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Author: admin, 05.04.2015. Category: Positive Thought For The Day

Just because you have a classroom full of students who are about the same age doesn't mean they are equally ready to learn a particular topic, concept, skill, or idea. As a teacher, all children need to be challenged and nurtured in order to profit from your instruction. For all of these reasons, it is important to understand how our brains mature as well as the differences that may be present at each stage of "normal" development. Our educational system is set up for the convenience of teaching large numbers of children in a grade-level classroom.
Be aware that children who are born prematurely may not be at the same developmental level as others of their chronological age. Children who are born more than 8 weeks early may not catch up to their peers until they are 3 or 4 years old. Be aware that childhood illnesses — such as ear infections, asthma, severe allergies, frequent hospitalizations, etc. Be aware that a healthy brain likes to learn, and children learn best when they are exposed to a variety of ideas, experiences, skills and materials.
In the early years, children like to explore and learn using several senses or multiple skills at the same time. Activities that pair motor and auditory skills can encourage the development of both pathways.
A child who has difficulty with writing and other fine motor skills benefits from lacing cards, mazes and tracing. Different brain structures mature at different rates and follow different paths, but maturation begins long before birth. In healthy children, motor and sensory systems continue to develop during toddlerhood and the preschool years. Although the age at which a child is ready to learn a specific skill becomes hard-wired as the brain develops, learning itself is also environmentally determined. Conversely, a child whose auditory system is not ready when reading instruction is provided will also be delayed in learning to read. The ability to read is also enhanced by the development of the auditory cortex and the development of skills involved in remembering what is taught and applying that knowledge to real problems.
Note: A key predictor of reading readiness is a child's ability to understand rhyming (Semrud-Clikeman, 2006). During the early elementary years, fibers continue to grow between neurons and the white matter of the brain (also called myelin). From late elementary school into middle school, inferential thinking becomes more emphasized in schools, while rote learning is de-emphasized. During the early elementary years, the child develops motor skills, visual-motor coordination, reasoning, language, social understanding and memory. During the later elementary years and early middle school years, the child's brain activity is mostly in the posterior regions where the areas for auditory, visual and tactile functioning intersect. The refined development of the frontal white matter tracts begins around age 12 and continues into the twenties. If you are teaching adolescents, you should emphasize inferential thinking as well as metacognition. As connecting tracts in the frontal lobes become more refined, adolescents are expected to "think" about their behaviors and to change these behaviors. Brain changes in the frontal lobe continue at a fast pace during adolescence and the healthy individual becomes better able to control more primitive methods of reacting (such as fighting or being verbally aggressive) in favor of behaviors that are adaptive.
In each stage of development, it is important for teachers to understand the relationship between neurological development and learning.
At one time, people believed that the brain developed into its full form by the age of three, and that what developed afterwards was just a matter of refinement. While a child with a learning disability, or with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may show continuing problems in these areas, there are treatments that may help the child compensate for the problems. Skills such as working memory, planning, organization and attention develop over time with brain maturation and with practice. Do you ever go to a telephone book to look up a number and remember it just long enough to dial it?
Evidence suggests that these skills primarily reside in the frontal lobes and develop over time. Recent research also indicates that when material is emotionally charged in a negative way (such as the pressure to learn something for a test, or the pressure of being called on by the teacher and made to answer a question), executive functioning decreases. In Posner's model of attention, both posterior and anterior regions of the brain form a complex network that includes subcortical structures such as the caudate nucleus for processing attention-related activities (Posner, & Rothbart, 2007).
Similar to Posner's theory, Corbetta and Shulman (2002) suggest that networks in various parts of the brain are involved in attentional functions. There are few direct studies of differences in brain development between girls and boys, and few to none on ethnicity. Although there are few studies looking at gender differences in young girls and boys, it has been found that adult women have a larger corpus callosum (a bundle of myelinated fibers connecting the two hemispheres) than men (Semrud-Clikeman, Fine, & Bledsoe, 2009). More and more we are learning that children with learning disabilities have brains that are different. Brain regions in the left hemisphere and temporal region have been found to be more active in good readers compared to those who had compensated for their dyslexia and were able to read adequately (Raizada, Tsao, Liu, Holloway, Ansari, & Kuhl, 2010). Early reading uses visual-perceptual processes generally located in the posterior portion of the brain.
