Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Surviving The Holidays

The activity of the holiday season seems to bring out the hyperactivity in our own little angels. Check out this collection of tips to help you survive it.

from ADDitude Magazine
by ADDitude Editors

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Parents of Children Labeled as Disruptive in School Find Help at STAR Center

School can be a challenging time for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). STAR Center helps parents uncover underlying neurological issues for their children struggling with behavior problems and poor social skills at school. 

 Denver, Colo. (PRWEB) November 15, 2012 

by Janice Roetenberg 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions:

One Small Change Can Yield Big Results

from Harvard Graduate School of Education
Volume 27, Number 5
September/October 2011

Students in Hayley Dupuy’s sixth-grade science class at the Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto, Calif., are beginning a unit on plate tectonics. In small groups, they are producing their own questions, quickly, one after another: What are plate tectonics? How fast do plates move? Why do plates move? Do plates affect temperature? What animals can sense the plates moving? They raise questions “that we never would have thought of if we started to answer the first question we asked,” says one of the students. “And just when you think you already know the question you want to focus on, you realize: ‘Oh, wow, here’s this other question that is so much better, and that’s really what you need to think about.’”

Far from Palo Alto, in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Mass., Sharif Muhammad’s students at the Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA) have a strikingly similar experience. Many of them had transferred to BDEA for various reasons from other schools and had not always experienced much success as students. But working individually, they find that formulating their own questions engages them in a new way. One of the students observes: “When you ask the question, you feel like it’s your job to get the answer, and you want to figure it out.”

These two students—one in Palo Alto, the other in Roxbury—are discovering something that may seem obvious: When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own. However, this skill is rarely, if ever, deliberately taught to students from kindergarten through high school. Typically, questions are seen as the province of teachers, who spend years figuring out how to craft questions and fine-tune them to stimulate students’ curiosity or engage them more effectively. We have found that teaching students to ask their own questions can accomplish these same goals while teaching a critical lifelong skill.

The Question Formulation Technique

Dupuy, Muhammad, and many other teachers are using a step-by-step process that we and our colleagues at the Right Question Institute have developed called the Question Formulation Technique (QFT). This technique helps students learn how to produce their own questions, improve them, and strategize on how to use them 
(see sidebar “Question Formulation Technique”).

The origins of the QFT can be traced back 20 years to a dropout prevention program for the city of Lawrence, Mass., that was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. As we worked together to increase parent involvement in education, we heard parents state the same problem over and over again: “We’re not going to the schools because we don’t even know what to ask.” Eventually, this problem led us to create a simple but powerful process that has been used effectively in a wide range of fields across the country and beyond. In health care, for example, research funded by the National Institutes of Health has shown that the QFT produces dramatic increases in levels of patient activation and improved patient-provider communication. In the classroom, teachers have seen how the same process manages to develop students’ divergent (brainstorming), convergent (categorizing and prioritizing), and metacognitive (reflective) thinking abilities in a very short period of time.

Teachers can use the QFT at different points: to introduce students to a new unit, to assess students’ knowledge to see what they need to understand better, and even to conclude a unit to see how students can, with new knowledge, set a fresh learning agenda for themselves. The technique can be used for all ages.

Students have used the QFT to develop science experiments, create their own research projects, begin research on a teacher-assigned topic, prepare to write an essay, analyze a word problem, think more deeply about a challenging reading assignment, prepare an interview, or simply get themselves “unstuck.”
The QFT has six key steps:

Step 1: Teachers Design a Question Focus. The Question Focus, or QFocus, is a prompt that can be presented in the form of a statement or a visual or aural aid to focus and attract student attention and quickly stimulate the formation of questions. The QFocus is different from many traditional prompts because it is not a teacher’s question. It serves, instead, as the focus for student questions so students can, on their own, identify and explore a wide range of themes and ideas. For example, after studying the causes of the 1804 Haitian revolution, one teacher presented this QFocus: “Once we were slaves. Now we are free.” The students began asking questions about what changed and what stayed the same after the revolution.

Step 2: Students Produce Questions. Students use a set of rules that provide a clear protocol for producing questions without assistance from the teacher. The four rules are: ask as many questions as you can; do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any of the questions; write down every question exactly as it was stated; and change any statements into questions. Before students start generating their questions, the teacher introduces the rules and asks the students to think about and discuss possible challenges in following them. Once the students get to work, the rules provide a firm structure for an open-ended thinking process. Students are able to generate questions and think more broadly than they would have if they had not been guided by the rules.

