Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Audiobooks May Help Your Struggling Reader

Since having kids, I've become a fan of audiobooks. Staying awake to pick-up a book and get past a page is difficult, but listening to audiobooks has been a life saver. I can actually keep up on books in my ever growing wishlist. I can also see the benefit for students to be read to as long as they follow along. I can remember my father reading to me at night, such classics as "Treasure Island" and "The Hobbit." I like the advice given here by Stowell Learning Center for students.
Audiobooks May Help Your Struggling Reader Keep up with the Class and Be More Independent
Does your child dread or avoid reading textbooks because the pages seem too dense, the chapters too long, or words too hard? Having textbooks on audio allows students to spend less time struggling with homework, and more time understanding and absorbing the material.

It also frees you up from having to do the reading for your struggling reader and helps your child be more independent.

Here are two resources available to schools and parents for a nominal yearly fee (may be free to schools) that will allow students with learning disabilities to access their textbooks on audio

Learning Ally: www.learningally.org
Bookshare: www.bookshare.org

Here's HOW to get the most out of audiobooks:
Have your child or teen read along in their textbook as they listen. Using their finger under the line of text may help them to keep their place and allows them to touch, see, and hear the words simultaneously.

This action helps students notice vocabulary, see how words look while accurately hearing them read, and increases attention and comprehension.

Research reported by Learning Ally states that students show the following improvement with the use of audiobooks:

Improved reading comprehension: 76%
Increased interest in reading: 76%
Improved reading accuracy: 52%
Increased self-confidence: 61%
Increased motivation: 67%

Audiobooks are a valuable resource and support for struggling readers.

It is important to recognize, however, that these resources do not correct the reading problem.

Most reading and spelling problems can be permanently corrected by identifying and developing the weak, underlying learning skills that are getting in the way of the student learning comfortably and efficiently.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Food Play for A Picky Eater

We have a picky eater, and even though we went through OT for 6 sessions, our progress was still slow. After some time, I took a day off work to attend a picky-eaters class through OT and decided to give more effort to the eating habits of our youngest. However, the method has helped all 3 (ages 2, 4, and 6) of our boys. So I thought I post some of the games we played while eating dinner.

We always eat dinner together and had already worked on keeping the kids at the table for 15-20 minutes with a timer. So the next step was to deal with the actual food presented. Some simple rules: everyone participates, including the adults. The kids don't have to eat everything, it's just getting the kids to touch and play with the food so they get comfortable with the tactile sensations.

Day 1
I served chicken, rice, corn and apples. We all took a smell and described one thing we all could smell. Then we took turns listing the colors and shapes. This will be the first thing we do every meal before I ask them to do a game.

Day 2
I served mashed potatoes, hot dogs, mixed veggies and banana slices. I brought out the mini chocolate chips, gave everyone a few pieces of chocolate chips. They first were asked to make a face with the chocolate chips on a banana slice, or all of them. After comparing faces, I asked them to make a banana sandwich and eat them. The two year old did not eat the bananas, but he had fun making the face.

Day 3
We had mac n cheese, rice, grapes, and corn. I had a raspberry in the corn and the kids had to find the raspberry. Again, my two year old didn't eat the raspberry but he got his hands "dirty" by going through the corn. I have already noticed he is willing to touch more of this food. So of course, I am happy.

Day 4
We made spinach tortellini soup with rice and oranges and the boys had to spoon out as much as they could in 10 seconds. Then the boys had to hide rice on their spoon and cover it with spinach. We all took turns taking guesses to how much rice was on the spoon. My two year old didn't really understand what he was doing, but it was fun to see him copying his brothers.

Day 5
Quesadillas with chili and grapes, yum. We cut the grapes in half and tried to see who could build the tallest tower in 10 seconds. Then we dipped our finger in the chili and made faces on our quesadillas. It's always fun to see how creative the kids can get.

Some other games with food:
  • Build a house with pretzel sticks or carrot sticks
  • Finding marshmallows in mashed potatoes using your fingers
  • Sprinkling grated cheese over broccoli
  • Putting an orange wedge in your mouth and see who can hold it the longest before laughing
  • See who can put the most corn and peas on their fork in 10 seconds
  • I'm sure we will come up with more as time continues

Our adventures will continue, but I already see an improvement with the boys and their use of the utensils, touching the food, and asking "what game are we playing tonight?" I find myself planning a game as part of planning the meal, thinking, what I can I hide or have the kids make or do with this?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids

Two of my kids have SPD and I found this article very useful in understanding even more how their brains are wired to have difficulty with sensory input.  I am also hopeful that this information will make SPD a disability so the boys can qualify for more learning and therapy services to help them overcome their sensory issues. I hope you find this article as helpful as I do.

Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids

The image shows areas of the brain that can be affected by sensory processing disorders. Using an advanced form of MRI, researchers at UCSF have identified abnormalities in the brain structure of children with SPD primarily in the back of the brain.
Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet the condition receives far less attention partly because it’s never been recognized as a distinct disease.

Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD
In a groundbreaking new study from UC San Francisco, researchers have found that children affected with SPD have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders.
One of the reasons SPD has been overlooked until now is that it often occurs in children who also have ADHD or autism, and the disorders have not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists.
“Until now, SPD hasn’t had a known biological underpinning,” said senior author Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and bioengineering at UCSF. “Our findings point the way to establishing a biological basis for the disease that can be easily measured and used as a diagnostic tool,” Mukherjee said.
The work is published in the open access online journal NeuroImage:Clinical.

