Tag Archives: program

Finland: Educational Principles That Work

Schools with Shorter Days, No Homework and Better Outcomes

 

I’m not a fan of Michael Moore, but I thought his video about education in Finland would get your attention.

Finland, which has ranked at or near the top of countries in international testing, has discovered principles that we at NACD have known and been implementing for almost fifty years.

Finland’s international ranking was based on the PISA test, which is the Program for International Student Assessment test. When the test was administered in 2015, the United States ranked 41st in math, 25th in reading and 26th in science internationally—not so hot! However, we have been close to the top relative to how much we spend per child.

For the past forty-plus years at NACD we have been working with families to help develop and educate their children, applying some of the same basic principles that have helped turn around the educational system in Finland.

For starters, Finland has learned that less can be more. We have always preached neuroplasticity and the associated principles of frequency, intensity and duration, acknowledging that as you increase duration, you generally decrease intensity and as such push too long and less goes in. Finland also has shorter school days. In Finland, elementary students only attend school for twenty hours a week and don’t even start school until they are seven years old. Older students go to school from about 9:00-9:30 a.m. until 2:00-2:45 p.m. and receive no homework or very minimal homework. When able to really individualize, we can generally accelerate a student at home in about half that much time. The more we can individualize, the more we can target the input and educate efficiently and effectively.

In Finland, they give students many 15- to 20-minute breaks during their school day. We encourage parents to work with their children for short periods, followed by breaks. The younger the children, the shorter the work/attention periods—starting literally from seconds and minutes.

Finland has learned to stop teaching to standardized tests. They are not following a ridged, set curriculum and then testing based on that curriculum. Their system gives teachers much more autonomy to individualize and actually teach until the students have learned something. They are also now starting to use what they call phenomenon-based learning, which means that they are exploring a more holistic approach involving students and encouraging them to explore their interests and talents. We incorporate a child-centered approach as much as possible, using the child’s interests and passions to produce more globally-associated knowledge that sticks, while still focusing on the core, accelerating reading and math. We believe in less curriculum/stuff and more in building the educational foundation and creating a more meaningful education. Establish the educational base, turn the children into readers and turn them on to learning.

Finland also has more children receiving special education services than perhaps any other country in the world. But, it is done differently. Just as we do at NACD, they believe that educational issues can and should be addressed and fixed, not labeled and used as an excuse for failure. Children receive what special services they need so that their issues can be resolved and they can move forward unencumbered.

What neither Finland or any country has learned

The real foundation that we at NACD have been building in children is the neurological foundation—short-term memory, working memory and executive function. What the world has yet to realize is that education alone is not enough. If we build the neurological foundation, we make people smarter—much smarter! And smarter is better!

And now for the rest of the story. . . 

—Bob Doman

 

Mark Turner – Breaking New Ground & Making New Records

Mark Turner, trick skiing at the 2015 World Disabled Water Ski Championships, Sacramento, California

Mark Turner, trick skiing at the 2015 World Disabled Water Ski
Championships, Sacramento, California

One of the great rewards of my work is hearing updates from families I’ve seen in the past. Now that I have been working with kids for fifty years, some of these kids are actually getting fairly old themselves. I recently heard from one of the families I worked with in the 80’s and surprisingly, also heard from two other families that I hadn’t seen in decades on that same day. It was a very nice day!

When Mark Turner’s mother wrote to me to let me know about the terrific things Mark was doing and to thank me for the help we had given her when he was a young boy, I was surprised, as I was immediately able to picture Mark, his Mom and to recall specific events from his evaluations. At NACD we all refer to the kids as “Our Kids”—not patients, clients, labels or diagnoses. The families of “Our Kids” are “Our Families”. I don’t know to what degree most of the families perceive others on our team or me as part of their families except for obvious exceptions, like those who refer to me as “Uncle Bob”, but we do feel like part of theirs and feel honored to be able to help them and participate in their children’s development.

Mark is doing great and breaking new ground for those with disabilities, but I will let his mother tell a bit of his story. Needless to say, I am very proud of Mark and his Mom and really appreciate their taking the time and reaching out to me. I hope they can be an inspiration for others, they have been for me.

—Bob Doman

The following is a testimonial provided by Chyril Turner and is reposted from The National Association for Child Development – Testimonials – Mark Turner:

It is natural for parents to feel concerned about how to help their children live fulfilling lives. Parents of children with special needs have additional concerns. My son, Mark Turner, was nine days old when he became paralyzed due to complications related to a congenital heart defect. He is now 39 years of age and enjoys a very rewarding life. We attribute a good deal of his success to the program developed by Bob Doman and the National [Association] for Child Development. I am so grateful for all the recovery Mark has experienced on this program and have the peace of mind that comes from seeing him achieve his dreams. Mark’s story is shared in the hope of inspiring others to believe in themselves, do the rigorous work that it sometimes takes to meet life’s challenges and to follow their own dreams.

