Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani blogger who was shot in the head by the Taliban outside her school last October, is returning to school in Birmingham, England after enduring numerous surgeries and intensive medical procedures. Yousafzai was targeted because of her public criticism of the Taliban’s policies toward girls’ education.
More from NBC News:
Malala Yousafzai is attending classes in Birmingham, England, and not her homeland, where the Taliban had vowed to make another attempt on her life.
Still, it was a sweet victory for a 15-year-old who endured multiple surgeries to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing after she was shot on her way home from school Oct. 9.
“It’s what I dreamed,” she said in a video released by the public relations firm that works with her family.
“I dream for all the children that they should go to their school because it’s their right…their basic right.”
Image: School supplies, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
The latest statistics on the number of U.S. children affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD) shows a rise even from last year, with 1 in 50 school-aged children affected. The numbers come from the National Center for Health Statistics, and they are even more alarming than the data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control, which estimated 1 in 88 U.S. kids to have autism. USA Today has more on the new information, as researchers ponder whether the data reflects rising autism occurrence, or better diagnostic tools:
The present study asked 100,000 parents across the country a range of health questions, including whether their child had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and whether he or she currently had the diagnosis. The autism spectrum includes autism, the most severe form, as well as Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
The study looked at children ages 6-17 and was based on parent reports, while last year’s study looked at 8-year-olds whose diagnosis was noted in school district or other official records.
The fact that the new study found such high rates implies that “there will likely be more demand for (autism-related) services than we had previously thought,” said study author Stephen J. Blumberg, a senior scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics.
The new study, like most others, found that boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.
The parents’ answers to the two survey questions also suggests that 15% to 20% of children who were once diagnosed with autism no longer have the condition. Blumberg said the study cannot say whether they lost the diagnosis because they outgrew the condition, or because they were misdiagnosed in the first place.
The higher numbers recorded in the new study suggest that officials are getting better at counting kids with autism – not that more have the condition, several experts said.
“I don’t see any evidence that there’s a true increase in the prevalence of autism,” said Roy Richard Grinker, a professor of anthropology at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Image: Boy, via Shutterstock
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Parents have been found to emphasize educational math activities at home far less than other academic pursuits like reading and paying attention, the result of which is American children lagging behind in math skills. A new study from PBS KIDS found that many parents do not know that research places math skills at kindergarten age as a greater predictor of academic achievement later in life than reading or other skills.
PBS’s “It All Adds Up” study was conducted in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and presented at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas. Some of the major findings:
- Nearly 30% of parents reported anxiety about teaching their child math. Anxiety is even greater for moms (33%) and parents with an education level of high school or less (32%).
- 60% percent of parents of 5-8-year-olds practice math daily with their kids, whereas only half of parents of 2-4-year-olds do; Parents are also more likely to practice reading skills with their kids than they are to practice math.
- Parents place less emphasis on math, since they view other skills as “the greatest predictor of achievement later in life,” ranking reading and literacy (26%) and the ability to pay attention and work hard (47%) as most indicative versus math (14%).
Encouragingly, the survey found that 84 percent of parents believe it is important to support their child’s learning with home-based activities, and PBS KIDS is developing mobile apps and other resources for parents to use to bring more math into their home learning.
“The early years of life are most critical for learning both literacy and math; in fact, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics because they are not getting consistent support from a young age,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS, in a statement. “The good news is that there are simple things parents can do to support early math learning that can all add up to make a big difference. We know that parents trust PBS KIDS and look to us for ways to support their kids’ learning, and we are excited to offer parents and caregivers free resources they can use on their mobile phones or computers, and offline activity ideas that make anytime a learning time.”
Image: Child doing math, via Shutterstock
Friday, March 15th, 2013
Babies may prefer to be around individuals who pick on, or even mildly bully, members of a group who are different in some way from the others. Researchers at Yale University and the University of British Columbia have determined their findings based on a study of babies who were observing puppets, beans, and balls. The results may help scientists better understand the roots of violence and discrimination, the Boston Globe reports:
Led by scientists at Yale University and the University of British Columbia, the researchers posed a complicated social scenario to 9-month-old and 14-month-old babies: If they saw a rabbit puppet who was either similar or different from them in some fundamental way—in this case, preferring graham crackers or green beans—would they care how others treated the rabbit?
The researchers already knew two basic things about the choices and preferences of infants. Just like adults, who tend to like people who are similar to them, babies are drawn to others who share their tastes in food and toys. Hollywood movies leverage our impulse to cheer for do-gooder heroes over villains; babies similarly prefer a character that helps someone else climb a mountain rather than pushing them down it, a previous study had shown.
But would babies always, universally, prefer heroes to villains? Or would their preference depend on who was being helped or hindered? The researchers wondered: would they see the enemy of their enemy as a friend?
“I was surprised, and my liberal bleeding heart sunk like a stone, when we found them actually choosing, really robustly, the puppet who punishes” the rabbit puppet that did not share the baby’s preference, said Karen Wynn, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale and senior author of the work, published in the journal Psychological Science.
Image: Rabbit puppet, via Shutterstock
Friday, March 15th, 2013
A preschool teacher from Morgan Hill, California has been fired–and arrested–amid allegations that she put sleeping pills in the sippy cups of kids who are not yet 2 years old. More from ABC News:
“We do not know the quantity, but we believe she was breaking the pill into smaller pieces and putting it into the children’s sippy cups,” Morgan Hill Sgt. of Investigations Troy Hoefling told ABC News.
The school told ABC News it had “terminated” Debbie Gratz, 59, last Friday “for failure to follow Kiddie Academy standards and processes.”
“Ms. Gratz was witnessed adding a substance to the water cups for her classroom of 10 children,” Morgan Hill Kiddie Academy added in a prepared statement. “The cups were confiscated before they came in contact with any children prior to the academy opening for business that day.”
A fellow employee saw Gratz place an unknown substance in the toddler’s sippy cups on Friday and notified school officials, according to Morgan Hill Police – though police apparently weren’t told until Monday.
“They made notifications internally. Unfortunately, the problem with that is not only do we not get on the case right away but we lose precious evidence,” Hoefling told ABC News. “We only found out those cups had been washed out and rinsed.”
Police said they had no plans to charge the school regarding the delay in reporting the incident, but the district attorney could review the matter.
Image: Sippy cup, via Shutterstock