Homework Help for Kids with Learning Disabilities

February 1st, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

A child with a learning difficulty can struggle with homework after a long day of school.  This can be frustrating for both children and parents.   To help your child – and you – avoid the headaches of getting through homework, it is best to create a plan that keeps them focused, and takes away the stress of homework.

Be Consistent

Provide your child with a set time and place to do homework.  This creates a sense of control and predictability for children and for parents as well.    While every family has their own preferences and afternoon schedules, you might consider giving your child enough time for a quick snack and then have him sit down to do his homework before he gets distracted with other activities.  This method avoids all the excuses and complaints that happen later in the day as children get tired.  You and your child will also have more free time without the added stress of unfinished assignments.  Also, be sure that your child’s designated homework area has all needed supplies (sharpened-pencils, paper, calculator, water bottle, etc.) to avoid excuses for interrupting homework.

Approach the Most Difficult Assignments First

Children with learning disabilities tend to have short attention spans, particularly when it comes to challenging assignments. Have your child begin their most difficult assignments first since they will have more energy and focus to complete the task at hand.  This will also encourage them to complete their other assignments, and to not avoid future work in that difficult subject.

Plan Shifts

If you see that your child is losing focus on one particular assignment, allow them to shift over to another and then come back to the original assignment. You can also set a timer every 15 to 20 minutes so that your child can look forward to breaks to recollect their thoughts. Be sure to time breaks as well.  A long break can make completing homework even harder!!

Create a Homework Checklist

Checklists are a great way to keep your child organized and to help him remember each assignment.  They can also be a great motivator as your child checks off each completed assignment.  A child’s teacher should also be involved in the checklist and can help to let parents know what tasks are required each day.  Some parents find a weekly email to the teacher helpful in knowing what is expected of the class each week.

Reward Hard Work

Set weekly homework goals that can easily be measure with a chart or other method.  Having a simple reward system is a great external motivator and can be anything from being able to choose a weekend activity to even an ice cream cone!  Avoid, extravagant rewards.  Sometimes scheduling special “mommy-time” can be the best prize ever!

Be Encouraging

Parents feel obligated to correct every mistake on their child’s homework.  Consider this approach:  Have your child complete an assignment.  Look it over.  Praise what she did correct.  And THEN, point out areas that she might have to redo. Or, offer to explain concepts that your child obviously did not understand.  Praising before criticizing will make your child more willing to work towards the right answers.

Get Help from Brainjogging

Doing Brainjogging before starting homework can cut homework time in half.  Many parents have seen that when students do Brainjogging, and then begin their assignments, they have greater focus and are able to complete their work more efficiently.  In addition, adding vocabulary and key concepts to word lists in the Brainjogging program helps students remember and process new information quicker.  The goal is to work SMARTER not HARDER!

Connecting with Children with Autism

January 30th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

Nonverbal communication can be one of the most important forms of communication between a parent and a child with autism. Given the challenges communicating verbally, sometimes the best way to form a connection with a child with autism is through the way you look at them, the way you touch them,  by the tone of your voice,  and your body language.  Also, when appropriate, do not be afraid to give control to your child.  Children with autism often feel frustrated because they have no sense of control over themselves or their surroundings.  Giving your child on the spectrum a chance to be the decision maker often relieves built up anxiety and makes him more willing to cooperate with you!  Below are some tips for connecting with your child with autism.

Observing Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal cues in children with autism can help to clue you in to how they are thinking or feeling. Parents who practice observing the body language of their children will learn to understand their feelings much better and this can help you to form a closer connection. If your child is not particularly adept at verbal communication, tune into their sounds, the changing expressions on their face and take note of any similarities they make – nonverbally or verbally – when they are attention-seeking, tired, hungry, upset or frustrated.  A child may pull back when you hold his hand.  He is not being defiant, he simply has no clue where you are taking him!  Try saying, “We need to go to school now.  Let’s walk to the car together.”  Say the sentence calmly and give him a chance to process.  You might need to repeat the sentence (with the same exact words).  Children with autism are very smart!  They just need a few more minutes to process.  Many children on the spectrum are not verbal, but most do understand your words and your tone of voice.  You can teach them kindness and respect by having your facial expressions, words, and actions match the behavior you want to teach.

Prevent Tantrums by Understanding Nonverbal Cues

A tantrum thrown by any child, especially a child with autism, is a sign that they are feeling ignored, misunderstood, or out of control. As verbal communication between a parent and a child with autism can be difficult or nonexistent, it is up to the parent to determine how their child is communicating their feelings nonverbally.  Since many tantrums are the result of feeling a lack of control, before changing routines, take a moment to sit down with your child and explain the changes through pictures and words.  Using both pictures and words will help your child to learn more vocabulary to be able to better understand you in the future.

