Thursday, January 27, 2011

6 Surprising Bad Practices That Hurt Dyslexic Users

Web acces­si­bil­ity doesn’t only extend to colour blind users, but also dyslexic users.

Dyslexia is a perception or learn­ing dis­abil­ity that impairs a person’s flu­ency or accu­racy in reading, writing, and spelling. Web page design­ers can help dyslexic users read text more flu­ently and accu­rately by under­stand­ing and avoid­ing the bad design prac­tices that hurt dyslexic users. See­ing things from their eyes can give them a bet­ter per­spec­tive on why acces­si­ble design is so important.

When dyslexic users read text, some­times they can expe­ri­ence visual dis­tor­tion effects. These effects vary in degree from per­son to per­son, but they can make read­ing text that much harder.

Below are six bad prac­tices that are likely to cause these visual dis­tor­tion effects for dyslexic users. Although these bad prac­tices can also make read­ing dif­fi­cult for non-dyslexic users, the effect they have on dyslexic users is much worse.

River effect

Dyslexic users may some­times see the river effect in the text they’re read­ing. This is when large gaps occur within con­sec­u­tive lines of text. It can often look like a river of white­space flow­ing down the page, which can make read­ing flu­ently and accu­rately dif­fi­cult. There are a cou­ple bad prac­tices that make the river effect happen.

1. Jus­ti­fied text

When you use jus­ti­fied text, you’re not only mak­ing text dif­fi­cult to read for non-dyslexic users, but even more so for dyslexic users. Jus­ti­fied text cre­ates large uneven spaces between let­ters and words. When these spaces line up above one another, a dis­tract­ing river of white­space promi­nently appears [4]. This can cause dyslexic read­ers to lose their place repeat­edly. You can avoid cre­at­ing the river effect by using left aligned text, instead of jus­ti­fied text for your para­graphs.

2. Dou­ble spac­ing after periods

Most of us were taught to dou­ble space after peri­ods at the end of a sen­tence. This prac­tice orig­i­nates from the type­writ­ing days of the past. Because type­writ­ers used mono­spaced fonts, peo­ple thought that dou­ble spac­ing after peri­ods would make the end of sen­tences more dis­tinct. How­ever, on the web, sin­gle spac­ing after peri­ods are enough because most web­sites use pro­por­tion­ally spaced fonts. Dou­ble spac­ing after a period can cre­ate “rivers” within text that make it dif­fi­cult for users to find the end of sen­tences. On the web, sin­gle spac­ing wins.

Blur effect

Another kind of visual dis­tor­tion effect that can occur among dyslexic users is the blur effect. This is when dyslexic read­ers experience their text blur­ring or swirling or both together. This can sig­nif­i­cantly affect a dyslexic user’s read­ing abil­ity, and make read­ing very tir­ing for them. You can lessen this effect by avoid­ing a cou­ple of bad practices.

3. Pure black text on a pure white background

There’s a rea­son the text you’re read­ing now is not pure black (#000000), and the back­ground that it’s on is not pure white (#FFFFFF). It’s because many dyslexic users are sen­si­tive to the bright­ness of pure black text on a pure white back­ground due to its high con­trast. This can cause the words to swirl or blur together. To avoid this, use a slightly off-white color for your back­ground, like a light gray. You can also use a dark gray for your text instead of a pure black to cut the glare even more.

4. Long blocks of unbro­ken paragraphs

Long blocks of unbro­ken para­graphs are hard for non-dyslexic users to read, but even harder for dyslexic read­ers. It’s easy for dyslexic read­ers to lose their place with long para­graphs. That’s why it’s bet­ter to use short para­graphs that express one idea. This is because dyslexic users need more breaks between ideas than non-dyslexic users. Break­ing up your text to one idea per para­graph makes read­ing a lot eas­ier for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic users.

Washout effect

Some­times dyslexic users can expe­ri­ence the washout effect. When this hap­pens, the text looks faint and indis­tinct. This can make read­ing slower and cause dyslexic users to guess what a word is because of the dif­fi­culty see­ing it. To lessen this effect, there are two bad prac­tices you should avoid with your text.

