Browsing articles in "Research"

Research Tested, Parent Approved

Feb 23, 2016   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Research, Special Needs, Technology  //  No Comments

by Kurt Dragomanovich

Almost every day, we here at CLC overhear a parent talking about their child’s struggle with reading, inability to pay attention, or difficulty listening to and understanding what their teacher is saying in class! Little do these parents know that an online-based program backed by over thirty years of independent research could make a difference for their child in as little as 30 minutes a day.

MAPS

Fast ForWord targets the foundational skills for learning.

Fast ForWord does what no other intervention can do: it starts with cognitive skills like memory, attention, processing speed, and sequencing and works from the bottom up, using the principles of neuroplasticity. Fast ForWord aims to remediate the underlying difficulties that keep struggling readers and English language learners from making progress.

The Center for Communication Skills is proud to be a private provider for the Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs developed by Scientific Learning. Recently, we came across three parent success stories that we thought were too good not to share. Check them out!

 

Amanda VanDeWege’s story about her daughter: “Fast ForWord® User Review Journal Entries”
4 weeks into Fast ForWord: “My DD is READING!!!  She is reading over my shoulder as I type. She is reading sentences in books. She is reading labels in the stores as we walk by.  This is amazing!  She has been learning to read for over two years…Her working memory capacity is also noticeably increased in that she can play the sound memory game now without difficulty.  This is evident in her reading in that she can now read a whole 5-7 word sentence all the way through once and remember the beginning words.”

Samantha Taylor’s story about her son, Joey
Between 3-7 weeks of Fast ForWord: “We see it in the classroom,” his teacher said. “He’s paying more attention because he is processing more of what we are saying.” I remembered that Joey’s private speech therapist had recently noticed that the past few weeks he was more relaxed, cracking more jokes, and flying through exercises that he had struggled with. “It’s just going to get better from here,” the teacher exclaimed.

Tess Messer’s story about her son: “Fast Forward Review, Central Auditory Processing Disorder and ADHD”
“My son has been using an CAPD software program called Fast ForWord that has helped him tremendously. It works to improve and increase language skills and it also works on auditory memory and on reducing detailed information to a more basic representation. He has completed his second module and his auditory processing and language skills have improved tremendously.” 

A large number of the parents who have had their children complete Fast ForWord with us over the years have excitedly written testimonials of their own. We are always happy to hear about how the program has helped so many struggling learners become successful students!

To learn more about Fast ForWord, visit the Online Programs section of our website, or call us at (559) 228-9100 for a free demonstration of the program!

About the Author
Kurt Dragomanovich is a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student at California State University, Fresno. He also serves as the Program Coordinator of the Center for Communication Skills’ Learning Academy and Online Programs.

Are you wasting your time with homework?

Feb 28, 2013   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Research  //  Comments Off

by Rebecca Wage

Perhaps you or your child thinks homework is a waste of time.   An article by Scientific Learning breaks down “The Great Homework Debate” by exploring the arguments for and against homework.

It seems reasonable that a child’s time outside the classroom should be spent exercising or having quality family time.  Is homework an archaic institution that needs revamping, or does it still serve a purpose in modern child’s life? To answer this question, it is important to recognize that all homework is not cast from the same mold. Homework’s value is dependent on many factors, including the age of the child, type of assignment, and the subject.  The following will explore some of the key takeaways from Scientific Learning’s findings on effective homework.

Effective homework has these characteristics:

  • It increases memorization and automaticity.  Mastering one assignment equips a student to build on that assignment by adding more information.  One of our favorite resources, The Khan Academy, perfectly demonstrates how lessons build on each other through their Knowledge Map.  Therefore, if you did not do your homework for ‘ordering negative numbers’, you will not have a sturdy foundation for ‘adding negative numbers’.
  • The focus includes just a few concepts for a deeper understanding.  Furthermore, these few concepts should match a larger learning goal; for example an assignment to demonstrate the use of metaphors contributes to the larger goal of identifying literary devices in a novel.
  • This next takeaway is crucial: timely feedback. The sooner feedback is delivered, the better, because while the material is fresh in their mind they will retain the correct answers and methods.  This aspect of homework effectiveness often lies with the teacher, who is often swamped with assignments to correct.

