Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

What is that TinyURL notation that you see in my blog? For those who use a screen reader, the link that is hidden behind words like Tech Psychologist Guide remains hidden. However, screen readers can read aloud the website address, or URL, if it was produced by Also, sometimes these addresses are so long that they wrap around several lines or overlap into colored areas of a website that obscure the actual address. Intrigued? You can create your own tinyurl's at

Thursday, January 31, 2008

LibriVox for free downloadable books

People often hear me say that there are many ways to read books. Today, I found an article that blogs about a free site to download copyright free books. Here's an article found at that discusses a site for book lovers who read by listening.

By Chris O’Neal

I'd like to share a Web site called LibriVox, which provides free, downloadable audiobooks from the public domain: Users download the audiobooks in MP3 format and listen to them on their computer or copy them onto an MP3 player. According to the site, "LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the Internet. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audiobooks." Users can take advantage of the full catalog of audiobooks -- about a thousand at the time of this writing.

Because the books are in the public domain, users may listen to them as many times as they want and share them with others. If your students have access to MP3 players, providing them with audiobooks is a great way to encourage their appreciation for some fantastic literature. In addition, you can sign up to be a volunteer reader: Find a book of your choosing in the public domain, and record yourself reading it. The site, started in 2005 for the sole purpose of sharing the love of reading, works on a volunteer basis.

LibriVox is a teacher's dream -- a fun tool to encourage the reluctant reader or inspire your already-addicted ones to explore even more great literature. You'll find Aesop's Fables and the works of Shakespeare, James Joyce, and Rudyard Kipling -- the list goes on and on. How about some Edgar Allan Poe to listen to on the way home from school each evening?

Go have a listen, and let us know what you think.

Do you or a loved one need to figure out what technology to use to keep up? Please visit my website,, for information to excel in learning, what you do, and what you love.

Need a low tech method of contact? Call me at 847-446-1251 to schedule a confidential consultation.
Dr. Jeanne Beckman


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Keeping the focus, the Barry Salzberg Method

In an excellent New York Times article by Eve Tahmincioglu, Barry Salzberg spoke of how he overcame the barriers in his life and kept his focus on what he wanted to achieve.

The Boss

It’s All About Focus

THROUGHOUT my life with my parents, growing up in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn, we rented an apartment and my father had two or three jobs. My mom worked as a clerk at a bank. Money and material belongings were at an absolute minimum. We didn’t own a car. Vacations were sparse.

I was in junior high when my dad passed away suddenly at age 56. It was sort of like: “This can’t be. Here I am without a dad.”

I started helping my mom by taking on summer jobs, and I worked as a payroll clerk for the New York City Board of Education.

I took responsibility for the family unit that consisted of me and my mother. I was the youngest of five siblings, and everyone else was out of the household by then. It created a level of independence and responsibility in me because I had to be helpful to my mother rather than a burden.

The turning point in my life came when I met my future wife, Evelyn. It was on a blind date and I was about 17. She bolstered my confidence and told me, “You could do a lot more than you’re planning on doing.”

At that point, I had very little vision, other than finishing high school and getting a job. I thought maybe I’d become a teacher. I liked math so I figured I could teach it.

She said: “No, no, no, Barry, you can do better. You’re smart.”

Evelyn’s parents owned their own home. Walking to their place one day, we were seeing all the beautiful houses and Evelyn said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if one day we owned a home and had a swimming pool?”

I said: “You’ve got to be kidding. I’ll never have a home, and who needs a swimming pool? I’m happy going to the public swimming pool.”

She said, “There’s no reason you can’t afford it just because your parents couldn’t.”

Evelyn’s parents were immigrants, both Holocaust survivors. Her parents would say positive things regarding what I could possibly do. They encouraged me to change my major in college to accounting from math, which I did. And they encouraged me to go to law school, which I did.

Her parents even helped us out when I went to law school after we married. We had an apartment for $190 a month in Canarsie. We paid $90 and they paid $100.

When I was a budding tax partner, my boss at Deloitte asked me to take on a leadership role, as the managing partner of a multifunctional group.

