Tuesday, August 23, 2016

7 healthy tips for a better night’s sleep


Sleep is critical for mind and body health. Without it, the effects can be severe. But what if you suffer from insomnia? Below, neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre provides 7 healthy tips for a better night’s sleep:


1. Aim for power hours. Sleep the recommended amount for a restorative night. That is: between 9 and 12 hours for school-aged children, 8 to 10 hours for teenagers, and 7 to 9 hours for adults. [Animation by TED-Ed]

2. Ban the blue. Filter the blue light of your electronic device and sleep better. Studies show that blue light from electronic devices can delay sleep onset and affect overall circadian rhythm. [Animation by Javier Saldeña/TED-Ed]

3. Spoon. Sleeping on the side may help the brain clear waste more efficiently than sleeping on the back or belly. [Animation by TED-Ed]

4. Breathe deep. Deep breathing triggers the body’s relaxation response. What’s more, inhaling can drive cerebrospinal fluid flow to help clear brain waste and oxygenate the brain. [Animation by TED-Ed]

5. Don’t overdo it. Science is still working this one out, but there are some cases where too much sleep can pose a health risk. Better set that alarm. [Animation by Alan Foreman/TED-Ed]

6. Exercise. Lab experiments show that regular exercise can protect the brain from sleep deprivation-induced memory deficits. [Animation by Andrew Zimbelman/TED-Ed]

7. Keep cool. You just might get a better night’s rest if you sleep in a cool room (or stick your feet out). [Animation by TED-Ed]

For more health tips from experts, check out 7 TED-Ed Lessons for a healthier you.

Author bio: Claudia Aguirre is a neuroscientist and the author of several TED-Ed Lessons, including What would happen if you didn’t sleep? and Does stress cause pimples?

To learn something new every week, sign up for the TED-Ed Newsletter here >>

via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/08/23/7-healthy-tips-for-a-better-nights-sleep/

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Q&A about autism with Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes


Steve Silberman is a writer and contributing editor for Wired, and the author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. He gave a TED Talk on the forgotten history of autism, and recently spoke before the United Nations on the need for acceptance and understanding of neurodiversity. In the must-read interview below, he explores what teachers need to know about autism and neurodiversity. “If you understand that the autistic students in your class are just as complex and nuanced and intensely emotional and hopeful as you are,” says Silberman, “you’ll do everything in your power to help them lead happier and more engaged lives.”

The history of autism makes clear that the notion that there is one best way to learn, one best way to experience the world, and one best way to be human, is bunk.

Michael McWatters: Why should an educator learn about the history of autism? I’m not just thinking of teachers who work with special needs students, but those who work with typical children as well.

Steve Silberman: In part, learning the history can help them avoid making the same mistakes that educators and clinicians made in previous generations — such as believing that there is a normal child trapped behind the “autistic shell.” As a society, the history of autism makes clear that the notion that there is one best way to learn, one best way to experience the world, and one best way to be human, is bunk. That belief prevailed through most of the 20th Century, when psychiatrists elevated themselves into a position akin to secular priests. But it’s based on a false model of how human brains work, and it ends up stigmatizing and marginalizing people who have tremendous gifts to offer society. Think about it: why would the community of human minds be less diverse than, say, a rainforest? But it isn’t. We’re part of the natural world, and nature thrives by experimenting, by fostering the development of many different types of individuals. In a rainforest, this wild riot of variety and difference makes communities of plants and animals more resilient in the face of changing conditions. As we face the challenges of the 21st Century — which include a rapidly changing global climate! — we will need many different types of minds working together. As a teacher, you’re helping to build the foundation on which the fate of humanity may depend.

Think about it: why would the community of human minds be less diverse than, say, a rainforest?

MM: As the parent of an autistic child myself, I feel grateful that he’s growing up in a time and place where, for the most part, he’ll have opportunities denied earlier generations of autistic children and adults. And yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done in the United States. If you could change anything about our approach to educating autistic and other neurodivergent children, what would it be? How is educating autistic kids handled in the rest of the world? Any schools or countries you want to highlight?

SS: It’s easy to forget that for most of the 20th Century, autistic kids were thought by experts to be not just developmentally delayed, but uneducable — literally incapable of learning. This is not surprising, because the recommended course of treatment for autism was institutionalization, and there was no Special Ed going on in psych wards. Then before the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act — the predecessor to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — kids with autism were routinely excluded from public schools. The fact that we’re even talking about “changing our approach” represents that society has taken huge steps forward toward inclusion in the past couple of decades, due to the efforts of autism parents like Ruth Sullivan, co-founder of the Autism Society of America, and civil-rights activists who are disabled themselves.

