Posts Tagged ‘kids’

No More Meltdowns in 5 Steps

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

courtesy of pixabay

You’re almost done with Saturday morning errands, you have just reached the supermarket, and then it happens: a meltdown! Meltdowns are not always about being defiant. Most meltdowns occur when a child feels out of control, or doesn’t understand a situation. Why are transitions so hard for some children? It’s not that they wouldn’t like to have dinner, or go to Grandma’s house. The reason is more likely that they were focused on a particular activity or expecting a certain routine, and your plan seemed to come out of nowhere. The good news is we have a few tips to help decrease meltdowns, and help you and your child feel more in control when things are about to get ugly!

1. Explain where you are going, when you are leaving and when you will return. We wouldn’t like to be taken to some mystery destination, and neither would our kids. Letting your child know what you’ve planned helps him to understand what to expect from the your outing.

2. Talk about potential disappointments and how we should react. You might remind your son about a time his favorite restaurant was closed and he got upset. “Last time you were disappointed when the pizzeria was closed, what should we do today if we our plans don’t work out?”

3. Make a game plan together. Discuss with your child ahead of time what is expected of him, what you as a parent can do to make him feel better, and what you will do as the one in charge, if the situation goes out of control. For example, I usually let my kids know why we are at Target, and what we are looking to buy. I then let them know what fun place we are supposed to go afterwards. Then I tell them, I am going to count each time you do something you are not supposed to do(being loud, not following directions). If I get to three, we will leave the cart, get in the car, and go home. On a good day, I might get to “one”, on a bad day, I might get to “three” just as we are leaving the store. Be consistent! Once your child knows you mean what you say, they’ll follow your plan too.

4. Ask your child how he feels. Sometimes the meltdown is just too much to handle right in the middle of a public area. Take your child to the car, or to a quiet place and talk it out. Let him know you understand that he is disappointed and ask him if he could explain what upset him so that you can understand better. Most children like to know that their parents are on their side. By acknowledging his feelings and trying to understand his point of view, you are showing just that! If your child is just too loud to reason with, don’t say a word or try to compete with his intensity, simply wait for him to calm down or wait for a pause so you can be the voice of reason.

5. If you know a particular place always results in tears and tantrums, you might consider not going there until your child is a little more mature. When he asks you why you haven’t taken a trip to that particular place, let him know the reason. You could say, “I don’t think we are ready for that store. It seems to upset you, and I would rather not go there.” Our children might not be aware of the consequences of their behavior. Not going to a fun place might be the necessary consequence for him to understand the importance of staying calm and using his words, rather than throwing a tantrum.

All children will throw tantrums at some point. Children with processing issues, ADHD, or Autism will have more frequent meltdowns. However with the right attitude and a lot of consistency we can survive and decrease the menacing meltdowns!

Camp Academia can help!  Call our office, 706-884-4492 to learn more.


How does screen-time affect behavior?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani
child with a tablet

courtesy of pixabay

What would you say if I told you that 15.5% of elementary students, grades 1-5 have been diagnosed with ADHD?  Recent data from the National Health Center showed that as of 2015, 10.2% of children ages 5-15 were diagnosed with ADHD.  From 1980 to 2007, the diagnosis of ADHD in the pediatric population increased by 800 percent!  These dramatic increases indicate that the cause may not just be genetic.  Experts are looking to environmental factors to explain the sharp rise in ADHD among children.  According to Victoria Dunckley, M.D., the answer could be in the palm of your hand.

As reported by Victoria Dunckley, MD, integrative child psychiatrist and author of the book, Reset Your Child’s Brain, technology is having a negative impact on our children’s brain health and development.  Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS), is the result of over exposure to screens in the forms of video game systems, tablets, and smart phones.  Electronics can overstimulate and deregulate a child’s nervous system.  The added overstimulation and stress cause children to have issues with mood, focus, sleep, and behavior. (Dunckley)

How does Electronic Screen Syndrome affect children?

Constantly interacting with the artificial stimuli that screens supply, shifts the nervous system into a stressed mode.  Our brains and bodies are meant to handle some stress, but repeated stress can overwhelm our body’s ability to adapt.  Usually, high stress levels normalize when followed by an appropriate discharge of energy (think fight or flight).  However, screen time is generally paired with a lot of sitting. Where does the energy go?  According to Dunckley, it gets released in the form of a tantrum or other inappropriate behavior.  Dunckley further points out that if we were to look inside a brain engaged in screen-time, we would see that brain getting too much activity in some areas, such as reward pathways, and not enough in other areas such as the regions associated with empathy.  This leads to fragmented brain development, making it less flexible and resilient. (Dunckley)  One of the strongest impact of screens on the brain is with regards to sleep.  The unnatural, bright light from a smart phone or tablet slows the production of the sleep signal, melatonin.  Lack of melatonin desynchronizes the body clock resulting in poor sleep and disrupted hormone cycles.  In fact, weight gain and high blood pressure related to screen-time could be a result of constantly high stress hormones, as well as being overly sedentary. (Dunckley)

What behaviors are associated with ESS?

  • Irritability
  • Oppositional-defiant behaviors
  • Social immaturity
  • Poor eye contact
  • Insomnia
  • Learning difficulties
  • Poor memory
  • Lack of focus
  • Tantrums
  • Disorganized behaviors

Children with underlying issues such as ADHD and Autism will display more severe versions of the symptoms.   Often these children are more likely to be drawn to screens.  Parents can mistake the kids’ “quiet” behavior while playing on a tablet as improvement.  Try taking the screen away, and you soon realize that the screen was only masking the issues! (Dunckley)

Parents worry that their child  will be the only one without a tablet, or that he won’t make friends, or learn the latest technology.  That is not the case.  For young children the importance of being screen free is to allow their brains to naturally develop strong neuronal connections.  The brain’s most rapid growth is during the first few years of life.  Assaulting those brains with digital media is preventing them from reaching their true potential academically and socially.  Children benefit so much more from human interaction and outdoor play.  Let our children’s brains grow and develop so that they can withstand the effects of the latest technology.

What can parents do to help their children?

  1. Dunckley suggests an electronic fast, 3-4 weeks of strict removal of all electronic media.  Doing so, will help reset your child’s brain, allowing you to focus on what is really going on with your child, without having to deal with the added behavior issues.
  2. Encourage your child to engage in other activities.  Have a family game night.  Help your child find a sports team or club to join.
  3. Brainjogging twice a day can help children get their brains back in sync.  The exercises in Brainjogging target the areas of the brain controlling focus, attention, memory, and processing.  Brainjogging’s simple design and quick exercises make it highly effective for all children.

While most parents start their children on Brainjogging for academic reasons, the first change they notice, is in their child’s behavior.  A child who is out of sync, will have trouble regulating his emotions and behavior.  A child who has made the important connections in the brain is in sync will be more flexible, more resilient, and will demonstrate improved behavior and focus!


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.


What’s your gift?

Wednesday, 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!


Kids who learn music, read better!

Monday, 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!


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.


Sleep deprivation affects children differently than adults

Thursday, 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.






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!