Category Archives: Brain-based Research

Autism

Autism is running prevalent today.  My question was, is it getting worse or is it easier to detect due to new brain spects and other technology.  I think it is a little of both.  I enjoyed learning the facts below.   I have great appreciation for all of you parenting and working with these precious children.  Enjoy the following from the Autism Society.  ~Sandy

What is Autism:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys. The spotlight shining on autism as a result has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to serve families facing a lifetime of supports for their children. In June 2014, researchers estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism is as great as $2.4 million. The Autism Society estimates that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism. (This figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, related therapeutic services and caregiver costs.)

Know the signs: Early identification can change lives

Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. For more information on developmental milestones, visit the CDC’s “Know the Signs. Act Early” site.

HERE ARE SOME SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN THE CHILDREN IN YOUR LIFE:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

SYMPTOMS:

The characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder may be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but they usually become clearer during early childhood (24 months to 6 years).

As part of a well-baby or well-child visit, your child’s doctor should perform a “developmental screening,” asking specific questions about your baby’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists five behaviors that warrant further evaluation:

  • Does not babble or coo by 12 months
  • Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
  • Does not say single words by 16 months
  • Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
  • Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age

Any of these five “red flags” does not mean your child has autism. But because the disorder’s symptoms vary so widely, a child showing these behaviors should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team. This team might include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant or other professionals who are knowledgeable about autism.

For more information, visit the Infants and Toddlers page or the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program.

DIAGNOSIS:

When parents or support providers become concerned that their child is not following a typical developmental course, they turn to experts, including psychologists, educators and medical professionals, for a diagnosis.

At first glance, some people with autism may appear to have an intellectual disability, sensory processing issues, or problems with hearing or vision. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, as an accurate and early autism diagnosis can provide the basis for an appropriate educational and treatment program.

Other medical conditions or syndromes, such as sensory processing disorder, can present symptoms that are confusingly similar to autism’s. This is known as differential diagnosis.

There are many differences between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination, or school evaluation, of a disability. A medical diagnosis is made by a physician based on an assessment of symptoms and diagnostic tests. A medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, for instance, is most frequently made by a physician according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5, released 2013) of the American Psychological Association. This manual guides physicians in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder according to a specific number of symptoms.

A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of someone’s abilities and behaviors. The person’s developmental history and input from parents, caregivers and/or teachers are important components of an accurate diagnosis.

An educational determination is made by a multidisciplinary evaluation team of various school professionals. The evaluation results are reviewed by a team of qualified professionals and the parents to determine whether a student qualifies for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Hawkins, 2009).

CAUSES:

There is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to in neurotypical children. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investigating a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and medical problems.

In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting the theory that the disorder has a genetic basis. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that children with autism may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.

Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development, resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances and exposure to chemicals.

Genetic Vulnerability

Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU). Some harmful substances ingested during pregnancy also have been associated with an increased risk of autism.

FACTS AND STATISTICS:

About 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. (CDC, 2014)

Prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 68 births. (CDC, 2014)

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. (Buescher et al., 2014)

Prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. (CDC, 2008)

Prevalence has increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010. (Based on biennial numbers from the CDC)

Autism services cost U.S. citizens $236-262 billion annually. (Buescher et al., 2014)

A majority of costs in the U.S. are in adult services – $175-196 billion, compared to $61-66 billion for children. (Buescher et al., 2014)

Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. (Autism. 2007 Sep;11(5):453-63; The economic consequences of autistic spectrum disorder among children in a Swedish municipality. Järbrink K1.)

1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has autism spectrum disorder. (Brugha T.S. et al., 2011)

The U.S. cost of autism over the lifespan is about $2.4 million for a person with an intellectual disability, or $1.4 million for a person without intellectual disability. (Buescher et al., 2014)

35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school. (Shattuck et al., 2012)

It costs more than $8,600 extra per year to educate a student with autism. (Lavelle et al., 2014) (The average cost of educating a student is about $12,000 – NCES, 2014)

In June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed, meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed.) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014)

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO DONATE:  https://www.autism-society.org/

Mindfulness for Students

Found this great video for quiet time for yourself or your students.  I am falling asleep trying to write this little blurb. It creates relaxation so quickly. Let your mind be in the here and now.  Don’t think about the past, can’t do anything about it.  Don’t think about the future, it will come when it’s time.  Think only about the NOW!  Please try it!  For more information on Mindfulness and helping students, educators and parents, go to Mindfulness in the Classroom~Sandy

 

Brain-Based Learning Job

Aloha, Eric Jensen here.

