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More on smoking and neuropsych disorders

New research shows that using nicotine during pregnancy affects genes involved in myelination and, consequently may help explain why the children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to develop such psychiatric disorders as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, autism, and even drug abuse. In a paper presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Professor Ming Li, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA, US) reported that when rats were given nicotine during pregnancy, their offspring manifested changes in myelin genes for the limbic system, especially the prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for decision-making.

“Our research shows that gestational treatment with nicotine significantly modifies myelin gene expression in specific brain regions that are involved in behavioral processes,” according to Professor Li, leader of the study. “Myelin deficits have been observed in adults with various psychiatric disorders. Our findings suggest that abnormal myelination may contribute to the psychiatric disorders associated with maternal smoking.”
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Cooking something up

Los Angeles (CA, US) Unified School District has refused an offer by chef Jamie Oliver, who has received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, to collaborate on a television production about improving school food service, according to Mary MacVean, of the Los Angeles Times. For those who are wondering why on Earth they are reading this lead on LD Blog, alert readers will remind them of a 2009 post on here that noted Mr. Oliver’s accomplishments in the culinary world as well as his connection to the world of Learning Disabilities through his own dyslexia.
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MR is out in US federal law

On Tuesday 5 October, US President Barack Obama signed legislation called “Rosa’s Law” that requires the US government to discontinue using the term “mental retardation” and use “intellectual disability” instead. The headliner in this movement is a child from Maryland (US) named Rosa Marcellino who has Down Syndrome; she has promoted the effort and enlisted her state’s governor, blah, and senator, Barbara Mikulski, in the effort.

Read Michelle Diament’s report for Disability Scoop Obama Signs Bill Replacing ‘Mental Retardation’ With ‘Intellectual Disability’.

LD opinion survey: good news, bad news

For the fourth time, the Roper Public Affairs &’ Corporate Communications group has reported a survey of US opinion about Learning Disabilities to the Tremaine Foundation. Although the report is entitled “Measuring Progress in Public & Parental Understanding of Learning Disabilities,” it also includes data about the views of the general public, teachers, and school administrators. It’s worth reading the entire document, but here are a few notes to whet the appetite.
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Is LD viable?

Panelists for DLD showcase 2010 in Nashville
L-to-R: T. Scruggs (foreground), D. Fuchs, M. Gerber,
and N. Zigmond

At the behest of Rollanda O’Connor, Dan Hallahan gathered four informed people—Naomi Zigmond, Tom Scruggs, Mike Gerber, and Doug Fuchs—to address this question: “The LD Construct: Can it be Saved? Is it Worth Saving?” The discussion, which was held at the annual international convention of the Council for Exceptional Children, as a product of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD). Of course, I’m biased (I am compensated as the executive director for DLD), but I have to say that this was a top-notch event.

These advocates agreed that there really is something to LD. They argued clearly and effectively that educators need to reconsider the construct of LD; focus on individual students needs; the needs of those students can (in fact) be discriminated from others who have low achievement; that there’s lots of good to response to instruction (or intervention), but it’s neither likely to address all the learning problems students experience nor identify those who need additional services; and that those students may need instruction that is radically different from what they can get in general education settings.

There’s lots more to what they had to say, and I hope TeachingLD can capture and disseminate it. If so, I’ll relate it here.

Update: NJ gov. signs law creating dyslexia task force.

As reported earlier on LD Blog under the headline “New Jersey task force on reading disabilities created, seventh-grader Samantha Ravelli, of Ocean City (NJ, US), is having effects on public policy. The Associated Press reported 17 January 2010 that the law she lobbied her legislators to pass has been signed by the Governor of New Jersey.

Legislation inspired by an Ocean City girl who overcame severe dyslexia has been signed into law in New Jersey.
The measure creates a reading disabilities task force, which would help determine the best methods for diagnosing, treating and educating special needs students. The 13-member panel will include the state commissioners of education and human resources, four legislators and seven members of the public.

Now that this panel is law, let’s hope the folks who become members of the panel will take the sensible step of drawing from evidence-based practices in making recommendations for reading instruction in New Jersey. Read the Associated Press story, “ N.J. measure will benefit reading-disabled students.”

New syndrome: Audible delays?

Does anybody know what is meant by “audible delays?”

According to a newspaper report by Bethany Hart who writes for the Washington Court House (OH, US) Record-Hearald, a woman named Tanya Cottrell noticed her child “was learning things in school a bit slower than the other children. He was diagnosed [with] having audible delays which is considered a learning disability.”
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Additional weak evidence about chiropractic treatment

Over the holiday weekend, Liz Ditz sent me the reference to a study that I have now downloaded and read. I’m reporting my notes here. I see that she has a related post over on her blog, I Speak of Dreams.

In “Developmental Delay Syndromes: Psychometric Testing Before and After Chiropractic Treatment of 157 Children,” Scott Cuthbert and Michel Barras present the results of an analysis of pretest-posttest scores for children who received chiropractic treatment at a clinic in Lausanne (CH). They reported that the children had higher scores after treatment, leading them to conclude that “This report suggests that a multimodal chiropractic method that assesses and treats motor dysfunction reduced symptoms and enhanced the cognitive performance in this group of children.”

Here is the abstract for this report. After it, I’ll explain why I find this study provides uncompelling evidence in support of chiropractic treatment for Learning Disabilities.
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Suggestions from advocate

Paul Rendine, who chairs the Disability Advocates of Delmarva Inc (DADI), is contributing a series of articles about disabilities to a local publication for the peninsula holding parts of Maryland and Virginia and all of Delaware. The first of the series addresses Learning Disabilities. Although the content is brief and the coverage of Learning Disabilities is not in depth, it is generally accurate and merits note because of the effort.

Link to Mr. Rendine’s article. DADI has its own Website; DADI provides scholarship support to individuals with disabilities.

Celebrities with dyslexia

In “11 Celebrities Who Overcame Dyslexia” on Mental Floss, Scott Allen posted a list of people who have dyslexia and whose names many people recognize. His lead tells the tale.

On Monday, molecular biologists Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn became the first two women to share the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Greider also joined Pierre Curie and Archer Martin among the handful of individuals with dyslexia who have won a Nobel Prize. In honor of Greider’s accomplishment and National Dyslexic Awareness Month, here’s a brief background on dyslexia and 11 other dyslexic celebrities.

Dyslexia in Brief
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