The finding of reduced white matter volume in the right frontal and posterior regions of the brain, as well as caudate asymmetry differences, suggests that systems commonly associated with sustained attention are different for children with ADHD. A fairly new avenue of investigation is the gene X environment interaction to help understand the etiology and course of ADHD. Children with autism have been found to have larger heads than the general population (Verhoeven, De Cock, Lagae, & Sunaert, 2010).
The amygdala, anterior cingulate and hippocampus are part of the limbic system — the emotional part of the brain. Autopsies of autistic individuals have revealed abnormalities of both the hippocampus and the amygdala including fewer connections and smaller hippocampi. More recent studies have begun evaluating discrete areas of the brain that may be disrupted in people with autism. Both the frontal lobes and the upper area of the temporal lobes are important for understanding and perception of social interactions as well as interpretation of facial expressions.
An almond-shaped cluster of neurons in the limbic system thought to be involved in processing emotions and memory.
Part of the Basal-Ganglia, the Caudate nucleus is thought to be involved in regulation of movement, learning and memory. A white matter structure that connects the right and left hemispheres of the cerebral cortex. Part of the catecholamine family of neurotransmitters (epinephrine and norepinephrine), Dopamine is naturally produced in the brain and is thought to be involved in reward-based cognitive functions.
Higher-order cognitive processes that allow one to control organization of thought, and apply context specific rules in order to execute a task successfully.
The skill to think systematically about all of the parts of a problem and to arrive at a reasonable solution.
Area of the brain made up by the front portions of right and left hemispheres of the cerebral cortex. Difficulties in the development of language, reading, mathematical reasoning or other academic undertakings compared to expectations of one's ability. The left side of the cerebral cortex, thought to mediate language and verbal communication. These are pathways through which nerve messages travel as they move among the various parts of the brain. Nervous system chemicals that relay, amplify and modulate electrical signals from one neuron to another neuron. Process by which brain cells die off in order to make room for more efficient connections between neurons. Mental process that deals with one's ability to perceive and respond to feelings, thoughts and emotions.
The right side of the cerebral cortex, thought to mediate spatial, social and emotional understanding. Tasks that evaluate whether one has the ability to consider another's personal beliefs, needs, desires and intentions. To ensure a better experience on our site, we recommend using a recent version of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Although it continues to mature throughout most of life, the brain does not mature at the same rate in each individual.
After all, our bodies grow at different rates — we reach puberty at different ages and our emotional maturity at different times as well. It is important for teachers and parents to understand that maturation of the brain influences learning readiness. Instruction that is above or below the maturity level of a child's brain is not only inappropriate; it can also lead to behavior problems in your classroom. A young child with highly advanced verbal skills may develop gross and fine motor control more slowly and have trouble learning to write clearly. The age for entrance into a particular grade is not necessarily linked to brain maturity for all children. Although premature children over the age of 4 are often indistinguishable from children who were not premature, there may be prematurely born children who continue to show delays.
In other cases, a child whose language skills are delayed may benefit from tasks that don't require language.
Some of this variability works because of the different life experiences of children and some works because of differences in brain maturity. Many are not ready to learn to read until they are seven years old, while others are ready at age four.
And although the maturity of the brain is an important factor when it comes to learning differences, the real story is more complicated than that. As a fetus grows, nerve cells (neurons) travel to their eventual locations within the brain.
A newborn infant has enough motor control to feed and to move away from painful or other unpleasant stimuli. Children born prematurely are thought to associate the initial noise and clatter around them as painful. For example, a child is ready to learn to read when his or her auditory system is developmentally ready to distinguish one sound from another. This ability translates into skills in understanding how sounds differ and in turn predicts a child's success with phonics instruction.
The growing neural networks of connected neurons and fibers are essential to the transmission of information throughout the brain.

