Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Advantages of Dyslexia: With reading difficulties can come other cognitive strengths

Aug 19, 2014

“There are three types of mathematicians, those who can count and those who can’t.”
Bad joke? You bet. But what makes this amusing is that the joke is triggered by our perception of a paradox, a breakdown in mathematical logic that activates regions of the brain located in the right prefrontal cortex. These regions are sensitive to the perception of causality and alert us to situations that are suspect or fishy — possible sources of danger where a situation just doesn’t seem to add up. 
Many of the famous etchings by the artist M.C. Escher activate a similar response because they depict scenes that violate causality. His famous “Waterfall” shows a water wheel powered by water pouring down from a wooden flume. The water turns the wheel, and is redirected uphill back to the mouth of the flume, where it can once again pour over the wheel, in an endless cycle.  The drawing shows us a situation that violates pretty much every law of physics on the books, and our brain perceives this logical oddity as amusing — a visual joke.

The trick that makes Escher’s drawings intriguing is a geometric construction psychologists refer to as an “impossible figure,” a line-form suggesting a three-dimensional object that could never exist in our experience. Psychologists, including a team led by Catya von Károlyi of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, have used such figures to study human cognition. When the team asked people to pick out impossible figures from similarly drawn illustrations that did not violate causality, they were surprised to discover that some people were faster at this than others. And most surprising of all, among those who were the fastest were those with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is often called a “learning disability.” And it can indeed present learning challenges. Although its effects vary widely, children with dyslexia read so slowly that it would typically take them a half a year to read the same number of words other children might read in a day. Therefore, the fact that people who read so slowly were so adept at picking out the impossible figures was a big surprise to the researchers. After all, why would people who are slow in reading be fast at responding to visual representations of causal reasoning?

Though the psychologists may have been surprised, many of the people with dyslexia I speak with are not. In our laboratory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics we have carried out studies funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate talents for science among those with dyslexia. The dyslexic scientist Christopher Tonkin described to me his sense of this as a sensitivity to “things out of place.”  He’s easily bothered by the weeds among the flowers in his garden, and he felt that this sensitivity for visual anomalies was something he built on in his career as a professional scientist.  Such differences in sensitivity for causal perception may explain why people like Carole Greider and Baruj Benacerraf have been able to perform Nobel prize-winning science despite lifelong challenges with dyslexia.

In one study, we tested professional astrophysicists with and without dyslexia for their abilities to spot the simulated graphical signature in a spectrum characteristic of a black hole. The scientists with dyslexia —perhaps sensitive to the weeds among the flowers— were better at picking out the black holes from the noise, an advantage useful in their careers. Another study in our laboratory compared the abilities of college students with and without dyslexia for memorizing blurry-looking images resembling x-rays. Again, those with dyslexia showed an advantage, an advantage in that can be useful in science or medicine. 

Why are there advantages in dyslexia?  Is it something about the brains of people with dyslexia that predisposes them to causal thinking? Or, is it a form of compensation, differences in the brain that occur because people with dyslexia read less? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is unknown.

One thing we do know for sure is that reading changes the structure of the brain. An avid reader might read for an hour or more a day, day in and day out for years on end. This highly specialized repetitive training, requiring an unnaturally precise, split-second control over eye movements, can quickly restructure the visual system so as to make some pathways more efficient than the others.

When illiterate adults were taught to read, an imaging study led by Stanislas Dehaene in France showed that changes occurred in the brain as reading was acquired. But, as these adults developed skills for reading, they also lost their former abilities to process certain types of visual information, such as the ability to determine when an object is the mirror image of another.  Learning to read therefore comes at a cost, and the ability to carry out certain types of visual processing are lost when people learn to read. This would suggest that the visual strengths in dyslexia are simply an artifact of differences in reading experience, a trade-off that occurs as a consequence of poor reading in dyslexia.

My colleagues and I suggested⁠ that one reason people with dyslexia may exhibit visual talents is that they have difficulty managing visual attention⁠. It may at first seem ironic that a difficulty can lead to an advantage, but it makes sense when you realize that what we call “advantages” and “disadvantages” have meaning only in the context of the task that needs to be performed.

For example, imagine you’re looking to hire a talented security guard. This person’s job will be to spot things that look odd and out of place, and call the police when something suspicious —say, an unexpected footprint in a flowerbed— is spotted. If this is the person’s task, would you rather hire a person who is an excellent reader, who has the ability to focus deeply and get lost in the text, or would you rather hire a person who is sensitive to changes in their visual environment, who is less apt to focus and block out the world?

Tasks such as reading require an ability to focus your attention on the words as your eyes scan a sentence, to quickly and accurately shift your attention in sequence from one word to the next.  But, to be a good security guard you need an opposite skill; you need to be able to be alert to everything all at once, and though this isn’t helpful for reading, this can lead to talents in other areas. If the task is to find the logical flaw in an impossible figure, then this can be done more quickly if you can distribute your attention everywhere on the figure all at once. If you tend to focus on the visual detail, to examine every piece of the figure in sequence, it could take you longer to determine whether these parts add up to the whole, and you would be at a disadvantage.

A series of studies by an Italian team led by Andrea Facoetti have shown that children with dyslexia often exhibit impairments in visual attention. In one study, Facoetti’s team measured visual attention in 82 preschool children who had not yet been taught to read. The researchers then waited a few years until these children finished second grade, and then examined how well each child had learned reading. They found that those who had difficulty focusing their visual attention in preschool had more difficulty learning to read.

