Posts Tagged ‘Learning Disabiliites’

Spring forward without falling backward!

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani
sleeping child

courtesy of pixabay

We’ve taken a vote and decided that the Monday after the Daylight Saving Time change should be a national holiday. Just kidding!

It would be nice to have that extra day to adjust to the new time, especially for families with children with ADHD, Autism, other processing, and behavioral issues. That one hour change can often throw off our kids’ systems for weeks and even cause a set back to steady progress. Changes in sleep patterns and routines affect everyone, with or without learning issues.  However, there are some ways to help kids stay on track even when their bodies are telling them otherwise.

1. Stick to routines

Children with ADHD, Autism, and other learning differences are already struggling to understand the world around them.  Adding an extra hour to the day can be difficult to process.  We can help keep anxiety low by keeping to our regular routines and schedules.  The less out of control your child feels, the easier the adjustment period will be for everyone.

2. Try shifting your child’s schedule by 10-15 minutes each day

Often letting a child know exactly what is about to happen is the best way to prepare for a new situation.  Forwarding the day by a whole hour fits into the “new situations” category.  About ten days before Daylight Saving Time Sunday sit down with your child and let them know that soon everyone will be forwarding their clocks forward and that as a family you will all be preparing for the time change.  Children with ADHD and Autism are often visual learners. You can even make a chart or mark your calendar with the new wake-up and bedtimes to clearly show them how the time will change.

3. Light blocking shades

Too much light at bedtime can be a problem for kids with learning disabilities.  Their internal clocks often use environmental cues such as sunlight or darkness to help them wake and sleep.  Try using sun-blocking shades to keep out the light in the evening to help children fall asleep and to prevent them from waking up too early.

4. Extra exercise

Encourage your child to play outside or take them to the playground.  Physical activity can improve sleep quality and increase sleep duration.   Also, studies have shown that exercise reduces stress by increasing the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.   The combined benefits of releasing pent up energy, and reducing stress can have a positive impact on helping your child adjust to time change.

5. Avoid extra stimulation in the evening, especially around bedtime.

Help your child’s bedtime routine by avoiding rowdy games, electronic devices and any other activities that may energize your child and prevent them from falling asleep.  Instead, encourage quiet games, reading, coloring, and other calming activities.  Screens should be avoided.  Artificial light from tablets and smart phones has been shown to interfere with the body’s natural sleep patterns and can slow down the production of melatonin, a chemical the body naturally produces to regulate sleep.  Individuals with low melatonin levels will have difficulty sleeping at appropriate bedtimes.

6.  Brainjogging

Brainjogging can help your child adjust to Daylight Saving Time too!  Make a wordlist using relevant words and short phrases to help your child understand what Daylight Saving is and how it will affect his day.  You can add some of the ways that you plan on helping him adjust.  Look out for our word list about Daylight Savings under “My Assigned Lists”.

Overall, it is important to be aware that the Daylight Saving Time change may affect your child’s sleep patterns and behavior.  Be prepared, have a plan, and be patient!


Strengthening this Area of the Brain Improves Reading

Monday, March 6th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

courtesy of pixabay

What if we knew exactly what part of the brain is used when we learn to read? In August 2016, scientists at MIT were able to do just that! Using MRI scans in children at age 5 and then at age 8, the MIT researchers were able to isolate the area in the occipito-temporal region that is often referred to as the Visual Word Form Area, VWFA. These scientists are now working on using the same brain imaging techniques to be able to predict a child’s functional development. In other words, experts would be able to identify children who are at risk of developing dyslexia or other learning difficulties connected with issues in that area of the brain.

What is the VWFA?

The VWFA, Visual Word Form Area is a novel brain network located in the left occipito –temporal (LOT) region of the brain. This system is responsible for the rapid, automatic, fluent identification of words. In other words, the neural pathways work together as a system to rapidly decode strings of letters into words. Individuals with dyslexia have a disruption in this system explaining why reading becomes a big challenge.

How will this information help my child and me?

Dyslexia can be frustrating for both parents and children. Fortunately, as we have seen, researchers have been able to narrow in on the disrupted neural pathways that cause dyslexia. This information combined with the brain’s ability to change and heal itself (plasticity) gives hope to individuals and their families. The fact that dyslexia has a cognitive basis, means that to overcome the problem, you need a focused, cognitive-based solution.

Brainjogging can help!

Brainjogging is a cognitive-based, multi-sensory program designed to strengthen weak connections in the brain. The key issue with dyslexia, or any other reading challenge, is a disconnect between what an individual sees and what the brain processes. When Brainjoggers, see, say, and spell words during each exercise, they are combining proven methods for enhancing reading, with research-backed techniques for improving cognition and processing.

To learn how Brainjogging can help your child, call  Camp Academia at 706-884-4492.


Shaywitz, S., Mody, M., and Shaywitz, B., “Neural Mechanisms in Dyslexia”, Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2006



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 

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!


Transitioning to Middle School Made Easy

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 by Karishma Bakshani

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

1.  Confirm or create a support system

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

2.  Organize

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

3.  Encourage Independence

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







Do Brain Games work?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Who is Shirley Pennebaker’s Mentor?

Tuesday, 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!





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.





Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by admin


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!


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