Friday, September 30, 2011

Upcoming SC Assistive Technology Trainings

SCAT logo
Tobii ATI Communication Products Demonstration
Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Time: 10:00am – Noon
Presenters: Betsy Walker, MS SLP, Tobii, ATI Representative and
Wayne Jones, Regional Sales Consultant
Location: SC Assistive Technology Resource Center, Columbia, SC
Cost: Free!
See the newest Sono Suite Product, Sono Flex, a symbol vocabulary that fits perfectly between Tobii Sono Primo and Sono Lexis. The iPad and iPhone application for Sono Flex will also be shown and discussed. In addition, Tobii Communicator 4.6 is here! They will be showing the new features and interface of Communicator 4.6.

Adapted Art Make ’n Take
Date: Friday, October 14, 2011
Time: 9:00am – 11:30am
Presenters: Val Gioia, Assistive Technology Specialist, SC Department of Education and
Carol Page, Program Director, SC Assistive Technology Program
Location: SC Assistive Technology Resource Center, Columbia, SC
Cost: $10
Art activities are difficult for some students because of limited mobility, poor fine and gross motor skills, difficulty with sensory integration, and visual impairments. These issues will be addressed and various solutions demonstrated that can be used by teachers and parents. Participants will build various art tools that target gross and fine motor skills, tactile stimulation, eye-hand coordination, and switch access. All materials will be supplied for this workshop and participants will take their projects home. This workshop has a maximum of 15 participants.

Music Make ’n Take
Date: Friday, October 14, 2011
Time: 1:00pm – 3:30pm
Presenters: Ally Trotter, Director/Licensed Educator, Kindermusik by Ally and
Carol Page, Program Director, SC Assistive Technology Program
Location: SC Assistive Technology Resource Center, Columbia, SC 
Cost: $10
Participating in music activities is difficult for some students because of limited mobility, poor fine and gross motor skills, difficulty with sensory integration, and visual impairments. Examples of how to create musical instruments using common objects around the home or classroom will be demonstrated. The fundamentals of appropriately selecting and the functional use of various music instruments will be reviewed. The workshop will conclude with a make-and-take opportunity for participants to choose from different projects to construct and then take the finished project(s) home. This workshop has a maximum of 15 participants.

Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers
Dates and Locations:
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 in Charleston
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 in Columbia
Thursday, October 28, 2011 in Greenville
Time: 9:00am - 2:15pm
Presenters: Dave Butler, Senior Educational Support Specialist, Don Johnston Incorporated and
Kris Killough, SE Market Development Manager, Care Innovations
Cost: Free!
A deli lunch will be provided by Care Innovations.
This workshop will review assistive technology tools for students with dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, Down syndrome and other diverse physical and learning disabilities. How digital text can help individuals overcome barriers to academic and social opportunities will be discussed. Proven tools and resources will be explored including the Start-to-Finish Publishing Series and Read:OutLoud®. The afternoon will cover ways to meet the needs of struggling writers by exploring a variety of technology tools including Co:Writer and Write:Outloud. Free sources for activities, templates, lesson plans and ready-made files will be shared to help you quickly integrate Don Johnston products into your classroom for more literacy learning success! This workshop has a maximum of 15 participants.

NOTE: For registration information, click on the title above.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prescribed Stimulant Use for ADHD Continues to Rise Steadily

ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2011) The prescribed use of stimulant medications to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose slowly but steadily from 1996 to 2008, according to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The study was published online ahead of print September 28, 2011, in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders, and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity). The condition is frequently treated with stimulants such as methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin), amphetamines (e.g., Adderall) or other types of medications. Behavioral therapies can also be effective.

During the 1990s, stimulant prescription use increased significantly, going from a prevalence rate among youth of 0.6 percent in 1987 to 2.7 percent in 1997, with the rate stabilizing around 2.9 percent in 2002. Recent reports, however, suggest that the prescribed use of these medications and the diagnosis of ADHD have continued to rise. Based on the Health Resources and Services Administration's National Survey of Children's Health, the percentage of children age 4-17 years diagnosed with ADHD increased from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007.

To read the entire article, please click on the above title.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 Passed!

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 26, 2011) – The United States Senate this evening passed the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 by unanimous consent, sending the bill to President Obama for his signature. Enactment of the bill, which the President has promised, will assure that federal support for autism, research, services and treatment will continue uninterrupted for another three years.

CARA would authorize a total of $693 million on continued biomedical and treatment research on autism and require further development of an overall strategic plan for the intensification, expansion and better coordination of federal efforts designed to help persons with autism and their families. The fight for CARA in the Senate has been led by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY).

CARA renews the Combating Autism Act which was signed into law on December 19, 2006 by President George Bush following a nearly unanimous Congressional vote. The CAA made a clear statement by the U.S. government on the public health emergency posed by the growing prevalence of ASDs, and the lack of adequate research, effective treatments, and services to address this urgent and growing crisis.

The bill was unanimously voted out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 7 and had been awaiting final Senate action. Recognizing the short time left for Congress to act, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) last week agreed to expedite a vote in the House where the bill cleared by two-thirds voice vote. The measure, HR.2005, sponsored by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), attracted strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and was originally sponsored in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY).

NOTE: To read more about this, click on the title above.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Special Needs Sensory Movement Conference


Carol Kranowitz offers sensory strategies and activities that are applauded not only in the United States but around the world; over 500,000 copies of her book The Out-of-Sync Child have been sold. Ms. Kranowitz holds an M.A. in Education and Human Development and until recently was a music and drama teacher. She has developed a purposeful curriculum that integrates sensory-motor activities into the school day.

By attending, participants can:

Identify and describe the six types of SPD and how they can affect the daily lives of children
Recognize co-existing problems (e.g., visual, auditory, eating, sleeping, and emotional difficulties)
Discuss several research studies by the world's top investigators
Demonstrate "In-Sync" activities, specifically designed to engage various sensory systems and thereby improve learning and regulate behavior
And more!
To read more about the conference, please click the above title.

Monday, September 26, 2011

FREE EASI Webinar - Practical Comparison of Screenreaders

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Free Webinar: Practical comparison of screen readers, using scenario based user testing.
Sept. 28 at 2 PM Eastern
Presenters: Birkir R. Gunnarsson and Hlynur M. Hreinsson, Iceland National Institute for the Blind, Deafblind and Visually Impaired.

We have yet to find a way to slap a grade on happiness, but in the summer of 2010 we created a set of practical test cases across 7 categories, to help us better match screen readers to our users.

The methodology allows us to meaningfully test and compare screen readers as diverse as:
· Jaws for Windows,
· Orca,
· Voiceover

By comparing their performance on test cases across multiple categories such as:
· Braille support,
· advanced office applications,
· web browsing,
· instant messaging,

We believe we can better match the least expensive and most appropriate screen reader to each of our users, thus making sure we support and utilize both open source technology and advances in screen reading from Apple. This way we both help our users get the most out of their PCs as well as being able to provide useful feedback to the screen reader manufacturers and developers, if we find one screen reader does something particularly well or is lagging behind. We hope to be able to recruit people to help us expand and update the testing and provide us with feedback.

