when the kids are up.”
  • Women with older children experienced phases of “family TV viewing” where they watched shows targeted to their kids’ age group between ages 4-7. (Shows selected by the children or chosen to entertain the children)
  • Interestingly, as the kids get older, women become more engaged in the programming as they come to share favourite shows with their kids, such as “American Idol” and “Survivor.”
  • The respondents indicated that ultimately they can only truly engage in what’s on the television when their children aren’t present. (This was a consistent response among all respondents regardless of the age of the children.)
  • 81% of our survey respondents stated that they have “their shows” that they watch during what they deem to be their “me time.” This offers them an “escape” from the daily pressures of work and family.
  • Women are also prone to “time-shifting” their preferred programming by recording their favourite shows or by visiting On Demand network websites, to re-watch shows or catch episodes they’ve missed.
What does this mean?

According to the research, if mothers are watching TV with their children they are not probably not engaging with the programs that their children are enjoying.

I think its easy to conclude that if they aren’t engaging with the programs, they are definitely not engaging with the commercials, which is more of a concern for the media ad sales people than the mothers.

My greatest concern in all this is that mothers, fathers and family members are not engaging with each other or their children, even if they appear to be sharing the experience of coming together, to form an 'audience' to watch a specific TV show.

Dyslexic Specialist Corinna Shepherd Launches Her First Children's Book

My Dog Nick is the first of a new series of creative and interactive learning books aimed at inspiring young children with dyslexia to read and write.

Dyslexia, the hidden disability, affects at least 10% of the population, 4% severely. This equates to 6 million people in the UK, at least 1.2 million of them school children.

The author and creator of the Dancing Kites Creative Learning brand, Corinna Shepherd, has been assessing and working with dyslexic children and adults for several years. She was prompted to create Dancing Kites and to write My Dog Nick because, whilst many books currently exist that relate to the problem of dyslexia, it was evident that very few had been written to address the actual problem of helping children engage with and decode the written word, particularly as it affects young children.

Corinna’s response was to set up her own company, Dancing Kites Creative Learning, in order to create unique interactive learning programmes to identify and correct problems with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, in children particularly. My Dog Nick is the first in Step 1 of a series of books to be published.

Importantly, the Dancing Kites Creative Learning books are the only books available based on spelling ages, rather than reading ages, and designed to appeal to a broad age range. By concentrating on the child’s spelling age, problems related to dyslexia and other learning difficulties may be detected and corrected earlier and more effectively.

Corinna says “The books are designed to support and supplement school work. You do not need extra resources to help with the activities – a pen or pencil and a sense of humour are all that is required to help the child complete the activities! They have been developed to be used by specialists, classroom teachers, learning support staff, as well as by parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and carers at home – in fact anyone who wants to help children engage with the written word.”

Dancing Kites Creative Learning Books are structured in three Steps or levels that correlate to the nationally recognised and used Alpha to Omega scheme with its stages 1 to 3 in terms of language progression and spelling age bands. They are designed to appeal to the 5-15 age range.

The books can be purchased for £7.99 from the Dancing Kites website or from Amazon and all good booksellers ISBN 978-1-907706-00-4.

About Corinna Shepherd
Corinna Shepherd has worked with children and adults, who struggle with dyslexia, for several years. She has set up three Indirect Dyslexia Learning (IDL) Centres in Buckinghamshire, where she offers assessments and remedial help with reading and spelling. Corinna set up Dancing Kites Creative Learning in 2008 to make the written word accessible and fun to children with specific learning difficulties. She is passionate about helping unlock potential in people through learning and creativity.

About Dancing Kites
Dancing Kites Creative Learning books are designed to make the world of words and imagination accessible to these children by using words, illustrations and activities together in a unique and fun way to encourage and inspire children to read and write.

The content is a combination of illustrated poetry, puzzles and activities. The rhymes and rhythms of the poems help children remember what they have read and the illustrations, together with the supporting interactive activities, engage their attention and reinforce learning. Moreover, the illustrations are specifically designed to give clear visual clues to the reader about the related words. The books are designed and written so that the words and illustrations work closely together to create a memorable association and to be fun.

For more information about My Dog Nick and the other books in the series, please visit the Dancing Kites website or on LinkedIn or contact the author, Corinna Shepherd direct at

Multisensory Teaching

Studies from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development have shown that for children with difficulties learning to read, a multisensory teaching method is the most effective way for these students to learn.

Multisensory teaching means the teacher must tap into all learning modalities – see it (visual), feel it (tactile), hear it (auditory) and move with it (kinesthetic).

