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Toddlers With Autism Show Improved Social Skills Following Targeted Intervention, Fin

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Old 12-12-2010, 10:47 PM   #1
John Nicholson
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Toddlers With Autism Show Improved Social Skills Following Targeted Intervention, Fin

[font="Book Antiqua"]




John Nicholson

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) <http://www.nimh.nih.gov/>
Embargoed for Release: Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

CONTACT: Karin Lee, NIMH Press Office, 301-443-4536, <e-mail:nimhpress@mail.nih.g ov>


Targeting the core social deficits of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topic...rs/index.shtml) in early intervention programs yielded sustained improvements in social and communication skills even in very young children who have ASD, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study was published online Dec. 8, 2010, in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Although some research suggests that ASD may be reliably diagnosed earlier (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news...birthday.shtml) than the current average age of 3 years, few interventions have been tested in children younger than 3.

During the course of typical development, children learn to interact with others in socially meaningful ways. Measures of social communication include:

-- Initiation of joint attention-spontaneously directing others' attention to something of interest, such as by pointing or holding something up to show for social purposes rather than to ask for help
-- Affect sharing-sharing emotions with others through facial expressions paired with eye contact
-- Socially engaged imitation-imitating others' actions while showing social connectedness through eye contact.

Deficits in such measures are hallmark symptoms of ASD and can severely limit a child's ability to engage in and learn from interactions with others or from the world around them.

"This new report is encouraging, as the effects on social behavior appear to provide a scaffold for the development of skills beyond the research setting," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "We need better early interventions for the core deficits of autism."

Funded through the Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment (STAART) Network (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topic...t/index.shtml), Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., of Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, and colleagues randomly assigned 50 toddlers, ages 21-33 months old, who were diagnosed with ASD to one of two six-month interventions: Interpersonal Synchrony (IS) or Non-Interpersonal Synchrony (non-IS). Both interventions incorporated classroom-based activities led by a trained intervention provider, and a home-based component involving parents who received specialized education and in-home training. The interventions were designed to encourage children to make frequent and intentional efforts to engage others in communication or play. The single difference between interventions was that the IS group received more opportunities for joint attention, affect sharing, and socially engaged imitation. The toddlers were assessed at the start and end of the intervention and again six months later.

Children in both groups made improvements in social, cognitive and language skills during the six-month intervention period. Children who received IS made greater and more rapid gains than those in the non-IS group. The researchers also noted that children in the IS group used their newly acquired abilities with different people, locations, and type of activity. This is noteworthy because children with ASD have particular difficulty doing so. They tend to use new skills mostly within familiar routines and situations.

At the six-month follow-up, children in the IS group showed slower improvements in social communication compared to when they were receiving the intervention, but did not lose skills gained during the intervention period. In contrast, children in the non-IS group showed reduced social communication skills at follow-up compared to their performance during the intervention period.

"This is the first randomized controlled trial to examine an intervention focused on core social deficits of ASD in toddlers, and the first to show gains in these deficits resulting from intervention," said Landa. "Though preliminary, our findings provide promising evidence that such a supplementary curriculum can help improve social and communication skills in children younger than 3 who have ASD."

The researchers received additional study funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website (http://www.nimh.nih.gov).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit <www.nih.gov>.

Landa RJ, Holman KC, O'Neill AH, Stuart EA. Intervention Targeting Development of Socially Synchronous Engagement in Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Ch Psychol Psychiatry. 2010 Dec 8. [epub ahead of print]


This NIH News Release is available online at:

Last edited by John Nicholson : 13-12-2010 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 13-12-2010, 11:02 AM   #2
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common sense

High time for common sense to play a larger part in bringing up our children.
The human child is clearly dependant on its birth mother to teach it to speak initially.

Not only language is being taught, basic human interaction is being established. Should there be any failure for this relationship to develop normally it is never the fault of the child, in many cases where there could be a problem a grand parent or older sibling will naturally take the place of the birth mother and no harmful consequences are ever recorded.