My wife said I should do it, and I did. But I had a lot of self-doubt and questions like, “What if I fail?”

During times like that, it’s about focus, tunnel vision, about learning as much as you can. Success is the only option and you kind of put your head down and drive.

When I was made a partner in 1985, we had a little bit of a celebration in New York for all the new partners. Four of the new partners went out to dinner with our spouses.

At dinner, with a little bit of wine in some of us, one of the partners said, in essence, that I was a token promotion.

I’m Jewish and there weren’t a lot of Jewish partners at the time.

My wife and I walked out of the dinner, and one other couple got up and walked out with us.

That comment was a huge eye-opener. The fact of the matter is, you begin to feel a bit uncomfortable. But I had to focus on who I was and what I had to do.

I was thrilled to be a partner and I wasn’t going to let that affect my excitement or my wife’s excitement, so we simply left. I attributed that night to the wine. I never held it against the guy, and I refused to allow it to take away from what I had accomplished. I didn’t think that was where my firm was, and I was right.

That’s one of the main reasons I’ve worked pretty hard to champion diversity and champion an inclusive culture since I became a partner.

How do you keep your focus? Is there a champion in your life who helps you to get and keep your focus?
Visit to find out about Dr. Jeanne Beckman, a tech expert who can coach you to achieve your focused goals.

Voice Recognition for a more productive day

Today, I read John Hill's blog about voice recognition technology that does not mention, even once, disabilities. It is viewed as mainstream technology by individuals and by business, so it should be an available tool for anyone, of any age, to utilize.

Voice Recognition - Is it ready for you?

Typing on a keyboard is OK, writing with a Tablet PC is better, wouldn’t voice recognition be best? Well…

First some background. All Windows PCs come with voice recognition software built in – it is part of the Microsoft operating system. If you want to use it on a desktop or laptop computer, you will need an external microphone to get your voice into the computer. Most Tablet PCs have built-in array microphones that allow you to use the computer without having to plug in an external mic although you can do this. While the voice recognition that is built into the Windows operating system has the same level of recognition as Dragon Naturally Speaking, you will find that the Windows version does not have very robust tools for correcting errors, navigating around documents or for teaching and improving the ability of the software to recognize your voice. This is the biggest disadvantage of the Microsoft voice recognition and why I don’t recommend it unless you just want to dabble for free.

A better solution is to get Dragon Naturally Speaking. They are the 800-pound gorilla and just dominate the market. The training tools are very good in Dragon, but please recognize that you still have to spend several hours doing the initial training to have success. After that, the more you use the software, the better it recognizes your voice. I can’t stress enough that you can have excellent results if you use it at least several times a week. Think about it – it is like any other skill. The more you use it, the more proficient you will become.

To read more, please go to

Do you need to find a way to be more productive in your writing? Do you need a coach to help you master voice recognition technology? Learn strategies to increase your productivity in your everyday life, regardless of your age.
Find out more information about technology tools at

Monday, January 14, 2008

Score: Bullies 1, Amputee Sprinter 0

Alt: photo of Oscar Pistorius and his prostheses

Well, there's no end to the barriers created by bullies who claim that a person's assistive technology is an unfair advantage. For those of you who have been following double-leg amputee Oscar Pistorius' quest to compete in the Bejiing Olympics, here's an article about the ruling:

Monday January 14, 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The IAAF ruled Monday that double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics because his prosthetic racing legs give him a clear competitive advantage.

The International Association of Athletics Federations had twice postponed the ruling, but the executive Council said the South African runner's curved, prosthetic "Cheetah" blades were considered a technical aid in violation of the rules.

"As a result, Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in competitions organized under IAAF rules," the IAAF said in a statement from Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Pistorius, known as the "blade runner," announced last week that he planned to appeal any adverse decision, including taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Athletics South Africa said it would immediately apply the decision, further complicating Pistorius' future since he will not be able to set legal Olympic qualifying times in his own country.

"That's a huge blow," said Pistorius' manager, Peet Van Zyl. "He has been competing in South African abled-bodied competition for the past three years. At this stage it looks like he is out of any able-bodied event."

