Sunday, December 30, 2007

Length of sleep key in regulating kids' behaviours: study

From the CBC News
How long children sleep every night can affect their behavioural patterns and lead to changes in eating habits, a new study suggests.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Auckland, found that the less time a child slept, the more likely they were to have behavioural problems.

Children who slept for less than nine hours were also more likely to become overweight or obese, according to the study.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Multimedia whiteboards found to help learning

A study of multimedia whiteboards used in schools has found that they lead to more creative teaching and help to improve student concentration.

The research by Dr Miriam Judge of Dublin City University, is based on use of the technology in eight Dublin schools.

It is estimated the high tech boards have replaced blackboards in 15% of schools around Ireland.

Watch the report here

Plus here's a second CBS report 'Smart Boards': School Wave Of Future?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Do Schools Kill Our Kids Creativity?"

"Do Schools Kill Our Kids Creativity?"

Interesting presentations from a conference on education and creativity.

TED: Ideas worth sharing.

Here's Ken Robinson's talk funny and thought provoking

Wonderfully enigmatic presentation by artist and writer Maira Kalman that will lift your spirits.

Monday, November 12, 2007

BBC Panorama on ADHD

What's next for Craig?

Most of the estimated half million children in Britain with the behavioural condition Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) receive no treatment at all.

Those that do, tend to be given powerful stimulant medication like Ritalin and Concerta. These drugs can help inattentive and unruly children focus and have been the first choice for doctors treating ADHD over the last decade.

However, stimulant medication is not without its problems.

Similar to amphetamine, it can cause insomnia and suppress the appetite, causing weight loss and stunt growth. There have even been reports of children becoming suicidal on them

Read the rest here

To watch the programme click here

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Disgraceful: BC government fails learning-disabled kids

Shame on the BC Government and Shame on Education Minister Shirley Bond. Vancouver is due to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. This article will describe the disgraceful funding situation in the Province for children with learning disabilities. Think about this when the Olympics is flashing across your screens in 2010. Consider amid the beautiful shots of mountains and forests and ski hills that the situation for learning disabilities in BC is an international disgrace.

No funding for technology whatsoever for children with Written Output Disorder. If your child needs a keyboard in the classroom, they will not fund it. If they live in Ontario they can get one, but not BC. The whole system is a big fudge, which assigns codes to children and then gives certain codes absolutely no support. The government passes the buck to the school board, while providing no funding, and the school board are just as ineffective in their own unique way. Meanwhile the children are abandoned. Disgraceful. No one cares. No possible recourse for parents trying to get Learning Assistance in the school to aide children struggling with writing. It's like they are completely invisible. Little or no assistance for dysgraphia. No occupational therapy treatment in schools. How can you be an Education Minister and so woefully neglect some of our most vulnerable and fragile children. Shame on you Shirley this is an area you have the power to change in the morning.
From the Georgia Straight Jessica Werb's article:

"Watching her kids struggle, McIntyre says, "is devastating".

How did the McIntyre family end up in this predicament? The answer lies in recent history. In 2002, the B.C. government "detargeted" $230 million from special education, allowing school districts full discretion on spending. At the same time, the ministry changed its data reporting so that school districts were no longer required to outline expenditures related to high-incidence (relatively frequent) special-education needs. According to the B.C. Teachers' Federation, many school districts stopped providing extra funding for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The consequence, says BCTF first vice-president Susan Lambert, is that "we're just not designating those kids."

....Other startling findings of the survey included that only 18 percent of students were receiving resource-room support, although 44 percent had a severe learning disability. Learning assistance outside the regular-education classroom was being provided for only 28 percent of students. Fifty-nine percent of parents reported a decrease in their child's service levels from the previous year, and 56 percent paid for private support services. Only three percent of parents indicated that the system was fully meeting their needs.

It's time to name and shame these governments and School Boards who collect tax dollars and do next to nothing to support Learning Disabilities and Written Output Disorder. Send your stories and links of disgraceful neglect by local governments, who don't give a toss about these children. Equally send stories of School Boards and governments who have progressive and technological support in place.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

BBC: Fear stops child development

From the BBC

Youngsters are missing out on their childhood because we over-protect them, a child play expert claims.
A reluctance to let children take risks could stop them developing vital skills needed to protect themselves, he adds.

Tim Gill's new book says that instead of creating a "nanny state" we should build a society where communities look out for each other and youngsters.
...In No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society, Mr Gill argues that childhood is being undermined by the growth of risk aversion and its intrusion into every aspect of children's lives.

School creativity 'needs support'

From the BBC

Creativity in schools needs to be taken "far more seriously" if it is to avoid being squeezed out of a crowded curriculum, says a report from MPs.
The Commons education committee warns that creativity is a "second-order priority" in England's schools.

The MPs say creativity should be a fundamental part of learning and should receive adequate funding.

"Successful schools are creative schools," said the committee chairman, Labour MP Barry Sheerman.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Children who can’t write their own name

From The Times

Forty per cent of children struggle to write their own name or to sound out letters to form simple words such as “dog” or “red” by the age of 5, government figures show.

The annual assessments of children’s progress during their first year in school also show that more than a fifth of youngsters have problems stringing a coherent sentence together by the time that they enter their reception year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Give 1 Get 1 : One laptop per child

Here's a great opportunity to help your child with writing struggles and another child in another country gain access to technology.

From what I have read the XO is a child friendly, rugged, power friendly laptop that could aide children with fine motor issues.

Here's the link to give 1 get 1 limited opportunity during Nov.
You also should google around and read the various reviews written by young people explaining advantages and drawbacks of this computer to see if it meets your child's needs. My guess is it would certainly meet some of most children's needs and that's a good enough reason to participate because the knock on effect will also be felt by children with less access to technology around the world. The keyboard looks very child friendly.

Another autism study

From today's NY TIMES The matter is far from settled based on these results.

Yet another study has found that a controversial vaccine preservative appears to be harmless. But the study is unlikely to end the increasingly charged debate about vaccine safety.

Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years (NEJM)The study examined whether thimerosal — a mercury-containing vaccine preservative that was almost entirely eliminated from childhood vaccines by 2002 — is associated with neurological or certain psychological problems in children ages 7 to 10.

Friday, September 14, 2007

School testing regime attacked

Piece from The Independent:

In a new book, Making Minds, Dr Kelley says of increasing A-level and GCSE pass rates: "English education was not improving steadily over all these years. Examination boards' income depended on schools choosing their qualifications. Schools' income depended on parents thinking their results were improving: so schools would switch examinations if things did not go well.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Do primary schools let boys down?

