2017 Children's Science News - Gold

Elizabeth Preston wrote about a blind 13-year-old boy who has learned to use echolocation, a way of seeing with sound, more commonly associated with animals such as bats and dolphins. Humoody Smith, who was born in Iraq and lost his sight at the age of two, clicks his tongue as he walks through his neighborhood, sensing objects by listening for echoes. Preston describes ways in which her young readers can themselves experiment with echolocation. She also talked to a scientist who has used brain scans to determine that echolocators use areas of the brain normally associated with seeing when they maneuver. The researcher also has found that echolocators do more than just sense obstacles, but can often tell whether an object is a tree or a car or a lamppost. “Even though the subjects of the article are blind, the story is really about the remarkable flexibility of every human brain, with or without a disability,” Preston said. “That’s a message I was excited to bring to young readers.” Laura Helmuth, science, health and environment editor for The Washington Post, said it “was refreshing to have a child be the main character in the story.” She also noted the story’s “very humane and thoughtful guidance about how to talk to kids with disabilities.” Eliene Augenbraun, multimedia manging editor for Scientific American and Nature Research Group, said the story “invites kids to participate in experiments that change the way you think about your own life.”