Archive for the ‘Processing Speed’ Category

Cooper: Committing to Brainjogging – and positive change

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 by admin

In January of 2009, my mother found a new job she was so excited about at the Pennebaker Learning Center.  The particular building where she went to work was one I had been riding by every day for some time.  One of the words on the sign read “Brainjogging.”  Every day that I rode by I wondered what that word meant; I had even looked at it on the internet.  So when my mom told me she went to work there, I said, “Tell your boss about Cooper.”  She did.  That same day, my mother called and said, “Get Cooper here, Shirley can help him.”

After beginning Brainjogging, Cooper graduated from kindergarten at the top of his class.

Within a week Cooper was tested.  It was determined that Cooper has dyslexia and language processing disorder.  And by this point, his physician had also diagnosed him with ADD.  We immediately started him on Brainjogging and slowly but surely we have made progress with these behaviors.  In fact, his behaviors were so improved that in December 2009 we decided to discontinue the program because Cooper was fixed.  He was at the head of his class with his sight words, he was participating in class, he was making great decisions, he was a leader and everyone loved having him around.  By March, Cooper began having some issues here and there with his behavior again.  The teacher calls and principal calls started again, and the final straw was my child having to be physically restrained.  Panic set in.

God is full of blessings in so many ways!  Shirley came back into our lives and Cooper went back on Brainjogging. By May we were seeing him turn around and he successfully, and still at the top of his class, graduated kindergarten.  We have continued Brainjogging over the summer and we are in our third week of first grade.  Cooper is not struggling with his behavior; he is enjoying school and his teacher is enjoying him.

He had his first set of benchmark testing; the goal for all first graders was that they score a 24.  At open house his teacher and I chatted; she told me how impressed with Cooper she was, as he had scored a 36 so far on his testing – and he was not even finished.

Anxiety, autism and eye movements

Friday, November 5th, 2010 by admin

Chase Johnson referenced anxiety as the main reason that he once avoided eye contact.  He cited “feeling as though he were being stared into” as the source of the discomfort generated by maintaining eye contact.

Social anxiety is a hallmark of ASD, but so, too, is it a general psychiatric condition experienced by individuals that are not on the spectrum.  Psychiatric comorbidities – inattention, hyperactivity, aggression, depression, anxiety, mania and even psychosis – often occur with ASD, but there is significant discussion regarding whether or not these conditions are part of ASD or actual comorbidities.Dr. Roma Vasa of the Kennedy Krieger Institute delivered a lecture on “Anxiety in Youth with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.” Dr. Vasa indicated that ASD adds an additional layer of social, emotional and developmental impairment to children and their communication.  Immature communicative skills reduce people with ASD’s ability to explain their feelings, and their ASD generally makes it difficult for them to understand the very abstract concept of “feelings.”  Luckily, neuroscience reveals what some individuals with ASD cannot communicate.  Studies show that structural and functional changes in the amygdale of people with autism lead to weak connectivity between the amygdale and regions of the cortex involved in regional anxiety.  Regional anxiety occurs in the brain’s frontal cortex.  People with autism have strong connections between adjacent brain regions but not between regions that aren’t localized.  In individuals with autism, the amygdale has reduced communication with the frontal cortex, which controls anxiety.

Here enters Brainjogging: Brainjogging trains the brain.  Through repeated, targeted exercises, Brainjogging facilitates communication between brain cells.  Brainjogging’s eye movements strengthen students’ cognitive processing speeds and their brain regions’ overall ability to communicate with one another.  More and more, researchers are focusing on the eye as the source of learning disabilities.  Individuals with autism have slower pupil light responses than typically developing individuals; they also rely more on their body’s relation to an object than on visual cues.  Dyslexia is often referred to as “word blindness” because people with dyslexia often do not move their eyes far enough to the sides to see words.  A recent study on anxiety by University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health found that “increased brain activity in the amygdale and anterior hippocampus” can predict anxious temperaments (Science Daily).  Autism is marked by significant activity in the amygdale and reduced connectivity to other brain regions.

