Fun activities, new friends, and EEG scans are all part of helping kids overcome learning difficulties at B.R.A.I.N. Camp. Nylah K. from East Hartford making Oobleck at B.R.A.I.N. Camp (Bridging Reading and Intervention with Neuroscience) on July 8, 2021. On a recent cloudy day at Storrs, shouts of joy, confusion, and laughter could be heard in the Henry Ruthven Monteith building by Mirror Lake as a group of children tried to mix corn starch and water to the perfect ratio. The goal was to make oobleck , a pressure-dependent substance that changes from liquid to solid at the touch.
Meanwhile, behind the neighboring Jaime Homero Arjona building, another group of children added vinegar to dish soap in a plastic cup and, delighted, shrieked as it erupted like a volcano.
“I like it – we always get to play and learn new things and make friends,” said Logan M., a B.R.A.I.N. camp participant from Coventry.
Logan and his friends are participating in UConn’s B.R.A.I.N. Camp , also called Bridging Reading And Intervention with Neuroscience Camp, where experiments like these join with daily reading and math exercises and weekly EEG scans.
This summer, UConn neuroscientist Fumiko Hoeft, education researcher Devin Kearns, and collaborators from Psychological Sciences, the Neag School of Education, Mathematics, Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC), and others launched the five-week, all-expenses-included summer camp at Storrs for 3rd and 4th grade children who are struggling to read. Logan M. from Coventry making Oobleck at B.R.A.I.N. Camp (Bridging Reading and Intervention with Neuroscience) on July 8, 2021. “When it comes to teaching children with learning disabilities, early intervention is key to academic outcome, self-esteem, and life success,” says Hoeft, professor of psychological sciences and Director of BIRC.
“There is great evidence that certain reading interventions work, but they do not work for everyone,” Hoeft says. Up to 30% of children who struggle to read (often known as children with dyslexia) might continue to struggle to read as they get older, she says.
“This is why we want to provide early intervention and add new pieces to these interventions that we think will work based on science, and on the child’s learning profile. If we can make this work, it is a great step toward personalized learning,” says Hoeft.
As a neuroscientist whose research explores biomarkers of learning disabilities such as dyslexia—patterns of brain structure and function or chemistry that would predict who responds to what kind of interventions—Hoeft is familiar with early signs of reading difficulties in children.
For instance, if a child does not know letters or letter sounds, those are risk factors in becoming dyslexic. But typically, dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until a child is a couple of years behind in reading.
“For each year we delay providing […]