BBC feature on boys and education
By the age of seven more than a quarter of boys need special help with their education, the latest figures show.
Is there something inherently wrong with a large chunk of one of the sexes - or are primary schools simply letting boys down?

It has long been known that male and female brains are different - that they mature at different rates and develop in different ways.

You only need to look at the way very young boys and girls play to see that often they like different things and approach things in different ways.

Read the rest here

Monday, September 3, 2007

KIDSPIRATION -- a terrific aide for written output problems

A few readers have written to me describing children struggling with verbal output as well as written. We've just discovered KIDSPIRATION software and it's a terrific aide for any process that involves delivering ideas aloud or onto the page.

The experience of feeling stuck can be very demoralising for children, but once you demonstrate a fathomable path to finding and realizing ideas I've found spirits quickly lift. ("I started with nothing and I have found my way to something...")

Over the next months I will be documenting the experience of working with this software Kidspiration and the ways in which we've found it helpful.

I can immediately observe that this software would make a huge difference to visual learners because the child can literally grab various visual images and build stories. It's also excellent for telling stories within a picture using short phrases or single words to spur ideas. There are many other possiblities with this particular program. Previously I had used the adult version in my own work and found it helpful for organzing ideas or for kicking writers block, but had never tried the kids version with my child until now.

I can also see that if a child is facing down an intimidating task like a book report and they announce that they have nothing to say about the book, that generating ideas with this software would make the task a great deal more joyful.

More generally it instills the idea into a child that process matters and is enjoyable and necessary. The sensible folks at Kidspiration even offer a free trial

The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada asks governments to endorse new policy statement

OTTAWA -- (press release) In recognition of the daily struggle of over 3,000,000 Canadians who have learning disabilities, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada today releases its new Policy Statement on Educational Accommodations for
Individuals with Learning Disabilities who continue to fall through the cracks
of Canada's educational system.

Full statement here:

Friday, August 31, 2007

Primary pupils show lack of progress in basic skills

From The Guardian

The government was accused of complacency yesterday after revealing that writing standards among seven-year-olds had fallen for the second year in a row. The statistics, released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, also showed no improvements in other core areas, such as maths and science.
The results follow recent evidence of poor progress among 11- and 14-year-olds.

While ministers insisted they were maintaining "high standards at this crucial stage of education", the Conservatives attacked their "complacency" and the Liberal Democrats claimed the whole primary school programme had lost momentum.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gifted pupils: too many are just ordinary, say teachers

UK news story from earlier this month:

Ministers are overestimating the number of exceptionally bright pupils in Britain's schools, the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children will be told this week.
Research shows that teachers charged with picking out the top pupils feel that far too many are labelled as 'gifted and talented' and that the government was wrong to recommend that 10 per cent were picked out in each school, a total of 800,000 across the country. Instead, between 2 and 5 per cent of children should be classed as 'gifted learners', cutting hundreds of thousands of pupils already placed in the top group.

Scrap these '19th-century' GCSEs, says expert

From tomorrow's Observer:

A leading expert on exams and testing has claimed that GCSEs are stuck in the '19th century', forcing pupils to memorise facts that will be little use to them later in life.
Just days before more than half a million teenagers across England and Wales pick up their results, Professor Dylan Wiliam, deputy director of the Institute of Education, who has researched testing regimes across the world, argued that the examination system should be completely reformed.

Full story here

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Child Genius documentary video link

Many readers have shown interest in this documentary, so am posting this link to it in response to this interest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

Child Genius Documentary part 3-6

Find the other episodes at these links
Part 4
part 5
part 6

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fun writing activity: Sticky note stories

Here's another creative tip for written output struggles.

Use post-it notes or stick notes to tell a story. It works very well if you have all kinds of different sized and shaped and coloured Post-its. Begin big using a large piece of card. There are sooo many ways to do this, but a few I've found especially helpful are both you and the child write single words and then together build some silly sentences to warm up.

You can then proceed to an actual story. Sticky notes because of their size limit the amount of words and it's much more manageable for the child to tackle writing on that smaller space than a big blank page. You add the notes side by side to form the story. Take breaks to reread what the child has created and that should create impetus to continue. The tactile aspect of manipulating the post it notes really makes it fun for the child.

If you can find sticky notes/post-its which are in the shape of speech bubbles you can use them on pictures to illustrate speech. They can also be very fun to write a story and then every time someone speaks use a speech bubble for the words. The story will look fun and the child should get caught up in noticing when the next speech bubble is needed.

If you can find them shaped like flowers or animals you can place a single one in the middle of a page and build a story with small square ones around the shape in the middle. So a story about a flower or a ladybird. You can also cut out regular yellow square ones into particular shapes and build stories from there.

These ideas work very well as "guessing games" where you're building stories together and the child has no idea what's coming next. Humour is a great tool, so add humorous twists to the stories to keep the child interested.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tips for dealing with output and ADHD or problems commencing work

One of the big challenges for children with Written Output issues (and/or attention deficit) is beginning their work. It can take a long time to settle down and get started and they can tend to procrastinate with small distractions, but in reality their head may be hopping with ideas and the thought of not being able to output them at the desired rate is a very good explanation of why it's so difficult to start.

It can really help such children if from the outset they have some sense of a time expectation. This can be especially pertinent to children with attention issues for whom the concept of time can feel overwhelming. Therefore I recommend you equip the child with a palm sized kitchen timer and suggest to them you're going to spend 5 mins or 10 mins on x task. You may find the child settles down and begins much swifter because suddenly time has a manageable box around it and the ding or beep of the timer gives them comfort and the confidence to commence. It's important to let the child set and control the timer.

It's especially challenging for children who brains are abuzz with ideas that when they consider it's going to be very difficult to physically get them down on the page, they tend to become discouraged. This will give rise to an unwillingness to commence or a suggestion they don't have any ideas or they can't do it.

I think it can help to have realistic expectations so therefore if the child has a very significant idea they are trying to nail it's better to offer to scribe for them or let them dictate it while you touch type. It's critical to address this sense of ideas being stalled because if you don't, the child can perceive they have no hope of realizing a whole idea on paper. Gradually though with less extensive projects you can negotiate more writing on their end (or typing if they are willing.)

The only way to crack the resistance to writing is to give the child the experience of seeing their ideas materialize. It might help to imagine that for a child with written output troubles it's the equiv of running a long race when you're exhausted having taken two strides.

