I read a news story out of Japan that reminded me how wonderful it is when businesses have a heart and are socially responsible. From today’s Yomiuri Shimbun:
As a new academic year is about to start in spring, leading school backpack maker Kyowa Corp. is busy taking orders of customized bags for disabled children, just like they do every year.
For more than a decade, the Tokyo-based company has produced what they call “the world’s one and only school backpack,” with the aim of having disabled children carry a school backpack like every other child does.
“Do you sell school backpacks that weigh less than regular ones?” a customer one day asked Hideo Wakamatsu, the executive director of Kyowa, which manufactures about 200,000 lightweight artificial leather school backpacks a year.
It was about 1998 when Wakamatsu realized what that request–which he had received almost every year–really meant.
“[It meant that] children [with special needs] who will enroll in regular school are eager to have the same bag as other children,” Wakamatsu said.
He was embarrassed to realize that he had a lack of consideration for disabled children, from a manufacturer’s point of view.
“All children want to carry a school backpack,” Wakamatsu said.
Sean Meehan of The Dallas Morning News reports on a social skills group organized by a parent and built around her child’s love of Legos:
Carla Graham’s Lego Lovers are creating more than castles and spaceships. They’re building social skills.
Graham started Plano Lego Lovers as a way to bring together kids who have a passion for Legos but difficulty with social situations. The idea came to Graham as she searched for a play group for her 10-year-old son, Ian, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.
“Legos were all my son was interested in,” Graham said. “He needed to have something where he was forced to communicate with other kids. With Legos, they have to talk to each other and work together.”
Read more about the group and its success in The Dallas Morning News.
A study conducted in the U.K. on adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder confirms that the social impairment experienced by adults with ASD is not due solely to problems processing facial expressions or visual cues but is also due to other types of processing of emotional cues such as processing of vocal cues and processing of body language (pragmatics). Here’s the abstract:
BACKGROUND: Previous behavioural and neuroimaging studies of emotion processing in autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have focused on the use of facial stimuli. To date, however, no studies have examined emotion processing in autism across a broad range of social signals.
METHOD: This study addressed this issue by investigating emotion processing in a group of 23 adults with ASD and 23 age- and gender-matched controls. Recognition of basic emotions (‘happiness’, ‘sadness’, ‘anger’, disgust’ and ‘fear’) was assessed from facial, body movement and vocal stimuli. The ability to make social judgements (such as approachability) from facial stimuli was also investigated.
RESULTS: Significant deficits in emotion recognition were found in the ASD group relative to the control group across all stimulus domains (faces, body movements and voices). These deficits were seen across a range of emotions. The ASD group were also impaired in making social judgements compared to the control group and this correlated with impairments in basic emotion recognition.
CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates that there are significant and broad-ranging deficits in emotion processing in ASD present across a range of stimulus domains and in the auditory and visual modality; they cannot therefore be accounted for simply in terms of impairments in face processing or in the visual modality alone. These results identify a core deficit affecting the processing of a wide range of emotional information in ASD, which contributes to the impairments in social function seen in people with this condition.
The study is:
Philip RC, Whalley HC, Stanfield AC, Sprengelmeyer R, Santos IM, Young AW, Atkinson AP, Calder AJ, Johnstone EC, Lawrie SM, Hall J: Deficits in facial, body movement and vocal emotional processing in autism spectrum disorders. Psychol Med. 2010, 27:1-11.
Many parents are understandably concerned about their children spending too much time on their cell phones and wonder whether the cell phone use might actually impair social skills because face-to-face interaction is missing. A recent news release from the University of Michigan suggests that cell phone use might have some benefits:
Cell phone use actually strengthens bonds and supports face-to-face contact with friends and family, new research shows.
The University of Michigan study counters concerns that cell phones are replacing in-person social contact and detracting from civic and community involvement. The research suggests that cell phones may help some people become more socially involved with clubs and community organizations.
“Voice calling and texting complement in-person interactions and help fill in the gaps between in-person gatherings, keeping the cell phone user updated,” said Scott Campbell, assistant professor of communication studies and study’s lead author.
Did you ever wonder why your child sees himself or herself as doing “above average” socially when you can see that they are not doing well socially? The “rose-colored glasses” or “above-average effect” may be related to underactivity in the frontal lobes of the brain – the part of the brain responsible for executive functions. Recently, the University of Texas at Austin issued the following news release:
The less you use your brain’s frontal lobes, the more you see yourself through rose-colored glasses, a University of Texas at Austin researcher says.
Those findings are being published in the February edition of the journal NeuroImage.
“In healthy people, the more you activate a portion of your frontal lobes, the more accurate your view of yourself is,” says Jennifer Beer, an assistant professor of psychology, who conducted the research with graduate student Brent L. Hughes.
“And the more you view yourself as desirable or better than your peers, the less you use those lobes.”
The natural human tendency to see oneself in a positive light can be helpful and motivating in some situations but detrimental in others, Beer says.