NOTE: For more information, and to register for the webinar, click on the title above.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good Night's Sleep May Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Obese Teens

ScienceDaily (Sep. 22, 2011) Obese teenagers who don't get the proper amount of sleep may have disruptions in insulin secretion and blood sugar (glucose) levels, say pediatric researchers. Their study suggests that getting a good night's sleep may stave off the development of type 2 diabetes in these adolescents.

"We already know that three out of four high school students report getting insufficient sleep," said study investigator Dorit Koren, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Our study found to keep glucose levels stable, the optimal amount of sleep for teenagers is 7.5 to 8.5 hours per night." She added that this is consistent with research in adults showing an association between sleep deprivation and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The study appears online in the journal Diabetes Care.

The researchers studied 62 obese adolescents with a mean age of 14 years at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Over one and a half days, the children, who were white, African American and Hispanic teenagers, underwent glucose testing and an overnight sleep study. In addition to measuring total sleep time, the scientists studied "sleep architecture," analyzing stages of sleep such as slow-wave "deep" sleep and rapid eye movement (dream) sleep.

The optimal sleep duration was neither too little nor too much, said Koren; both insufficient and excessive sleep were linked to higher glucose levels. While sleep stages did not predict glucose levels, lower duration of N3 ("deep" sleep) correlated with decreased insulin secretion.

The current study was the first to associate sleep duration with glucose levels in children and to report a link between N3 sleep and insulin secretion.

"Reduced insulin secretion may lead to the higher glucose levels that we found in subjects who had insufficient sleep," said Koren. "We will seek to confirm these findings with home-based studies of sleep patterns in obese teenagers. In the meantime, our study reinforces the idea that getting adequate sleep in adolescence may help protect against type 2 diabetes."

To read the entire article, please click the above title.

Disability Accessibility Included in National Dialogue for Improving Federal Websites

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Join the conversation about federal websites!
The federal government wants to re-invent how it delivers information and services online, and we need your help. We want to bring the best of the web to the .gov domain. Share your ideas to help us answer: What practices, policies, and principles should guide federal websites. You can submit ideas on any of the campaigns from Sept 19 - Sept 30, but we will also be hosting one hour dialogue-a-thons with our discussion catalysts on each campaign. You can also follow comments about the dialogue on Twitter under the hashtag #dotgov.
Accessibility Dialogue-A-Thon
Monday September 26, 3:00 PM ET.
We invite you to participate in the one-hour long, live "dialog-a-thon" on Universal Access to have a targeted, real-time conversation with a critical mass of participants. Sharron Rush will be hosting the accessibility dialog-a-thon on Monday, September 26, from 3-4 pm ET. If you are unable to join, you can still participate in the National Dialog for the full 2 weeks. The dialogue-a-thon is a time we've devoted to specifically addressing ideas for improving accessibility of federal websites.
Two -Week National Dialogue on Improving Federal Websites
The National Dialogue for Improving Federal Websites is sponsored by the White House and the U.S. General Services Administration. The dialogue is a critical part of the .gov Reform Initiative launched in June 2011, to streamline how we manage federal websites and provide a better customer experience when people access government information and services online. The online conversation lasts from September 19 through September 30, 2011.
The online conversation features eight different discussion areas open for two weeks, including one on accessibility. You will have the opportunity to submit and vote on ideas for improving how people access government information and services online, with different devices and assistive technology. We hope this conversation will complement the ongoing work of our group and other public discussions that have happened recently around accessibility.
Please spread the word about the National Dialogue to your networks, friends, and colleagues. We're looking for a very broad and diverse set of ideas.
The 508 compliant IdeaScale platform is being used to host the Dialogue. Our 508 specialist has rigorously tested the platform; however, if you find things that aren't accessible, please let us know and we'll work to address them.
The purpose is to allow people to submit and vote on ideas for improving various aspects of improving federal websites, such as: content, search, usability, accessibility, social media, multilingual content, and online services. The .gov Task Force will review the ideas and consider them as they develop a National Web Strategy and make recommendations for streamlining federal websites, strengthening federal web policy, and improving citizens' experience with federal websites.
We know there is a goldmine of good ideas from the community, so we hope--and expect-- that you'll actively participate in the discussion and share your expertise and knowledge. We want to hear what's working well, what can be improved, innovative ways to rethink the federal web, and specific examples you have from your industry or organization.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Gene For Lou Gehrig's Disease And Frontotemporal Dementia Identified

Medical News Today (Sept. 22, 2011)-Frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- two fatal neurodegenerative disease with distinct but sometimes overlapping symptoms -- are triggered by a common mutation in many cases, according to researchers who say they have identified the mutated gene.

In the study, reported in the September 21 online issue of Neuron, the scientists described the discovery of a genetic mutation that is accountable for almost 12 percent of familial FTD and more than 22 percent of familial ALS samples studied.

They also report that the defect is the strongest genetic risk factor found to date for the more common, non-inherited, sporadic forms of these diseases. It was found in 3 percent of sporadic FTD and 4 percent of sporadic ALS samples in the largest clinical patient series.

The study was led by scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, in collaboration with researchers at UCSF, the University of British Columbia and UCLA. The finding emerged from the identification and study of a family stricken by both ALS and FTD, reported last year. In that study, led by the UCSF scientists and published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the researchers honed in on the region in which the gene was located.

"Both clinically and at the molecular level this discovery is going to significantly improve our understanding of these diseases," said co-author Adam Boxer, MD, PhD, of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, the lead author on the 2010 paper. The discovery makes it possible to develop a diagnostic test for the mutation, as well as to create animal models that may be used to help unravel the molecular mysteries connecting the mutation to the diseases, he said.

In the current study, a detailed molecular genetic characterization of the family that Boxer described was done in the laboratory of senior author Rosa Rademakers, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic. She and colleagues identified the gene and the specific mutation within it.

The mutation consists of from hundreds to thousands of extra copies of a six-letter DNA sequence GGGGCC strung end to end within a region of human chromosome nine. The mutation occurs within a gene of unknown function called C9ORF72.

After identifying the mutation, the Mayo researchers searched for it in DNA from other patients with both familial and sporadic forms of the diseases, where they found the strong associations.

