I finished my day today with a really terrific family. Three months ago I saw their nine-year-old daughter, Mandy, for the first time; today was their first revisit. Mandy’s parents brought her to us because of a plethora of issues, including a full range of academic problems and memory issues, being fearful and distractible, having fine motor, gross motor, and coordination concerns, avoidance behaviors, difficulty with peers, sensitivity to sounds, tics, etc.–a fairly typical mixed bag of issues.
Today I saw a new Mandy. After three months of home program/home school, Mandy advanced a full academic grade level. Her short-term memory, working memory, and executive function has moved from being of significant concern to being “typical” and should continue to move forward; her motor skills have improved; she is much more confident and tolerates the noisy world much better. These are outcomes that we tend to expect. But because of the changes Mandy’s parents have seen in her, they both decided to come in themselves for assessments and programs.
Both of these parents are smart, great people, and although they are both about 40, neither has really recovered from the experience of school.They both have issues and baggage, largely created by the school/educational experience, issues that they have been carrying around and trying (largely unsuccessfully) to cope with since their days in school. Both have poor self-esteem, are insecure, and are a reflection of our educational system–a system that, rather than helping all of us unique individuals succeed, has done an absolutely incredible job of ignoring a basic fact that we actually have brains and that there are these wonderful things called “potential” and“brain plasticity.”Neuro/brain plasticity is an innate brain function that is basic to who and what we are and what we can be, as is breathing.Brain plasticity is not a new concept or new information. It has been acknowledged since the late 1800s.It has been at the foundation of our work at NACD since the organization’s inception in the late ‘70s. So how can it be that our educational system is and has been focused on curriculum and not building and developing brains and unique individuals? The system still maintains a “the-more-we-throw-at-them-the-more-we-hope-sticks” educational model, believing that to achieve better outcomes they just need more hours per day and days per year to throw more crap at students. Then the mindset appears to be: “It’s not working, so lets’ do more of it, and let’s throw a couple of hours of useless homework on top just to make sure that the majority of kids not only don’t really learn anything, but let’s teach them to really hate learning everything and teach them that they are broken in the process.”
We all have incredible potential. Those in control of public and most private education need to forget about coming up with another 1000 reading and math programs, throwing out more books and replacing them with modifications of what they have just thrown out. Forget about throwing more random crap at kids with the hope that some of it will stick. Stop taking kids who love learning and teaching them to hate learning anything. Please acknowledge that we are all amazing and unique individuals with incredible potential. Please stop trying to fit us all into a narrow model and calling us diseased (LD, ADD, ADHD, dyslexic , Asperger’s, etc.) if we don’t fit their perception of who and what we should be and with a little attention to just the basics of developing brains and turning kids on to learning, we can change their futures and our future.
Mandy is just getting started. She’s going to be a happy, confident star, as most of our children could and should be, and her brave parents are going to learn that they are actually quite smart and that it isn’t too late for them to raise the bar and achieve, feel good about themselves, and be great.
The NACD Simply Smarter Project – http://www.nacdtheproject.com/
The Learning Environment by Robert J. Doman Jr. – http://www.nacd.org/journal/article16.php
NACD Education Video Series – http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDC00943D1D09709A