These studies raise the possibility that visual attention deficits, present from a very early age, are responsible for the reading challenges that are characteristic of dyslexia. If this theory is upheld, it would also suggest that the observed advantages are not an incidental byproduct of experience with reading, but are instead the result of differences in the brain that were likely present from birth.
If this is indeed the case, given that attention affects perception in very general ways, any number of advantages should emerge.  While people with dyslexia may tend to miss details in their environment that require an attentional focus, they would be expected to be better at noticing things that are distributed more broadly.  To put this another way, while typical readers may tend to miss the forest because it’s view is blocked by all the trees, people with dyslexia may see things more holistically, and miss the trees, but see the forest.

Among other advantages observed, Gadi Geiger and his colleagues at MIT found that people with dyslexia can distribute their attention far more broadly than do typical readers, successfully identifying letters flashed simultaneously in the center and the periphery for spacings that were much further apart. They also showed that such advantages are not just for things that are visual, but that they apply to sounds as well. In one study, simulating the sounds of a cocktail party, they found that people with dyslexia were able to pick out more words spoken by voices widely-distributed in the room, compared with people who were proficient readers.

Whether or not observations of such advantages —measured in the laboratory— have applications to talents in real life remains an open question. But, whatever the reason, a clear trend is beginning to emerge: People with dyslexia may exhibit strengths for seeing the big picture (both literally and figuratively) others tend to miss.  Thomas G. West has long argued that out-of-the-box thinking is historically part and parcel of dyslexia, and more recently physicians Brock and Fernette Eide have advanced similar arguments. Sociologists, such as Julie Logan of the Cass Business School in London agree.  Logan found that dyslexia is relatively common among business entrepreneurs; people who tend to think differently and see the big picture in thinking creatively about a business.

Whatever the mechanism, one thing is clear: dyslexia is associated with differences in visual abilities, and these differences can be an advantage in many circumstances, such as those that occur in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In physics we know that an engine is capable of productive work only when there are differences in temperature, hot versus cold. It’s only when everything is all the same that nothing productive can get done. Neurological differences similarly drive the engine of society, to create the contrasts between hot and cold that lead to productive work. Impairments in one area can lead to advantages in others, and it is these differences that drive progress in many fields, including science and math. After all, there are probably many more than three kinds of mathematicians, and society needs them all.

Matthew H. Schneps is an astrophysicist with dyslexia who founded the Laboratory for Visual Learning to investigate the consequences of cognitive diversity on learning. He is a professor of computer science at UMass Boston, and conducts research in dyslexia at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Currently, Schneps is writing a book on how the emergence of e-reading technologies is redefining dyslexia.
Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology? And have you read a recent peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about? Please send suggestions to Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Boston Globe. He can be reached at garethideas AT or Twitter @garethideas.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Recommended Reading for Children With LD

Bonnie Z. Goldsmith has worked in the field of education throughout her professional life. She has wide experience as a writer, editor and teacher.

Books by, about, and for children with learning disabilities offer elementary-aged kids valuable stories and guidance written especially for them. Check out the following books, a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, when you want to give your child something special to read.

Worst Enemies/Best Friends by Annie Bryant
This is the first of many books in the popular Beacon Street Girls series about five middle-school girls, one of whom, Maeve, has dyslexia. Maeve, who has a math tutor and is consistently disorganized, joins her friends in stories created to help girls build self-esteem and coping skills.

Spencer Allen Douglass, known as Sparky, keeps a diary that records his ups and downs as he lives with ADD. This optimistic and fun book includes many valuable insights and ideas for children with ADD and ADHD.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
The first book in an award-winning series about a boy with ADHD, this story shows an out-of-control Joey being transferred to a special education classroom in another school. A perceptive teacher recommends further medical evaluation, and Joey returns to his former school. These funny, compassionate books are written from Joey’s point of view in a sharp, worried style that veers out of control when Joey does.

How Dyslexic Benny Became a Star by Joe Griffith
Fifth grader Benny is frustrated and embarrassed about his struggles with reading. When he becomes a star on the football field, and when he is diagnosed with dyslexia, he discovers he has a powerful support system – his own personal team. It’s an inspiring story for the whole family.

The Gift-Giver by Joyce Hansen
This is the first book in the 163rd Street Trilogy, which features a vibrant inner-city setting and a boy, Yellow Bird, who has dyslexia. His peer tutor, Doris, doesn’t like him at first, but ultimately becomes his advocate and helps his teacher realize both his reading problems and his unique talents.

How Many Days Until Tomorrow by Caroline Janover
2001 Parents' Choice Award winner, this book is about Josh, a twelve-year-old with dyslexia who spends the summer on a remote island in Maine with grandparents he hardly knows and his older brother Simon, who is a terrible tease. In a dramatic and life-threatening situation, Josh learns he is just as smart as his “gifted” older brother. 

Shelley the Hyperactive Turtle by Deborah Moss
Shelley is a turtle who happens to have a very hard time sitting still. During a visit to the doctor, he learns that he is hyperactive, and that he can take medicine to control his wiggly feeling. The colorful illustrations help to explain the physical and emotional aspects of having a disability in a reassuring and positive way.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
In this richly illustrated, semi-autobiographical book, Trisha is thrilled to start school and learn to read. But she has dyslexia, and her classmates tease her relentlessly. Finally, Mr. Falker, her fifth grade teacher, recognizes Trisha’s problem and her artistic ability and takes the time to lead her to reading.f

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Book 1 of the adventure series Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Percy, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, knows he’s different. When a teacher becomes a deadly monster and his best friend turns out to be a satyr, he learns how different he is: he's the half-blood son of an Olympian god.