FTD is characterized by disturbances in decision making, language skills, behavior and emotional expression, and is as common as Alzheimer's disease in people younger than 65, according to Boxer. ALS is a neuromuscular disease, leading to muscle paralysis and respiratory failure, often within three to five years. However, it is not unusual for patients diagnosed with one of the two diseases to exhibit symptoms of the other.
To read more about ALS and FTD, please click the above title.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

image of laughing kids
Discovery News (9/14/2011) -- "A rattling good laugh with friends will help you deal with pain thanks to opiate-like chemicals that flood the brain, according to a British study released on Wednesday.
Researchers carried out lab experiments in which volunteers watched either comedy clips from "Mr Bean" or "Friends," or non-humorous items such as golf or wildlife programmes, while their resistance to mild pain was monitored.
Another test was conducted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where the volunteers watched either a stand-up comedy show or a theatrical drama.
In lab conditions, the pain came from a deep-frozen wine-cooler sleeve which was slipped onto the arm or from a blood-pressure cuff that was pumped to the threshold of tolerance.
For the Fringe Festival, the volunteers were asked to do a tough exercise -- leaning against the wall with their legs at right angles, as if sitting on a straight-backed chair -- before and immediately after the performance, to see if laughter had helped with the pain.
Just 15 minutes of laughter increased the level of pain tolerance by around 10 percent, the study found.
In the lab experiments, the neutral, non-funny programming had no pain-alleviating effect at all. Nor did watching drama at the Fringe Festival.
However, the study notes two important distinctions.
The only laughter that worked was relaxed, unforced laughter that creases the eyes, as opposed to a polite titter.
And this kind of belly laugh is far likelier to happen when you are with others, rather than being alone.
"Very little research has been done into why we laugh and what role it plays in society," said Robin Dunbar, head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford.
"Using microphones, we were able to record each of the participants and found that in a comedy show, they laughed for about a third of the time, and their pain tolerance rose as a consequence."
The protection apparently comes from endorphins, a complex chemical that helps to transmit messages between neurons but also dulls signals of physical pain and psychological stress.
Endorphins are the famous product of physical exercise -- they help create the "buzz" that comes from running, swimming, rowing, yoga and so on."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quality Of Life For Individuals With Autism Worsened By Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Symptoms

Medical News Today (Sept. 20, 2011)- Research supported by the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (ATN), demonstrating that symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity worsen quality of life for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), was presented at the Society for Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Researchers Parul Vora, M.D., developmental-behavioral pediatric fellowat Nationwide Children's and Darryn Sikora, Ph.D., Director of the Autism Program at Oregon Health Sciences University, used data exclusively from the ATN Registry to examine whether the presence of symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might have additional impact on the adaptive functioning and quality of life of children and adolescents with ASD. After reviewing measures of attention and hyperactivity, and measures of quality of life, for over 2,000 children and adolescents with ASD, they found that over half of this group had symptoms of either attention or hyperactivity problems. More than a third had significant symptoms of both.

Children with ASD frequently have other symptoms that may compound difficulties with communication, socialization and restricted interests. More than one in three children evaluated had symptoms suggesting that they might have ADHD. Approximately one in ten of the children studied were receiving stimulant medications typically used to treat ADHD. This suggests that most of these children and adolescents with ASD and ADHD symptoms are not being treated with medications for these inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Children with ASD frequently have other symptoms that may compound difficulties with communication, socialization and restricted interests. More than one in three children evaluated had symptoms suggesting that they might have ADHD. Approximately one in ten of the children studied were receiving stimulant medications typically used to treat ADHD. This suggests that most of these children and adolescents with ASD and ADHD symptoms are not being treated with medications for these inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Children with ASD have lower adaptive functioning - the ability to get along in daily situations - than typically developing children. Not only does the presence of ADHD symptoms compromise their adaptive abilities, quality of life is further reduced.

"Identification of ADHD symptoms in children with ASD is important so that health care providers can work to treat these issues. Further research is needed to determine whether stimulant medication improves ADHD symptoms in children with ASD," explained ATN Medical Director Daniel Coury, M.D.

Dr. Coury explained why this research is important to the ATN. "Because it's very common for children with ASD to present other medical symptoms and diagnoses, a primary goal of the ATN is to create a model of comprehensive medical care for children and adolescents with autism, and best practices to be shared with medical practitioners throughout North America and around the world."

To read the entire article, please click the above title

Monday, September 19, 2011

For Kids With ADHD, Regular 'Green Time' Is Linked to Milder Symptoms

image of trees
ScienceDaily (Sep. 15, 2011) — "A study of more than 400 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has found a link between the children's routine play settings and the severity of their symptoms, researchers report. Those who regularly play in outdoor settings with lots of green (grass and trees, for example) have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments, the researchers found. The association holds even when the researchers controlled for income and other variables.The study appears in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9.5 percent of children aged 4-17 had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007. Symptoms include severe difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity and poor impulse control.
Although many children with ADHD are medicated, most "would benefit from a low-cost, side-effect-free way of managing their symptoms," wrote University of Illinois crop sciences visiting teaching associate Andrea Faber Taylor and natural resources and environmental sciences professor Frances (Ming) Kuo, the authors of the study.
Previous research has shown that brief exposure to green outdoor spaces -- and in one study, to photos of green settings -- can improve concentration and impulse control in children and adults in the general population -- individuals without ADHD.
These findings led Taylor and Kuo to examine whether children diagnosed with ADHD, which is characterized by deficits in concentration and impulse control, might also benefit from "green time." In a study published in 2004, they analyzed data from a national Internet-based survey of parents of children formally diagnosed with ADHD and found that activities conducted in greener outdoor settings did correlate with milder symptoms immediately afterward, compared to activities in other settings."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Preschoolers' Grasp of Numbers Predicts Math Performance in School Years

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ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2011) — "A new study published in the online journal PLoS ONE reports that the precision with which preschoolers estimate quantities, prior to any formal education in mathematics, predicts their mathematics ability in elementary school, according to research from the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Humans have an intuitive sense of number that allows them, for example, to readily identify which of two containers has more objects without counting. This ability is present at birth, and gradually improves throughout childhood. Although it's easier to compare quantities if the amounts differ greatly (such as 30 versus 15 objects), greater precision is needed when comparing items that are much closer in number. When this ability is measured during the school age years, it correlates with mathematics achievement. However, it has been unclear until now whether this intuitive ability actually serves as a foundation for school-age math abilities.
Results of the new study show that children's ability to make numerical estimates in preschool predicted their performance on mathematical tests taken in elementary school, more than two years later. The relationship appeared to be specific to math ability, because preschool number skills did not predict other abilities, such as expressive vocabulary or the ability to quickly name objects like letters or numbers.
"Children vary widely in both their numerical and non-numerical cognitive abilities at all ages," said Dr. Michele Mazzocco, Director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger Institute and lead author of the study. "Based on earlier data showing a relationship between intuitive number skills and formal mathematics, we were interested to learn whether numerical skills measured prior to schooling predict the level of mathematics skills children demonstrate years later, in a formal educational setting."
Mazzocco, along with researchers Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda of Johns Hopkins University, examined the performance of 17 children (7 girls, 10 boys) who had taken part in an earlier study of numerical abilities as preschoolers. At ages three and four, the children had been asked to judge which of two sets of objects, such as blue or red crayons, had more items. In this new study, researchers measured the same children's math abilities more than two years later using a standardized mathematics assessment that involved a wide range of skills like counting, reading and writing numbers, and simple arithmetic."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TV Found to Have Negative Impact On Parent-Child Communication and Early Literacy Compared to Books and Toys

