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September 2, 2011
Issue 27, Volume 5
It's All About the Choices!     

Happy Friday.  We hope everyone had a great summer.  I believe the upper midwesterners are the last to go back to school this coming Tuesday!     Enjoy our weekly offering, and have a safe and relaxing Labor Day Holiday!
News Items: 
  • Bilingual Babies' Vocabulary Linked to Early Brain Development 
  • New Batman Comic Features Autism
  • Restricting Kids Free Play May Cause Harm
  • Vaccines Cleared Again As Autism Culprit  
  • Inattention, Not Hyperactivity, Associated With Educational Failure
  • Older Fathers Run A Greater Risk Of Having Children With Brain Disorders
  • Scottish Researchers Using Ultrasound for Speech Therapy   
  • Study Points to a Cause-Effect Relationship Between Breastfeeding and Brainpower   
  • Discovery Suggests Way to Block Fetal Brain Damage Produced by Oxygen Deprivation  
Therapy Activities, Tips and Resources
  • Pinterest Idea of the Week - Angry Birds' Outdoor Game (Great for Pediatric PT) 
  • Therapist Resource of the Week: Games for Chidren with Autism
  • 2011 Toys-R-Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Children 

Articles and Blogs

  • Guest Blog: Red Flags for Autism in Toddlers 
  • Guest Blog:  Handwriting: Starting with Basic Strokes and Shapes  
  • Pediatric Therapy Corner: Fine Motor Skills: The Key to a Lifetime of Educational Success
  • Worth Repeating: What Works for Early Language and Literacy Development - Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Intervention Strategies
  • Also Worth Repeating: The Sense of Touch                                               
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Have a great weekend and Take Care!

Heidi Kay and the PediaStaff Team

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Bilingualism  in the News:  Bilingual Babies' Vocabulary Linked to Early Brain Differentiation

[Source Science Daily.com]


Babies and children are whizzes at learning a second language, but that ability begins to fade as early as their first birthdays.


Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences are investigating the brain mechanisms that contribute to infants' prowess at learning languages, with the hope that the findings could boost bilingualism in adults, too.


In a new study, the researchers report that the brains of babies raised in bilingual households show a longer period of being flexible to different languages, especially if they hear a lot of language at home. The researchers also show that the relative amount of each language - English and Spanish - babies were exposed to affected their vocabulary as toddlers.


Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog

Autism in the News:  New Batman Comic Features Autism
[Source: Autism Key, Disability Scoop, NorthJersey.com]

A story about a boy with autism and his love of comic books is gracing the pages of a new Batman book from DC Comics.


A comic book writer in New Jersey named Joe Caramagna tumbled into this affinity by reading comic book message boards. Inspired by the notion that comics could make a difference in the life of a child with autism, he has written a new issue of DC's "Batman 80-Page Giant 2011" that features a young boy with autism as its protagonist. Reasoning that comics could unlock a child's imagination and creativity, he named his new work "One Lock, Many Keys."

Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog

Value of Play in the News: Restricting Kids Free Play May Cause Harm
[Source: Medical News Today]

Parents who hover over their children, undermining their chances of engaging in unstructured play, could be doing them more harm than good, Peter Gray writes in the American Journal of Play. Gray and a team of experts have written a series of articles on how free play has become nearly extinct, and its impact on children and society.

Guest Editor Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College, said: "Remarkably, over the last 50 years, opportunities for children to play freely have declined continuously and dramatically in the United States and other developed nations; and that decline continues, with serious negative consequences for children's physical, mental, and social development."

Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog
Autism & Vaccines in the News:  Institute of Medicine Clears Vaccines As Autism Culprit
[Source: Disability Scoop]

In the first comprehensive review of vaccine safety since 1994, yet another body of medical researchers is affirming that there is no link between vaccines and autism.


The finding comes in a report released Thursday from the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, that was produced at the federal government's request.


For the review, a committee of experts analyzed over 1,000 research articles focusing on eight vaccines and their relation to 158 possible reactions. Overall, they found that side effects from immunizations are generally limited and temporary.