This shift in focus is supported by the increased connectivity in the brain and by chemical changes in the neuronal pathways that support both short and long term memory.
As learning is consolidated into neural networks, concepts combine into meaningful units that are available for later use.
This intersection is called the association area of the brain and generally contains information that has been learned and is now stored.
The maturation continues through high school and adulthood (Semrud-Clikeman & Ellison, 2009). This region of the brain is crucial for higher cognitive functions, appropriate social behaviors and the development of formal operations. Unfortunately, this is the time when adolescents are more risk-prone and impulsive than adults.
Notice the colored areas that reveal the tracts from front to back of the brain, allowing for good communication both from front to back as well as from right to left. Adolescents and young adults start to see the world through the eyes of others and they become better at relating to other people.
When the transition to more adult behavior is problematic, the difficulty may be due to brain maturation. A teacher is in a unique place to help parents and adolescents to understand these boundaries and to tailor their guidance to each situation. This understanding is particularly important when there is a mismatch between development and educational expectations. However, it is not possible to target a specific brain region and teach just to that part of the brain.
In fact, we now know that the brain is plastic — it changes with experience and development. A child with average ability in an enriched environment may well accomplish more than a bright child in an impoverished environment. Executive function skills allow children to understand what has happened previously and to change their behavior to fit new situations. Although young children have some ability to improve their executive functioning skills based on feedback from teachers and parents, executive functions improve with age. This happens to some degree in every child, but it is particularly true for children with ADHD (Castellanos, Songua-Barke, & Milham, 2006). With maturity, executive functioning is related to appropriate behavior in a variety of situations. In this model, there are three networks believed to be involved: alerting, orienting and executive. The orienting network orients the person to an event — where the event is, what the event is, etc.
They say that the anterior of the brain is involved in selecting or detecting items to be attended to and preparing goal-driven behavior. For example, provide a list on the blackboard of what is expected and the approximate amount of time that each step should take. However, there are a number of studies looking at differences in brain structure and functioning in children with learning disabilities (LDs), autistic spectrum disorder or ADHD.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), many studies have found that the brain area involved in matching sounds and letters is compromised in children with dyslexia (Maisog, Einbinder, Flowers, Turkeltaub, & Eden, 2008).
Frontal brain regions are more efficient in fluent adult readers compared to children who are beginning to read (Schlaggar, 2003).
In addition, Gabrieli (2003) found that improvements were found in activation following remediation of auditory processing ability.
This finding may help to explain the difficulty children with ADHD have in more advanced attentional functions, such as self-regulation and executive function. It has been found that the brains of toddlers with autism are 10 percent larger than same-aged peers, with the largeness of the head decreasing with age. This finding could lead to difficulties in forming new memories or associating emotions with past memories (Carlson, 2014), and may contribute to difficulties seen in people with autism with respect to social reciprocity and social awareness. An area of the temporal lobe that has been found to be important for recognizing faces has been studied in children with autism. The frontal lobes have also been implicated in the ability to take another's perspective — or in social cognition. Neuroimaging of inhibitory control in treatment naive and chronically treated children with ADHD. Thought to contain approximately 250 million axons that allow right and left hemisphere communication. Brighter areas on an fMRI images indicate higher amounts of blood flow and greater activity. Structures such as the amygdala, cingulate gyrus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, ammillary body, nucleus accumbens, orbitofrontal cortex, and thalamus are all structures of the limbic system. For teachers, this is especially important when designing lessons and selecting which strategies to use. Inappropriate behaviors — such as avoidance, challenging authority and aggression towards other students — can be explained by a failure to match instruction to the brain maturity of your students. And children with cerebral palsy often have average to above average ability despite significant problems with motor and speech production.
