What is the Braincalm Program™ ?
The Braincalm Program™ is a well researched program of occupational therapy exercises where a child is taken for 20 minutes a day and brought through these exercises for a specific length of time and in a specific order. It has been developed and piloted by Brenda Cassidy, occupational therapist and based on sensory integration occupational therapy exercises originally researched and developed during the 1970s by Jean Ayres and in recent years by Jane Horwood.
Is the Braincalm Program™ effective?
The Braincalm Program™ has been piloted through 2016 and 2017 by Brenda Cassidy, OT in numerous primary schools. It has shown to be ‘somewhat effective’, ‘very effective’ or ‘dramatically effective’ in approximately 80% of dysregulated or ‘out of synch’ children. We have trained thousands of preschool staff, school staff, parents, sports coaches, children’s yoga teachers and play therapists to use the program to help many children in various settings. It has shown to be effective in children who suffer from anxiety, behavioural issues, sensory issues and ASD. It may improve attention, focus, behaviour, writing, sitting, organizational skills, social skills and even self esteem in these children and in SOME cases the children sleep better and report ‘feeling happier and smarter’.
We have reports of many children who show a dramatic reduction in:
- excessive moving in class
- shouting out / speaking out of turn in class
How does it work ?
The Braincalm Program™ roots come from the long researched area of sensory integration. The Braincalm Program™ activities work to help smooth out ’ traffic jams’ in the brain and help to smooth the ‘bridge’ between the left and right sides of the brain. Brenda Cassidy has moulded the program into a simple, cost effective class which can be run by anyone who has completed training. (*please see the disclaimer and T&C sections).
Do I have to be a therapist or other medical professional to run the Braincalm Program™?
No. Anyone who is physically able and who has completed the training and adheres to the program plus who has read the disclaimer can complete the program with a child. In our experience parents use it at home and special needs assistants/classroom assistants or learning support staff mostly run it in schools.
What is the cost of the equipment for the Braincalm Program™?
If you are a parent, the cost of the equipment is around €100, $150 or about £80 – 90 for one child. You can buy it online quite cheaply. If you are a school staff member and are purchasing equipment for a group of 3 children, the total cost should be around €150, $200, or about £120.
Do I need to complete the Braincalm Program™ with the child every day for it to be effective?
Yes, you should complete the program at least 5 times a week for 20 minutes. It usually only takes about 15 minutes if you are a parent doing it with your child at home. You can give the child a break on Saturday and Sunday for example.
If I only complete the Braincalm Program™ once or twice a week with the child will it be effective?
No, it needs to be completed 5 times a week for it to be effective. From experience, if a child does not take part in the program for a day or a few days they will often ask for it as they miss it!
I have a child with DYSLEXIA- will it help her?
Yes it may help her. We have reports from many parents and school staff who have seen improvements in organisational skills and a reduction in frustration in children with dyslexia.
Will it help my child with DYSPRAXIA?
Yes it may help him. The focus of the program is NOT on physical skills but on BRAIN CALMING & ORGANISING. Many children with dyspraxia (DCD) struggle with attention, organization and memory. This program may help boost those skills. However as a by- product you may well see an improvement in his core and arm/leg strength.
My child/pupil has ASD (Autism) Will the Braincalm Program™ help him?
Yes it may help him. We have completed the program with many children who have ASD and who are in either special classes or mainstream classes. Many children with ASD are integrated into mainstream classes but need additional help to attend and learn. The child with ASD will likely need further sensory breaks throughout the day in addition the completing the Braincalm Program™.
I am a parent and I want to do the Braincalm Program™ with my child over the summer break or other school holidays to help ‘settle’ my child. Will it prepare him better for the next school year?
Yes! If the program works for YOUR child (which it does for about 80% of children) your child should go back after 2 to 3 blocks in a much better state of focus and better able to learn if the program is followed correctly. Plus he will be stronger in his body overall.
Can we complete the program more than once a day?
In some ASD classrooms the program is completed 2 or 3 times a day. However for children in mainstream classes we normally complete it only once a day but make sure that the child has a few ‘sensory breaks’ through the day if needed.
A classroom assistant is taking my child for daily Braincalm Program™ classes. Should I be doing it at home too?
