Archive for September, 2016

What’s Recess?!?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 by admin

What seems like a silly question, is actually a warning sign for where our children are headed. Can you imagine a day without recess? In many schools across the country recess has been shortened and even eliminated to make more time for teachers to prepare their students for the many standard exams they are required to take each year. In fact, physical education (P.E.) classes have been reduced as well. Many schools offer P.E. only once a week!

On the surface, you might agree that to improve test scores, children need to study more. However, how can children learn if they are fidgeting in their seats and are unable to focus due to lack of exercise? Giving children time to run around and play with their peers in an unstructured environment is NOT a waste of time. In fact, scheduling such activities into the school day can actually IMPROVE academic performance in our schools!

In a study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,  8- and 9-year-old students were recruited for an after-school exercise program.  Half the students were put on a waiting list and did not attend the program.  The other half attended the after school program where they played games and received instruction on various sports’ techniques.

At the end of the study, the students who attended the program were not only leaner and healthier, but their scores on cognitive exams showed the most improvement!  The students who did not exercise improved, but not by a lot.  The study showed that as children develop, their cognitive skills develop as well.  However, children who participate in regular physical activity are more likely to show greater cognitive development as they grow older.


How does exercise improve brain health and cognition?

The answer is surprisingly simple!  Exercise increases blood flow to the brain which helps enhance various functions.  As a result, exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus which controls memory and learning.  In addition, the brain produces more BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) that helps protect and repair memory cells.  Exercise also boosts the production of various chemicals called neurotransmitters that help with mood.  Overall, exercise clears a foggy brain, and prepares it to learn and grow!

How can we encourage our children to get more physical activity?

1.  Sign them up for a local sports team.

2.  Swap screen time for backyard or playground time.

3.  Register for a local 5k together.

4.  Take tennis (or any sport) lessons as a family.

While preparing our children for academic success is important, if our children are not given enough time to exercise and play, we will not see their true potential as students, and as contributing members of our communities!


“How Exercise Can Boost Young Brains”, The New York Times

“Seven Surprising Benefits of Exercise”, Time

Reading is FUNdamental!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 by admin

What was the last book your child was excited to read? What was the last book you were excited to read? We know the importance of reading, but how do we get our children to love books? As with anything, we need to make it fun!

If you were give a choice between reading Poor Richard’s Almanac and the latest New York Times bestseller, what would you choose? I’d choose the book I was more eager to read! Think about your kids for a minute. You can choose books you think they should read, or you can take them to the library or bookstore and have them choose books that they WANT to read.

One of our students with language processing issues had a tough time choosing a book to read for his weekly reading comprehension test. His mother sent a note asking for an age appropriate book from the Flat Stanley series. When her son brought home the book, he quickly lost interest after reading one or two chapters. It was a struggle to finish the book and an even bigger struggle to get him to review the main concepts.

At a trip to the book store she noticed her son looking at the Mercy Watson series of books. She asked her son, “Why don’t you bring home a book about Mercy Watson from the library?” Well that did it! He not only brought home one book about that silly little pig named Mercy, he has been bringing every book in the series, and reading on his own!! He even got a 90% on his last test!

Let’s get our kids on the path to succeed by helping them them love to read!

The Real Deal on Screens

Monday, September 19th, 2016 by admin

Is it me or is there an app and screen for every moment in our lives? My two year old doesn’t know the alphabet! There’s an app for that! Our baby won’t stop crying! There’s an app for that! But, what if the “app” cannot be found in our phone’s app store. What if the real “app” was within us all along!

Digital media, in particular tablets, seem to be taking over our children’s lives. At a young age, children are exposed to YouTube videos of nursery rhymes, “educational” apps, and endless cartoons that can be repeated with just a touch of the screen!  (Trust me, I’ve been there!)  But what we see as entertainment and convenience is really changing our child’s brain and in fact making it more difficult to parent!

Time and again, peer-review studies have shown that kids raised on a high-tech diet struggle with attention and focus.  Creators of “educational” video games claim that students no longer have the attention span for traditional learning.  However, giving students lessons on tablets is not helping the problem, it is making it worse!  These children are only motivated and focused in front of a screen.  They aren’t able to engage and stay focused in normal every-day tasks.  Dr. Kentaro Toyama, from the University of Michigan’s School of Information found in his research that technology helps education when the educational system is already doing well.  Unfortunately, it does little for mediocre systems, and even worse in dysfunctional schools.  Dr. Toyama states, that technology “can cause outright harm” in these schools.

At a young age, exposure to screens can be extremely harmful.  Through the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, the brain’s “motivation chemical”, babies and toddlers are conditioned to focus only when given the immediate rewards or feedback found in technology.  And while you might claim that you only allow your toddler to watch educational shows, in reality, children under 2 do not understand how the world they see on a screen relates to reality.  Young children need to interact directly with people and objects around them to fully understand how their world works.