But we’re still just in the first years of discovering which sorts of accommodations and supports help autistic students thrive. The principles of Universal Design for Learning for more information can be very helpful for teachers who want to know more about ways of customizing core curricula to suit the learning styles of individual students. Obviously, the foundational principle of these efforts must be presuming competence — believing in the potential of your students, and doing everything you can to help them realize that potential, rather than viewing them as checklists of deficits and dysfunctions that must be “handled” in the classroom. I can’t tell you how many parents have come up to me after my talks to tell me that when their son or daughter was first diagnosed, they were told that their child would never be capable of going to a mainstream school — and now they’re graduating from college. In fact, one of my autistic friends, Mark Romoser, was diagnosed by Leo Kanner himself. He told me, “Kanner told my mother to put me in an institution. So she did — Yale.” Obviously, not all autistic kids are capable of going to Yale, or even to college. But as schoolteachers say in Finland, “We can’t afford to waste a brain.”

One of my suggestions for improving education is very basic: pay teachers more. Pay them like the professionals they are — highly valued professionals with the crucial job of putting kids on the pathway to success and a fulfilling life.

One of my suggestions for improving education is very basic: pay teachers more. Pay them like the professionals they are — highly valued professionals with the crucial job of putting kids on the pathway to success and a fulfilling life. The average salary for a middle school teacher in the United States is $45,000, which is a full third less than we pay dental hygienists. That’s not enough for someone to live, much less support a family, with the rents we’re all paying now. When I’ve visited good schools for special-needs kids like the Morgan Autism Center in San José and Ambitious About Autism in London, the tireless dedication and profound care the teachers had for their students was nothing less than awe-inspiring. I’m sure it’s deeply gratifying work, but as a society, we should treat teachers with more respect by paying them a living wage.

Another suggestion for improving education for autistic kids: create opportunities for mentorship by autistic adults. Invite autistic self-advocates into the classroom to give talks and team up with students for projects. Nothing sends a more encouraging message to a young autistic kid than hearing from someone who’s been there, dealt with similar challenges, and figured out practical ways of making life work. Encourage the students to read writing by autistic authors, and then invite autistic adults to become part of the teaching process. The neurotypical students would benefit from hearing from them too.

MM: Some experts believe you shouldn’t indulge an autistic child’s obsessions. The fear seems to be that obsessions naturally become barriers between the child and the outside world. And yet history provides myriad examples of autistic obsessions leading to incredible breakthroughs for humanity, some of which you’ve documented in NeuroTribes. What are your thoughts on encouraging an interest — even one that might appear obsessive — versus redirecting a child away from it?

SS: Kids on the spectrum learn and develop in different ways than typical kids. They have their own distinct trajectories. Hans Asperger and his colleagues figured this out way back in the 1930s. He described one of his young patients who became an assistant professor of astronomy because his mother encouraged his special interests in geometry and math from the age of two onward. In middle school, the boy practically had to beg his teachers to give him advanced tutoring in math, because they thought he wasn’t capable of working at that level. Then, in first year at university, he detected an error in one of Isaac Newton’s proofs. Asperger was careful to note that it wasn’t that this young man had somehow grown out of autism — he was still, in Asperger’s words, “blatantly autistic.” But he succeeded because he was supported in pursuing his special interests.

In the 20th Century, there were all kinds of theories about how you had to “break” kids out of their “autistic shells” by punishing them — often quite brutally — for their “obsessions.” But even behaviorist Ivar Lovaas, who popularized this theory, eventually admitted that he was wrong: there was no normal child inside the autistic shell. Indeed, there was no shell. Instead, there was an autistic person needing support. And autistic people learn by going narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow. Temple Grandin‘s curious fascination with barnyard animals raised alarm for the psychologist at her high school — “We don’t think we’re a cow, do we?” he condescendingly said to her. But her science teacher, Bill Carlock, encouraged Temple’s passion for animals, and that became her doorway into science, which became the foundation of a very successful career in a highly demanding field. In Life, Animated, Ron Suskind describes a similar process of becoming closer to his autistic son Owen by attending to his interest in all things Disney. This is a truth that autism parents have been discovering on their own for generations, often against the advice of the “experts.”

MM: You as well as others have criticized the labels “high functioning” and “low functioning.” Why do you think it’s important to move away from these labels? Are there other, less fraught ways to convey ability?

SS: Here’s the thing: both terms obscure more than they reveal. So-called “high functioning” people are often struggling more behind the scenes than is obvious to the casual neurotypical observer, while allegedly “low functioning” people often have talents and abilities that could be brought out and cultivated if they were provided with appropriate means for communication and were not constantly in environments in which they feel overwhelmed.