5. Serif fonts

Serif fonts have hooks at the ends of the let­ter strokes. They may look dec­o­ra­tive, but they can cause read­ing prob­lems for dyslexic users. Ser­ifs tend to obscure the shapes of let­ters, mak­ing the let­ters run together. A sans-serif font would allow dyslexic users to see the shapes of let­ters more clearly because they don’t have hooks at the ends of the let­ter strokes. This also increases the spac­ing between let­ters, mak­ing words more dis­tin­guish­able. If you want your users to read your text eas­ily, go with a san-serif font.

6. Ital­i­cised text

Ital­ics are some­times used to high­light text. How­ever, the rea­son you shouldn’t use ital­i­cized text is because they are hard to read. The let­ters have a slightly jagged line com­pared to non-italic fonts. The let­ters also lean over slightly mak­ing it hard for dyslexic users to read words accu­rately. When the text size is small, the text is prac­ti­cally illeg­i­ble. A bet­ter way to high­light is to use bold text because the let­ters are clearer and give bet­ter contrast.

There are many dyslexic users that suf­fer from badly designed web­sites. All of these bad prac­tices are quick and easy to fix. It’s a mat­ter of knowl­edge and under­stand­ing that will get peo­ple to change. Hope­fully, this arti­cle has shed some light on how dyslexic users expe­ri­ence the web, and what design­ers can do to make their read­ing expe­ri­ence better.

[Reference Sources]











Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Aid: Epilepsy Scotland

Simple Partial Seizures

A simple partial seizure could affect the person's movement, smell, taste, hearing, sight, breathing, heart beat, digestion or any mixture of these. They may experience, for example, twitching of an arm and nausea. The person does not lose consciousness and is fully aware of, but cannot control, what is happening.

What to do

  • Stay with the person and offer reassurance until the seizure has passed
  • Sometimes a simple partial seizure can act as a warning or 'aura' that a second seizure (usually a tonic-clonic or a complex partial seizure) will soon start.
  • If this is the case, the person may need help in getting to a quiet and safe place.

Complex Partial Seizures

The person may experience strange or unusual feelings, lose their sense of time and appear distant from who and what is happening around them. This type of seizure can make someone behave in an odd, random or inappropriate way, such as lip smacking, plucking at clothes, moving aimlessly or compulsively around a room. Unlike simple partial seizures, there will be some loss or alteration of consciousness.

What to do

  • Gently lead them from any source of danger
  • Do not restrain or interfere unnecessarily with the person
  • The seizure should be allowed to run its natural course
  • Speaking softly and calmly may help
  • Offer reassurance afterwards

Absence Seizures (previously known as petit mal)

Absence seizures consist of a brief loss of consciousness and are easily mistaken for daydreaming. The person (usually a child) stops what they are doing, remains motionless, blinks, and stares into space. Soon, the person will recover and may not be aware that a seizure has occurred.

What to do

  • Absence seizures are usually very brief and often pass unnoticed
  • If you witness an absence seizure stay with the person for a while to make sure they do not suffer any injury
  • Tell the person what has happened
  • If a child is in the classroom, repeat any information they have missed

Tonic-clonic seizures (previously known as grand mal)

The tonic-clonic seizure is the most widely recognised seizure. The person will lose consciousness and fall to the ground.

The person will stiffen (the tonic phase) and then jerk (the clonic phase).
Breathing may become irregular and as a result the person could turn slightly blue. The person may also make grunting noises, bite their tongue or cheek, or be incontinent.
After a couple of minutes the jerking normally stops and the person will slowly regain consciousness. They may feel groggy, sleepy and confused for some time afterwards and have a headache or aching limbs. How long it takes to feel ok again varies from one person to the next.