The decision was reached in an e-mail vote by the 27-member IAAF Council. The vote count was not disclosed but was believed to be unanimous.

The IAAF endorsed studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who conducted tests on the prosthetic limbs and said they give Pistorius a clear competitive advantage over able-bodied runners.

"An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30 percent) when compared to someone not using the blade," the IAAF said.

The federation said Pistorius had been allowed to compete in some able-bodied events until now because his case was so unique that such artificial protheses had not been properly studied.

"We did not have the science," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "Now we have the science. We are only interested in competitions that we govern."

Davies stressed the findings only covered Pistorius' specific blades and did not necessarily mean that all lesser-abled athletes would automatically be excluded.

The ruling does not affect Pistorius' eligibility for Paralympic events, in which he was a gold medalist in Athens in 2004.

"It's unfortunate because he could have boosted team athletics at the Olympics at Beijing, because he had the potential to qualify," said Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa.

Chuene said the federation would respect the ruling.

"There's not much we can do," he said. "It rules him out with immediate effect. We use the IAAF rule book. If we had our rules and our own competition, it would be easier. It is a huge problem."

Pistorius finished second in the 400 meters at the South African National Championships last year against able-bodied runners.

The runner worked with Brueggemann in Cologne for two days of testing in November to learn to what extent the j-shaped carbon-fiber extensions to his amputated legs differed from the legs of fully abled runners.

Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. He found that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.

The professor found that the returned energy "from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting."

Based on these findings, the Council ruled against Pistorius.

The findings are contested by the Pistorius camp.

"Based on the feedback that we got, the general feeling was that there were a lot of variables that weren't taken into consideration and that all avenues hadn't been explored in terms of coming to a final conclusion on whether Oscar was getting some advantage or not," Van Zyl said. "We were hoping that they would reconsider and hopefully do some more tests."

The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting the use of any "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.

Ossur, the Icelandic company which is a leader in the production of prosthetics, braces and supports and also made Pistorius' blades, has said the blades do not provide an edge over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius has set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 in Paralympic events.

Pistorius was born without fibulas -- the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle -- and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

He began running competitively four years ago to treat a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

Pistorius competed in the 400 at two international-level able-bodied meets in 2007. He finished second in a B race in 46.90 seconds at the Golden League meet in Rome on July 13 and, two days later, was disqualified for running out of his lane in Sheffield, England.

This article found at


I think that, since I am only 5 feet tall, those female sprinters who are 5'11" have an unfair mechanical advantage over me. After all, I probably have to take 2 or 3 strides to every one of theirs. I think perhaps I should protest.... If taller skiers have longer skis, don't they cross the finish line sooner than those with shorter ones? If there is a maximum length of ski, wouldn't taller skiers have an unfair mechanical advantage over those who are shorter? Are Olympic sharpshooters allowed to wear glasses or contact lenses? Aren't glasses and contact lenses mechanical aides? Do some Olympic athletes wear a hearing aide to hear the start gun or even hear the competition coming up behind them?

Here's a statement by the prosthesis maker Ossur:

...Importantly, the technology used in Mr. Pistorius' Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic feet has existed since 1997, and has not experienced any significant updates since that time. Scores of amputee athletes have used the very same product to compete at an international level of sport over the years. Some have come close to able-bodied world record times, but what we have in Mr. Pistorius is an extraordinary athlete: one that has taken technology that has existed for over a decade and pushed it to its very limit.

In light of this, we feel strongly that any judgment against Mr. Pistorius at this stage and based on insufficient information, would be irresponsible and unfair, and that he should be allowed to participate at IAAF-sanctioned events -- as long as his times qualify him to do so.

The past few years have been enlightened and remarkable times for active amputees who have worked so hard and overcome so many challenges to at last experience the opportunity to compete alongside able-bodied athletes. It would be unfortunate and regrettable to take such a giant step backwards when we are presented with this occasion to partner with the IAAF and show the world how equal we all truly are.