As a parent you may be thinking these homework takeaways are out of my control; it is up to the teacher to design the assignments and give feedback. Parents play a large role in the effectiveness of homework, and that role is facilitating, not teaching.  A main purpose of homework is to help students them help themselves: teach them where to look for answers, how to organize their time, and build responsibility.  If your child in struggling with a subject, it may be tempting to hover over their shoulder, talk them through every step of every problem, but in the end it may be more effective to offer a less intrusive form of support.

So if you are “wasting your time” with homework, consider these points and start creating a healthy relationship with homework for you and your child.  Our Homework Help Study Hall at CLC incorporates these key points in the following ways:  by offering a structured time and place to efficiently complete homework, encouraging students to find and use resources for independent problem solving, and providing appropriate and timely feedback.

Check out the rest of the article!
http://www.scilearn.com/blog/homework-debate-is-homework-helpful-or-harmful.php

Relax Your Way to Better Health and Clearer Thinking

Dec 22, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Health, Research  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Western medicine has come to realize that mind and body are connected: when our mind is troubled, disease follows close behind. What has seemed mysterious and shrouded in religious practice or strongly held belief systems can now be explained as “taking care of our minds” by focusing our thinking on calming healing practices.

Dr. Herbert Benson, from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital has led the way in this understanding and described something he called the “relaxation response”, the opposite of stress. When we are stressed our body reacts with a genetically programmed survival response: “flight or fight”. When in this mode we experience a rush of hormones allowing us to respond to dangerous situations quickly for our own protection. That worked really well when daily life was filled with unpredictable hazards in the environment such as dangerous animals. It still works well when we are doing battle on the freeways or in athletic contests.

Trouble is, our bodies react the same way at the office when we are overwhelmed or under performance pressure. It’s the same response at home when troubles increase and we find that we cannot keep up with financial or family demands. It’s the same response in children if they are in a classroom where the learning environment is stressful and they are over concerned about performing well. It’s even the same response if we are watching a suspenseful movie or program on TV. All of this “stress” floods our bodies with hormones that over time lead to a wide variety of ailments and diseases.

There are many ways to get to the “relaxation response” but one thing is certain, to be helpful in maintaining good health, the response needs to be practiced. The great news is you can practice the relaxation response yourself, or you can find support from a wide variety of sources.

Dr. Benson outlines these simple steps to the “relaxation response”:

  1. Pick a personal focus word, sound, prayer or short phrase for example, “peace,” “one” or “the Lord is my shepherd”
  2. Sit comfortably in a quiet place
  3. Close your eyes
  4. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do , say your focus word, sound, or phrase or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale
  5. Assume a passive attitude and don’t worry about how well you’re doing. Move other thoughts out of your mind when they appear.
  6. Continue for 10 or 20 minutes, time yourself by peeking at a watch or clock
  7. When you are finished, continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, gradually allowing other thoughts to return. Open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising
  8. Practice this technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

Wishing you good health, in mind and body and here to serve your needs at the California Learning Connection!

Got Sleep?

Nov 22, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Health, Research  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Are you getting enough sleep? New studies suggest that chronic sleep deprivation is a widespread public health problem. Sleepiness and lack of attentiveness are not the only consequences of sleep deprivation; your overall health suffers as well. According to studies presented at the October 2012 Neuroscience annual meeting:

  • One in five American adults show signs of chronic sleep deprivation, making the condition a widespread public health problem.
  • Sleeplessness is related to health issues such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, and memory problems.
  • Children who experience sleep deprivation are more likely to have learning and behavioral problems.

Some of the measurable findings about sleep deprivation indicate that:

  1. Sleepiness disrupts the coordinated function of the networks in your brain which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Sleeplessness impairs the formation and recall of memories.
  3. Even losing a half-night’s sleep can impair memory and alter the normal behavior of brain cells.

Many things can interfere with a good night’s sleep yet there are many remedies to improve sleep as well. First and foremost is to determine the reason for sleep deprivation so that you can make the appropriate changes. Luckily many of the sleep robbers are under our control including using electronic equipment right before bed, eating too much or too late in the evening, drinking alcohol before bed, or being too exhausted to sleep.