Learn the Scenarios that Elicit Response

You may find that your child is particularly sensitive to certain sights, sounds, touch, tastes, smells or light. Parents who figure out which senses elicit negative responses can prepare their child before any event or activity.  If your child is having a particularly disorganized day, you might choose to skip that event altogether!  Helping our children live in our world is important.  Helping them realize when they have had enough is equally important as well!

Have Fun Nonverbally

If you had to be in class and therapy sessions, hour after hour, how would you feel?  Probably tired and a little stressed out!  Imagine how our children with autism feel?  At the end of the day, they are still children and ALL CHILDREN learn best when they are having fun!  If your child has sensory issues, take him to a local playground where he can swing and slide, and climb to get rid of the wiggles!  Maybe your child needs deep pressure.  Wrap her in a blanket, hug her tight, and read some fun stories together.  Are you trying to teach vocabulary?  Bring out a matching game, and be sure to say the name of each match that you find.  Vocabulary and turn-taking all in one game?  Perfect!!  Anything can be a game if you and your child are having fun.  Be sure to praise your child any time she does something positive.  You’ll be more likely to see that positive behavior again!

Contact Camp Academia for Extra Help

Camp Academia has been helping children with autism for over 30 years!  By using Brainjogging, a web-based computer learning program that uses visual stimuli to enhance learning, children are able to improve their capacity for learning.  When used for just five to seven minutes, two times a day, children with autism quickly see improvement in eye contact, behavior, and processing speed.  Contact Camp Academia, at 1-888-7-I- LEARN today to learn more.


What’s your gift?

January 25th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

When you think of ADHD,  do you think of hyperactive children who need medication to calm down and focus?  Did you ever consider that within this “disability”, there could be an EXTRAORDINARY ability?

Yes, children diagnosed with ADHD have difficulty sticking to routines, concentrating, and keeping themselves organized.  Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs have ADHD, such as business mogul Sir Richard Branson, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman.  All of them attribute their success in large part to their ADHD diagnosis!

Individuals with ADHD may not be able to sit calmly at school or at a desk job, but if they find something they love, they are able to focus for hours on end!  Additionally, ADHD-ers are often at their best in crisis mode.  They are out of the box thinkers that are able to intuitively reach a solution!  These are the people that make discoveries that change the world!!

Studies suggests that becoming an entrepreneur can be a positive career move for those with hyperactivity, fitting their specific talents and harnessing their highly re-active minds. The high energy levels associated with this trait can support those taking the initiative, being risk averse and running a business.

When JetBlue founder, David Neeleman was asked if he would rather be “normal”, or would he continue to have ADD,  Neeleman said, “I would take ADD.  I can distill complicated facts and come up with simple solutions. I can look out on an industry with all kinds of problems and say, ‘How can I do this better?’ My ADD brain naturally searches for better ways of doing things.”

The take-home lesson here is do not focus on what an individual cannot do.  Encourage them to enhance their gifts and strengthen their weaknesses.  You never know if the next Sir Richard Branson is living under your roof!




Transitioning to Middle School Made Easy

January 18th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

If you have a child with Dyslexia, ADHD, or even Autism, you are probably used to helping your child each step of the way.  However, as children get into middle school, they are faced with different pressures both social and academic.  How do we help our kids transition to middle school and teach them to be independent at the same time?

1.  Confirm or create a support system

  • If your child already has an IEP, the first step would be to have a meeting the Spring BEFORE she starts middle school to discuss any additional supports your child might need as they start middle school.
  • Be sure to know what supports your child already has, what works, and what doesn’t work.
  • Have some samples of your child’s work to show their strengths and weaknesses.  You can even keep track of how much assistance your child needs during homework.  This is a good indication of how much she is retaining from her classes.
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher and work together for what is best for your child.
  • Be sure to tell your child what supports will be available to ease any anxiety she might feel about going to a new school.

2.  Organize

  • Children with learning difficulties often have trouble keeping track of their schedule and homework.  If your child’s school does not provide a planner or agenda, go out and buy one appropriate for your child.  If he has messing handwriting, you might consider buy a planner with big spaces to write assignments and due dates.
  • Also, create a system for organizing school work. Assign a color for each subject. For example, science’s blue notebook will have a blue folder to keep handouts and assignments.
  • Put together a daily checklist for before going to school and before coming home.  The checklist will help your child see clearly what he needs to take to school and what he needs to complete work at home.
  • Implement a homework and extra curricular routine to keep your child on track.
  • Praise your child when he is organized and completes tasks.  He will feel encouraged to continue using the methods you have both implemented.