It is my observation that we are all born with more than adequate intellectual capacity to achieve anything we wish to achieve in normal circumstances. However we can not expect ever child to be born with 100% perfect health where ever inadequate diet or parental drug abuse is a factor, national or government intervention has to be available in these situations.

My concern is that where ever it is possible the healthy child receives the best possible intellectual training that we can humanly achieve, it is therefore clearly obvious our children are not being trained to teach their own children adequately. This is brought about by state ignorance and clear inadequate teaching in the developed world and extreme poverty and depravation in the third world.

One third of my adult life has been devoted to correcting these circumstances which are basically instantaneously rectifiable by adopting a standard practice in early education internationally.

System one 4 every 1
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Old 28-12-2010, 02:22 AM   #3
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People Learn New Information More Effectively When Brain Activity Is Consistent, Research Shows
ScienceDaily (Sep. 12, 2010) —

People are more likely to remember specific information such as faces or words if the pattern of activity in their brain is similar each time they study that information, according to new research from a University of Texas at Austin psychologist and his colleagues.

[size="5"]The findings by Russell Poldrack, published online September 10 in the journal Science, challenge psychologists' long-held belief that people retain information more effectively when they study it several times under different contexts and, thus, give their brains multiple cues to remember it.
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]"This helps us begin to understand what makes for effective studying," says Poldrack, director of the Imaging Research Center (IRC) at The University of Texas at Austin. "Sometimes we study and remember things, sometimes we don't and this helps explain why."
Until now, scientists have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to examine activity in large regions of the brain when studying memory. The research represents the first time scientists have analyzed human memory by examining the pattern of activity across many different parts of the image called voxels. The new technique allows them to probe more deeply into the relationship between the mind and the brain.
Poldrack is a professor in the Section of Neurobiology and Department of Psychology. His co-authors include Jeanette Mumford, a statistician at The University of Texas at Austin; Gui Xue of the University of Southern California and Beijing Normal University; Qi Dong of Beijing Normal Uniersity; Zhong-Lin Lu of the University of Southern California (USC); and Chuansheng Chen of the University of California, Irvine.
"The question is how practice makes perfect. If you precisely reactivate the same pattern each time, then you are going to remember better," says Xue, a research assistant professor of psychology at USC.[/SIZE]

The researchers conducted three studies at Beijing Normal University in which subjects were shown different sets of photographs or words multiple times in different orders. The scientists recorded subjects' brain activity while they studied the material. They were asked to recall or recognize those items between 30 minutes and six hours later, in order to test the decades-old "encoding variability theory."
That theory suggests people will remember something more effectively -- the name of the third President of the United States, for example -- if they study it at different times in different contexts -- a dorm room, the library, a coffee shop -- than if they review it several times in one sitting. The different sensory experiences will give the brain various reminders of that information and multiple routes to access Thomas Jefferson's identity.
Based on that theory, Poldrack and his colleagues predicted subjects would retain memories of the photos or words more effectively if their brains were activated in different ways while studying that information multiple times.

Instead, the scientists found the subjects' memories were better when their pattern of brain activity was more similar across the different study episodes.
Xue cautioned that the study does not disprove the effect of variable contexts during learning in enhancing memory.[/
It's unclear what prompts the brain to exhibit these different patterns of activity when studying the same information minutes apart. That activity could be triggered by anything from the previous image the person saw, to sounds or smells around him or even simple daydreaming, Poldrack says.
"These results are very important in providing a challenge to this well established theory," Poldrack says. "There's something that's clearly still right about the theory, but this challenges psychologists to reconsider what we know about children.
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Old 31-12-2010, 12:52 AM   #4
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Ok We Are Allready One Hundred Years Behind

How much psychology should teachers learn in training? Paul Howard- Jones looks at why it should be at its core

It was back in 1910 that Edward Thorndike penned his classic article claiming the huge potential for education and psychology (then a relatively new discipline) to enrich each other. “To an understanding of the material of education,” observed Thorndike, “psychology is the chief contributor.”

Now, almost 100 years later, his hopes are resurfacing as scientists and educators look at how our new understanding of cognitive neuroscience could revolutionise the theory and practice of teaching.