Some suggestions to improve sleep include:

  • Refrain from electronics 45 to 60 minutes before bedtime
  • Eat smaller meals in the evening and do not snack after dinner
  • Wear ear plugs if noises bother you
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages six to nine hours before going to sleep

A good night’s sleep does wonders for handling daily challenges, no matter your age. Creating the right personal routine to help ensure enough sleep is worth it for your long-term physical and mental health. Of course, if you have tried all the logical remedies and have not improved your sleep, speak with your physician. There may be more to consider.

At the California Learning Connection we take a holistic approach to help serve our clients. Sleep affects daily learning and thinking functions, therefore is an important factor in learning for all ages.

The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.”

-Wilson Mizener

Too Much Seat Time?

Sep 1, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Health, Research  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

I recently read an article in Inc. online magazine titled “Your Desk is Making You Stupid”. That title caught my attention since I do spend more time than I want to at my desk on some days and maybe you do too. The article by Jessica Stillman is based on an article from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest that found working memory performance for children and adults improved when participants walked at their chosen speed while performing memory tasks. So rather than the common belief that dual tasking takes brain power away from mental ability, the results show the opposite, walking while performing mental tasks improves your memory.

Walking at your chosen speed increases your energy resources. More energy leads to better thinking and remembering. The importance of choosing your own speed is interesting because we naturally have a cadence or rhythm that our body responds to best. A speed that is determined by someone else or a treadmill may not be the “ideal” speed for your particular level of activation.

For children it may be that one of the most damaging things we do in school is make them sit at a desk all day, not move around, and work hard at remembering new information. Now that school is back in session you may want to pay attention to how much “seat time” your child has during the school day. For many children having more time outdoors running and playing may make a critical difference in academic success.

For adults the harm of sitting all day is well documented in health journals. We know we get fatter, but now there is also evidence that we get dumber. Ouch! Double whammy. To begin to address this concern you may want to explain the “seat time” problem to your loved ones and ask them to track the amount of “seat time” each has during a week day versus a typical weekend. A little friendly competition might enliven things after you establish a baseline. Some families may even want to chart the amount of “seat time” and reward the substitution of walking and learning with something special. The results might be startling and would certainly call attention to the need for being up and moving, especially when thinking and trying to learn new things.

The California Learning Connection provides therapy and academic support in an environment that is sensitive to the needs of each learner. Movement and learning go hand in hand.

Can You Hear Me Now? A Boomer’s Guide to Listening Problems

Jun 29, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Health, Research, Speech  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Can you relate to this conversation?  I say, “Boy, it’s a windy day today.”  My husband says, “No, it’s not, it’s Thursday.”  This type of little exchange gets replayed again and again with increasing frequency in Boomer households.  Is it hearing loss?  Is it selective listening? Or is it a symptom of a brain that is working less effectively?  No matter what the reason for this type of misunderstanding, there can be serious emotional friction between spouses, especially when one partner does not acknowledge the problem.   The real reason for conversation breakdowns is not always what you might think and sometimes it is a combination of factors.

Just like other Baby Boomers I want to remain young as long as possible.  Hearing problems, more so than vision problems, are thought of “showing signs of age”.  Changes in hearing and listening ARE part of aging, but just like needing glasses to see, there are things we can do to improve our listening skills.

Hearing loss in Boomers is higher than for prior generations.  One study states that as many as 40% of Baby Boomers have hearing loss.  We are more susceptible because of past exposure to loud noises and continuing exposure through our listening devices at too high a volume.  Even though Boomers are more likely to have hearing loss they are slow to get hearing evaluations and wear hearing aids.  Hearing aids have never been better than they are now, but they do not restore normal hearing.  You may need to learn other techniques to get the most from your aids.

“Selective hearing is a nice way of saying that someone only listens to what they want to hear, or, worse, masks everything they hear with what they expect the other person is really saying.” Scientists are just beginning to understand how the brain chooses what to listen to and what happens in the brain when there are overlapping events that require listening to understand.  To be able to selectively listen you have to focus on a single speaker in virtually any environment — a classroom, sporting event or coffee bar — even if that person’s voice is seemingly drowned out by a jabbering crowd.  Being able to selectively listen depends on your brain and can be “better” or “worse” depending on general health or brain functioning.