What to do

  • Keep calm and note the time the seizure starts and how long it lasts
  • Clear a space around the person and prevent people from crowding round
  • Cushion the person's head with whatever is available
  • Loosen any tight clothing round the neck and gently remove glasses (if worn)
  • Watch the seizure carefully and if possible let it run its natural course
  • Turn the person into the recovery position as soon as the jerking stops
  • Be reassuring during the recovery period and tell the person about the seizure
  • Stay, if possible, until the person is no longer confused

What not to do

  • Do not try to lift or move the person while the seizure is happening unless there is an immediate danger (e.g. they are on a busy road, at the top of stairs, at the edge of water, near a fire or hot radiator)
  • Do not try to stop the jerking or restrain the person
  • Do not put anything in the person's mouth or between their teeth
  • Do not offer the person something to drink until they are fully conscious
  • Do not fuss around the person while they are recovering from the seizure

There is no need to call an ambulance unless:

  • It is the person’s first seizure
  • One seizure follows another without any recovery in between
  • The convulsive or jerking part of the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes or longer than is usual for the person
  • The person has been badly injured

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coloured overlays in the treatment of visual stress

Coloured overlays have been shown to reduce visual stress and increase reading speed by more than 25% in 5% of schoolchildren aged 7-8. 

The increase occurs only when a sufficient number of colours is available from which to choose the optimum, which differs from one individual to another. A variety of controlled trials have shown that placebo effects are not a sufficient explanation for the increase in reading speed.  

Coloured glasses have been shown to reduce headaches in open trials and also in two small-scale trials using a double-masked protocol. The colour optimal for overlays differs from that optimal in lenses. The shade usually has to be selected with precision in order to obtain beneficial results. 

The symptoms of visual stress (visual discomfort and perceptual distortions) and the benefit from colour are sometimes collectively referred to as 'visual stress' (preferred) or 'Meares-Irlen Syndrome', and sometimes as 'Irlen Syndrome' (USA), or (formerly) 'scotopic sensitivity syndrome', a misnomer.

Helen Irlen was one of the first to promote the beneficial effects of coloured filters. Her approach remains controversial. 

The research work described in these pages follows from studies conducted originally in collaboration with members of the Irlen Institute, but subsequently quite independently of this organisation. 

A recent summary of the scientific literature is available.

Unlike some other recent overlays systems, the "Intuitive Overlays" offer a sufficient range of colours and have been shown to increase reading speed. They can be obtained from ioo sales. Cerium Visual Technologies sell similar overlays and Crossbow Education now sell an A4 pack with a sufficient range of overlay colours. 

Suitable techniques for testing with overlays are given in the book "Reading through Colour" (Wiley 2003). You can obtain a complete set of Wilkins' publications , and a selection of other recent relevant papers

There is also a set of frequently asked questions (with answers!).

You can also obtain a video entitled "Reading with Colour" in which children talk about their experiences with overlays, and a test with overlays is demonstrated.

There is a set of forms containing suggestions for teachers in high schools and colleges. There is a page of information for optometrists

The optometrists who use the Intuitive Colorimeter are listed on the Cerium Visual Technologies website. There is a support e-group for those who suffer from Visual Stress (perceptual distortion and eye-strain, treated with coloured filters).

Shareware software allows computer users to select the colour of the foreground and the background of their computer monitor. There is software compatible with Windows 95 available for download here, and also software compatible with more recent Windows operating systems (Screen Tinter LITE) available for download.

The software is useful because it allows you to adjust the colour when you are working with the application you usually use, but you can also adjust the background colour in recent Windows operating systems by following instructions on how to use the Control Panel.

There is a Society for Coloured Lens prescribers from which a list of prescribers can be obtained. The society members have subscribed to a code of evidence-based conduct.

A Sciart project has explored visual stress from complex images.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact Arnold Wilkins.

Declaration of interest: The Medical Research Council (MRC) owns the rights to the Intuitive Overlays and Intuitive Colorimeter. Professor Wilkins was employed by the MRC and receives an Award to Inventors, based on royalties.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dyslexia and Digital Design

It is always interesting when Dyslexia is in the media and at the moment a lot of attention is being given to the new research by The University of Cincinnati and Renee Seward, UC assistant professor of digital design.

The University is employing its design research capabilities to create a 21st century electronic toolkit that hopes to help children with dyslexia.