image of kid watching tv
ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2011) — "Since the first television screens lit up our living rooms scientists have been studying its affect on young children. Now scientists in Ohio have compared mother-child communication while watching TV to reading books or playing with toys to reveal the impact on children's development. The results, published in Human Communication Research, show that watching TV can lead to less interaction between parents and children, with a detrimental impact on literacy and language skills.
The study, conducted by Amy Nathanson and Eric Rasmussen from Ohio State University, focused on 'maternal responsiveness' to reveal differences in the way mothers communicate with their children while engaged with books, toys, and TV.
"Maternal responsiveness describes the quality of responses that a mother provides to an infant when they interact," said Nathanson. "When a mother and child are focusing on the same object, be that a book, toy or TV show, the mother's response can have an important impact on their child's understanding and self perception."
By explaining and describing objects or new words and images, or by prompting conversation through questions, maternal responsiveness can help to engage a child with the activity. The parent can also provide positive feedback and encouragement to a child, or repeat what the child has said to help familiarize them with certain words or sights.
"Mothers who are responsive to their infant's communication promote a positive self-perception for the child as well as fostering trust in the parent. Positive responses help the child learn that they can affect their environment," said Nathanson. "However, if maternal responsiveness is absent, children learn that their environment is unpredictable and may become anxious, knowing that their bids for attention or help may be ignored."
The authors explored the interactions of 73 mother-child pairs. The average mother was married, in their early thirties and had a bachelor's degree, while half were not employed. The children ranged in age from 16 months to 6 years.
Pairs were randomly assigned to one of the three activities for ten minutes. A researcher then offered the pair all three activities and left them for a further twenty minutes. Parents were also asked to fill in questionnaires based on their child's language development while interviews were held to discuss preschooler's literacy levels.
The results demonstrated that who mothers co-read books communicated significantly more with their children than mothers watching TV. The amount of communication involved in reading was not significantly higher than playing with toys. However, the quality of maternal responsiveness was higher in books than toys."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

"Tee Up" for Brain Injury

To register for the golf tournament, please click on the above title.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buddy Walk

2011 Buddy Walk

The Buddy Walk is almost here! In less than a month we will return to Etiwan Park for the 8th annual Buddy Walk and a great day of inclusion and acceptance for all those living with Down syndrome. Come out and join us for the one mile walk, the dancing and music, food and fun.

The Buddy Walk was developed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to promote acceptance and awareness of people with Down syndrome. The Buddy Walk program has grown from 17 walks in 1995 to more than 300 walks in 2009 with our LOWCOUNTRY BUDDY WALK ranking third in the nation in attendance behind only New York and Chicago!We encourage people with Down syndrome to
invite “buddies” - everyone from friends and family to teachers and co-workers to join them atthe Buddy Walk. Whether you have Down
syndrome or know and care for someone who does, or just want to show your support, come and join our Buddy Walk.
Anyone can be a buddy!

Schedule of Events

12:30 - 3:00 Face painting, clowns, jump

castles, food and fun for the whole family!

3:00 - Walk! A fun 1-mile walk through one of

Daniel Islandʼs beautiful neighborhoods. Bring

strollers and wagons! All are welcome!!

After the walk, enjoy Etiwan Park on Daniel

Island with a hot dog eating contest, games

and fun until 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parkinson's Awareness Day

Breaking News! The Spartanburg Parkinson's Disease Support Group is hosting a very special "PARKINSON"S AWARENESS DAY" free of cost. There will be several events happening. Among them is a presentation by Dr. Mark Stacy - Professor of Neurology & Associate Dean of Clinical Research at Duke University Medical Center - on "How to Live Well With Parkinson's Disease". Dr. Stacy directs the Movement Disorders Program at Duke; and is internationally recognized for his expertise in Parkinson's.

Date: September 29, 2011

Time: 1:30 - 3:00 pm --- Dr. Mark Stacy - Presentation of "How to Live Well With Parkinson's Disease" and Q & A
4:00 - 5:30 pm --- Special Event of a discussion of "Specific Treatment and Research Needs" with Dr. Mark Stacy. To participate in this Special Event, you must email Lisa Cox at to reserve a seat

Other events include discussions about Parkinson's and how additional therapies such as Exercise, Massage Therapy, Dance Therapy, Music and Art Therapy, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy can help in the treatment of this disease. Carlos Agudelo of Ballet Spartanburg will lead a Movement/Dance Class. Information Fair with vendors.
Cost: Admission is FREE - Everyone is invited to attend: Patients, Caregiver/Care Partners, Other Support Providers, and anyone interested in Parkinson's Disease

Location: The Chapman Cultural Center - 200 East St. John Street - Spartanburg, SC 29306 --- The cultural center telephone number is 864-583-0339

Contact Info: Lisa Cox at - Telephone 864-579-4916
Attached is a PDF flyer with information about this event.
[Please do not contact Dottie Gantt for information, thank you!]

Note: To participate in the separate event at 4:00 - 5:30 pm of a discussion of "Specific Treatment and Research Needs" with Dr. Mark Stacy --- you must email Lisa Cox at to reserve a seat.

Personal comment by Dottie - Those in our support group who have heard Dr. Stacy speak have said that he is an outstanding speaker.

Rx News --- The National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS) has announced that they have stopped the clinical trial of Coenzyme Q10, referred to as the QE3 study. The study was designed to test whether fairly high doses of Coenzyme Q10 were effective in slowing the progression of Parkinson's disease, or neuroprotective. The investigators of the trial determined that there was neither a neuroprotective nor a symptomatic benefit of Coenzyme Q10 for people with early Parkinson's disease. Everyone who participated in this trial has already been alerted and the open and forthright communications to both investigators and patients should serve as a model for future clinical trial communications. For more information visit their web site or to this link to the article

Doctor News --- Dr. Tom Faber is back in Columbia and has joined USC Neurology - University Specialty Clinics. His office is located on the Palmetto Richland Hospital campus in the 8 Medical Park Bldg Ste 420, his email is and he is accepting patients.

Tai Chi Classes - Janet Swigler is offering a 8-week introductory class, beginning Sept. 6 at Eastminster Presbyterian Church on Trenholm Rd. Attached is both a Word Doc and PDF flyer with all the details. Janet presented Tai Chi as an excellent Parkinson exercise at our May 18, 2008 meeting. She is very familiar with working with Parkinson patients. To learn more about the benefits of Tai Chi Exercise for Parkinson Patients

Please contact Janet directly if you have any questions.