‘Out of Sync’ Kids

Sensory processing disorders affect 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children.
Graphic that says "Sensory processing disorders affect 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children."
Children with SPD struggle with how to process stimulation, which can cause a wide range of symptoms including hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch, poor fine motor skills and easy distractibility. Some SPD children cannot tolerate the sound of a vacuum, while others can’t hold a pencil or struggle with social interaction. Furthermore, a sound that one day is an irritant can the next day be sought out.  The disease can be baffling for parents and has been a source of much controversy for clinicians, according to the researchers.

Elysa Marco, MD
“Most people don’t know how to support these kids because they don’t fall into a traditional clinical group,” said Elysa Marco, MD, who led the study along with postdoctoral fellow Julia Owen, PhD. Marco is a cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, ranked among the nation's best and one of California's top-ranked centers for neurology and other specialties, according to the 2013-2014 U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospitals survey.
“Sometimes they are called the ‘out of sync’ kids. Their language is good, but they seem to have trouble with just about everything else, especially emotional regulation and distraction. In the real world, they’re just less able to process information efficiently, and they get left out and bullied,” said Marco, who treats affected children in her cognitive and behavioral neurology clinic.
“If we can better understand these kids who are falling through the cracks, we will not only help a whole lot of families, but we will better understand sensory processing in general. This work is laying the foundation for expanding our research and clinical evaluation of children with a wide range of neurodevelopmental challenges – stretching beyond autism and ADHD,” she said.

Imaging the Brain’s White Matter

In the study, researchers used an advanced form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which measures the microscopic movement of water molecules within the brain in order to give information about the brain’s white matter tracts. DTI shows the direction of the white matter fibers and the integrity of the white matter. The brain’s white matter is essential for perceiving, thinking and learning.

These brain images, taken with DTI, show water diffusion within the white matter of children with sensory processing disorders.  Row FA: The blue areas show white matter where water diffusion was less directional than in typical children, indicating impaired white matter microstructure.  Row MD: The red areas show white matter where the overall rate of water diffusion was higher than in typical children, also indicating abnormal white matter.  Row RD: The red areas show white matter where SPD children have higher rates of water diffusion perpendicular to the axonal fibers, indicating a loss of integrity of the fiber bundles comprising the white matter tracts.
The study examined 16 boys, between the ages of eight and 11, with SPD but without a diagnosis of autism or prematurity, and compared the results with 24 typically developing boys who were matched for age, gender, right- or left-handedness and IQ. The patients’ and control subjects’ behaviors were first characterized using a parent report measure of sensory behavior called the Sensory Profile.
The imaging detected abnormal white matter tracts in the SPD subjects, primarily involving areas in the back of the brain, that serve as connections for the auditory, visual and somatosensory (tactile) systems involved in sensory processing, including their connections between the left and right halves of the brain.
“These are tracts that are emblematic of someone with problems with sensory processing,” said Mukherjee. “More frontal anterior white matter tracts are typically involved in children with only ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders. The abnormalities we found are focused in a different region of the brain, indicating SPD may be neuroanatomically distinct.”
The researchers found a strong correlation between the micro-structural abnormalities in the white matter of the posterior cerebral tracts focused on sensory processing and the auditory, multisensory and inattention scores reported by parents in the Sensory Profile. The strongest correlation was for auditory processing, with other correlations observed for multi-sensory integration, vision, tactile and inattention.
The abnormal microstructure of sensory white matter tracts shown by DTI in kids with SPD likely alters the timing of sensory transmission so that processing of sensory stimuli and integrating information across multiple senses becomes difficult or impossible.
“We are just at the beginning, because people didn’t believe this existed,” said Marco. “This is absolutely the first structural imaging comparison of kids with research diagnosed sensory processing disorder and typically developing kids. It shows it is a brain-based disorder and gives us a way to evaluate them in clinic.”

Support SPD Research

Thanks to groundbreaking work from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, a biological basis for SPD has been discovered.  There is much work to be done and a funding gap. We still need to:
  • Understand the genetic causes of sensory processing differences
  • Uncover risk factors for SPD
  • Measure the neurologic brain differences in affected individuals
  • Determine if current interventions are truly effective for brain plasticity
  • Develop new therapies based on scientific evidence
You can pave the way for a new era of sensory research and therapies by supporting UCSF’s scientific sensory processing team.
Learn how you can help.
Future studies need to be done, she said, to research the many children affected by sensory processing differences who have a known genetic disorder or brain injury related to prematurity.
The study’s co-authors are Shivani Desai, BS, Emily Fourie, BS, Julia Harris, BS, and Susanna Hill, BS, all of UCSF, and Anne Arnett, MA, of the University of Denver.
The research was supported by the Wallace Research Foundation. The authors have reported that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital creates an environment where children and their families find compassionate care at the forefront of scientific discovery, with more than 150 experts in 50 medical specialties serving patients throughout Northern California and beyond. The hospital admits about 5,000 children each year, including 2,000 babies born in the hospital. For more information, visit www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.