Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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Dyslexia Researchers Launch Multicultural-Outreach Effort, Education Week

Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, the co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, based at Yale University, and longtime researchers of the reading disorder, have started a campaign to bring greater awareness of dyslexia to communities of color.

The Multicultural Dyslexia Awareness Initiative had its first meeting earlier this month, honoring well-known people with dyslexia, such as actor and activist Harry Belafonte and author Victor Villaseñor. The initiative plans to hold more meetings across the country in coming months, Sally Shaywitz said in a conversation with Education Week. Too many children, she said, learn that they have dyslexia almost by accident, after years of struggling with school.

Dyslexia Study: Brain Scans Can Predict Dyslexia in Pre-School Children, Headlines & Global News

A new study suggests that MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging may be used for early detection of a disorder that affects the developmental reading skills of a person making it difficult to read and interpret letter ands symbols or most commonly known as “dyslexia” among pre-school children.

Elizabeth Norton, PhD, lead author of the study from the MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research and her colleagues said that the results of this research could lead to rapid identification and solution for the roughly 10 percent of U.S. kids known to have developmental dyslexia.

The study participants consists of 40 pre-reading and early-reading kids with ages between four and six who had been identified to have smaller left arcuate fasciculus and who scored lower on phonological assessments. The left arcuate fasciculus attaches brain areas activated in speech and language processes.

Norton and her team also invited kids from a wider study of reading development in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to join in the brain study. The 52 eligible kids can speak American English natively and completed 36 weeks age of gestation before birth. They also had no sensory difficulties but make use of glasses. They haven’t taken nervous system medications, had no neurological or other developmental diagnoses and have standard IQ scores. Twelve scans were discarded thus decreasing the samples to 40.

New Mexico boy set to go to court in dad’s killing, US News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The 10-year-old New Mexico boy lived in an abusive, filthy home and had tried desperately to get help to stop the beatings he and his younger siblings had for years faced at the hands of their abusive father, his attorney says.

Then, one day in 2009, prosecutors say, he put a gun to the head of his 250-pound father and killed him at their Belen, N.M., home.

After years of stops and starts, the boy is scheduled to face a jury this month for first-degree murder in a rare prosecution expected to highlight the debate over whether children that young are capable of the pre-meditation required for such a serious charge. Experts say the boy, now 14 and living in Oklahoma, is just one of a handful of very young children in the nation’s history to face such a conviction.

“I’ve been practicing law for 20 years and this is the saddest case I’ve ever seen,” said the boy’s attorney, William J. Cooley. “I don’t know why this is even going to court.”



Tuesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

School for the Blind Expands Online Resources for Educators, Education Week

A storied institution for the blind is promoting and expanding its online resources for educators across the country who teach students who have visual impairments—a move that coincides with a U.S. Department of Education directive that Braille instruction should be the default literacy medium for blind students.

The 184-year-old Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., which educated both deaf-blind activist and author Helen Keller and her instructor Anne Sullivan, is looking to increase use of Perkins eLearning, a collection of nearly 100 webinars, tutorials, and seminars.

The two-year-old eLearning portal is not just for teachers trained to educate students with visual impairments, said Kevin Bauman, the senior director of Perkins eLearning. Most students who are blind are in classes with typically developing peers, and only spend a fraction of their school week with a specially trained teacher. The resources in Perkins eLearning don’t replace the expertise of a special educator, but can help the regular classroom teacher understand and support the specialized instruction, he said. Most of the resources on the website are free, except for seminars that can be used to earn continuing education credits.

Perkins has 200 day and residential students as well as national and international programs. School leaders say it can be a resource for districts that may want to bolster their teachers’ knowledge of education needs for blind students, especially after the Education Department’s June letter stating that technology such as speech-to-text readers or magnified text cannot be used as automatic replacement for Braille instruction.

Online Tool Helps Doctors Engage Parents on Learning Disabilities, Education Week

The National Center for Learning Disabilities recently launched a website intended to help doctors and other pediatric health-care professionals talk to parents about specific learning disabilities.

The LD Navigator was created in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and funded through a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The resource offers informational handouts that can be printed for parents; talking points for doctors to guide conversations about referrals and evaluation; screening questions for new patients; and information on federal and local laws that govern educational services for students with learning disabilities.

A learning disability is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as a psychological processing disorder which may manifest itself an inability to listen, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. It is the most common disability label given to students covered by IDEA; of the 5.8 million students covered by the disability law in fall 2011, about 2.3 million were identified as having a specific learning disability.