Tuesdays, September 6 - October 25, 2011
4:45-5:45 PM
Eastminster Presbyterian Church
3200 Trenholm Road

Contact Janet Swigler - - Telephone 252-2204

The Benefits of Yoga for Parkinson's

Meeting Reminder

Date: September 18, 2011

Topic: "The benefits of Yoga for Parkinson's" - While yoga cannot reverse PD, it can slow its progression and ease its symptoms by improving the practitioner's balance, flexibility, range of motion, strength and balance. As a Mind-Body Therapy it may also improve emotional well-being.

Below is are some links with additional information about Yoga and Parkinson's Note: Scroll down this page for the article on Yoga

Speaker: Diane Barnes, M. Ed., Owner & Director

Mindful Living Studio
1407 Cherokee Dr
West Columbia, SC 29169-6021
(803) 739-8701

Key Signal That Prompts Production of Insulin-Producing Beta Cells Points Way Toward Diabetes Cure

ScienceDaily (Sep. 12, 2011) — Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have identified the key signal that prompts production of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas -- a breakthrough discovery that may ultimately help researchers find ways to restore or increase beta cell function in people with type 1 diabetes.

The work on the multi-year project was led by Prof. Yuval Dor of the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada of the Hebrew University, researchers from the Hadassah University Medical Center and researchers from the diabetes section of the Roche pharmaceuticals company. The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

"Our work shows that as the glucose level is increased in the blood, it tells the beta cells to regenerate," says Dor. "It's not blood glucose per se that is the signal, but the glucose-sensing capacity of the beta cell that's the key for regeneration." This was the first time that this sensing of a high level of glucose has been shown to be the "trigger" that induces beta cells to regenerate.

In persons suffering from type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, the immune system launches a misguided attack on the insulin-producing beta cells, resulting in the cells' decline of insulin production and eventual loss of function.

Without insulin, the body's cells cannot absorb glucose from the blood and use it for energy. As a result, glucose accumulates in the blood, leaving the body's cells and tissues starved for energy. That's why people with the disease must inject insulin and monitor their blood glucose levels diligently every day. To cure type 1 diabetes, it will be necessary to develop methods to increase beta cell replication and mass, hence the potential therapeutic importance of the current study.
To read more about a diabetes cure, please click on the above title.

Introduction to Website Accessibility and Usability Workshop

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Date: Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm
Presenter: Janet Jendron, SC Assistive Technology Program, Web Accessibility Chair, SC Assistive Technology Advisory Committee
Location: Fast Forward Community Technology Center 3223 Devine Street Columbia SC, 29205
Description: Can people with disabilities and age related limitations access and use your web site? What does the law say? What are common web access barriers for people who use assistive technology to read a web site? How can these barriers be prevented and addressed? This training would be useful to anyone designing web sites. This training is interactive and participants will have hands-on experience using accessibility tools.
This training is limited to no more than 30 participants.
Registration: To register for this training contact Fast Forward, Dee Albritton, at 803-343-2577 or

Monday, September 12, 2011

Upcoming Assistive Technology Workshops

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The SC Assistive Technology Program and the SC Department of Education Assistive Technology Specialists are offering the workshops listed below in September and October.
Most of the workshops are free of charge, but all require pre-registration. Locations and registration procedures (which vary among workshops) are noted in each workshop description.

9-13-11 - Columbia in the Classroom - Raymond Heipp
9-14-11- Columbia Website Accessibility and Usability - Janet Jendron
9-14-11 - Florence Free and Low-Cost Assistive Technology - Val Gioia
9-20-11- Columbia Doing More with Less: School District AT Teams Forum
9-22-11 - Greenville Free and Low-Cost Assistive Technology - Mark Daniels
10-5-11 - Columbia Social Stories with Digital Supports - Val Gioia
10-5-11 - Hilton Head Communication: Increase Input to Increase Output - Stacy Springer
10-11-11- Summerville Communication: Increase Input to Increase Output - Stacy Springer
10-14-11 - Columbia Adapted Art Make 'n Take - Val Gioia, Carol Page
10-14-11- Columbia Music Make 'n Take - Ally Trotter, Carol Page
10-19-11 - Florence Executive Functioning: How to Get Your Students Organized - Val Gioia
10-20-11- Greenville AT Consideration - Mark Daniels
10-25-11 - Charleston Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers - Dave Butler, Kris Killough
10-26-11 - Columbia Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers - Dave Butler, Kris Killough
10-27-11 - Greenville Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers - Dave Butler, Kris Killough
NOTE: To read more about the workshops, and to see the full training schedule, click on the title above.

Friday, September 09, 2011

How ADHD typically affects women, and how to cope with it.

WebMD (Sept. 8, 2011)-A girl with ADHD may be labeled Chatty Cathy - the enthusiastic school-aged girl who is always telling stories to friends. Or she could be the daydreamer - the smart, shy teenager with the disorganized locker.

But what happens when she grows up? Or when her ADHD isn't diagnosed until she's a woman? Is her experience different from what men with ADHD go through?

ADHD has not been widely researched in women. Much more is known about how it affects children. However, there seems to be some patterns that differ between men and women with ADHD.

Women, Men, and ADHD

The issues adults with ADHD have mirror those in the population as a whole, says Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Fla.

For example, she says men with ADHD tend to have more car accidents, suspensions in school, substance abuse, and anger and behavioral issues, compared to women with ADHD. But men are more prone to these kinds of issues in general, regardless of ADHD.

Women with ADHD are more prone to eating disorders, obesity, low self-esteem, and depression and anxiety. But they do in the general population, as well.

These challenges also often play out in different areas of their lives. Men with ADHD may have problems at work - unable to complete their tasks or getting mad too easily at subordinates, says Anthony Rostain, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Women, on the other hand, are more likely to see conflicts at home. Kathleen Nadeau, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the Chesapeake ADHD Center of Maryland in Silver Spring, says her female ADHD patients, especially mothers, come to her in a “constant state of overwhelm.”

“Society has a certain set of expectations we place on women and ADHD often makes them harder to accomplish,” Nadeau says. She points to women's traditional societal roles. “They are supposed to be the organizer, planner, and primary parent at home. Women are expected to remember birthdays and anniversaries and do laundry and keep track of events. That is all hard for someone with ADHD.”

Roots in Childhood

Many women with ADHD remember having these issues for a long time. “A lot of women tell me that (in school) they would look straight at the teacher so they wouldn’t get in trouble, but had no idea what was going on,” Nadeau says. “They are underfunctioning, but bright... their symptoms are more subtle.”