Although visual and auditory systems are present at birth, they continue to develop in the first few months of life as the brain reacts to the environment (Carlson, 2014). Since brain development after birth is influenced by inputs from the environment, and because those inputs are unique to each child, every human brain is unique. Research indicates that a quiet environment allows these children to catch up as their neurons make connections (Rothbart et al., 2003). But if reading instruction is not provided, or if the child's parents do not enrich the environment by reading to him or her, learning to read will be delayed. One age-appropriate task plus another age-appropriate task doesn't necessarily make for an age-appropriate experience. As the brain matures, more and more fibers grow and the brain becomes increasingly interconnected. As skills become more automatic, the child does not have to think as hard about what he or she is learning or doing, and brain resources are freed up to be used for complex tasks that require more and more attention and processing. These chemical changes can continue for hours, days and even weeks after the initial learning takes place (Gazzaniga, & Magnun, 2014).
This is the information that is commonly measured on achievement tests and verbally based ability tests.
The frontal lobes are a more recent evolutionary development in brains and allow humans to evaluate and adapt their behavior based on past experience. These tracts develop in an orderly fashion and experience appears to contribute to further development.
Some of this tendency is linked to changes in hormonal development as well as in brain changes. Schools are also beginning to recognize that smaller groupings and more contact with adults helps, too.
The mismatch may be due to brain maturational differences or it can be due to a developmental disability. Evidence shows that rather than ending development at the age of 5, or even 12, brain development continues into one's twenties. Shaywitz (2004) reports success in teaching compensation skills to children with severe dyslexia beginning at an early age and continuing throughout school. Although it is heartening to believe that enrichment can be effective at any point, recent research indicates that early enrichment is more beneficial than later enrichment. Teachers can help with executive function development by including exercises that ask "what do you think may happen next in the story?" or they can provide story maps.
Teachers can assist in developing these abilities by initially asking the child to think about the steps needed to complete a project. If you get distracted between looking up the number and dialing the number, you will forget it. The executive network coordinates input of information and determines appropriate actions and reactions. The second system is in the temporal-parietal region and the lower frontal regions of the right hemisphere. For example, send the child to the office with a note for the secretary or give an activity that removes the child from the situation. Findings shed light on the difficulties that can arise when brain development does not go according to plan.
It continues to contribute to our understanding of how the brain matures and give us ideas about interventions that can be used to alleviate problems. In addition, there are indications that women have their skills spread throughout the brain, while males tend to have their skills in specific regions of the brain. These smaller brain areas correlate with poorer performance on tests of reading achievement, word attack and rapid naming ability of letters, numbers and objects (Gabrieli, 2009). It is not yet clear whether these changes continue over time; further study is needed to understand possible brain response to remediation.
Thus, the progression from simple letter and word calling to actual reading comprehension requires a maturation of neural pathways linking the back of the brain to the front (Shaywitz, 2004).
A study of total brain volume found a five percent smaller volume in the brains of the group with ADHD compared to a control group. Reduced white-matter volume leads to less communication between the frontal and posterior areas. They continue, however, to be larger than matched aged peers throughout life (Anagnostou, & Taylor, 2011). The hippocampus allows for the short-term and eventual long-term storage of information while the anterior cingulate works as a type of central executive, directing attention where it is most required. Structural neuroimaging studies of children with autism show the volume of the amygdala and hippocampus to be enlarged (Groen, Teluij, Buitelaar, & Tendolkar, 2010), although further research is needed in these areas. This area has been found to be underactive in people with autism and the degree of under-activation is highly correlated with the degree of social impairment (Schultz et al., 2001). These areas are intimately connected to the limbic system as well as the temporal lobe areas discussed earlier in this section.
Autism, Asperger's syndrome and brain mechanisms for the attribution of mental states to animated shapes. It is possible for a child to be accelerated in reading or verbal skills in kindergarten but show average ability by third or fourth grade.
Learning differences are also related to genetics, temperament and environment, but in this module we will focus on how and when the brain matures. There is competition among neurons for limited space and those that do not find a home — a place where they can live and thrive — are pruned back and destroyed. Therefore, a child should not be asked to copy items from the blackboard and solve problems at the same time unless the act of copying has become automatic.