Seward, presented her project, titled “Reading by Design: Visualizing Phonemic Sound for Dyslexic Readers 9-11 Years Old,” at the Southwest International Reading Association Regional Conference in Oklahoma City, on Feb. 5, 2010.

The project was inspired by the struggles of a friend’s child to read and Seward’s own exploration of the topic, wherein she learned that one out of five children have some form of dyslexia.

She found that “The child is able to read the letter ‘b.’ He or she is unable to quickly recall that we associate that symbol with the sound, ‘buh.

“In my work,” said Seward, “I want to deemphasize the 26 letters of the alphabet and emphasize the 44 common sounds of the English language.

I do so by helping educators employ children’s senses, from the visual to the kinesthetic.” The toolkit seeks to create a multi sensory onscreen reading experience.

I'm not Stupid - Diagnosing Dyslexia Part 3

I'm not Stupid - Diagnosing Dyslexia Part 2

I'm not Stupid - Diagnosing Dyslexia Part 1

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Philosophy for Children: Get Young Minds Racing!

Philosophy can be used to improve teaching and learning, for the lasting benefit of individuals and communities

Philosophy for Children / Communities aims to encourage children (or adults) to think critically, caringly, creatively and collaboratively.

It helps teachers to build a 'community of enquiry' where participants create and enquire into their own questions, and 'learn how to learn' in the process.

Matthew Lipman, creator of the philosophy for children movement, has died. Read this interesting article about him in the New York Times

How to be happy: a psychotherapist's view

Philippa Perry is not a scientist or a psychologist, which always makes me cautious in examining any claims regarding potential results coming from the proposed therapy.

She is a psycho-therapist who writes for the Guardian in the UK and here is an extract from her article on 'How to be Happy'. Judge for yourself if this will be effective and help you in your life.

"I cannot pretend that there is a simple set of instructions that guarantees happiness. We all come from a distinctive combination of genes, and have had a unique set of relationships and experiences that formed us to the shape we are in now; one size does not fit all. But there are underlying principles that can help us.

When it comes to our brains, all humans are born prematurely, as many of the neural pathways in our brains are formed after we are born, and in relationship with our earliest caregivers. If they do a good job, manage to soothe us regularly when we are upset, we eventually internalise this process.

We also need our parents to validate our various moods and mental states in a safe way as we grow up; acknowledging when we are hurt, in pain, or joyful. This allows us to develop all parts of our personalities. If some of our moods are punished or ignored, trouble can arise later on in life.

As you learn together with your earliest caregivers how to regulate your emotions, your brain will be making lots of new pathways that are necessary for you to learn to become comfortable with your emotions and manage them for yourself. 

Your earliest bonds also serve as a model for all subsequent relationships, teaching you to form nourishing, enriching, and mutually beneficial relationships throughout your life. 

The bulk of these neural connections happen before you are two years old. In other words, much of the wiring up that determines how you respond emotionally and conduct relationships, happened pre-verbally. 

The logic, reason and language part of your brain develops so slowly that most of the patterns for how you feel are formed before you can reason with yourself and others.

If your relationship with your early caregivers was less than ideal, or you experienced trauma so shocking it undid the security established in your infancy, it is possible that later on in life you may find yourself in emotional difficulties. 

Although it is too late to have a happier childhood, that doesn't mean you can't be happier in the future. Your brain is fairly plastic and you can make new neural connections to change that chemistry so that you can improve your self-soothing, self-regulation and how you behave in relationships.

How do you do that? There isn't a foolproof prescription – if you are in a downward spiral you need to interrupt that spiral with medication, or a different set of behaviours, or something else. I'm being vague on purpose; what works for me might not work for you. But there are four underlying structures for positive change:

1. A safe, trusting, reliable relationship that is for your sake. Not necessarily a romantic relationship, but a nurturing one (it could be with a therapist, or a teacher). We are formed in relationship – so the easiest way to re-form is in a relationship.

2. Positive stimulation – good stress. Enough to push you to learn new things, but not so much it tips you over into panic. Good stress enables new brain connections to be made and a plastic brain is what you need for personal development and growth. Examples could be learning to play a musical instrument, or a new language.