3.  Encourage Independence

  • Teach your child to advocate for herself.  If she is supposed to sit in the front row but has been seated in the back, she needs to be able to communicate her needs to the teacher.
  • Let your child know that you are here to help, but do not do your child’s homework.  Let her come to you for questions.
  • Listen to what your child has to say without judgement. Children are often faced with a variety of new social and academic situations.  Nagging or judging will close the lines of communication.  Listen and give advice calmly.  Let your child know that know matter what the situation, they can always come to you.  If she is able to solve a problem on her own, give praise!  The more our children can take care of themselves, the more success they will see in school and in life!









Kids who learn music, read better!

January 16th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

Do your still children still have music class in school? If not, you might think about finding a good piano or violin teacher. Studies show that music instruction appears to accelerate brain development in young children, particularly in the areas of the brain responsible for processing sound, language development, speech perception and reading skills.

According to initial results of a five-year study by USC neuroscientists, music instruction speeds up auditory pathway development in the brain and increases its efficiency.  In other words, the neuronal path from the ear to the brain gets stronger.  This process helps accelerate the development of language and reading, two key components to academic success!

So, how can we introduce our kids to music?

1.  Start young!

Sing nursery rhymes and make instruments out of items around the house to make music time a fun time!

2.  Join a Mommy and me music group.

Isn’t everything more fun with friend?  Joining a toddler group will help your baby learn social skills along with an appreciation of music.  It doesn’t hurt that you might make a friend a long the way!

3.  Support music in the schools.

Many school budgets do not support the arts.  Having musical instruction in school is not only great for cognitive development, but also for improving team work, critical thinking, and imagination.  Music class also provides an stress-busting environment for older children who might have a schedule full of tough classes the rest of the day.

4.  If you play an instrument, don’t stop!

If you hear stories about famous singers and musicians, many give acknowledge the fact that their parents played an instrument, or that their dad always had jazz in the background.  It may not always seem like it, but children do model their parents’ behavior.  If we play an instrument or sing around the house, our kids are more likely to do the same!

5.  Find a good music teacher.

When your child is old enough, try sending her to an age appropriate music camp, or sign up for piano (or any instrument) lessons.  We can’t force our children to like an instrument, but we can expose them to different forms of music in different environments.  The possibilities are endless!





These games are must haves!

January 11th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

Last weekend, when the whole east coast of the USA was stuck indoors, what did your family do?  We played games in our house.  In the process, I discovered two of the best games ever!!!  You are probably wondering why you are reading about more games, when your children have boxes and boxes of games and toys they never play with, ever!  These games are different! If you are looking for games and activities that can help them academically and socially, then read on!

The Game of Life Jr.

We’ve all played the Game of Life, but this version is made for children 5 years and older. In this version, players have adventures more suited to younger players such as going to the zoo or an amusement park. They also have to pick adventure cards to earn or lose stars. One card may tell you to complete a nursery rhyme and win a star. Another card might say, “Didn’t eat vegetables” and the player loses a star. The game is fast pace and goes through the normal ups and downs of any child. This is a great game for teaching social skills!  It doesn’t hurt that you will actually have fun too!!


Life Jr

Game of Life Jr.


Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set 

We got this game for Christmas thinking, “Let’s get a STEM toy!”  What I didn’t realize, was how much fun, and how many important skills were required to play!  First you have to build a maze.  THEN, you have to figure out how to get the robot mouse to reach the cheese and program a sequence of steps.  You can use coding cards to help you plan your sequence. Then you input the sequence into the mouse and press go!  The mouse follows the directions and if the thought process is correct, he gets the cheese!  Colby lights-up, makes sounds, and features 2 speeds along with colorful buttons to match coding cards for easy programming and sequencing.  I had both kids make up their own coding sequence to show them that there can be more than one way to solve a problem!

Code and Go

Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

The weather outside was frightful, but inside we were having a blast!!! (And learning too!!!)