Recently, my wife’s mom has had some serious health issues. It has got us (that would be myself and my wife, Diane) to think a great deal about our health and our future plans.

One thing I would LOVE to do is find people who really want to do what I do. Yes, I LOVE doing my job, but it is time to be looking for the next generation of fresh faces.

That’s right; do amazing summer trainings for large groups to help both individuals and schools boost student learning. 

Actually, you would have to more than WANT to do it. You would have to SERIOUSLY want it. Maybe you have already been building your career ladder so that you CAN do it. You would have to be COMMITTED enough to jump through the hoops to be READY to do it. You would have to have the RESOURCES (time, money and family support) to actually make it happen. 

If I have described you, maybe it is time to make your move. Please complete the online application so I know you are “out there” and be ready for your next move.

To get started, CLICK HERE.

Thank you.

With gratitude, 

Eric Jensen, Ph.D.

Jensen Learning 

 

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Jensen Learning Corp. PO Box 291 Maunaloa, Hawaii 96770 United States (808) 552-0110

7 Things You Don’t Know About ADD That Can Hurt You

7 Things You Don’t Know About ADD That Can Hurt You

8x4-addADD is the most common learning and behavior problem in children. But the issue doesn’t end there: It is also one of the most common problems in adults, and has been associated with serious problems in school, relationships, work, and families. Despite its prevalence, many myths and misconceptions about ADD abound in our society. Here are just a few of them:

MYTH: ADD is a flavor-of-the-month illness, a fad diagnosis. It’s just an excuse for bad behavior.

FACT: ADD has been described in the medical literature for about one hundred years. In 1902, pediatrician George Still described a group of children who were hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand that ADD is a medical disorder and labeled these children as “morally defective.”

 

MYTH #2: ADD is overdiagnosed. Every child who acts up a bit, or adult who is lazy, gets placed on Ritalin or Adderall.

FACT: Less than half of those with ADD are being treated.

 

MYTH#3: ADD is only a disorder of hyperactive boys.

FACT: Many people with ADD are never hyperactive. The non- hyperactive or “inattentive” ADD folks are often ignored because they do not bring enough negative attention to themselves. Many of these children, teenagers, or adults earn the unjust labels “willful,” “lazy,” “unmotivated,” or “not that smart.” Females, in our experience, tend to have inattentive ADD, and it often devastates their lives.

 

MYTH #4: ADD is only a minor problem. People make too much of a fuss over it.

FACT: Left untreated or ineffectively treated, ADD is a very serious societal problem! Although previous research has demonstrated that ADD is associated with problems like job failures, relationship breakups, drug abuse, and obesity, recently published research in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatryconducted a systematic review of all the available evidence and confirmed the link between ADD and a wide range of health and psychosocial problems. The study demonstrates the importance of properly treating ADD early in life in order to potentially prevent these future adverse outcomes.

 

MYTH #5: ADD is an American invention, made up by a society seeking simple solutions to complex social problems.

FACT: ADD is found in every country where it has been studied. I once had a patient from Ethiopia who had been expelled from his tribe for being so easily distracted and impulsive.

 

MYTH #6: People with ADD should just try harder.

FACT: Often the harder people with ADD try, the worse things get for them. Brain-imaging studies show that when people with ADD try to concentrate, the parts of their brains involved with concentration, focus, and follow-through (prefrontal cortex and cerebellum) actually shuts down—just when they need them to turn on.

 

MYTH #7: Everyone who has ADD will get better if they just take stimulant medication.

FACT: ADD, like many other conditions, is not just a single and simple disorder; therefore, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. With more than 120,000 brain scans in our database, we have identified 7 types of ADD. And each type requires a different treatment plan because of the diverse brain systems involved.

Amen Clinics has helped tens of thousands of people with ADD from all over the world and can help you, too. To learn more or schedule a comprehensive evaluation, contact the Amen Clinics Care Center today at 855-698-5108 orhttps://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

CLEAN STORMWATER GRANTS

Clean Stormwater Grants

The 2017 Clean Stormwater Grants are now available. Go to the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District’s website, http://www.fresnofloodcontrol.org/clean-storm-water-program/community-assistance/clean-storm-water-grants/# for all the details and to download an application.

