Posts Tagged ‘families’

Developing abilities in gifted and talented kids

October 6, 2010

We spend a lot of time talking about struggling students, from kids with diagnosed learning difficulties like dyslexia or auditory processing disorder, to kids for whom reading and learning is just plain harder than it should be.

But students across the learning spectrum can struggle to reach their potential. As an example, check out this recent post from Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog (Prufrock Press publishes books and other resources about gifted education; blogger Carol Fertig is the author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook):

Young people who have a strong visual-spatial ability visualize and retain images in their minds and then mentally manipulate those images. Kids who have this ability may be very smart but, because they learn in a style that is different from the usual sequential and verbal style of the classroom, they may not be a good match for the typical school.

Maybe. Or perhaps with assistance developing other foundational cognitive skills like sequencing and auditory processing, these visual-spatial learners can thrive.

We know from fMRI scans that learning and reading tasks activate various centers of neural activity in the brain, including those responsible for visual and auditory processing as well as memory. And we know that when particular areas are abnormally activated, significant challenges to learning can occur (for example, the visual centers of the brains of students with dyslexia tend to be hyper-activated during reading, while their auditory centers are under-activated).

But most importantly, we have programs that can strengthen areas of the brain, such as those responsible for sequencing and auditory processing, that may not be operating at peak efficiency.

Learners across the spectrum will struggle to reach their potential when their brain processing efficiency isn’t maximized. For gifted students who are visual-spatial learners, this may mean that they need assistance to develop their auditory sequencing and processing abilities. At Be Amazing Learning, we have helped many gifted students reach their full potential. For more information, visit our Web site at beamazinglearning.com or call (800) 792-4809.

Denver area presentation: Brain Rules for Baby

October 3, 2010

If you’re in the Denver Colorado area, you might be interested in an upcoming presentation by Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School and Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five.

This lecture is aimed at early childhood professionals, family and pediatric health care professionals, parents, and parent advocates. With Dr. Medina’s engaging style and provocative approach to creating “brain‐friendly”environments, we will challenge ourselves and our communities to turn scientific evidence into the actions needed to provide a more secure future for our youngest citizens.

The lecture will be held at the University of Denver on Thursday, October 28 at 4:30. The lecture is presented by Early Childhood Colorado Information Clearing House (a “gateway to information and resources about all matters related to the healthy and thriving development of children, birth to age 8”). More information is available at their Web site.

At Be Amazing Learning, we’re intrigued by Dr. Medina’s work (we’re chugging through Brain Rules, and hope to have a review posted soon). In particular, it’s great to see educators and parents contemplating new approaches to raising and educating children that are driven by the newest research into how the brain develops.

Stumped for Halloween costume ideas? Dress up like a neuron!

October 1, 2010

We’ve previously posted about Neuroscience for Kids, a brain Web site that makes neuroscience accessible for kids. The site was created by Dr. Eric Chudler, a neuroscientist (Research Associate Professor) and Director of Education and Outreach at University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials in Seattle, Washington.

Neuroscience for Kids is jam packed with interesting activities for kids all about the brain: books and articles, brain games, and songs, including this little ditty (submitted by Richard Lord, Biology teacher at Presque Isle High School, and sung to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain”):

“Because I have a Brain”

I can flex a muscle tightly, or tap my finger lightly,

It’s because I have a brain.

I can swim in the river, though it’s cold and makes me shiver,

Just because I have a brain.

I am really fascinated, to be coordinated,

It’s because I have a brain.

I can see lots of faces, feel the pain of wearing braces,

Just because I have a brain.

Oh, I appreciate – the many things that I can do.

I can taste – a chicken stew, or smell perfume, or touch the dew.

I am heavy with emotion, and often have the notion,

That life is never plain.

I have lots of personality, a sense of true reality
,

Because I have a brain.

And, just in time for the upcoming Halloween festivities, directions to create a neuron costume!

At Be Amazing Learning we love the idea of teaching children about neuroscience, and we find that they are receptive to learning about how the brain works. We find that as children and teens work on programs like Fast ForWord, they realize that they are building their brain processing power. They understand that through frequency and intensity of the programs, they can change their gray matter in a positive way.

Children of the Code

September 29, 2010

Reading is such an incredibly complex task that it’s not notable that some students struggle with reading, but rather miraculous that any of us can read at all. The Children of the Code project calls attention to the problems that we face when our children do not learn to read:

We don’t look at reading difficulties through the lens of how to improve the ‘teaching’ of reading, instead through the lens of ‘understanding the challenges involved in learning to read’ –  from the learner’s perspective.