Ideas can be documented in many, many ways aside from neat paragraphs. If the child is showing acute frustration introduce an alternative such as "a picture with words." On a large sheet of paper they draw a picture and then using single words they can tell the story in the picture. You can then take these single words and build them into sentences and gradually the child can see the idea emerging.

Grab a tape recorder and have the child speak into it. Then the child can in their own time slowly transcribe their idea or story onto the page. This will help relieve some of the pressure and frustration.

Inspiration software is a really great investment. If you cannot afford it, which many families can't, do the same thing with a pencil and paper. Brainstorm words, link ideas and show the child how to form something from nothing. Use devices like multi coloured pens with different ideas. It can help the child to physically switch material. It's makes the consistent act of writing seem less daunting because there's some associated action and decisions to make.

Remember if the child is having a difficult time, get creative rather than insistent.

Andrew Wakefield story links

Following the Andrew Wakefield story with interest. I'll be posting all sides/views of the story as info for readers. It's an important case to watch.

From the Scotsman
DOCTORS working on the research programme which sparked the MMR controversy recruited vulnerable children directly from their GPs for unnecessary invasive testing, a hearing was told yesterday.

From BBC: MMR doctor 'broke medical rules'

On the other side here's a piece interviewing some of Wakefield's supporters:
"This is a show trial that has nothing to do with the truth,” Bill Welsh, a campaigner from Edinburgh and a grandparent of Luke, aged 12, said. Luke cannot talk.

Here's the blog of Brian Deer. the journalist who investigated the so called Lancet Scandal.

This is an opinion piece by a GP, more of a humorous take on patient expectations of being paid a fiver to get a blood test.

If anyone has other pro-Wakefield links please comment because I'd like to upload both sides more equally.

Dept of Health and Human Science overview on ADHD

Here's a link to US Dept of Health and Human Sciences (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) overview on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Lots of resources and links, including symptoms overview, which may be useful to parents tackling or wondering about such issues.

Latest on ADHD: Studies Track Treatment Outcomes for Kids With ADHD

Studies Track Treatment Outcomes for Kids With ADHD
Meds plus behavior therapy work best, but symptoms can return
(HealthDay News) -- Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) showed sustained improvement but were still at increased risk of behavioral problems in the years after treatment, say researchers.
Four studies appearing in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry evaluated the outcomes of children who participated in the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (MTA), the first major randomized trial comparing different treatments of ADHD. The initial results of MTA were published in 1999.

Full story here

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pediatric Ritalin may affect young brains

NEW YORK -- (Press Release) -- U.S. medical researchers have discovered use of the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Ritalin by young children might affect their brains.
The Weill Cornell Medical College animal study is among the first to investigate the effects of Ritalin (methylphenidate) on the neurochemistry of the developing brain.
Between 2 percent and 18 percent of U.S. children are thought to be affected by ADHD and Ritalin -- a stimulant similar to amphetamine and cocaine -- remains one of the most prescribed drugs for the behavioral disorder.
"The changes we saw in the brains of treated rats occurred in areas strongly linked to higher executive functioning, addiction and appetite, social relationships and stress, said Professor Teresa Milner, the study's lead author. "These alterations gradually disappeared over time once the rats no longer received the drug."
The scientists said their findings suggest physicians should be careful in their diagnosis of ADHD before prescribing Ritalin. That's because Ritalin might be helpful in battling the disorder but harmful if given to youngsters with healthy brain chemistry.

The research appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

OT link and Handwriting without tears

Canadian Occupational Therapy Resource Site you search this site you'll find articles on handwriting etc.

Handwriting Without Tears
Developed by an occupational therapist and handwriting specialist, Handwriting Without Tears is an easy way to teach pre-printing, printing, & cursive. I've heard from one parent who found this useful to her child, but have not actually yet tested it myself.

Dygraphia strategies link

Came across interesting dysgraphia link with a comprehensive list of symptoms and strategies. If you're worried about your child, or yourself for that matter it might be useful to take a look at the list. If you've already received a dysgraphia diagnosis the strategies could be of interest. There are 41 writing strategies listed. And here, handily, are the spelling ones:
Strategies For Spelling Difficulties:

1. Encourage consistent use of spell checker to decrease the overall demands of the writing task and encourage students to wait until the end to worry about spelling.
2. Encourage use of an electronic resource such as the spell check component in a Franklin Language Master® to further decrease the demands.
3. Have the student look at each word, then close their eyes and visualize how it looks, letter by letter.
4. Have the student spell each word out loud while looking at it, then look away and spell it out loud again several times before writing it down.
5. Have the students break the spelling list down into manageable sections of only 3 to 5 words. Then take a break after mastering each section.
6. Have a scrabble board and computer accessible for affected students

Bravo to whomever gave such comprehensive thought to this topic!

Comprehensive dysgraphia overview

Again, excellent overview at this W Virginia School of Medicine college website including some very detailed info on Occupational Therapy -- a practical and essential consideration if you have the cash to pay for it. (Unless you're fortunate enough to live in a place where it's funded! UK perhaps?)

If you've, or your child have experience with OT please post a comment, so others can learn more. Thank you to anyone who has emailed to say how useful you're finding this blog. It's wonderful to know that parents are finding it informative and helpful. Will be updating more regularly so please check back for latest progress on useful strategies I've unearthed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gifted children 'caused distress by TV news'

A leading Australian expert on gifted children has warned parents about the effects of watching television news.

University Professor Mirica Gross says highly-gifted children are often more sensitive and deeply feel the sadness of others at a very young age.

Read full story here

Illinois: Programs for gifted get poor report cards

Administrators are calling for a revitalization of programs for gifted students as personnel turnover and a lack of oversight have weakened middle and high school academies in the Rockford School District.

Read full story here

ADHD program analysis information

I post this here as a point of information only. It caught my eye and maybe of interest to some readers, but should not be seen as an endorsement as I have not actively researched it myself. It appears to be some kind of cognitive therapy program. If anyone has any feedback or knowledge on it, as to whether it is effective in what it purports to offer please post a comment.

(PRESS RELEASE) -- Dr. Patricia O. Quinn, MD, Director of the National Center for Girls and Women with ADHD has issued a Critical Analysis of Legacy Parenting's 'Total Transformation Program.' Developed by behavioral therapist James Lehman, The Total Transformation is a step-by-step system for parents and caregivers to assist them in changing defiant or out-of-control behavior in children who may have ADHD and are "acting out."

The Total Transformation Program is available through Legacy Parenting Company

UK news report and discussion on Wakefield Autism case

UK news story

Here's a link to a news report in which two doctors, one a supporter of single vaccines and another British MP and doctor debate the Andrew Wakefield case and autism issues surrounding it.

