ADD / ADHD, Autism, Books, Dyslexia, Web/Tech

As part of my MiceLife project I’ve been looking into what words people search for when hunting for information on dyslexia, autism and ADHD. This has reveled a few sites I would not of found otherwise.

The eclectically name Puppy vs Dyslexia are a band whose work could be described as experimental or challenging.

I could not work out why the phrase “any based complete level new overcoming problem program reading science” cropped up until I found this book whose full title is “Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level“. I’ve ordered the book so I will post a review soon.

Tom Cruise and his claim that Scientology cured his dyslexia crops up in the list. The site, Scientology Lies has a bit more information.

Another celebrity with dyslexia is Henry Wrinker, known to the world as the Fonz from Happy Days. Nowadays, he does a great deal of photography and writes well regarded children books with his partner about Hank Zipzer: The World’s Most Amazing Under-Achiever.

I never suspected the existence of autism jewelry but I do like the autism awareness bracelet. Its attractive and relevant.

Books, Dyslexia, Visual, Web/Tech

Back in August we reported on a new font called Read Regular that was designed specifically for dyslexics. In the font, the letters a subtly different so, for example, b and d are not mirror images of each other. The idea being that it makes each letter more distinct and easier to read.
Now the Chrysalis Book Group are publishing books using this font. The Read Regular web site has very little on it so there is no evidence that this font actually helps. It would be nice to see controlled trials of reading speeds using this font. Regardless of this, it is good to see publishers considering the problems of dyslexics when creating books.

Autism, Autism and Mercury, Books

David Kirby’s book, Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy looks at the role mercury plays in autism (see Mercury & Autism; Ethyl Mercury Versus Methyl Mercury). There is an extensive and well written review of it on Spiked-Online by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need to Know.
I fear that his misguided endorsement of the anti-mercury cause can only compound the damage that this campaign has already done, both to families affected by autism and, by undermining public confidence in the childhood immunisation programme, to the welfare of children in general.
Kirby, a freelance journalist in New York, presents this ‘medical controversy’ as a confrontation between two camps. On the one side are heroic, suffering, struggling parents and their courageous supporters; on the other are cold, scheming, faceless bureaucrats of the medical establishment, big pharma and big government. Kirby’s character sketches leave readers in no doubt about his allegiances.

Balance & Coordination, Books

Brain Gym (Teachers Ed)
The majority of this slim volume is taken up describing a variety of simple stretches and movements to aid a child’s development and the integration of their brain and body. It gives details on how to do the various activities and how they can be useful in academic / work situations. The illustrations are weak and some of the layout isn’t ideal at times but the book contain genuinely useful information.

Balance & Coordination, Books

Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head
A well rounded book going into a reasonable amount of detail on a range of subjects that effect learning and brain development. It covers details on the brain’s inner workings; emotions; how movement effects learning; stress; the vestibular and the effect it has on learning disorders; the effects of labelling children and hyperactivity.
The illustrations and photos are the books weakest points and the author’s writing style sometimes isn’t to my taste but this is compensated by a good index and comprehensive references to source material.

Books, Dyslexia

Making the Brain Body Connection: A Playful Guide to Releasing Mental, Physical & Emotinal Blocks to Success
A good, easy to read introduction on how movement and the body’s state can profoundly effect learning and cerebral activity. No specifically aimed at dyslexia or other cerebellum / vestibular related problems but contains usefull advice that is applicable to all adults and childern who want to understand and improve how their brain works.

Balance & Coordination, Books

The Dominance Factor: How Knowing Your Dominant Eye, Ear, Brain, Hand and Foot Can Improve Your Learning
Dr Carla Hannford puts forward her own research and findings in how the different combinations of dominant eye / ear / brain / hand / foot effects how we learn. The book covers tests to discover someone’s dominant hand / foot / eye etc and profiles for each combinaton. Each profiles describe how they learn, communicate and what weaknesses they may experience under stress as well recommendations on how to help them. No much evidence is presented to support Dr Hannaford’s arguments but her conclusions and profilling rings true with my personal experiences. Worth a read as it will give some insight into your own / your child’s behaviour.

Books, Dyslexia, Science

In the opening chapter of Ronald Davis’s book The Gift of Dyslexia he tells of how he was being interviewed:

“… I listed a dozen or so famous dyslexics. The hostess of the show then commented ‘Isn’t it amazaing that all those people could be geniuses in spite of having dyslexia’.
She missed the point. Their genius didn’t occur in spite of their dyslexia, but because of it!”

This is something I both agree and disagree with. In essence I think Ronald Davis is right. Part of what enabled these people to be geniuses is the skills they learnt coping with dyslexia. If you are dyslexic the world is generally a confusing place where you are only picking up a small amount of what is going on around you. To survive in that environment you have to learn coping strategies and one of these strategies is the ability to problem solve. If a dyslexic is told how to do something they may only pick up a fraction of the instructions and in order to do the task on their own they have to work it out for themselves. By the time a dyslexic leaves school they have gained a lifetime of experience in coming up with creative solutions to problems. As all the evidence says that the more you use your brain the smarter you get; as dyslexics are forced by their problem to think harder everyday, they get smarter.
The problem with celebrating this idea that dyslexics are smarter is that it isn’t always true. Some children don’t learn how to problem solve or other coping strategies. These children can end up dysfunctional because the only strategy they learn is that if they misbehave enough the problem will go away. To these children, being told off or sent home from school is far preferable than the feelings of frustration and anger that arise when you struggle to do a simple task that the other children master with ease.
A non-dyslexia related example of how, if you have the right coping strategies, a disability can be a major advantage is a study presented at the 2004 Vision Sciences Society meeting by Margaret Livingstone and Bevil Conway of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, USA. Their paper, Was Rembrandt Stereoblind? [Abstract, news story from Reuters], looks at at how a vision problem could of helped Rembrandt become a great painter. This does not mean all people with Stereoblindness will become an artist anymore than being dyslexic will turn you into a genius. What it means is that how you cope with a disability and how you take advantage of those coping skills define who you are, not the disability itself.

Books, Memory, Science

Since overcoming my dyslexia, one of the things unexpected benefits is a better memory. I have always had quite a good memory for concepts and ideas but its very imprecise. For example, I can give you a good potted overview of the Britain’s involvement in India including all the major events without reference to a date more precise than ‘about the 1840s’. Over the last few months I’ve been getting better at remembering facts: dates, names of actors, addresses and so on. Some of this is because without the dyslexia my mind can take in the information without it becoming jumbled but I’ve also been deliberately trying to improve it. I read Use Your Memory: Understand Your Mind to… by Tony Buzan and tried out some of the techniques it recommended. The techniques work but they are not necessarily easy and require plenty of practice.
For a good introduction into memory and how to improve it, take a look at this article on memory feats by the author of How to Remember: A Practical Guide to….