Monday, June 22, 2015

Scientists say fidgeting in ADHD children may enhance brain function

The most obvious sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children is excessive fidgeting, affecting up to 75 percent of cases. Although it can be challenging for parents and teachers, a new research suggests that the constant movement may improve cognitive performance.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis MIND Institute analyzed the movement of pre-teens and teenagers between 10 and 17 years of age who had been diagnosed with ADHD, focusing on the link between intensity and frequency of fidgeting and accuracy on tasks that required focus and attention. They found that children who moved the most had the highest level of cognitive performance.

According to researchers, the study is the first to measure the connection between movement and task performance in ADHD on a trial-by-trial basis. To conduct the study, authors measured activity levels in 26 participants with ADHD by attaching a measurement device to their ankles. The children then completed a “flanker test” by being asked to focus on a series of arrows pointing in different directions. The test requires a high level of attention and the ability to ignore distractions.

Results showed participants who had more movement or fidgeting during testing scored significantly higher than those who moved less.

Senior study author Julie Schweitzer, a professor of psychiatry and director of the UC Davis ADHD Program told that although the exact reason of the results have not been determined, they hypothesize it is an unconscious mechanism by the body to compensate for insufficient attention.

“Movement boosts arousal, which then increases attention. It likely occurs for tasks and situations that are either too boring or challenging,” Schweitzer said. “The movement likely increases noradrenergic and/or dopamine functioning in the brain, which then enhances attention to the target stimuli.”

Schweitzer said she suspects the study results would be the same in children younger than 10 years of age, and possibly even have a greater effect. She hopes to test that theory in future studies.
To accommodate students with ADHD, some schools use standing desks, do-it-yourself  tools and stationary bikes, according to the National Education Association. The Shelton School of Dallas, Tex., released a report in February on a two-year control experiment on reducing the effects of ADHD and learning difficulties with the use of stationary bikes in the classroom. They found a significant reduction in overall hyperactivity for those with ADHD who were in the exercise group.
Students also had a positive response to exercise in the classroom and reported significant improvement in ability to focus, memory and learning.
The UC Davis MIND study results may impact they way that children with ADHD are treated, helping people recognize that although the movement may be disruptive to others it can really be helpful to the child with ADHD.

“The focus of treating a child with ADHD should be less on the hyperactivity, as it may be a booster for cognitive functioning.  If a child with ADHD is moving more and not interfering with others, they should let the child move,” Schweitzer said.

New typeface simulates reading with dyslexia

(June 19, 2015) — Not until he was a 22-year-old university student did Daniel Britton finish reading a book.
He is not lazy or a slow learner, as prior teachers had believed. He is dyslexic.
The labels placed on Britton as a child are not uncommon. Language-based learning disabilities affect 1 in 5 students, and dyslexia is the most prevalent. Yet the disorder is widely misunderstood.
“People who’ve never been dyslexic don’t understand what it’s like,” said Britton, who lives in Hartley, England. A graphic designer, he is now using his creative talents to create greater awareness and empathy for those with dyslexia.
To do this, he designed a typeface that is intentionally difficult to read. Because it slows down reading time, it’s meant to simulate how it feels to read with dyslexia. While individuals with the disorder generally have standard vision, they have difficulty relating speech sounds to written words.
This creates a barrier to learning. Britton, like many dyslexic students, failed tests. The 15 additional minutes he was granted for exams did not help because he could not read the questions. He retook math and English courses multiple times. At 18, his reading level matched that of a 10-year-old.
Britton’s lack of success in school left him with limited options, so he pursued a career in the one class where he excelled: graphic design. The typeface he designed began as a self-initiated project for school. When he submitted it to the online architecture and design magazine designboom, he did not expect his work to make it past the competitive submission process.
The next morning, however, his email was flooded with responses and media requests. Not only had designboom published his work — his typeface also resonated with audiences.
“I had no idea it would be globally accepted in the course of a few days,” he said.
Britton’s work has been recognized this month by national and international media. But the most gratifying responses he received were thank yous from people who now have a way to explain their struggles to their non-dyslexic friends and family members.
These messages motivated him to start a Crowdfunder campaign to create educational packs of his work. The packs will be sent to schools around the world that want to use the typeface. He wants to raise 2,000 British pounds (about $3,163.60) to cover production and shipping costs until revenues make the project self-sustaining.
Each pack will include posters and booklets featuring the typeface. It is aimed to educate parents and teachers who do not understand dyslexia. Britton is targeting both groups because he believes both are crucial in supporting a dyslexic student’s education.
“This is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “This whole pack needs to help everyone in one hit.”
If people have a greater empathy for dyslexia, the learning disorder can be identified faster, and treated more effectively, allowing students to learn at the same pace as their peers, Britton said. For instance, dyslexic children learn better using audio or visual styles instead of text.
And for them, equal education means equal opportunity.
“I would’ve liked to have had more options when I was younger,” he said. “If it (my disability) was picked up earlier or treated correctly, who knows what I could’ve done.”
Even so, Britton would not choose to live without dyslexia. Instead, he thinks his experience can help people who have long been misunderstood. This is why he wants the packs to reach as many schools as possible, as quickly as possible.
“If I could help them, that’d mean everything,” he said.