These interconnected networks of neurons are very important to the formation of memories and the connection of new learning to previous learning. The frontal lobes are also thought to be where social understanding and empathy reside (Damasio, 2008). In this case, the adolescent is unable to obtain the maximum benefit from instruction and is often unable to understand more advanced ideas.
These changes are very appropriate and in tune with the social and emotional needs of adolescents — as well as brain maturation — that are occurring at this crucial time. Research has found differences in brain structure, activation and development in children with learning disabilities (Aylward, E.
Gross-Glenn (1989) found that adults with an early history of dyslexia, who had learned to read, had developed different pathways compared to those without such a history. The brain grows in spurts, particularly in the 24th to 26th week of gestation, and between the ages of one and two, two and four, middle childhood (roughly ages 8 to 9) and adolescence (Semrud-Clikeman & Ellison, 2009).
For children with difficulty in this area, it is helpful to have them repeat the directions to make sure they recall what is asked of them. Teaching the child how to analyze a problem is also helpful — what do you need to do first? It is interesting to note that executive functions are negatively affected by lack of focus, and children with ADHD frequently have difficulty with executive functions.
Right frontal lobe dysfunctions are related to deficits in the alerting network, bilateral posterior dysfunctions are consistent with deficits in the orienting network, and left caudate nucleus dysfunctions correspond to deficits in the executive network. It is this system that is specialized for the selection of relevant stimuli particularly when an event is unexpected. This finding is important because activation of the left hemisphere, a region specialized for language functions, plays an important role in reading while the right hemisphere has generally been implicated for processing of novel stimuli.
Changes from right hemispheric processing to left hemispheric processing have also been found to occur with improvement in reading skills and improvement in language functioning. The posterior region of the brain is responsible for accessing information from previous situations while the frontal region of the brain applies this knowledge to the current situation at hand. Functional neuroimaging, which allows one to view what the brain is doing when the person is completing a task, showed lowered activation in the regions of the frontal lobe and caudate nucleus when the child is asked to inhibit a response. Interestingly, there is no difference in head size at birth (Keller, Kana, & Just, 2007) and the brain growth that later occurs may be due to early overgrowth of neurons, glial cells and a lack of synaptic pruning.
Some have suggested that the amygdala may be important for mediating physiological arousal and if it is not as active, the person may well not be as motivated for participating in social activities (Murphy, Deeley, Daly, Ecker, O'Brien, Hallahan, & Murphy, 2012). Studies of brain metabolism have found reduced activity in these regions of the brain in patients with autism particularly when asked to perform tasks that tap social cognition and perception (Harms, Martin, & Wallace, 2010). Review of neuroimaging in autism spectrum disorders: what have we learned and where we go from here. Neuroimaging in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: beyond the frontostriatal circuitry.
Positron emission tomographic studies during serial word-reading by normal and dyslexic adults. Volumetric neuroimaging investigations in mood disorders: Bipolar disorder versus major depression disorder.
Developmental malformation of the corpus callosum: a review of typical callosal development and examples of developmental disorders with callosal involvement. Neurofunctional models of autistic disorder and Asperger's syndrome: Clues from neuroimaging. It is not yet known why some neurons find a home and others do not, but after a neuron settles down it continues to grow and develop within its region of the brain.
The ability to understand one's social place is crucial for the development of appropriate relationships with other people. Although learning problems may be due to immaturity, they may indicate more serious learning or attentional problems. The evidence from this research indicates that new pathways can be formed with intervention. For a young child, this is particularly difficult because attention and distractibility significantly impact working memory. This second network pays attention to environmental events that are important because they are either rare or surprising. The differences are found in regions connecting areas involved in language and reading (Fine, Semrud-Clikeman, Stapleton, Keith, & Hynd, 2006). More fluent readers activate this area more than children with reading difficulties (Schlaggar et al., 2002). Since children with learning disabilities activate the right hemisphere when they read, this seems to indicate that they find reading to be a more novel task than a learned task. Such changes are not found for children with dyslexia, and their reading skill does not become automatic and effortless. When there is not enough communication between these two centers, the child will have difficulty either accessing previously learned information or applying it correctly to the new situation. However, if family disruptions (divorce, contentious parenting) occur, significant impairment may ensue. Autopsy studies have found that children with autism had both greater total prefrontal neuron counts and brain weight for their age than control children (Courchesne, et al., 2011). Abnormal activation of tempoparietal language areas during phonetic analysis in children with dyslexia. These skills are closely tied to development of the tracts of the right hemisphere as well as in the areas of the brain that are tied to emotional processing (also called the limbic system) (Semrud-Clikeman, 2007). However, we do not totally understand how this learning takes place nor do we know exactly "where" in the brain that learning is stored.
