Posts Tagged ‘disabilities’

New studies show rapid brain growth early in development in children with Autism.

Monday, February 20th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

courtesy of pixabay

Parents having children with autism are often anxious about younger siblings having the same diagnosis. And if they do have autism, parents are more likely to want to start earlier interventions. It looks as though recent studies will make this more likely for parents. In a study published in Nature, researchers were able to use MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in infants with autistic older siblings, to correctly predict 80 percent of those infants who would later meet the criteria for autism at age 2.

It is estimated that one out of 68 children develop autism in the United States. For infants with older siblings with autism, the risk may be as high as 20 out of every 100 births. Most children are not diagnosed with autism until they reach 24 months. As experts have observed, the earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome of the child.

For this Nature study, Piven, Hazlett, and researchers from around the country conducted MRI scans of infants at six, 12, and 24 months of age. They found that the babies who developed autism experienced a hyper-expansion (over-growth) of brain surface area from six to 12 months, as compared to babies who had an older sibling with autism but did not themselves show evidence of the condition at 24 months of age. Increased growth rate of surface area in the first year of life was linked to increased growth rate of overall brain volume in the second year of life. Brain overgrowth was tied to the emergence of autistic social deficits in the second year.

This is great news for parents who already have a child with autism, and are having or thinking about having another baby. The earlier in development a child is exposed to the right conditions the more likely it is that the child will succeed. If a child is exposed to books and is read to from infancy, it is more likely that child will develop a love for reading. Along the same lines, if a child’s brain is at risk for specific brain changes that cause autism, exposing them to the right therapies and social environments has the potential to alleviate those social deficits and symptoms of autism.

Brainjogging is one such intervention, and can be done as early as 3 years old. When done twice a day, the cognitive exercises help to sync the brain’s pathways. In the case of autism, many children experience overstimulation, where multiple neurons are firing at once. This can make even the simplest task seem complicated. After Brainjogging, children with autism are able to focus on the task in front of them. The younger a child starts interventions like Brainjogging, the more likely it is that the child will overcome learning difficulties and deficits.


“Early brain development in infants at high risk for autism spectrum disorder”,  Nature 542,  348–351 

Connecting with Children with Autism

Monday, 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.


Is Screen Time Worth the “Quiet time”?

Friday, 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.




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:


Bedtime Reminders for Holiday Break

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 by admin

We have said it before and it is a great reminder over the holidays: Kids need a bedtime routine and a regular bedtime hour. Researcher Yvonne Kelly, from University College, London, has been studying all the details surrounding bedtime in thousands of homes in the U.K. She found that kids with irregular bedtimes exhibited more behavioral issues. Kids with no bedtime schedule were more likely to hit, act out, not get along with peers, and be emotionally withdrawn.

“Kelly thinks young children probably experience an inconsistent bedtime like having jet-lag.” If the time switches from 7:00 to 9:00 to 10:00 to 8:00, the kids experience a jet-lag effect and behavior problems increase. Just like adults, kids are lethargic, become cranky and can have difficulty interacting with others. As parents, we want our kids to be able to handle some of the social expectations that we encounter during the holidays – parties, shopping, and last-minute changes in the family schedule.

We have this biological clock deep inside the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. “This tiny cluster of nerve cells, no bigger than a grain of rice, is super-sensitive to sunlight and other light coming in through our eyes. At the end of the day, when the ambient light starts to fade, a brain hormone called melatonin starts to rise, causing drowsiness.”

Sleep researcher Russell Rosenberg says that children have this rise in melatonin earlier in the evening than teenagers or adults. The natural time for young children to fall asleep is around 7 or 8 o’clock at night. It’s very important to turn off light sources starting about 30 minutes before bedtime. Make it a part of the routine: TV off, computers off, and video games definitely OFF, then brush teeth, read and snuggle into bed. This way, the child’s natural melatonin release will maintain a healthy level in the body and help your child drift naturally off to sleep.

Over the holidays, remember to get your child Brainjogging every day, twice daily, as a way to keep the brain healthy and more prepared to face the inconsistencies that come with the holiday season! If you have questions or need a boost of cheerleading, contact Camp Academia at!


Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 by admin

Stress! We are all feeling it…school, meetings, practices, game schedules, driving, volunteering, oh – and grocery shopping! When adults stress out, we look the part: growly-faced, short-tempered, and tense. Kids feel our stress and they experience their own level of stress at school. When we stress, internally or externally, we are unable to think effectively.

A study from the University of Wisconsin found that when we are under stress, our neurons are unable to hold key information that helps us think clearly, organize, prioritize or problem-solve. Stress does damage to our working memory. We essentially lose the function of our prefrontal cortex – that’s the conductor of our beautiful brain!

Under stress, our neurons become hectic, bouncing everywhere and paying attention to things that distract us. The really scary part is that stress doesn’t just suppress the activity; it MODIFIES the nature of the activity at the cellular level. When your child is asked to complete a math worksheet and (s)he has trouble remembering number facts, there is going to be a level of stress going into that activity that will alter how it is completed. It will take longer, it may look messier, and the order of sequential thinking so vital to mathematical concepts will be scattered. Additional classroom noises, smells, and activities also contribute to the stress reaction.

The very last part of this article states that “treatments that keep neurons on their self-stimulating task while shutting out distractions may help protect working memory.” Guess what? Brainjogging does just that – it keeps the neurons ON TASK and it helps tune out distractions. Keep working that Brainjogging treatment and watch how your child transforms into a happier, more confident and relaxed individual – ready to take on the world!