 

The grants available are:

·         Clean Stormwater Grant for water resources field trips; environmental restoration, enhancement and preservation; stormwater quality information and education; household hazardous waste information and education; business stormwater pollution prevention assistance and education; and environmental assessment projects. Grants up to $2,000.

·         Clean Stormwater Grant – High Priority Requested Grant Projects for a San Joaquin River clean-up project or a low impact development demonstration project. Grants up to $4,000.

·         5th Grade Field Trips to Scout Island to take your 5th grade classes (or other grade levels) to the San Joaquin River for a field trip with Scout Island docents. Grant pays for Scout Island and the transportation.

 

Water Resource Education Program
Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District staff is available to come to your classroom or business to provide an educational presentation about local water resources, our watershed and pollution prevention. Contact Patrick Bryan at (559) 456-3292 or patrickb@fresnofloodcontrol.org to schedule a presentation.

 

Earth Sciences Local Water Resources Classroom Tools

Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District offers free educational materials for schools and organizations. Materials available include infographics, posters and PowerPoint presentation for 6th – 8th grade students; an activity book for 1st – 3rd grade students; Fresno the Mountains to the Valley activity book for 4th – 6th grade students; Storm Drains 101 DVD; local water cycle poster and more. Go to our website at http://www.fresnofloodcontrol.org/educational-materials/ to order materials.

 

To keep up to date follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fresno-Metropolitan-Flood-Control-District/231056563609284.

 

If you have any questions please contact me at the email address or phone number below.

 

Thank you.

 

Kristine Johnson

Senior Staff Analyst, Environmental Dept.

Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District

5469 E. Olive Avenue

Fresno, CA 93727

(559) 456-3292, Fax (559) 456-3194

www.fresnofloodcontrol.org

kristinej@fresnofloodcontrol.org

The Classroom of the Future!

The Classroom of the Future

http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

The Classroom of the Future

The Physical Space

The days of classrooms where a teacher desk sits at the front of the classroom and students’ desks are neatly aligned in rows are over. Learning technologies, and changing pedagogical methods, are not only changing the way we teach but also the physical environments we teach in. The role physical environments play in our learning is just beginning to be studied and understood. Akinsanmi (2011) asserts that “there is little research on the role the physical environment plays in the learning process” but more and more educations theorist and psychologists are beginning to offer perspectives “from which designers can conceptualize the creation of an optimal learning environment” (The Optimal Learning). One thing that is clear from the research of the physical spaces which make up learning environments is that current classrooms seldom facilitate 21st century learning.

Image taken from: http://rliberni.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/ideal-classroom-design-for-21st-century-learning
external image wordle_may_25th.png

A study done by the Herman Miller Company (2011) on adaptable spaces and their impact on learning identified four key constructs that affect student learning; Basic Human Need, Teaching, Learning, and Engagement. Herman Miller assert that there is a “pedagogical value of a comfortable chair” and that by “recognizing the impact that physical comfort has is support of pedagogy, and designing flexible, comfortable learning spaces enhances the experience of both faculty and students.” When classroom furniture is easily moved to allow for comfort and practicality students’ learning experience was heightened with increased seating comfort (32%), being able to clearly understand the professor (14%), and view materials (17%). Besides students being better serviced by redesigned and malleable classrooms educators also reported the benefits of increased lighting, better access to internet connections, improved ability to hear students and having more whiteboard space (p. 3,5).

The research summary also highlighted the fact that with regard to teaching “emerging discoveries about how people learn, rapid advancements in technology, and heightened awareness of student expectations” were what caused the most pedagogical changes and in order for teachers to take advantage of these changes teaching spaces must be able to utilize new technologies and have classroom “flexible enough to accommodate different teaching styles”. Adaptable learning spaces also better facilitate learning especially since the “meaning of knowing has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find it use it and contextualize it.” Marc Presnsky describes how students no longer prefer large lecture halls and instead desire learning spaces that “allow them to get to know one another, engage in dialogue, work independently or in groups on projects…get or provide private feedback [and] seek a collaborative environment that fosters understanding and learning” (Herman Miller Company, 2011, p. 5-6). Prensky’s quote perfectly illustrates why classroom spaces should no longer be static but should be easily adaptable to fit whatever activity or pedagogical method the teacher chooses to deliver that day’s lesson in.