As a brain ages we can measure slowing performance in many areas.  One of these measures is listening speed.  Think of having a conversation with someone while they are on a train going a steady 80 miles an hour and you are on a parallel different train that is very gradually slowing down.  You begin missing more and more of the conversation.  You don’t notice it at first, but then you start saying things like, “Why can’t these young people speak clearly?” or “I just don’t understand why people don’t speak plain English anymore.”  It’s not because you have a hearing loss that you feel this way; it is because your brain needs tuning up to listen faster.

It’s common to have more than one problem that diminishes Boomer listening skills.  The good news is that these problems have solutions.  Start by visiting your doctor and asking to see an audiologist.  Then, if you need aids, get them.  They have never been better or smaller.  Chances are your brain is slowing down too.  Talk to a professional who deals with training the brain to listen.  This is the path to better listening and happier relationships.  Take it!

 

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Apr 3, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Research, Technology  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

How many people do you know who would answer a resounding “YES!!!” to this question?

Most of us, at one time or another, feel that there is too much to do and not enough time. Time Management Consultants make a living helping others manage time, priorities and life events so that more can be accomplished. Our electronic devices including computers, tablets and smart phones have certainly changed our lives. Could we call these changes an improvement? Or just a more intrusive and demanding path to becoming a slave to get things done anytime, anywhere?

Have we reached the point where there is no physical way that more can be accomplished, even with the help of all the electronic gadgets we can think of? How many times have you had the experience of trying to speak with someone while they are also messaging someone else? You never really get their full attention. At the dinner table the vibration of a phone often gets more attention than the person sharing the table.

Tony Schwartz, author of The Energy Project Blog, states that one of our problems is that there are not stopping points, finish lines or natural boundaries from one activity to another. The boundaries between work and home have blurred. Work follows us everywhere through our tablets and portable devices. It is difficult to ignore these constant reminders that there is something that needs our attention. When the device signals it’s like an “itch” that needs to be scratched.
Mr. Schwartz offers these suggestions to help us reclaim the boundaries between work and personal life and to manage our energy and time well.

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning. It is important to resist distractions and it is also important to determine a starting and stopping point with discrete goals to be accomplished. Doing this will naturally increase your productivity and allow you to function without being interrupted or distracted.
2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you are constantly “putting out fires”, chances are you have not had regular planning time to make sure that the important things happen the way they should. Urgency takes away from your ability to think of open-ended more creative solutions. These solutions come when you are more relaxed and have time set aside for strategic thinking.
3. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off you are not bringing work concerns with you. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. The research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.

Keeping Your Brain Young and Vital

Feb 2, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Health, Research, Technology  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage, for Posit Science

Keeping your brain healthy should be a high priority, no matter what your age. Just as maintaining your physical health contributes to a high standard of quality of life, good brain health supports your potential for success and wellbeing. When you are young, obtaining enough nutrients and fostering a rich, nurturing environment leads to good cognitive skills for learning. When you are middle-aged, you rely on your brain to excel at work and in your personal life, so that you can meet daily demands without faltering. In the later years, you may be concerned about your brain health and wonder what consequences brain health might have on your independence and overall function. However, no matter what your age, the goal should be to have your “brain span” match your “lifespan.”

That’s the ultimate benchmark for a life of optimal and total health. It’s important to think about brain health during all stages of life to increase the probability of achieving the existence you desire. Luckily, neuroscience is giving us more insight into how to create and maintain good brain health throughout our lifetime. Knowing and learning about your brain can help you appreciate all it does for you, as well as understand the benefits of taking care of it.

The idea of having our thinking capacities diminished for any reason usually results in anxiety, and with good reason. Having sound memory, good problem solving skills, and the ability to respond with curiosity to our surroundings are all essential to meaningful, daily engagement with the world. Likewise, the ability to be a good listener, find the right words, and think quickly are important elements for maintaining social connections. When we have good brain health and are functioning optimally, our mood is elevated and we feel confident and optimistic.