3. Develop your self-observational side. This is an accepting and non- judgmental part. It acknowledges emotions but gives you space to decide how to act on them. This part listens to and brings together your emotions and your logic. To help, try keeping a diary, or practise meditation, get used to noticing your feelings and thoughts without judgment.

4. A fresh perspective on your personal narrative. Because so much of our self is formed pre-verbally, the beliefs we live by can be covert. It is important to view your life from fresh angles and to let go of fixed ways of defining yourself. You may have beliefs that start with, "I'm the sort of person who . . ." or "I always . . ." these might benefit from a rethink and possibly rewrite with a trusted person or group. 

For example, change a message such as, "I must meet my soulmate before my life can really start" to, "What happens when I notice the negative thoughts I have about other people, but don't act on them – what changes in how I then relate to them and how people relate to me?"

These four processes are a framework for change. The content will always be different for each individual Finding out about that content and how to change it is down to yourself."

Philippa Perry is the author of Couch Fiction, published by Palgrave Macmillan

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Link Autism: Courses for Teachers and Parents

Link Autism Leadership serves individuals, families, and Educational Leaders impacted by autism disorders.

They help students with autism overcome educational and social barriers by empowering Educational Leaders to be equipped to serve them.

We fill the void for autism resources and training. Link Autism Leadership are leaders in Professional Development!

Click here to visit their website

Friday, January 7, 2011

Babies Process Language like an Adult

Babies, even those too young to talk, can understand many of the words that adults are saying and their brains process them in a grown-up way.

Combining the cutting-edge technologies of MRI and MEG, scientists at the University of California, San Diego show that babies just over a year old process words they hear with the same brain structures as adults, and in the same amount of time.

Moreover, the researchers found that babies were not merely processing the words as sounds, but were capable of grasping their meaning.

This study was jointly led by Eric Halgren, PhD, professor of radiology in the School of Medicine, Jeff Elman, PhD, professor of cognitive science in the Division of Social Sciences, and first author, Katherine E. Travis, of the Department of Neurosciences and the Multimodal Imaging Laboratory, all at UC San Diego. The work is published this week in the Oxford University Press journal Cerebral Cortex.

"Babies are using the same brain mechanisms as adults to access the meaning of words from what is thought to be a mental 'database' of meanings, a database which is continually being updated right into adulthood," said Travis.

Previously, many people thought infants might use an entirely different mechanism for learning words, and that learning began primitively and evolved into the process used by adults.

Determining the areas of the brain responsible for learning language, however, has been hampered by a lack of evidence showing where language is processed in the developing brain.

While lesions in two areas called Broca's and Wernicke's (frontotemporal) areas have long been known to be associated with loss of language skills in adults, such lesions in early childhood have little impact on language development.

To explain this discordance, some have proposed that the right hemisphere and inferior frontal regions are initially critical for language, and that classical language areas of adulthood become dominant only with increasing linguistic experience.

Alternatively, other theories have suggested that the plasticity of an infant's brain allows other regions to take over language-learning tasks if left frontotemporal regions are damaged at an early age.

Colour Blindness in Motion

A new illusion shows how our perception of objects changes as soon as they start moving.

At first, the ring of dots is motionless and it's easy to tell that the dots are changing color. When the ring begins to rotate, however, the dots suddenly appear to stop changing.

The faster the ring moves, the less the colours appear to change. But in reality, they were changing the whole time, at the same rate. As the video shows, the illusion also works for brightness, shape and size.

The phenomenon - change blindness - by which observers don't notice that an image is changing in front of their eyes, isn't new.

Nor is the notion that motion affects the way we see objects - watch our video special on moving illusions for lots of other cool examples - this new illusion designed by Jordan Sochow and George Alvarez at Harvard University demonstrates the principle especially well.

The pair believe the illusion occurs because the areas of the retina responsible for detecting these changes are local - each part of the visual field is monitored by a specific part of the retina. Because a fast moving object spends little time at any one location, a local detector only has a small window of time in which to assess the changing object - and therefore fails to detect the change. 