Lastly adaptable learning spaces make it easier to engage students by allowing for the quick and easy configuration of classrooms to facilitate different kinds of activities. Students who participated in classes held in classrooms designed around adoptable spaces ideas reported being 24% more engaged in class and 23% more likely to feel that communication was better facilitated while teachers describded how it was easier to integrate teaching methods (22%), easier to use technology while instructing.The figures below are also taken from the study and show just how effective adaptable spaces are.

“Additional insights came from evaluating faculty and student perceptions about
collaboration and fostering a sense of community or belonging within the Learning

classroom.jpg
Yahoo images

Studio. Students reported they are:
• 16% more likely to feel comfortable asking questions
• 28% more likely to be able to conduct group work
• 20% more likely to feel the classroom presents the appropriate image for the college
• 22% more likely to feel valued
The results from faculty were even more supportive. Faculty members are:
• 32% more likely to agree that collaboration between students is better
• 24% more likely to agree that collaboration between faculty and student is better
• 44% more likely to believe the Learning Studio conveys the appropriate image
• 47% more likely to feel valued (Herman Miller, 2011, p.8-9)”

Classrooms designed using adaptable learning spaces adhere exactly to what Askinsanmi described as removing “the focus from the teaching wall and creating the ambiance of a favorite grandma’s living room, thereby providing an emotionally safe, comfortable and visually stimulating environment” (p. 6). When students are comfortable, sitting in a room that they feel caters to their needs they are more willing and able to learn. Hopefully as our ideas about how to instruct students continue to change and evolve so will the way we setup and decorate our classrooms.

Below is a diagram taken from Herman Miller Company Research Summitry which illustrates student and facility experience in physical learning spaces.

external image student%20and%20faculty.png

Below are two pictures showing some of the learning spaces described by Herman Miller.

external image ex13591.jpg………………………………..external image ex1340.jpg
Both images taken from: http://www.hermanmiller.com/discover/tag/cetld/

The Pedagogical Place

Besides the physical layout of the classroom changing so will the tools we use to instruct students. As Heather Edick asserts “there is increasingly sophisticated technology to come” which will benefit teachers “in terms of resource management and the opportunity to tap sources of knowledge that would not have been available because of geographical barriers” (Edick, Visions of the). Besides technology’s increased use in the classroom of the future another major change “is an emphasis placed on learning models that support the active construction of knowledge and skills.” Instead of educational environments and instruction being passive “there has been a shift…to environments in which the learner actively explores the world and constructs their own internal models of understanding (Classroom of the, 2006).” Classrooms of the future will no longer be little factories where we “can find teachers encouraged (and often compelled) to mass produce learning and marginalize the differences in aptitudes, interests, and abilities” which no longer “prepare students for the fast changing global society they will inherit” (Fielding, Lackney, Nair, 2011).

The Human Computer Interaction Lab (2006) completed a study which anticipated the development of “new embedded technologies that can be a seamless part of any physical object in schools” which can then be used to support learning” (Classroom of the). One example of technology being used to facilitate learning when it is viewed as a “constructive and social activity” is the internet. As the internet “increasingly gained in popularity as a communication channel” and Web 2.0 applications become more common “attention switched to social interaction and its relevance for learning” (Mäkitalo-Siegl, 2010, p. 3). An example of this might be students using a curation tool such as Paper.li to sort and evaluate information before sharing it with others or collaborating on a Wikispace page with another student, both of which focus instructions on the active construction of knowledge and building communities and social interaction. In the classroom of the future technology will no longer limit collaboration and community thinking solely to the inside of the classroom but will allow for these activities to occur outside the classroom in the real world. Students could learn Chinese “using a large HDMI monitor and High Definition sound system, along with a web connection…[and instructors] could take them on virtual field trips once a month, wearing a wen camera that shows students sites, such as the Wall of China” while also allowing them to practice their Chinese with native speakers (Edick, Visions of the).

In addition the classroom of the future will facilitate learning by using technology-enhanced objects while also “building communities in virtual and physical learning spaces.” By embedding technology into “familiar every-day devices” it makes the technologies easy to use while also turning them “into tools for effective and motivating learning.” An example of this might be having students complete concept maps on a whiteboard or laptop or by having students use StoryTable to collaborate while making a story. An example of a “knowledge-building community” existing both inside and outside of the classroom is a project called CIPHER (Communities of Interest to Promote the Heritage of European Regions) which “constitutes a multidisciplinary community in the field of digital cultural heritage.” The project uses “advanced technology and the digital tools applied in the creation, recording, and preservation of cultural heritage…[with] collaboration taking place between different groups and communities, such as universities, local schools, and museums” to produce the artifacts used in the project (Mäkitalo-Siegl, 2011, p. 5-7). A classroom designed to allow this kind of learning would need space for collaboration to occur, access to the technologies that allow for the creation of artifacts and would look remarkably different from the look of most classrooms today.