These characteristics are just a few hallmarks of a youthful, vital brain. While most of us expect some level of “deterioration” as we grow older, which is aptly reflected in numerous expressions associated with aging and loss of cognitive function, preserving and enhancing a healthy, youthful brain is possible at all stages of life. Jokes aside, exercising your brain is an important daily activity.

Adapting to the rapid changes all around us is what a healthy brain does best. In fact, there is evidence that shows our brains are capable of adapting to new circumstances and information until the moment of our very last breath of life. Surely, this proves what a wondrous organ the brain truly is!

What diminishes brain health?

There are many conditions that impact the integrity of our brain functioning; some are temporary, and some take their toll over a longer period of time. Temporary conditions include side effects from drug or alcohol use, sleep deprivation, and short-term illnesses. Chronic conditions or injuries, by contrast, can have permanent effects that require life modifications and/or compensations. There is a long list of diseases and chronic conditions that affect brain health, including (but certainly not limited to): chronic poor nutrition, head injury,
stroke, and HIV. Genetics plays a role in some types of cognitive decline, and some medications such as chemotherapy may result in decreased function, giving birth to what some sufferers call “chemobrain.” Many of these and other conditions are being studied to determine if the effects of this can be mitigated or improved upon. And, in some cases, we already know the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Brain Maintenance Manual

Regardless of any diagnosis, there is absolutely no reason to sit helplessly by while your brain function diminishes with age or illness. You can actively take part in improving cognitive ability in many areas such as memory, speed of processing, accuracy, mood, and recall. It is not necessary that age takes its toll on mental skills or that disease and injury result in permanent damage to brain function. Thanks to neuroscience research performed around the world, the body of knowledge surrounding maintaining a healthy brain is dramatically more advanced than it was 20 years ago. With the help of brain imaging techniques and continuing studies, restoring function and increasing your current potential are no longer lost causes.

And, the good news is that the tools to build a vital, healthy brain are not exotic or out of reach. They are readily accessible and when you know what to do, your daily choices will make a difference in how youthful your brain is. Just as lifestyle has an impact on our bodies, the way we live impacts our brain health as well. New Learning is the Key Being a “creature of habit,” it turns out, is not the best way to maintain brain health. Habits are important because they allow us to do many things throughout the day without having to make a conscious effort. Think of it like this: when you do something repeatedly in the same way, you are creating deeper and deeper tracks, or neuropathways, in the brain. These neuropathways eventually become so deep that trying to learn a new behavior is very difficult. In contrast to this, if you complete daily activities in a new and different manner, you are stimulating your brain to make new connections rather than deepening the existing grooves. The more new connections you create, the more opportunity there is for recovering or maintaining health, particularly if your brain is challenged by illness or age. There is much research that has proven the old saying “use it or lose it” also applies to Mental maintaining brain flexibility in thinking and the ability to adapt. Think about your current habits and experiment with replacing them with new ones for the purpose of improving or maintaining a vital brain. And, after your new course of action becomes a habit, change it, because once again, you will only be deepening the grooves.

Physical Exercise

A study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia found that even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have a positive effect on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral levels. When you exercise, your increased heart rate pumps more oxygen to your brain, releasing hormones, which aid in nourishing new brain cells. These new brain cells make new connections in the brain, allowing brain plasticity or adaptation to occur in a wide variety of areas in the brain. Similarly, research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain, making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections. To depict this point, maybe you have heard of, or have experienced a “runner’s high.” This effect is actually a dose of natural antidepressant-like neurotransmitters that are associated with a drop in stress hormones. A study from Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Optimum Diet

It makes sense that diet is important to brain health. After all, we know that a “starved” brain suffers and cannot develop. It is not so clear, however, what exactly constitutes a good diet for brain health maintenance. So far, although not conclusive, eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, has topped the brain-food list because they reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. Vitamins and other food sources have been a major focus of research in brain health as well, but have also produced conflicting results. Unfortunately, there is still so much to study and learn about nutrition and the brain, so the best advice for now is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

Mental Exercise

The best way to exercise your brain and keep it young is to LEARN NEW THINGS. When we learn something new, we are pushing our brain to create new connections and increase neurotransmitters. Practice repeatedly until you have mastered a new skill; once you’ve accomplished this, you can rest assured that you’ve just added a new groove to your thinking arsenal! Anything that you have always done the same way creates a “roadway” in your brain that makes it difficult for you to change or adapt. When we are young, we rapidly learn new things. As the brain is exposed to new input, the neurons keep forming new connections. In adulthood, however, we tend to stop actively learning. We get into maintenance mode, which does not challenge the brain to its full potential. And challenging the brain is exactly what we need to constantly do in order to ensure continual brain growth, thus warding off mental decline.

