Common Sense of Learned Skills?

Parents – does this sound like you?

  • I don’t understand how you’ can get 100% on your math test but you forget to turn in your homework every day!
  • You’re so great a building complex Lego kids, but why can’t you organize and clean your room better?
  • The refrigerator is RIGHT THERE! Please just open it and put the milk back in next time rather than leaving it on the counter.

If so, then you are most definitely NOT alone!

Some of these skills may seem like common sense. Skills in one area, like math or tinkering and building, are strengths for our children. But these skills don’t necessarily translate to other important areas of functioning, like remembering to turn in homework or organizing a messy room (which have nothing to do with intelligence).

When looked at through a lens of discreet skills that are actively developing in our children, then we see a more comprehensive picture than just “smart” or “logical.” We start to see our children’s skills of organization, time management, working memory, and planning. Then, we can start to provide direct and specific strategies to support the development of these skills.

Called executive functions (EFs), these can set your child up for not only school success but for life success, as well. These higher-level thinking skills, like working memory, planning, and attention, are so important that the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University reports that “individuals and society experience lifelong benefits” when opportunities to learn and practice EF skills are presented. And research backs up that EF skills can be explicitly taught (Takas, Z. K. & Kassai, R, 2019).

WashU’s Program in Occupational Therapy offers just such an opportunity for your 9-16 year old each summer. The Train Your Brain summer camp is a week-long, half-day program for your child (with or without a diagnosis that affects EF skills) that explicitly teaches time management, planning, goal setting, and organization through engaging STEM projects. Different than other science or STEM summer camps, Train Your Brain uses STEM projects as a means to an end of learning EF strategies that campers can take with them to use at home and school.

So if you see yourself in the statements at the beginning of this article, take a look at the Train Your Brain summer camp and consider giving your child an opportunity to learn and practice important life skills.

 

Your Kid Needs a Brain Break

After the school year that our kids just went through, their brains are fried. Isn’t yours? Especially for our children with learning needs, this year’s virtual learning environment presented huge challenges. We are multisensory beings in a vibrant environment, and we learn through all of our senses. Online school only gives our children visual and auditory information, which can dull our senses, lead to boredom, and create difficulty fully exploring new concepts and ideas. Our attention, task monitoring, problem-solving, and planning are all dulled by this monotonous routine. Let’s go have fun at summer camp!

Thankfully, Washington University Occupational Therapy is offering an in-person option for learning fun. Train Your Brain (TYB) summer camp is back to support children’s executive functioning skills through hands-on games and motivating projects. Following COVID-19 safe protocols with fully vaccinated staff, TYB will offer hands-on activities that stimulate your child’s mind in multisensory ways.

This year, camp will feature egg drop activities in which campers must build contraptions to protect a raw egg from falling 10+ feet. They will set goals, plan, problem-solve, manage time, and edit their work to make a successful egg protector. Children and teens ages 9-16 are eligible to join in the fun. So if your child’s executive functions are dulled from online learning, consider Train Your Brain to sharpen their cognitive skills this summer. Learn more about our camp and register here!

 

Train Your Brain Summer Camp

Summer is a time for us to relax and take a load off of our brains that we’ve been putting to heavy use throughout the academic year. But for children with executive dysfunction, the long summer break with a lack of structure can hurt their brains’ ability to maintain what they just learned in school, because of this we offer Train Your Brain Summer Camp! Our executive functions are the cognitive skills that help us make and carry out a plan, such as setting up a lemonade stand, playing hide and go seek with friends, or completing a book report. Children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, or learning disabilities often have difficulty with executive functioning skills, but children with other diagnoses, or even without a diagnosis, can also struggle.

To support these children during the unstructured summer months, Washington University Occupational Therapy offers Train Your Brain, a week-long, half-day summer camp to support children’s executive functioning skills. This year, Designed with fun in mind, this camp will support your child in using the critical skills needed for successfully planning a project and carrying out the plan. Using evidence-based
and fun activities, your child will design a bridge and test its strength and durability. While learning the simple science behind what is needed to design a bridge, campers will spend equal time using strategies for time management, organization, attention, and emotional – regulation. Camp will culminate in an exciting day of bridge-building, testing, and re-vamping that combines the planning skills learned and practiced during the week! These real-world skills come with tangible strategies that campers can use at home and in the upcoming school year. For more information about Train Your Brain, or to register, click on the link or email Kaylee Breitenbucher, MOT, OTR/L to discuss how this camp would benefit your child!