Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, May 12 – Friday, May 16

Human Interest:
A man became a math wiz after suffering brain injuries. Researchers think they know why. (The Washington Post)
A severe concussion has turned a furniture salesman from Tacoma, Washington into a mathematical genius who sees the world through the lens of geometry. The man, who had very little interest in academics, developed the ability to visualize complex mathematical objects and physics concepts intuitively. He is one of a rare group with acquired savant syndrome, in which a person of average intelligence develops prodigious abilities after a severe injury or disease. Researchers have figured out which parts of the man’s brain were affected, and the findings suggest such skills may lie dormant in all human brains.

FBI training software repurposed to help autistic adults get jobs (Fox News)
Researchers at Northwestern Medicine have developed a program to help adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) prepare for job interviews, based on software previously used to teach interrogation tactics to FBI agents. In the program, participants interact with a virtual human-resources representative named Molly Porter during a mock job interview. Trainees also interact with different versions of Molly as they progress through the program, from the easiest level, Friendly Molly, to the hardest, Curt Molly. In a controlled study with 26 individuals with ASD, 90 percent of the group assigned to train with Molly significantly improved over time in their performance, whereas the control group did not.

Feds warn charters on special education (Disability Scoop)
In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to charter school administrators, the U.S. Department of Education said that charters have the same obligations as regular public schools to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Specifically, students with disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education and should not be discriminated against in the admissions process or in regard to discipline.

After two years, app to assist mobile deaf users finally gets nod of approval from FCC (The Washington Post)
InnoCaption, an app developed by Kansas firm Miracom that accurately transcribes mobile phone conversations in real time, has received government approval for commercial release. The Federal Communications Commission has granted Miracom access to the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund, which reimburses companies for providing communication services to those with hearing or speech problems. Approval was held up for two years following evidence that some companies were deceptively padding their reimbursement requests.

Concussions, other brain injuries prompt more patients to visit ER (Los Angeles Times)
The number of visits to emergency departments by patients seeking treatment for traumatic brain injury grew nationwide by over 29 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors contend there may be an actual increase in the number of head injuries suffered by patients, or the figures may be a sign that Americans are taking these injuries more seriously and getting treatment for them.

Exercising the mind to treat attention deficits (The New York Times)
A growing volume of research suggests that strengthening a mental ability called cognitive control, usually with exercises in mindfulness, may help children and adults cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and its adult equivalent, attention deficit disorder. The studies come amid growing disenchantment with the first-line treatment for these conditions: drugs.

CAREER award to fund researcher’s work on robotic prosthesis (Rehab Management)
A mechanical engineering professor at the University of Alabama is the recipient of a CAREER reward from the National Science Foundation for his development of a biologically inspired, powered robotic prosthesis engineered to mimic natural joints that could help improve amputees’ walking. This strategy toward robotic prostheses hinges on the use of rocket fuel, the compound monopropellant, to power an artificial muscle. The pneumatic system is intended to replace the motor used in current powered prosthetics.

Xbox One Kinect is therapy device for cerebral palsy kids (Űbergizmo)
Scientists at the Bloorview Research Institute in Canada are working on games that make use of the motion sensor Xbox One Kinect in order to help children with cerebral palsy gain motor function. According to the researchers, rehabilitation driven by repetitive practice can be boring for the children, but when put in a game environment with rewards and points, that helps to motivate them.

Bipolar disorder app predicts mood swings by eavesdropping on phone conversations (gizmag)
Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing an Android app that listens to the phone conversations of a patient with bipolar disorder and detects the signs of oncoming mood swings in the voice. The PRIORI app constantly runs in the background on the patient’s smartphone, recording all calls placed or received on the device. The app is able to identify subtle changes in the patient’s speech patterns that are associated with the imminent onset of manic or depressive episodes. When such patterns are detected, patient and caregivers will be alerted so that intervening measures can be taken.

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