Step 3: Students Improve Their Questions
. Students then improve their questions by analyzing the differences between open- and closed-ended questions and by practicing changing one type to the other. The teacher begins this step by introducing definitions of closed- and open-ended questions. The students use the definitions to categorize the list of questions they have just produced into one of the two categories. Then, the teacher leads them through a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of questions. To conclude this step, the teacher asks the students to change at least one open-ended question into a closed-ended one, and vice versa, which leads students to think about how the phrasing of a question can affect the depth, quality, and value of the information they will obtain.

Step 4: Students Prioritize Their Questions. The teacher, with the lesson plan in mind, offers criteria or guidelines for the selection of priority questions. In an introduction to a unit, the instruction may be, “Choose the three questions you most want to explore further.” When designing a science experiment, it may be, “Choose three testable questions.” An essay related to a work of fiction may require that students select “three questions related to the key themes we’ve identified in this piece.” During this phase, students move from thinking divergently to thinking convergently, zero in on the locus of their inquiry, and plan concrete action steps for getting information they need to complete the lesson or task.

Step 5: Students and Teachers Decide on Next Steps. At this stage, students and teachers work together to decide how to use the questions. One teacher, for example, presented all the groups’ priority questions to the entire class the next day during a “Do Now” exercise and asked them to rank their top three questions. Eventually, the class and the teacher agreed on this question for their Socratic Seminar discussion: “How do poverty and injustice lead to violence in A Tale of Two Cities?”

Step 6: Students Reflect on What They Have Learned. The teacher reviews the steps and provides students with an opportunity to review what they have learned by producing, improving, and prioritizing their questions. Making the QFT completely transparent helps students see what they have done and how it contributed to their thinking and learning. They can internalize the process and then apply it in many other settings.

When teachers deploy the QFT in their classes, they notice three important changes in classroom culture and practices. Teachers tell us that using the QFT consistently increases participation in group and peer learning processes, improves classroom management, and enhances their efforts to address inequities in education. As teachers see this happen again and again, they realize that their traditional practice of welcoming questions is not the same as deliberately teaching the skill of question formulation. Or, as one teacher put it: “I would often ask my students, ‘Do you have any questions,’ but, of course, I didn’t get much back from them.” In his seven years of teaching, Muhammad also encouraged his Roxbury students to ask questions but had seen just how difficult that could be for them. After using the six-step process outlined above, he was struck by “how the students went farther, deeper, and asked questions more quickly than ever before.”

One Significant Change

For teachers, using the QFT requires one small but significant shift in practice: Students will be asking all the questions. A teacher’s role is simply to facilitate that process. This is a significant change for students as well. It may take a minimum of 45 minutes for students to go through all the steps the first time it is introduced in a classroom; but as they gain experience using the QFT, teachers find that the students can run through the process very quickly, in 10 to 15 minutes, even when working in groups.

The QFT provides a deliberate way to help students cultivate a skill that is fundamentally important for all learning. Teaching this skill in every classroom can help successful students to go deeper in their thinking and encourage struggling students to develop a new thirst for learning. Their questions will have much to teach us.

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, co-directors of the Right Question Institute, are the authors of the forthcoming book
Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions to be published in September 2011 by Harvard Education Press.

Listen Up: Abnormality In Auditory Processing Underlies Dyslexia

Listen Up: Abnormality In Auditory Processing Underlies Dyslexia

     Cell Press. (2012, January 2). "Listen Up: Abnormality In Auditory Processing Underlies Dyslexia." Medical News Today.

People with dyslexia often struggle with the ability to accurately decode and identify what they read. Although disrupted processing of speech sounds has been implicated in the underlying pathology of dyslexia, the basis of this disruption and how it interferes with reading comprehension has not been fully explained. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the December 22 issue of the journal Neuron finds that a specific abnormality in the processing of auditory signals accounts for the main symptoms of dyslexia.

"It is widely agreed that for a majority of dyslexic children, the main cause is related to a deficit in the processing of speech sounds," explains senior study author, Dr. Anne-Lise Giraud and Franck Ramus from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. "It is also well established that there are three main symptoms of this deficit: difficulty paying attention to individual speech sounds, a limited ability to repeat a list of pseudowords or numbers, and a slow performance when asked to name a series of pictures, colors, or numbers as quickly as possible. However, the underlying basis of these symptoms has not been elucidated."