For this reason, some adolescents may require additional time before they are ready for college, while others are ready at an earlier age. Although these pathways are not as efficient as those generally utilized for these tasks, they can function adequately. In addition, working memory is generally a frontal lobe function and for younger children the frontal lobe is not as well developed as in older children.
As such, this system would be a protective system to channel attention to particularly threatening or rewarding stimuli. These differences appear to be due to decreased rates of pruning during the fifth and seventh month of gestation (Paul, 2011). The caudate nucleus is located in the center of the brain and is associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Less activation may well indicate fewer connections being made between neural networks and poorer attention to detail. Findings have suggested that the extra tissue that causes the increase in size is not well utilized or organized — thus resulting in poorer skill development (Aylward et al., 2002).
Cognitive hypothesis testing and response to intervention for children with reading problems. Evidence from victims of stroke and head injury show that injury to the brain of one individual may not result in the same loss in the brain of another person (Goeggel, 2012). Response To Intervention is a method that can help tailor an intervention to a child's needs (Fiorello, Hale, & Snyder, 2006). The use of day planners and calendars can also help students plan for the completion of longer assignments. Therefore, asking a young child to do more than one, or at the most two things at a time will not be successful — their brains are simply not ready. For example, their parietal and occipital areas are more active, and they show more activity in the right hemisphere than the left. The caudate has been found to be smaller in children with ADHD, possibly indicating less availability of dopamine — the neurotransmitter that assists with focusing of attention and impulse control (Semrud-Clikeman et al., 2006). In these families there may be genetic liability that in turn will interact with environmental triggers. Additional study is needed in this area to more fully understand differences that may be present in children with ADHD and those without. Executive impairment determines ADHD medication response: implications for academic achievement.
Dissociations of cerebral cortex, subcortical and cerebral white matter volumes in autistic boys. Brains are like fingerprints — although there are commonalities, there are differences that make each brain unique. In contrast, children without learning problems activate the frontal regions and the left hemisphere with less activation in the right hemisphere. Volumetric studies have also found smaller frontal lobe volumes in children with ADHD particularly the white matter volume of the frontal lobe. Thus, when working with families with a history of ADHD, it is important for educators to provide information as appropriate and to be aware of these vulnerabilities. Anatomy and aging of the amygdala and hippocampus in autism spectrum disorder: an in vivo magnetic resonance imaging study of Asperger syndrome.
Linking brain-wide multivoxel activation patterns to behaviour: Examples from language and math.
Attention and executive systems abnormalities in adults with childhood ADHD: A DT-MRI study of connections. Functional neuroanatomical differences between adults and school-age children in processing of single words. For those who are younger, it is possible to practice one direction at a time or to have the child repeat the directions — practicing these skills improves performance. Some studies have suggested that the larger brain, higher white matter volume and disrupted gray matter cellular columns may contribute difficulty that a person with autism has in integrating information and generalizing this information to new situations (Schultz et al., 2000).
Instructional treatment associated with changes in brain activation in children with dyslexia.
To improve the functioning of working memory it is helpful to make sure the person is listening to you.
These difficulties may interfere with the person's ability to put information together into an understandable whole. In addition, even for a fully developed working memory, the memory buffer is sensitive to overload. Similarly, in a lecture format, information needs to be provided both visually and orally in order for sufficient material to make it into the working memory buffer. The use of lists, rehearsals and day planners have all been found to be helpful in remembering information that would otherwise overload working memory (Diamond, & Lee, 2011).

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