UK: Latest on Wakefield case

UKThe doctor who provoked a scare over a potential link between the MMR vaccination and autism paid children at his son's birthday party £5 each to give blood for his research, an inquiry heard today.
The General Medical Council (GMC) also heard allegations that Andrew Wakefield subjected several children to a series of inappropriate invasive medical tests and gave one an experimental drug.

Dr Wakefield and two other doctors who published the now infamous study linking the combined measles, mumps and rubella jab with bowel disease and autism could be struck off the medical register if the disciplinary panel finds them guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Full story here

Profile on Andrew Wakefield here

Saturday, July 7, 2007

UK: New health fears over big surge in autism

From Sunday's (July 8th 2007) UK Observer:

The number of children in Britain with autism is far higher than previously thought, according to dramatic new evidence by the country's leading experts in the field.
A study, as yet unpublished, shows that as many as one in 58 children may have some form of the condition, a lifelong disability that leads to many sufferers becoming isolated because they have trouble making friends and often display obsessional behaviour.

Seven academics at Cambridge University, six of them from its renowned Autism Research Centre, undertook the research by studying children at local primary schools. Two of the academics, leaders in their field, privately believe that the surprisingly high figure may be linked to the use of the controversial MMR vaccine. That view is rejected by the rest of the team, including its leader, the renowned autism expert, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen.

Read just published article in its entirety here

Friday, July 6, 2007

Researcher sees link between vitamin D and autism

Globe and Mail

The growing prevalence of autism is one of the biggest scientific whodunits in the medical world, with few clues for its rising incidence.

But a U.S. researcher is advancing a controversial hypothesis: that autism is related to vitamin D deficiency during fetal development and early childhood.

Dr. John Cannell, a psychiatrist and prominent vitamin D advocate, says flagging levels of the vitamin in pregnant women and young children could be the elusive factor explaining the rising rate of autism.

The evidence for such a link is circumstantial, and autism experts describe the hypothesis as speculative. But Dr. Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit advocacy group, says autism rates have skyrocketed in lockstep with medical advice given to the public since the late 1980s to avoid all exposure to bright sunshine.

To read the rest of the story please click here

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Autism symptoms reversed in lab

BBC news story
Symptoms of mental retardation and autism have been reversed for the first time in laboratory mice.
US scientists created mice that showed symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome - a leading cause of mental retardation and autism in humans.

They then reversed symptoms of the condition by inhibiting the action of an enzyme in the brain.

The study, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Observer: Back to basics: the simple lessons I learnt about good schooling

Interesting piece in Sunday's Observer penned by one of Blair's former aides, Peter Hyman, who quit to become a teacher.

This paragraph in particular struck me

While wanting total freedom himself to get on with things and without the local education authority or the government breathing down his neck, Alan's policy within the school is not based on letting go, but on tight control. Consistency is one of Alan's big themes. Homework set at the start of each lesson rather than in a rush at the end of a lesson, seating plans for every class, books marked regularly and using the same format to show students how to make progress, a consistent approach to pastoral support that picks up early on students with problems. All this may sound obvious, but too often it does not happen. 'Consistency is not dull, it's liberating,' says Alan. 'If you get the baseline right you can start being creative.' He believes that all of his rules have an intellectual basis - they have been shown to support learning.

Read the whole article here:,,2110198,00.html

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Highly recommended: You're smarter than you think: A kid's guide to multiple intelligences

I highly recommend reading this book with your child.
You're Smarter Than You Think: A Kid's Guide to Multiple Intelligences
published by Freespirit publishing

I'm sure many of you have heard your child talk about themselves negatively. I'm stupid, this type of thing. As you've spent years lavishing praise and encouragement upon your child it's completely demoralising to hear such statements from them.

Here's a book that will actively challenge them to think differently about themselves. Armstrong describes in clear and accessible language multiple intelligences: listing them as Word Smart, Music Smart, Logic Smart, Picture Smart, Body Smart, People Smart, Self Smart and Nature Smart.

We've been reading the book together to great success and a warm response from the child, whose embracing the concept heartily. It's very interactive. Each intelligence begins with a list of questions and the child enjoys answering them and as they answer they explain things about themselves aloud. Gradually as Armstrong unravels all the different intelligences the child begins to identify his/or her strengths. He then goes on to explain what the various intelligences can do for the child and suggests ways to be come Word smart, or picture smart.

What's distinctive and different about this book is it's written specifically to be read to a child, but equally it's not patronising and doesn't underestimate them.

It's an essential for the bookshelf to be reached for time and time again to reiterate to the child when despair strikes. Equally it's a book that teaches us to appreciate and celebrate difference in others, so as you read you can think of other children who may have different intelligences and you can bring home the idea that all children have special, sometimes hidden, talents. I think it's useful to counter this ten out of ten means I am smart culture.

UK story: Disabled children targeted by bullies

Children with learning disabilities are twice as likely to face bullying as other youngsters.

Eight out of 10 youngsters with learning disabilities are either bullied at school or when they go out in the evening, according to a report out today.

read rest of story from The Independent here

Behaviour drugs for children 'ubiquitous'

Canadian children are being widely prescribed antipsychotic drugs for behaviour and mood problems, with a significant proportion of the powerful drugs going to children under the age of nine, new research shows.

Ninety-four per cent of 176 child psychiatrists in Canada surveyed are prescribing drugs known as atypical antipsychotics for a variety of disorders and symptoms, including anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and "poor frustration tolerance

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jeffrey Moore case: Government challenges special needs decision

Lawyers to question finding that claims schools' failure to meet children's needs is discrimination

The plight of students with severe learning disabilities will go before a B.C. court today as government lawyers challenge a human-rights finding in 2005 that the failure of public schools to meet those children's needs amounts to discrimination.

The man who set the case in motion a dozen years ago said he regrets that the Ministry of Education and the North Vancouver school board are resisting a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal order to identify and support all students with severe learning disabilities.

"It's a shame, really, that the ministry and the board felt they had to appeal because it just means a further delay in implementing the tribunal's decision and that will result in many more learning-disabled children falling by the wayside," Rick Moore said in an interview.

Read the story here: I will be posting updates on the outcome.

Suffice to say there has been to my eyes little or no improvement in the funding and implentation situation by both the government and school boards (who always hide behind the govt funding argument, but need to be made accountable for the lack of provision for Learning Disabilities). There was a recent round of cuts which will impact on Learning Assistance services.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

UK: More School Stories: social class/ exams

Two news stories worth a read and a ponder:

End exams for children under 16, says watchdog
In evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee's inquiry on pupil assessment, the GTC says most children take an average of 70 different exams or tests before the age of 16, making them the most tested in the world.

