Mommy! Mommy!: Sharing “mommy time”

November 22nd, 2016 by admin

Your daughter needs extra help with her reading homework, but at that very moment, your son has figured out how to build a car with legos. Where do you turn? Sounds like a day in the life of every mom, right!? When one child needs extra help in any area of his or her life, it is easy to forget that the other child (or children!) need your attention too! We assume they know we love them, but for most children our approval  and attention is a sign of our love.

So what do we do? Grow four more arms and another set of eyes? As helpful as that might sound, we have a better way! Why not include the other child? Are you showing your baby how to crawl? Have everyone crawl around the house to chase a ball. Maybe, your elder child needs help in math. Have a hands on math activity your youngest can do beside you while you assist the older child. Give praise to both as they complete their work.

At Camp Academia, siblings who see their brother or sister do Brainjogging want to be apart of the action! Why not teach them how to help instead of “shooing” them away.  In the picture below, the 4 year old little sister is holding her brother’s head, so he can do Brainjogging. (Brainjogging only works when you keep your head very still and only move your eyes!)

brainjoggers

Kids can help too!

 

We can also make a child feel special by give her special mommy time. You can schedule a specific time for that child and have your spouse or another family member spend time with the other child or children. A special drive or a trip for ice cream can turn into a wonderful memory for a child!

How do you make time for your children? Do you give them individual time? Or do you find away to include everyone?

Who is Shirley Pennebaker’s Mentor?

November 1st, 2016 by admin
Pennebaker and Eden

Shirley Pennebaker, Gwinevere Eden, and Katie Cypers at the conference for learning disabilities in Orlando.

Last week, at the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Conference in Orlando, Shirley Pennebaker, creator of the Brainjogging method, reunited with her mentor Gwinevere Eden!  Gwinevere Eden and her colleagues were the first to apply functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to the study of dyslexia. Eden’s findings helped experts understand the neural basis of dyslexia. In other words, researchers and medical professionals were finally able to understand the difference in function and appearance between a typical brain, and a brain of someone with Dyslexia. She continues to investigate the neural representations of sensory processing and reading, and how these may be different in individuals with learning disabilities or different early childhood experiences.

A lot of Shirley’s early research includes imaging from Eden’s studies. What a wonderful meeting between two experts in the field of Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities!

Resources:

https://www.understood.org/en/about/our-experts/guinevere-eden

 

 

 

5 Steps to a Low-Stress Halloween!

October 25th, 2016 by admin

Happy Halloween!

 

Halloween…that one day of the year when even the most typical child can experience sensory overload!  Check out these 5 simple tips for a fun and low-stress Halloween!

1.  Have your child try on his costume at least one week before Halloween. This prevents those OMG moments that can arise from itchy or tight clothing. You’ll get a chance to cut off all those troublesome tags too!

2.  Have replacement treats if your child is on a special diet and have a plan that your child agrees on for switching to “safe” candy.  If your child knows the plan ahead of time, he will be more willing to cooperate with you!

3.  Plan your family’s Halloween fun! Invite friends that your child feels comfortable with for snacks and trick or treating.   You don’t even have to go trick or treating.  Plan the day according to what you and your child are comfortable doing.  If your son or daughter would prefer an evening of fun snacks and games at home, then that’s what you should do!  Creating an environment where your child feels safe and at ease will help them stay calm and focus on the fun!

4.  Try to stick to regular meal and bedtime routines as much as possible.  Cranky and hungry kids are scary even without the costumes!

5.  Realize that it’s Halloween and the most important part of the day is NOT getting the perfect picture with the scarecrow, making jack-o-lantern cupcakes, or reaching every house on the block. The most important aspect of any holiday is spending time with your sweet little pumpkin!

Is Screen Time Worth the “Quiet time”?

October 21st, 2016 by admin

Screens are everywhere! Even as we enter a bookstore, we see a variety of tablets and big HD screens playing the latest movie releases. But, when all is said and done, are the 30 minutes of quiet time we get from giving a child a smart phone or iPad a good exchange?

There are emergency situations that pop up, and as parents we need to do what is right for our children based our individual situations.  But what about our daily regular daily routines?  What are we trying to accomplish by giving a child a smart phone? Maybe we want a quiet dinner, or we want to be able to finish cleaning the kitchen.  We might need some extra time to respond to work emails. And we should be able to have time to do these important tasks. But when we give a child an iPad at dinner, he may be quiet, but he is missing an important part of growing up! The interaction children get at dinner when they can sit with their family in a safe environment and discuss the day’s events is important for social development.