The Alphabet War: A Story About Dyslexia by Diane Burton Robb
Once Adam enters school, his love of books becomes a daily battle that he truly believes he cannot win. It isn't until third grade that Adam, now suffering from low self-esteem that leads him to behave aggressively, is tested for a learning disability and receives the specialized help he needs. Adam's experience will inspire and encourage many children who find themselves in similar predicaments.

Many Ways to Learn: A Kid’s Guide to LD by Judith M Stern and Uzi Ben-Ami
This book provides easy-to-use tips, information, and strategies to help children with learning disabilities feel better about themselves. The guide includes information on how to involve counselors and parents as a supportive "climbing team," and ways for children with various kinds of learning disabilities to set goals.

The Survival Guide for Kids with ADD or ADHD
by John F. Taylor
Packed with good advice, this guide features clear, kid-friendly writing and cartoon-style illustrations. Chapters cover such topics as medications, getting along at home, making friends, and succeeding at school.

Niagara Falls, or Does It?
by Henry Winkler
The first book in a series inspired by the true-life experiences of Henry Winkler. Hank Zipzer has difficulty reading, writing, and spelling, but his imagination is in full working order. Hank is funny and endearing, the books enjoyable and fast-paced.

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Novel Study Reveals How Sleep Reinforces Neuronal Growth After Learning

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop

Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material

Jun 3, 2014 |By Cindi May

“More is better.”  From the number of gigs in a cellular data plan to the horsepower in a pickup truck, this mantra is ubiquitous in American culture.  When it comes to college students, the belief that more is better may underlie their widely-held view that laptops in the classroom enhance their academic performance.  Laptops do in fact allow students to do more, like engage in online activities and demonstrations, collaborate more easily on papers and projects, access information from the internet, and take more notes.  Indeed, because students can type significantly faster than they can write, those who use laptops in the classroom tend to take more notes than those who write out their notes by hand.  Moreover, when students take notes using laptops they tend to take notes verbatim, writing down every last word uttered by their professor.

Obviously it is advantageous to draft more complete notes that precisely capture the course content and allow for a verbatim review of the material at a later date.  Only it isn’t.  New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more.  Across three experiments, Mueller and Oppenheimer had students take notes in a classroom setting and then tested students on their memory for factual detail, their conceptual understanding of the material, and their ability to synthesize and generalize the information.  Half of the students were instructed to take notes with a laptop, and the other half were instructed to write the notes out by hand.  As in other studies, students who used laptops took more notes.  In each study, however, those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops.

What drives this paradoxical finding?  Mueller and Oppenheimer postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning.  Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture.  Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.  Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.  By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content.

To evaluate this theory, Mueller and Oppenheimer assessed the content of notes taken by hand versus laptop.  Their studies included hundreds of students from Princeton and UCLA, and the lecture topics ranged from bats, bread, and algorithms to faith, respiration, and economics.  Content analysis of the notes consistently showed that students who used laptops had more verbatim transcription of the lecture material than those who wrote notes by hand.  Moreover, high verbatim note content was associated with lower retention of the lecture material.  It appears that students who use laptops can take notes in a fairly mindless, rote fashion, with little analysis or synthesis by the brain.  This kind of shallow transcription fails to promote a meaningful understanding or application of the information.

If the source of the advantage for longhand notes derives from the conceptual processes they evoke, perhaps instructing laptop users to draft summative rather than verbatim notes will boost performance.  Mueller and Oppenheimer explored this idea by warning laptop note takers against the tendency to transcribe information without thinking, and explicitly instructed them to think about the information and type notes in their own words.  Despite these instructions, students using laptops showed the same level of verbatim content and were no better in synthesizing material than students who received no such warning.  It is possible these direct instructions to improve the quality of laptop notes failed because it is so easy to rely on less demanding, mindless processes when typing.

It’s important to note that most of the studies that have compared note taking by hand versus laptop have used immediate memory tests administered very shortly (typically less than an hour) after the learning session.  In real classroom settings, however, students are often assessed days if not weeks after learning new material.  Thus, although laptop users may not encode as much during the lecture and thus may be disadvantaged on immediate assessments, it seems reasonable to expect that the additional information they record will give them an advantage when reviewing material after a long delay.

Wrong again.  Mueller and Oppenheimer included a study in which participants were asked to take notes by hand or by laptop, and were told they would be tested on the material in a week.  When participants were given an opportunity to study with their notes before the final assessment, once again those who took longhand notes outperformed laptop participants.  Because longhand notes contain students’ own words and handwriting, they may serve as more effective memory cues by recreating the context (e.g., thought processes, emotions, conclusions) as well as content (e.g., individual facts) from the original learning session.

These findings hold important implications for students who use their laptops to access lecture outlines and notes that have been posted by professors before class.  Because students can use these posted materials to access lecture content with a mere click, there is no need to organize, synthesize or summarize in their own words.  Indeed, students may take very minimal notes or not take notes at all, and may consequently forego the opportunity to engage in the mental work that supports learning.

Beyond altering students’ cognitive processes and thereby reducing learning, laptops pose other threats in the classroom.  In the Mueller and Oppenheimer studies, all laptops were disconnected from the internet, thus eliminating any disruption from email, instant messaging, surfing, or other online distractions.  In most typical college settings, however, internet access is available, and evidence suggests that when college students use laptops, they spend 40% of class time using applications unrelated to coursework, are more likely to fall off task, and are less satisfied with their education.  In one study with law school students, nearly 90% of laptop users engaged in online activities unrelated to coursework for at least five minutes, and roughly 60% were distracted for half the class.