To read the full statement, please go to

According to Ossur, this prosthesis has been used internationally on a competitive basis for 10 years. It seems no one cared about this technology until a great athlete actually started beating those who do not need prosthetics. Perhaps those individuals should focus on developing better strategies to run instead of finding loopholes and legal maneuvers for cutting their competition.

I hope Oscar wins his appeal.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Is Technology Just a Crutch?

Is technology just a crutch?

A justification I frequently hear from educators about why a student should be denied a technology accommodation such as text to speech (to help a student read) is that "it is just a crutch" or, "they should learn to read the regular way." If technology is just a crutch, for those who have never worn glasses and are approaching or are beyond their 40th birthday, I have a challenge for you: stop using your reading glasses, because they are just a crutch!

Reading glasses are such a commonplace technology that business has removed almost every barrier to accessing them. No longer does a person have to go to an optometrist or ophthalmologist to get a prescription for an optician to fill. Drug stores, book stores, and even Costco not only sells these "assistive technologies" for less than twenty dollars, but they also provide reading charts to help you self-diagnose your necessary prescription.

Every time an educator claims that assistive technology is just a crutch, he or she is making a pejorative comment that is a form of disability harassment and discrimination. If a person does not wish to educate a community of diverse learners, it is time for that person to find a different line of work.

I am currently scheduling speaking engagements on how to facilitate changes in schools. Please contact me for more information or to schedule a presentation at 847-446-1251 or email me at

To read more information on this topic, see my new family-friendly book, Tech Psychologist's Guide, ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4.

You can find my book at my publisher:

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My newest friend, author Elizabeth Berg

Often, when I read, I make a new friend with an author, even though he or she may not know it. Today, as I read an article about new resolutions in the Chicago Tribune (non-computer, paper copy), I met Elizabeth Berg, my newest best friend. I found the digital version to share with you:

A new resolution
Author Elizabeth Berg vows to set aside more time for reading in the coming year

By Elizabeth Berg

January 5, 2008
Click here to find out more!

Every year, for the last several years, I have made the same New Year's resolutions: Don't criticize. Don't control. Don't complain. By five minutes after midnight, I usually have broken every one. Imagine the scenario: The ball drops, I give my honey a little smooch, take a little sip of champagne and remind myself of my worthy resolutions. Then I say:

"Jeez, I'm tired. I'm so tired, I get tired so easily now. I'm so tired of how tired I get. Let's go to sleep. Turn off that television; you don't need to watch anymore. You watch too much television. You should go to sleep too. You must be tired. Come on, you're going to bed."

It occurred to me that it might work better if I have only one resolution this year, one that might be easier to keep. And here it is: read one hour a day.
Some of my favorite quotes include:
  • It may be true that music hath charms to soothe the savage soul -- I think it is true, actually. But books soothe our souls too. They're like comfort food without the calories or the dishes to clean up afterward.

    Books inspire us, because they suggest things we might never have thought about before, and they give us ideas for things we might never have conceived of otherwise, and they make us want to try things, or be things, or make things, from creme brulee to sensible foreign policy.

    Books educate us about art and politics and people and ideas. This happens in non-fiction and fiction. And in poetry, of course. So many of us have been moved to a deeper understanding of things -- or many things -- by taking in a few dark lines on a cream-colored page.

    Books exercise our creativity, because they are a uniquely interactive art form. The author may write, "She was a freckle-faced redhead," but it's the reader who sees those freckles forming a tiny constellation at the angle of the jaw. It's the reader whose imagination provides extra details for a kiss, a punch, a description of open land, or a dimly lit bedroom where a character kneels to pray.
  • For this is what we have wrought: Many of us have no idea how to keep still. We have forgotten that in stillness is a great richness, as well as opportunity for reflection and repair. Stillness offers a way to learn perspective and therefore kindness, for in such purposeful quiet we are often reminded of our connection with others, and of the need for that connection. We need to relearn the art of conversation, we need to take a moment to really look into each others' eyes when we shake hands, we need to see and appreciate and be empathic with each other. All of this takes time that we cannot afford not to have.
  • So what's the link here, you might be thinking? I think there is a link. Because I believe that no matter what the genre, books help move us in the direction we need to go, because they require a kind of contemplation. And contemplation will suggest that we need to save ourselves from drowning in a sea of dullness, of virtual rather than actual reality, of communication that fails to really communicate, all of which leads to a deadness of spirit, which leads to a lack of respect for life, which leads to violence and destruction. In many wonderful ways, books make the dominoes fall the other way.