To read the entire article, please click on the above title.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Nanosensors Made from DNA May Light Path to New Cancer Tests and Drugs

ScienceDaily (Sep. 7, 2011) Sensors made from custom DNA molecules could be used to personalize cancer treatments and monitor the quality of stem cells, according to an international team of researchers led by scientists at UC Santa Barbara and the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

The new nanosensors can quickly detect a broad class of proteins called transcription factors, which serve as the master control switches of life. The research is described in an article published in Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"The fate of our cells is controlled by thousands of different proteins, called transcription factors," said Alexis Vallée-Bélisle, a postdoctoral researcher in UCSB's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who led the study. "The role of these proteins is to read the genome and translate it into instructions for the synthesis of the various molecules that compose and control the cell. Transcription factors act a little bit like the 'settings' of our cells, just like the settings on our phones or computers. What our sensors do is read those settings."

When scientists take stem cells and turn them into specialized cells, they do so by changing the levels of a few transcription factors, he explained. This process is called cell reprogramming. "Our sensors monitor transcription factor activities, and could be used to make sure that stem cells have been properly reprogrammed," said Vallée-Bélisle. "They could also be used to determine which transcription factors are activated or repressed in a patient's cancer cells, thus enabling physicians to use the right combination of drugs for each patient."

Andrew Bonham, a postdoctoral scholar at UCSB and co-first author of the study, explained that many labs have invented ways to read transcription factors; however, this team's approach is very quick and convenient. "In most labs, researchers spend hours extracting the proteins from cells before analyzing them," said Bonham. "With the new sensors, we just mash the cells up, put the sensors in, and measure the level of fluorescence of the sample."

To read the entire article, please click on the above title.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Search for Predictors of Risk for PTSD: Meaningful Associations Dependent On Reliable Measures of Pre-Existing Trauma

ScienceDaily (Sep. 5, 2011)A new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that certain variants of a gene that helps regulate serotonin (a brain chemical related to mood) may serve as a useful predictor of risk for symptoms related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a trauma.

"One of the critical questions surrounding PTSD is why some individuals are at risk for developing the disorder following a trauma, while others appear to be relatively resilient," says lead author, Kerry J. Ressler, MD, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

"It is known that genetic heritability is one component of the differential risk for PTSD, but the mechanisms remain relatively unknown."

In this study, the researchers were able to look at college students who had been interviewed for a study prior to a 2008 mass shooting on the Northern Illinois University campus, and then were interviewed afterward. The researchers used these prospective psychological data to examine the association between variants in the serotonin transporter gene promoter region of the brain, and PTSD/acute stress disorder symptoms that developed in the aftermath of exposure to the shooting.

"We believe that the strength of this study is the availability of the same validated survey measure to assess PTSD symptoms prior to and after a shared acute traumatic event," explains Ressler, who is also a researcher at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory.

To read more about PTSD, please click on the above title.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Venus Williams Brings Attention to Sjogren’s Syndrome

New York Times (Sept. 2, 2011)- Before this week, many people had probably never heard of Sjogren’s syndrome, one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders. But the recent announcement by tennis star Venus Williams that she was suffering from fatigue and other symptoms related to Sjogren’s has brought needed attention to a troubling condition.

The disease often starts out as an uncomfortable feeling in the eyes and mouth, writes medical reporter Gina Kolata.

Patients say their eyes are dry and red, even though they are using eye drops. Often too, they say, their mouths are dry. Food is becoming tasteless. Some get swollen glands in their necks, making it look like they have mumps.

It turns out those are the hallmark clinical signs of Sjogren’s syndrome, a mysterious disease caused by an overproduction of B lymphocytes, the cells of the immune system that make antibodies. The deluge of B cells clogs glands. Some people have trouble perspiring because their sweat glands are obstructed. Or they have trouble digesting food. Women may have pain during intercourse because their vaginas become dry….

When Venus Williams said the disease made her feel tired, she was right. Patients with Sjogren’s, like those with the related diseases rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, are unusually tired, and there is no way to alleviate this sensation. Investigators have studied lupus patients, asking how much oxygen they consume when they exercise, and found that they use much more than healthy people, although no one knows why that is so.

To read more about Sjogren's Syndrome, please click the above title.

Biological 'Computer' Destroys Cancer Cells: Diagnostic Network Incorporated Into Human Cells

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ScienceDaily (Sep. 1, 2011) — "Researchers led by ETH professor Yaakov Benenson and MIT professor Ron Weiss have successfully incorporated a diagnostic biological "computer" network in human cells. This network recognizes certain cancer cells using logic combinations of five cancer-specific molecular factors, triggering cancer cells destruction.
Yaakov (Kobi) Benenson, Professor of Synthetic Biology at ETH Zurich, has spent a large part of his career developing biological computers that operate in living cells. His goal is to construct biocomputers that detect molecules carrying important information about cell wellbeing and process this information to direct appropriate therapeutic response if the cell is found to be abnormal. Now, together with MIT professor Ron Weiss and a team of scientists including post-doctoral scholars Zhen Xie and Liliana Wroblewska, and a doctoral student Laura Prochazka, they made a major step towards reaching this goal.
In a study that has just been published in Science, they describe a multi-gene synthetic "circuit" whose task is to distinguish between cancer and healthy cells and subsequently target cancer cells for destruction. This circuit works by sampling and integrating five intracellular cancer-specific molecular factors and their concentration. The circuit makes a positive identification only when all factors are present in the cell, resulting in a highly precise cancer detection. Researchers hope that it can serve a basis for very specific anti-cancer treatments.

Selective destruction of cancer cells
The scientists tested the gene network in two types of cultured human cells: cervical cancer cells, called HeLa cells, and normal cells. When the genetic bio-computer was introduced into the different cell types, only HeLa cells, but not the healthy ones, were destroyed."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Drug Could Make Aging Brains More Youthful?

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Declining neural activity can be revved up in older brains, monkey study hints.

National Geographic -- "You can't teach an old brain new tricks—but you can restore its ability to remember the old ones, a new study in monkeys suggests.
Chemicals given to rhesus macaques blocked a brain molecule that slows the firing of the brain's nerve cells, or neurons, as we age—prompting those nerve cells to act young again.
"It's our first glimpse of what's going on physiologically that's causing age-related cognitive decline," said study leader Amy Arnsten, a neurobiologist at Yale University.
"We all assumed, given there's a lot of architectural changes in aged brains ... that we were stuck with it," Arnsten said.
But with the new results, "the hopeful thing is that the neurochemical environment still makes a big difference, and we might be able to remediate some of these things."

Brain's "Sketch Pad" Declines With Age
As the brain gets older, the prefrontal cortex begins to decline quickly.
This part of the brain is responsible for many high-order functions, including maintaining working memories—the ability to keep things on a "mental sketch pad" in the absence of stimuli from an action-based task.
The researchers had previously found that in young brains, nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex excite each other to keep working memories on the brain's slate.
"Those connections depend on the neurochemical environment, [which] has to be just right, like Goldilocks," she said.
But when people get into their 40s and 50s, that part of the brain begins to accumulate too much of a signaling molecule called cAMP, which can stop the cells from firing as efficiently—leading to forgetfulness and distractedness.
The number of seniors in the United States will likely double by 2050, and many of them will struggle to cope with the frenetic information age, according to the study."
NOTE: To read the entire article, click on the title above.

