Reading stimulates white matter in kids–Get your kids reading
Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On November 13, 2012 (12:00 am) In Education, Lifestyle

Complex changes in brain connections as children learn how to read have been newly revealed in a study initiated by Israeli brain science researcher, Michal Ben-Shachar.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the study focuses on “white matter” – a network of pale, myelin-sheathed connections that allows information transfer between distant parts of the brain.

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Ben-Shachar and a team from Stanford University – where Ben-Shachar, a professor at Bar Ilan University, conducted her post-doctoral research — used an MRI-based non-invasive technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to track the development of reading skills and white matter connections in 55 children ages seven to 12 over a three-year period, and how they change over time.

“The nice thing about DTI is that it is really child friendly,” said Ben-Shachar, who continues to collaborate with two Stanford labs in researching the development of reading in children born prematurely. “In a 12-minute scan you can collect high-quality data from the whole brain, while the child is lying still watching a movie.”

Counterintuitive findings

The National Institutes of Health-funded study was conducted between 2004 and 2007, and collected so much data that it took years to organize and analyze it.

The results were somewhat surprising. Children who became good readers initially had lower levels of white matter in the areas of the brain associated with reading, but these levels grew rapidly during the three-year test period.

However, children who became below-average readers started out with more white matter in the areas associated with reading, and these levels declined over time — suggesting that these children were not creating and strengthening the neural pathways key to reading ability.

Bar-Ilan’s Michal Ben-Shachar.
Bar-Ilan’s Michal Ben-Shachar.

“When we looked at the first year of collected data, in an article published last year in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, it really struck us as so surprising to see a reverse correlation between white matter and reading ability,” Ben-Shachar tells ISRAEL21c. “This [new] paper helps us make sense of it, because we see the weaker readers start with stronger connections that decline over time.”

She speculates that this may be because during the first three years of life, children grow many brain connections and then start “pruning” ones they don’t use in order to strengthen the more relevant connections. “Perhaps there is not enough pruning in the brains of kids who become poor readers,” she suggests.

Sets the tone for future studies

Most developmental imaging studies compare brain measurements in groups of children and adults, while this one was unique in that it followed the same group of children over a long period of time.

“By doing so, we discovered that the changes in brain connections are more informative about reading skill than the measurement at a specific point in time,” says Ben-Shachar.

“This is really important if we are ever going to use MRI as a diagnostic tool in education, in addition to standard behavioral tools. It means we will have to assess the child more than once in order to look at dynamic developmental changes, because change is more important than absolute measures at a particular time point.”

At her Bar-Ilan lab, Ben-Shachar is working with Ethiopian immigrants for whom Hebrew is their first written language, in the hope of identifying how the adult brain changes as literacy is acquired.

Along with Ofer Amir and Ruth Ezrati from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Shachar recently won a prestigious grant from the Israel Science Foundation to study white matter pathways in the brains of adults who stutter.

Meanwhile, she goes to California each summer to participate in the ongoing child imaging studies at Stanford.

Twitter, like Facebook, is dynamic and constantly changing. solves that problem for talking software and Easy Chirp solves the twitter problem. Easy Chirp (just click on that link) will guide you through the process of twitting as much as you would like, with easier access to other tweets.

Try it out and see how it works for you.

19 Ways to Step Back–Adapted from Classroom Collaboration, by Laurel J. Hudson, Ph.D. (Perkins School for the Blind)

It often feels right to give help to students with visual impairments, but this may not be in their best interest.  Use this list to help yourself to step back.

  1. You’re stepping back so your students can step forward and become independent.  Keep this in mind.                                                        
  2. Clock how long it actually takes for students to start zippers, pick up dropped papers, or find page numbers.  What’s a few more seconds in the grander scheme?                                                                                           
  3. Sit on your hands for a whole task while you practice giving verbal instead of touch cues.  Hands off the hands!
  4. If you need touch cues, try hand-under-hand instead of hand-over-hand.  This gives students much more choice.
  5. Let your students make mistakes and get into trouble.  It’s part of the human experience!     
  6. Acknowledge your own needs.  There’s a reason you chose the helping profession.
  7. Sit further away.  If you’ve been within arm’s reach, sit just within earshot.  If you’ve been sitting just within earshot, sit across the room                                          
  1. Pat yourself on the back every time you help with seeing, not thinking.  Your job is to give information.
  2. Even though helping can feel right, be aware that too much assistance is short-sighted.  Sometimes less is more, less is better.
  3. Catch yourself before you correct your students’ work.  Don’t cover for them.  This is about their skills… not yours.
  4. Commit to no intervention for a whole activity.  Take data instead.  Things might not fall apart as much as you had expected.
  5. “What page are we on?” “What’s for lunch?” Have students ask their classmates instead of you, both during school and on the telephone.
  6. Assign student learning partners and sighted guides.
  7. Teach students to decline assistance, “Thanks, but please let me try it by myself.”
  8. Whenever you add prompts, include a plan to phase them out.
  9. Let the boss know that you need to step back so that your students can be more independent.  You’re not shirking your responsibilities.
  10. Collaborate with other adults to break your habits of helping too much.  Agree to remind each other to step back.
  11. Try helping only when classroom teachers give you a signal.  They may prefer to respond directly or to give students longer to work it out alone.
  12. Post a sign, “Are there any other ways I could step back?”




