Posts Tagged ‘Free Play’

Sensory Processing Disorder: The struggle is real!

Thursday, February 9th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

Do you have a bright child who can’t seem to focus when asked to perform a sequence of tasks?  Does your son or daughter jump from activity to activity?  Do you know a child that NEEDS to climb, run, and touch everything?  These are all examples of children displaying sensory processing disorder (SPD).  A  lot of kids with ADHD and autism, also have sensory processing issues that affect their organization and focus.  You know your child is smart, if only she would just calm down for a minute!  Sound familiar?


courtesy of pixabay


Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out of Sync Child recommends the “3Rs”:

  • Recognize that your child may have a sensory issue.  Kranowitz suggests putting on “sensory goggles” to observe what your child needs more or less.  Noise may cause your child to have outbursts.  A quick run around the block, may be what your child’s body is seeking to organize his thoughts again.
  • Re-channel the behavior.  Avoid punishing your child for his extra energy.  Find a way for him to use that energy purposefully.  Take younger kids to the playground or have them jump on the trampoline.  As children get older, assigning chores around the house (think raking leaves or vacuuming) are a great way to teach responsibility and have them expend excess energy.
  • Reward the child with specific and positive words.  Rather than a treat and a “Good job!”, try saying “Wow, you read that passage very well!”  Avoid sugary and material awards.  Praise from a parent is usually the biggest reward for a child.

Therapists will often recommend a sensory diet to help “sync’ the brain and body.  Here are some activities recommended by Kranowitz, plus a few more!

  1. Reach for the sky – While laying on her back, have your child stretch one are to the sky while you both count to five.  Hold it high while counting to five.  Then tell your child to pretend she is melting, and slowly bring her arm down for five counts.  Do the same with the other arm.  Repeat this exercise alternating between right and left arm and then right and left leg.  This slow and calming activity encourages patience and improves coordination. (Kranowitz)
  2. Copy Cat – Face your child and say, “Watch and copy what I do.”  Do different movements that require balance and coordination and let your child copy you.  For example, you can balance on one foot and wiggle the other foot in the air.  You can even take turns being the leader!
  3. Copy Can’t – In this variation, have your child do the OPPOSITE.  When you reach high with your hands, your child will have to reach low.  This is a great activity for building body awareness, visual processing, and motor planning.  (Kranowitz)
  4. Make your house sensory sensitive. – Be sure to have designated quiet areas.  A quiet area can be as simple as a corner with a bean bag chair or weighted blanket.  Providing a small trampoline or exercise ball in your child’s room or playroom are simple activities for releasing energy.  Your child should also have a designated area for homework.  His desk or table should be clear of all distractions to help him focus on his work.
  5. Encourage outdoor play and exercise.– Exercise is important for everyone.  However, for individuals with SPD, physical activity helps with processing, focus, and self-regulation.  Biking, running, and other sports help children use excess energy, increase body awareness, and improve focus.

No matter how mild or severe your child’s SPD is, remember that many of their behaviors have an underlying cause.  Refrain from over the top reactions such as, “Why do you always do that?”  Instead, put on your investigator’s hat, and try to figure out what caused the behavior.  Once you have the cause, find an activity or a sensory tool to help your child become more aware of his own body and regulate his own sensory issues.

Brainjogging helps with SPD by helping to syncing the auditory, visual, and language pathways in the brain.  A child who is better able to understand the world around him will feel more in control and will be able to remain calm in different situations.  Combine Brainjogging with a sensory diet and you’ll have a calm, melt-down free child in no time at all!


Kranowitz, Carol, “When Your Child is Out-of-Sync”  ADDitude Magazine, Winter 2016.

Arky, Beth, “Treating Sensory Processing Issues”

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.


Five reasons why we need to curb screen time…

Tuesday, 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.


Mommy! Mommy!: Sharing “mommy time”

Tuesday, 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!)


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?

5 Steps to a Low-Stress Halloween!

Tuesday, 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”?

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.




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

Let the Kids Play!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by admin

(Your child’s success may depend on it!)

In 1955, Mattel was the first company to advertise a toy before the Christmas holiday season. Overnight, children’s play became focused on THINGS instead of activities, more specifically, their own, imaginative play. In the second part of the 20th century, there was more concern about safely, so parents moved toward safe play environments, like adult-moderated classes providing their children with enriched lives and improved self-esteem. These changes in how children play have led to changes in their cognitive and emotional development.

Psychological Researchers, back in 1940’s, conducted a series of tests on children, ages 3, 5 and 7. Standing still was one of these activities. The 3-year-olds could not do it at all; 5-year-olds for about 3 minutes; and the 7-year-olds could stand still as long as the scientists asked them to. In 2001, Dr. Elena Bodrova at Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning repeated the experiment and the results were drastically different.

The 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds sixty years ago; 7 year olds were barely approaching the level of the 5-year-olds. The children were less likely to have self-regulation skills. This is the ability to control emotions and behavior – It’s a key component of a broader set of skills called Executive Function. Kids with good self-regulation are not impulsive; they have self-control and discipline. Good self-regulation is a better predictor of success in school than a child’s IQ.

Self-Regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain, says researcher Laura Berk, from Illinois State University. She found that make-believe is a powerful tool for building self-regulation. While in imaginative play, children engage in private speech. They use this speech to say what they are going to do and how they are going to do it – laying out the rules of play for themselves.

Private speech has been found to be predictive of Executive Function. Adults engage in private speech as well; we use it to surmount obstacles, master cognitive and social skills, and to manage our emotions. The more structured the play, the more children’s private speech declines. Kids are not getting the chance to police themselves. When they have the opportunity, the results are clear: self regulation improves.

Yale psychological researcher Dorothy Singer found that teachers and administrators are starting earlier and earlier in basic fundamentals. Because of all the testing, kids are working on educational skills and drills, and playtime is being squeezed out. In the rush to give children every advantage — to protect them, to stimulate them, to enrich them — our culture has accidentally compromised one of the activities that helped children most. Make sure your child gets time to work his imagination in his own creative way!