As Berg so eloquently reminded me, reading also takes me to a special place that is free of isolation and "shoulds," to shared communities where each person has the opportunity to seek out new information, new connections, and new ways of looking at the world.

To read her full article, please go to,0,5489972.story

person of every age and every ability level should have every opportunity to fully access the written word, whether by reading traditional books, computerized text, recorded books, Braille or by human readers (the only acceptable "low tech" manner, in my opinion).

Tear down those walls that blame, shame, and discourage those who seek to find the truths in scientific exploration and human existence.

If you have difficulties in reading and are curious about the multiple ways to read, please contact Dr. Jeanne Beckman via email:, via phone at 847-446-1251, or visit her website at

Friday, January 4, 2008

Inclusion spurring innovation

In a thoughtful article, Jutta Treviranus spoke of the compelling need to nurture inclusion in order to let society reach its full potential.

Inclusion promotes innovation
September 12, 2007

During his recent installation, Lieutenant Governor David Onley committed to work toward an accessible Ontario. He defined accessibility or inclusion as "nothing more, but absolutely nothing less, than enabling people with disabilities to reach their full potential."

I would add that inclusion is needed to let a society reach its full potential. Enlightened self-interest should compel us toward greater inclusion. Even if we ourselves never have a disability, we can be selfishly motivated to make society more accessible.

With the shift to a knowledge economy, we now realize that the commodities of value are innovation and creative new ideas. But we forget that true innovation occurs at the margins of any domain. Startling new inventions have never come about by designing for the norm. The majority initially experiences innovation as uncomfortable, foreign and even strange. A field is prodded to leap forward by the introduction of disruptive notions, by perspectives that do not fit in, by unpredictable inspirations that burst our neat categories.

And yet we have succumbed to the tyranny of the popular, the typical, the average, or the norm.

Product design is guided by perceptions of "the typical housewife," "the average genXer" or "the average busy executive." We train educators to teach to the norm. Researchers use simulations of the normative patient. Even the burgeoning Web 2.0 propagates the value of popularity above all else (topics or items with the most hits rise to the top, the less popular topics disappear).

None of this means that what is popular is stagnant, but even dramatic shifts in opinion and political leanings follow a typical pendular pattern, reactively swinging back and forth. Skewing the pendulum in a completely new direction can be an antidote to the "same old same old."

Inclusive design enables, invites and supports the participation of individuals and groups representing the full range of human diversity with respect to culture, language, gender, age, class, ability and other forms of human difference. It questions and stretches our restrictive conceptions of the user, the worker, the learner, the educator, the professional. No one pictured a lieutenant governor with a disability when Queen's Park was built.

Inclusive design has contributed to such innovations as the typewriter, the telephone, email, the PDA, speech synthesis and recognition. All these innovations were motivated by a need to address the needs of people with disabilities.

While exclusion leads to a vicious cycle of disenfranchisement, lack of self-esteem, under-education, unemployment, poverty and social instability, inclusion leads to a virtuous cycle of new ideas, flexibility and adaptability. Inclusive design makes room for contributions from people who live a different and more challenging experience and must hone incredible resourcefulness as a daily necessity.

Is it any wonder that over the centuries people with disabilities are over-represented among the annals of true innovators. Consider how impoverished we would be without the contributions of Einstein, Beethoven, Edison, Roosevelt, da Vinci or Stephen Hawking.

This week, more than 22 nations will gather here in Toronto, one of the world's most diverse cities, in a country that prides itself on its inclusive practices, to develop an international agenda for the inclusive design of e-learning and to create an inclusive design curriculum.

We should feel proud and fortunate that David Onley will open the forum this evening at Toronto City Hall.

Jutta Treviranus is director and founder of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information Studies.