The classroom of the future might also be paper free as laptops and other educational technology allow for the elimination of paper. As laptop and tablet computers become cheaper in the near future instead of teachers copying handouts and exams to give to students they will be ‘pushed’ online to students. All students will carry laptop computers which will include textbooks, eliminating textbooks, heavy backpacks and lockers, while also making for a cleaner classroom environment. The use of laptops and tablets could also allow for students to keep electronic portfolios enabling them to “add comments and reflections based on an artifact at any time.” The portfolios could also be used during parent teacher conferences by allowing the teacher to share students portfolios “via SMART board or a tablet and explain the student’s progress to the parents using the portfolio” (Edick, Visions of the).

The classroom of the future is a space, both physically and pedagogically, in flux. The physical spaces which make up the classroom, the educational technologies we use, and the teaching pedagogy we subscribe to are not static and as educators it is critical for use to continue learning about what the classroom of the future will look like. No matter what state or country we teach in these changes will affect us all. As Makitalo-Siegal et al (2010) assert “teachers themselves should be more open to new pedagogical models and the development of technology as well as be willing to regularly update their knowledge by participating in in-service education and reading current research literature” (2010, p.7).

The Glossary of Education Reform for Journalists, Parents, and Community Members

Created by the Great Schools Partnership, the GLOSSARY OF EDUCATION REFORM is a comprehensive online resource that describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies for journalists, parents, and community members. | Learn more »

BRAIN-BASED LEARNING

LAST UPDATED:

Brain-based learning refers to teaching methods, lesson designs, and school programs that are based on the latest scientific research about how the brain learns, including such factors as cognitive development—how students learn differently as they age, grow, and mature socially, emotionally, and cognitively.

Brain-based learning is motivated by the general belief that learning can be accelerated and improved if educators base how and what they teach on the science of learning, rather than on past educational practices, established conventions, or assumptions about the learning process. For example, it was commonly believed that intelligence is a fixed characteristic that remains largely unchanged throughout a person’s life. However, recent discoveries in cognitive science have revealed that the human brain physically changes when it learns, and that after practicing certain skills it becomes increasingly easier to continue learning and improving those skills. This finding—that learning effectively improves brain functioning, resiliency, and working intelligence—has potentially far-reaching implications for how schools can design their academic programs and how teachers could structure educational experiences in the classroom.

Related terms such as brain-based education or brain-based teaching, like brain-based learning, refer to instructional techniques that are grounded in the neuroscience of learning—i.e., scientific findings are used to inform educational strategies and programs. Other related terms, such as educational neuroscience or mind, brain, and education sciencerefer to the general field of academic and scientific study, not to the brain-based practices employed in schools.

Reform

A great deal of the scientific research and academic dialogue related to brain-based learning has been focused on neuroplasticity—the concept that neural connections in the brain change, remap, and reorganize themselves when people learn new concepts, have new experiences, or practice certain skills over time. Scientists have also determined, for example, that the brain can perform several activities at once; that the same information can be stored in multiple areas of the brain; that learning functions can be affected by diet, exercise, stress, and other conditions; that meaning is more important than information when the brain is learning something new; and that certain emotional states can facilitate or impede learning—among many other findings.

Given the breadth and diversity of related scientific findings, brain-based learning may take a wide variety of forms from school to school or teacher to teacher. For example, teachers may design lessons or classroom environments to reflect conditions that facilitate learning—e.g., they may play calming music to decrease stress, reduce the amount of time they spend lecturing, engage students in regular physical activity, or create comfortable reading and study areas, with couches and beanbag chairs, as an alternative to traditional desks and chairs. They may also encourage students to eat more healthy foods or exercise more—two physical factors that have been shown to affect brain health.

The principles of brain-based learning are also being introduced into teacher-preparation programs, and an increasing number of colleges and universities are offering courses and degrees in the field. For example, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education now offers a Mind, Brain, and Education master’s-degree program.