The Chaffee Amendment in 1996 addressed the concerns of accessibility.  Below is an excerpt from

(a) IN GENERAL–Chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 120 the following new section:
“SEC.121. Limitations on exclusive rights: reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities
“(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 710, it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or to distribute copies or phonorecords of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies or phonorecords are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.
(1) Copies or phonorecords to which this section applies shall–
“(A) not be reproduced or distributed in a format other than a specialized format exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities;
“(B) bear a notice that any further reproduction or distribution in a format other than a specialized format is an infringement; and
“(C) include a copyright notice identifying the copyright owner and the date of the original publication.
“(2) The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to standardized, secure, or norm-referenced tests and related testing material, or to computer programs, except the portions thereof that are in conventional human language (including descriptions of pictorial works) and displayed to users in the ordinary course of using the computer programs.
” (c) For purposes of this section, the term–
“(1) ‘authorized entity’ means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities;
“(2) ‘blind or other persons with disabilities’ means individuals who are eligible or who may qualify in accordance with the Act entitled ‘An Act to provide books for the adult blind’, approved March 3, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 35a; 46 Stat. 1487) to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats; and
“(3) ‘specialized formats’ means braille, audio, or digital text which is exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities.”.
(b) TECHNICAL AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT–The table of sections for chapter 1 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after the item relating to section 120 the following:
“121. Limitations on exclusive rights: reproduction for blind or other people with disabilities.”.

Sensational BlackBoard offers a fun, fast, easy and inexpensive way to get tactile access to images. Draw your own raised line pictures or you can have photo copy images of text book or research materials quickly traced.


  • Light weight at just 7 ounces.
  • Flexible enough to not break in your backpack but rigid enough to draw on your lap.
  • Smooth surface holds the paper in place. No clamps makes it easy to tuck into a briefcase or binder 11 1/2” x 9”.
  • Inexpensive since it is designed to be used with a regular ball point pen and standard copy paper.

Go to: to see a video on this great tool

The National Reading Media Assessment (NRMA) is live online and ready for  teachers in the field to use! This research-based, standardized assessment  tool determines whether each child who is assessed should be taught  Braille, print, or both. Thorough yet time-efficient, teachers can complete, save, and print assessments using this secure site.

To begin an  assessment or for more information, please visit  Contact us with your questions and comments on the feedback page at, or by calling (410) 659-9314,

extension 2529.

For more information, contact:

Department of Education

the Jernigan Institute

National Federation of the Blind

Tel: (410) 659-9314 ext. 2529


For the low vision user who is connected to the teacher’s computer with their iPad–with something like airdisplay or any other device that will extend the teacher’s screen, the student can now take a screen shot of say a math problem and freeze it on their iPad so they can complete the problem.

The student will hold in the iPad’s power button and press the Home button, to take a screen shot. That imagine is a picture and is stored on the iPad with the other pictures. The teacher (or student) can then open that picture  from their camera: type on the top right hand corner and open in any “art” type app, such as SAS Gloss (free app) and then write directly on the imagine. So, if the teacher is doing a math problem, the student can snap a screen shot, open that picture in SAS Gloss and draw/type the answer, notes, etc. These images can be saved, emailed, etc. Fantastic way to have more options

ZoomText Magnifier enlarges and enhances everything on your computer screen, making all of your applications easy to see and use. For more information, go to

Product Downloads


ZoomText 11


Start ZoomText= Control + Alt + Shift + Z

Enable/Disable ZoomText= Caps Lock + Control + Enter

Zoom to 1x= Caps + Enter

Increase Magnification= Caps Lock + Up Arrow

Decrease Magnification= Caps Lock + Down Arrow


Launch App Reader= Caps Lock + Alt + A

Launch App Reader from Pointer= Caps Lock + Alt + Left Click

Switch Between App View and Text View= Tab while App Reader is on

SpeakIt= Caps Lock + Alt + S

Pause and start App Reader= Enter

Exit Reader= Escape

Voice On and Off= Caps Lock + Alt + Enter


Jump Left= Caps Lock + Control + Left Arrow

Jump Right= Caps Lock + Control + Right Arrow

Jump Top= Caps Lock + Control + Up Arrow

Jump Bottom= Caps Lock + Control + Down Arrow

Jump Center= Command Incorrect in Manual


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