Dr. Giraud and colleagues examined whether an abnormality in the early steps of auditory processing in the brain, called "sampling," is linked with dyslexia by focusing on the idea that an anomaly in the initial processing of phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can be used to make a word, might have a direct impact on the processing of speech.

The researchers found that typical brain processing of auditory rhythms associated with phonemes was disrupted in the left auditory cortex of dyslexics and that this deficit correlated with measures of speech sound processing. Further, dyslexics exhibited an enhanced response to high-frequency rhythms that indirectly interfered with verbal memory. It is possible that this "oversampling" might result in a distortion of the representation of speech sounds.

"Our results suggest that the left auditory cortex of dyslexic people may be less responsive to modulations at very specific frequencies that are optimal for analysis of speech sounds and overly responsive to higher frequencies, which is potentially detrimental to their verbal short-term memory abilities," concludes Dr. Giraud. "Taken together, our data suggest that the auditory cortex of dyslexic individuals is less fine-tuned to the specific needs of speech processing."

Kasting Connections' Perspective:

This brief article states what I've known to be true for a while.  What it doesn't state is that there are some ways to improve auditory processing.

In the clinic setting, I have been successful in using a three prong approach:

1)  Occupational Therapy -Sensory Integration Approach:
     Find an occupational therapist that has been trained in Sensory Integration, maybe through The STAR Center in Denver, Colorado via a mentor ship given by the top O.T. in the field, Dr. Lucy Jane Miller or maybe through S.I.P.T training. The O.T. should have sought out extra training that what was given in school. Ask about their experience, look at their sensory gym space. It should have at least 6 to 8 ceiling hooks that equipment can hang from and rotate 360 degrees. Their gym should have many options available for fine motor, gross motor, auditory processing, visual processing, etc. Ask if they are trained in astronaut training through Dr. Sheila Frick (Vital Links) which uses a spinning protocol to help the vestibular system improve along with the connection to eye movement needed for reading!

2)  Use of Listening Therapy:
      The use of Listening Therapy retrains the brain how to take in sensory information through all the senses and teaches the brain how to efficiently process the sensory information.  We have had great success with students of all ages.  There are several listening therapies out there; I would recommend the use of 3:  Vital LinksSamonas, and Integrated Listening Systems.

3)  Direct Academic intervention:
     I have used Phonological Awareness Kit from Lingui Systems as a step to help students with auditory discrimination issues.  In conjunction with that curriculum, I have used Earobics Software for all ages to give students an engaging way to work on auditory processing skills. If that software is too expensive for you, a reasonable alternative is Hear Builder: Phonological Awareness through Super Duper Publications.

Good Luck and let me know how your interventions are working!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Physical Education for Students with Special Needs

by The Inclusive Class Podcast

Many of our podcasts have talked about ways to include students with special needs in the classroom. On this podcast, the topic will focus on including students with special needs in Physical Education.

Listen to Nicole & Terri as they interview guest, Matt Schinelli. Matt is the founder of the New Jersey All People Equal organization that advocates for inclusive recreation, fitness and physical education.

For more information, go to

Click on the link below to listen to the podcast.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Top 10 Ways to Raise a Happy ADHD Child

David Letterman has his Top 10 list. Here's mine for helping kids with attention deficit grow up happy, confident, and connected.

This article appears in the Winter 2012 issue of ADDitude.
 blue and grey screen with the words "Top Ten"
I have been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, and I've been learning about these conditions all my life. As a child and adult psychiatrist, I've been treating them since I was a fellow in child psychiatry, in 1981. I've been marinating in these topics for a long time. So I challenged myself to come up with a "Top 10" list for raising happy, confident children who have ADHD. Here it is. 

10. Never worry alone. As a parent, you will worry. That's fine. But make your worrying productive, not toxic, by doing it with someone else. Worry with an expert, another parent, your spouse, your child's teacher, the doctor, or any other person you trust.

9. Learn as much as you can about ADHD--from books, lectures, publications like this one, support groups, and other reliable sources. Beware of the Internet! It’s full of wrong "information."

8. Believe in the potential greatness of your child--and make sure he or she does, too. Adopt a strength-based approach to ADHD. For sure, understand the challenges inherent in the condition, but understand that, with proper, ongoing help, your child can become a champion. I compare an ADHD brain to a Ferrari engine with bicycle brakes. I tell the kids I am a brake specialist. Truly, that's what the treatment of ADHD is all about: strengthening your brakes, so you can use the power of your engine to win races.