Mark’s paralysis occurred in the lower portion of his body. He was originally placed on a traditional physical therapy program that utilized the best practices traditional medicine had to offer at that time. He made good progress and yet, when he was two years old, I was shocked to learn that the next phase of his program would be occupational therapy. The new goal would be to teach him to cope with his special needs. The widespread belief at that time was that significant neurological return was not likely to occur after two years from the time the paralysis began. Giving up hope for recovery was unacceptable, leading me to search for a program that would further the neurological development that he was still experiencing. Eventually we connected with NACD.

Bob Doman and his team, taught Mark’s brain about the part of his body that did not adequately receive neurological signals. Mark participated in the NACD program for about twelve years and made significant progress. One of my favorite examples occurred when he was about four years old. He was sitting in the seat of a grocery cart facing me and talking excitedly about something. All the sudden, he started moving one of his legs from side to side. Wow! He had moved this same leg from front to back, but never side to side! It still touches my heart to recall this precious moment.

While on the NACD program Mark developed a great deal of confidence in his physical abilities, and his self-esteem was significantly enhanced. He came to believe he could do anything he wanted to do in life and Bob was one of the biggest supporters of Mark’s ever growing confidence.

When Mark was 13 years old, he began participating in disability waterskiing. He loved it and his desire to improve his skills also became a strong teacher of his brain. Every time he would set a goal to reach his next challenge in slalom, trick and jump skiing, his brain had to figure out how to use his body in a new and very specific way related to each type of skiing.

Mark eventually became a national champion and was a member of the United States Disabled Water Ski Team competing in five world events. This provided the opportunity to travel throughout many countries, including England and two world events in Australia. He received the title of World Champion in slalom skiing, and has held two world records in this event. He has also held the title of Best All Around (slalom, trick and jump) for his division.

Mark is now making world history in a new way. A few years ago, he was doing exhibition skiing at tournaments for skiers who do not have physical disabilities. Exhibition skiing is a very important way to get the word out about disability skiing. While he was watching the other skiers, Mark realized he had a good chance of competing and placing. He has become the first skier in the world with a disability to win medals in his age category at tournaments for skiers with regular needs. Currently, he has placed in the top tier at the state and regional levels and has skied in the national championships.

In addition to his focus on tournament skiing, Mark works full-time for a major international travel company. He also serves as a volunteer at clinics, where he teaches people who have paralysis, amputations or visual impairments to learn to ski. He provides individual coaching as well for established skiers with or without special physical needs. Mark is also one of the co-creators of a contemporary documentary film about the history and empowerment of disability water skiing, H2O Effect: Disability Water Skiing From Beginning to World Championships! Here is a link to this 33 min. film:

Much of Mark’s incredible drive and self-confidence can be directly attributed to the tenacity he developed while participating in the rigorous NACD program. He and I would like to thank the team at NACD for all they have done, and to thank everyone who has supported this extraordinary organization in any way. To all the parents of children in programs at NACD, may you experience the kind of peace of mind and joy that we have found with NACD guiding the way.

Sincerely,
Chyril Turner

NACD Down the Rabbit Hole - Magic Pills

Down the Rabbit Hole

A number of years ago I had a group of about fifteen families who lived in a small town in Canada and would come down to our chapter in Lethbridge. I would see the families every three months, conduct their assessments, and redesign their programs. It was a close-knit group of families who did a great job of supporting each other. A month after one of my trips, a vision therapist moved into their small town, and the word went out that he could find and address a variety visual problems, problems that “affected virtually all aspects of developmental and educational problems.” To make a long story short, virtually every one of the families signed contracts to get “treatment” twice a week from this guy. When I saw the children two months later, every child who had tracking, convergence, or other visual issues was significantly worse, and a number who had not had an issue now did. These families had all gone down the rabbit hole and discovered that they had wasted time and money and, most significantly, harmed their children. This was a problem years ago, but now with the Internet this is a much greater problem than it was then. Pooling ignorance and opening up new rabbit holes just gets easier.

I am sorry to hear when we have a new snake oil salesman come to town and parents—anxious for a quick, or quicker, fix and with a fear that they might be missing something that could help their children—line up to jump down the rabbit hole. With the Internet, chat groups, and conferences, these things now spread through various groups like viruses, infecting many and constantly morphing. Unfortunately there are no vaccines for these viruses other than science and education. Many folks have a concept of research that is defined by checking a few boards and seeing how many people are jumping on the train. Parents need to really understand and to really research the science—if there is any. Sadly, as happens, a little bit of pseudo-science leads to a lot of garbage, big business, and a lot of rabbit holes.

