Monday, August 13, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Chapter 7 (Norms)

Erica is introduced in Chapter 7. From my understanding, Erica and Harold will eventually connect and get married and then the book will follow the rest of their lives together. Erica does not come from as stable or as afluenct a background as Harold and so creates the opportunity in this chapter to dig into the impacts that social-economic status (SES) has on development and personality.

Erica comes from a mixed-racial family with her mother being Chinese and father being Mexican American. It also seems that her mother experiences mental health issuse that create osilating periods of stable middle-class living and unstable lower-class living. In the lower times, Erica takes on an adult role as it appears that her mother becomes entrenched in the world of addictions in these times. Her parents are not married but both parents and both are actively involved in her life in a sporatic way. This chapter gives a glimpse of her in her elementary years trying and failing to get into a charter school followed by another glimpse as she gets closer to high school when she once again pushes to get into a charter school. At this point she succeeds in getting in, although in an unorthodox way.

Weaved into the introduction of Erica, this chapter addresses several SES-based differences: parenting approaches, language exposure, stress hormone levels, impact on internal narratives...etc. The chapter also introduces the concept of "emergence" while explaining the theory of the charter school that is being developed in Erica's neighborhood. This is a topic that is always fascinating to me as it represents the need to always dig deeper than what we can first understand on the surface level. At one point in the chapter, the author makes reference to the fact that the brain itself is an emergent system and gives the example of how the idea of an apple is not contained in a single neuron but rather emerges out of the firing of a pattern between millions of neurons. This circled my thoughts back to Chapter 4 and the mention of how with continued exposure to concept the subtleties of the understanding improve. Thinking beyond something as concrete as an apple, it speaks to how as these connections grow and change, the physical structure of our brains actually also change. To me it really speaks to how you can look at some concept today and see it completely different from how you saw it last year or a few years ago (or sometimes even yesterday). It isn't just that you have gained more knowledge but that the physiological make up of your brain has changed in ways that have different neurons firing together around the concept. For me this speaks to the need to be intentional about trying to connect what is new to what we already know; to take the time to engage with new information that is coming to us... and even to take the time with old information because there are probably experiences between this exposure and the last exposure that change the way it makes sense.

Below I have included the visuals of what jumped out at me while reading this chapter. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see.

Following the presentation of the idea that poverty is an emergent system, the author goes on to explain how the charter school felt they could then address poverty by surrounding the person living in poverty with a different culture so that they aborb the new habits of thought and behaviour.. and that you are conscious to keep surrounding them so they do not slip back into old familiar ways. As I read this, I found myself quite uncomfortable with the approach, particuarly given the informaiton shared earlier in the chapter about some of the child rearing approaches that we seem to be starting to realize are important like having time to play freely, being surrounded by extended family, playing with peers of different ages...etc. As I read this chapter I kept thinking back to a Ted Talk that I recentely watched about community builders that I'm going to share below. It seems to me that there has to be better ways than approaching it from building a "counter-culture". 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Chapter 6 Part 1 (Learning)

This chapter is framed around Harold's senior year in high school. The content in the chapter is a bit overwhelming jumping from the social structures in high school to the adolescent brain to contemplating what learning is and stepping the reader through the steps of a discovery project. I wasn't sure how to organize it all and in the end I decided to do a summary but keep the idea of doing a second post on this chapter sometime in the future open. I would like to dig a bit more into all the inforamtion that was presented as the author stepped throught he project that Harold completed. I also feel that I need a bit of time to let that part of it marinate because it speaks to the kind of learning that I don't remember ever experiencing in school although I have experienced it many times since. I found myself thinking about and connecting into concepts related to the "Deeper Learning" movement a lot.

Another thing that jumped out in the explanation of the process was the amount of time that was used to gather and interact with information before moving on to a final product. I was fascinated with the idea of taking the time for the conscious and unconscious components to come together. In many ways, it reminded me of the process we went through in the Self-Reg Foundations course. There was thinking and learning happening throughout at the conscious level but there was also all this stuff happening below the surface at an unconscious level. As we carried through the program some of that unconscious stuff started to come up and connect to the conscious. We talked a lot about an "embodied" understanding.

Which brings me to the final insight about this chapter (for now) and that was that the personal component of the project that Harold did. Knowing a bit about how the brian works the making connection with the content part makes sense to me as it reflects the building of neural connections. It was great to see that the end goal though was not just to connect all the various pieces of informatin but but also connect to them to one's own life. That, to me, seems to be the piece that then leads to the statement that the learning experience ends up changing all future perceptions of the world. The idea makes me question even more what the purpose of education should be.

Below I have included the visuals of what jumped out at me while reading this chapter. I feel that I will, at some point in the future, come back and do a second post on this chapter but for now I'm going to move forward. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see.