The GTC wants "sampling" of standards, covering a few primary and secondary schools, to guide national policy, along with internal school exams held by teachers when they thought appropriate.

Class divide hits learning by age of three

Disadvantaged children lagging a full year behind before they start school

By the age of three, children from disadvantaged families are already lagging a full year behind their middle-class contemporaries in social and educational development, pioneering research by a London university reveals today.
A "generation Blair" project, tracking the progress of 15,500 boys and girls born between 2000 and 2002, found a divided nation in which a child's start in life was still determined by the class, education, marital status and ethnic background of the parents.

Even more reason why learning assistance and support services need to be properly funded by the government.

Labels etc

I've done some further reading and thinking on this whole dyslexia debate and wonder if the thrust of what Julian Elliot is saying is getting mired in high octave headlines and cranky responses, with little or no detail of his actual findings, which may be useful if only to get more specific labelling where it's required.

Watching the GMTV debate in person he seemed to be saying something more sensible than reported in those various articles. I cannot find the controversial Dispatches programme online, so am missing a chunk of the argument that caused all the outrage in the first place.

I can't help applying it close to home, therefore consider the following:
- I had no trouble learning to read.
- I didn't experience letter reversals.
- I read quickly and extensively
- Testing showed my language skills to be in the superior range.
- Have good short term memory

- I cannot fathom left and right. Had to give up driving as a result.
- I have terrible spatial troubles. Cannot read maps. Cannot turn objects in my head. Can't measure or estimate space by looking.
- My spelling is very dubious.
- My punctuation is absent. I've no concept how to apply the rules of punctuation despite reading several books and being taught the rules at school.
- I could not add up until I discovered the abacus a month ago. Failed basic maths twice and decided to live a fulfilled life without it.
- Organisation is generally a terrific struggle.
- Struggle with activities that involve a sequence of steps like cooking

Am I dyslexic? Probably not. So what am I?

Equally my child thus far
-does not struggle with reading and shows superior language and comprehension skills in two languages
-did and does reverse letters and curiously, numbers.
-even though the child reads accurately will not break down words and has no visual sense of how a word might be spelled. His spelling has lots of consonants and few vowels.
-hasn't grasped capital letter at beginning of sentence and full stop at end.
-struggles with written output and physical writing
-has working memory issues
-is ambidextrous.

What are we? People like us might be labelled inaccurately, say, dyslexic. This perhaps does a disservice to those who truly are dyslexic. We are something. These kinds of struggles impede our progress. Are we the kinds of people he's talking about? Is he saying there are a plethora of possibilities? or is he saying accept your limitations and underachieve? Based on those articles it's difficult to discern.

British Dyslexia site

Here's a link to an interesting British dyslexia site, which also has forums.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

More on the dyslexia debate

GMTV debate about the recent article

Professor Julian Elliott, who has raised doubts before about whether dyslexia exists as a medical condition, said he believes the label is used by middle-class parents terrified their children will simply be classed as low achievers.

(I should add that in the debate his point of view is actually not as grim and daft as the above quote suggests. He seems to call for more specific labelling and that some people present with symptoms that are too broad to be called dyslexia)
Watch the debate here

Dyslexia facts :

The word 'dyslexia' comes from the Greek and means 'difficulty with words'
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, mainly affecting reading and spelling. About 10% of the population are affected by dyslexia to some degree.
Dyslexia tends to run in families; it is known that there are several genes that contribute to a genetic risk of dyslexia.
Dyslexic people usually find it difficult to analyse and work with the sounds of spoken words, and many have difficulties with short-term memory, sequencing and organisation.
Dyslexia is not the same as a problem with reading. Many dyslexic people learn to read, but have continuing difficulties with spelling, writing, memory and organisation.

Possible difficulties you may experience being dyslexic :

Reading hesitantly
Misreading, making understanding difficult
Difficulty with sequences, e.g. getting dates in order
Poor organisation or time management
Difficulty organising thoughts clearly

The ideal thing to emerge from this debate would be more research into learning difficulties, more excavation on the specifics rather than it fading to a bunch of mudslinging in three newspaper articles.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Dyslexia: article

These kinds of articles frustrate me

Firstly, I find it slightly far fetched that people would invent dyslexia symptoms to get longer to do their exams. If that's the case it's a flawed administrative system that's the problem.

Secondly it's disingenuous to suggest dyslexia is merely about being crap at reading. Instead of attacking the notion or existance of dyslexia, people should try to focus on the self esteem of the individual child which is constantly eroded everytime he/she looks at the page of the kid beside him. The aim should be to ensure no child feels hopeless, never mind this pointless clap trap.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Legal: Irish autism news story

Parents of autistic boy awarded €61,000

Irish Autism Action has welcomed today's award by the High Court of almost €61,000 to the parents of a six-year-old boy with autism because of delays by the Health Service Executive in treating him.

Mr Justice Michael Peart ruled there had been a breach in the HSE's duty of care towards Seán Ó Cuanacháin due to delays in providing him with therapy and intervention.

However, Justice Peart said that Seán had since made very good progress and awarded damages in line with that finding.

Justice Peart also delivered a 270-page judgment in which he outlined his reasons for refusing to compel the State to provide a certain type of education for Seán.

full story here

Sunday, May 6, 2007

You and Yours: Interesting ASD series BBC radio 4 programmes

Here's a link to a comprehensive series of radio programmes on Autism and Asperger's syndrome that ran on BBC Radio 4.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A few new writing ideas

The first and last, I can lay no claim to, they were entirely prompted by my child, but in the aftermath of them I realized what an excellent fine motor activity took place.

Writing your own music

Basically get a piece of manuscript paper and the child writes their own music. You can either print a piece up online or buy a pad of it at the music shop. If you wish you can introduce the child to the concepts of whole notes, single, quavers or minims, but again not really necessary. We simply figured out what the notes were after he'd filled up the page. Then we tried to pick it out on the piano with difficulty until we received assistance from a more musical friend and voila! What a pretty piece of music it turned out to be.


Sort of like the concept of instant messaging. Instead of having a conversation take a notebook (this also works very well with the NEO keyboard) write a comment down about anything (could be something happening in the room, outside the window, or a bunch of compliments like "I think you're great" which will usually elict a smile) and hand it to the child to write a response. If the child resists writing then scribe for them or reply to what they verbalise. Eventually they tend to become curious and grab the pen. It helps to keep it humorous. If the child is more visual depict a cartoon instead. Draw a picture and pass the book over and let them draw the next one.


