Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Brain and Reading, ASD, and Promises

NEUROSCIENCE AND READING. The Dana Foundation has posted an excerpt from the book Reading in the Brain, by Stanislas Dehaene. The chapter is titled, "Brain-based Suggestions for Teaching Reading." After the caveat that "neuroscience is still far from being prescriptive," the author describes what neuroscientists know about the process of reading and offers tips on effectively guiding children to achieve their reading skills. An example of classroom advice: "At each step, the words and sentences introduced in class must only include graphemes and phonemes that have already been explicitly taught. Reading lessons provide little room for improvisation." (The author also notes the difficulty of the English alphabetic writing system in terms of learning to read.) Read more.

SOCIAL DIFFICULTIES IN ASD.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered that the brains of individuals with autism are less active when engaged in self-reflective thought. Using brain imaging techniques, the researchers examined activity in an area of the brain known to be active when people think about themselves. Says the lead researcher: "This new study shows that within the autistic brain, regions that typically prefer self-relevant information make no distinction between thinking about the self or another person. This is strong evidence that in the autistic brain, processing information about the self is atypical." Find out more.

EQUITY IN GIFTED EDUCATION. Education columnist Jay Matthews uses billionaire Warren Buffett's early disenchantment with school to opine on equity in gifted education -- who should get it -- and also on dumping gifted education in favor of simply letting students find their talents. From the column: "I have interviewed many successful scientists, educators and entrepreneurs, and few of them were slotted into gifted programs based on a second-grade test. Our schools try to help kids like these, but many of their parents tell me they do better if they are home-schooled or, like the restless teenage Buffett, given as much time as possible to pursue their own interests..." Read it.

FOR YOUR CLEVER BUT DEVIOUS 2e CHILD? Science Daily reports that scientists have discovered the physiological mechanisms in the brain that underlie broken promises. Patterns of brain activity even enable predicting whether someone will break a promise. This begs the question: Will parents someday have available portable brain imaging devices to help them tell when a child's promise is real -- or bound to be broken? Find out more, and dream on.

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