Researchers from Wisconsin-Madison stated, “We think we can train vulnerable kids to settle their brains down.” Brainjogging settles students’ brains!  Brainjoggers experience significant decreases in anxiety-related behavioral manifestations.  Daily Brainjogging exercises strengthen students’ brains’ connectivity, thereby enabling brain regions to communicate more effectively and with greater reliability.  KKI’s Dr. Vasa stated that cognitive therapy shows promise for decreasing anxiety in clinical studies – we know that cognitive therapy decreases anxiety in our Brainjoggers.  One Brainjogger, a darling six year old child that once picked her hands until they bled, no longer manifests this behavior; she also does not worry bandaids into tatters.  The general education teacher of a five year old that began Brainjogging only six weeks ago has reported that this child is no longer hand-flapping or chewing on his shirt.  In older students, we see a marked increase in self-esteem.  Brainjogging deceases anxiety and increases self-esteem – it is a valuable resource for those experiencing anxiety, whether or not they are on the spectrum.  Students with language processing disorder, who are very susceptible to depression, experience heightened self-esteem with Brainjogging.  We train the brain – and we can help settle your child’s brain.

Turn off the television and shut down the computer

Monday, October 18th, 2010 by admin

British researchers from the University of Bristol found that “more than two hours a day spent watching television or playing computer games could put a child at greater risk for psychological problems” (MSNBC).  More than 1,000 children between the ages of 10 and 11 filled out a questionnaire reporting the amount of time spent daily in front of a television or computer screen and answering questions regarding their “mental state – including emotional, behavioral and peer-related problems” (MSNBC).  Among children that spent longer than two hours a day in front of either a television or computer screen, there was a 60% greater likelihood that these children would experience significant psychological difficulties.  Children that spent more than two hours in front of both types of screens, for a total of at least four hours of screen time split between the two mediums, were 120% more likely to experience psychological difficulties.  Perhaps most significantly, “the effect was seen regardless of sex, age, stage of puberty or level of education or economic deprivation” (MSNBC).The risk of experiencing psychological difficulties increased if children did not obtain an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily in addition to the increased screen time.  Increased physical activity did not, however, seem to compensate for the psychological consequences incurred by screen time.  Screen time was the biggest factor attributed to the uptick in likeliness of psychological difficulty; there was a “lack of negative effect for activities such as reading and doing homework,” which are also sedentary, but mentally stimulating (MSNBC).

This is further affirmation that children do not belong in front of televisions or video games.  Children need to encounter their world through tactile and other sensorimotor experiences that compel them to respond to their environment.  Screen time might be an excellent babysitter, but it is not an even remotely acceptable substitute for real-life interaction.  Brainjogging encourages interactive play for children, and absolutely no video gaming!

Individuals with autism have slower pupil light responses

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by admin

Autism is not well understood, despite the fact that its prevalence among children is more staggering than that of childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.  University of Missouri (MU) researchers recently “developed a pupil response test that is 92.5 percent accurate in separating children with autism from those with typical development” (Science Daily).  Children with autism, according to MU’s study, “have slower pupil response to light change” (Science Daily).

Prior to this study, conducted by Gang Yao, associate professor of biological engineering in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and the College of Engineering, there had been no comprehensive evaluation of “pupils’ response to light in children with autism” (Science Daily).  Scientists used “a short light stimulus to induce pupil light reflexes in children under both dark and bright conditions” (Science Daily).  They used a computerized binocular infrared device,

which eye doctors normally use for vision tests, to measure how pupils react to a 100-millisecond flash light.  A pupil reaction tests reveals potential neurological disorders in areas of the brain that autism might affect.  The results showed pupils of children diagnosed with autism were significantly slower to respond than those of a control group.MU’s research illustrates the autism’s interaction with pupils’ light response.  Increasingly, the eye is becoming the focus of studies on various types of learning disabilities; it seems that the eye is a kind of key to neurological disorders.  Camp Academia, INC.’s Brainjogging program actually strengthens peripheral vision by forcing student to track their eyes across a computer screen.  By training the eyes, Brainjogging simultaneously trains the brain!

*This story was also published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Camp Academia, INC. receives opportunity to work with under-served children

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by admin

Camp Academia, INC. is excited to announce that we have been approved as a federally-funded Supplemental Educational Services (SES) Provider for six Muscogee County schools during the 2010-2011 school year.

Camp Academia, INC. will not give up on under-served populations. All children deserve the opportunity to reach their learning potential!

Camp Academia, INC. is serving elementary schools Thomas H. Brewer, Forrest Road and Fox; and middle schools Baker, Eddy and Marshall.

SES Providers serve “students from low-income families who are attending Title I schools that are in their second year of school improvement (i.e., have not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for three or more years), in corrective action, or in restructuring status” (Georgia Department of Education).  Additionally, students must receive free and reduced lunch to be eligible to receive SES assistance.  SES Providers offer “educational interventions designed to increase the academic achievement of students in low-performing schools” (Georgia Department of Education).  SES services are provided outside of the regular school day and are not conducted in schools themselves. For extensive detail, visit the Georgia Department of Education.