Journal Reference: Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.019

Images of Chemical Elements of Periodic Table

This pictorial periodic table is colourful, fun, and packed with information. In addition to the element's name, symbol, and atomic number, each element box has a drawing of one of the element's main human uses or natural occurrences. 

The table is colour-coded to show the chemical groupings. 

Small symbols pack in additional information: solid/liquid/gas, color of element, common in the human body, common in the earth's crust, magnetic metals, noble metals, radioactive, and rare or never found in nature. It does not overload kids with a lot of detailed numbers, like atomic weights and valence numbers.

Note: Elements in Pictures and Elements in Words are a set. Either may stand alone, but they work best together.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

US Courts support right of Blind Woman to use tech aids to take Exams

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest nationwide organisation of blind people, today applauded a federal appellate court ruling affirming the right of a blind California woman to use screen access technology to take professional examinations required for her to receive a license to practice law.

The ruling, handed down yesterday by a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, upheld preliminary injunctions granted by a federal district court requiring the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) to provide electronic copies of its legal examinations to Stephanie Enyart so that she could read the questions with text-to-speech and magnification software.

The NCBE had appealed the injunctions, arguing that the law did not require it to provide electronic copies of the examinations and that Enyart must choose from the menu of accommodations it was willing to provide.
Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind welcomes this ruling, which means that testing agencies must afford the accommodations and auxiliary aids that are most likely to level the playing field for the blind and other test takers with disabilities.

The court made it clear that law and equity simply do not permit the NCBE to dictate a one-size-fits-all solution for all bar candidates with disabilities. The ruling stands solidly for the principle that the NCBE and all testing organizations must consider the individual needs of each examination candidate and that accommodation policies must change as access technology continues to improve.

It is our sincere hope that the NCBE will change its rigid and outdated accommodation policies to reflect the letter and spirit of this ruling, and that other entities that administer educational and professional examinations will take note and do likewise. The National Federation of the Blind stands ready to fight for the rights of blind students and aspiring professionals and to make sure that this ruling is faithfully followed."

According to the ruling, Ms. Enyart established that screen reader software, which speaks text on the screen out loud and/or magnifies it visually, is her primary reading method and the way she took most of her law school examinations.

The court upheld the validity of a Department of Justice regulation, promulgated pursuant to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requiring that "the examination is selected and administered so as to best ensure that when the examination is administered to an individual with a disability . . . the examination results accurately reflect the individual's aptitude or achievement level . . . rather than reflecting the individual's [disability]."

Read more of this article at :

ADHD: Retuning the Concentration Off-Switch

Brain scans of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have shown for the first time why people affected by the condition sometimes have difficulty in concentrating.

The study, by experts at The University of Nottingham, may explain why parents often say that their child can maintain concentration when they are doing something that interests them, but struggles with boring tasks.

Using a ‘Whack-a-Mole’ style game, researchers from the Motivation, Inhibition and Development in ADHD Study (MIDAS) group found evidence that children with ADHD require either much greater incentives — or their usual stimulant medication — to focus on a task.

The research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, found that when the incentive was low, the children with ADHD failed to “switch off” brain regions involved in mind-wandering. When the incentive was high, however, or they were taking their medication, their brain activity was indistinguishable from a typically-developing non-ADHD child.

Professor Chris Hollis, in the School of Community Health Sciences, led the study. He said: “The results are exciting because for the first time we are beginning to understand how in children with ADHD incentives and stimulant medication work in a similar way to alter patterns of brain activity and enable them to concentrate and focus better. It also explains why in children with ADHD their performance is often so variable and inconsistent, depending as it does on their interest in a particular task.”

ADHD is the most common mental health disorder in childhood, affecting around one in 50 children in the UK. Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and distractible, and experience difficulties at home and in school. Although no cure exists for the condition, symptoms can be reduced by medication and/or behavioural therapy. The drug methylphenidate (more often known by the brand name Ritalin) is commonly used to treat the condition.