Technology offers innovative tools that are shaping educational experiences for students, often in positive and dynamic ways.  The research by Mueller and Oppenheimer serves as a reminder, however, that even when technology allows us to do more in less time, it does not always foster learning.  Learning involves more than the receipt and the regurgitation of information.  If we want students to synthesize material, draw inferences, see new connections, evaluate evidence, and apply concepts in novel situations, we need to encourage the deep, effortful cognitive processes that underlie these abilities.  When it comes to taking notes, students need fewer gigs, more brain power.

Cindi May is a Professor of Psychology at the College of Charleston. She explores mechanisms for optimizing cognitive function in college students, older adults, and individuals with intellectual disabilities. She is also the project director for a TPSID grant from the Department of Education, which promotes the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in postsecondary education.

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孩子的玩具車已經多到成為「路霸」了嗎? 只要拿出絕緣膠帶,一切就搞定了!






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Friday, May 23, 2014

Why children need discipline

Many parents don’t set - or don't enforce - rules for their kids because they don’t want to be the villain but setting your child limits is vital for teaching him self-control.

How rules help your child feel secure
One of the main parent pitfalls Supernanny Jo Frost tackles in her sessions with families on the show is failing to set rules because you don’t want to be too tough on your kids. Trouble is this often means parents end up losing control because they’re too soft to enforce boundaries and follow up bad behavior with consequences.
Few aspects of parenting are as important as discipline. The bottom line is that it helps your child feel secure and determines what kind of person he’ll grow up to be.

Discipline or punishment?
So many parents confuse discipline with punishment and part of Supernanny’s mission is to show parents that managing their kids’ behavior needn’t be a negative experience. See discipline as a way of teaching your child self-control instead of a way of controlling your child, and you’re well on the way to appreciating that it can be a positive learning experience. Once you’ve helped build that sense of self-control you’ve effectively taught your child the skill of disciplining himself.

Why kids need rules
Your house rules set limits and boundaries for your child that help him think in an orderly way and get along with other kids and adults. They impact on his academic success – think about how the discipline he learns from you is the basis for his behavior at school – demonstrate that there are consequences to his actions and keep him safe. Helping him stick to the rules will make him way more pleasant to have around and be around and his sense of self-control is a vital skill he can fall back on during his teen years, when making wise decisions may run counter to his desire to rebel.

Keeping it positive
If discipline isn’t the same as punishment, that definitely rules out spanking. Although some parents see it as the ideal short, sharp shock, especially if their child is engaging in behavior that risks his safety, using it for day-to-day punishment risks teaching your child that physical aggression is OK. Always keep in mind that you’re aiming to teach your child what behavior is acceptable – not punish him for being bad.

How to discipline when you really don’t want to…
Some parents just don’t want to be the bad guy; others let their kids get away with doing what they like when and where they like because they’re afraid saying no will result in a tantrum. Others had harsh discipline meted out to them when they were young and don’t want their kids to feel the way they did. What you have to remember is that you owe it to your child to raise him to be a responsible adult – and teaching him how to behave is a big part of that. How do you do it?
  1. Don’t see your child as bad
    Instead of coming at discipline from the angle that your child has intentionally done something naughty, try see his acting up as a lapse in judgment. This makes it easier for you to discipline him in a positive way because you’ll be more inclined to focus on teaching him what’s acceptable.
  2. Make his routine consistent
    Set regular times for meals, homework and bedtime. If he knows it’s set in stone that he does something at a particular time, he’s less likely to act up when you tell him to go do it.
  3. Don’t make rules he can’t keep
    Be reasonable when it comes to the house rules. Involve your child as much as possible in compiling them and before making each rule, think about whether it’s really necessary and whether you might be effectively setting traps for him by laying down laws he can’t possibly stick to. Make sure your rules are appropriate for his age and accept that you might need to be more flexible as he gets older and needs more independence.
  4. Consistently enforce consequences One of Supernanny’s top rules of discipline is to follow through with consequences for bad behavior. One of the best ways to deter your child from acting up is to show him you - and all his carers - mean business when it comes to consequences – if he thinks you’re a soft touch he won’t have any incentive to follow the rules.
  5. Remove temptation
    Young children have very little self-control, so don’t leave temptation in his way. Let’s face it: if he can reach the snack jar he’s sure to raid it half an hour before his dinner is ready! Avoid having to discipline him for it by not leaving behavior booby traps in his path – instead create an environment that promotes good behavior.
  6. Watch the dos and don’ts
    Reframe your discipline vocabulary. For example, instead of saying, “Josh, don’t snatch that toy from Cody”, say “It’s Cody’s turn to play with that toy now, Josh”. In this way you’re telling your child what to do instead of constantly telling him what not to do.
by Supernanny Team

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The Dangers of Baby Walkers

D. J. from New York City asks the Consults blog:
I know some people use baby walkers to help young children learn to walk. Is it true that this may actually be harmful to developing bones and muscles?

Pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene responds:
It’s so exciting to see a baby take the first step! When wheeled seats arrived on the scene that would allow babies to move around with their feet on the floor, parents and babies alike were delighted. Some parents still use these baby walkers to help their children learn to walk or to give them some exercise or mobility. Some use baby walkers almost like pacifiers for the legs: many babies seem happier when they are propelling themselves across the floor.

And let’s face it, sometimes parents need to get things done. Sometimes parents use walkers as a baby-sitter, to keep their baby occupied and entertained so they do other things.
Parents should know that walker use typically delays motor development – and that it delays mental development even more. Beyond this, walker use is dangerous.

Back in 1994, when baby walkers were still extremely popular in the United States, the Consumer Products Safety Commission declared that baby walkers were responsible for more injuries than any other children’s product. The types of injuries included head injuries, broken bones, broken teeth, burns, entrapment of fingers and even amputations or death.