Katie Cyphers conducted a study using Brainjogging in Gwinnett County’s Berkmar High School during the 2009-2010 school year.  More than 90% of participants were English Language Learners.  After only eight weeks of Brainjogging twice daily at school, participants reading levels increased by an average of 2.4 grade levels.  These were students that Berkmar did not expect to pass the Georgia Graduation Test, but after using Brainjogging for only eight weeks, 80% passed the math portion and 60% passed the literature portion.

Brainjogging will be tailored to students’ needs.  As is the case with other clients, SES recipients will have their school subjects filtered through the program; this academic information will become the stimulus provided during each five to seven minute session.  Positive changes have been reported between three to six weeks, if students show continuity and consistency using the program. Camp Academia, INC. is so excited to have the opportunity to work with under-served populations!  All children deserve to reach their learning potential, and Camp Academia, INC. hopes to help children in Muscogee County achieve greatness!

Cognitive therapy versus tutoring: Training the brain

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 by admin

“Not only can the brain learn new tricks, but it can also change its structure and function” (Begley 72).

In January 2007, Time magazine printed a “Mind and Body Special Issue” that focused on the ways in which science about the brain has changed over the past several years.  It was once believed that “the adult human brain is essentially immutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function,” but this is not so, according to recent research (Begley 74).  Harvard Medical School’s neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone tested brain plasticity by having two groups of people practice a simple, five-finger piano exercise. The volunteers practiced two hours each day for five days; one group of volunteers attempted to keep in time with a 60-beat per minute metronome and the others played at their own pace.  Each participant “sat beneath a coil of wire that sent a brief magnetic pulse into the motor cortex of their brain, located in a strip running from the crown of the head toward the ear” (Begley 72).  This transcranial-magnetic-stimulation (TMS) allowed scientists “to infer the function of neurons just beneath the coil” (Begley 72).  Scientists found “after a week of practice, the stretch of motor cortex devoted to these finger movements took over surrounding areas” (Begley 72).

Brainjogging enables the development of new neurons and the strengthening of neural connections.

Pascual-Leone showed that “greater use of a particular muscle causes the brain to devote more cortical real estate to it” (Belgey 72). Brainjogging believes that the key to success is training the brain to learn; if the brain is unprepared, new information will not assimilate with old information.  The brain has neuroplasticity, which is the ability to change its structure and function in response to experience.  Brainjogging capitalizes on the brain’s neuroplasticity: Brainjoggers train their minds to learn.  This, essentially, is the difference between Brainjogging, a cognitive therapy program, and tutoring.  Tutors coach children through information, and in some cases, this is immensely helpful; in others, children’s brains are not ready to learn and must be primed for learning prior to any degree of academic success.  Brainjogging founder Shirley M. Pennebaker, M.Ed., says, “When the pupil is ready, the teacher may teach.”  Oftentimes, pupils, particularly those with a learning disability, are not ready to be taught, and so information provided by teachers is “in one ear and out the other.”  Brainjogging, unlike tutoring, trains pupils’ brains to receive and assimilate new information.  Brainjogging’s computer exercises stimulate the creation of new neurons and, by repeated exposure to variations of the same exercise, strengthen neural connections.

Fifty million “Americans … suffer from neurological illnesses” of some type (Rosen 97). An estimated fifteen percent of Americans have “learning disabilities that affect their ability to listen, speak, read, reason, spell or perform mathematical calculations.  Most of these problems can be overcome with training” (Nash 110). Brainjogging is applicable to all learners, not merely those with diagnosed learning disabilities.

Begley, Sharon. “How the Brain Rewires Itself.” Time 29 January 2007: 72-79. Print.
Nash, J. Madeline. “The Gift of Mimicry.” Time 29 January 2007: 108-113. Print.
Rosen, Jonathon. “Who should Read your Mind?.” Time 29 January 2007: 96-101. Print.

Clap, clap, clap, clap your hands – and reap neurological benefits

Friday, July 30th, 2010 by admin

Hand-clapping songs are not idle play; they have legitimate neurological value.  Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) conducted the first study on hand-clapping songs.  The study found that “hand-clapping songs improve motor and cognitive skills” (Science Daily).