Previous studies have shown that children with ADHD have difficulty in ‘switching-off’ the default mode network (DMN) in their brains. This network is usually active when we are doing nothing, giving rise to spontaneous thoughts or ‘daydreams’, but is suppressed when we are focused on the task before us. In children with ADHD, however, it is thought that the DMN may be insufficiently suppressed on ‘boring’ tasks that require focused attention.

To read more check out the Science Blog article 

TV Exposure and Eating Disorders in Girls

Researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine examined the link between media consumption and eating disorders among adolescent girls in Fiji.

What they found was surprising. The study’s subjects did not even need to have a television at home to see raised risk levels of eating disorder symptoms.

In fact, by far the biggest factor for eating disorders was how many of a subject’s friends and schoolmates had access to TV. By contrast, researchers found that direct forms of exposure, like personal or parental viewing, did not have an independent impact, when factors like urban location, body shape and other influences were taken into account.

It appeared that changing attitudes within a group that had been exposed to television were a more powerful factor than actually watching the programs themselves. In fact, higher peer media exposure were linked to a 60 percent increase in a girl’s odds of having a high level of eating disorder symptoms, independently of her own viewing.

Lead author Anne Becker, vice chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said this was the first study to attempt to quantify the role of social networks in spreading the negative consequences of media consumption on eating disorders.

“Our findings suggest that social network exposure is not just a minor influence on eating pathology here, but rather, IS the exposure of concern,” she said.

“If you are a parent and you are concerned about limiting cultural exposure, it simply isn’t going to be enough to switch off the TV. If you are going to think about interventions, it would have to be at a community or peer-based level.”

Becker hopes the paper will encourage debate about responsible programming and the regulation of media content to prevent children from secondhand exposure.

“Up until now, it has been very difficult to get people who produce media as entertainment to come to the table and think about how they might ensure that their products are not harmful to children,” she said.

To read more got to Science Blog article

How does Creativity Work

Let's look at a more accurate view of creativity, with its roots in modern science. The watershed year is 1998, when Brenda Milner, Larry Squire, and Eric Kandel published a breakthrough article in the journal Neuron, “Cognitive Neuroscience and the Study of Memory.”

Kandel won the Nobel Prize two years later for his contribution to this work. Since then, neuroscientists have ceased to accept Sperry’s two-sided brain. The new model of the brain is “intelligent memory,” in which analysis and intuition work together in the mind in all modes of thought.

There is no left brain; there is no right. There is only learning and recall, in various combinations, throughout the entire brain.

Neuroscientist Barry Gordon gives an overview of this newer model of the brain in his book Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory That Makes You Smarter (Viking, 2003), with coauthor Lisa Berger. He portrays the everyday intelligent memory of human beings as the greatest inventory system on earth.

From the moment you’re born, your brain takes things in, breaks them down, and puts them on shelves. As new information comes in, your brain does a search to see how it might fit with other information already stored in your memory.

When it finds a match, the previous memories come off the shelf and combine with the new, and the result is a thought. The breaking down and storing process is analysis. The searching and combining is intuition.

Both are necessary for all kinds of thought. Even a mathematical calculation requires the intuition part, to recall the symbols and formula previously learned in order to apply them to the problem.

When the pieces come off the shelf smoothly, in familiar patterns — such as simple addition you’ve done many times — you don’t even realize it has happened. When lots of different pieces combine into a new pattern, you feel it as a flash of insight, the famous “aha!” moment. But the mental mechanism works the same way in both cases.

Whether it’s working on a familiar formula or a new idea, intelligent memory combines analysis and intuition as learning and recall.

Just as the intelligent memory concept has replaced the old two-sided brain theory in neuroscience, people in groups need to replace brainstorming with methods that reflect more accurately how creative ideas actually form in the mind, and they don’t need to start from scratch.

Once we understand how intelligent memory works, we find several existing techniques that fit. After all, human beings have innovated for eons. If we study how innovation actually happens, we can learn how to do it more reliably.

Example of an Orton Gillingham Lesson - Pride Learning Centre

The Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction was developed in the early-20th century. It was developed to teach struggling and non-readers how to read and write. The program works with all students, especially those with dyslexia, auditory and visual processing disorder and ADHD.