Walkers allow mobility beyond a baby’s natural capability, and faster than a parent’s reaction time. Most of the injuries involve falls down stairs, but injuries can also come, for instance, from allowing reach to hot, heavy or poisonous objects. Today’s walkers are safer, but they are still hazardous – and of no benefit to the baby.

Canada banned baby walkers in 2004. Possession of a baby walker can lead to fines up to $100,000 or six months in jail. But in some countries, more than 75 percent of babies still use walkers– and the injuries continue.

Sometime in the second half of the first year, healthy babies develop a strong urge to move across the floor. At first, this is a struggle for them as they work their arms and legs, stretching, rolling, scooting or crawling. They find delight in accomplishment as they achieve their goal of a toy out of reach. Later, the focus of their work will turn to pulling themselves upright.
Babies who use a walker skip some of this magnificent developmental journey. With their toes in an unnatural position, they glide across the floor with ease, moving upright before their time.
What’s the outcome?

Besides the added dangers of moving faster, falling farther and reaching higher, babies who use walkers learn to crawl, stand and walk later than they would have otherwise, and continue to show delayed motor development for months after they have learned to walk. The delay seems to be a little more than three days for every 24 hours of total walker use.

But the biggest delays – and the biggest surprise to many parents – are delays in mental development and lower scores on mental developmental testing, still present 10 months after initial walker use.

Stationary activity centers for babies can provide many of the benefits parents are looking for from walkers, without the serious problems.

I’m so glad for your question. Almost every week I still come across a parent who is using a walker in the mistaken belief that it will benefit their children, unaware of the risks and the costs of walker use.

Alan Greene, M.D., is the founder of the Web site and the author of “From First Kicks to First Steps.”

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Potty training: What works

Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board
To make potty training as smooth a process as possible for you and your toddler, take a moment to learn what tends to work - and what doesn't. What works:

Waiting till your child is ready

There's no magic age for being ready to start learning to use the potty. Most toddlers develop the necessary physical and mental skills between 18 and 24 months, while some kids aren't there until closer to age 3 or even 4. Keep an eye out for physical, cognitive, and behavioral signs that your toddler might be ready to give it a try.
If your toddler is facing changes such as a new school, a new sibling, or travel, you may want to wait till the seas are calmer before taking the plunge.
Once you do start, if you've been trying for several weeks without success, that's a sign your toddler's not ready. Wait a few more weeks - or until you see signs that the time is right - and try again.

Making a plan

Before you even buy your toddler a potty seat, it's important to have a plan for the training process itself. Decide when and how you want to start, how to handle accidents, when to back off, and so on.
At the same time, prepare to be flexible. There's no way to know how your child will respond to potty training attempts or what techniques will work best. Keep in mind that as with most developmental milestones, success doesn't necessarily happen in a linear fashion - your toddler may make initial progress only to regress at one or more points along the way.

Discuss your plan with your child's pediatrician and daycare provider. They'll probably have plenty of experience and advice to share. Once you've decided on a strategy, be sure you and everyone else who takes care of your child sticks to it - barring unexpected setbacks and other potty training challenges, of course.

Taking it slow

Mastering the various steps of potty training can take a long time. Yes, some children will have it nailed in just a few days, but most need weeks or even months, especially when they're working on staying dry at night.
Don't push your toddler (or let others push him) to get through potty training faster than he's ready to. Let him take his time and get used to this new, multipart process. He'll move from one stage to the next at his own speed.

Of course, it's perfectly all right to try to motivate with gentle reminders and encouragement. If he balks, though, ease up.

Praising your child

Throughout potty training, your toddler will respond to positive reinforcement. Whenever he moves on to a new step or tries to use his potty (even when he doesn't quite succeed), tell him he's doing well and that you're proud of him. Compliment him now and then on his dry underpants or diaper.
But be careful not to go overboard: Too much praise might make him nervous and afraid to fail, which can lead to more accidents and setbacks.

Accepting that there will be accidents

It's likely your toddler will have numerous accidents before being completely potty-trained. Don't get angry or punish him. After all, it's only recently that his nervous system has matured enough for him to perceive the sensation of a full bladder or rectum and that his muscles have developed sufficiently to allow him to hold in his urine and stool - and that's if he's on the early end of the developmental spectrum.

He'll get the hang of the process in due time. When your toddler has an accident, calmly clean it up and suggest (sweetly) that next time he try using his potty instead.

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Unsung milestones

By Dan Tynan and Christina Wood 

We all know when kids should sit up, walk, talk, and get a driver's license. But what about some of those other important "firsts" that don't get as much press? Here are seven milestones that we think deserve more notice.

1 What: Sees in stereo
When: 2 to 4 months

Your baby used to see in two dimensions, but now he's seeing the world in three. His cerebral cortex has matured enough that he can merge the input from both eyes — no goofy 3-D glasses required.

2 What: First true laugh
When: 4 to 5 months

Babies start smiling at 2 to 3 months, but at around 4 to 5 months that smile may turn to laughter in response to surprising or incongruous events, thanks to her rapidly developing cerebral cortex. Finally, someone to laugh at your Three Stooges antics.

3 What: Knows her own name
When: 5 to 8 months

Though she won't be able to speak it for some time, by this age your baby knows her own name and will look up if you call it. Good luck getting her to continue doing this throughout her teenage years.

4 What: Plays with privates
When: 1 to 2 years

By this age, many children have discovered that it feels good to touch their privates. It's all sensation at this point. They won't be angry at you for barging into the room without knocking for a long time yet.

5 What: Pumps on a swing
When: 4 to 5 years

A child this age can finally figure out how to pump her legs on a swing. Now you can drink your coffee in peace — at least for two minutes.

