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It’s a digital world, and mobile devices have become almost universal for people of all ages. Many kids have them too although most of the conversation revolves around the countless apps related to social media and gaming. The truth is, however, that the compact power of mobile computing has led to the creation to apps in fields as diverse as science, medicine, the arts and more. Perhaps best of all are the apps created to help kids with special needs. Here are five!
1. Nonverbal or Verbally-Impaired: CoughDrop AAC (iOS, Android, Amazon, Windows, Web)
For some children, verbal communication can be extremely difficult. In response, experts developed special software for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). These apps allow kids to communicate by touching the screen. In effect, the app gives words to those who can’t speak. AAC technology has proven to be especially useful for children with autism — indeed, intensive use of AAC apps has been known to dramatically improve the speech abilities of autistic kids.
2. Socialization and Scheduling: ChoiceWorks (iOS)
Many children with special needs have a hard time sitting still and expressing their feelings. ChoiceWorks provide visual cues to help them do both of these things. It’s also a scheduling app, designed to keep your kid’s day organized and structured so they can stick to their all-important routine.
3. ADHD: Unstuck (web app, free downloadable app)
Kids with ADHD tend to have a variety of struggles, but one of the most frustrating is getting mentally “stuck.” A student might be working on an assignment, but just get overwhelmed with information, pressure, and the countless decisions required. Unstuck is a great app for tackling that feeling. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy principles to help steer the user away from unhealthy thinking, all the while helping put words to feelings.
4. ADHD: SimpleMind (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)
Mind Mapping is a very big deal these days, especially in the creative fields. These apps use a graphical interface to visualize thoughts and ideas, and have been used for developing software, writing screenplays and just plain getting organized. Mind Mapping has also shown great promise in helping people with ADHD bring order to their thoughts and feelings and just generally get stuff done.
5. Dyslexia: Ghotit Writer (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac)
Reading and writing can be difficult for anyone, but when dyslexia is part of the equation, it can be a painful struggle. That’s where Ghotit comes in. It helps you read with sophisticated text-to-speech technology, and helps you write by employing a very advanced contextualized spelling and grammar check that predicts the word you’re looking for and catches contextual mistakes that standard spell check software easily misses. Ghotit is an expensive app, unfortunately, but it has received very high marks from parents and educators.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be a serious condition, and while we tend to associate it with people who have had dramatic brushes with death (such as combat soldiers), it can affect people from all walks of life, including children and adolescents. While exceptionalities such as ADHD and dyslexia are perhaps more commonly associated with young folk, PTSD can also have a profound impact on learning and achievement. Let us, therefore, take a closer look at this malady.
What is PTSD?
Boiled down to a simple description, PTSD is a mental health disorder that results from a person having an experience that brings them close to death or makes them feel extreme fear. Survivors of natural disasters and terrifying phenomena like car crashes and child abuse are known to experience PTSD as a result. In essence, the brain gets locked into a kind of “survival mode,” as though the traumatic event could happen again at any moment. PTSD afflicts the survivor with flashbacks as well as powerful feelings of anxiety, sadness and/or anger.
Imagine surviving a nightmare such as a plane crash. Now imagine you’re stuck in that moment for years. That is PTSD.
What are the effects of PTSD on young people?
Young folks with PTSD often struggle with school. They can find it very hard to regulate their emotions, sometimes acting out inappropriately and getting in trouble. What’s more, they frequently resort to alcohol or drugs to numb their pain, which in turn can lead to bad choices — and more trauma.
The worst thing about PTSD is that it usually ends up causing the very worst thing for someone with PTSD: alienation.
How is PTSD treated?
In many cases, the symptoms of PTSD will eventually fade away as the young person begins to feel safe again. In other cases, a variety of treatments are available that have been shown to be very effective. In younger kids, play therapy has shown excellent results, with a combination of play and craft helping the child process their feelings.
In older kids, therapies include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which is designed to modify one’s responses to stimuli — in this case to train the young person to avert that “survival mode” in favor of something more peaceful. Psychological first aid (PFA) is usually introduced as soon as possible after the traumatic event and is designed to soothe the young person and make them feel safe. Other, more specialized treatments are sometimes employed when necessary (for instance in the case of abuse victims).
The important thing is to seek help as soon as possible, because while left untreated PTSD may go away on its own, it could also result in tragedy.
What’s the most important thing to know about PTSD?
Whether combat veteran or traumatized teen, PTSD is made much worse with social isolation. In our society it is often very difficult to form deep connections with other people, but that is the most important way to help someone overcome their PTSD. That feeling of being understood, of empathy and togetherness, is the very best way to restore a feeling of safety to a survivor of trauma. While high school difficulties such as bullying or gossip might threaten to push someone with PTSD over the edge, things like a tight social circle, unquestioned friendship and unconditional familial love can bring healing.
