How We Do What We Do!

When you bring your child to EmpowerKidz for cognitive skills training, you’ll be excited to learn that we use a series of leading edge technologies and resources to optimize your child’s success. From best-in-class skills assessment tools, to new technology audio programs that engage both left and right brain functions, to physical drills that challenge the brain in ways never possible before – your child is learning from the best!

We’d like to share with you some resources that can help guide your decision to begin brain training with EmpowerKidz. These are programs and websites that are home to our best-in-class tools – each with powerful research to support the theory behind their methodology.

Even if you don’t dig deep into the research, we think your curiosity will be piqued by the variety of ways that deep learning can occur, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to learn more about the amazing ways your child’s learning struggles can be enhanced, improved upon, or mitigated altogether.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share real-world examples of how we’re helping students right here in our neighborhood, along with non-technical insight into many of the methodologies we utilize.

Remember, EmpowerKidz is all about helping kids to be their best. If you have questions or would like a free consultation, please contact us at info@empowerkidz.com.

Video Games for Brain Training

When your child isn’t ‘getting it’ at school –  they can’t keep up with the pace, can’t take good notes, aren’t understanding what they’re reading – it can be disheartening and stressful for not just your child, but you too. Once you’ve decided to commit brain training with a professional, you’ll have access to top-notch, cutting-edge brain knowledge and tools. One tool that is having amazing success in transforming kids’ thinking process is (this may be surprising) a video game based cognitive training program called Brain Ware Safari.

Based on sound cognitive skills training research, Brain Ware Safari is built to develop students’ processing skills. An engaging video game that’s actually fun, children enjoy playing Brain Ware Safari games and don’t even know they’re learning! As children advance through levels of the game, growth is difficult to discern at first, but over time, you’ll notice signs including increased focus, attention to details, speedier processing of information, faster reading. Testing shows that students using Brain Ware Safari can actually achieve an average of four years of cognitive growth in just three months (“A Study of the Effectiveness of Cognitive Skill Therapy Delivered in a Video-Game Format” by D. Helms and Sara Sawtelle, Optometry & Vision Development, 2007, vol. 381, pages 19-26).

Watching your child achieve a new sense of mastery and the resulting confidence boost is an amazing gift. At EmpowerKidz, we’re pleased to offer Brain Ware Safari to our clients. If you’d like more information about cognitive skills assessment and training, or specifically about Brain Ware Safari, contact us.

What is auditory processing?

Auditory processing is a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. Humans hear when energy that we recognize as sound travels through the ear and is changed into electrical information that can be interpreted by the brain. The “disorder” part of auditory processing disorder means that something is adversely affecting the processing or interpretation of the information.

Children with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even though the sounds themselves are loud and clear. For example, the request “Tell me how a chair and a couch are alike” may sound to a child with APD like “Tell me how a couch and a chair are alike.” It can even be understood by the child as “Tell me how a cow and a hair are alike.” These kinds of problems are more likely to occur when a person with APD is in a noisy environment or when he or she is listening to complex information.

APD goes by many other names. Sometimes it is referred to as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). Other common names are auditory perception problem, auditory comprehension deficit, central auditory dysfunction, central deafness, and so-called “word deafness.”

It is important to note that many people without any kind of auditory processing disorder experience problems with learning and behavior from time to time. However, if a person consistently displays difficulties with these tasks over time, testing for auditory processing disorders by trained professionals should be considered.

There are several different ways the brain processes auditory information. If there is a weakness in a particular kind of auditory processing, it may be observed through specific types of behavior.

Below is an explanation of the different types of auditory processing. Each category also includes possible difficulties that can occur if there is a weakness in that area, and possible strategies that may help overcome the difficulties. Be aware that weakness can occur in one or more category at the same time.

Auditory Discrimination

The Skill — The ability to notice, compare and distinguish the distinct and separate sounds in words. This skill is vital for reading.

Difficulties You Observe

  • Learning to read
  • Distinguishing difference between similar sounds. Example: Seventy and seventeen
  • Understanding spoken language, following directions and remembering details
  • Seems to hear but not listen

Helpful Strategies

  • Practice rhyming, segmenting words into syllables, segmenting compound words, sound-blending and using similar sounding words (like obvious/oblivious)
  • Talk to student at a slow pace
  • Give student one task at a time

Auditory Figure-Ground Discrimination

The Skill — The ability to pick out important sounds from a noisy background.