Take an atlas and photocopy several pages of various maps which depict oceans in between the continents. Give the child a pencil, coloured pencils or pens and encourage them to create shipping routes between the countries or simply doodle on the photocopied map. Maps are fascinating and it's a engaging activity where the fine motor activity is incidental to something that's more interesting going on.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Music links

Here are a couple of useful music links that have online composing opportunities for children to create with.

San Francisco Symphony kids pages

BBC Schools also have some fun interactive pages.

Study shows omega-3 helps ADHD sufferers

Study shows omega-3 helps ADHD sufferers

Omega-3 fish oil can help children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study suggests.

Results from "the largest, clinical-based omega-3 and omega-6 trial of its kind" bolstered views that fatty acids relieved aspects of ADHD.

The tests were undertaken by the University of South Australia and an Australian government research body. They involved 132 children aged between seven and 12 with ADHD symptoms and the active fatty acid used was Equazen's eye q supplement.

To read full article click here

Monday, April 9, 2007

Progress on writing materials: Indispensable Staedtler products

My earlier post about the Dixon pencil has now been well and truly usurped by discovering the wonderful and frankly indispensable range of products that Staedtler offer. If your child has writing struggles they will find these pencils, pens, markers are designed to aide the fatigue factor.

My child initially tested a bunch of different writing materials in a specific writing class at school. The Staedtler triplus fineliner was the pen that he found most assisted him and the teacher encouraged me to seek the pens for him. We bought a packet of them from a local art shop for about 12-14 dollars and subsequently discovered Staedtler offer a bunch of other products that have generally made writing and colouring and drawing less onerous and plenty more joyful.

Can't recommend them enough. The quality of the products is represented in the slightly higher cost, but they are actually are good value overall because they are durable and well made. The most significant impact is the ink seems to come out faster and easier, thus relieving the need for heavy pressing and manipulation of the pens.

The ergosoft range of jumbo pencils have a lovely, rich tone to them. They are triangular in shape, easier to grasp and are packaged in a neat blue plastic box, which turns into a pen stand and means they do not end up rolling away under the couch never to be retrieved again.

They also offer triangular jumbo wooden pencils which have a softer colouring tone, and again nice ergonomic feel to them.

The MARS ERGOSOFT (again a jumbo triangular pencil) graphite pencil will help children with writing tasks. It has a soft, rubbery casing. If your child does not care for the rubber covered one there's a sister pencil which is identical in triangular shape, but has the ordinary casing on it.

I will be uploading links and pictures of these products when I find time. Please post comments if your child finds them useful. Also, if you're having trouble locating these pens and pencils drop me an email and I will try to point you in the right direction of suppliers etc.

To begin with you can read further about these pencils etc on their international website

The Canadian website is here

I hope your child enjoys as much joy as we have with these pens and pencils. The big progress has been that as soon as the child sees an improvement in representing their ideas on the page, some of the frustration can abate and hopefully a sense of achievement takes over.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Features of Written Output Disorder

At last here are a list of some of the features or indicators of Written Output Disorder. A big thank you to Sarah Howard, the assessment manager, of The Eaton Learning Centre, who graciously provided this helpful information. I know this information will be valuable to parents worried about their children and considering educational testing. I will create a permanent link to it in the links section, so it will be easily available.

1)Resistance to writing tasks that goes above and beyond the “norm” for that child – this can include a refusal to show math work.

2)Anxiety around writing tasks or opposition

3)Poorly formed printing, difficulty learning to write cursively

4)Forgetting to use capitals and punctuation correctly despite knowing the “rules”

5)Writing all the way up to the edge of a page – seeming not to understand the physical limitations of the page space

6)Very large letters or very small letters or what looks like trying to drive the pencil right through the page – all symptoms of “finger agnosia” where the student cannot get enough feedback from their fingers about the pencil and so they grip tighter and tighter, losing control

7)Aversion towards artwork – not all students are like this – or a hatred of colouring tasks

8)Notable difference between a child’s verbal skills/oral expression and their written work – an example of this would be a student who could tell you everything you wanted to know about the atom but when asked to make a poster outlining the parts of an atom, might write the following: Neutron = part of an atom, Proton = part of an atom, Electron = part of an atom.

In testing, we look primarily at visual processing speed, visual motor integration, and fine motor coordination but working memory and expressive language difficulties as well as problems with attention can also wreck havoc on a child’s ability to write.

Study: Learning disorders might be genetic

Here is the link to the journal where you can read the article discussed in this article below:

LONDON, March 14 (UPI) -- A British researcher suggests a wide variety of learning disabilities might be caused by "generalist" genes.

"Old studies tend to focus on finding the genes responsible for single disorders," said review author Robert Plomin, "but with the new analysis techniques available, new studies are providing evidence that genes can be responsible for a wide range of learning disorders."

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Recommended Reading: Not Even Wrong by Paul Collins

I believe in reading widely on the topic of different learning styles and one of the advantages of this approach is occasionally you alight of a treat on a book like Paul Collins: Not Even Wrong: A father's journey into the long history of autism. (published by Bloomsbury USA in 2005). While I am not personally dealing with autism, there are always parallels in these kinds of journeys, (also it's a very wide spectrum, I would guess most artists fall somewhere along it) so I read voraciously on the topic regardless. Not Even Wrong takes the form of a hybrid of memoir and history. Collins depicts his own experience as his young son Morgan is diagnosed autistic, while he concurrently researches this book, which at times feels pleasingly like a travelogue because he crosses back and forth to England and Europe to complete his research. It's to Collins credit that his writing style is so engaging, he possesses this handy knack of putting these precise, additional details that absolutely put the reader where-ever he's describing. So whether it's the school, doctor's office, the house of eminent autism expert Dr Simon Baron-Cohen or the graveyard, where he's trying to locate the grave of a historic feral child The Wild Boy, it's all very immediate.

This is the kind of book that reminded me of how important it is to remain flexible with whatever life hurls your way. It's a very uplifting book and many parents will take courage from his experience. There are also important historical perspectives and experiences of autistics in the book reminding us that autism has a long history, perhaps one that has yet to documented extensively. A brave and intelligent book -- highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Special pencil: Dixon TRI-CONDEROGA HB 2

Victory! We have found a pencil that helps my child. I quote him directly: "it feels triangular not like those pencils at school. It doesn't hurt your fingers because it's softer. It's made my writing look beautiful"

I will upload a picture as soon as I have time. Basically it's triangular shape and is fatter than a regular pencil and is black with some kind of soft coating.