Equally to the point, even “high functioning” people can temporarily lose speech while under conditions of extreme stress. Functioning labels are not only demeaning, they’re unstable — as my autistic friend Carol Greenburg, who has an autistic son, puts it, “Some days are more autistic than others.” I believe the persistence of these labels reflects one of the historical misconceptions that I tried to dispel in my book: that Leo Kanner saw only “low functioning” children, while Hans Asperger saw only “high functioning” ones. As I explore in depth in NeuroTribes, this framing is wrong from both directions. Asperger saw more than 200 kids, at all levels of ability, including those who would need support every day of their lives. But he only told his Nazi bosses about his “most promising cases,” in part because they were actively involved with exterminating disabled children en masse in accord with eugenics laws from Berlin. And Leo Kanner’s early patients included a man who would go on to get married, serve in the Navy, become a meteorologist, and compose pieces that were played by symphony orchestras. I have no doubt that some of Kanner’s patients would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome had they been born later, and that some of Asperger’s patients would have met Kanner’s very strict criteria for a diagnosis of early infantile autism. So, where is the bright line dividing these allegedly very distinct clinical populations? There isn’t one. Each autistic person is different, and in fact, as autistic self-advocate Jim Sinclair observed, autistic people are more different from one another than neurotypical people are.

Taking a cue from autistic self-advocates, I prefer to use the phrases “high support needs” and “low support needs” — noting that the level of need can change day to day, or even moment to moment. They’re not only less dehumanizing terms, they’re more accurate.

MM: Douglas Biklen once said that we should assume “that a child has intellectual ability, provide opportunities to be exposed to learning, assume the child wants to learn and assert him or herself in the world. To not presume competence is to assume that some individuals cannot learn, develop, or participate in the world. Presuming competence is nothing less than a Hippocratic oath for educators.” What are your thoughts on this advice to those educating autistic and neurodivergent students? How can they “presume competence” while simultaneously taking special measures to support their students?

SS: Never assume that the ability to speak equals intelligence. There are plenty of autistic people who have trouble speaking but who have glorious creative worlds inside them seeking avenues of expression. Never assume that an autistic person who can’t speak isn’t listening closely to every word you say, or isn’t feeling the emotional impact of your words. I’ve interviewed many autistic people who said they could hear and understand everything around them while people called them “idiots” or described them as “out of it” to their faces. Ultimately, presuming competence is the ability to imagine that the person in front of you is just as human as you are, even if they seem to be very impaired. If you understand that the autistic students in your class are just as complex and nuanced and intensely emotional and hopeful as you are, you’ll do everything in your power to help them lead happier and more engaged lives.

Inclusion sends a crucial message to all students: If you’re born disabled or become disabled in your lifetime, society will build a place for you.

MM: There’s a wonderful quote in your book by writer Barry Morrow about his friend Bill Sackter, the inspiration for the main character Raymond Babbitt in the movie Rain Man: “What Bill taught me is that not only do people like Bill need society, but society needs people like Bill.” Can you elaborate on that thought and, in particular, how it might relate to schools and classrooms? What is the social and emotional impact of having a neurodiverse student body?

SS: The virtues of inclusion go far beyond some notion of charity or being generous to the disadvantaged. The presence of disabled children in a classroom teaches both disabled and non-disabled kids that disability is nothing to fear or hate, and that disability is part of the human experience. If we’re lucky enough to live to an old age, we all become disabled eventually. Inclusion sends a crucial message to all students: If you’re born disabled or become disabled in your lifetime, society will build a place for you. You will not be cast out, discarded, left behind, or shunned as broken or inferior. This, in turn, reduces bullying, as several studies have shown. Disabled students who are not bullied will grow up to become happier, less stressed-out, and more confident, which will enable them to advocate for their own needs more effectively. I know that mainstreaming is not appropriate for every child. But the practice of inclusion boils down to giving every child what they need to realize their maximum potential and have the best chance of success.

MM: If you could offer one bit of advice to educators who regularly work with autistic and neurodiverse students, what would it be?

SS: Listen to autistic and other neurodivergent people. Read books by them, follow their blogs and tweets, and talk to them in person. There’s nothing like first-person perspectives to illuminate the experience of life for people who think differently. I would also recommend a book called Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry Prizant and Tom Fields-Meyer. It offers very helpful and compassionate insight into autistic experience of the sensory world and the nature of “difficult” behavior.

MM: It’s clear that NeuroTribes is a project you approached not only with great professionalism, but with great passion. How has this experience affected you personally?