Difficulties You Observe

  • Distinguishing meaningful sounds from background noise
  • Staying focused on auditory information being given. Example: following verbal directions

Helpful Strategies

  • Provide seating near audio source. Example: front of the class or near a video monitor
  • Eliminate unnecessary background noise during tasks. Example: TV, stereo, outdoor noise

Auditory Memory

The Skill — There are two kinds of auditory memory:
Long-term auditory memory is the ability to remember something heard some time ago
Short-term auditory memory is the ability to recall something heard very recently

Difficulties You Observe

  • Remembering people’s names
  • Memorizing telephone numbers
  • Following multi-step directions
  • Recalling stories or songs

Helpful Strategies

  • Offer written material to accompany lectures
  • Strengthen note-taking skills
  • Provide visual cues to differentiate information-for example, using different colored chalks to emphasize the most important material on the board or hand signals when moving on to another topic

Auditory Sequencing

The Skill — The ability to understand and recall the order of words

Difficulties You Observe

  • Confusing multi-digit numbers, such as 74 and 47
  • Confusing lists and other types of sequences
  • Remembering the correct order of a series of instructions

Helpful Strategies

  • Provide written materials to accompany verbal instruction
  • Use images or gestures to reinforce understanding and memory of a sequence or list

What you should know about auditory processing disorders

Auditory processing disorders are often referred to as central auditory processing disorders (CAPD)

  • Auditory processing disorders can occur without any kind of hearing loss
  • Auditory processing disorders affect how the brain perceives and processes what the ear hears
  • Like all learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders can be a lifelong challenge
  • Many of the difficulties that are experienced by people with auditory processing disorders are also common to people with attention deficit disorders
  • Auditory processing disorders may run in families
  • Auditory processing disorders can affect a person’s ability to interact socially
  • There are different types of auditory processing disorders, each affecting different aspects of auditory information processing

Auditory Processing Disorders at Different Ages

Many people experience problems with learning and behavior from time to time, but if a person consistently displays difficulties with these tasks over time, testing for auditory processing disorders by trained professionals should be considered.

Early Childhood

Common difficulties include:

  • Learning to speak
  • Understanding spoken language
  • Separating meaningful sounds from background noise
  • Remembering stories or songs
  • Staying focused on a person’s voice
  • Unusual sensitivity to noise
  • Confusing similar sounding words
  • Difficulty in understanding speech

Accommodation and modification strategies

  • Keep directions simple – only tell your child one step at a time
  • Give directions both orally and visually – show your child what you mean
  • Speak slowly – especially when your child is hearing information for the first time
  • Maintain eye contact while speaking
  • Limit background noise when teaching new information or giving directions
  • Provide specific opportunities to practice skills that build vocabulary, rhyming, segmenting and blending words

School-Age Children

Common difficulties include:

  • Remembering and following spoken directions
  • Remembering people’s names
  • Sounding out new words
  • Seeming to ignore others when engrossed in a non-speaking activity
  • Understanding people who speak quickly
  • Finding the right words to use when talking

Accommodation and modification strategies

  • Combine oral teaching with visual aids
  • Ask that teachers and others make it physically, visually or audibly clear when they are about to begin something important so that nothing is missed
  • Have a note-taking buddy who will make sure that information was understood
  • Request seating close to teacher
  • Have child repeat back information or instructions to build comprehension skills and make sure messages are understood correctly

Teenagers and Adults

Common difficulties include:

  • Talks louder than necessary
  • Remembering a list or sequence
  • Often needs words or sentences repeated
  • Poor ability to memorize information learned by listening
  • Interprets words too literally
  • Hearing clearly in noisy environments

Accommodation and modification strategies

  • Find or request a quiet work space away from others
  • Request written material when you attend oral presentations
  • Ask for directions to be given one at a time, as you go through each step
  • Take notes or use a tape recorder when getting any new information, even little things

Visual Processing Disorders

Basics you should know about visual processing disorders

  • Visual processing disorders are also known as visual perceptual processing disorders
  • They affect how the brain perceives and processes what the eye sees
  • These disorders can occur without impaired vision of any kind
  • Like all learning disabilities, visual processing disorders can be a lifelong challenge
  • People with visual processing disorders have problems with the way they interpret information, but what others will notice in people with these disorders is the behavior that happens after the difficulties occur
  • There are several types of visual processing disorders, each affecting different aspects of visual information processing — see Visual Processing Disorders in Detail for more information

Visual Processing Disorders at Different Ages

Many people experience problems with learning and behavior occasionally, but if a person consistently displays difficulties with these tasks over time, testing for visual processing disorders by trained professionals should be considered.