Debate

Because educational neuroscience is still a relatively young field, the methods and technologies of cognitive science are still being developed and tested. That said, people are often predisposed to view scientific findings as incontrovertible “facts” rather than complex and evolving theories, so it’s possible that some educators may view scientific findings as being more “solid” than they actually are, or they may misinterpret scientific evidence and act upon findings in ways that would not be recommended by the research. In addition, “neuroscientific myths”—widespread misinterpretations of scientific evidence—can potentially give rise to educational practices of dubious value.

Another point of potential debate is how educators should balance the findings of neuroscience with the practicalities of teaching. For example, some neuroscientists might argue that teachers shouldn’t lecture for longer than ten minutes, but it is probably more practical to interpret that recommendation as a guideline, not a strict instructional prescription. Other findings might support the use of treadmills in classrooms—because the brain is more stimulated during physical activity—but such options may be impractical, unworkable, inadvisable, or financially infeasible in many school settings.
The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Recommended APA Citation Format: Hidden curriculum (2014, August 26). In S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/hidden-curriculum

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Your Teenager’s Development Brain

Pre-teen boy reading

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

Scientists once thought that brain development stopped after the first few years of life. Now we know that it keeps going well into adulthood.

As children become teenagers, their brains grow and change. These changes affect their thinking and behaviour. When you understand how, you can better help your child build a healthy teenage brain.

Teenage brain development: the basics

Children’s brains have a massive growth spurt when they’re very young. By the time they’re six, their brains are already about 90-95% of adult size. But the brain still needs a lot of remodelling before it can function as an adult brain.

This brain remodelling happens intensively during adolescence, continuing into your child’s mid-20s.

Some brain changes happen before puberty, and some continue long after. Brain change depends on age, experience and hormonal changes in puberty.

So even though all teenagers’ brains develop in roughly the same way at the same time, there are differences among individual teenagers. For example, if your child started puberty early, this might mean that some of your child’s brain changes started early too.

Inside the teenage brain

Adolescence is a time of significant growth and development inside the teenage brain.

The main change is that unused connections in the thinking and processing part of your child’s brain (called the grey matter) are ‘pruned’ away. At the same time, other connections are strengthened. This is the brain’s way of becoming more efficient, based on the ‘use it or lose it’ principle.

This pruning process begins in the back of the brain. The front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is remodelled last. The prefrontal cortex is the decision-making part of the brain, responsible for your child’s ability to plan and think about the consequences of actions, solve problems and control impulses. Changes in this part continue into early adulthood.

Because the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers might rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems more than adults do. The amygdala is associated with emotions, impulses, aggression and instinctive behaviour.

The back-to-front development of the brain explains why your child’s thinking and behaviour sometimes seem quite mature, and illogical, impulsive or emotional at other times. Teenagers are working with brains that are still under construction.

Building a healthy teenage brain

The combination of your child’s unique brain and environment influences the way your child acts, thinks and feels. For example, your child’s preferred activities and skills might become ‘hard-wired’ in the brain.

How teenagers spend their time is crucial to brain development. So it’s worth thinking about the range of activities and experiences your child is into – music, sports, study, languages, video games. How are these shaping the sort of brain your child takes into adulthood?

You are an important part of your child’s environment. You mean a lot to your child. How you guide and influence him will be important in helping your child to build a healthy brain.

You can do this by:

  • encouraging positive behaviour
  • promoting good thinking skills
  • helping your child get lots of sleep.

Encouraging positive behaviour
While your child’s brain is developing, your child might:

  • take more risks or choose high-risk activities
  • express more and stronger emotions
  • make impulsive decisions.

Here are some tips for encouraging good behaviour and strengthening positive brain connections:

