Get in the zone

Nearly one-third of Ontario parents fear their child may be hit by a car on the way to or from school, reports the recent (IH) Ontario School Zone Safety survey.

“Those fears are warranted,” says IH’s Road Safety Ambassador Gail Robertson, pointing out that rushing, being distracted and overcrowding parking lots all contribute to the risk of accidents, especially during the winter months.

These survey stats speak volumes about the accident-prone state of our school zones:

  • 80% of respondents have seen drivers violate traffic laws
  • 80% have witnessed drivers pull into prohibited parking spots
  • 68% have seen drivers talking or texting on cellphones
  • 21% have had to stop or swerve to avoid a student
  • 19% have witnessed drivers running red lights.

Here are five things schools can do to help keep their students and teachers safe:

  1. Send parents a newsletter to remind them about pick-up and drop-off procedures and ask them to watch for children, refrain from double parking and stay off their phones.
  2. Encourage parents and students to carpool or walk to and from school.
  3. Release students from school by age or grade, to avoid overcrowding.
  4. Wave cars through easy-to-access, pylon-designated stops.
  5. Teach students to watch for cars that are backing up, to make eye contact with drivers before crossing and to obey traffic signs.

— Randi Chapnik Myers

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Pop Quiz with Adelina Corina Cozma

by Laura Bickle

Imagine having a state-of-the-art, audio-video system to improve how children with autism spectrum disorders process information. This could soon be a reality. Remarkable on its own, yes. What’s more noteworthy is that Grade 12 Richmond Hill student Adelina Corina Cozma developed it. We caught up with Cozma to discuss how her research could change the way we teach and how school science fairs have fostered her passion for science and pursuit of knowledge.

Q So how does the system work?

It personalizes auditory and visual information based on each person’s needs. This system can capture live audio and video from a teacher speaking at the front of the class and preprocess it by applying different plug-ins and applications. It then streams it in real-time to the students’ computers, iPads or even mobile devices so they see and hear this information based on their special requirements.

Q How does the content change to suit the student?

I discovered that children with autism have higher accuracy and faster response times when you slow down speech. Since individuals with autism have this delay in processing sound and speech, when we present the audio before the video, they actually perceive it as in sync. The system has the capacity to present content slower or faster than reality and present it out of sync, if that’s what the student needs.

Q What conclusions have you made from your research?

Thought processes of individuals with autism are not wrong, they’re just different. Presenting information in a different way can greatly help them learn.

Adelina Corina Cozma

Q When will we see this system in classrooms?

I am speaking with various teachers to see how we can approach this, and I have to get permission from a few software companies for the plug-ins. But between university applications, a co-op placement and preparing for this year’s science fair, there hasn’t been a lot of time.

Q Any tips on how to communicate better in a typical classroom?

It’s difficult to recommend something for an autism disorder since each individual has very different symptoms. However, I would suggest speaking more slowly since it has been found effective for at least some students.

Q Without science fairs, would your system exist?

Definitely not. I was lucky that in public school, I had a teacher who knew about the science fair process, was willing to take part in it and help her students create projects. I had such a great experience and met so many students my age who had similar passions. In Grade 9, it was no longer mandatory for me to participate in the science fair, but because I enjoyed it so much, I’ve just continued.

Stay tuned for another cool Cozma project, her upcoming blog at, aimed at promoting science fair participation for both students and teachers.

Photos: Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation; iStockphoto (top)