Have you or your family members had difficulty in obtaining appropriate inclusion at school and at work? Please contact Dr. Jeanne Beckman and tell her your story: email her at or visit her website at

Menus that Talk: Restaurant style inclusion

For those who cannot read menus due to visual impairments, here's an article about a talking menu machine (called Menus That Talk) that will read your dining choices aloud to you.

Menus that speak out aid sight-impaired diners

Scott Joseph

Sentinel Restaurant Critic

January 4, 2008

Orlando native Jessica MacWithey was having lunch with her aunt Susan Perry in a South Florida Olive Garden last year when they realized that neither of them could read the menu.

MacWithey, 24, has a condition that leaves her unable to see fine details, recognize faces or read print, and Perry had forgotten her glasses. They asked the server for a run-down, but she was too busy to give a complete reading.

"I said, 'You know, we should put the menu on a tape recorder,' " Perry recalls.

The luncheon became a brainstorming session between the two women, with Perry drawing a prototype. A mere nine months later the two had the prototype in hand and had developed Menus That Talk, an electronic device about the size of a hardcover book with the details of a restaurant's bill of fare recorded on a chip.

Mike Carcaise, former vice president of Dan Marino's Fine Food & Spirts, saw Menus That Talk at a restaurant-trade show and proposed them for the South Florida restaurants. Carcaise may have a better understanding of the unit's potential because his father was an optometrist.

"As kids growing up, we spent a lot of time with people who have disabilities," he says.

Menus That Talk is designed to speak briefly and on request.

"It's very difficult for someone to have to listen to the whole menu without sectioning it out," says Perry.

There are 15 buttons that can be designated to various subsets of the menu -- pasta, chicken, beef, etc. Each button is labeled with print and in Braille, but for those who don't know Braille -- which includes 90 percent of people with severe vision impairment, MacWithey says -- pressing a button will first announce the category.

Press the button marked "chicken" and it will speak the word chicken. If a chicken dish interests you, press the same button again and it will describe all the chicken dishes on the menu, with prices. Once you hear something you like, press the button again and it will stop reading.

The talking menu has a detachable earphone that slides out of the side of the device, allowing the user to listen in private. There is also a jack so diners can use their own headphones, and the menu is compatible with most hearing aids.

When the guest is ready to order, another button causes lights on the sides of the unit to flash as a signal to the waiter.

MacWithey and Perry say customized voices is one of the selling points. They have recommended an Elvis impersonator to read the menu for a music-themed restaurant and a breathy-voiced woman for some South Florida Hooters.

There is also a button to switch the unit to a second language so that it becomes a talking translator.

MacWithey says a single unit costs as little as $300, and restaurateurs might be eligible for a tax deduction through the Americans with Disabilities Act. When a restaurant implements major changes to its menu, such as a change in prices, the chip can be updated in about 48 hours. (One of the tricks is to have the original reader record a variety of prices, says MacWithey.)

Carcaise sees potential in Menus That Talk. "If it's as truly useful, and people will use them, I can see their need everywhere," he says.

Scott Joseph can be reached at or 407-420-5514.

Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel,0,6886121.story

Hats off to Menus That Talk ( for this innovative product and to the Orlando Sentinal for helping to get out the word.

Inspired innovation for full access and independent living is something we should all encourage and expect. If you have had difficulties with obtaining accommodations in various settings, including restaurants, schools, and work settings, please contact Dr. Jeanne Beckman at or visit her website at

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Autism Prevention Study

Article about Prevention Study of Autism in Infants with Siblings who have autism


UW autism study to treat infants without symptoms

Last updated January 2, 2008 10:10 p.m. PT


The University of Washington launched one of the nation's first studies on preventing autism in infants Wednesday and will spend the next four years exploring the benefit of intensive and early therapy on the mysterious disorder.

The university's Autism Center is looking for 200 local families to join the study of autism, which is diagnosed in 1 out of 150 children, according to the latest study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study is unusual because autism research and treatment has typically focused on treating or reversing but not preventing the neurological disorder. Autism often emerges when a child is around 2 years old.