6 What: Two-sided body control
When: 7 to 8 years

The two sides of the brain have now developed enough body control that your child can hold a piece of paper in one hand and write on it with the other, which makes passing notes in class much easier.

7 What: Shows modesty
When: 8 to 9 years

The desire for privacy usually hits around this age. Even a child who was a dedicated nudist until now might suddenly blush and grab a cover-up. No more embarrassing episodes when the neighbor drops by.

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Throwing: Why toddlers throw things

Throwing things is a new and enjoyable skill for many children between 18 months and 3 years of age. It takes fine-motor skills to open the fingers and let go of an object, and considerable hand-eye coordination to actually throw it. No wonder your toddler wants to practice this exciting skill!
What happens next is educational, too: Your toddler discovers that whatever she throws falls down — never up. She can't say "gravity," but she can certainly observe its effects. If she throws a ball, it bounces. If she tosses a plum, it goes splat.

Of course, for you it's maddening when spaghetti winds up all over your just-mopped kitchen floor or a clean pacifier lands on a dirty sidewalk, but to your toddler, it's all great fun.

What you can do about it

"Unless your toddler's throwing a rock through a window or really threatening to hurt someone, don't give her a time-out or punish her," says Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It's futile to try to stop your child from throwing at this age. Concentrate instead on limiting what she throws and where she throws it with these tips.

Show her what she can throw. Your toddler will learn what not to throw more quickly if there are lots of things that she is allowed—and even encouraged—to throw. Balls are an obvious choice (stocking up on foam balls will minimize accidents indoors). But actual throwing games (like tossing beanbags in a basket or skipping stones on a pond) are even more fun for a 2-year-old, especially if you play with her.

The message you want to convey is that throwing things is fine as long as she throws the right things in the right place at the right time. "When she throws something inappropriate, like a shoe, calmly take it away from her and say, 'Shoes aren't for throwing, but balls are.' Then give her a ball to play with," says Leiderman.

Discourage her aggressive throwing. What should you do when your toddler does throw something she shouldn't—sand from the sandbox, for instance, or blocks at another child? As much as possible, try to ignore it the first few times it happens. If she knows she can get your attention by throwing something she shouldn't at someone, she's likely to do it again.

If your child often comes close to hurting other children by throwing things at them, it's important that you always react the same way, since toddlers learn through repetition. The next time she does it, say, "No, that hurts," and pull her aside for a quick time-out to call attention to the "no" and to remove her from the situation so she can start fresh in a moment.

The key is to keep the time-out under a minute (a good rule of thumb is 60 seconds for every year of age) so your child doesn't forget why she was made to stop what she was doing.
If you notice that she throws things at other children when she gets angry, encourage her to express herself with words instead. Say, "If you're angry at Emily, use your words," or, "You tell me when you get angry."

It's okay to let her know you're unhappy with her behavior by your tone of voice, just don't let your anger determine your response. Try not to yell at your child, and never hit her—even if it's just her hand—to discourage her from throwing.

If she persists in throwing things in a hurtful manner, even though you've tried to deter her calmly and consistently, you may have no choice but to keep an eagle eye on the toys she plays with, and to shadow her while she plays with them.

Fasten her toys to her seat. When she's in her stroller or car seat, try attaching a few playthings within easy reach (tie the toys with short pieces of string and trim the ends so they can't get wrapped around her neck). She'll quickly discover that in addition to throwing the objects, she can fish them back again. Double the fun for her, half the work for you.

Clean up together. Don't ask your toddler to pick up everything she throws. "That's an overwhelming task for a child this age," says Leiderman. Instead, try getting down on your hands and knees together and enlisting her help by saying, "Let's see how fast we can pick up the blocks together," or "Can you help me find all the yellow M&M pieces?"

Set a good example. You don't have to avoid casually tossing a pillow on the sofa to set a good example for your toddler. In fact, you can use the items you normally toss around your home to show her what's good to throw and what's not. The next time she throws something she shouldn't, take a tour of your house together and toss socks in the hamper, tissues in the wastebasket, and toys in the toy chest instead.

Sit with her at mealtimes. This is a messy eating stage, but you can often avoid the worst of it by sitting down with your toddler while she eats. That way you're right there to gently but firmly tell her no when she makes a move to toss her lunch and to hold her plate down with your hand if need be.

"Parents should always sit with their children at mealtimes to engage them in conversation and help develop their language skills," says Leiderman. It's also the best way to make sure your toddler chews her food before swallowing so she doesn't choke.

Use toddler-proof dishes. "Never use your fine china or even breakable stoneware to feed your toddler," says Leiderman. Instead, try using a special toddler dish with suction cups that fasten to the table or highchair tray so she can't pick up the dish. Keep in mind, though, that while these work well enough that a casual grab won't send her dish scuttling across the floor, they won't stop a child who's amazed to find her dish "stuck" and is determined to pry it off.

Stick to small portions. You'll waste less and your toddler will have less ammunition if you serve her tiny portions of finger foods and hold off on dishing up more until she's eaten what's there. "Don't push her to eat more than she wants to unless your pediatrician says she's having trouble thriving," says Leiderman.

Most kids don't start throwing their food until they've finished eating and grown bored. So no matter how much she's eaten, take your toddler's food-flinging as a sign that she's finished her meal, and remove her from the table or her highchair.

If a bit of food does escape her hands, either by accident or on purpose, try to keep some perspective about it. After all, a dropped slice of bread or a pinch of grated cheese on the floor may be annoying, but we all drop things sometimes.

