Saturday, January 8, 2011

Intensive therapy and the brain

Quote from the book about neuroplasticity
"The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge
(New York: Viking Press, 2007)

".... For decades, educators ideas have been firmly set that children who strug­gle with cognitive functioning weaknesses will continue to struggle throughout their lives. The children’s caregivers must give them all the support they need to ensure they make it through school. Learned helplessness is the term used in the fields of education and psychology to describe many children with learn­ing difficulties.
In fact, this learned helplessness does not have to be the case.
Many educators are not even aware of brain plasticity.
In education, the establishment’s common understanding is that the brain is more or less fixed; that is what many of them learned at college or university. Perhaps they have not read the latest information on brain plasticity and neuroscience. As a result, they keep practicing the same instructional remediation methods for children with learning disabilities as though they are the only options available.
.... "

".... As well, they do not see that children who fail in school are often dealing with more sig­nificant issues with reasoning, memory, auditory processing, visual-perceptual processing, visual-motor integration, and social-perception problems—all cog­nitive functioning weaknesses—and that these cognitive functions can be improved. Yet Barbara Arrowsmith Young has persisted and her results outstandingly speak for themselves. She is the first neuroplastician with operating schools and licensed programs in the field of education in North America.
This is not to deny that many wonderful minds in education and psychology have provided major insights into learning disabilities and attention disorders. Nevertheless, the notions that the brain can change itself and that cognitive intervention methods can be designed to improve cognitive functioning are rev­olutionary to many education experts, who refuse to depart from their own entrenched neural pathways. When a dramatic change of thought is presented they become uneasy and often dismissive, preferring to stick to old ways of doing things.... "

".... There is no magic or quick fix for improving cognitive functioning. It is difficult and tiring work for the child with learning and attention disabilities; it takes resilience and diligence to improve. Neuroplasticity does not occur without sig­nificant active engagement over a lengthy period. Not surprisingly, some critics use this as a way to dismiss this work. They say, “Why would you make chil­dren with learning disabilities work so hard? They are already struggling enough.”
Optimal cognitive functioning remediation for a severe learning disability, and in some cases an accompanying attention disorder, can take three to four years in a full-time school environment. Some of our most remarkable children persistently and repeatedly worked on cognitive exercises in order to achieve their noteworthy accomplish­ments and become honours students after transition to mainstream class­rooms. The Arrowsmith Program’s belief is that nothing is wrong with hard or tiring work if it has an important purpose. This is how many great minds devel­oped breakthroughs in engineering, physics, chemistry, architecture, literature, music, mathematics, medicine, and other disciplines. They spent hours going over ideas and theories. Similar to the body’s physical training, in order for the brain to become efficient at a particular task or behaviour, it must practise it repeatedly. Children with learning disabilities and attention disorders must stimulate and strengthen their brains’ ability to learn with repeated cognitive exercises in order to overcome their neurological weaknesses.... "

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