Take Control of Your Brain

Research shows that if we keep challenging our brains with new activities, we can keep them young. Even if your brain shows signs of loss, don’t forget that you truly can turn back time. If you are concerned about your current brain health, consult with a professional who is trained in how to measure your current capabilities, and who can also counsel you on changes that may improve your brain adaptability. You can even test your own brain health at home and do daily brain exercises at www.brainhq.com. Don’t sit passively by; take charge of your habits to improve your brain span, and ensure your mind is there to match your body every step of the way.

 

About the Author:

Kathryn Wage, M.A., CCC-SLP is a private practice speech language pathologist and Director of the California Learning Connection in Fresno, as well as a former lecturer at Fresno Pacific University and California State University, Fresno.

Your Brain on Vacation

Jan 16, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Health, Research  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Have you had a vacation this summer?  Most of us can hardly wait to get away from the routines of daily life, the valley heat and the other stressors that surround us. You may think you know what the benefits of leaving town are but there is little documented research about what really happens when we “go on vacation.”  Good news! Neuroscience research supports our desires for a vacation and points out the benefits for all ages of brains.

It turns out that going on vacation can improve your creative thinking especially if you travel to multicultural environments.  Multicultural learning and living abroad improves insight, association and generation of new ideas according to Adam Galinsky and William Maddux in a somewhat unscientific article.  Many of us return to the same vacation spots each year and have the same experiences repeatedly because they are nostalgic and comfortable.  It turns out that this type of vacation may be less stimulating for the brain which rejuvenates itself based on novelty.

Vacations have been recognized as having recuperative benefits and the research somewhat supports this notion especially when looking at heart attack statistics and depression.

You can purposely design your vacation to get even more benefit for your brain.Feelings of well-being increase if your vacation plans include enjoyable free time ,travel to a warmer location, exercising, getting enough sleep and meeting new people.  On the other hand stressors like health issues, colder climates and bigger time differences can cause more exhaustion upon returning home.

Finally, your brain is especially happy if you travel to new places and learn something new for the first time.  It is as if you go back to childhood when all learning was new learning. This is especially good for older brains in need of rejuvenation but applies to all ages.

At the California Learning Connection we are concerned about brain health for all ages and provide the right kind of “brain stimulation” through our innovative programs and therapies.  If you have questions about the right kind of stimulation to increase learning, improve memory, focus, attention and sequencing skills over a life-span call for a free consultation.  It is not exactly a trip to Paris, but your brain will thank you.

New Year’s Brain Resolutions

Jan 1, 2012   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Health, Research  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Okay, so you put on a few extra pounds over the holidays. It happens. One thing that advertisers know about January is that it is the time for resolutions, new beginnings and new habits that may or may not stick. As you plan for the New Year include thinking about your brain health plan.

As you know, the brain does not come with a lifetime warranty or with replacement parts. Your brain is the only brain you will ever have. That fact alone should cause you to pause and appreciate all it does for you every day. Besides being the residence for conscious and unconscious thought, the brain also regulates your body functions such as breathing, heartbeat and level of alertness. It is certainly worth taking care of and spending time giving it the nourishment that it needs to be optimally fit.

What exactly does your brain need to be at its optimum best? It does not require ingredients or supplements unless your diet is poor or you have starved it for long periods. It does require a balanced approach in three areas: nutrition, exercise and activity selection.