Early Childhood

Common difficulties:

  • Misunderstanding or confusing written symbols (example: +, x, /, &)
  • Easily distracted, especially by competing visual information
  • Writing within margins or on lines or aligning numbers in math problems
  • Judging distances (example: bumping into things, placing objects too close to an edge)
  • Fluidity of movement (example: getting out of the way of a moving ball, knocking things over)
  • Differentiating colors or similarly shaped letters and numbers (example: b, d; p, q; 6,9; 2,5)

Accommodation and Modification Strategies:

  • Use books, worksheets and other materials with enlarged print
  • Read written directions aloud. Varying teaching methods (written and spoken words; images and sounds) can help promote understanding
  • Be aware of the weakness but don’t overemphasize it. While helping a child work on the weakness is important; it is just as important to build other skills and function in any setting
  • Break assignments and chores into clear, concise steps. Often multiple steps can be difficult to visualize and complete
  • Give examples and point out the important details of visual information (the part of a picture that contains information for a particular question)
  • Provide information about a task before starting to focus attention on the activity

School-Age Children

Common difficulties:

  • Organizing and solving math problems
  • Finding and retaining important information in reading assignments or tests
  • Writing coherent, well-organized essays
  • Copying from board or books
  • Sewing or other types of fine motor activities
  • Writing neatly and quickly
  • Reading with speed and precision

Accommodation and modification strategies:

  • Allow student to write answers on the same sheet of paper as the questions or offer opportunities for student to explain answers orally
  • Provide paper for writing and math work that has darker or raised lines to make the boundaries more distinct
  • Organize assignments to be completed in smaller steps instead of one large finished product
  • Use a ruler as a reading guide (to keep focus on one line at a time) and a highlighter (to immediately emphasize important information)
  • Provide a tape recorder to supplement note-taking
  • Have a proofreading buddy for notes and essays

Teenagers and Adults

Common difficulties:

  • Accurately identifying information from pictures, charts, graphs, maps, etc.
  • Organizing information from different sources into one cohesive document
  • Finding specific information on a printed page (example: getting a number out of the phone book)
  • Remembering directions to a location

Accommodation and modification strategies:

  • Color code important information
  • Have a proof-reading buddy for all written materials
  • Use a tape recorder when getting important information
  • Before writing letters or essays, create an outline to simplify and organize ideas

Copyright 2008 by National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc.; http://www.ncld.org. All rights reserved.

How is Cognitive Skills Training Different Than Tutoring?

Brain/Cognitive skills training is different from tutoring at a very basic level. Tutoring is simply re-teaching material that a student missed the first time it was presented. The hope is that the material will stick this time. Here is how to tell if tutoring will work for your child – If you’ve ever sat down with your child and gone over, or repeated, school assignments—and he or she immediately got it and needed no more help—then re-teaching or tutoring will work.

If simple explanation did not solve the problem, or if a few days later the problem persisted or was repeated, there is most likely an underlying skill weakness that tutoring or re-teaching cannot correct. 

Until the underlying skills required to learn are strengthened, tutoring can only produce temporary progress at best. Struggles will re-emerge because the root of the problem—weak cognitive skills—has not been addressed. If your child faces recurring problems with each new academic year or challenge, brain/cognitive skills training (rather than tutoring) is your best answer.

Brain training provides you and your student the chance to get to the root of the problem and literally rebuild his or her basic ability to read and learn with specifically designed and delivered training exercises. To understand the advantage brain training has over tutoring consider how different your expectations would be if you enrolled in a 12-hour lecture on piano basics versus 12 hours of piano practice with a good one-on-one piano coach. In the lecture you would be receiving information about the piano—you would be tutored. In the piano practice, you would end up actually playing the piano—you would be trained. Tutoring increases information. Training builds skill.

Specific training programs are available to strengthen key cognitive skills such as auditory processing, visual processing, memory, reasoning, and processing speed, memory (short term as well as long term). Skill gains at this foundational level of learning capability result in easier, faster, and more successful learning.

BRAIN TRAINING CAN HELP EVERYONE

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are facing. Cognitive Skills/Brain training can be successfully applied to everyone. Cognitive skills training can help:

  • Students struggling well behind grade level who need to catch up
  • Children or adults looking for a competitive learning or performance edge
  • Athletes seeking an edge in the “mental” aspect of their game
  • People seeking enhanced reading skill and fluency
  • Students looking for an enhanced foundation in numeric and math skills
  • Preschool and first grade students wanting a successful launch into school
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims seeking to recover lost mental function
  • Senior adults desiring to prevent age-related memory loss and mental decline

How Are Cognitive Skills Assessed?