Generally for a child in a mainstream class, no. They are at risk of becoming bored. We recommend that you complete a ‘part of the program’ as needed to ‘settle the child’. For example, many parents use a part of the ‘A’ station to alert the child in the morning. They use an activity from the ‘B’ station to organise the brain for homework and an activity from the ‘C’ station to ‘calm’ the child before going to bed.
I have 2 other children at home who do not have any issues. Can they join in with doing the Braincalm Program™ too?
Yes of course! It will be a fun daily challenge for all of the children and they will all benefit. However, the focus is on the child who has issues. Make sure that it does not turn competitive where the child who is ‘on’ the program ‘feels frustrated’ that he cannot do some of the activities as well as his siblings. It is ESSENTIAL that he is focused and maximally challenged to HIS own level. Plus remember- there should be quiet in the room while doing the program. But if the siblings understand the rules and are ‘on board’ go ahead.
Can the child/children watch the training videos while learning the Braincalm Program™?
Yes. If you are using a laptop- hook it up to a TV with a HDMI cable and play the video with SOUND SWITCHED OFF. This will work well for block 1 which is the longest video. He/she will only need to watch it a few times to learn the exercises!
My child or pupil is ‘non verbal’ or struggles to understand spoken directions. What can I do to make the program easier?
You can gently but physically ‘take’ the child through the program until they ‘learn’ the movements. Many practitioners run a completely ‘silent’ class where they make A4 size laminated cards with photos of the child in various stages of the exercise. The practitioner holds up the card at the start of each exercise and he/she can visually understand what to do. This can also work well for children who do not speak the same language as the practitioner. ** Please note- if you are in a school setting, all photos must be taken with parents/guardian permission and must follow data protection rules.
Should the child take a break from the Braincalm Program™ after 6 weeks or each block?
It is not necessary, but in schools there is usually a one week break after each 6 week block to monitor how well the child has responded to the program. Sometimes the positive changes in the child are very subtle and it is only when we stop doing the program with the child that we really realize how many benefits it had. During that week the practitioner should talk with the class teacher and the parent to ascertain if the child is less settled during the ‘off week’.
Is the Braincalm Program™ suitable for all children?
It is suitable for children who have sensory issues, for some children with generalised anxiety and behaviour issues but also for many children with ADHD and autism (ASD). It may be used to help children with other conditions. However it is not suitable for children who have had brain surgery, a brain tumour or epilepsy. We always to advise that you contact a doctor if in doubt. (**Please read the ‘Disclaimer’ section).
If a child cannot do some of the activities due to poor coordination or core weakness can I re adjust them?
Yes. Please see the text manual that goes along with the videos. Plus alternative and easier options are explained in the videos.
Do I need to make any changes in the activities during the 6 week block?
Yes, sometimes you possibly may have to. Always follow this rule: the child should be continually challenged to their maximum level in order for them to stay focused and here are some ideas. If the child finds the wobble cushion too easy to stand on, add some air. If the child finds throwing and catching a large ball too easy give him a smaller ball such as a tennis ball instead. This will make it much harder for the child and he will have to return to a focused state.
Is this a program for building strength and coordination?
No, the purpose of the Braincalm Program™ is to organize and calm the brain. However, the nature of the exercises mean that a positive by-product is increased core strength and better coordination. We sometimes even see increased leg and arm strength.
If a child refuses to do some or all of the activities what should I do?
If you are a parent doing the program with the child at home it is strongly encouraged that you do even one little piece of the program per day possibly in 5 minute chunks until the child gets used to it. Indeed you may consider offering a reward in the early days because the child does not know the program but after finally completing the full 20 minutes he will realize how good it feels. After that the reward should be actually doing the program!
If you are practicing the Braincalm Program™ in school and are taking children in groups of 3, one of the children may refuse to do some or all of the exercises. If this is the case allow the child to sit out some of the exercises then encourage him or her to join in 1 or 2 of the exercises bit by bit. We have found that because they are doing it with some of their peers that children will often not want to be left out. They will see the exercises are quite doable and fun and they will often eventually join in.
How quickly should I see positive changes in the child?
In some cases we have seen almost immediate positive affects within a day or two of starting the Braincalm Program™. The child may appear calmer, more attentive to work and less fidgety possibly for an hour or two after returning to class. This should increase as the weeks go on.