Dr. Idit Sulkin, of BGU, went to elementary schools and engaged children either in school board sanctioned music appreciation programs or hand-clapping songs training, each program lasting for 10 weeks.  At the end of the ten weeks, children who underwent the hand-clapping songs training and had not taken part in hand-clapping songs until that point “caught up in their cognitive abilities to those [children] who did” (Science Daily).  The finding, however, applied only to children who participated in hand-clapping songs; those children in the board of education sanctioned musical appreciation program did not show the cognitive gains obtained by those children participating in hand-clapping songs.

Hand-clapping games are great for kids' socialization and neurological development.

Hand-clapping songs serve as a “developmental platform to enhance children’s needs – emotional, sociological, physiological and cognitive” (Science Daily).  Yes, your child might want to play Suzy Q fifteen times a day, and yes, it probably gets old, but play along!  Even adults reap benefits from hand-clapping songs: once adults “‘start clapping, they report feeling more alert and in a better mood'” (Science Daily).  Perhaps we could all use some more hand-clapping songs in our lives! Some Brainjogging favorites:

Miss Mary Mac
Miss Mary Mac, Mac, Mac
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence
They jumped so high, high, high
They reached the sky, sky, sky
And they never came back, back, back
‘Til the Fourth of July, -ly, -ly!

*Clap, pat, clap, touch hands three times; repeat for each line.

Double, Double
Double, double, this, this;
Double, double, that, that;
Double, this;
Double, that;
Double, double, this, that!

* “Double, double” – pat, pat
“This, this” – clap, clap (palms facing partner)
“That, that” – clap, clap (palms facing self; hands’ backs touch)
“This, that” – clap, clap (palms facing partner for “this,” palms facing self for “that”)

Also use:

Sara Bernstein's "Hand Clap!" includes several alternate hand-clapping rhymes.

Norwegian Study Reinforces Brainjogging’s Effectiveness

Friday, July 9th, 2010 by admin

Students with learning disabilities, and particularly students with Dyslexia, show signs of visual processing deficits. If there is a discrepancy in the way a person visually receives information, the brain then processes that information differently than it would if the information were received “correctly.”  One of Brainjogging’s guiding principles is that there is an irrefutable link between visual stimulation and the brain’s ability to process perceived stimulation. ScienceDaily reports that The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), too, theorizes that “the failure of magno cells to work the way they should may explain multiple learning disabilities and developmental problems.”

NTNU’s Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson conducted a study revealing “that children who have great mathematical difficulties also have significantly poorer visual perception associated with rapid changes in environment.”  Deficient magno cells also lead to problems with handwriting and motor skills.  Children with, as professionals say, “imprecise motor skills,” suffer from an inability to perceive stimuli properly.  If children cannot quite perceive their relationship to objects, they cannot manipulate these objects with the prowess as can individuals whose magno cells function properly.    ScienceDaily suggests “children with dysfunctional magno cells probably need more specific tools to help them understand visual information than we previously thought.”

Brainjogging is the “more specific [tool]” that individuals with learning disabilities need!  Brainjogging’s letter flash exercises stimulate the eyes’ magno cells, which respond to rapid movements and then transmit signals from the eye to the brain.  Brainjogging’s consistent stimulation of magno cells, and the replication of letter patterns, strengthens students’ magno cells’ capacity to correctly view stimuli, which allows the brain to process that information properly.

Study habits and students: Brainjoggers learn how to be proactive learners

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 by admin

Some children seem to be harder to reach than others; my most hard-headed child recently told me, “You’ve taught me good study habits, Miss Sellers.”

 I am not at all lying when I say I almost cried. This child, however, is a pubescent boy who would have been mortified at the sight of tears, especially ones he brought about, so I kept it together and patted him on the back and said, “You just made my day, friend.”
This particular child struggled to copy down his homework; if he did copy it down at school, he did not complete it at home; if he did copy it down and complete it, he often forgot to turn it in. He also struggled with multiple-step directions, often completing one direction quite successfully but completely ignoring another. There were parent conferences, there were teacher conferences – but children need to realize their own intrinsic strength and ability. This child needed confidence, and he needed to understand that he is not only capable of completing his work and turning it in, but also that he is proficient in his studies when he really attends to them.

The thing is, I did not necessarily teach this boy good study habits. I modeled them and encouraged them, but Brainjogging did the difficult work of preparing his mind to receive the instructions! Brainjogging helped this boy to access his potential. He blossomed from a sullen, video game-addicted preteen to a friendly, confident young man. He looks you in the eye when he speaks to you; he tells jokes; he even volunteers information about upcoming tests and quizzes and proceeds to launch into a litany of relevant facts. I don’t believe that this boy could have made such a phenomenal transformation without Brainjogging’s help – and I am so thankful for this child and his progress!