The Children of the Code web site teems with information about reading challenges from experts in the field, including Sally Shawitz, who has used neuro-imaging to understand the basic nature of reading and reading difficulties, and  Paula Tallal, whose foundational research into the link between oral and written language led to the development of Fast ForWord.

At Be Amazing Learning, we are committed to offering individualized, validated solutions for students who are struggling with reading. We are intrigued with depth and breadth of interviews on the Children of the Code site from experts in the fields of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, linguistics, instructional design, literacy, and teaching. If you have an interest in reading difficulties you should take a look at this great site.

The “Good Enough” Baby

September 27, 2010

We have to be able to laugh at ourselves once in a while, right?  Comedian Andy Borwitz shares parenting advice in the New Yorker:

As new parents, we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. We settle for second or third best when we buy a house or a car, and, when it comes to choosing a spouse, ninth best will often do. And yet, for some reason, we throw this time-tested principle out the window when we have a baby. We try to be “perfect” parents and raise the “perfect” baby, even if that means taking care of the baby “all the time.”

Borwitz says while “raising a perfect baby is impossible, raising a ‘good enough baby’ is surprisingly easy”, then proceeds with his “Good Enough Baby Checklist”, which includes “Is my baby clean enough” and “Is my baby well fed enough.” The most amusing to us was “Is my baby stimulated enough?”:

During the past few decades, early-development “experts” have stressed the importance of so-called “enrichment activities”: reading to babies, singing to them, even talking to them. We are now finding that these activities, in addition to being excruciating for the parent, may actually be harmful to the baby, lengthening her attention span to the point where she will be unable to enjoy most popular entertainment. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to reverse this damage, using a system I call FIT (Facebook, iPhone, TV). By exposing your baby to these three things for as many hours as possible, you’ll insure that she’ll be well equipped for a lifetime of pointless multitasking. Quick test: Put your hands in front of your eyes and play peekaboo with your baby. If she ignores you and picks up your phone, reward her with her favorite app.

This is all pretty important stuff says Borwitz: “When you have a baby, you are bringing a human being into this world, and you are responsible for that human being for the next five or six years.”

Getting to the root of reading comprehension struggles

September 24, 2010

We hear from parents a lot that their child does just fine with the mechanics of reading (decoding, spelling, etc.), but struggles with comprehension. Reading comprehension is a difficult task, as it represents the synthesis of so many language and literacy skills, from phonemic awareness to sequencing and working memory. As such, it takes time and a lot of practice to develop reading comprehension skills.

It’s important to note, however, that while kids may be struggling with comprehension, the root cause of their struggle may be more foundational in nature. For example, a child may decode well, but if his brain is working overtime on decoding, there may just not be anything left when it comes time to comprehend what he’s just read. Comprehension requires things like a working memory that’s developed enough to remember the beginning of a sentence when you get to the end. Or the first sentence of a paragraph when you get to the last. But if we can get a child’s brain to process more efficiently, the mechanics of reading become easier, which frees up energy for more complex tasks like comprehension.

The good news is that we can help kids’ brains process more efficiently. Just like we exercise our bodies in the gym or on the track to build physical fitness, we can build brain fitness through targeted exercises that adapt to our abilities.

Be Amazing Learning provides solutions that build brain processing efficiency in critical cognitive skill areas like working memory, processing rates, attention and sequencing. The programs are based on decades of research into brain plasticity, and provide effective, enduring and validated results in just 3-4 months. If comprehension is a struggle for your young reader, visit our Web site at http://www.beamazinglearning.com or call (800) 792-4809 for more information.

Stopping Summer Brain Drain

August 3, 2010

Many families chose summer as a time to work with our programs, as kids are free from homework and have a bit more cognitive energy available to devote to improving brain processing efficiency. And parents have always liked the idea of having something “academic” for kids in the summer in order to cut down on summer brain drain.

Concerns about summer brain drain are real. From the NY Times Wellness blog:

Several studies have documented a “summer slide” in reading skills once school lets out each spring. The decline in reading and spelling skills are greatest among low-income students, who lose the equivalent of about two months of school each summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association, an education advocacy group. And the loss compounds each year.

The good news is that it’s not too hard (or expensive) to beat summer brain drain. Many families we work with report that after training with Fast ForWord, their kids are ready to tackle the academic challenges of the new school year, armed with brains that process more efficiently and better working memory. And a new study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville showed significant academic improvement in students who were given free access to books at spring book fairs.