7. Find the right doctor to oversee ADHD treatment. I've seen too many kids in their teens who have fallen behind because they did not have proper guidance and treatment early on. Ask around. Talk to your pediatrician, your local CHADD chapter, and teachers and others in the know at school for recommendations about the best experts in your area.

6. Do all you can to get your child into a school that "gets" ADHD--and does not punish or humiliate students who have it. Once you have chosen your school, make friends with your child's teachers. They'll work harder for parents and students they like than for those who treat them poorly.

5. Make sure your child gets lots of physical activity. John Ratey has shown, beyond doubt, that exercise dramatically helps ADHD. If possible, make sure your child takes what John calls "brain breaks," a chance to get up and move around, at least every hour.

4. Pay attention to sleep and nutrition, and consider having your child learn how to meditate. Yes, kids with ADHD can meditate!

3. Take structure seriously. For every problem that arises, consider a new structure as a first solution. For example, if getting up is tough for your child, buy a flying alarm clock. If remembering assignments is a problem, consider working on a home-to-school-to-home notebook, with the teacher’s help. Have simple, consistent rules, so you don't have to make them up every day.

2. Learn the facts about medication before you decide to use it. Stimulant medication, when used properly, is safe and effective. Make sure your child feels comfortable about taking medication before he starts it.

1. Give your child daily doses of positive human contact, or what I call "the other vitamin C," vitamin Connect. Many kids with ADHD go through a day, even a week, without a friendly glance or encouraging word. Work to guarantee that your child gets multiple doses of the other vitamin C every day.

Recognizing the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder – from meltdowns to picky eating


Submitted by on October 16, 2012 – 6:55 am


Recognizing the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder – from meltdowns to picky eating

Loud. Bright. Stinky. Getting instant information from the senses is part of everyday life. But for children who cannot correctly process this information, simple tasks can become overwhelming.
October is National Sensory Awareness Month.

The Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Foundation wants parents to know the Red Flags of SPD:

• Overly sensitive to touch, noises, smells, or movement
• Floppy or stiff body, clumsy, poor motor skills or handwriting
• Difficulty dressing, eating, sleeping, or toilet training
• Frequent or lengthy temper tantrums
• Easily distracted, fidgety, withdrawn, or aggressive
• Craves movement
• Easily overwhelmed

SPD affects 5-10% of all children, yet often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Most children with SPD are just as intelligent as their peers, and many are intellectually gifted. Not all children are affected the same way. One child with SPD may over-respond to sensation, and find clothing and certain foods unbearable. Another might under-respond and show no reaction to pain, while yet another might have coordination problems.

The STAR Center in the Denver Tech Center is the premier clinic for assessment and treatment of SPD, attracting families from around the world. Treatment typically involves occupational therapy, which enables children to participate in the normal activities of childhood, such as playing with friends, enjoying school, eating, dressing, and sleeping. Depending on the child’s symptoms, feeding programs or listening therapy might also be recommended.

To kick off National Sensory Awareness Month events in Denver, the STAR Center celebrated the grand opening of its new sensory playground with a concert and activities for children. The unique playground provides a fun environment for children to improve balance, muscle strength, coordination and social skills.

The next event, “For the Love of Children Near and Far – Gala and Auction” will be held on October 19 at Glenmoor Country Club. For tickets, visit

Ellie’s Story

Ellie was diagnosed with SPD when she was four. Her mother, Tiffany, was encouraged to read Sensational Kids, by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, founder of SPD Foundation and STAR Center, which led the family to STAR.

“Prior to coming to STAR, we lived our lives on eggshells,” said Tiffany. “We never knew when or what was going to make Ellie meltdown. From the time she was born, if she was awake, she was crying. She was sent to the director’s office at school every day because of meltdowns in class, sometimes several times a day, and each one could last up to an hour. We fought with her at every mealtime. She would not eat or sit at the dinner table.”

What is life like after the family completed four weeks of intensive treatment for SPD? “Our life has changed pretty dramatically,” said Tiffany. “We have learned to look for cues from Ellie and educated Ellie’s teachers on SPD. We are seeing a huge decrease in meltdowns at home and at school. Our relationships within the family are improving as well. Now that my husband and I understand what is going on, we stopped blaming each other for the way Ellie acts. Overall, we feel better educated to keep her environment as supportive as possible so she can succeed.”

To learn more about SPD and STAR Center, visit or call 303-221-STAR (7827).