"Vaccines are not free from side effects, or 'adverse effects,' but most are very rare or very mild," the group said.   The report indicates 14 cases where evidence suggests that vaccines could cause health problems such as seizures, severe allergic reactions and brain swelling.

Read the Rest of this Article and an Article from the New York Times Through a Link on our Blog
ADHD in the News: Inattention, Not Hyperactivity, Associated With Educational Failure
[Source: Science Daily.com]

New research from the University of Montreal shows that inattention, rather than hyperactivity, is the most important indicator when it comes to finishing a high school education.


"Children with attention problems need preventative intervention early in their development," explained lead author Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pingault, who is also affiliated with Sainte-Justine Mother and Child University Hospital. The researchers came to their conclusion after looking at data collected from the parents and teachers of 2000 children over a period of almost twenty years.

Read the Rest of This Article Through a Link on our Blog
Genetic Research in the News: Older Fathers Run A Greater Risk Of Having Children With Brain Disorders
[Source: Medical News Today]

According to the latest issue of Translational Psychiatry, scientists at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have discovered a genetic change that could explain the reason for children of older fathers being more susceptible to developing schizophrenia or autism.

Researchers compared the offspring of 3 month-old male mice with those fathered by older mice (14 to 16 months) using genome-wide micro-array screening technology, and discovered that offspring of older parents had an increased amount of new copy number variants (CNVs) in their DNA. CNVs are able to delete or repeat entire 'paragraphs' of genetic code compared to some genetic changes that involve just one 'letter' changes.

Read the Rest of This Article Through a Link on our Blog
Technology in the News: Scottish Researchers Using Ultrasound for Speech Therapy
[Source: The Scotsman]

Scottish researchers are using ultrasound technology to help treat children with speech problems.  Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh and Edinburgh University have developed an innovative technique to allow youngsters who have problems forming words to see on a computer screen how their tongue is moving.


Researchers can then use this information to help teach children how to make the right shapes they need to pronounce words.  The researchers now hope to create even clearer images of the tongue using information taken from MRI scans, making it easier for youngsters to see how they can improve their speech.


Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog


Brain Development in the News: Study Points to a Cause-Effect Relationship Between Breastfeeding and Brainpower
[Source: Reuters Health]

In a new study from the UK, kids who were breastfed as babies had higher scores on tests of vocabulary and reasoning at age five than those who weren't breastfed.


Breastfeeding seemed to make the biggest difference for babies who were born early and therefore had more catching up to do in their brain development.


Though the practice has been tied to a range of health benefits early in life, such as lower infection risks, researchers aren't quite sure what about breastfeeding might boost brainpower. But they have a few theories.

Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog

Fetal Development in the News: Discovery Suggests Way to Block Fetal Brain Damage Produced by Oxygen Deprivation

Examining brain damage that occurs when fetuses in the womb are deprived of oxygen, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have discovered that damage does not occur randomly but is linked to the specific action of a naturally occurring fatty molecule called LPA, acting through a receptor that transfers information into young brain cells.  

This observation made in mice suggests that LPA may also be linked to the damage caused by oxygen deprivation in human fetuses. If that proves to be the case, the research may help scientists and physicians better understand and find new ways to address the numerous developmental disorders that can arise when fetuses are deprived of oxygen in the womb - including mental retardation, epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, cerebral palsy and a range of other physical and mental problems.

Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog
Pinterest Therapy Activity of the Week: 'Angry Birds' Outdoor Game (Great for Pediatric PT)
I love it when super hot toys and games can be adapted for therapy! Last year it was Silly Bands, and this year Angry Birds!  Our friend Margaret at Your Therapy Source found this wonderful idea for an Angry Birds outdoor game on Pinterest, and I absolutely had to share it as the Pinterest Therapy Idea of the Week!

Too Much Fun! Check out this Game Through a Link on our Blog
Therapist Resource of the Week: Whiz Kids - Games for Chidren with Autism 
Whiz Kid Games is a British resource of repetitive, well-paced and language-based games designed for kids with autism, but adaptable to other populations of students. Games such as "A Day at the Market" teach about scripting, sequencing, and schema, as well as being a context for vocabulary and sentence development.