Here are a few suggestions on how to make spelling lessons fun, creative and engaging.
  • Trace words with a pencil or pen while spelling the word. Then trace with an eraser. Get up and do 5 jumping jacks. Now write the word and check for accuracy.
  • Write the words by syllables in different colored markers.
  • Pair up with another student and write words on each other’s back with a finger. Have the partner guess what the word is.
  • While sitting on a carpet, write down each word directly onto the carpet with two fingers.
  • Trace over each word at least three different times in different color crayons so that the words look like rainbows.
  • Pair up with another student and take turns jumping rope while spelling the words out loud.
  • Clap your hands to each letter as you spell the words out loud.
  • Type each of the words in 5 different fonts, colors, and sizes.
  • Bounce a ball to each letter in the word.
  • Practice writing the words with neon gel pens on black paper.
  • Write the words on individual chalkboards using colored chalk.
  • Finger-paint the words using frosting on wax paper or paper plates.
  • Spell the words using alphabet manipulatives such as magnetic letters or letter tiles.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Famous Dyslexics: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, Space Scientist and Science Communicator

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, Space Scientist and Science Communicator. Studied Physics and gained an additional PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She worked for the UK MoD Defense Evaluation Research Agency (DERA) on a Missile Warning System for the RAF. (DERA is now a self-governing business known as QinetiQ.)

This was an 'on-board' system to alert fighter pilots that a heat-seeking missile was zeroing in on them and to automatically launch hot 'flares' to divert the heat seeking missiles away from the jet fighters.

Following this position she took up a promoted post as a Landmine Detection Group Manager. Managing a team of experts who were seeking and dis-arming landmines in countries were military conflict had been terminated but buried munitions remained a danger to the local people.

Recently this dangerous task has been taken on by specially trained dogs, who are able to sniff out the traces of explosives, even when they are buried. (To read more on these dogs click on this link)

Dr Aderin-Pocock's entry into the heady world of space science followed a brief period back in academic study, gaining the knowledge she needed to fulfill her ambitions.

She started working on ground-based space monitoring, capture or recording instruments required for the Gemini telescope in Chile. It was many years before she could advance into the more technically-demanding sector of space-based instruments.

The transcript of the video of Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock's talking about her career profile is available online at the Vitae site, simply click on this link.

Famous Dyslexic Authors: Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen, the iconic children's story writer, would have been 205-years-old in April this year (2010).

He was a man of incredible imagination, a prolific writer and many other talents.

Here is a short list of 10 facts that you may not know about the Danish fairytale writer.

1. The Danish author was born on April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark, and lived to the age of 70.

2. He died in Copenhagen several weeks after hurting himself when he fell out of bed.

3. He is Denmark's most famous son and internationally renowned; his birthday is now celebrated as International Children's Book Day.

4. His most famous works include The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling.

5. His stories and poetry have been translated into more than 150 languages, inspiring films, plays and ballets.

6. A dyslexia sufferer, he left home at the age of 14 for the bright lights of Copenhagen.

7. After failing to make it as an actor he turned to writing and quickly became a favourite of the then King Frederick VI, who was to later grant him a travelling pension.

8. He had his first story published - The Ghost at Palnatokes Grave - at the age of 17.

9. Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue was erected in its harbour in his honour. There are also statues dedicated to him in New York, California and Bratislava, Slovakia.

10. In Shanghai, China, a theme park based on his tales and life opened in 2006.

Happy Birthday Hans!

ExamFox: New online learning methodology developed for struggling students

As a boy Patrick Wilson was written off at school because he suffered from dyslexia. Today he launches a new online learning website for students with learning difficulties which is already achieving terrific results.

ExamFox is a brand new service offering expert one-to-one online tuition for GCSE and A-Level students, focusing on revision and exam practice to improve students’ knowledge and exam technique.

1. Is your child underperforming at school and not on track to get the exam grades they want, or deserve?

2. Do they lack the confidence to ask questions in class and so get passed over?

3. Do they suffer from anxiety about exams and seem lost in understanding how to prepare?

4. Do they suffer with a learning disability that is handicapping their learning?

ExamFox founder and former teacher Patrick Wilson has developed a new approach to tackling these issues. Having struggled at school himself, Wilson understands first-hand the difficult facing many of today’s children whether they suffer with learning difficulties or not.

He says: “Students who are reminded every day that they are doing badly feel constantly overwhelmed. They make a huge effort, they think they're trying their best – in fact they’re not, but they think they are – but their best is never good enough. That feeling becomes an ever present fear: ‘I have low potential. I am going to fail.’ That lack of self-esteem reaches every part of your life.”

The ExamFox system is specifically designed to help underperforming individual students. ExamFox creates a 5-Step Plan for every student which outlines the key areas they need to address to help them achieve their true potential. Tutors regularly set assignments and assessments, to ensure students stay on track, and provide feedback to ensure they have fully understood all the required material.

Courses are offered in a range of subjects including GCSE Maths and A -Level Psychology. ExamFox has more than 50 tutors located across the UK with up to 20 years of experience teaching students seven days a week. All tutors have been hand-selected and trained to ensure that they continue to deliver Patrick’s founding principles.

All new students who sign up can claim a free 1 hour trial lesson in a subject of their choice. The website, which is free to join, also provides users access to a free library of resources of videos, study guides and exam tips.

Success Stories
ExamFox student Atlanta Walsh says: “I was really confused by the way my lessons were working out in school and often felt ignored. But Chris (ExamFox tutor) gives me the attention I need to understand complicated Maths problems. Now I feel really confident that I’m going to ace my Maths exam.”

Tutor Chris Jefferies says: “ExamFox really suits bright but underperforming students to help them achieve their potential. I log on, turn on my webcam and begin teaching. The interactive element of the lesson means the pupils are really responsive and nobody wastes their time travelling.”