Monday, September 05, 2011


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Bridging the Gap Between Understanding & Intervention
Presented by: DEBORAH LIPSKY, M.Ed

September 20, 2011
4810 Page Creek Lane
Durham NC, 27703
Phone: 919-941-6030

September 21, 2011
425 Towne Centre Boulevard
Pineville NC, 28134
Phone: 704-889-3279

DEBORAH LIPSKY, M.Ed, is an accomplished presenter traveling the United States and Canada delivering seminars, presentations, and keynote addresses on understanding autism from an insider's viewpoint. Diagnosed in 2005 with high functioning autism, she is a former board member of the Autism Society of Maine, and currently writes a regular humorous column for their newsletter. In 2005, she was awarded the Autism Society of Maine's outstanding volunteer award, and in 2006, she became the recipient of a Temple Grandin award for "outstanding success in her life thereby being an inspiration to others". Her message of inspiration, delivered with a delightful sense of humor, makes her a highly sought after motivational and educational speaker. Before the day is out, Deborah will have you understanding what it is like to be autistic.
She is an international author, having co-authored a book with her colleague Dr. Will Richards, on managing meltdowns for autistic individuals using their revolutionary new training model called S.C.A.R.E.D. published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. This is a must have for anyone working with individuals on the autism spectrum. In addition to being a consultant for various agencies, Ms. Lipsky is a captain with the USAF-AUX for search and rescue and homeland security, a registered Maine Guide, a civil war re-enactor, avid WW2 and Viet Nam military collector and historian, and former licensed wildlife rehabilitator specializing in raccoons. She is affectionately known as the "raccoon lady", having spent 24 years studying them in the wild learning social skills she then adapted to use around humans.

A Personal Message from Your Presenter Deborah Lipsky:
"My name is Deborah Lipsky and I have high functioning autism. My program offers you insight into the world of an individual with autism from someone who lives it on a daily basis. I have encountered many similar problems that children with autism face as they grow up and have a true understanding of their difficulties so I am able to offer ideas for effective strategies and interventions. My specialty is meltdowns and in this program we will understand and explore their causes, interventions, and the differences between a meltdown and a behavioral tantrum. With my Master's Degree in Counseling, I have worked with both verbal and non-verbal individuals with autism and have developed the unique ability to "read" their non-verbal communication and which enables me to identify problem areas more quickly.
I also offer the unique perspective of telling my audience what it is like and how it feels to be autistic-how, as an individual with autism, my world differs from a "non-autistic" view. I am able to combine personal experiences with professional knowledge to bring to you a seminar unlike any other you have attended. I celebrate the gifts of autism and try to encourage people not to look at autism as a "dysfunction" or "disease" but just a neurological difference in the perception of the world. With some of my interactive exercises where you are "autistic" for a moment you will gain a greater appreciation of the challenges we autistic individuals face. I look forward to sharing my world view with all of you."
Deb NOTE: For more information on the agenda, and to register online, click on the title above.

US Autism and Asperger Association 2011 World Conference

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Autism Education and Treatment: A Road to Wellness
October 27-30, Seattle, Washington

On October 27-30, 2011, the US Autism & Asperger Association launches its sixth annual conference in Seattle, Washington. World leading autism experts will discuss new treatment regimes and effective therapies. After four days, you will leave the conference armed with tools of practical protocols, valuable hope, and new resources for support for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, patient, friend, student, or yourself.

Keynote Speaker - Eustacia Purves Cutler

Eustacia Cutler is the mother of four children. Her oldest child is Dr. Temple Grandin, who is one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with autism in the world. Temple's fascinating life was brought to the screen in 2010 in the HBO production full-length film, "Temple Grandin", which claimed seven Emmy Awards, including outstanding made for TV movie. Last year, British actress Julia Ormond presented Eustacia Cutler the 2010 Emmy Award she received for portraying her in the movie "Temple Grandin." The award was presented to Mrs. Cutler at a conference hosted by Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services in Los Angeles.

Unprecedented conference format

US Autism & Asperger Association’s unprecedented conference format, introduced last year, will feature panel workshops in non-concurrent sessions in addition to the keynote addresses. Some of the world’s most renowned autism and Asperger experts will present new interventions and new research in both education and medicine.
“This 'conference of panels' features keynote presentations which segue into the themed panel workshops," said Lawrence P. Kaplan, PhD, CEO of USAAA. “This structure differs from the customary conference format of strictly individual presentations and concurrent sessions. As a result, attendees can focus on the area being presented rather than being overwhelmed by the choices of many simultaneous lectures."
Dr. Kaplan added, “The makeup of our panel workshops consists of four to five expert panelists that provide immediate answers to attendees questions. What makes this unique is that the immense amount of information is consolidated into workshop panels and individual presentations over the course of three and a half days." To view the conference schedule, click here.
NOTE: To learn more about the conference, look up the schedule, and register online, click on the title above.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Dr. Darold Treffert on Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant

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JKP Blog -- "Darold Treffert, MD is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in the U.S. He has worked with savants and researched this rare condition for nearly 50 years, and was a consultant on the award-winning movie ‘Rain Man’, in which Dustin Hoffman plays the role of an autistic savant. Here, Dr. Treffert answers some questions about his new book, Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired, and Sudden Savant, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

What is savant syndrome, how prevalent is it, and what are its most common manifestations?
Savant syndrome is a rare but remarkable condition in which persons with autism, or other developmental or central nervous system disorders, have some spectacular ‘islands of genius’ that stand in stark, marked contrast to overall limitations. It occurs as frequently as one in ten persons with autistic spectrum disorder. It is interesting that considering all the skills in the human repertoire savant abilities narrow generally to only five areas: music, art, calendar calculating, lightning calculating and mechanical or visual-spatial skills. Whatever the skill, it is always linked to massive memory of a particular type —extremely deep but exceedingly narrow within its limited confines.

There is a tendency to isolate the savant and marvel at their ‘superhuman’ abilities, but in so doing we run the risk of overlooking the whole person. Why is it so important that we understand savants in context?
There is a tendency to give a passing “Gee Whiz, look at that” glance at the savant and then return to our more ordinary ‘inside the box’ mentality. But savants provide a unique window into the brain in terms of talent, compartmentalized skills, multiple intelligences, memory and creativity itself. So the ‘islands of genius’ in the savant deserve careful scientific scrutiny. But beyond that unique scientific interest is the accompanying vital human interest of appreciating not just what the savant can “do”, but to value as well the special person that he or she “is” and not be entirely distracted by the spectacular skills themselves. Viewing these extraordinary people as “differently-abled”, rather than “dis-abled” allows those of us privileged to work with these special persons to be curious not only about the condition the person has, but to care about the person who has the condition as well. That is good “bedside manner” not just in general medicine, but also for those of us trying to better understand, support and intervene in autism spectrum disorders and related conditions, whether a researcher, therapist, teacher, parent or caretaker.

