Kid’s brains are different – teach them differently

The following is taken from this article.  It ‘s long but poses some interesting questions.  I wonder if there is any correlation between how the brain responds to learning an instrument early and how it responds to learning other skills early…like how to be organized, how to plan and how to use study skills to be successful. – Clayton

In musicians who play stringed instruments, for instance, the brain areas that affect the fingers of the left hand are larger than other people’s. This effect, described in Science magazine in 1995, is strongest for the four fingers — which do the bulk of the work manipulating the strings of, say, a violin — and weakest for the thumb. The earlier in life each musician had started to play, the more distinct were the differences in those parts of the brain.

Scientists have seen evidence like this for mental, not just physical tasks. In studies with strong implications for school, Shaywitz, codirector of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, has shown that teaching can alter the brains of disabled readers. She and colleagues spent a year helping children with reading disabilities build their phonological skills. Afterward, the children’s reading improved, and fMRI pictures showed that activity in parts of their brains crucial for reading had jumped.

What does all this mean for educators? First, a caution: Neuroscientists insist there is no concrete proof that certain teaching practices are best for the brain. But we can make some inferences based on brain research, and in time our understanding will grow.

Judy Willis, a neurologist, middle school teacher, and author of several books on the subject, says educators can achieve a lot just by designing lessons that appeal to multiple senses. She suggests that teachers lead a child into a new subject through his particular strengths and interests. Once he’s engaged, a teacher can challenge him to use a different, weaker skill set for another part of the lesson, helping him develop those parts of his brain.

Shaywitz advocates personalization as a key to nurturing children’s growth. She encourages teachers to allow struggling readers, for example, to use dictation or to tell and experience stories through pictorial storyboards and videos. Reading is the bedrock of almost everything that happens in schools, but Shaywitz urges educators to recognize and reward other skills, too, as she has found that many kids with reading disabilities have a flair for the creative and the visual.

“Schools like to talk about individualizing, but it’s within very narrow parameters,” says Shaywitz. “So if we can show that children’s brains are different — that they need different nutrients, if you will — that’s a tremendous step to say, ‘It’s not trivial; they’re built differently.'”

The next step for scientists is to directly link brain changes to the broad experience of school. McCandliss is researching the difference that a year of school makes in the brains of first graders compared with peers who just missed the birthday cutoff for enrollment.

Of course, educators don’t usually have to look inside a child’s brain to see that she has learned something. But a deeper understanding of how education shapes the brain could give us new insights into what and how children can most successfully learn. Who knows: Maybe in some far-off future, we could supplement the narrow results of standardized tests with images of changes in the brain.

Lucky with ADD

I have to say that I feel pretty darn lucky to know what explains my behavior, in part, and to have a son who has ADD because it forces me to look closer at how I can best meet our individual needs and parent us both.  It has caused me to break out of the box of assumptions, and not take anything for granted in my knowledge and understanding of myself, him or others.  It has caused me to truly live my life in a way that I realize the worth in seeking to understand first, beginning with myself.

I was diagnosed at the age of 45 after experiencing a season of family tragedy.  I received my diagnosis and confirmation of ADD from a pediatrician, psychologist and child/adult psychiatrist specializing in ADD.  What came for me out of that diagnosis was the dawn of a new world and a new way of life once I began treatment which consisted of: acknowledging I had ADD, educating myself, counseling, implementing new strategies for living, and medication. (I’m working on self coaching right now using Nancy Ratey’s The Disorganized Mind which is absolutely blowing me away with strategies to implement in my every day life.)

Today, for the first time ever I truly believe I have the tools I need to build the life I really want in my relationships and in my profession. I’ve seen major results since treating it in my marriage, parenting, and friendships.  And, I am just now beginning to implement those strategies in my profession.  With this intentionality, I am confident that I will see results here as well.  Even with the baby steps that I am making interpersonally, I see that my treatment plan is helping me build the momentum I could’ve never had otherwise, in ensuring a happier more fulfilled life where I can live the story I want my life to tell, and avoid many of the pitfalls that are common to ADDers.  If I have any challenge, it is to follow thru with “unwrapping the gift of ADD” (a term Dr. Edward Hallowell uses) in my self and others, and in seeking to understand myself and others better every day.  My ADD diagnosis has given me fresh eyes to love better and made me a true believer that things aren’t always as they seem, even when it appears so.

Great resources are Dr. Edward Hallowell’s Driven to Distraction, Delivered From Distraction, Superparenting ADD, and Crazy Busy

Customer Feedback Page added

Today I added a customer feedback page to the blog.  This is where we want you to give us feedback on what you like about the planner and how we can improve it going forward.

You can also share ideas on how to help students with ADD/ADHD or other Learning Disabilities become more organized.

Thanks!

Clayton

Age-Related Decline of ADHD Symptoms Disrupted by Middle School

http://www.naset.org/807.0.html?&tx_ttnews[pS]=1243561131&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=2442&tx_ttnews[backPid]=533&cHash=7030b7c817

Great article on the pressure on middle school students.

Article Excerpt: “Although symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) can last into adulthood, typically they decline as a child gets older. But a new study indicates that the stressful transition from elementary school to middle school complicates this pattern and may even disrupt it. The study, which analyzed data from the NIMH-funded Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA), was published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.”