ExamFox Says
ExamFox founder Patrick Wilson says: “Young people take to online learning with huge enthusiasm and gain fantastic results. Our students don’t see lessons as a boring chore but an exciting way to bring their subject to life. ExamFox tutors break down their revision into achievable weekly chunks to give them a clear path to exam success, so stress doesn’t get in the way of progress.”

NB: This blog and website provides the article on ExamFox purely for information and does not in anyway promote or recommend the use of the ExamFox online service.

However, we are very interested to hear from you concenring any feedback or experiences you may have with the service and would welcome your input and stories. Let us know if this service is good, mediocre or otherwise and we will share our experiences with you.

Dyslexia: Do you hear a voice in your head when you read?

As Gary Chevin watched his wife Carol reading a newspaper, he had a sudden realisation. Diagnosed as severely dyslexic at seven, he had always struggled to read.

Gary noticed that Carol was reading without moving her lips, which seemed odd to him as a dyslexic. 'She told me she was reading in her head,' says Gary. 'I asked what that sounded like and she said it was like a voice.

'I have never heard a voice in my head - ever. I was so shocked I nearly fell off my chair.'

Gary, 50, was stunned to learn that when 55-year-old Carol read a letter, she would hear the writer's voice, rather than her own, in her head - and that in her dreams, people spoke.

'It all seemed so alien to me. I have the reading age of a five-year-old so I never read. If I dream, I have visual dreams. They are always totally silent.'

Most people use their inner voice subconsciously. But for those who find they do not have one, it can be a revelation.

'I now understand my actions a lot more,' says Gary, a former builder from Stoke-on-Trent. 'I follow my emotions because I don't have a voice in my head analysing what I'm about to say or do.'

Professor Rod Nicolson, head of work psychology at the University of Sheffield, has been studying dyslexia for many years and was inspired to investigate internal speech after meeting Gary at a conference in 2004. He believes he has found a link between lack of inner speech and poor reading ability.

'Children start off having to say every word out loud,' he says. 'At some stage, as their reading improves, so does their ability to sight-read [to read in their heads] and that is the stage at which reading really takes off.

By the age of eight or nine, most children can read in their heads. The development of the inner voice seems to be automatic for most people, but our data suggests a link with fluent reading, in that the process of learning to sight-read actually helps inner-speech develop.

Read more: Follow this link

A Mother's Experience with Scotopic Sensitivity Dyslexia: Ilen Syndrome or Visual Stress

After a five-year struggle to help her son overcome a debilitating reading difficulty, a Chester mum has set her sights on giving hope to hundreds of other children in the area who are affected by a specific form of dyslexia.

Special needs teacher Eileen Morgan from Hoole dedicated hundreds of hours of research in the hope of alleviating her son Edward’s reading problems.

“Edward suffers from Scotopic Sensitivity, also known as 'Irlen Syndrome or Visual Stress – a form of dyslexia where text appears to move on the page, and letters and words appear to reverse These are symptoms that will be all too familiar to hundreds of young people,” she said.

Sufferers also often display poor hand-eye coordination and can be particularly sensitive to fluorescent light. The condition makes people lose their place when reading and it can also cause itchy eyes.

Colour overlays and tinted glasses, which can help some people with similar dyslexia-related difficulties, proved to be no help.

“I lost count of the number of specialists and consultants we visited over all those years,” said Eileen. “Day after day I was searching the internet and talking to experts. There were lots of theories but no one seemed to be able to offer any answers.

“It was all so frustrating, especially for Edward who was rapidly losing ground at school and naturally feeling insecure, upset and different.

“We were getting really concerned how badly this would affect his future prospects, and gradually coming to realise how many other families were facing the same frustration.”

The solution, Eileen revealed, came in the form of specialist filtered lenses which help synchronise the message transmitted from the eyes to the brain.

To read more about Eileen's story click here

Australian Children Mis-diagnosed as Lazy, suffer from Learning Difficulties

A new research study from Australia claims that children labelled as lazy by teachers and parents may be suffering from numerous learning difficulties, which could underlie their apparent lack of motivation.

Linda Gilmore, educational psychologist from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), studied children aged seven to 10 years who were regarded as lazy by their parents and teachers.

Learning Difficulties
They also found that three-quarters of the children had phonologically-based learning disabilities and/or significant problems with attention.

"Reports by teachers that children 'need to try harder' or 'make more effort' and 'apply themselves more' often convey the stigma of laziness to children and their parents," Gilmore said.

"Parents in the study reported their children seemed to have little interest in school, often failed to complete work and gave up very easily," she said.

Homework is a big issue
"For some children only one learning area was a problem, such as mathematics or reading but homework was a major issue for many families who reported pleading, nagging and pushing their child 'every step of the way'," she added.

Standardised TestingThe children completed two standardised tests to provide diagnostic information about their cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses, and basic reading, spelling, reading comprehension, writing and mathematics.

Depending on results of these two measures and the type of difficulties described by parents and teachers, the children were then assessed on more specific areas to pinpoint their particular problems.

Attention deficit and Hyperactivity
"Half of the children were found to have clinical signs of inattention and/or hyperactivity, others were found to have anxiety issues, visual perceptual or fine motor problems, and eight children had clear signs of dyslexia," Gilmore said.