Students are taught spelling simultaneously with reading. Because each student has a different learning style, all lessons are taught by seeing, saying, moving, hearing and touching the concept being taught. This is known as multisensory teaching.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NRRF - Reading Competency Test

NRRF - Reading Competency Test

Online Reading Assessments

Online Reading Programs - Assessments - Reading Horizons

Neil Gaiman - 2011 New Year Message

Don’t leave learning to the young. Older brains can grow, too. - Oliver Sachs

I bring you an extract from a very interesting article from the neuro-physician and author, Oliver Sachs.

NEW Year’s resolutions often have to do with eating more healthfully, going to the gym more, giving up sweets, losing weight — all admirable goals aimed at improving one’s physical health. Most people, though, do not realise that they can strengthen their brains in a similar way.

While some areas of the brain are hard-wired from birth or early childhood, other areas — especially in the cerebral cortex, which is central to higher cognitive powers like language
and thought, as well as sensory and motor functions — can be, to a remarkable extent, rewired as we grow older.

In fact, the brain has an astonishing ability to rebound from damage — even from something as devastating as the loss of sight or hearing. As a physician who treats patients with neurological conditions, I see this happen all the time.

For example, one patient of mine who had been deafened by scarlet fever at the age of 9, was so adept at lip-reading that it was easy to forget she was deaf. Once, without thinking, I turned away from her as I was speaking. “I can no longer hear you,” she said sharply.

“You mean you can no longer see me,” I said.

“You may call it seeing,” she answered, “but I experience it as hearing.”

Lip-reading, seeing mouth movements, was immediately transformed for this patient into “hearing” the sounds of speech in her mind. Her brain was converting one mode of sensation into another.

In a similar way, blind people often find ways of “seeing.” Some areas of the brain, if not stimulated, will atrophy and die. (“Use it or lose it,” neurologists often say.) But the visual areas of the brain, even in someone born blind, do not entirely disappear; instead, they are redeployed for other senses. We have all heard of blind people with unusually acute hearing, but other senses may be heightened, too.

For example, Geerat Vermeij, a biologist at the University of California-Davis who has been blind since the age of 3, has identified many new species of mollusks based on tiny variations in the contours of their shells. He uses a sort of spatial or tactile giftedness that is beyond what any sighted person is likely to have.

The writer Ved Mehta, also blind since early childhood, navigates in large part by using “facial vision” — the ability to sense objects by the way they reflect sounds, or subtly shift the air currents that reach his face.
Ben Underwood, a remarkable boy who lost his sight at 3 and died at 16 in 2009, developed an effective, dolphin-like strategy of emitting regular clicks with his mouth and reading the resulting echoes from nearby objects. He was so skilled at this that he could ride a bike and play sports and even video games.

People like Ben Underwood and Ved Mehta, who had some early visual experience but then lost their sight, seem to instantly convert the information they receive from touch or sound into a visual image — “seeing” the dots, for instance, as they read Braille with a finger.
Researchers using functional brain imagery have confirmed that in such situations the blind person activates not only the parts of the cortex devoted to touch, but parts of the visual cortex as well.

One does not have to be blind or deaf to tap into the brain’s mysterious and extraordinary power to learn, adapt and grow. I have seen hundreds of patients with various deficits —
strokes, Parkinson’s and even dementia — learn to do things in new ways, whether consciously or unconsciously, to work around those deficits.

Music is an especially powerful shaping force, for listening to and especially playing it engages many different areas of the brain, all of which must work in tandem: from reading musical notation and coordinating fine muscle movements in the hands, to evaluating and expressing rhythm and pitch, to associating music with memories and emotion.

Whether it is by learning a new language, traveling to a new place, developing a passion for beekeeping or simply thinking about an old problem in a new way, all of us can find ways to stimulate our brains to grow, in the coming year and those to follow. Just as physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy body, challenging one’s brain, keeping it active, engaged, flexible and playful, is not only fun. It is essential to cognitive fitness.

To read the full article go here Don’t leave learning to the young. Older brains can grow, too. -

World of Dyslexia January 2011 Newsletter

World of Dyslexia Newsletter