Unfortunately our country’s education system has become highly dependent on technology.  The education technology industry is estimated to become a 60 billion dollar industry by 2018!  The convenience of giving each student a tablet, that can be updated within seconds, seems to have outweighed the risks to our children’s health.  Jane Healy, education psychologist and author of Failure to Connect:  How Computers Affect our Children’s Minds, reports that “time on the computer might interfere with development of everything from the young child’s motor skills to his or her ability to think logically and distinguish between reality and fantasy.”

The future of our families, our country, and in fact our world lies in the minds of our children.  We can encourage new ideas by giving our children tools that develop their skills to think creatively and critically, and to observe the world around them.  So the next time your baby cries, instead of finding the YouTube video for Rock-a-bye Baby, maybe you can put on one of your “old-fashioned” CDs, or even sing the song yourself!


Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Time, August 31, 2016

Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children, The New York Times, July 6, 2015

Wired Kids:  How Screen Time Affects Children’s Brains,

It’s Playtime!!

Friday, September 16th, 2016 by admin

TAG!  You’re it!!!  What looks like a simple game for children is boosting your child’s cognitive and social development in so many ways!  Studies have shown that children who are given more time to play and exercise have better brain health and cognitive skills.



Exercise in general helps to boost brain health in the following ways:

1.  Regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus which is involved in verbal memory and learning according to a study done at the University of British Columbia.

2.  Exercise reduces insulin resistance, inflammation, and stimulates the release of growth factors.  Together, these results affect growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the creation and survival of new neurons (brain cells)!

3.  Individuals who exercise experience improved sleep and mood, and reduced stress.  Sleep deprivation and stress are key contributors to cognitive issues.

Children who are given time for unstructured, child-driven play see a variety of benefits.  Unstructured play gives children a chance to make sense of the world around them through pretend play and games both by themselves or with their peers.  Playing with other children also helps kids learn valuable lessons in sharing, team work, and problem solving.  What seems like “child’s play” is really laying the foundation for our children to be able to cope with unexpected situations that arise in our everyday lives!


So let’s make a promise!  Repeat after me:

1.  I will not schedule every minute of my children’s day.

2.  I will give my children space to solve their own problems and resolve their own conflicts.

3.  I will play with my children, especially when asked, whenever possible.  When given the choice between watching cat videos, and actually pretending to be a cat with my child, I will choose the latter!

You are all amazing parents out there!  Let’s encourage the best in our kids and in each other!



Harvard Health Blog:  Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills

PediatricsJanuary 2007, VOLUME 119 / ISSUE 1:  The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, Kenneth R. Ginsburg

Here’s why we need to provide much needed support for children living in poverty!

Thursday, September 15th, 2016 by admin

Imagine living on a street filled with gangs and crime, going to school where teachers have no expectations of your potential, and then coming home to arguing, overworked parents. Unfortunately, that is reality for many children in America. Children living in poverty often have to deal with violence and malnutrition, and these factors contribute to physical changes in the brain regions involved with memory, decision making, impulse control, and judgement.

Why does this happen? Our body’s stress-response system has a direct connection to our brain development. Living in neighborhoods filled with violence and trauma causes the stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine to be constantly released. These children’s brains are constantly in a state of flight-or-flight! Chronic stress impedes brain development and leaves the brain constantly disorganized.

The GOOD NEWS is there is a way to counter these negative effects!
1.  A strong support system at home and school gives children a sense of security. A child who comes home to loving, supportive parents can learn coping mechanisms and does not have to be in a constant state of stress.

2.  Schools can provide classes in social skills, empathy, and stress-relieving methods

3.  Cognitive behavioral therapy such as Brainjogging, can help to reduce the achievement gap in poorer communities.  Don’t underestimate the plasticity of the human brain.  When the right areas of the brain are targeted, new neural connections can be created!  Now you have a child who can learn and succeed!



Newsweek August 2016, “Growing up poor is so stressful, it can affect brain development” Erika Hayasaki

Mowat-Wilson Syndrome GOOD news!!!!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 by admin

A new student who is 5 years old is making progress since starting Brainjogging!!! After only two weeks!!!  The parent says that they’ve definitely seen advancement!  As they were going through the letter flash exercises with him, he was very engaged and focused.  He repeated clearly the letters “f” “b” “I” and “a”!  He continues to say “up” and “out”, and his teacher stated he said “all done”!  He is watching their mouths more and you can see him trying to form his mouth correctly for certain sounds. His babbling has started sounding more like language, too!  One of the biggest surprises to his family, has been his engagement in his toys and environment, and not asking us for the television.  This is amazing progress considering Mowat-Wilson Syndrome is a genetic disorder that impairs cognitive development. Most children with Mowat-Wilson are non-verbal, however, our little superstar is making big strides with Brainjogging!!

