How Schools Use Brain Science To Help Traumatized Kids Heal and Learn
As a result of the attacks, Berdichevsky lost her sense of smell, which severely impaired her ability to smell and detect odor. This was a consequence of nerve damage sustained in the brain injury. Luckily, though, the loss of smell wasn’t as devastating as the loss of memory was. Berdichevsky could describe what she had smelled through her olfactory system in English but also through her ESL.
Language was another asset, as cognitively, Berdichevsky was no longer the same because she could not perform tasks normally—the more she learned, the better she could perform them. She ended up with a much higher score on written tests than did the other students. Berdichevsky’s original circumstances were difficult, and she was in a very difficult school where most children are already struggling. But with support and mentoring she could learn and get better and learn faster.
Another intervention for “achievement deficits” in trauma survivors, created with cognitive cognitive therapy, was done at eight weeks for the first time this year by Daniel Howard, M.D., associate professor of educational psychology and psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, and Lisa Montgomery, Ph.D., professor of educational psychology at Western University. This intervention’s goal was to help children grasp concepts in both English and non-native Spanish, non-Western-centric languages, in order to make new connections between concepts and to clear up other misinformation that would interfere with learning, according to a press release.
“The core concepts of the cognitive therapies are making connections and consolidating concepts,” Howard said in the release. “An emotional memory is readily lost and come back to, but a concrete memory is hard to recall. This is about making connections between concepts and working to get the memory ‘better wired’.”
The collaboration between Howard and Montgomery at Western recruited children with two-to-five year-old traumatic brain injury (TBI) between January and March 2016. The children were then split into two groups—one with English classes in addition to the Spanish classes and the other in Spanish classes only. The children were all at the bottom of their classes, and they received psychoeducational and cognitively focused parenting interventions.
According to the press release, “one week prior to the standardized assessments and analysis, each group underwent full cognitive cognitive testing and neuropsychological testing. Parents were required to read educational and informational materials to students that were intended to help them learn, but instead reported distress and confusion as they learned.”
The bilingual participants spent half the week at English classes and half the week at Spanish classes. One of the key elements of the cognitive therapy was allowing the children to repeat or refresh their words in order to make them easier to remember. Both English and Spanish were tested at the end of the pilot, and the bilingual group did significantly better. The English group tested about one standard deviation below the norm, whereas the Spanish group tested 1.6 standard deviations above the norm.
The basic measures showed a one standard deviation difference in vocabulary of 52 words. Language usage also increased in bilingual children, as did key concepts about stuttering, motion learning, imagery, and hearing voices. All of these children are now reenrolled in bilingual classes, according to the press release.
Most schools use the curriculum Mind Your Language to support bilingual children. Headway, the Canadian educational system’s math curriculum, also uses enhanced development to help children maintain basic skills in an English-speaking environment and to facilitate their development of skills in another language. Even other schools are beginning to adapt Mind Your Language curriculum to serve more language learners.
About the Author: Anya Kamenetz is a management and entrepreneurship educator and author. Her books and blogs have been published by Amazon, Backpacker Guides, Hay House, Lawdragon, Salty, Press, and others.
The post How Schools Use Brain Science To Help Traumatized Kids Heal and Learn appeared first on The Conversation.