Saturday, June 29, 2013

Special Education Saturday - Learning from the Lives of Teachers

We all change our habits during the summer. Kids are out of school and available for adventures and fun. Teachers have time to do the chores that get pushed aside during the academic year and attend training to improve their skills for next year.

What can we learn from these professional educators?

  • Take a little time to get caught up. Doing those tasks you've been putting off frees your mind and reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Plan ahead for next year. Set up a system to collect homework and other papers so they return to school safely. Organize clothing and other materials for easy access. 
  • Talk to other parents about what things they do to make family life easier or more enjoyable and try out a few of their tips.
  • Take a breather. Get some rest. Change your daily routine. Refresh yourself before the big Fall push begins.
  • Schedule time for some fun before the summer has fled. 
What are you doing to make your life better or have some fun?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wellness Wednesday - Sleep and Your Children

It's no surprise to anyone that poor sleep interferes with our performance. If I'm too tired, I lose things, have trouble controlling my temper, and struggle to think. New research has revealed that children's school performance is also impacted by both the quality and quantity of their rest--to the point that they may appear to have a disability when they don't.

How does sleep impact education? Sleepiness impairs attention, and it can also impact working memory and memory consolidation.

Sleepiness causes inattention, which may be confused with ADHD.

Snoozing helps working memory for children and teens. Think of working memory as the train that moves information from short term memory (which lasts seconds) to long term memory for storage. Insufficient shut eye effectively derails your train.

In addition, not enough sack time also prevents memories from being consolidated. Kind of like shoving papers randomly into a file drawer where they are more difficult to find. Knowledge gets into the brain, but can't be easily found.

Many of those with disabilities such as autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability may also experience sleep problems. These difficulties exacerbate the underlying challenges.

How can you tell if your child has a sleep problem?

  • Check on your child half an hour after bedtime to be sure he or she is not using technology too late or unable to fall asleep.
  • Listen periodically for snoring during the night. 
  • Check to see that your youngster is not sleepy when riding in a car or sitting in class. 
If you suspect a problem with adequate rest, you may want to ask your pediatrician to do a screener or a full polysomnographic study. There are medications and other procedures that can improve their slumber. For example, many children with sleep apnea may be cured by having their tonsils and adenoids removed. 

The only wrong move is to ignore it completely. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wellness Wednesday - Advantages of Video Games

There is no denying that many children and young adults are addicted to video games. They play during every moment of free time to the exclusion of other activities. Excessive playing may even interfere with school, jobs, or relationships.

Many parents would like video games banned from their homes entirely. But there are some benefits. Video games have proven helpful for those with dyslexia and can be used to tn the brain to make visual decisions faster and better. They have also been successfully used to facilitate communication for children with autism.

In a study conducted by Duke University, children with dyslexia were evaluated before and after playing video games. Those who played the games that were engaging and action-packed were able to read more accurately afterwards. They also had a longer attention span. These benefits are worth further investigation.

Those who play video games on a regular basis are used to detecting visual information. They retain this data and use it to make decisions regarding play on a daily basis. This gives them a better ability to retain relevant information while discarding unimportant details, a vital reading skill.

Children with autism frequently play games on iPads that allow them to communicate. They are also more willing to be involved in activities required for social or life skills when games are involved.

What games have helped your children?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Special Education Saturday - A Blood Test for Autism

A group of researchers from the JC Self Research Institute of the Greenwood Genetic Center and Biolog Inc. discovered that those with an autism spectrum disorder had a significantly lowered ability to metabolize the amino acid L-trytophan than others. 

So what.

Well, there are two implications. The first is for diagnosis, the other for treatment.

There may be a diagnostic blood test that could look for the metabolism of this amino acid and be used to determine the presence or absence of autism.

In addition, this raises the possibility that autism may be treatable by a biochemical method such as a targeted medication.

While this is just a beginning, it certainly looks promising. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wellness Wednesday - Probiotics and Depression

A recent study by the Human Microbiome Project revealed an additional link between our gastrointestinal systems and our brains. Turns out, what happens in our digestive tracts can change emotions and behaviors.

The short version is that probiotics can have an impact on how we act and feel. How? By changing the chemical makeup of your blood and physical changes in the brain itself.

When you have more probiotics in your system and are stressed, less corticosteroids are released in your bloodstream, and you are able to remain calmer for a longer period of time. You are less likely to have an emotional or physical reaction with these lower levels.

In addition, the brain creates more receptors of a type that reduces anxiety. This means you naturally have a better capacity to relax.

The takeaway? Get out there and eat some yogurt, or take probiotic supplements. Your mood will thank you.