She said these unrecognised difficulties could have led the children to withdraw from learning experiences and appear lazy.

Summary"These sorts of problems influence a child's ability to learn effectively and their capacity to function appropriately within the classroom," she said, according to a QUT release.

"Early diagnosis of such learning problems is essential to prevent children from experiencing multiple failures that undermine their feelings of competence and self-esteem," Gilmore concluded.

Research Study: Children's songs, clapping games improve motor and cognitive skills

Study: Children's songs, clapping games improve motor and cognitive skills

Children's songs and clapping games can develop a person's motor and cognitive skills even long after childhood, a recent Israeli study suggests.

The study, by Dr. Idit Solkin of Ben-Gurion University's arts faculty, found a direct link between children's songs and clapping games and the development of important skills, both in children and in young adults, including university students.

Study Period
Solkin conducted the study over a period of five years by interviewing school and kindergarten teachers and visiting their classrooms, where she joined the children in singing. Her original goal was to figure out why children are fascinated by singing and clapping up until the end of third grade, when these pastimes are abruptly abandoned and replaced with sport.

"This fact explains a natural evolutionary process the children are going through," she said. "The clapping and singing games appear naturally in children's lives around the age of seven, and disappear around the age of 10. In this narrow window, these activities serve as a developmental tool that reflects many of the children's needs - emotional, sociological, physiological and cognitive. It's a transition stage that leads them to the next phases of growing up."

Motor and Cognitive Skills
Though the relationship between music and intellectual development in children has been studied extensively - prompting countless parents to obtain a Mozart record or two for their young, just in case - Solkin said that no in-depth study had previously been made of the effect that singing and clapping games have on children's motor and cognitive skills.

"We found that about 20 percent of children in the first, second and third grade take up these songs and demonstrate skills absent in children who don't take part in such activities," she said. "We found that children who clap and sing write better, with fewer spelling errors and nicer handwriting. Their teachers also believe their social integration is better than that of children who don't take part in these games."

School Study
As part of the study, Solkin went to several elementary school classrooms and engaged the children in singing and clapping activities over a period of 10 weeks. "Within a very short period of time, the children who until then hadn't taken part in such activities caught up in their cognitive abilities to those who did," she said.

This finding led Solkin to conclude that singing and clapping games should be made an integral part of education for children aged six to 10, for the purpose of motor and cognitive training.

University Students
She also found that singing and clapping games have a clear effect on adults: University students who filled out her questionnaires reported that after taking up such games, they became more focused and less tense.

"These techniques are associated with childhood, and many adults treat them as a joke," she said. "But once they take them up, they report feeling more alert and in a better mood."

Research Claims No link between dyslexia and lack of musical ability

No link between dyslexia and lack of musical ability

There is no link between a lack of musical ability and dyslexia. Moreover, attempts to treat dyslexia with music therapy are unwarranted, according to scientists in Belgium writing in the current issue of the International Journal of Arts and Technology.

Cognitive neuroscientist Jos- Morais of the Free University of Brussels and colleagues point out that research into dyslexia has pointed to a problem with how the brain processes sounds and how dyslexic readers manipulate the sounds from which words are composed, the phonemes, consciously and intentionally.

It was a relatively short step between the notion that dyslexia is an issue of phonological processing and how this might also be associated with poor musical skills - amusia - that has led to approaches to treating the condition using therapy to improve a dyslexic reader's musical skills.

Morais and colleagues demonstrate that theoretically this is an invalid argument and also present experimental evidence to show that there is no justification either for the link or for using music therapy to treat dyslexia.

Language and music are apparently uniquely human traits and many researchers have tried to find direct links between the two. A whole industry of music therapy hinges on this purported association with claims that language remediation is possible through the application of learning in music.

Given the social importance of literacy, a role for music in helping poor or dyslexic readers to overcome their difficulties has been at the forefront of therapy for many years. Morais' team points out that the notion is based on studies that are generally flawed in two respects.

The first problem with studies that attempt to link a lack of musical ability with reading difficulties is that the quality of published empirical studies is quite variable and many reviews of the field fail to discard papers containing insufficient information, either on materials and methods, or on the experimental results.

The second flaw is that many studies imply an explicit causality between amusia and dyslexia on the basis of results that are themselves merely statistical correlations.

Such an approach to science leads to a circular argument in which some researchers argue that music discrimination predicts phonological skills, which in turn predicts reading ability and that reading ability implies phonological skills and so on.

More recent studies have broken the link between hearing and reading by showing that deaf children, who often learn to perceive speech accurately using lip reading and visual clues can have literacy levels just as high as hearing children.

Of course, most of those children do not develop good musical ability with respect to musical pitch. Conversely, people who are unable even to hum a familiar tune show normal literacy levels.

Music and speech do overlap, but musical sounds and phonemes are not the same, the researchers explain. Musical tones are simply sounds, however, they are produced and can be heard without recourse to complex auditory analysis.

Phonemes, in contrast, whether spoken or read, are abstractions of the units into which language might be broken down. They are purely symbolic and require significantly more interpretation to understand than simply hearing a sound.

