Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free Online Learning Games and Activities for Kids (Adults, too!)

Here's a sample of what's offered on the site

basic operations: learn basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division

Early Math: math games for kids in kindergarten, 2nd grade, and beyond
mixed operations: combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
Pre-Algebra: learn about pre-algebra, particularly how to solve for a variable


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Whitney Elementary School - An Inspiring Story

As Seen on the Ellen DeGeneres Show

Sherri Gahn is the principal of Whitney Elementary School in Las Vegas where 85% of their students
have free and reduced lunch.  The majority of that 85% are also homeless.  Sherri demonstrates what it takes to make these students learn and feel important.  Very inspiring...but get some kleenex! 

I challenge the casinos in  Las Vegas to make donations to this school!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder?

Kasting Connections recently commented on Facebook regarding a mother's question of how she should plan for a successful trip to Disneyland with her child that has Sensory Processing Disorder.  I posted these three webpages to assist her.  I would encourage a parent to read all three articles and the comments contained within because each one offers a new piece of advise.

Sensory Processing Disorder Website: SPD Kids and Amusement Parks:

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Disney’s Guest Assistance Card for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Changing Brains: Effects of Experience on Human Brain Development


Helen J Neville, PhD is one of the world's leading experts in brain development and neuroplasticity (how the brain changes with experience).  She is also the Director, Brain Development Lab: Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience; and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Oregon. 

Dr. Neville has put together a DVD for non-scientists which features practical recommendation on scientific evidence for parents, educators, and anyone who cares about helping children learn.  All of the claims made in this dvd is backed by scientific evidence, unlike a lot of claims that bombard our education system.

In the dvd, information is presented on how the brain develops and how experience shapes the brain and it's nine systems that are used in the classroom daily by students:
  1. Vision
  2. Hearing
  3. Motor Skills
  4. Attention
  5. Language
  6. Reading
  7. Math
  8. Music
  9. Emotions and Learning

Best News:  You have free access to this information! Read on!

The You Tube link above or the Changing Brains website will connect you to this 90 minute dvd. You can control how much you want to watch and when.  If you'd like to own your own copy, you can click on the amazon link on the right hand side to purchase for $9.95.

Anyway you chose to take in this information, please do so today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Follow Us on Facebook

Go to our Facebook page, Kasting Connections, and LIKE us!


Chomping...Slurping...Cause for Rage?


When a Chomp or a Slurp Is a Trigger for Outrage

For people with a condition that some scientists call misophonia, mealtime can be torture. The sounds of other people eating — chewing, chomping, slurping, gurgling — can send them into an instantaneous, blood-boiling rage.
Or as Adah Siganoff put it, “rage, panic, fear, terror and anger, all mixed together.”
“The reaction is irrational,” said Ms. Siganoff, 52, of Alpine, Calif. “It is typical fight or flight” — so pronounced that she no longer eats with her husband.

Many people can be driven to distraction by certain small sounds that do not seem to bother others — gum chewing, footsteps, humming. But sufferers of misophonia, a newly recognized condition that remains little studied and poorly understood, take the problem to a higher level.       

They also follow a strikingly consistent pattern, experts say. The condition almost always begins in late childhood or early adolescence and worsens over time, often expanding to include more trigger sounds, usually those of eating and breathing.

“I don’t think 8- or 9-year-olds choose to wake up one morning and say, ‘Today my dad’s chewing is going to drive me insane,’ ” said Marsha Johnson, an audiologist in Portland, Ore., who runs an online forum for people with misophonia.       

But that is what happens, she said, adding, “Soon the kid doesn’t want to come to the table or go to school.”

Aage R. Moller, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas who specializes in the auditory nervous system, included misophonia in the “Textbook of Tinnitus,” a 2010 medical guide of which he was an editor.

He believes the condition is hard-wired, like right- or left-handedness, and is probably not an auditory disorder but a “physiological abnormality” that resides in brain structures activated by processed sound.

There is “no known effective treatment,” Dr. Moller said. Patients often go from doctor to doctor, searching in vain for help.

Dr. Johnson agreed. “These people have been diagnosed with a lot of different things: phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar, manic, anxiety disorders,” she said.

Dr. Johnson’s interest was piqued when she saw her first case in 1997. “This is not voluntary,” she said. “Usually they cry a lot because they’ve been told they can control this if they want to. This is not their fault. They didn’t ask for it and they didn’t make it up.” And as adults, they “don’t outgrow it,” she said. “They structure their lives around it.”

Taylor Benson, a 19-year-old sophomore at Creighton University in Omaha, says many mouth noises, along with sniffling and gum chewing, make her chest tighten and her heart pound. She finds herself clenching her fists and glaring at the person making the sound.

“This condition has caused me to lose friends and has caused numerous fights,” she said.

Misophonia (“dislike of sound”) is sometimes confused with hyperacusis, in which sound is perceived as abnormally loud or physically painful. But Dr. Johnson says they are not the same. “These people like sound, the louder the better,” she said of misophonia patients. “The sounds they object to are soft, hardly audible sounds.” One patient is driven crazy by her beloved dog licking its paws. Another can’t bear the pop of the plosive “p” in ordinary conversation.

When people with the disorder can’t avoid the sounds, they sometimes try earplugs to block them, or white-noise devices to mask them.

Family links are common. Ms. Siganoff suspects her father had the condition, too. “He would buy us new shoes and complain we were walking too loud,” she said.