Instead of turning on Netflix while you clean, maybe have an activity they can work on in the kitchen. Better yet, divide the chores according to age and everyone is able to help clean the kitchen faster!

Responding to work emails is trickier! If you can’t wait until the kids are sleeping, maybe you can respond during homework time, and let the kids know that you have work to complete as well.

When a child is misbehaving at the supermarket, will giving him a smartphone solve the problem? Probably not. The child has learned that the reward for misbehaving is getting to play on your smart phone!  Instead, plan on quick trips to the store or make a list with your child to make your food shopping a fun learning experience too.  The supermarket is a great place to talk about eating healthy, letters, counting, money,  manners, and more!

Numerous studies have shown that children who play games on iPads and smartphones, talk later, have less focus and attention, and can even have delays in basic motor skills. Have you ever tried to take an iPad away from a 5 year old? The hour it takes to bargain with your child to get the iPad back makes the 30 minutes of quiet seem irrelevant!

The next time you need to occupy your children to get work done, take a second to think of the pros and cons before handing them a screen.  If you can’t think of any other activity, I’ve given you a list below!

Here is a list of some activities they could do instead (there are a lot more!):

  1. Read a book/listen to an audiobook
  2. Play a board game with siblings.
  3. Pick up their toys.
  4. Play outside.
  5. Call Grandma.
  6. Help with chores.
  7. Help younger siblings learn something new.
  8. Bake cookies.
  9. Find different colored leaves and press them in books.
  10. Call a friend over to play.
  11. Go to a friends house to play.
  12. Write a story.
  13. Paint
  14. Help cook dinner.
  15. Go for a run or bike ride.
  16. Play doh.
  17. Legos/blocks
  18. Workbooks
  19. Make a fort/play in a tent.
  20. Write a letter/draw a picture for Santa.

 

 

 

ADHD: KNOW YOUR CHILD’S RIGHTS!

October 5th, 2016 by admin

adhd

As we all know, the only way to help a child with an ADHD diagnosis is to TREAT THE ISSUES! The best way for parents to be sure their child is getting the needed support and services, is to KNOW THEIR CHILD’S RIGHTS!

The US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has received thousands of complaints of discrimination based on disability, with 10 % being students with ADHD. The most common concern is that these students are not being evaluated in a timely manner, and are NOT receiving the needed aides and services.

Here are the facts:
1.  Schools MUST evaluate a student when he/she NEEDS or is BELIEVED TO NEED special education or services.

2.  Schools are OBLIGATED to provide services based on SPECIFIC needs, NOT GENERALIZATIONS about ADHD or any other diagnosis. (Each student should be evaluated individually without comparison to previous students or case studies.)

3.  Students who experience behavioral challenges, or seem unfocused COULD HAVE ADHD, and may need to be evaluated.

4.  Schools must allow parents to APPEAL decisions regarding identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with any disability, including ADHD.

How can we ensure our children are given the necessary services and aides to help them succeed at school?

1.  Be an advocate for your child.  No one knows your child better than their parents (or guardians).

2.  Stay informed!  Know your rights and be knowledgeable about the latest advances and research regarding ADHD.   Being aware of different accommodations and treatments will help you to make the best decisions for your child!

3.  Maintain a good relationship with your child’s homeroom and resource teacher.  Having an open line of communication will keep you and your child’s teacher aware of any important changes in behavior.

The right combination of support from parents, teachers, and mentors is crucial in helping each child succeed!

Resources:

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD,  July 26, 2016

What’s Recess?!?

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.

play

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!

Resources:

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

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/08/how-exercise-can-boost-the-childs-brain/?_r=0

“Seven Surprising Benefits of Exercise”, Time

http://time.com/4474874/exercise-fitness-workouts/

Reading is FUNdamental!

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

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!

Resources:

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,  https://breakingmuscle.com/family-kids/wired-kids-how-screen-time-affects-childrens-brains

It’s Playtime!!

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

 

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!

play

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!

 

Resources:

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!

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!

 

Resources:

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

http://newsweek.tumblr.com/post/149705393935/growing-up-poor-is-so-stressful-it-can-affect