New Diagnostic Guidelines for DSM: The Manual for Mental Disorders

New Diagnostic Guidelines for Mental Illnesses Proposed - BusinessWeek

For the first time in more than a decade, the American Psychiatric Association has announced proposed changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), long considered the "Bible" of psychiatry.

Unlike its predecessor, DSM-4, the new DSM-5 would not formally recognize sex and Internet addictions; would create a new category for "risk" disorders for people possibly heading towards developing full psychosis or dementia; and would create a new disorder, "temper dysregulation with dysphoria" (TDD) to incorporate both mood and behavioral disturbances, partly a response to current overdiagnosis of juvenile bipolar disorder.

Other issues were also addressed, including creating an overarching category known as "autism spectrum disorders" to encompass autism, Asperger's syndrome and other similar conditions. This term is already widely used. And "mental retardation" would become "intellectually challenged."

DSM is the tome used by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to diagnose different conditions and to guide research.

The proposed draft will be available for public comment until April 20. The final document, which has already been 10 years in the making, is expected to be released in 2013. The DSM-4 was published in 1994.

One of the major changes in the proposed volume will be a move toward "dimensional assessments" for mental disorders, meaning that strict, immutable categories will be replaced by a reliance on continuums and that "cross-cutting" symptoms -- those that span several different disorders -- will be included in the criteria.

"There's no measure in the [DSM-4] to account for the severity of the disorder and therefore no way to measure if a patient, on quantitative measures, is improving with treatment," Dr. Darrel Regier, vice chair of the DSM-5 Task Force and director of research for the American Psychiatric Association, said during a Tuesday teleconference announcing the proposed changes. "We're trying to address this with more quantitative measures on a continuum with a cut-off to decide mild, severe, very severe."

This time around, experts say they are giving "careful consideration" to how mental health disorders might vary according to race, gender and ethnicity.

Research Claims Ritalin Improves Ability to Learn

Research Claims Ritalin Improves Ability to Learn

Ritalin (methylphenidate), a drug prescribed for millions of children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), appears to improve the ability to learn by enhancing the speed of learning. Currently, Ritalin is prescribed to help inhibit impulsive behaviour, which in turn can improve a child’s ability to focus on tasks.

The new finding is the result of research by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). It is significant because it lets scientists know that Ritalin impacts and improves behaviour through two specific types of neurotransmitter receptors rather than just one. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act as messengers to allow neurons to communicate with each other.

Previously experts knew that Ritalin enhanced the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine receptor known as D2, which controls the ability to stay focused on a task. The new research shows that another dopamine receptor called D1, which is involved in the ability to learn and learning efficiency, is also affected by Ritalin. Apparently the drug produces these benefits by strengthening the ability of the neurons to communicate with each other at their meeting points, called synapses.

These new findings may allow researchers to develop more efficient drugs to treat ADHD and to improve the ability to focus and learn more efficiently, according to Antonello Bonci, MD, principal investigator at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center and professor of neurology at UCSF.

Meta-cognitive Therapy (MCT) for Adult ADHD

Meta-cognitive Therapy (MCT) for Adult ADHD | Psych Central News

A new study suggests meta-cognitive therapy (MCT), a method of skills teaching that uses cognitive-behavioral principles, improves outcomes among adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Mary Solanto, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center examined the effectiveness of a 12-week meta-cognitive therapy group.

The intervention was intended to enhance time management, organisational, and planning skills and abilities in adults with ADHD.

“We observed adults with ADHD who were assigned randomly to receive either meta-cognitive therapy or a support group,” said Dr. Solanto.

“This is the first time we have demonstrated efficacy of a non-medication treatment for adult ADHD in a study that compared the active treatment against a control group that was equivalent in therapist time, attention, and support.”

The study observed 88 adults with rigorously diagnosed ADHD, who were selected following structured diagnostic interviews and standardized questionnaires.

New reactive eye test may detect learning disabilities, early Alzheimer's

New reactive eye test may detect learning disabilities, early Alzheimer's

Two-year-old Jakeson Bowlby has a bull's eye sticker on his forehead that helps a computer system track the movement of his eyes.

He sits in a high chair and watches a video, but instead of Toy Story or another favourite, researchers at Queen's University show him a high-definition video that is part of a new test to assess brain function in toddlers. It jumps quickly from one image to another -- kangaroos sitting under a tree, kids playing soccer, buses and cars zooming by.

How quickly children can zero in on the kangaroos and follow the ball or the vehicles is a measure of how well their brains are directing the movement of their eyes, says Queen's neuroscientist Doug Munoz. He has devoted nearly two decades to documenting how eye control is related to abnormal brain function, both in children and adults.

His work is part of a broad investigation involving labs around the world which, over the last two decades, has laid the groundwork for relatively simple tests that could soon be used to detect everything from learning disabilities to the early onset of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.

Munoz's latest project is aimed at the high chair set, a way to screen youngsters for problems that may make it difficult for them to learn in school. He and his colleague, Laurent Itti at the University of Southern California, have preliminary evidence that shows their "free viewing" test can identify children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Understanding Dyslexia

The Background
In 1896, W. Pringle Morgan, a UK medical practitioner, provided one of the first descriptions of dyslexia. Prior to that, the disorder was thought to be a form of mental retardation and unfortunately that ghost has not been completely exorcised.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) was Morgan’s case of a 14-year old boy who had extreme difficulty in reading, but he excelled in sport and achieved the same level of his peers.

