LearningRx shares tips for stimulating young child’s brain

We know so much more about the brain, and there’s new research almost every day. How does a child’s brain work and how can it change and improve?

“It used to be thought that your IQ was set and that it didn’t change,” said Mia Tischer, executive director of LearningRx Chicago-Naperville. “Now we know that the brain can change structurally and functionally as a result of input from the environment.”

Science allows us to actually watch the brain work. For example, she said, good readers use pathways mostly located in the back of the brain (the occipito-temporal region, the area responsible for automatic decoding). Poor readers show under activitation in the back of the brain and over activation in the front of the brain. By pinpointing these areas, we gain understanding on the effectiveness of various remedial reading strategies.

Ongoing research shows consistent and strong evidence that experience can actually change both the brain’s physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology). Therefore, with the right kind of stimulation, the brain can be modified.

Here are some areas in which to stimulate the young brain:

Progressive drills. Research shows that repetitive drills build strong pathways and expand the surrounding area of the brain. Practicing a skill reinforces the mental connections in the brain required to execute it.

Repeated actions. Neurons involved in the same repeated thoughts and actions develop stronger connections. Regardless of whether the thoughts and actions involve memorizing a spelling list, a musical score, historical facts or football plays, a network of brain cells incorporated together into the memory of a skill or activity is strongest and longest lasting.

Feedback. The brain attaches value and importance to immediate associations. Good brain training needs to be designed to facilitate immediate feedback of two types — positive feedback and corrective feedback.

Sequencing. To excel, students need to be challenged with increasingly smaller steps of difficulty.

If the task is too hard, it’s frustrating. If the task is too easy, it’s boring. If the task is sequenced properly, it is just right.

Intensity. The brain also needs intensity to grow and change. Like physical training, this intensity makes each a subconscious habit not requiring conscious effort.

“The brain is very complex,” Tischer said. “There are high expectations for today’s children and greater responsibilities for parents, teachers and schools.”

But with every child, there is hope for change, she said.

Courtesy of LearningRx-Naperville, which specializes in treating the root cause of learning struggles, such as dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and provides support in reading, math, and career and academic advancement.

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