Christian Boer, a graphic designer from the Netherlands, has created a new font called Dyslexie that decreases the number of errors made by dyslexics while reading. As a student at the University of Twente, Boer developed the typeface as a way to address his own dyslexia; it later became his graduate school project. The font works by changing the appearance of some letters of the alphabet that are commonly confused or reversed by dyslexics. For example, Boer has added weight to the bottom of the letters so that there is a sense of “gravity,” which helps readers avoid misconstruing similar letters such as “p” and “d.” Other changes include enlarging the opening of some letters such as “e” and “c,” and increasing the length of the descenders in letters like “g” and “y.” The space between letters and between words has been increased to allow readers more time to process information; punctuation is also more prominent. Originally developed for the Dutch language, Boer has recently released the font in English, and U.S. users can purchase it online. According to a recent article in Scientific American, a fellow student at the University of Twente has conducted an independent study and discovered “a significant reduction in reading errors by dyslexics when reading Dutch text typed in Dyslexie as opposed to the Arial font” (Scientific American online edition, October 26, 2011). To see an example of Dyslexie and a short video about how it helps dyslexics to read more easily, visit Boer’s Web site, www.studiostudio.nl/project-dyslexie/, and click on the English language icon at the top of the page. What do you think? Could a specially designed font help your dyslexic clients? Leave a comment—PAR wants to hear from you!   [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLtYFcHx7ec]
Some of the world’s best ideas happen by accident – as did the creation of animal-assisted therapy (AAT). In the 1950s, psychologist Boris Levinson discovered that his dog, Jingles, was able to engage a child with autism in a way that humans had not been able to. Since that time, the theory and practice of using animals in therapeutic ways has grown and a substantial body of research has documented the health benefits unique to the human-animal bond. The Delta Society is an organization dedicated to improving people’s lives through positive interactions with animals. The society trains dogs, the most frequently used therapy animals, but also trains cats, birds, reptiles, and more. According to their research, when people hold or stroke an animal, their blood pressure lowers, their ability to be more extroverted and verbal increases, and the individual reports a decreased sense of loneliness and an increase in self-esteem. Another organization, the Equine Assisted Growth & Learning Association (EAGALA), focuses specifically on how horses and humans work together to improve mental health. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy have been documented through studies with many different groups, from children with pervasive developmental disorders to senior citizens in assisted living situations. Studies have even gone so far as to say that statistics show that individuals exposed to AAT in psychiatric rehabilitation settings exhibit better outcomes than those in a control group that did not have the benefit of AAT, with the AAT group scoring higher on interaction, sociability, and responsiveness to surroundings. EAGALA has found that equine-assisted therapy has been helpful with at-risk youth, military, veteran, and trauma populations. Do you use animals in your practice? How have they helped your clients?  
Are you attending the National Academy of Neuropsychology’s 31st Annual Conference? PAR will be exhibiting during this year’s conference, so please stop by the booth to say hello. Several PAR authors will be presenting during the conference, as well. PAR author Randy K. Otto, PhD, ABPP will be presenting a CE course on Wednesday, November 16 at 1 p.m. entitled “Ethics in Forensic Psychological Practice.” Dr. Otto is coauthor of the Inventory of Legal Knowledge™ (ILK™). On Friday, November 18 at 1 p.m., PAR authors Sarah Raskin, PhD and Carol Buckheit, along with PAR project director Christina Sherrod, PhD, will be giving a CE workshop called “The Memory for Intentions Test™: Administration, Psychometric Properties, and Clinical Evidence.” Stop by and learn more about this measure. Bring any product questions to the PAR booth, where you can learn more about our products, speak to our Clinical Assessment Consultants about your testing needs, and place your orders. Remember, all orders made during NAN 2011 get a 15% discount plus free shipping and handling. See you in Marco Island!

Those who practice meditation tout the benefits of this practice, but is there any truth to the idea that meditation can influence one’s psychological health? In a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness, 16 healthy individuals were given MRIs two weeks before beginning a mindfulness-based stress reduction course. During this course, individuals took part in weekly classes, listened to guided meditation audio recordings, and logged the amount of time they meditation on their own each day, with the average being about 27 minutes. The same participants were given a second MRI two weeks after completing the course. The brain scans showed some interesting findings. The hippocampus, important in learning and memory, showed an increase in brain cell mass. Other areas that showed an increase in brain cell mass were structures linked to self-awareness, introspection, and compassion. Some areas – such as the amygdala, which controls anxiety and stress –  showed a decrease in mass, an interesting finding since most participants rated themselves as less stressed after taking part in the program. The study shows that the psychological benefits people are reporting are very real shifts in the biological structure of the brain. While the underlying mechanisms that cause the brain to change in response to meditation need further research, it is an important step to know that individuals practicing meditation can play an active role in their well-being. To read more about this study, you can read more in the January 2011 issue of Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging. Do you use meditation with your clients? What kinds of outcomes have you witnessed?
Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics released in October suggest that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be diagnosed and treated in children as young as age 4, two years younger than the previous minimum age set by AAP a decade ago. Mark Wolraich, the lead author of the ADHD clinical practice guidelines and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, told the Wall Street Journal recently that ADHD in a preschool-aged child is very different from the typically active behavior seen in most young children (www.online.wsj.com, October 17). A child with ADHD often doesn’t play well with other children, is prone to accidents, and is overactive much of the time. “It's not the environmental things like parties triggering it,” Dr. Wolraich says. According to the new guidelines, behavior management should be the first approach for treating preschool-aged children. But when behavioral interventions aren’t enough, the guidelines suggest that doctors consider prescribing methylphenidate (commonly known by the brand name Ritalin) for preschool-aged children with moderate to severe symptoms. Other key recommendations include assessing children for other conditions that might coexist with ADHD, such as oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, anxiety, and depression. “Treating children at a young age is important,” asserts Dr. Wolraich, “because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment, we can increase their chances of succeeding in school.” For more information, or to request a complete copy of the guidelines, visit www.aap.org. What do you think about the new ADHD guidelines? Will they affect your practice? Join the conversation—leave a comment now!