From the NY Times:

Children who had received free books posted significantly higher test scores than the children [in a control group] who received activity books. The effect, 1/16th of a standard deviation in test scores, was equivalent to a child attending three years of summer school, according to the report to be published in September in the journal Reading Psychology.

Interestingly enough, the effect is present no matter what kids read – apparently a biography of Brittany Spears was the most popular book selected by students in the UT trial. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of a book about how children learn, “Mind in the Making,” quoted in the Times blog said the findings should encourage parents and teachers to give students more leverage in selecting reading material:

“A child’s interests are a door into the room of reading … If your child is turned off by reading, getting them to read anything is better than nothing.”

Auditory Processing Disorder Takes a Toll on Learning

April 28, 2010

From Tuesday’s New York Times:

“It definitely affected his whole world,” she said of her son. “Not just learning. It cuts them off from society, from interactions.”

The “she” is Rosie O’Donnell, whose son, Blake, was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder. The Times article details her family’s journey from frustrated first grader, through an APD diagnosis, to comprehensive home, school and clinic-based interventions and support.

Given its focus on Rosie O’Donnell, the article reads a little more like People magazine than most items we link to here. But there are some explanations of the challenges of auditory processing that will resonate with parents whose kids are struggling with APD.

Be Amazing Learning is a certified provider of Fast ForWord programs, which can be effective interventions for kids struggling with Auditory Processing Disorder. For more information about these programs, as well as a link to a study of children with APD who showed improvement in phonemic decoding and sight-word reading abilities after training with Fast ForWord, visit our Web site: http://www.beamazinglearning.com/capd.html

Engaging children with language

December 3, 2009

We just got an email newsletter that emphasized the importance of engaging children with language early in their development. The newsletter created two parenting scenarios, one in which an attentive mother of a toddler (walking with, instead of pushing) her child down the street, takes the time to explain her surroundings, and celebrate the pitfalls of urban life (loud fire engine sirens and splashes from puddles). In the other, a hurried mother pushes her child in a stroller while talking on the phone, and treats the same pitfalls as, well, pitfalls.

Having just rushed our children off to school (though we did walk) with very little language stimulus that wasn’t related to the urgency of the moment (and how long it was taking to get shoes on) might have contributed to the defensive posture we assumed after reading the newsletter. But there are some nuggets in the parenting scenarios, especially related to how critical it is to continually expose children to language at a young age.

Particularly in the critical stage of brain development (when only stimulation is required to develop neural pathways), continuous exposure to language is of utmost importance. The differences in students early experiences with language and literacy are meaningful: by first grade, children whose parents have engaged them with language know twice as many words as those whose parents have not. And it continues: high school seniors near the top of their class know four times as many words as their lower-performing peers, whose vocabularies are equivalent to high-performing third graders.

Want some good news (especially if you were feeling judged by the parenting examples we described above like we were)? Deficits in vocabulary may be fundamentally more remediable than many other school learning problems. In other words, Fast ForWord can help!

The importance of self-confidence

November 30, 2009
A self-confident Be Amazing learner celebrates a new high score.

A self-confident Be Amazing learner celebrates a new high score. More right answers leads to more confidence and a lifelong love of learning.

Posit Science, which develops programs for adults based on some of the same neuroscience research on which Fast ForWord is based, is celebrating the holidays with the “12 Benefits of Brain Fitness.”

Number 4 is our favorite so far: Self Confidence

Brain research has taught us a lot about how we can help students develop critical cognitive skills such as attention, processing rates, and memory. And we know that developing these skills can improve kids’ reading abilities and give them a lifelong love of learning. But consider the critical importance of self-confidence in this equation. A student whose brain is processing more efficiently can:

  • Pay better attention in class. They’re more likely to understand the teacher’s question and give the right answer. More right answers means more confidence.
  • Better engage with peers, whether in a classroom setting or on the playground. Timing is a critical component of language comprehension: even the smallest delay turns the funny punchline of a joke into an awkward exchange. More positive interactions with peers means more confidence in social situations.

And self confidence builds on itself. More confident students become the risk takers who experiment with tougher books, challenge hypotheses, and think critically.

So while Be Amazing Learning helps students develop the foundational cognitive skills that allow them to become better readers, it might just be the self-confidence that students get from their success with programs like Fast ForWord that is the true lasting gift.


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