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New Brain Cells Erase Old Memories

Neurogenesis interferes with past learning in infant and adult mice

May 12, 2014 |By Helen Shen and Nature magazine

Newly-generated neurons (white) that integrated into the hippocampus, shown in this false-colour micrograph, had seemingly counterintuitive effects on memory. Credit: Jason Snyder
For anyone fighting to save old memories, a fresh crop of brain cells may be the last thing they need. Research published today in Science suggests that newly formed neurons in the hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in memory formation — could dislodge previously learned information. The work may provide clues as to why childhood memories are so difficult to recall.
“The finding was very surprising to us initially. Most people think new neurons mean better memory,” says Sheena Josselyn, a neuroscientist who led the study together with her husband Paul Frankland at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada.

Humans, mice and several other mammals grow new neurons in the hippocampus throughout their lives — rapidly at first, but more and more slowly with age. Researchers have previously shown that boosting neural proliferation before learning can enhance memory formation in adult mice. But the latest study shows that after information is learned, neuron growth can degrade those memories.
Although seemingly counterintuitive, the disruptive role of these neurons makes some sense, says Josselyn. She notes that some theoretical models have predicted such an effect. “More neurons increase the capacity to learn new memories in the future,” she says. “But memory is based on a circuit, so if you add to this circuit, it makes sense that it would disrupt it.” Newly added neurons could have a useful role in clearing old memories and making way for new ones, says Josselyn.

Forgetting curve
The researchers tested newborn and adult mice on a conditioning task, training the animals to fear an environment in which they received repeated electric shocks. All the mice learned the task quickly, but whereas infant mice remembered the negative experience for only one day after training, adult mice retained the negative memory for several weeks.

This difference seems to correlate with differences in neural proliferation. Josselyn and her team were able to enhance memory persistence in newborn mice by genetically and chemically suppressing growth of new neurons after learning. And in adult mice, four to six weeks of regular exercise — an activity known to promote neuron proliferation — reduced the persistence of previously learned fear.

The genetic and chemical manipulations cannot be applied readily to humans, so the findings will be difficult to pursue in people, says Josselyn. But both mice and humans have ‘infantile amnesia’, or pronounced forgetting of early life experiences. Josselyn says that rapid neurogenesis in many young animals could help to explain the phenomenon across species.

The researchers also examined learned fear in guinea pigs and in Chilean rodents called degus — both of which have longer gestation periods than mice, and correspondingly reduced brain growth after birth. Baby degus and guinea pigs do not have infantile amnesia, but the researchers were able to mimic its effects in the animals through exercise or drugs that promote neuron growth.
“It's incredibly impressive. They covered everything from genetic and pharmacological interventions, to behavioral interventions, to cross-species comparisons," says Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California who is collaborating with the group on a separate project but did not contribute to the current study. Deisseroth, who in 2005 published the computational model Josselyn alludes to, says he is excited to see strong experimental validation of the idea nearly ten years later.

Amar Sahay, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that most previous work, including his own, has focused on the effects of neurogenesis before memory formation. The latest work, by examining what happens after learning, paints a more complete picture of the relationship between neurogenesis and long-term memory management. “It’s a very exciting study,” says Sahay.

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Monday, May 12, 2014


  • 2012-11

  • 作者:selena/一開始就不孤單
  • 转载于:《親子天下》

  • 在帶養雙胞胎女兒的過程中,部落客Selena深深覺得,一定得到了孩子過了三歲之後,經驗及勞累滿滿的媽媽才能整理出前三年落落長的育兒經驗。這次她與大家分享的是如何訓練幼兒手部精細動作。

    我真的覺得一定得到了孩子過了三歲之後,經驗及勞累滿滿的媽媽才能整理出前三年落落長的育兒經驗,這次我想分享的是如何訓練幼兒手部精細動作,這是 我常在自己文章內所提到的,利用各種小遊戲讓那雙一開始緊握的雙手,慢慢敞開五指運用每一個小關節,準確、有力地完成任何一個小動作,這樣手指靈巧的使用 可以促進腦部的發展喔!
    在帶養zozo yoyo的過程中,我依照不同的月(年)齡有不同深淺度的訓練方法,這些方法很簡單又隨手可得,希望能幫助你的寶貝。

    1. 按壓開關:抱著寶貝,輕握他的小食指,敎他如何用力地按下(電燈)開關,這看似簡單的動作對零歲兒來說可是相當難的,天黑時就可以對寶貝說:『寶貝,我們來開燈吧!哇~你看,燈亮了,你把燈打開了,好棒!』

    2. 面紙盒open:和第1項用意相同,利用濕紙巾盒(相信大部分的家庭都會有)也可以訓練孩子的手指力量,每天按個幾回也不累。

    3. 撲滿存錢:每天給孩子一枚錢幣(我習慣先洗過,錢髒喔!),握住寶貝的手一起瞄準投幣口,『哇~投進去了耶,寶貝,好棒,我們存了一塊錢』這個投錢的活動zoyo至今仍每天實行,只是用意改變,成了儲蓄習慣的建立。

    4. 玩豆、玩彈珠:在zoyo很小時,我就給她們一大堆紅豆或彈珠,她們不亦樂乎地捉拿這些圓球體,有時手中握滿,有時輕捉一個,這不僅是訓練手部細動作,更是觸覺刺激的方法之ㄧ,只是真的要注意,別讓孩子誤食。

    5. 蓋蓋子:找個有蓋子的罐子讓寶貝練習蓋蓋子,一開始別找需要旋扭的蓋子,簡單的蓋子一旦套上,他會很有成就感的,而且會很有興趣地再拔開,然後玩一百次也不厭倦,等到大一些就可以練習扭瓶蓋,小baby需要鼓勵與成就感,困難度太高的遊戲怕他們會排斥。

    6. 蓋筆套:和第5項用意相同,只是蓋子變小了,筆套蓋筆這項遊戲是zoyo一歲最愛玩的遊戲,那時我們買了性質相同的水管積木讓她們一次蓋個夠。

    7. 搖鉛筆機:這個更有趣了,握著搖桿一圈一圈地繞著,這是非常棒的手部運動。

    8. 撕紙:你發現了嗎?其實撕紙的動作分解之後是很複雜的,兩手並用一扭前一扭後,如果丟一張紙給小小孩,他會傻傻地不知扭前扭後的原理,你可以握住他的手,敎他如何撕ㄧ張紙,只是你必須明白告訴他哪些紙不可以撕喔!