This intrigued many scientists who had been studying the disorder for years. They finally realised that those who have the disorder could actually possess above average to exceptional intelligence.

Some, they found out, even excel in sports and the creative arts, because of this, the distorted opinion that dyslexia is a form of mental retardation, was finally ruled out in academic circles.

The Root of the word
From the Greek words “dys” meaning difficulty and “lexia” meaning verbal language, dyslexia can be defined as a specific learning disorder resulting from neurological and genetic causes.

It affects one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language.

This results in the difficulty of the brain in stringing words, numbers, and symbols at least average intelligence. Dyslexia may show up as a problem in listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling or in a person’s ability in math.

Letter and word reversal and disorganisation of word order are common symptoms. Problems with coordination, memory, depth, perception, and discerning left from right may arise.

This explains why most dyslexics find it difficult to transfer information exactly from what is heard to what is seen and vice versa.

Much research has been carried ou on Dyslexia and some researchers have determined that a specific gene is responsible for dyslexia. This supports their claim that the condition results from a brain difference and site that the right hemisphere of the brain of dyslexics is larger than that of normal individuals.

This may be the reason why dyslexics excel in areas controlled by the right hemisphere of the brain – such as artistic and athletic; 3D visualisation ability, musical talent; and creative problem solving skills but are poor in perceptual, motor, linguistic, and adaptive—areas controlled by the brain’s left hemisphere.

The Organic cause
For years, the organic cause of dyslexia has puzzled doctors who have been studying the disorder.

A significant breakthrough, however, was provided in 1998 by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a researcher at the Yale University of Medicine and author of the book Overcoming Dyslexia.

Dr. Shaywitz’ s findings revealed that areas in the back of the brain that are usually activated when readers sounded out words are significantly less activated in dyslexics.

Areas in the front of dyslexics’ brains show more activity than in those of the brains of normal individuals.

Dyslexia and Science
The Science pertaining to Dyslexia has seen great progress, aiding better understanding. Despite the extensive research that has been done, there is still no 'cure' or specific scientifically-based programs that work, reliably.

Finding the right school with the proper reading programs and well-trained teachers and supportive parents, is certainly essential. Dr. Shaywitz, in an interview, stated that “there’s a huge need to educate our parents and our teachers.”

Long Term
Though dyslexia is seen as a permanent condition, it does not mean that we should leave dyslexics unsupported or unaided, for the rest of their lives. Recognising the nature of their Dyslexia, discovering and accepting their limitations, form part of the first steps in dealing with the disorder.

Dr. Shaywitz’s advice is, “go get help. It’s remarkable. The news is so good. We’ve learned so much (and are learning more all the time) and people who go and get help can totally turn their lives around.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Project puts 1M books online for blind, dyslexic

Project puts 1M books online for blind, dyslexic

Even as audio versions of best-sellers fill store shelves and new technology fuels the popularity of digitized books, the number of titles accessible to people who are blind or dyslexic is minuscule.

A new service being announced Thursday by the nonprofit Internet Archive in San Francisco is trying to change that. The group has hired hundreds of people to scan thousands of books into its digital database — more than doubling the titles available to people who aren't able to read a hard copy.

Brewster Kahle, the organization's founder, says the project will initially make 1 million books available to the visually impaired, using money from foundations, libraries, corporations and the government. He's hoping a subsequent book drive will add even more titles to the collection.

"We'll offer current novels, educational books, anything. If somebody then donates a book to the archive, we can digitize it and add it to the collection," he said.

The problems with many of the digitized books sold commercially is that they're expensive, they're often abridged, and they don't come in a format that is easily accessed by the visually impaired.

The collections are also limited to the most popular titles published within the past several years.

The Internet Archive:

The National Federation of the Blind:

Open Library:

Judgement and Morality in babies

Not long ago, a team of researchers watched a 1-year-old boy take justice into his own hands. The boy had just seen a puppet show in which one puppet played with a ball while interacting with two other puppets.

The centre puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the right, who would pass it back. The centre puppet would slide the ball to the puppet on the left who would run away with it.

Then the two puppets on the ends were brought down from the stage and set before the toddler. Each was placed next to a pile of treats.

At this point, the toddler was asked to take a treat away from one puppet and like most children in this situation, the boy took it from the pile of the “naughty” one.

But this punishment wasn’t enough — he then leaned over and smacked the 'naughty' puppet in the head.

This incident occurred in one of several psychology studies that are being carried out by one of a handful of research teams, around the world, exploring the moral life of babies.

To read the full article click here

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shaken-Baby Cases Rising During the Recession

The stressful effects of a faltering economy, skyrocketing unemployment and precarious personal finances can be dire. People take up smoking or use alcohol to cope, they become depressed or suicidal, and they develop stress-related illnesses like heart disease.

Now researchers report that the harm may be spreading to children too, when parents' stress leads them to injure their children, inadvertently.