Your list of resolutions for optimal brain health:

  • “Your brain needs 4 types of nutrients to function well: Essential Fatty Acidsto create smooth connections between neurons and neural pathways, Amino Acids to provide neuro-transmitters to help the brain send signals, Glucose to provide energy for thinking and functioning, and Micronutrients to fight of disease and repair damage. Eating healthy foods that provide nutrients to build healthy brain tissues is essential. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, avocados and nuts, along with foods high in potassium like bananas promote brain function. Also, lowering our intake of sodium can reduce blood pressure, a factor that can, if left unchecked, lead to stroke.
  • “Your brain benefits from the physical exercise that also benefits your body. Physical exercise helps improve and maintain cardio vascular health, allowing the body to efficiently and effectively deliver oxygen and nutrients to the brain. But it can do more for us. In students, educators have reported physical exercise resulting in less disruptive behavior, higher self-esteem, less anxiety and greater attentiveness. Dr. John Ratey of Harvard University describes exercise as “food for the brain.”
  • “Your brain responds to the activities you do by creating neural pathways over time.That’s why through practice and training, you can work to shape your brain through negative or positive learning activities. If you spend a lot of time doing something consider what pathways are being created in your brain and will those pathways leads to greater brain health.

The California Learning Connection wishes each of you a happy, healthy New Year in body, mind and spirit. Call us to discuss your concerns or questions about your optimum brain health.

Ouch! My Brain Hurts!

Dec 22, 2011   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Health, Research, Special Needs  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Hardly a week goes by when there is not an article in the news about a new learning method promising astonishing results, based on brain science, and supported by anecdotal evidence. It can be very confusing and seductive to read about the improvement that is seen based on a personal story and want that for someone in your life who is dealing with challenges. We naturally want good things for our loved ones.

Concerns about difficulty communicating in a social setting, academic struggles,weakened problem solving skills, or lack of ability to keep up with the flow of life are all reasons to seek answers. For many care providers or parents, the options may seem to end at school, at the doctor’s office or in special treatment programs. Others may find they have too many options to consider if they have been searching online and found ads and articles about the benefits of diet, brain training exercises or supplements. Do you have to be a neuroscientist to determine what the best approach is for your loved one? Where can you get help? There are many excellent options to choose from even though it is often hard to sort them out.

During the time it takes to identify a challenge and determine a program, people may find themselves feeling frustrated, frightened and alone. Often, it my also seem difficult to find someone to understand the challenges a child, adult or their families may face on an emotional and personal level. The main thing to understand is that you are not alone. Services are available for both adults and children who may be experiencing difficulty adapting due to auditory, emotional or brain trauma related to injury or incident. Several well established practices in the Central Valley have trained professionals equipped with traditional and advanced options for clients including the California Learning Connection.

Look for practices that use the most current methods for helping those with needs. Look for professionals with experience, credentials and an approach that includes new methods and science. Without leaving town you can find leading professionals who are developing programs in cognitive learning, neuro-feedback, diet based approaches, vision therapy, communication skills and daily living activities. Look for approaches that are based on real research and evidence based practices that are shown to be helpful. Interview the provider and ask for their personal experience in treating the problem you need help with. Also, ask if there are other methods of treatment that would be helpful. Ask about insurance coverage, if you have it. A professional should be able to refer you to others who may be best suited to help you.

What makes the California Learning Connection unique is its combination of services and therapies. A combined effort of The Center for Communication Skills and Goodfellow Occupational Therapy, the California Learning Connection provides individualized attention and unique treatments. The center is designed to incorporate all styles of learning, to pinpoint the most successful way for the individual to learn, grow and succeed. You are always able to call and ask for a free consultation to discuss your concerns with our specialists. We have a referral bank of professionals outside our office that can help you as well. Do not be discouraged, help is available.

May I have your attention, PLEASE?

Nov 7, 2011   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Health, Research, Special Needs  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

It’s likely that at some time in your life you have thought about Attention Deficit Disorder. Maybe you know someone who has this diagnosis and takes medication to manage the symptoms. Possibly you have experienced one or more of the symptoms (distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) yourself and have wondered if you fit the diagnostic criteria.

Currently in medicine and psychology there is no fail-safe way to diagnose or treat ADHD so each individual becomes a test case, with trial and error as part of the assessment.

In spite of many well-meaning theories, we now know that ADHD is not caused by poor parenting, family problems, poor teachers or schools, too much TV, food allergies, or excess sugar (though these factors may make symptoms worse for some people). We also know that most people with ADHD do not generally have a history of head injury. In many cases there may be multiple family members who exhibit ADHD, therefore genetic and biological factors come into play.