Five reasons why we need to curb screen time…

January 3rd, 2017 by admin

If someone approached you to enroll your child in a social experiment, would you agree?  Probably not.  But that is exactly what we have done for the past decade since the introduction of smart phones and tablets.  With only a handful of studies on the effects of screens, many of us allow our children so much more hours of screen time than is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics.   We aren’t even sure of the long term effects of daily tablet and smart phone use, and yet statistics show that many of the apps downloaded and 50% of the Netflix accounts are geared towards children.  What’s the big deal you might ask.  Here we go…

1.  Excessive screen time is detrimental to overall health.

Children and adults who spend too much time in front of any type of screen often exercise less.  Even if they are not overeating, lack of exercise can lead to obesity.  In fact, too much exposure to screens, especially at night, can lead to sleep problems that can lead to obesity, attention, and cognitive issues.  Two hours before bedtime, all screens (TV, phones, tablets) need to be turned off and a bedtime routine needs to be established to ensure a good night’s sleep!  Children who get a good night’s sleep are more alert, have better processing, and are less likely to gain excessive weight.

2.  Giving young children screens can lead to behavior issues.

Have you ever gone to the supermarket with your child, and to prevent a meltdown, given her your smartphone?  We all have!  But we all know that rewarding bad behavior with a screen is not going to solve anything.  In fact, you are more likely to have meltdowns from your children if they think you will give them a tablet or phone each time.  What about when you take your child for their annual shots?  Some parents like to distract or comfort children with an app or a video on their phone.  Although the child might stop crying, think about what they missed.  What the child really needed was a warm hug, not an app!

3.  Too much screen time can lead to attention issues.

Did you know that ADHD is ten times more prevalent than it was 20 years ago?  A study from Iowa State University showed that kids ages 6-12 who spent more than 2 hours in front of a screen were more likely to have attention issues in school.  In fact, Demetri Christakis, an expert on children and media consumption, feels the speed and flash of modern video games and TV is a big concern.

“I think that the concern is that the pacing of the program, whether its video games or TV is over stimulating and contributes to attention problems,” Christakis says.
4.  Apps and video games provide TOO MUCH stimulation to developing minds.
 It seems so much easier to put on a story-time app for your toddler than to actually tell her a story.  The child, however, misses out on so much when we do that.  When a mother tells her child a story, the child listens to her mother’s voice, She has to listen for changes in intonation as well as try to read the expression on the faces of the characters in the book.  If her mother is a story-time pro, she might ask the child about the characters’ feelings, or what might happen next!  All these points might seem simple, but they are training the child’s brain to read social cues, to think critically, and to be imaginative.  When a child watches a story on a tablet, the characters move as the story is told.  There is often background music and sound effects.  Also, the child can often touch part of the story to make characters and other parts of the screen move.  All this while the bright light of the tablet is inches from her face!  In this scenario, the child has no chance to use her own imagination.  If she wants to move a long with the story she simply has to push an arrow.  She doesn’t even have to wait for the app’s narrator to finish the sentence.  So many important social skills are missing, when we depend on a tablet to entertain our kids.
5.  Therapies and treatments cannot overcome the effects of video games.
After 30 years of helping children overcome learning difficulties, Shirley Pennebaker has observed the following:  Lack of sleep and over exposure to video games are detrimental to learning!  While Brainjogging can definitely help a child affected by screens and video games, the child must STOP playing video games first.  The next step would be to call Camp Academia and get the child on Brainjogging.


Do Brain Games work?

December 21st, 2016 by admin

Over the past couple years, people have been turning to apps such as Luminosity in the hopes of improving memory and reversing the effects of aging on the brain. Unfortunately, none of the studies done on these games show any strong evidence or measured real-world outcomes. In fact, in October 2014 a group of more than 70 scientists published an open letter objecting to the marketing claims made by brain training companies. Soon after, another group of scientists published a letter saying there was a scientific basis!  Confusing, right!?

Not really.  Daniel Simons, a professor at the University of Illinois, reviewed over 130 studies with six other scientists to understand the discrepancies.  What they concluded was the following:

1.  Some brain games only work in making you better at that specific game.  The skills learned aren’t transferable to real-life situations.

2.  In many of the studies, the placebo effect wasn’t accounted for.  In other words, many people improved simply because they were trying harder or were more confident.

3.  Most of these brain games do not work the brain hard enough or over a long enough period of time.

BUT WAIT!  What about BrainJogging!?  Brainjogging can counter all three of the points mentioned above!

1.  Information entered into the Brainjogging program is customized to person.  Individuals who do the cognitive exercises are using information they need in school and in their everyday lives!

2.  Brainjogging has helped individuals improve processing, memory, and attention for the past 35 years!  Studies have been done in the University of Tennessee, The Boys and Girls Club, and other locations.  This doesn’t include the hundreds of students who have come to Camp Academia to have Brainjogging sessions.   Children have come with dyslexia, ADHD, processing issues and autism.  All of these individuals have been able to overcome cognitive deficits and lead productive lives. What better study could there be?