SS: That passion increased as I did my research, because it became clear to me how many horrific abuses had been heaped on autistic people through the decades — everything from electric shocks, dangerous experimental “treatments,” lifelong institutionalization, and actual genocide, to the less-obvious bigotry of describing autistic children as being the hapless victims of a vaccine-induced global epidemic. The other day, I saw a video clip of Del Bigtree, the producer of Andrew Wakefield’s propaganda film Vaxxed, comparing autistic children to dogs and chimpanzees, because their minds are apparently incomprehensible to him. People used to talk that way about people of color too. Gay people like me were routinely described as sex-obsessed psychopaths and predators with mother issues, whose practices in the bedroom were too grotesque to be mentioned in civil society. (For the record, on our first date, my future husband and I went to a malt shop — it was more like Leave It to Beaver than Fifty Shades of Grey.) It’s as if we’ve had to discover, over and over again, that these beings we’ve characterized as foreign and strange and incomprehensible are just people. You know that famous line from cosmology about how it’s “turtles all the way down”? Well, the main lesson I learned from writing my book is that it’s people all the way down. And we all deserve a chance to live our lives to the fullest during our very brief time on Earth.

Art credit: Sarah Rebar/TED-Ed Blog

Author bio: Michael McWatters is a writer for TED-Ed Blog and UX Architect for TED. One of his twins, Colin, is autistic. Read more of his writing about autism on ASDDad and on Medium.

via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/08/17/a-qa-about-autism-with-steve-silberman-author-of-neurotribes/

Friday, August 12, 2016

How to start a parent newsletter that bridges school and home

Nola-Rae newsletter

Ask a kid how their day went at school and you may get a one-word answer: “Fine.” What’s a parent to do? For her TED-Ed Innovation Project, administrator Nola-Rae Cronan created a school newsletter template that’s designed to start more textured conversations at home.

Below are her notes on the project:

The goal of my project is to make parent communication easy for schools and families in three distinct areas: general school/grade topics, class/course specific material, and parent-focused advice.

The newsletters

I designed three newsletters — one in March for 8th grade, and two in May for 6th grade and 8th grade. I struggled to find a format that would be free and easy to work with, both of which I felt were needed to insure accessibility for any school.

The first newsletter was completed on Google Docs, which is a free and somewhat easy to format option. Unfortunately, the videos cannot play within the newsletter and the formatting becomes wonky on various devices/screens.

I continued looking for an alternative format and was introduced to Sway by Office while at EdCamp Detroit. Sway is easier to use than Google Docs and has unique features such as video playback, animation and easy updating. The May newsletters were both developed using Sway. Here’s the 8th grade newsletter and the 6th grade newsletter.

Let’s take a closer look at the 8th grade newsletter.

In the first section, I decided to address general grade specific concerns. I used this TED-Ed Lesson about sleep to drive home the importance of balance during the end of the year finals. This section can be used to communicate general parenting advice (sleep, eating, study strategies, etc.), general school updates (vacations, holidays, programs, etc.), and special concerns (social media issues, bullying, behavior).

In the second section, I focused on the course material covered. I asked teachers to suggest 3-5 topics that had been covered in class with in the last month. I then researched TED-Ed Lessons that would be a good fit (in the March newsletter I also included foreign language, and created the complete lesson in the target language). I decided to have the teachers give me topics vs having them look up TED-Ed Lessons, to reduce their workload in this project. In the future, it might be easier to have the faculty offer the newsletter author actual lesson titles to use, and/or create lessons for material not available. In this section, I encouraged parents to take a peek at what their kids were working on and to have conversations with their children about their understanding of the material. Within this section, each subject area was highlighted with a short description/explanation of the material and a TED-Ed Lesson.

The third and final section was designed just for parents. For this section, I chose a fun TED Talk about children lying to address the stereotype of “normal” adolescent behavior. This section can be related to parenting, or just a wonderful way to introduce parents to TED. It can also be a great way to encourage parents to have meaningful dialogue with one another in the discussion part of the TED-Ed Lesson or at a parent event at school.

Parent Feedback

I received 9 responses for the 8th grade newsletter with the following responses:
8/9 found the newsletter “helpful in understanding what your daughter is covering in class”
8/9 found the newsletter “easy to navigate”
8/9 responded ‘absolutely’ to “would you recommend this newsletter?”

When asked if there is “anything you would like to add?” I received the following:
“The videos provide variety and a different approach to conversation with our daughters. I see this as an excellent communication tool that can be used in multiple ways.”
“I would want to see more videos and get this newsletter on a regular basis as the girls are learning new concepts.”
“Great way to send information. Very easy to use and a fun experience!”

