Thursday December 14, 2017

Musicon: A Rotating Wooden Drum developed by a Polish Musician to help Educate Children

Musicon is not only music, it is only a tool for learning, for development

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Musicon, an analog wooden musical instrument based around a rotating drum, resembles a giant music box. VOA
  • Musicon is not a music instrument but a learning device
  • It has been created by a Polish musician
  • It can help with autism and Asperger syndrome

Warsaw, June 6, 2017: A Polish musician has created an unusual interactive instrument – a larger-than-life music box bristling with xylophones and drums – that he says can help educate children and aid their development through musical play.

The Musicon comprises a rotating wooden drum fitted with removable smaller instruments. Children play notes by placing pegs in holes on the rotating drum’s surface – much like a music box – but one that allows children to play any melody they like.

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“Musicon is not only music, it is only a tool for learning, for development,” said Kamil Laszuk, who invented the instrument and has developed it with the help of a team of close friends. “There is also programming here, learning physics, cooperation in a team and also the development of manual skills. Music is the reward.”

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Laszuk developed the instrument for a project during his industrial design studies at Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts.

Following a positive reaction to his creation, his parents sold their house to help fund its development.

Warsaw’s Synapsis Foundation, which helps children with autism and Asperger syndrome, suggested the instrument could be enjoyable for children suffering from those conditions.

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“It is very important that there is no possibility of failure, that they can freely experiment in their own way,” psychologist Joanna Burgiell said.

The instrument is due to go into production by the end of 2017.(VOA)

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Bacterial infection in pregnancy may up autism risk in kids

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Bacterial infection in pregnancy may up autism risk in kids. Pixabay

New York, September 15, 2017: Babies born to mothers who experience a bacterial infection severe enough to require hospitalisation during pregnancy may be at higher risk of developing autism, a study has found.

The study, conducted on mice, revealed that the composition of bacterial populations in the mother’s digestive tract can influence whether maternal infection leads to repetitive behaviour and impaired sociability — autistic-like behaviours in offspring.

Further, irregularities that the researchers call “patches” are most common in a part of the brain known as “S1DZ” and were responsible for the behavioural abnormalities seen in mice.

“We identified a very discrete brain region that seems to be modulating all the behaviours associated with this particular model of neurodevelopmental disorder,” said Gloria Choi, Assistant Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the paper appearing in the journal Nature.

A second study in the same jounal, revealed that not all mothers who experience severe infection end up having child with autism, and similarly not all the mice in the maternal inflammation model develop behavioural abnormalities.

“This suggests that inflammation during pregnancy is just one of the factors. It needs to work with additional factors to lead all the way to that outcome,” Choi said.

Moreover, the researchers found that only the offspring of mice with one specific type of harmless bacteria, known as segmented filamentous bacteria, had behavioural abnormalities and cortical patches.

When the researchers killed those bacteria with antibiotics, the mice produced normal offspring.

If validated in human studies, the findings could offer a possible way to reduce the risk of autism, which would involve blocking the function of certain strains of bacteria found in the maternal gut, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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Children with Autism can look Forward to Art therapy for Treatment

Discovering ways in which art therapy can help children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder: The results of a small scale survey

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Art Therapy for Autistic Children
Art Therapy for Autistic Children, pixabay
  • The estimates are- 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by age 8 each year as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Some of the best practices found out (which Art Therapists can work upon) after the survey was: use the same routine to begin each session, explain instructions in a consistent manner, spark curiosity to teach new skills and be aware of transitions between activities

Florida (US), July 28, 2017: A Researcher from Florida State University is working with art therapists in order to find better ways to treat children having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder is the name for a group of the developmental disorder and includes a wide range, a spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.

People with ASD often have these characteristics:

  • Ongoing social problems like difficulty in communicating and interacting with others
  • Repetitive behaviors and limited interests or activities
  • Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life
  • Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life

Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. One such mode of treatment is Art Therapy, it promotes mental and emotional growth through art making. It is conducted with the aim of building life skills, addressing deficits and problem behaviors, and promoting healthy self-expression. Clients are encouraged to explore and express themselves using art materials

To Help People with Autism, Researchers Develop System to detect Sarcasm on Social Media

Theresa Van Lith, assistant professor of art therapy in FSU’s Department of Art Education, led a study that surveyed art therapists working with children with ASD to develop a clearer understanding of the techniques used and approaches. Van Lith said, “I had noticed that is there is a high number of art therapists working with people who have autism, but I wanted to understand what their words of wisdom were in terms of how they go about facilitating art therapy sessions.” She added, “We want to make it a transparent process for the client or the parents of a client, so they know what to expect.”