"Other research has shown that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome in treating children with autism. One of our goals is to be able to identify autism as early as possible before obvious symptoms show up so we can intervene while the connections in a child's brain are still plastic," Annette Estes, associate director of the Autism Center, said in a statement.

The hope is based on the fact that UW clinicians have generally been more successful the earlier they have treated children.

"This is the question we are trying to answer: 'Can we do this?' " Estes said in an interview. "It is a bold question to try to ask."

There is wide support for treating, reversing or potentially preventing a disorder with such a variety of symptoms that people are diagnosed on a spectrum. Children with autism typically struggle with social, emotional and communication skills.

The study will focus on newborns who have older siblings on the autism spectrum, since those babies are far more likely to develop the disorder. One out of 20 infants with an older brother or sister with autism will also fall on the spectrum, according to the university.
To read more, go to
Many of those with autism or other ASD (autism spectrum disorder) have not been provided with technology even though they may have difficulties with reading, writing, or speech. If you or a family member have learning differences that may benefit from technology, please contact me at
or visit my website at

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Gesturing helps students with their math

Finally, vindication for those who move around or fidget when they are in school!

APA Press Release
November 04, 2007
Contact: Public Affairs Office
(202) 336-5700


Using the hands to explain things may tap into knowledge kids can't otherwise articulate

WASHINGTON, DC—Are math problems bugging your kids? Tell them to talk back - using their hands. Psychologists at the University of Chicago report that gesturing can help kids add new and correct problem-solving strategies to their mathematical repertoires. What's more, when given later instruction, kids who are told to gesture are more likely to succeed on math problems. A report on these findings appears in the November issue of JEP: General, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted two studies with a total of 176 children in late third and early fourth grade. Broaders and her colleagues randomly assigned the students to different manipulations – told to gesture, told not to gesture, and not told anything either way (control). All participants had been found to make mistakes in solving math problems.

In the studies' baseline phase, students had to solve six math problems (such as 6+3+7=_ + 7) on a chalkboard and explain to an experimenter how they solved each problem. The researchers coded the children's videotaped efforts, analyzing gestures and utterances that conveyed problem-solving strategies.

Children told to move their hands when explaining how they'd solve a problem were four times as likely (as kids given no instructions) to manually express correct new ways to solve problems. Even though they didn't, in the end, give the right answer, their gestures revealed an implicit knowledge of mathematical ideas. For example, to indicate the need for the sides to be equal, children might sweep the palm first under a problem's left side and then under its right side. Although those children weren't ready to turn that implicit knowledge into action (at that point they solved problems incorrectly), a second study showed that gesturing set them up to benefit from subsequent instruction.

In that study, the researchers assessed how gesture vs. no-gesture students performed after subsequent instruction in how to solve the math problems. At post-test, children who'd been told to gesture about math problems and then had a lesson solved 1.5 times more problems correctly as did the children who'd been told not to gesture – a significant advantage.

The authors conclude, "Telling children to gesture encourages them to convey previously unexpressed, implicit ideas, which in turn makes them receptive to instruction that leads to learning." Gesturing appears to help children to produce new problem-solving strategies, which in turn gets them ready to learn. The authors speculate that gesturing may help kids notice aspects of the math problems that may be more easily grasped through gestural representation

The findings extend previous research that body movement not only helps people to express things they may not be able to verbally articulate, but actually to think better. At the same time, gesturing offers a potentially powerful new way to augment the teaching of math. Strategies for math problems have focused on externalizing working memory, such as writing things down in certain ways. However, children often find it hard to recall and use those strategies. Gesturing may be more accessible, and help break through the roadblock.

Article: "Making Children Gesture Brings Out Implicit Knowledge and Leads to Learning," Sara C. Broaders, PhD, Susan Wagner Cook, PhD, Zachary Mitchell, BA, and Susan Goldin-Meadow, PhD; University of Chicago; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 136, No. 4.

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Susan Goldin-Meadow can be reached at or by phone at (773) 702-2585 (office) or (773) 859-0249 (mobile). Co-author Emails are or

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