Seven unexpected ways to increase your child’s learning

By Dr. Kari Miller

When most people hear words such as “learning,” “smart,” or “memory,” they automatically think of the brain. In school we teach “to the head” only, asking students to sit in chairs for long periods of time, listening and looking almost exclusively at abstract symbols, even when they are very young.

Very few people think the rest of the body has anything to do with academic success. But surprising results from brain research indicate that learning cannot occur without cooperation between the body and the brain.

Emotions and Stress
Because of the way the brain is wired, emotional states run our lives. Every activity in which your child engages is infused with his emotions. Emotions are constantly changing, and are easily influenced.

Emotions such as joy encourage brain cell development by releasing chemicals such as dopamine. When children are happy and calm, they learn and remember more than when they are anxious, tense or irritated. Your child’s brain releases dopamine in response to pleasurable circumstances such chocolate ice cream. But even more importantly, the brain releases dopamine in response to security, recognition, and success.

Dopamine travels to the front of the brain where it influences skills essential for learning. The frontal lobes of your child’s brain are largely in charge of critical skills such as paying attention, recognizing and discriminating critical features, decision making and judgment, all essential for intelligent behavior and school success. Continue reading

Ten ways to build your child’s self-esteem

by Sarah Henry
Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board

Nurturing your child’s self-esteem may seem like a hefty responsibility. After all, a feeling of self-worth lays the foundation for your child’s future as he sets out to try new things on his own. “Self-esteem comes from having a sense of belonging, believing that we’re capable, and knowing our contributions are valued and worthwhile,” says California family therapist Jane Nelsen, co-author of the Positive Discipline series.

“As any parent knows, self-esteem is a fleeting experience,” says Nelsen. “Sometimes we feel good about ourselves and sometimes we don’t. What we are really trying to teach our kids are life skills like resiliency.” Your goal as a parent is to ensure that your child develops pride and self-respect — in himself and in his cultural roots — as well as faith in his ability to handle life’s challenges (for a school-age child that may mean giving a dance performance for you). Here are ten simple strategies to help boost your child’s self-esteem: Continue reading

For Children With Autism, Don’t Set The Bar Too Low

by Liza Jo Rudy – Autism Support Network

Not too many people with disabilities become role models for the rest of the world.

Some, like Stevie Wonder, are just so talented and able in a particular area that their disability seems to become unimportant. Stevie Wonder’s musical talent loses nothing as a result of his blindness.

But others, like Helen Keller and Temple Grandin, are held up as models because they worked like demons to achieve their goals despite ongoing, extraordinarily difficult challenges. Helen Keller became an intellectual and author, in the face of almost unimaginable odds. Temple Grandin became a world-renowned expert in animal husbandry and an international speaker and writer, daily facing and conquering her very real autistic challenges.

What do Keller and Grandin have in common? Both had parents who understood and accepted their daughters’ differences, but were unwilling to accept a disability as an excuse for poor behavior, laziness or self-indulgence. Both had teachers who believed in their abilities without whitewashing their challenges. And both, of course, had considerable abilities and ambition – though those qualities were not evident in their earliest years. Continue reading

Five Minds For The Future

by Howard Gardner

To prepare students for the future, educators need to cultivate both academic skills and character. In his new book, Five Minds for the Future, HGSE (Harvard Graduate School of Education) professor Howard Gardner describes five kinds of minds, or ways of thinking and acting. Three are related to intellect: the disciplined, synthesizing and creative minds; two emphasize character: the respectful and ethical minds. In a recent Burton and Inglis lecture at HGSE, Gardner describes what it means for citizens and workers to exhibit these types of minds. Continue reading

Making the transition from the world of school into the world of work

By Temple Grandin

During my travels to many autism conferences I have observed many sad cases of people with autism who have successfully completed high school or college but have been unable to make the transition into the world of work. Some have become perpetual students because they thrive on the intellectual stimulation of college. For many able people with autism college years were their happiest (Szatmari et al., 1989).

I would like to stress the importance of a gradual transition from an educational setting into a career. I made the transition gradually. My present career of designing livestock facilities is based on an old childhood fixation. I used that fixation to motivate me to become an expert on cattle handling. Equipment I have designed is in all the major meat plants. I have also stimulated the meat industry to recognize the importance of humane treatment of livestock. While I was in college I started visiting local feedlots and meat packing plants. This enabled me to learn about the industry. Continue reading