However, current UK standards in teacher training make little reference to psychology and, at the launch of the most recent commentary on neuroscience and education last year, one representative of the Training and Development Agency for Schools said: “I do not think we see ourselves as including brain science in any format within the standards.”

Perhaps, if teachers have survived decades without scientific knowledge of this type, some might argue they can do without it. However, just because it’s not in the standards, let’s not fool ourselves that teachers don’t already have their own ideas about brain function. In fact, “self- education” in cognitive neuroscience starts early. Even before the age of four, we start thinking of the brain as an internal body part involved with a range of distinctly mental acts, though often seeing mind and brain as the same thing. During school years, we begin differentiating between these concepts and, rather than using brain and mind interchangeably as the same type of container, machine or muscle, we’re beginning using these two words more selectively. Soon, the brain even starts getting blamed for causing states experienced by the mind (so we might say, “I’m brain-dead” for our mental state, but rarely do we say “I’m mind-dead”).

And despite lack of formal training, ideas about brain and mind continue to develop in adulthood. Research reveals we are particularly attracted to brain-based explanations, a tendency also reflected in the high profile of neuroscience on TV, radio and popular press. In addition to this flow of information from the media, educators have regular contact with a range of education-specific brain concepts that are often unscientific but increasingly popular in schools and colleges.

All of this makes it difficult to guess what teachers might think about their pupils’ brains and minds, so researchers from the Neuro-Educational Research Network (NEnet) at the University of Bristol decided to ask them. We surveyed 158 trainees about to embark on their teaching careers. Disturbingly, we found evidence of unscientific ideas likely to influence both their attitudes and teaching in the classroom. In their school placements, 83 per cent had already encountered ideas about learning styles, which are often promoted as having a brain basis.

This might explain why 81 per cent of trainees considered individuals learnt more effectively when they received information in their preferred learning style, even though educational evidence does not support this notion, and psychological research rejects it.

Perhaps the most surprising response of our trainee teachers was that 43 per cent did not consider it necessary to pay attention to something in order to learn about it. This may reflect recent interest among educators in the concept of “unconscious learning”. This phenomenon has been studied by psychologists chiefly in the context of artificial language, where learners can pick up grammatical rules without being able to consciously express them. While such findings are interesting, they do not mean that pupils can learn without paying due attention, yet our results indicate this idea is emerging as a new and potentially damaging myth.

Among the other popular, but incorrect, beliefs espoused by our trainees were the need to drink six to eight glasses of water to prevent brain shrinkage (no recorded instances in relation to voluntary dehydration), the negative role of emotion in cognition (in fact, emotion is often necessary for cognition), our tendency to use only 10 per cent of our brains (we are always using all of it), and that special exercises can balance hemispheric activity and thereby improve literacy (no valid evidence that co-ordination exercises “repattern” the brain or raise educational achievement).

In more general terms, however, perhaps our most worrying finding was that most trainees agreed, or were undecided, as to whether learning problems associated with developmental differences in brain function were amenable to educational remediation. This suggests that knowing a pupil has ADHD, dyscalculia or dyslexia, without appropriate scientific understanding of what that means, can diminish a teacher’s belief in their potential to bring about positive change, as if the label indicates some biological barrier. In contrast, modern scientific perspectives avoid biological determination, emphasise the important role of environmental influences such as education, and highlight the enduring possibility of mitigation too.However, although our survey revealed some new concerns about teachers’ lack of training in these areas, perhaps the question of whether some psychology and neuroscience should be included in initial teacher training is simply a “no-brainer”. After all, is there anyone, other than a teacher, who is more professionally responsible for the daily development of mind and brain?

Paul Howard-Jones is a senior lecturer in education and co-ordinator of the Centre for Psychology and Learning in Context (CPLiC) at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol
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Old 31-12-2010, 01:36 AM   #5
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Read Read Read Read

more on the mind

--- http://www.futuremind.ox.ac.uk/impac...iamentary.html.

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Old 13-01-2011, 01:52 PM   #6
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