Presenting May 1 at the Paediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Vancouver, a team of researchers led by child-abuse expert Dr. Rachel Berger at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh reported a significant increase in cases of shaken-baby syndrome, in which youngsters are shaken violently by an adult, since the start of the current recession.

Researchers analysed data on 512 cases of head trauma in the children's centers of four hospitals (in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle) and found that the number of cases had increased to 9.3 per month as of Dec. 1, 2007, compared with 6 per month prior to that date — a rate that had held steady since 2004.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Children with hearing loss in one ear fall behind in language skills

By the time they reach school age, one in 20 children have hearing loss in one ear. This one impediment can raise significant hurdles for these children, because the loss of hearing in one ear hurts their ability to comprehend and use language.

"For many years, paediatricians and educators thought that as long as children have one normal hearing ear, their speech and language would develop normally," says Judith E. C. Lieu, MD, a Washington University ear, nose and throat specialist at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

"But then a few studies began suggesting these children might have problems in school. Now our study has shown that on average, children with hearing loss in one ear have poorer oral language scores than children with hearing in both ears," Lieu says.

Hearing loss in one ear can stem from congenital abnormalities in the ear, head trauma or infections such as meningitis. Children with hearing loss in one ear may go undetected because they can appear to have normal hearing. Their difficulty hearing may be mistaken simply for lack of attention or selective hearing, says Lieu, assistant professor of otolaryngology.

Even children with recognised 'one-side hearing loss' often aren't fitted with hearing aids and often don't receive accommodations for their impediment.

The researchers studied 74 six- to 12-year-old children with hearing loss in one ear. Each was matched with a sibling with normal hearing so that the researchers could minimise the possible effects of environmental and genetic factors on the children's language skills. The children were tested with the Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS), a widely used tool to assess language comprehension and expression.

An average OWLS score is 100, and hearing loss in one ear caused, on average, a 10-point drop in scores. The oral composite score, which reflects both children's ability to understand what is said to them and their ability to respond or express themselves, averaged 90 in children with hearing loss in one ear.

Lieu says that the study demonstrated the strongest effect from hearing loss in one ear in children who are living below the poverty level or with mothers who have little education. Poverty levels and maternal education levels are well-established influences on language skills, and hearing loss in one ear may increase that effect.

"This study should raise awareness that if children with hearing loss in one ear are having difficulties in speech or reading in school, their hearing may be part of the problem," Lieu says. "Parents, educators and paediatricians shouldn't assume that having hearing in one ear means children won't need additional assistance."

The study does not address which possible solutions will be most effective for overcoming the decrease in language skills seen in the children with hearing loss in one ear, but Lieu suggests that studies could be done to see if hearing aids or amplification systems in the classroom will help.

In addition, having an educational audiologist as part of an individualised educational plan also might be beneficial.

"The effect of hearing loss in one ear may be subtle," Lieu says. "These children may shun large group situations because the noise overwhelms them, and they have a hard time understanding speech. They could have difficulties playing team sports because they can't localise sound as well as others and therefore, can't tell who is calling to them or from which direction.

"For them, listening takes a lot more work, and they may have to put in extra effort," Lieu says. "We don't know yet if the hearing loss ultimately affects their overall educational achievement and eventually, even which occupations they choose."

Clearly there is still much to discover with this study but it does re-enforce the need to check the hearing of children who are having learning difficulties or are not socialising as well as they might.


Dyslexic Advantage - Memory and Dyslexia

Dyslexic Advantage - Memory and Dyslexia

A recent study from Norway shows what people with dyslexia have known a long time...that working memory is affected in dyslexia. In the picture below, control subjects trying to keep letter sounds in mind vs. subjects with dyslexia.

One of the most common mistakes we see in educators approaching the subject of dyslexia is to think the only issues is phonological awareness. Some students have both, but for most, the memory is a problem as big or even bigger than distinguishing sounds.

Problems from Working Memory Challenges

•Hard time following conversations in background noise
•Trouble learning a foreign language
•Problems following a foreign language speaker
•Dismissed as 'inattentive ADD'
•Have to write auditory information down to remember

The importance of realising that working memory issues are affecting dyslexia is that working memory seems to be highly trainable.

Some of greatest leaps in IQ's we've seen over the years have been in students who acquire more strategies to organise their ideas and who work hard at tasks to train up their working memory.

It doesn't always have to be expensive software programs to train up working memory - it can involve persisting at difficult working memory tasks like mathematics, writing, or acquiring an 'easier' foreign language.

Working memory problems also highlight the need to employ multisensory approach to learning sounds. Making images, humorous, or other more interesting information to forgettable facts or sounds can help the data to 'stick'.

Less sleep may add up to more pounds in adolescents

Less sleep may add up to more pounds in adolescents

Adolescents who don't get enough sleep may gain more than some extra time to play video games or text their friends. They also may gain weight, according to research being presented Tuesday, May 4 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Other studies have shown a relationship between sleep and weight issues, particularly in young children. However, this is one of the first studies to document an association between sleep duration and weight in adolescents, even after controlling for calorie intake, activity level and depressive symptoms.

In research led by Leslie A. Lytle, PhD, from the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute, study investigators collected data on 723 adolescents (mean age 14.7 years) about how long they slept on weeknights and weekends, and how frequently they experienced sleep problems.