However, please note that some children are often a little more dysregulated during the first week of the program because it is something new and out of ‘routine’. This is normal. But we usually see that from week 2 onwards the child becomes calmer and more focused in class and indeed shows many other positive changes too such as better self esteem, less anxiety, better sitting and writing and a better ability to socialize- even if it is just with the other children in his Braincalm Program™ class.
I am a Special Needs Asssistant in a school. Do I have to bring children from the same class in to complete the Braincalm Program™?
No, this is not necessary. It is a good idea to mix the 3 children up. Even bringing 3 different children with varying ages can be an option. For example bringing together a highly anxious child, a fidgety child and ‘low’ sloth-like child can work really well together. If you have two extremely ‘high’ brain fizzy children and dysregulated children who shout out and speak out of turn continuously they will likely dysregulate each other.
I am the parent of an older child who will start to complete the Braincalm Program™ every morning before school. Can I start to leave the child to complete the program by himself after 2 or 3 days?
Yes, when the child becomes familiar with all of the activities and you are sure that he is being challenged to his maximal level go ahead and let him do the exercises by himself every morning. However please check every week that he is being challenged otherwise he will become dysregulated again. You will need to check that the activities are hard enough for him and that he is not becoming bored.
What is the best time of the day to take a child through the Braincalm Program™?
If you are a parent you will usually bring the child through the Braincalm Program™ in the morning before school or possibly in the evening before they start their homework. Sometimes the program is completed with the child by the parent before the child goes to bed.
If the child is completing the Braincalm Program™ in school we often have the children come in and get the day started and then at around 10 clock we start to bring them out in groups for the program. We have found that this is often the best time of day. However some children who are very’ brain fizzy’ or quite high after coming in from a noisy yard during lunch break may benefit from completing the brain can program at that stage of the day.
My child has started doing the Braincalm Program™ every day. Should I take away his fidget toys and wobble cushion for squirming in class?
No, it is highly likely that the child will still require quiet fidgets to attend for the remainder of the day and also will still require the wobble cushion for sitting on to reduce squirming and to give sensory feedback for better concentration and learning throughout the rest of the day. However we often see a dramatic reduction in the need for them.
My son’s siblings want to join in with the exercises at home. Should I allow them to join in?
Yes! Many children would benefit from the exercises but it may also encourage your son to complete the program with his siblings.
I am a learning support teacher in a mainstream school. Can I use the program for children to settle them and help them focus to learn better during our 40 minute session?
Yes. We recommend that you start the session (maths for example) with a little bit of ‘A’ or alerting to awaken the brain for learning. If a child is already a little ‘brain fizzed’ he or she may not need it. If he is ‘sloth like’ or low he will need awakening.
Otherwise choose the first activity in the ‘B’ station and complete it. Proceed with about 10- 15 minutes of the resource or learning support session. Then stop and complete another ‘B’ station exercise for a few minutes. Continue with a further 10 minutes of maths (or whatever is being covered in that session) and then complete another ‘B’ station exercise- my ‘go to’ is always the ‘magic wobble cushion’ activity. It is a ‘magic’ brain organiser.
Always try to finish your session with a few minutes of brain calming from the ‘C’ station to help ‘settle the child’ before he/she goes back to their classroom.
It is better to have 20-25 minutes of ‘quality & focused learning’ than 40 mins of constantly bringing the child ‘back to task’.
If you are a parent trying to navigate homework, follow the same process as above.
I am a parent who would like my child’s school to start using the Braincalm Program™. What should I do?
Speak to your child’s teacher or better still the head teacher/principal. They may well be very glad to be introduced to a program that is really simple but really effective. Ask them to look at our website www.brendacassidy.com and to email us firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on running the program in schools.
I am a teacher and I find that 1/5 of the pupils in my class have ‘something going on’ both diagnosed conditions & not diagnosed. Some are quite disruptive. How do I get the Braincalm Program™ into my school?
We suggest that you read through all of the information on our website www.brendacassidy.com ask the head teacher/principal if you can hold an information session with the other staff to start a plan which will introduce the Braincalm Program™. A little planning is needed and we find that once a school starts to use the program they cannot function well without it. It can relieve the stress of trying to manage disruptive ‘brain fizz’ highly anxious or ‘loud’ children so that other children in the class can learn better. It works best when the whole staff understands what is happening and changes (even subtle) to watch out for in the child.