Did you know that no matter your age, your brain is constantly growing and changing? The brain’s ability to adapt and make new connections is called brain plasticity. The brain is pliable, like plastic. Obviously young children are learning new skills all the time so their brains change a lot from day to day, month to month. But even an adult brain can morph to acquire a new skill set—like learning how to crochet or to do a Sudoku.
This is great for anyone struggling with a learning disability. Your brain can be trained to work around your disability. You know that mind block in your head that stops you from solving that math problem or reading that infinitely long news article? Brain training may be the answer!
We posed the following parent-perspective questions to the experts at Strategic Learning Centre:
Will brain training help my struggling child?
A parent’s instinct about his child’s struggles in school is rarely wrong. Here are some tell-tale signs that science-based brain training programs may be appropriate to address the underlying causes of difficulties in school, such as:
• Attention (sustained, alternating, divided, selective, and auditory)
• Executive functioning
• Cognitive efficiency
• Language Processing- phonological awareness and memory
• Auditory working memory
• Dyslexia (difficulty in learning how to read)
• Slow reading rate related to difficulties with visual tracking
• Visual-spatial skills
• Oral expression
I’ve heard that brain training can be intense…
Each program has its own protocol of intensity and frequency. Since the re-wiring of neural pathways in the brain is not immediate, parents must understand that some of these programs may require more time in order to have the maximum effect. In cases where the recommended protocol is not suitable to the family, an alternative schedule can be made on an individual basis.
Is brain training the answer to every problem?
In one way or another, every child would benefit from brain training programs to improve their skill set and academic proficiency. Comprehensive testing of the student is done prior to implementing any brain training programs. If difficulties, as represented by the test scores, show a need for additional support that goes beyond remediation or tutoring, brain training programs would be recommended. If the testing, however, reveals specific difficulties that can be managed with remedial 1-on-1 teaching, brain training programs would not be recommended as a first-step solution. In that case, we are going to teach those foundational skills the child needs to bring them up to grade level in order to better cope in the classroom.
What’s the success rate for brain training programs in the short and long term?
Every student participating in a program will experience an improvement. To what degree? That is the unknown answer. Each and every student has different learning needs and the required approach must be tailored. No program is a “magic pill” that will eliminate the problem. When implemented and followed correctly, the programs will have a positive effect. This is where patience and hard work come into play. Some programs are more intensive than others, but students have to follow through from beginning to end or else progress may be limited. If the programs are done properly, the re-wiring of the brain is permanent. Occasionally, a student may require a “booster” program down the line to maximize his potential, but no gains are ever lost as a result of doing a brain training program if implemented properly.
What’s the most important message to give to the parents of a child starting out on brain training?
Parents should understand that brain training is a process, and that the process is in place because it has been proven effective over a long period of time. Trust the process. Many children have benefitted from these science-based programs and your child can benefit too, under the right conditions. And hang in there! It may be a long ride, but in the end it’s worth it.
DFAC thanks the contributors to this article: David Schipper, B.A., B.Ed., Kathy Worsnip, BPE, IMC, and Dara Goldsmith, B.A., M.Ed. of Strategic Learning Centre.