Archive for January, 2010

UC Berkeley/UCSF treatment study for ADD/ADHD

January 14, 2010

For parents in the San Francisco Bay area. One of the families we work with went through this program and was impressed:

UC Berkeley and UCSF are conducting a treatment study for children (age 7-11) with the Inattentive subtype of ADHD (sometimes referred to as ADD).  Participating families may receive parenting skills classes, child skills groups, and school consultation at no charge to families. For 2nd-5th grade boys and girls in the East Bay and San Francisco. No ADHD diagnosis is necessary; we provide a comprehensive, free ADHD assessment. This program does NOT include medication, but children on medication for ADHD are welcome to enroll.

Please call (510) 643-3437 in the East Bay (UC Berkeley), or (415) 476-7863 in San Francisco (UCSF).

Auditory processing delays in children with autism

January 14, 2010

Fast ForWord programs have been used extensively as an intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A multi-site study determined that after Fast ForWord use, students with developmental delays made significant gains in their language ability suggesting that using the Fast ForWord products strengthened the students’ foundational skills and better positioned them to benefit from their classroom curriculum and function in society.

Research published in the January edition of the journal Autism Research found that children with autism spectrum disorders have an associated delay in auditory processing ability, which offers some additional insight into why Fast ForWord is such an effective intervention for these students. In the study, 25 children with autism spectrum disorders and 17 age-matched typically developing children were presented tones with frequencies of 200, 300, 500, and 1,000 Hz while whole-cortex magnetoencephalography (MEG) examined brain activity. The study found an average latency delay of 11 msec in children with ASD. Why is this important? From the study’s abstract: “The … latency delay indicates disruption of encoding simple sensory information.”

We would suggest these results indicate that a program like Fast ForWord that develops auditory processing abilities would be a successful intervention for children with ASD. The researchers were headed in a slightly different direction, however: they examined the predictive value of the auditory processing delay and determined that “a right-hemisphere M100 latency delay appears to be an electrophysiological endophenotype for autism.” In other words, brain imaging that identifies auditory processing delays may help with diagnosis of ASD in children.

From a Science Daily article about the research:

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) process sound and language a fraction of a second slower than children without ASDs, and measuring magnetic signals that mark this delay may become a standardized way to diagnose autism.

Like many neurodevelopmental disorders, in the absence of objective biological measurements, psychologists and other caregivers rely on clinical judgments such as observations of behavior to diagnose ASDs, often not until a child reaches school age. If researchers can develop imaging results into standardized diagnostic tests, they may be able to diagnose ASDs as early as infancy, permitting possible earlier intervention with treatments. They also may be able to differentiate types of ASDs (classic autism, Asperger’s syndrome or other types) in individual patients.

Nutrition and the brain

January 8, 2010

If your family is anything like ours, there are frequent battles over what (and how much) your kids eat (or in our case, don’t eat). Here’s a new strategy: engage kids in the importance of good nutrition for brain health.

From Dr. Eric Chudler’s Neuroscience for Kids Web site:

Your brain is like a car. A car needs gasoline, oil, brake fluid and other materials to run properly. Your brain also needs special materials to run properly: glucose, vitamins, minerals and other essential chemicals. For example, the fuel (energy) for your brain is glucose. You can get glucose by eating carbohydrates or other foods that can be converted to glucose.

The article on nutrition includes a list of precursors for critical neurotransmitters, as well as effects of too little or too much of specific nutrients on the nervous system.

The entire Neuroscience for Kids site is a great resource for engaging students in the science of their brains. It includes brain fitness challenges, questions and answers and projects (from coloring books to science fairs). Take a look!

How otherwise bright people struggle to read

January 5, 2010

We frequently hear from parents of bright kids who are just having a tough time with reading. A new study, published in the January 1, 2010 issue of the journal Psychological Science, looks at the relationship between intelligence and reading ability.

From Medical News Today:

The researchers found that in typical readers, IQ and reading not only track together, but also influence each other over time. But in children with dyslexia, IQ and reading are not linked over time and do not influence one another. This explains why a dyslexic can be both bright and not read well.

The study examined data from the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, an ongoing 12-year study of cognitive and behavioral development in a representative sample of 445 Connecticut schoolchildren. The researchers each child in reading every year and tested for IQ every other year.

From Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, and co-director of the newly formed Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity:

“I’ve seen so many children who are struggling to read but have a high IQ,” said Shaywitz. “Our findings of an uncoupling between IQ and reading, and the influence of this uncoupling on the developmental trajectory of reading, provide evidence to support the concept that dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty with reading in children who otherwise have the intelligence to learn to read.”

Typical readers learn how to associate letters with a specific sound. “All they have to do is look at the letters and it’s automatic,” Shaywitz explained. “It’s like breathing; you don’t have to tell your lungs to take in air. In dyslexia, this process remains manual.” Each time a dyslexic sees a word, it’s as if they’ve never seen it before. People with dyslexia have to read slowly, re-read, and sometimes use a marker so they don’t lose their place.

So what’s the answer for parents with otherwise bright kids who struggle with reading? Shaywitz’ previous research into dyslexia suggests that a neurological signature for dyslexia is under activation of the parieto-temporal region of the brain. A Stanford University study that examined brain imaging scans of children with dyslexia who used Fast ForWord programs showed normalization of activity in this critical area of the brain (used for reading). Furthermore, the students in the Stanford study showed significant improvements in reading and oral language skills on a number of assessments.

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