Neo keyboard writing and spelling game

We have been experimenting with the Alpahsmart Neo keyboard further, to much success. It's a very handy device to prompt output. An interesting game to try is typing messages to each other. My child is particular responsive to this. So a parent or sibling types a question or comment, then passes the keyboard to the child and the child types a reply. Usually it's just fun messages like: do you want a cup of tea? Who do you think will win the hockey tonight?

Today we tried an alternative with a spelling angle. I would deliberately type mistakes in my messages and see if my child could spot them. It's much easier to spot spelling errors when it's someone elses message.

The other thing I like about the NEO is it's so light, so it's like handing over an average sized book and the keyboard is manageable for small fingers because the keys are bigger.

This exercise also works very well with pen and paper, but use the keyboard when the child is fatigued and doesn't feel like writing, or if you want to get some typing practice in.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Study Puts Rate of Autism at 1 in 150 U.S. Children

Study Puts Rate of Autism at 1 in 150 U.S. Children

About one child in 150 develops autism or a related disorder like Asperger’s syndrome by the age of 8, according to a study released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, which looked at cases of so-called autism spectrum disorders in 14 states in 2000 and 2002, is the most rigorous analysis to date of the disorders’ prevalence in the United States. It confirms recent estimates, which put the number at roughly one in 160 children — higher than the one-in-200 estimate made in the 1980s.
The analysis also found that delays in diagnosis were common: an average of at least a year and a half from the time parents first reported odd speech problems or other social deficits, typically around the age of 3.

Read rest of article on New York Times here

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Channel 4 documentary: child genius

Article about Channel 4 programme that will go out tomorrow at 8pm.

Michael is one of the high-achieving children in a new Channel 4 series which documents the lives of 10 gifted children growing up in the UK and regularly updates us on their progress, Seven-Up style.

rest of article is here

Batch of news links

Quick round up of some recent articles that may interest parents/readers with children who have ADHD or symptoms related to it.

New Guidelines For GP's Revolutionise Treatment For Hyperactivity Disorders

Australian story:
Poor city boys top ADHD medication
CITY dwellers are five times more likely to be prescribed hyperactivity stimulants than people living in remote areas, research shows.

British news story:
'They're calling my son ineducable'

Nearly 3,000 of the 20,000 adult students with learning difficulties have lost their college places. Polly Curtis reports on a war of words over what such students need

Also check out comments on post dysgraphia vs written output disorder with some first hand tips for tackling ADHD from Brent..

Batch of news links

Quick round up of some recent articles that may interest parents/readers with children who have ADHD or symptoms related to it.

New Guidelines For GP's Revolutionise Treatment For Hyperactivity Disorders

Australian story:
Poor city boys top ADHD medication
CITY dwellers are five times more likely to be prescribed hyperactivity stimulants than people living in remote areas, research shows.

British news story:
'They're calling my son ineducable'

Nearly 3,000 of the 20,000 adult students with learning difficulties have lost their college places. Polly Curtis reports on a war of words over what such students need

ADHD in youth may be misdiagnosed for sleep disorders

BALTIMORE - Frenzied and restless behavior in a teenage son or daughter may signal they need more pillow time.

Teens do not exhibit the same signs of sleepiness as adults, and therefore distracted or overexcited behavior caused by fragmented sleep may masquerade as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, said Dr. Robert Meny, a sleep specialist at the Sleep Center at Franklin Square in Baltimore City.

“A tired child is an irritable, hyper child,” he said, whereas adults tend to be more subdued when they are sleepy.

more here

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Adult ADHD: 'All over the map'

Link to story about adult ADHD
At 30, he's all over the map because he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Growing up, he was labeled a problem child. He struggled with classes in high school and admits to behavioral troubles.

Panorama documentary on Seroxat

Here is a link to a BBC Panorama documentary on the drug Seroxat (not sure if the name differs in North America). I post this link because the documentary concerns the drug being prescribed to teenagers and it's possible that young people/ children could be prescribed this drug for symptoms of anxiety or depression and so it's useful viewing for parents who may be advised to medicate their children for whatever reason. It's a compelling documentary that raises important questions.

Secret emails reveal that the UK's biggest drug company distorted trial results of an anti-depressant, covering up a link with suicide in teenagers.
Panorama reveals that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) attempted to show that Seroxat worked for depressed children despite failed clinical trials.

Click on watch now to view the documentary.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dysgraphia/written output struggles -- we want to hear from you

There's a very interesting comment been posted at an earlier posting on this blog that I encourage you all to read.

Brent, just about to graduate with his master degree, (bravo!) details his background being gifted with dysgraphia.

It's very insightful to hear these stories. There's so few resources on written output struggles and first hand accounts are fascinating and help us gain a better understanding.

At the library yesterday I was looking at Samuel Beckett's theatrical notebooks. They were written in a squared notebook. I looked at three of them, curious to see how long he could maintain such upright, clear writing. In two of them it slanted to the right. While I was looking at them, (they are actually in German) I remembered the terrible cramps in my hands writing essays and exams. It made me wonder if unbeknownst to me at the time I had had my own struggles with physical writing. Obviously they did not impede me to the extent that I see my own child challenged by them, but I am far more fluid on a keyboard.

I often noticed that doctors handwriting can be completely illegible for example. It would be very interesting to hear from people who have been challenged by written output and have had to make choices based on those challenges because I am thinking the implications forty or fifty years ago of such a challenge would have been vastly different from today where accommodations can be made with technology.

A lawyer recently told me he was most certainly penalised for his poor handwriting all the way through university.

If you know anyone with such stories please encourage them email to if they do not wish to comment on the actual blog. I can post them anon. as blog postings if they prefer. I'm very happy for people to consider this compiling of information rather than "sharing" of stories, which understandably not everyone feels comfortable with. Most people reading this blog are looking for strategies, so it's very valuable to hear the strategies people used to cope and what the implications of these challenges have been for them if they care to disclose. If not, that's fine. In short just tell us what got you through.

Someone recently suggested to me that one way to deal with ADD is to accept you might need to have five different careers in your lifetime. I thought that was quite a genius of a concept.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Times article: 10 minute test to help screen for dyslexia

Cartoon pictures of a grey mongrel cat washing herself and a small blue alien are at the heart of a new test to help parents to establish whether their children have dyslexia.
The ten-minute test, developed by speech therapists and psychologists, screens young children for language disorders from the age of 3. By testing simple grammatical and pre-reading skills, parents, teachers or assistants can check whether a child is “school-ready” or may need more help.