    9. 開喇叭鎖

    10. 夾衣夾

    文章转载于: &


    Wednesday, April 23, 2014




    買 書像投票,父母的選書決定了孩子的閱讀胃口及書店銷售排行的樣貌,若任由市場自由競爭,想必有些安靜的好書會在滯銷天數超過規定標準後,黯然退出舞台。身 為第一線童書銷售市場的觀察者,我們知道新書未必等於好書,新書雖然豐富了閱讀樣貌,並有機會開啟未來經典可能,但在藏書空間有限的限制下,我們必須像淘 金一樣過篩,讓好書留下。

    大 人是親子共讀中不可缺少的角色,有些大人本來就熱愛閱讀,有些則在幫助孩子的過程中愛上童書。選擇對的讀物其實不需要從頭摸索,因為長期以來通過世界各地 父母共讀經驗肯定、而持續出版的口碑讀物,正是閱讀起步的最佳選擇。一九八一年,日本圖畫書界舵手松居直先生所著的《幸福種子》一書,便強調「親子共讀」 的精神,同時推薦世界各地及日本本土創作的經典圖畫書。

    一九八八年,美國紐約時報書評編輯Eden Ross Lipson為父母撰寫的第一本選書指南《The New York Times Parent's Guide to the Best Books for Children》,書中所推薦的書籍大部分也是經典書籍。


















    三、重複累加堆疊的敘述方式。例如:《我的衣裳》(遠流)、《We are going on a Bear hunt》(Walker)、《If you give a mouse a cookie》(HarperCollins)、《Have you see my duckling?》(William Morror)。

























    推薦書:《Where the wild things are》(HarperCalling)、《菲菲生氣了》(三之三)






    & & & &

    Friday, March 28, 2014

    Study: Autism May Be Related to Birth Stress

    Scientists focus on diuretic to restore neuron function in autistic rodents

    By Margie Wilson-Mars 

    With autism rates soaring over the past 20 years, researchers are constantly looking for prevention or treatment methods. One scientist, Yehezkel Ben-Ari of the Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology in Marseille, France believes autistic children may have suffered stress at birth. As a mother of three autistic children, this peaked my interest, especially since two of them suffered birth trauma.

    While Ben-Ari has done some studies on autistic children, most of his research has been limited to mice and rats. Even so, there are noted parallels that seem to make the study applicable to humans in many ways. His focus is a simple diuretic called bumetanide that reduces levels of chloride in cells. As a diuretic, it helps lower blood pressure by making a person urinate more, reducing fluid in the body.

    Ben-Ari's study says in utero, rats and mice brains are basically hyper, likely true in humans as well, and the chloride that's inside neurons appears to assist in that fast development. Oxytocin, known as the "love hormone" and is responsible for labor, breastfeeding and maternal bonding, calms down the chloride ions during labor, which helps babies deal with the stress of birth.
    Since autism seems to occur more often in babies who experienced a stressful birth, Ben-Ari and his colleagues believe it's possible that the switch to calm the chloride ions down may not happen in babies who end up autistic. One of my boys had severe facial and head injuries from compression when the edge of my cervix wouldn't retract. The other had the umbilical cord looped around his neck twice and was nearly strangulated during the 20 minutes it took to remove it.

    While they can't replicate it exactly in rodents, Ben-Ari's team used two models of autism. In one group, the mice had the most common genetic mutation associated with the human form. The second group consisted of rats "exposed in utero to sodium valproate, an epilepsy drug known to significantly increase risk of autism in children whose mothers take the medication."

    The team used the drug bumetanide, which blocks chloride transport channels in neurons and is used to lower blood pressure, to see if it would lower chloride and restore normal neuron function in the autistic rodents. When given to pregnant rodents, it cured the offspring of both groups and even helped in autistic adult rodents. Since every attempt to find an effective drug has failed, this is very exciting news.

    In 2012, the team did some trials on autistic children with some success. However, several issues need to be addressed. The biggest obstacle is the fact that there's no way to detect autistic babies in utero. There's also some concern over the fact that Ben-Ari has patented a version of bumetanide and formed a company, Neurochlore, that plans to test it on children, so he would profit from its success.

    Some scientists question the vast difference between the human brain and rodent brain, but any progress towards the understanding, treatment or even a cure is welcome. One scientist, neuroscientist Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, says the study is "pretty awesome" and other autism scientists are thrilled about the discovery. Andrew Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist and autism expert at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., says it's a "pretty incredible finding and really great."
    It's believed that the earlier autistic children are diagnosed the better because treatment is more effective the earlier it starts. Ben-Ari is doing trials on kids as young as 2. It's usually discovered at about 4 years old. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children in the United States are autistic, and the number is rising.

    Ben-Ari says, "It's important for people to understand there is no drug to cure a medical disease as complicated as autism."

    There's still many years of testing and trials ahead, but hopefully, this is one step closer to a cure.

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