When asked how the newsletters could be improved, I received the following:
“These newsletters might be helpful if they were shorter and given more frequently during the school year.”
“Feature a teacher, so parents can become more acquainted.”
“I suggest you walk through an example of this at parent visiting day so that we have a greater awareness that this is available.”

Closing thoughts:

I really enjoyed making the project and the newsletters. I felt that the feedback, although a small sampling, was very positive. Additionally, working at a private school I am very conscious of the challenges some of our families might encounter. For some families, sending their student to our school might be a hardship financially, and the commitments we ask them to make to their students’ schooling can also be difficult. Asking parents to actively engage with topics and material they may have forgotten or may never have experienced could inadvertently widen the divide they feel to the school. This can also be true for public school families, or for any family. My hope is that schools will use my newsletter template to strengthen connections between parents, teachers, and students — and that families will find it to be a meaningful way to deepen dinner time conversations about school.

This article is part of the TED-Ed Innovation Project series, which highlights 25+ TED-Ed Innovation Projects designed by educators, for educators, with the support and guidance of the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program. You are welcome to share, duplicate and modify projects under this Creative Commons license to meet the needs of students and teachers.

via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/08/12/how-to-start-a-parent-newsletter-that-bridges-school-and-home/

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5 TED-Ed Lessons for book lovers

books image
When did novels stop being novel? Do comic books belong in school? How do you make a pop-up book, anyway? If you love books, then this playlist is for you. Watch the 5 TED-Ed Lessons below:

1. Who is Sherlock Holmes?

More than a century after first emerging into the fogbound, gaslit streets of Victorian London, Sherlock Holmes is universally recognizable. And yet many of his most recognizable features don’t appear in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. So who exactly is Sherlock Holmes? Who’s the real “great detective,” and where do we find him? Neil McCaw traces the evolution of Sherlock. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

2. The evolution of the book

What makes a book a book? Is it just anything that stores and communicates information? Or does it have to do with paper, binding, font, ink, its weight in your hands, the smell of the pages? To answer these questions, Julie Dreyfuss goes back to the start of the book as we know it to show how these elements came together to make something more than the sum of their parts. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

3. How fiction can change reality

Reading and stories can be an escape from real life, a window into another world — but have you ever considered how new fictional experiences might change your perspective on real, everyday life? From Pride and Prejudice to Harry Potter, learn how popular fiction can spark public dialogue and shape culture. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

4. Making a TED-Ed Lesson: Bringing a pop-up book to life

In ‘The Pangaea Pop-up’ Lesson, animator Biljana Labovic decided the best way to illustrate moving, shifting tectonic plates was to use a physical object that could also move and shift. Here, Labovic explains how she and her team of animators created a pop-up book to visualize Pangaea — and how you can make your own. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

5. Mining literature for deeper meanings

Writing a great English paper can be tough because literature doesn’t always reveal its deeper meanings immediately. You might not know Mr. Darcy’s true feelings for Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or grasp the complex moral universe of Toni Morrison’s Beloved at first reading. Amy E. Harter offers a few tips on how to read and write more critically and thoughtfully. Watch this TED-Ed Lesson below.

To learn something new every week, sign up for the TED-Ed Newsletter here >>

via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/08/09/5-ted-ed-lessons-for-book-lovers/

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A new curated digital collection of videos and learning resources for teachers everywhere

lessons for teachers 2
Kim Preshoff is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of science teachers in her community. With more than 25 years of classroom experience, she’s an expert at how to use the force of curiosity to keep kids engaged and learning. For her TED-Ed Innovation Project, Preshoff created a classroom-ready digital collection of 100+ great videos and learning resources about core topics in about art, history, science, and beyond. [To add a video to your school’s learning library, use the TED-Ed Lesson Creator.] Below, check out Preshoff’s curated collection of school-friendly videos and learning resources about art, history, science, and beyond:

  1. Art

  2. History and Global Studies

  3. Science

  4. Environment

  5. Nature

  6. Climate Change

  7. Space

  8. Food

  9. Animals

  10. Insects

  11. Forensics

  12. Earth Science

  13. Everything Human

  14. Superheroes

This article is part of the TED-Ed Innovation Project series, which highlights 25+ TED-Ed Innovation Projects designed by educators, for educators, with the support and guidance of the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program. You are welcome to share, duplicate and modify projects under this Creative Commons license to meet the needs of students and teachers.

Image credit: iStock

via TED-Ed Blog http://blog.ed.ted.com/2016/08/04/a-new-curated-digital-collection-of-videos-and-learning-resources-for-teachers-everywhere/