  • Let your child take some healthy risks. New and different experiences help your child develop an independent identity, explore grown-up behaviours, and move towards independence.
  • Help your child find new creative and expressive outlets for her feelings. She might be expressing and trying to control new emotions. Many teenagers find that sport or music, writing and other artforms – either as a participant or a spectator – are good outlets.
  • Talk through decisions step by step with your child. Ask about possible courses of action your child might choose, and talk through potential consequences. Encourage your child to weigh up the positive consequences or rewards against the negative ones.
  • Use family routines to give your child’s life some structure. These might be based around school and family timetables.
  • Provide boundaries, and opportunities for negotiating those boundaries. Young people need guidance and limit-setting from their parents and other adults.
  • Offer frequent praise and positive rewards for desired behaviours. This reinforces pathways in your child’s brain.
  • Be a positive role model. Your behaviour will show your child the behaviour you expect.
  • Stay connected with your child. You’ll probably want to keep an eye on your child’s activities and friends. Being open and approachable can help you with this.
  • Talk to your child about his developing brain. Understanding this important period of growth might help teenagers process their feelings. It might also make taking care of their brains more interesting.
Teenagers are often passionate about their interests, especially ones that give them opportunities to socialise. You can help your child develop skills and confidence by supporting her interests, activities and hobbies.

Promoting thinking skills
Brain growth and development during these years mean that your child will start to:

  • think more logically
  • think about things more abstractly – things are no longer so black or white
  • pick up more on other people’s emotional cues
  • solve more complex problems in a logical way, and see problems from different perspectives
  • get a better perspective on the future.

You can support the development of your child’s thinking with the following strategies:

  • Encourage empathy. Talk about feelings – yours, your child’s and other people’s. Highlight the fact that other people have different perspectives and circumstances. Reinforce that many people can be affected by one action.
  • Emphasise the immediate and long-term consequences of actions. The part of the brain responsible for future thinking (the prefrontal cortex) is still developing. If you talk about how your child’s actions influence both the present and the future, you can help the healthy development of your child’s prefrontal cortex.
  • Try to match your language level to the level of your child’s understanding. For important information, you can check understanding by asking children to tell you in their own words what they’ve just heard.
  • Prompt your child to develop decision-making and problem-solving skills. Try role-modelling and suggesting a process that involves defining the problem, listing the options, and considering the outcome that leads to the best solution for all involved.

Getting lots of sleep
During the teenage years, your child’s sleep patterns will change. This is because the brain produces melatonin at a different time of the day. This makes your child feel tired and ready for bed later in the evening. It can keep your child awake into the night and make it difficult to get up the next morning.

Sleep is essential to healthy brain development. Try the following tips:

  • Ensure your child has a comfortable, quiet sleep environment.
  • Encourage ‘winding down’ before bed – away from TVs, mobiles and computers.
  • Reinforce a regular sleeping routine. Your child should aim to go to bed and wake up at regular times each day.
  • Encourage your child to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. While the ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, the average amount of sleep that teenagers need is around nine hours.

Risk-taking behaviour

The teenage brain is built to seek out new experiences, risks and sensations – it’s all part of refining those brain connections.

Also, teenagers don’t always have a lot of self-control or good judgment and are more prone to risk-taking behaviour. This is because the self-monitoring, problem-solving and decision-making part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – develops last. Hormones are also thought to contribute to impulsive and risky behaviour in teens.

Teenagers need to take risks to grow and develop. You can support your child in choosing healthy risks – such as sports and travel – instead of negative ones like smoking and stealing. All risk-taking involves the possibility of failure. Your child will need your support to get over any setbacks.

Stress and the teenage brain

With so many changes happening to your child’s brain, it’s especially important that your child is protected and nurtured.

The incidence of poor mental health increases during the teenage years. It’s thought this could be related to the fact that the developing brain is more vulnerable to stress factors than the adult brain.

Teenage stresses can include drugs, alcohol and high-risk behaviour, as well as things like starting a new school, peer pressure, or major life events like moving house or the death of a loved one.

But don’t wrap your child in cotton wool! Too much parental attention might alienate your child.

Staying connected and involved in your child’s life can help you to learn more about how your child is coping with stress. It can also help you keep an open relationship with your child and ensure that your child sees you as someone to talk to – even about embarrassing or uncomfortable topics.

It’s thought that children are more likely to be open to parental guidance and monitoring during their teenage years if they’ve grown up in a supportive and nurturing home environment.

Every teenage child is unique, and teenagers respond to stress in different and unique ways. You know your child best, so it’s OK to trust your instinct on how to support your child if he’s going through a stressful time. It’s also OK to ask for help from friends, family members or professionals such as your GP.

Getting help

Every child experiences changes at a different rate. If you’re concerned about your child’s rate of development or you have concerns about your child’s changing body, thinking or behaviour, you could start by talking to a school counsellor or your GP. If you’re really worried, you could look for a counsellor or psychologist. You don’t need a referral, but you might prefer to have your GP recommend someone.