We at NACD are uniquely positioned to discover what works. We work with the whole child, not seeing them as pieces in isolation, as does most of the world. We are philosophically driven, not methodology-driven or product-driven. We are not out to sell any specific method or a technique, a pill or whatever; we educate parents and professionals and work to advance the science. We are not giving parents generic therapeutic or educational tools. We are constantly investigating, evaluating, and developing new and better ones and learning time and again that specificity, frequency, intensity, and duration and hard work are the keys. We have six decades of experience with tens of thousands of whole children in whole families from around the world approaching the work from the perspective that we are always looking for better tools. We have thousands of tools in our toolbox and do not hesitate to send a family to a specific practitioner if we feel that they have something to offer. The list of treatments, that we refer individual children to is as long as my arm; unfortunately the list of what appear to be inappropriate (for a specific child), harmful, or ineffective treatments (and which often have associated products to purchase) is longer than both my arms and legs put together. With our international network, there isn’t much that we don’t hear about. After all, our families are all free to pursue whatever they want, so we keep hearing about all of the rabbit holes and the occasional valid treatment.

We gather tons of data from our children and can generally look at any individual child and group of similar children and watch their progression globally and in specific areas. As we do this we look for outliers, those with bumps up or down in their developmental curves, then look for a cause. We do this constantly with new techniques that we develop, watching to see if we are changing the curve beyond what we would have expected before. We always watch with particular vigilance those children who are receiving some outside treatments or therapies. We then engage in our favorite “free-time” activity, conducting research and reviewing research. Based on our analysis we may see some promise in an approach and await more data. If it seems valid we try incorporating it and gather more data ourselves, refer families out to receive the treatment, and continue to gather more data to either isolate for whom it might be applicable or helpful or determine if it is a valid approach.

As many of you know, I have long said that the example of one is worse than no example at all. We are constantly seeing epidemics of treatments based on one or two parents thinking they had found the magic pill. Parents are very susceptible to believing that something worked. Particularly troublesome are the treatments that say that “any change you see in your child in the next day, week, month, year is a result of this specific thing we are going to sell you.” Unless kids have an underlying health problem that we need to help the family address, we can look at how much program we are able to get accomplished and have pretty strong expectations of outcomes. Most children change. Change does not mean that something worked. Scientifically isolating the pieces and having sufficient data is the key and which is why we have been so uniquely positioned. I have always been a skeptical optimist. When I hear of something new that sounds promising, I am always hopeful that it will work. At the same time, I am very cautious with our families’ time and resources and their children’s futures. Most of these “new” treatments have been repackaged over and over again, or pieces from this and that combined to present something “new,” and most are marketed and built as businesses. When you understand the complexity of a child and see how many of these “practices” are built on practitioners receiving a weekend training and supposedly being able to apply treatment and sell products addressing a broad range or problems and conditions, you should start waving a red flag. (I generally just see red.)

We certainly don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever, but we feel responsible for the children and families we work with. We have only one goal: to help them get to where they want to go and to get there as quickly as possible, using whatever means available. Our single biggest problem, without a close second or third, is getting enough program accomplished and accomplishing it well. We have to give most families a compromised program because of their lack of time and resources to get their program accomplished. Every one of our evaluators can look back over their years and caseload and see the great successes, be they kids on the spectrum, brain injured, ADHD, typical, or Down syndrome, and we can all tell you why the great successes were there. They did program and they did it well. None of our top kids in any category did anything beyond program or the few specific outside things we might have recommended. Pretty universally, those finding rabbit hole after rabbit hole to jump down are not the success stories. NO MAGIC PILLS OR MAGIC BULLETS!

When I hear of families spending thousands of dollars for something that some parent said worked for their child, all I can do is pull out my hair and scream to the mountains. When I hear how much time and money they spend on “magic pills,” my mind always jumps to how much help they could bring in and really do a great job with their programs for what they are spending on jumping down the rabbit hole. We all have limited time and resources, and not many of us can waste those.

Families go to conventions, many of which are actually just sales events; most speakers aren’t there to educate, they’re there to sell. Families mistakenly feel that if someone is speaking then they must have some credibility. No, often they are just adding to the list of things parents can buy or buy into. The organizers feel they are helping families by exposing them to as much as possible. The rare times we agree to speak to a group it is to help educate the parents, not sell them something. We disseminate knowledge and information. We have been proud to be at the forefront of developing better and better insights and methods to help the full range of children and to see the fruits of our labors change perceptions and opportunities for our children. To borrow a line from a TV ad, “We know a lot because we have seen a lot.”