On three separate occasions, researchers also asked the youths about the foods and beverages they had consumed the prior day to determine how many calories they consumed.

To measure activity, participants wore accelerometers on their belts for seven days. Unlike pedometers, which count the number steps walked, these highly specialised devices measure movement on three different planes. In addition, the wearer cannot see any data on how active they are.

"The use of accelerometers and 24-hour (dietary) recalls was unique in the study of sleep and weight in youth and is a real strength of the study," Dr. Lytle said.

Researchers also measured participants' weight, body mass index (BMI) and percentage of body fat.

Results showed that shorter sleep duration was related to higher BMI. The relationship was especially strong for boys and for middle school students compared to those in high school. In girls, only less sleep on weekends was related to higher BMI.

"Sleep has long been recognized as an important health behavior," Dr. Lytle said. "We are just beginning to recognise its relationship to overweight and obesity in children and adults alike."

To see the abstract, go to

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Holy Grail: A Cure for Dyslexia | Dyslexic Brian

The Cure for Dyslexia from Dyslexic Brian

I found this interesting article debating the possibility of a 'cure' for Dyslexia. This is a very emotive discussion point and one that has been extensively explored but I believe this article has greater impact because it is written by Antonio, who is Dyslexic and is therefore eminently qualified to provide us with added insight.

Antonio says;

"I often get asked if it is possible to cure dyslexia to which I generally reply “No”. I reply “No” not because a cure for dyslexia doesn’t exist […], but simply because such a question implies that ‘dyslexia’ stems from some form of ‘deficit’, ‘abnormality’, or some other form of ‘less than normal state of functioning’ that exists within the individual.

Put in another way, such a question implies that the existence of ‘dyslexia’ is not a ‘normal’ aspect of what it is to be ‘human’. Such a question assumes that a ‘norm’ exists; a ‘norm’ that the individual would be brought back to if they were ‘cured’ of their ‘dyslexia’.

So, by me answering “No” to the question, is in my opinion, the correct answer to give, even though [as implied], I believe there to be a ‘cure’ for dyslexia.

[…] what a paradox I have created! How can I, with one breath, say that there is no cure for dyslexia and yet with another, say that there is?

To answer this we need only step into the abstract realm of our dyslexic consciousness and whilst there, in this magical, mysterious space, partially step out (as best we can) from what we have grow to know as our ‘dyslexic self’.

In this ‘in between’ state of consciousness, if the balance is just right, we can simultaneously be and not be our ‘dyslexic self’. We become, so to speak, both dyslexic and non-dyslexic within the same moment of time.

It is here, that we can rise above the ‘reality’ in which we ‘exist’ and look down at ourselves with our new found ‘in between eyes’ and see, maybe for the first time, the ‘true’ person that we have become.

Whilst holding this state we might see how the ‘reality’, to which we were born, has imposed its ‘norms’ upon us, and how it has shaped our identities using false ‘hand me down’ beliefs, views and values.

On seeing this we can, if we choose, begin to recreate our existence as neither dyslexic [nor] non-dyslexic. And, in so doing we precipitate our own ‘cure’; we liberate our thoughts and begin to recreate a new ‘self’ that becomes free with our current, actual ‘reality’."

Antonio Farruggia-Bochnak

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pronouns Aid Brain Function

New research suggests that pronouns may play a far greater role than simply replacing a proper name in a sentence. A University of South Carolina study suggests that pronouns help keep the brain’s complex circuitry and limited memory system from being overloaded.

Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), psychology researcher Dr. Amit Almor and colleagues studied the brain activity of 21 adults, ages 19 - 34, who were asked to read sequences of sentences to compare the brain’s response to pronouns versus proper names.

Almor’s findings are featured in the cover article in the current issue of the NeuroReport, a scientific journal.

“The brain lit up with activity when proper names were used, including areas that are not associated with language,” Almor said. “We saw considerable activity in areas of the parietal lobe that involve spatial processing that was absent when pronouns were used.”

Almor is the first researcher to use brain imaging to explore the neurological underpinnings of humans’ preference for pronouns. He conducted his research at the university’s McCausland Center for Brain Imaging.

The brain responds to proper names by creating a representation of the person in the mind, drawing from various parts of the brain to construct complex visual, sound and other information associated with that person. Every time the name is repeated, the brain responds by activating a process that creates a new representation of the person.

The brain initially holds each created representation in memory. The integration of these multiple representations requires effort that can disrupt the brain’s ongoing processing of what it hears during spoken conversation.

Pronouns, while faulty for their potential ambiguity, don’t cause the same disruptions in the brain that proper names do when used in the right context. In fact, they allow the brain to move easily from one thought or sentence to another. This seamless transition allows a person to digest more fully the meaning or intent of the thought being conveyed without the neural circuitry interference that proper names cause, said Almor.

“We are at the mercy of our memory system, which is limited,” Almor said. “The more items or representations we hold, the more effort we need to spend so as not to lose information. Pronouns let us avoid that juggle in our brains. I expected to find activity in classic language areas of the brain. I was surprised to see activity in the spatial areas, but it makes perfect sense.”

To read the full article click here on the link