3.  As for the last point, Brainjogging works specific areas of the brain.  By targeting the areas of the brain needed for language, processing, and reading, Brainjogging is more effective than a brain video game that simply has the individual striving to get a higher score.   When done twice a day, Brainjogging helps individuals process information faster and retain the information as well!

So to answer the question:  Do brain games work?  No!  But BrainJogging does!  Brainjogging is not a “game”.  It is a cognitive therapy that helps strengthen weak neuronal connections by doing exercises created to target specific areas in the brain.


Brain Game Claims Fail a Big Scientific Test, Jon Hamilton, NPR, Oct. 3, 2016


Follow the Leader!

December 20th, 2016 by admin

Learning to follow directions is an important part of the learning process. For children with learning disabilities this can be even more difficult especially if they have processing or focus issues. Teachers often use direct instruction in which the teacher models what is being taught and then the students copy and practice what was modeled to learn the new information.

But what if we reversed the process and had the students model and the teacher follow? Would these students be able to explain and model the concepts?

When students are only taught through direct instruction, they are missing out on a stage of learning that requires critical thinking and application of knowledge. For special educators, the goal should be to have the children be able to learn and think on their own.

For students who have shown the ability to easily learn what their teacher has modeled, the next step would be to have the student model the lesson back to the teacher, or even better, he could teach another student!

This method of teaching gives the student a chance to use social skills, critical thinking, and of course working memory! More than just memorizing different lessons in school, we want our kids to be able to apply what they learned towards achieving goals!

For students who are not at the point where they are able to explain important concepts learned in school, Brainjogging is the answer.  Doing Brainjogging twice a day helps strengthen cognitive weaknesses that make processing new information and applying key concept difficult for some students.

Resources:  “Follow the leader: Letting students take ownership”, Pamela Hill,  December 5, 2016

Sleep deprivation affects children differently than adults

December 1st, 2016 by admin

If you have kids, then you know the horror of a sleep-deprived child!  We also know that we as adults need a good nights sleep to be our most productive.  However, a new study shows that sleep-deprivation affects children differently than adults.


“The process of sleep may be involved in brain “wiring” in childhood and thus affect brain maturation,” said Salome Kurth, Ph.D., first author of the study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.   A lot of important neural connections are made when children sleep.   According to his recent study,  when adults are sleep-deprived, damage is seen in the frontal regions of the brain.  However, when children do not get needed sleep, damage occurs in the parieto-occipital (language, math, spacial relationships, vision) region, in the back of the brain.  This correlates with the fact, that in childhood, sleep is needed for development of the posterior regions of the brain.

After staying up too late, both children and adults need a period of deep sleep to recover.  This recovery phase is characterized by an increase in an electrical pattern called slow-wave activity, which can be measured with a non-invasive technique called an electroencephalogram. With a large number of electrode channels distributed across the scalp, this method also detects which brain regions show more slow-wave activity than others.

Kurth and his colleagues at the University of Zurich, measured the deep sleep patterns of two groups of children.  One group had a  normal night’s sleep.  The other had been kept up past their bedtimes by reading and playing games with them.   After only getting half of a night’s worth of sleep, the children showed more slow-wave activity towards the back regions of the brain, the parieto-occipital areas. This suggests that the brain circuitry in these regions may be particularly susceptible to a lack of sleep.

In addition, the study also showed a correlation between deep sleep activity and myelin content in the brain.  Myelin is a fatty microstructure of the brain’s white matter that allows electrical information between brain cells to travel faster. It can be measured with a specific magnetic resonance imaging technique.  The higher the content of myelin in a region of the brain, the more the sleep loss effect is similar to adults.  Regions of the brain that are undergoing development, will be more affected by sleep deprivation.


How can we be sure that our child is getting enough sleep?

Creating the right bed time routine for your child can be tricky.  But if you make it simple and clear, it can be done!

  • Set up a routine from start to finish and be consistent in following each step.
  • Have your child start his bedtime routine at the same time each day.
  • If your child responds to visual cues, a chart might help!
  • Avoid video games.
  • Some children have food sensitivities that can irritate their digestive system and prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep.  Stop all snacks and meals 2 hours before bedtime if you think that might be the case.
  • Keep a journal to see what worked and what didn’t.

Children love predictability!  A bedtime routine often leads to better behavior because our kids will get needed sleep as well as know what to expect each day.