The common first line of treatment is prescription medication designed to increase the brain’s ability to attend. While medication is helpful and sometimes necessary, it is not a quick fix to the problems experienced by those with ADHD. The optimum effect of many ADHD drugs lasts for about 11 months and gradually is reduced over time. Additionally there are side effects that need to be factored in the cost/benefit analysis.

It often takes a creative approach to manage symptoms and encourage development of skills that will counterbalance the ADHD symptoms. A more holistic approach to addressing ADHD would include:using medication possibly on a short-term basis, participating in cognitive training programs to improve attention, employing neuro-feedback training, teaching cognitive strategies for self-management, providing avenues to “use up” excess energy with exercise breaks, modifying the learning or work environment to allow standing and moving, or managing time in a more flexible manner. Different approaches and modifications work for children and adults depending on the severity of symptoms, the work environment, the family life-style and the other individual strengths and weaknesses.

At the California Learning Connection we understand that there are “different strokes for different folks” and work with you to determine the best combination to help with daily life. Our occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and certified tutors can provide you with guidance and help to continue down the road to personal growth and self-control.

Comprehensive Treatment Offers Hope for Autism

Nov 2, 2011   //   by clcadmin   //   Blog, Research, Special Needs, Speech  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Autism is a neurologically based condition that affects many areas of development including speech, language, social interaction, behavior and motor skills. Parents of children with autism are often bewildered about the best choice for treatment and are uncertain of how to ensure their child receives appropriate services.

Though very little data exists on early treatment in Autism there are encouraging recent studies that demonstrate early treatment has a positive effect on the development of the child with autism. Recent studies also show that appropriate comprehensive intervention for children as young as 18 months of age can improve symptoms and reduce the severity of the disorder. While speech communication skills are often the most obvious symptom that causes concern for parents; motor skills, sensory processing, and social responsiveness are also affected and provide additional challenges as children begin to interact with the environment during the first year of life.

Little is known about the types of intervention that are most effective because studies have not focused on comparing treatment outcomes of the different types of therapy. Treatment ranges from the most structured discreet trial methods to more open-ended, child-centered methods. A critical component appears to be parent responsiveness training so that skills learned can be used in natural environments such as home and play. Children with autism benefit from multiple approaches to encourage normal development.

The California Learning Connection (CLC) provides an environment where the integration of approaches creates positive outcomes for children with autism and their families. The occupational therapists, speech/language therapists and play therapists at CLC design programs that are intensive and effective in providing a variety of appropriate interventions. Additionally, CLC therapists work cooperatively with other agencies and providers to build successful programs that increase social engagement, communication and sensory motor skills in children with autism. Most importantly, parents are given support and training in extending the benefits of therapy throughout a child’s day and across environments.

To learn more about the services at the California Learning Connection call for a free consultation (559) 228-9100 or visit http://clconnect.com/center-for-communication-skills/getting-started/.

Our daughter, Emma (age 5) has made tremendous progress in the past three years and as a result no longer requires the same level of services. In fact, she was receiving  over forty hours a week of combined services and now merely requires speech a few hours a week. We attribute her progress to the comprehensive and intensive early intervention she received while at the California Learning Connection. We believe early intervention has profound effects for children with autism and Emma is proof of the same.

-Testimonial from Bethany Berube

The Myth of the Late Bloomer

Oct 27, 2011   //   by clcadmin   //   Academics, Blog, Research  //  Comments Off

by Kathryn Wage

Research demonstrates that “late bloomers” do not automatically catch up to their peers when it comes to learning. Children who are struggling in school continue to struggle until they leave high school, unless they have appropriate, early intervention. Some factors that negatively impact learning include:

  • poor body awareness and coordination
  • poor self-regulation
  • poor motor planning
  • weak communication skills
  • poor listening ability
  • having a learning style that is substantially different from the way the material is being taught

You can intervene before the cycle of failure begins if you are aware of early signs that indicate your child is struggling in school or developing poor working habits and attitudes. Our Learning Academy offers individualized tutoring to students of all ages and academic backgrounds. Learn more here!

Center For Communication Skills, Speech & Language Pathologists, Fresno, CA