Basketball, football, baseball, volleyball, oh my! We’re used to high school sports having a certain uniformity. That, however, is simply the result of our own cultural experience. While certain sports like soccer and basketball are practically universal worldwide, American football is rarely played outside the United States. Similarly, many sports that are routinely practiced in schools around the world are unique to their cultures. Let’s take a look at some of them!
The sport of judo was created in Japan, but that doesn’t mean it’s ancient. In fact, judo was created in the late 1800s and only became popularized in the 20th Century. Japanese high schoolers compete in this sport in a very big way, though it’s worth noting that judo has also developed a worldwide following as well.
If you find yourself traveling across China, your wanderings may take you past the occasional high school. And if this should happen, you may be treated to a view that is, in fact, entirely normal for China: large numbers of students practicing kung-fu outdoors on school grounds. Alone or in groups, punching, kicking, blocking, even using swords, halberds or other weapons. Despite the skill required to practice kung-fu correctly, it’s not that big a deal in the nation of its birth. Just another part of school life.
Here’s one that’s very gentle, even graceful. Chinlone combines team-based ball sports with dance. There is no score, and there are no points. The team passes the ball among themselves, resembling the keep-me-up performed by soccer players. However the kicking is combined with dance, so the whole thing takes on a fascinating, graceful performance as the players try to keep the ball — which is traditionally woven from rattan — from hitting the ground.
Australian Rules Football (Australia)
This is a game that may actually cause pain just to watch. Dating back to the mid-1800s, “Footy” (as it’s it’s often called) looks at first blush like an intense game of rugby. However Australian Rules Football does not allow passing, and is a full-contact sport that allows contacts — without padding — that can be very intense indeed. However its popularity among Australians continues to grow, with over 600,000 Aussies currently registered as players.
Originally created centuries ago as a way for young men to prove their worth, Moraingy is essentially a form of bare-knuckled boxing that is now practiced by both boys and girls. However, it is not as rough as it sounds. There is a referee, and they generally aren’t going for knockouts. The sport also has it own set of dance-like moves, and in fact there is a religious component to the sport, as it is usually accompanied by music that is known to lull fighters and spectators alike into a trancelike state. What’s more, between bouts the boxers perform dances.
Not many sports have been listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage assets by the UN and set aside for protection, but Capoeira has. Hundreds of years ago, Brazil, then part of the Portuguese empire, employed huge numbers of slaves, and those slaves would escape into the jungle whenever they could. Those slaves would be hunted down by professional slave-catchers, so the fugitive slaves would have to defend themselves against very well-armed attackers. This led to the creation of Capoeira, a form of unarmed combat that employs wild moves and dodges designed to confuse a foe. After many hundreds of years (and repeated attempts at banning) what was originally a self-defense technique is now much closer to a form of acrobatic performance. Capoeira has been exported around the world and is now performed on every continent, but in Brazil it remains a powerful cultural tradition.
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Elon Musk is, without doubt, an extraordinary person. Born in South Africa, Musk made his fortune with PayPal, eventually selling out to form a veritable galaxy of companies and technologies. These include electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla, private space company Space-X, the remarkable HyperLoop technology that promises to revolutionize high speed ground transport, and cutting-edge solar power manufacturer SolarCity. He even created a “Boring Company” (yes that’s really its name) designed to dig massive underground tunnels beneath cities like Los Angeles in order to reduce traffic congestion. He’s among the wealthiest people on earth, with an estimated net worth of $15.2 billion. Among his initiatives, however, is a particularly tantalizing effort: he built a school.
Elon Musk is a dad with five sons: a pair of twins born in 2004, and a set of triplets born in 2006. By all accounts Musk is a devoted, involved dad, and when they began attending school in early 2010 Musk was dissatisfied with the education they were receiving. This isn’t about private versus public school but rather the education models used by pretty much all schools in America. Well, Musk didn’t like it and so, as an entrepreneurial tinker, he started his own school, originally for the children of Space-X employees called, appropriately enough, Ad Astra (to the stars).
Ad Astra has one philosophy at its core: student-centered learning. This is an unorthodox approach that, in the case of Ad Astra, employs individualized courses of study that allows students to pursue their interests and passions in addition to required material. According to Musk, the goal is to have education adjust to the unique characteristics of each student, rejecting what Musk calls the “mass production” approach of current schooling that requires young people to adjust to fit the system.
“Some people love English or languages. Some people love math. Some people love music. Different abilities, different times,” Musk says. “It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities.”
The school does not have grades, with all students learning together and helping one another when needed, and whenever possible the goal is to emphasize hands-on learning. According to Musk, the goal is to empower students to follow their passions while encouraging each student to focus on problem-solving.
The latest reports have indicated that Ad Astra is still a very small endeavor, with only around two dozen students enrolled. And is it working? Musk himself insists it does indeed work — almost to a fault. He says his sons now prefer school over holidays, and get fidgety when they’ve been away from school too long.
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