For more info on obtaining the test GAPS click here

To read the complete article,,2-2561005,00.html

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Enrichment works!

I realize it's early days, but my child emerged from his first enrichment class at school last week declaring he loved it. Now the curious thing is he may not have been identified as a candidate for that class without the psycho-educational assessment that was done on him that identified his strengths and the things that are tripping him up.

To see the benefit of even that single experience has given him is enlightening. As far as I can tell it's about feeling capable more than anything else. It makes me fearful to think that many of the children who need these opportunities may be unlikely to be chosen based on their performance in the classroom, which as I've seen first hand is not always a good indicator of potential.

I suppose one can only place hope in the wisdom and insight of individual teachers who foster a classroom atmosphere where every child has the chance to succeed, which fortunately for us our present teachers this year do. What a difference this makes. The child goes from loathing school to feeling like they can actually participate and enjoy some success. There are still challenges naturally.

Another important change for the new year has been the implementation (finally) of a writing program through the learning assistance centre. Previously the focus appeared to be entirely on remedial reading assistance. Children with written output challenges are not necessarily weak readers, yet they often end up in learning assistance for reading programs. Whilst these programs do not obviously do any damage and may have some benefits they do absolutely nothing to address or aide the fine motor problems. I will be posting about the progress and difference, if any, this writing program makes.

Two links on dyslexia debate is a website maintained by a teenager over the years charting his experience with dyslexia and the accommodations that helped him. It gives a great insight to his expereince finding strategies that work and his subsequent success at school as a result.

The Daily Telegraph speakers corner have a bunch of comments in response to their article Dyslexia -- an expensive myth?

You'll also find the original article by searching that newspaper site.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dysgraphia vs Written Output Disorder

I am trying to ascertain what the difference is between dysgraphia and written output disorder.

If you have any insights or thoughts please leave a comment.


The Mislabeled Child

Here is a link to an interview with Drs' Brock and Fernette Eide the authors of an interesting looking book called The Mislabeled Child.

They have a website and blog which has specific reference material to dysgraphia in their library section which some readers may find helpful.

The blog has articles posted daily addressing all manner of pertinent topics relating to learning differences with a strong neurological emphasis.

Instead of hysterical activity like putting weapons in space, governments should consider investing serious dollars in studying the brain because as I heard Henry Marsh a pioneering neurosurgeon remark recently in a radio three essay as part of the freethinking festival "there's much we still don't know." (that's not a verbatim quote, but it was the gist of his sentiment).

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Observer: Feature article on dyslexia

Article in today's UK Observer about dyslexia:

In a small room at the physiology department of the University of Oxford a man is being tested for dyslexia. This is an elaborate, detailed and standardised process, and the tests get harder as the session unfolds.,,1987978,00.html

The article is well worth reading. The journalist Simon Garfield travelled to several conferences and gatherings. The article also details some of the history of the recognition of the existence of dyslexia.

Three resources listed at the end of the article:

The Dyslexia Research Trust:
Dyslexia Action:
British Dyslexia Association:

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Activity: Drawing a piece of knitting

Another fine motor activity that we made up the other day. I suggested to my son we draw a piece of knitting together. Sounds dull, but not necessarily so. I wanted an activity that required drawing lots of tiny lines for my own brain as much as his.

We both choose two different coloured gel pens. He drew a rectangle to indicate a scarf. I asked him to decide a pattern and nominate who should do how many lines. Then we took turns replicating his pattern with very simple straight lines to indicate a stitch.

Half way down the rectangle he requested we choose different pens and he redesigned the colour sequence. By the last few rows of the piece of knitting depicted his lines had become very neat and careful.

Becuase this was an inclusive activity and we took turns and he decided how things should look he remained engaged and ultimately very satisfied with the end result.

Sharing the burden works very well with children who have output issues because they fatigue quickly, but will remain engaged if they know a pause is due to them.

This activity also helps reinforce the notion of patterns and be able to recognize them.

I think the next pattern exercise we'll try may involve drawing guitar chords because he's interested in music. It could almost be like composition and then afterwards we could try to play the chords and see how they sound in reality.

Even though there's little evidence to suggest that repeatedly practising fine motor will necessarily fix or wildly improve written output trouble, I think it helps the child to feel like they can concentrate for a sustained period of time on something that involves precise fine motor work. It's all about the process for us right now and feeling capable rather than dejected and so the actual fine motor activity needs to be incidental to something else that's happening. In the above example he was overseeing what went on the page and directing operations.

It's interesting because previously I had much less success trying to get him to draw hockey shirts with numbers on the back. So you can imagine my surprise to see the replication of a piece of knitting proved more successful. Maybe because it was more abstract.

Advocates for Children of New York resource

This website has some very interesting reports and studies including this one which provides a critical examination of New York's gifted programs and an analysis of segregation in the programs. Nationally, experts estimate black and Latino students are underrepresented in gifted programs by fifty to seventy percent.

There are also examples of current litigation and legal challenges being undertaken on behalf of various children and/or excluded groups in education generally.

Parents and/or interested readers will find much to read generally on this website whether or not they live in New York especially under their policy reports section.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

More great "working memory" links.

Here's a link to an excellent document with some suggestions to help working memory problems in the classroom.

Whether you are a teacher or a parent you'll find more articles of interest here:

How encouraging to find this great work and research being undertaken on children and working memory problems.

Working Memory Problems? Good resource

Here's an excellent link on working memory problems with definitions and information.

BBC: Extra help for struggling pupils

UK News story

Ministers want all pupils to have what the better off pay for
Children who fall behind in maths or English could be offered one-to-one tuition to help get them back on track.
Struggling pupils in the later years of primary and early years of secondary school will get extra help outside school hours from qualified teachers.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

UK:Britain 'wasting talent of its brightest kids'

(Dec 31st 2006)
Tens of thousands of bright children in the poorest parts of England and Wales are being let down by schools that fail to nurture their talent, a leading government adviser has warned Tony Blair.
Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, said those who opposed spending more time and money on gifted and talented children held an 'anti-elitist ideology' that would hold back the economy.,,1980605,00.html

It's interesting that in none of these articles is there any mention of the fact that gifted children can also have learning disabilities ....

UK: Future of schooling report gets cautious welcome

Teachers have given a guarded welcome to a report on the government's vision for schooling by 2020, warning ministers against the development of an "overly bureaucratic processes".
The report, written by Christine Gilbert before her recent appointment as head of Ofsted, suggests pupils should be able to choose what they study, ask each other for help in answering questions, mark their own work and grade their teachers' performance.,,1982852,00.html