The estimates are- 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by age 8 each year as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As that population grows, more parents and educators are reaching out to art therapists to address social development and sensory issues that generally accompany ASD.

Creative Kids-Specific Activities organised to mark World Autism Awareness Day

The research team compiled the art therapists’ expert opinions and analyzed them. It was on topics like what worked with ASD clients, their objectives during a session, their most preferred theoretical approach and the considerations they had to make when working with children with ASD.

She realized that there wasn’t a consensus with the theoretical approaches they used.  “They had to use a number of theoretical approaches together, and we wanted to understand what that would be like in practice,” Van Lith said.

Though the survey results varied, the researchers were able to develop a set of guidelines for delivering art therapy to children who have ASD. The proposed guidelines will serve as a basis for successful practice for new art therapy professionals and also for further studies. Van Lith intended, “We used these practice wisdom from art therapists around the field to understand the most effective and beneficial way to use art therapy with child with ASD.”

Autistic child doing painting
An autistic child doing painting. Pixabay

Some of the best practices found out after the survey was: use the same routine to begin each session, explain instructions in a consistent manner, spark curiosity to teach new skills and be aware of transitions between activities.

The researchers also noted the aspects of practice that were found, not to be useful such as being overly directive or too loose with direction, using over stimulating art materials and forcing or being restrictive with communication styles. That’s important because sometimes there is the assumption of why can’t anyone do these techniques? People wonder why art therapy can’t be conducted in a much less formal situation. However, they don’t realize there are nuances in the way we (art therapists) deliver the art therapy directive — a lot of that is about knowing the client and the way a client responds to communication.

Based on these guidelines and consensus, Van Lith is rolling out a larger study to demonstrate the efficacy of that working model. “The idea is that, over time, we can build up the evidence that art therapy is effective for these children, and we can demonstrate the how and why,” said Van Lith said.

The ultimate goal will be- to educate art therapists about best practices as well as inform clients, parents, and teachers about possible benefits of art therapy for children with such medical condition.

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“When there will be more transparency, the clients will be able to appreciate or understand some of the changes that might be going on for them as they receive art therapy,” Van Lith said. They don’t want it to be a mysterious process for them.

Van Lith co-authored the study with Jessica Stallings, associate professor at Emporia State University, and FSU alumna Chelsea Harris, who practices at the Emory Autism Center. This study was published this month in the journal Arts in Psychotherapy.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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To Help People with Autism, Researchers Develop System to detect Sarcasm on Social Media

Based on machine translation, the new system, called Sarcasm SIGN (sarcasm Sentimental Interpretation GeNerator), turns sarcastic sentences into honest (non-sarcastic) ones

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Social Media, sarcasm
Researchers Develop System to detect Sarcasm on Social Media. Pixabay
  • In order to teach the system to produce accurate interpretations, the researchers compiled a database of 3,000 sarcastic tweets
  • Based on machine translation, the new system, called Sarcasm SIGN (sarcasm Sentimental Interpretation GeNerator)
  • The system was examined by a number of (human) judges, who gave its interpretations high scores of fluency and adequacy

New York, June 24, 2017: To help people with autism, who often have difficulty interpreting sarcasm, irony and humour, researchers have developed a system for interpreting sarcastic statements posted on social media.

“There are a lot of systems designed to identify sarcasm, but this is the first that is able to interpret sarcasm in written text,” said Lotam Peled from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology.

“We hope in the future, it will help people with autism and Asperger’s,” Peled, who developed that system under the guidance of Assistant Professor Roi Reichart, added.

Based on machine translation, the new system, called Sarcasm SIGN (sarcasm Sentimental Interpretation GeNerator), turns sarcastic sentences into honest (non-sarcastic) ones.

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It will, for example, turn a sarcastic sentence such as, “The new ‘Fast and Furious’ movie is awesome. #sarcasm” into the honest sentence, “The new Fast and Furious movie is terrible.”

Despite the vast development in this field, and the successes of sentiment analysis applications on “social media intelligence,” existing applications do not know how to interpret sarcasm, where the writer writes the opposite of what he/she actually means.

In order to teach the system to produce accurate interpretations, the researchers compiled a database of 3,000 sarcastic tweets that were tagged with #sarcasm, where each tweet was interpreted into a non-sarcastic expression by five human experts.

In addition, the system was trained to identify words with strong sarcastic sentiments and to replace them with strong words that reveal the true meaning of the text.

The system was examined by a number of (human) judges, who gave its interpretations high scores of fluency and adequacy, agreeing that in most cases it produced a semantically and linguistically correct sentence, the American Technion Society (ATS) which provides critical support to the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, said in a statement. (IANS)