Mild Hearing Loss

Reference: Advance for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (Oct. 3, 2011)

Mild Hearing Loss
Linked to brain atrophy in older adults

Declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray matter atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to comprehend speech successfully, a new study has shown.  When a sense is altered, the brain reorganizes and adjusts.  In the case of people with poor hearing, researchers found that the gray matter density of the auditory areas was lower in people with decreased hearing ability, suggesting a link between hearing ability and brain volume.

“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the  brain,” said lead author Jonathan Peelle, PhD, a research associate in the Department of Neurology, Perelman School of Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing l0ss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”

In a pair of studies, researchers measured the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain, first measuring the response of the brain to increasingly complex sentences and then measuring cortical brain volume in the auditory cortex.

Older adults, ages 60-77, with normal hearing for their age were evaluated to determine whether normal variations in hearing ability impacted the structure or function of the network of brain areas supporting speech comprehension.

The studies found that people with hearing loss showed less brain activity on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans when listening to complex sentences. People with poorer hearing also had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, suggesting that areas of the brain related to auditory processing may show accelerated atrophy when hearing ability declines.

In general, research suggests that hearing sensitivity has cascading consequences for the neural processes supporting both perception and cognition.  Although the research was conducted in older adults, the findings have implications for younger adults, including those concerned about listening to music at loud volumes.

“Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech,” said Dr. Peelle.  “Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears but also helps your brain perform at its best.”

Audiologists should monitor hearing in patients as they age, noting that individuals who still fall within normal hearing ability may have increasing complaints of speech comprehension issues.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded the research.

Peele, J.E., Troiani, V., Grossman, M., et al. (2011).  Hering loss in older adults affects neural systems supporting speech comprehension.  The Journal of Neuroscience, 31 (35): 12638-43

 

TV for Toddlers not a Good Idea, Doctors Say

Reference: St. Louis Post-Dispatch  Oct. 19, 2011

Educational value is called nil; they urge more time for play.

by Benedict Carey (New York Times)

Toddlers and TV

Key Findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

1)  Children under 2 receive no benefit from watching TV or any other screen.

2)  Video programs for toddlers are marketed as “educational,” but evidence does not support   
       this.

3)  Unstructured playtime is more valuable than electronic media.

4)  Young children learn best from interaction with humans.

5)  Parents who watch TV or videos with their child may add to the child’s understanding, but     
      children learn more from live presentations.

6)  Television viewing around bedtime can cause poor sleep habits.

7)  Young children who have watched a lot of TV are at risk for delays in language development.

Omegas Battle Stroke Severity

Reference: The ASHA Leader (October 11, 2011)

A diet rich in omega-3s could reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke.  Researchers from Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada, observed that mice that had been fed a diet rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, for three months had 25% less brain damage following stroke than mice that had eaten a control diet.  The full study was published in Stroke (doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.620856).

ADHD Links to ASD

Reference: The ASHA Leader (October 11, 1011) from the American Speech and Hearing Association

New research has identified more genes associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and found an overlap between some of these genes and those found in other conditions such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).  Researchers studied the DNA of 248 unrelated patients with ADHD; 19 of 248 patients had inherited changes.  Within this group of inherited changes, researchers also found genes previously identified in conditions such as ASD; conversely they found ADHD genes in nine of the patients previously diagnosed with ASD.  The study appears in Science Translational Medicine(http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/3/95/95ra75).

Social Skills Equal Spatial Skills

Reference: The ASHA Leader (September 20, 2011)  

People who can empathize with others are also more likely to be proficient in spatial skills.  In a study, 48 adults viewed a toy building surrounded by seven faceless figures.  Participants described the visual perspective of each figure, and were assessed on measures of five traits associated with autism spectrum disorders: social skills, perseveration, attention to detail, communication, and imagination.  Overall social acumen correlated strongly with participant’s accuracy in taking the figures’ perspectives.  Visit http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/slm/37/4.

Make Your Child Laugh: The Developmental Stages of Humor

Reference: http://sos-research-blog.com

This article was posted and seemed so relevant to our very serious approach to special needs that we forget as professionals that laughter is a great way to learning.  Here is the post.

Many children with special needs have problems with friendships.  The problems can surround not understanding nonverbal communication, to not being able to identify emotions, to confusion over humor and more.  One thing we know for sure is that life without friendships and human connections is a very lonely life.

Humor is something that can bring two people together.  Laughter signifies that people are having fun and is good for a healthy relationship.  Sharing jokes and funny stories provides a connection between two people.

Children love to laugh.  But children with special needs such as autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and more often take things quite literally.  This results in them missing a joke or the humor in a situation.  If a child can’t share laughter with a group, then she is missing a part of the bonding that occurs and this affects the development of friendships.

Before you can work on humor with your child, you need to understand humor from a developmental perspective.  This is a general guideline and actual ages vary depending on the child.
    
    1) By six months of age, babies will laugh at behaviors that are not typical of their parents.  
         Making exaggerated faces will get a baby to laugh.
    2) A one year old baby loves the game of peek-a-boo.

At this stage, you can play peek-a-boo and other games that do not end at a predictable time, such as jack-in-the-box.  This can be played with a four or five year old child with special needs (or even older) if she has not acquired this basic level of humor.  There are many different kinds of jack-in-the-boxes, such as Sock Monkey Jack in the Box and SpongeBob Squarepants Jack-in-the-box, so you should be able to find one that will appeal to your child.

      3) Starting at age one or one and a half, children start pretend play and  will make believe that
            an object is something other than what it is or will use it in a “wrong” way.  For example,
            a child may put a sock on his hand and laugh.
       4) By age two to three as language skills develop, children enjoy giving objects the wrong 
            name.  “Bathroom” humor may also begin at this time.

For the two stages above, you can create a game to play with your child.  Take a box and fill it with familiar objects.  Pull something out and pretend it is something else.  For example, you can take a sock out of the box and say it is a hat and put it on your head.  After you take a few turns, let your child try.

        5) By age three, children enjoy playing with the sounds of words.  They may create 
             variations of common words or generate rhyming words.  Some of these children may     
              also enjoy making nonsensical sentences.

Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers created a set of books containing photographs of fruits and vegetables depicting emotions, vehicles, and other objects.  The pictures can help children with special needs to not only identify moods and emotions, but to also appreciate the silliness of the photographs.  The books are titled “How Are You Peeling? (Scholastic Bookshelf), “Fast Food”, and “Food Play”.

         6) Around age five, children start telling riddles or knock-knock jokes that don’t make any
               sense.

“What Do You Hear When Cows Sing?: And Other Silly Riddles (I Can Read Book 1) contains
twenty-two riddles with the use of wordplay.

         7) By age six or seven, the nonsensical part of the riddles and knock-knock jokes disappear
               and children find true riddles and knock-knock jokes very humorous.

“Good Clean Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids” contains a couple hundred jokes.

Knowing the developmental stages of humor is important.  When attempting to teach humor to a child with special needs, you need to make sure that you are teaching what is developmentally appropriate and not what is appropriate based on the child’s chronological age.  In addition to helping to develop your child’s humor, other benefits will be seen, such as improved eye contact and a fun emotional connection between you and your child.