Planes, Trains, and Autism!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 by admin

Traveling with children is stressful!  Traveling with a child on the autism spectrum can be terrifying!  However, with a little planning and preparation, you can have that family trip you have been too scared to plan!


1. If your child gets overwhelmed by crowds, noises, and lights, DON’T have your first trip be to a big theme park! Maybe try an island vacation, or a local beach or even just a nearby city with kid-friendly activities.

2. Start reading about where you are going. If you decide to visit San Diego, get a map and some guidebooks and start planning all the places you will visit. Plan on visiting one tourist site each day and one park or playground where you don’t have to be so structured. Plan your meals too! Children in general like to know what to expect, and children with autism feel a lot more in control and calm when they know where they are going and what is expected of them.

3. Start talking about rules and routines. The airport can be a very overwhelming place even for adults! Draw a picture of the layout of your nearest airport and go through what will be expected from your child at each point. What happens when we check in our bags? What happens when we go through airport security? What do we do when we are waiting at the gate? If you map these routines out for your child, he will know what to expect and will be less likely to have a meltdown! One mom referred to the security check as the “Magic Gate”. Her son knew that when he passed the “magic gate” he would be allowed on the plane!

4. If your child has any allergies or food sensitivities, be sure to take his food along. No amount of planning can stop a hungry and tired child from having a meltdown! Be prepared and be happy!

5. When your child is using his best behavior, PRAISE, PRAISE, and PRAISE him some more! WOW! You were so sweet to wait patiently while mommy checked in our bags! Praising reinforces the good behavior and you are more likely to see that good behavior again!

6. Try to keep a schedule on your vacation that is similar to your routine at home. If you do any at home therapies or your child has any favorite toys. Be sure to bring them a long within reason. Your child will appreciate the familiar activities and toys when he is away from home.

7. Pick your battles! You want your child to listen and follow directions. But parents need to realize that what they think makes perfect sense, doesn’t always make sense to our little ones. Especially when your little one has processing issues, you might have to explain your point another way, or even let it go, if your child is getting visibly upset.

8. Have fun!! If you are on vacation, and you are not having fun, something is wrong! Family vacations are for relaxing with your loved ones. Plan your day and prepare your child, but also be flexible if things don’t go exactly the way you planned. Each vacation will be better than the last! Bon voyage!

Parents of young children with ADHD should choose Behavioral Therapy over Medication

Monday, September 12th, 2016 by admin

Increasing numbers of children under the age of five are being diagnosed with ADHD, and prescribed medication.  For children ages 2-5, whose brains are still rapidly developing, medication can have a variety of side effects.  These side effects are often more severe than in older children.  Most alarming, is the fact that we have no evidence that ADHD medications do not alter the child’s brain development, since we have no long-term studies.

As such, the CDC recommends behavioral therapy as a first option for this age group. In behavior therapy, therapists help parents build skills to aid in teaching their children how to manage their own behavior.  This method has been shown to be just as effective as medication.adhd-behavior-therapy-parents-800px


Parents have an important role in treating their child’s  ADHD.  In behavior therapy, parents are trained by a therapist during sessions to learn strategies to encourage positive behavior, discourage negative behaviors, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship with their child.   These skills help children at school and home by improving behavior, impulse control, and self-esteem.  Although behavior therapy requires more time and effort the benefits last much longer, than just treatment with ADHD medications.


More Young Children with ADHD Could Benefit from Behavior Therapy:


New Research supports science behind Brainjogging!

Friday, September 9th, 2016 by admin

The Journal of Neuroscience has recently published a ground-breaking study about the significance of brain training. The purpose of the study was to examine the neurophysiological changes that accompany improvements following working memory training.

In the study a group of children were split into two groups and were given tasks that tested their short-term memory. In one group the difficulty level remained at ‘easy’, while the other group’s games slowly got harder.  The team found that compared to the control group, the children’s memory significantly improved and that the memory boost crossed over to when they performed untrained memory tasks.  More importantly, the researchers discovered that when the children’s brains were scanned there was a change in the rhythmic electrical signal in different areas of the brain, including the areas responsible for visual processing. After brain training the rhythm became stronger!

What does this mean for our “Brainjoggers”?  Keep doing Brainjogging!!  The exercises in the Brainjogging program are designed to stimulate the areas of the brain that control processing and memory.  The more you do Brainjogging, the more these crucial areas of the brain get activated, and the better individuals are able to process and retain new information!

“Training Working Memory in Childhood Enhances Coupling between Frontoparietal Control Network and Task-Related Regions” – Journal of Neuroscience