Taking a cognitive skill assessment is the first step to laying a strong foundation that enables any student to achieve their best. Because knowing the cognitive skill profile of a student is so important, there is evolution in the available resources for the assessment of cognitive skills. We at Empowerkidz have done extensive research to identify the research based and standardized screening and diagnostic tests for cognitive skills. We use the following tests and techniques to measure the cognitive skills depending on the needs of the individual children.

  • Online screening through Gibson Test
  • Structure of Intellect theory based Test
  • Perceptual Skills Assessment ( Visual & Auditory Skills Assessment)
  • Motor Skills Assessment

The Gibson Test is an online cognitive skill assessment that blends the best elements of several industry standard tests into one  unique screening that consists of seven sub-tests and reports on nine core cognitive skill values. The assessment is internet based, takes 35-40 minutes to complete and is very affordable. The title of the each subtest area identifies the cognitive skill that is being measured. The tests are intended to start off with easy questions and gradually move to harder questions. In all but one test, the test is terminated if the student misses three in a row. If they miss three in a row, it is assumed the student is guessing. If the student misses the first question, the instructions are repeated once. The seven subtests are:

1) Processing Speed
2) Working memory
3) Word Attack
4) Visual Processing
5) Auditory Analysis (segmenting and dropping)
6)Logic and Reasoning

SOI stands for Structure of Intellect, which is a theory of the functions and products of human intelligence.  It is a system of tests and training materials to develop intellectual abilities.  The SOI® is based on the work of J. P. Guilford whose search for intellectual abilities began in 1940 and lasted until 1959.

Structure of Intellects System® (SOI) is the basis of                          academic/educational assessment.  Based on J. P. Guilford’s theory of multiple intelligences and developed by Dr. Mary Meeker for use in schools, SOI tests a range of intelligence abilities which are needed for success with academic studies or career placement. Mary Meeker found that intelligence is not fixed. Intelligence can be developed.

Upon diagnosing strengths and weaknesses, EmpowerKidz uses the SOI system follow-up program of activities to build potential abilities to enable success in school or in life.  This program has wide-ranging applications in reading readiness, academic assessment and remediation, and career counseling.

Our Assessment using SOI systems identifies 27 abilities required for learning reading, arithmetic, math or  any occupational prerequisite.

We teach those abilities which are low, maintain those that are gifted, and  develop further any that are average.

The Structure of Intellect System of learning is called Learning Therapy. Your child will be worked with one on one during each session that they attend. Each session of 1.5 hours includes one on one training with a trained learning therapist, doing tasks including paper and pencil activities, physical exercises that develop new neuro pathways of the brain and develop the many intellectual abilities as cognition, memory, executive functions as well as focusing and sensori-integration abilities that will in turn develop the specific learning abilities, and gives your child the “mental tools” that they need to be prepared to learn in school!

Whether it is an academic problem or difficulty focusing attention , concentrating or other behavior problems, many of these, if not most, are based on a lack of the mental skills necessary for successful functioning in school — and in life! Once their intellectual abilities are well developed your child will learn and achieve more easily and remediation of weak academic skills (caused by years of poor processing skills) will be resolved more quickly than before!

Why Assess Cognitive Skills?

Why does one student succeed academically while another fails in the same school, same class, same teacher and same curriculum? This question applies even when comparing different schools. Is it solely the fault of the teaching process? Is it potentially related to how well each student processes and understands information – their capacity to learn? Cognitive skill performance impacts how well a student learns.

  • When Cognitive skills are strong, academic learning is fast, easy, efficient, and even fun.
  • When cognitive skills are weak, academic learning will be a struggle or even impossible.
  • Cognitive skills are, therefore, the essential tools for learning.
  • Knowing a student’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses is critical to ensuring academic success.
  • Cognitive skills can be improved through proper training.

Academic testing provides information on a student’s knowledge base and ability to use that knowledge. If a student struggles with academics, this type of testing does not provide any insights into the underlying cause.

A Cognitive Skills Assessment can provide valuable insights into how well a student processes information. If any weak skills are identified, this information provides a basis for developing a pathway to a solution. Knowing if a student has any weak learning skills may be the single most important data point to ensuring that each student achieves their full potential and can lead to choices that can make the difference between success and failure.