The prevalence is unknown. Dr. Johnson’s Yahoo group, soundsensitivity, has about 1,700 members worldwide. One member, a man from Canberra, Australia, runs soundsensitivity.info, an informational site for the general public.

Meanwhile, those with the condition cope as best they can. Ms. Siganoff says she remains enraged until she says something like “shut up” or “stop it.”

“If I don’t say anything, the rage builds,” she said. “That vocalization is enough to stop the reaction.” (Echolalia, or mimicking the offensive sound, is common, Dr. Johnson said.)

As a young adolescent at the dinner table, Heidi Salerno tried to discreetly plug her ears or chew in sync with others so her own chewing noises would drown theirs out.

Doctors told her she was too controlling, said Ms. Salerno, 44, a lawyer in San Diego. “But there are many things I am not in control of, and I don’t feel rage about it,” she said. “I was always brushed off.”

Ms. Salerno shuts her office door against bothersome sounds like pen clicking. She is a champion swing dancer, and when she teaches dance she prohibits gum chewing in class, telling her students, “If you are chewing gum, I will be distracted.”       

Donna McDow, 57, a retired secretary who lives near Los Angeles, tries a different tack, telling people she has a bad headache. “Everybody understands a headache,” she said. “Nobody understands what we have.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hope for schools!

School superintendent gives up $800k in pay

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/08/28/3867516/school-superintendent-gives-up.html#ixzz1We9wdBfo

Published: Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011 - 8:08 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011 - 9:18 am
Some people give back to their community. Then there's Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who's really giving back. As in $800,000 - what would have been his compensation for the next three years.
Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.
"How much do we need to keep accumulating?" asks Powell, 63. "There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money."
Powell's generosity is more than just a gesture in a region with some of the nation's highest rates of unemployment. As he prepares for retirement, he wants to ensure that his pet projects survive California budget cuts. And the man who started his career as a high school civics teacher, who has made anti-bullying his mission, hopes his act of generosity will help restore faith in the government he once taught students to respect.
"A part of me has chaffed at what they did in Bell," Powell said, recalling the corrupt Southern California city officials who secretly boosted their salaries by hundreds of thousands of dollars. "It's hard to believe that someone in the public trust would do that to the public. My wife and I asked ourselves 'What can we do that might restore confidence in government?'"
Powell's answer? Ask his board to allow him to return $288,241 in salary and benefits for the next three and a half years of his term. He technically retired, then agreed to be hired back to work for $31,000 a year - $10,000 less than a first-year teacher - and with no benefits.
"I thought it was so very generous on his part," said school board member Sally Tannenbaum. "We get to keep him, but at a much lower rate."
His move was so low-key, his manner so unassuming, that it took four days after the school board meeting for word of his act to get out to the community. There were no press releases or self-congratulatory pats on the back.
"Things like this are what America is all about," said friend Alan Autry, Fresno's former celebrity mayor who played Capt. Bubba Skinner on the TV series "In the Heat of The Night."
"America is as much about overcoming obstacles in difficult times as it is opulence," Autry said. "This reminds me of the great sacrifices made throughout our history, especially the Great Depression."
No one has been more surprised about the positive reaction than Powell, a lifelong educator who didn't realize that what he did was newsworthy. He chuckles at his desk when yet another e-mail arrives from a colleague blown away by his generosity. Two days after word got out he had received 200 messages on his Facebook page.
"When you make good choices, good things happen to you," said Powell, who tends to talk in the kind of uplifting phrases that also make him a sought-after motivational speaker.
He even sees as an asset his childhood contraction of polio, which left him with a limp and a brace, and now a lingering post-polio syndrome.
"It's the most spectacular thing that has happened to me in all my life," he said. "People stepped up to help me be successful."
Powell might credit others, but others say Powell's drive always has come from within. Despite the right leg brace and experimental operations to stop the growth of his healthy leg, he became a champion high school wrestler in Fresno and set a record for one of the most dreaded of all gym class drills - the 20-foot rope climb, which he completed in 1.8 seconds. Today he carries a six handicap in golf.
After moving into school administration he became deputy superintendent, and was appointed to his current job before running for the office in 2006.
The ordained Baptist minister, who serves on the board of a national anti-bullying group that sprang from the Columbine shootings, is so popular he even counts among his friends his contract bargaining nemesis, the former head of the employees' union.
"For a leader to step up to help the budget is phenomenal," said Mike Lepore. "It gives you hope. It gives you the feeling that everything is being done to try to make education work. It's Larry. It really is."
Powell will still earn a six-figure retirement, especially hefty by the standards of California's farming heartland. But because his salary comes out of the district's discretionary budget, for the next three years he'll be able to steer the money he is giving up where he wants: to programs for kindergarten and preschool, the arts and a pet project that steers B and C students into college by teaching them how to take notes and develop strategy skills.
"Our goal has never been to have things," Powell said of himself and his wife, Dot. "We want to give back."

Kasting Connections Perspective:

Ahhhh....music to my ears!  I have long touted that any one in educational administration should have at least 10-15 years of teaching experience before becoming an administrator.  Usually when an administrator comes from classroom experience, s/he can remember the most important thin in education:  What's best for the students?  His quote speaks volumes:  "How much do we need to keep accumulating?" asks Powell, 63. "There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money." 

Now the programs that were to be cut under the budget constraints can be funded: programs for kindergarten and preschool, the arts and a pet project that steers B and C students into college by teaching them how to take notes and develop strategy skills.

There IS hope for the future!  Maybe Superintendent Larry Powell will start a standard that money belongs in the classroom, not in the boardroom!