Raising and educating kids with dyslexia

Posts tagged ‘Gabrieli Lab’

Scanning the brain

We now have some cool images of my son’s brain thanks to his participation in the study on reading and reading difficulties by the Gabrieli Lab at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Part of the study involves an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain to understand brain basis of reading and language. I cannot say that I even begin to understand this. Even the few questions I did ask about the research made me realize the complexity of the subject and the knowledge of neuroscience of the technicians conducting the testing. Yet, it felt good to be participating in some research that will lead to a better understanding of dyslexia.

The MIT campus in Cambridge is always fascinating to visit. From our designated parking spot, we made our way to the McGovern Institute for Brain Research that took us alongside a railroad track. People sat in the building above us as we walked through an underpass noisy with the sound of air being sucked through large vents and the humming of air-conditioners.

Even on a Sunday afternoon it seemed that the MRI scanner was in constant use as one appointment ended and our appointment began.

For nearly two hours, my son laid head first in the scanner. The lower half of his body protruded out of the scanner. The only thing I could clearly see was the bottom of his sock-clad feet. As a mother, I was not impressed with the state of the bottom of his socks, but I was impressed by his cooperation and perseverance to remain still during the specific tasks he was given to complete and to enable good quality images of his brain to be obtained. At $30 an hour, he had some incentive.

We were informed that my son’s brain is one of the last five brains to be scanned in this study. The study, with 500 children and adults taking part, which began three years ago, is nearing its end. This is good news for us as we can expect to see a report from the study in six months time, rather than waiting over three years like those who participated earlier in the study. The only concern, my son pointed out, was that his twin brother would not be taking part in the fMRI part of the study and would therefore miss out on the remuneration.

Travel broadens the mind

Reading has its benefits as it opens up the world for the reader, but when the reader is dyslexic the gains obtained from reading are much less and the world is not so accessible.

So far, this blog has talked a lot about living with dyslexia, but it been rather quiet on the subject of travel even though Dysconnect is about dyslexia and traveling. For our family, we believe travel and experience is a way to open up the world whether it is local, national or global. This time of year we’re limited by school calendars but, as I hinted in my post “A Cloud on the Horizon – visual stress,” travel is happening in July 2011! Just as we are beginning to see a few signs of spring here in Massachusetts, so a few signs of summer travel are visible too.

This summer we are venturing beyond the Western world that we know so well and into a very different culture. Flights are booked – from New York to Hong Kong to Beijing to London and to Boston – an around the globe trip to visit relatives on a two-year work assignment in China.

Guidebooks are scattered across the dining room table, web pages are bookmarked on the laptop, flight confirmations are printed, sticky notes remind us to get visa photos taken and passports are stacked in a corner on the kitchen counter.

Up-to-date guidebooks are hard to find and usually do not seem good value for money, plus they are like lead weights in baggage when weight allowance is precious. But with many dollars worth of Borders gift cards from our Gabrieli Lab research participation, I’ve found up-to-date Frommer’s China, Frommer’s Hong Kong and Frommer’s Beijing Day by Day published in 2011. Not only are they up-to-date but our relatives already in China and Hong Kong have relayed experiences that corroborate Frommer’s information.

So, with guidebooks in one hand and laptop within reach of the other hand, I’ve been trawling the hotels of Hong Kong and Beijing. Language, food and local customs will be just a few cultural shocks for us on this trip. Western brand hotels are perhaps the place where we can guarantee some familiarity if we need it. This lodging also allows us to use hotel points instead of dollars and reduces the risk of turning our educational investment into a financial nightmare.

For two evenings I’ve clicked through hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, maps on Google Earth and hotel web sites. I’ve compared the percentage of “excellent” and “very good” to “poor” traveler ratings on TripAdvisor and considered location, location, location in my decision-making. After intensive evaluation, I have booked four nights for a family of five in Beijing!