Check Out This Site Through a Link on our Blog


Therapist Resource of the Week: 2011 Toys R Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Children
While some cynics might look at the "Toys-R-Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids," as a thinly veiled attempt to get parents/therapists to shop at the toy-giant, we believe the guide is quite beneficial due to the wide availability, and reasonable prices of the brands that Toys-R-Us sells. This is the second year we have featured the guide in our newsletter.

View/Download the Guide Through a Link on our Blog
Guest Blogs This Week: Child Talk, Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips
Red Flags for Autism in Toddlers - By:  Becca Jarzynski, MS, CCC-SLP

One of my passions as a pediatric speech-language therapist is helping parents understand the early signs and symptoms of autism. Autism is a complex disorder that requires systematic and often intense treatment, but there is much hope for children who receive this diagnosis, especially if they are diagnosed a young age and receive treatment early. Early diagnosis, though, depends on a keen understanding of the early signs and symptoms of autism in toddlers.

Parents are often told to talk to their pediatrician about autism if their child has not spoken a single word by 15 months, or is not using 50 words and short phrases by 24 months. This is good advice, because delays in verbal communication are part of the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (except in the case of Asperger's Syndrome, but I'll chat about that in another post). However, (note the italics because this is a *really important* however), just because a child is a late talker, one can not assume that the child has autism. Not by a long shot. Many, many children have language delays without having a diagnosis of autism. A delay in language is

Read the Rest of this Guest Post on our Blog
Handwriting: Starting with Basic Strokes and Shapes - by Dr. Anne Zachry

I shared in my previous post that there are certain strokes and shapes that a child should be able to form before beginning the process of learning to write the letters of the alphabet. You can think of these as the "building blocks" to learning letter formations. The important thing to remember is that it's not necessary to have your child sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil when it's time to work on writing skills. In fact, that is probably the last thing that you should do! It's best to begin teaching these strokes using large and medium motor skills and slowly transition to the fine motor approach of using paper and a writing utensil. If you're wondering what I mean by large and medium motor skills...I'm going to tell you! 


Read the Rest of this Guest Post on our Blog

Pediatric Therapy Corner: Fine Motor Skills: The Key to a Lifetime of Educational Success
By: Megan Eldridge, OTR/L

People often bring children to me to get help for "handwriting" but they really need much more.

When a child struggles with handwriting, it is usually a symptom of an underlying problem. The first task is to evaluate the child individually to find the cause.

Poor handwriting may be the symptom of a larger problem

There are two major areas that need evaluation when children are struggling with handwriting:
  1. Fine-motor skills
  2. Visual-motor skills  
These two components are vital to the long-term success of children in school and are critical for more than just handwriting.

Read the Rest of This Article on our Blog

Worth Repeating - What Works for Early Language and Literacy Development:  Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Intervention Strategies

by: Alison Chrisler, M.A. and Thomson Ling, Ph.D., ChildTrends.org      


Editor's Note: Special Thanks to the people at  Bilinguistics for the heads-up on this very important article.   


Overview:  Early childhood represents a critical period in the development of young children's language and literacy skills. Children's experiences both inside the home and in early care and education settings play a significant role in the development of their emerging language and literacy skills.


Early childhood interventions and curricula have been designed to promote children's development in language and literacy. Results from experimental evaluations of approaches have suggested that children's literacy skills can be influenced by effective early childhood programs.  

Read the Rest of this Article Through a Link on our Blog

Also Worth Repeating - The Sense of Touch
By:  Debbie Woodward

The sense of touch or tactile system is the most primal of all of the senses as it's the first sensory system to develop in the womb. It's also the largest sensory system in the body. Often times children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction will have symptoms related to their sense of touch. In order understand the symptoms and and to better relate to your child's sensory experiences, it is key to have an over all understanding of the tactile system itself.

The skin is the largest sensory organ in the human body but there are also many tactile receptors in the lining of the mouth, throat and digestive system. These receptors pick up various touch sensations and transport them via nerve fibers that are specific only to the tactile system. These sensory signals travel along pathways in the central nervous system until they reach the brain where they are then are then processed. Any neurological miscommunication or "wiring malfunction" along this intricate sensory network will result in a confusing sensory experience.
Read the Rest of this Article on our Blog
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