Behind these remarkable people are their dedicated caregivers. What are the most important things parents and teachers do to develop and nurture a child with savant skills?
I get numerous “I’ve got a son or daughter who…” emails from parents whose children’s special savant skills have unexpectedly surfaced, sometimes explosively. Through those emails always shines enormous love, pride, care and concern of that parent for that child. My advice is to certainly continue that fountain of unconditional acceptance because, as I have observed from these parents, love is a good therapist too. Beyond that, my advice, whether to parent, therapist or teacher is to “train the talent” in whatever form, and whatever quantity it exists. Because that sometimes seemingly obscure skill is the child’s way of communicating, granted in a rather non-traditional way. It is in fact an “island of intactness” that can recognized, seized, tended and nurtured. And as one does, that “training the talent” can serve as a ‘conduit toward normalization’ with improved language, social and daily living skills. I have witnessed that happening innumerable times and it is the greatest source of satisfaction of all in my work with persons with savant syndrome."

NOTE: To read the entire interview, click on the title above.

Medical Mysteries: A tiny baby who didn’t grow

Washington Post (August 29, 2011)- Right away the obstetrician knew that something was very wrong.

Morgan McElhinney weighed just over five pounds and had a head that was abnormally long and narrow. Her muscle tone was worrisomely floppy, and her cry unusually weak. Doctors at Frederick Memorial Hospital let Lisa Simonson McElhinney hold her newborn briefly before whisking her off to the neonatal intensive care unit.

“I didn’t see her much for a few days,” recalled McElhinney of the period immediately following the birth of her fourth child, in June 2002. After nearly a week in the hospital the baby was sent home, although no one could say what was wrong. Initial tests found no obvious cause, such as a metabolic disorder.

“We were scared,” said McElhinney, who manages apartment buildings in Frederick. “You try to be optimistic and say, ‘Maybe she’s not that bad, maybe she’s just really early and will grow out of it.’ Even the professionals tried to be optimistic” at first, she said.

More than five years would elapse before McElhinney and her husband, Brad, learned the reason for their daughter’s problems. That knowledge brought a fresh wave of grief that rocked McElhinney and drew her to a new endeavor aimed at helping other families.

The first sign something was amiss, said McElhinney, now 46, came just before she went into labor, when the baby turned from the foot-first breech position to the proper head-down position.

That seemed odd: There shouldn’t have been enough room for the baby to shift so dramatically this far along in the pregnancy. Maybe, she thought, the baby was coming earlier than expected — a month, instead of the two weeks the doctor had calculated. She was not alarmed; McElhinney had three older children from a previous marriage ranging in age from 7 to 16, and this pregnancy, like her earlier ones, had been uneventful.

Morgan’s low birth weight — 5 pounds, 3 ounces — was one of the first shocks, said McElhinney, who is 5-foot-10 and whose older children had weighed about eight pounds at birth.

After a few months, it was clear that Morgan’s problems were more serious than anyone anticipated. “We fed her and changed her, and that was about it,” McElhinney recalled. “She didn’t respond to any of us,” and her limbs were “like jelly.” McElhinney and her husband worried that she might have autism, a fear that escalated as she grew older and began making odd, repetitive flapping movements with her hands.

Morgan’s failure to gain weight was equally worrisome and prompted a referral to the first of many specialists, who had no answers. At 7 months, when she had not rolled over, which some babies do when they are a few weeks old, Morgan began early intervention therapy under the auspices of a state program.

Around the same time, McElhinney’s hopes were briefly buoyed. Doctors discovered that Morgan was severely nearsighted. “Vision is so important to development, so we hoped once she got glasses that would help,” McElhinney said. But seeing better didn’t seem to make much difference.

To read the entire article, please click the above title.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Board Listening Session regarding information technology in the Federal sector

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Posted on Behalf of Access Board. Please refer all questions to the contact information below:

Kathy Roy Johnson
Legislative Analyst
U.S. Access Board
1331 F Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-1111
(202) 272-0041
Fax: (202) 272-0081

On behalf of the Access Board, I am pleased to invite you to participate in a virtual listening session that we are hosting on ways to improve access to information technology in the federal sector. This listening session will take place on September 8, 2011, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). The Access Board is hosting this event in collaboration with the Chief Information Officers Council, the Chief Acquisition Officers Council, and the General Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy. This forum will provide an opportunity for members of the public to suggest steps the federal government can take to improve its acquisition and implementation of accessible technology under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Information is also sought on emerging technologies that may pose barriers to access. People with disabilities, advocates, technology companies, government employees and other interested parties are invited to participate.

The listening session will be accessible. Computer assisted real-time transcription (CART) will be provided. Persons wishing to participate in the virtual listening session can either call in and speak their comments over the telephone or go online and type them on the afternoon of the listening session. Log-on and dial-in instructions are posted on the Board’s website. I hope that you will be able to join us on September 8th. Additional details about this meeting are provided in a notice published in the Federal Register.

Tiny Oxygen Generators Boost Effectiveness of Anticancer Treatment

ScienceDaily (Aug. 31, 2011) Researchers have created and tested miniature devices that are implanted in tumors to generate oxygen, boosting the killing power of radiation and chemotherapy.

The technology is designed to treat solid tumors that are hypoxic at the center, meaning the core contains low oxygen levels.

"This is not good because radiation therapy needs oxygen to be effective," said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering. "So the hypoxic areas are hard to kill. Pancreatic and cervical cancers are notoriously hypoxic. If you generate oxygen you can increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy and also chemotherapy."

The new "implantable micro oxygen generator" is an electronic device that receives ultrasound signals and uses the energy to generate a small voltage to separate oxygen and hydrogen from water ╨ a chemical operation called water electrolysis.

"We are putting these devices inside tumors and then exposing the tumors to ultrasound," Ziaie said. "The ultrasound energy powers the device, generating oxygen.

The devices were created at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university's Discovery Park. Purdue researchers are working with Song-Chu (Arthur) Ko, an assistant professor of clinical radiation oncology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Researchers have tested the devices in pancreatic tumors implanted in mice, showing they generated oxygen and shrunk tumors faster than tumors without the devices. The devices are slightly less than one centimeter long and are inserted into tumors with a hypodermic biopsy needle.

"Most of us have been touched by cancer in one way or another," Ziaie said. "My father is a cancer survivor, and he went through many rounds of very painful chemotherapy. This is a new technology that has the potential to improve the effectiveness of such therapy."

Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing online this month in Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. The paper was written by research assistant professor Teimour Maleki, doctoral students Ning Cao and Seung Hyun Song, Ko and Ziaie.

To read more about Anticancer Treatment, please click the above title.