Two generations of work have just reinforced that the basis of all neurological growth is neuroplasticity, meaning we change the brain and cause development to occur by supplying the brain with specific targeted input with sufficient frequency, intensity, and duration. It is a proven process, it works, but it necessitates time and work. You can no more produce significant neurodevelopmental change with a magic pill than teach a child algebra overnight with a drug or supplement. We will continue to find better, more specific tools and to create more and more insights.

There is a lot to learn and we understand that parents have only so many resources and so much time. We try to help families utilize their limited resources well and productively and we will continue to rely on and develop the science. There are many scientists, professionals and groups that are helping to develop the science and improve the lots of all of our children, but it becomes more and more difficult for parents to sift through all of the chatter. Despite your child’s problems or diagnosis, your child is unique. Your child’s problems, issues and needs are specific to your child not to their label or diagnosis. Every one of the tens of thousands of children we have worked with were unique. Understanding that and seeing every child through fresh eyes has been fundamental to our successes.

Please beware and please avoid jumping down rabbit holes that only make your goals tougher to achieve.

Official International Program Day Off

Thursday, November 27, 2014—NACD Worldwide Blessing and Day Off

Happy Thanksgiving!

NACD Logo White on BlueThanksgiving is the one day a year when we in the United States pause to come together as family and friends to give thanks for the blessings of the preceding year and to reunite.

All of us at NACD see all of you from around the world as part of our family, and we would like not only to thank you for letting us into your family, but also invite you to take Thursday off of program and join us in a universal day of Thanksgiving. You folks have worked hard to help your children and family members to have a better life, and like you, I feel blessed and privileged to have been able to help and participate.

Please take tomorrow, Thursday, off program to give thanks, but also to focus on yourselves and your immediate family and your extended NACD family. Most of us have seen changes over the past year, some life-altering fantastic changes, while others are still clawing their way forward; but we all have a chance and opportunity, and for that we can all be thankful.

We at NACD are privileged to know you and to serve you. Please, each and every one of you, congratulate yourselves on your successes and your efforts and try to appreciate the huge collective advances we, the global NACD family, have made over the past year. Next year we will all strive to be more and do better; but tomorrow please take the day off to give thanks, hopefully smile, and share in the collective NACD glow.

Bob

Interview with M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night ShyamalanI’m a morning-news junkie. I get up and turn the news on in my bedroom, then go down to the kitchen to get coffee and turn on a different news channel and then go up to my bathroom to shower and get ready and turn on a third news channel. I feel I need to know what is going on in the world, I don’t need to know who shot whom at what bar last night or how the traffic is doing unless I have to drive to the airport so I skip local news and look for national and international news and stories that actually address important issues. Between a few different sources I hope to get at least an approximation of what is really going on.

This morning an interview caught my attention because it was about education. As it turned out the interview was with M. Night Shyamalan who is a movie guy—writer, producer and director. The interview was a discussion of a book that he has just written entitled, “I Got Schooled: the Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap.” Since I was getting ready to go to the office I couldn’t give the program my undivided attention but I found it quite interesting.

Regarding Mr. Shyamalan, I don’t know what he goes by—is it “M” like in the James Bond movies or “M. Night” or “Night”—I don’t know because I don’t really follow much of anything relative to movies but, this fellow seemed quite bright and evidently with the help of some other bright people really looked into the subject of American education. Very often outsiders do a much better job of assessing a problem than do the experts who “should” know.

Mr. Shyamalan spoke of an event that helped shape his perception of what needed to be done in order to understand and address the inequality of education in America. This event was a discussion with a physician who taught at the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. The doctor related how he would enlighten the incoming medical students regarding health. He evidently told his students that the real key to health involved only five pieces:

#1 Get 8 hours of sleep

#2 Have a healthy diet

#3 Exercise 3 times per week

#4 Pay attention to your mental/brain health

#5 Don’t smoke

These pieces make individual and collective sense but the big point was that you have to do all five—doing only four out of five did not produce a particularly good outcome.

This “aha moment” helped Mr. Shyamalan evaluate the educational data differently and formulate a set of criteria that would produce the needed outcome in total.

This “aha moment” for Mr. Shyamalan was also an “aha moment” for me this morning. Certainly one of the most frustrating aspects of my work is getting folks to address all of the pieces—not to miss or add pieces but to address the totality of their program. I have known that a huge part of our success with children has been our understanding of and our commitment to working with the whole child and addressing the gestalt of that child. Frustration comes when families do some of their program along with “some of this and some of that.” This revelation really reinforced to me the need to do all of the pieces. I’m sure as I continue to give this more thought I will gain even more insights.

I apologize if everything I related about the interview is not totally accurate. I was, after all, trying to get ready to run to the office for my first Skype meeting but I think I’m being reasonably accurate. I will order Mr. Shyamalan’s book and let you know what I think.

NACD parents—please write down the five keys to health and do your best to follow all of them. I think this is right on. Take care of yourselves.