In closing to this post, I want to add a couple of thoughts about "imitation". The line "much of learning is throuh imitation" really jumped out at me while I read this chapter. All of the books that I have chosen to either go back to and re-read or read for the first time have a theme tied to what happens consciously and unconsciously in our brains. Imitation is one of those things that happens unconsciously a large portion of the time. It seems particularly when the imatition is tied to something that we view as a "negative behaviour". I see this often in how accepted an individual will be in any given setting. When the adults embrace that student for who they are and just seem to naturaly modify the environment to ensure everyone is actively involved you see the children doing the same. We often look for ways to teach to the cognitive part of the brain through "direct instruction" and although this is important, it seems it can be counter-productive if our actions are teaching the opposite. It seems to me that the old saying "actions speak louder than words" is so important and tied to this idea of our conscious and unconscious brains. So I end this with a great graphic that I recently stumbled across... 

Friday, August 10, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Chapter 5 (Attachment)

This chapter was loaded with information and also sparked a lot of thoughts and connections for me. This post might be a bit all over the place as I try to sort through it all.

This chapter starts with a story of Harold and his mom (Julia) engaging in the process of trying to get Harold to do his homework during his grade 2 year. The following video shares the story... 

As I started to read this story I found myself immediately putting on my "Self-Reg glasses" and looking at the situations through these lenses. Self-Reg is a framework for understanding stress and managing tension and energy. One of the foundational premises of Self-Reg is that our many body systems are always working to maintain a state of balance. Stressors are simply those things that require our body to burn energy to return to a state of balance. We can organize those stressors into five domains - biological, emotion, cognitive, social and pro-social. When our systems get overstressed we are unable to do tasks that can quite easily do when not stressed. The story at the beginning of this chapter illusstrates an overload of stress as Harold starts his homework that is eventually resolved by his mother connecting with him and, in so doing, bringing down his stress level to the point where he is finally able to engage in his homework. Although Self-Reg is not mentioned at all in this story it is a story that I cannot separate from Self-Reg in my mind so when I made my notes I combined the two. 

The second half of this chapter goes on to explore attachment and attachment styles. It speaks to the impact different attachment patterns can have on one's life. Several times throughout this section, the author does state that although attachment forms working models that we operate from, trajectories are fluid so people are not bound by their original attachment style. This is an important, and hopeful, point. I've included the highlights of the different attachment styles in the summary visuals below.

During this chapter, I found myself coming back often to the orignal reason I started reading this book. It was tied to a Dr. Stuart Shanker lecture on resilience at the Self-Reg Summer Symposium (2018) that I listened in on through VoiceEd radio. In that lecture, Dr. Shanker made a statement about how some children come to school securely attached and then become insecurely attached and then others come insecurely attached and become securely attached. He questioned the why of this. I releived to hear him say this as it is something I have seen over and over again in my personal and work life. During the lecture, Stuart Shanker talked about the idea of "fragile secure attachment". Through his lecture he built toward a balanced red brain/blue brain definition of resilience and spoke of the impotance of the dyadic brain within that. It seems that we are coming to a time when we will no longer think of brains in isolation. There seems to be a move toward research that looks at how brains are interacting with each other rather than just how they are functioning in isolation. We are talking about behaivours that arise out of a network of brains interacting with the environment and with each other. We are no longer thinking of brains as passive recievers. The implications for this are exciting, particularly for education. I felt I needed to include even just a glimpse of this connection to what struck me from Dr. Stuart Shanker's lecture even though it might take some time for me to understand or articulate the magnitude of the thoughts (consious and unconsious) it sparked. 

Below I have included the visuals of what jumped out at me while reading this chapter. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Chapter 4 (Mapping)

Chapter 4 of this book follows Harold through approximately the first five years of his life and examines how his thinking evolves over the course of that time. This chapter made me think a lot of the work that I do with students with complex needs as it explores how we create mental maps, the emergence of imagination and the development of narative skills and thinking. Although language is not mentioned, I found myself wondering often how important verbal conversation is to all of these developmental steps and what might be missing for the child that does not develop speech.

I found that commentatry in this chapter often made me think of a recent webinar that Erin Sheldon delivered to our Alberta Complex Needs Community of Practice that can be found on the Resources the Complex Communication Needs Population website. It is webinar number 13 on the list of webinars. In this webinar, Erin speaks of the link between language and cognitive development and highlights the conversations she had with her older daughter in helping them to build their conceptual knowledge. She then goes on to explain educational approaches that can be used with students who have complex communication needs to ensure that they are able to assist them in developing their conceptual knowledge. 

As I read through I also found myself thinking about how important it is to facilitate the devleopment of both imagination and narrative skills. These are often skills that do not get considered very much when working with students with complex communicatoin needs. Each fall, the Alberta Council for Inclusive Education hosts a provincial conference. This past year, Kathy Howery and I did a presentation on Mental Health and Students with Complex Communication Needs. The presentation was framed around research into the lived experience of using a communication device that Kathy had done for her Ph.D. One of the key take aways from the presentation was the importance of supporting students to develop narative skills so that they are able to tell their stories. Our lives are complex and being able to understand and tell our stories helps to make sense of the complexity.  Being able to understand and tell one's story also positions one to be able to understand and advocate for their needs. As I read, I put on my "to do list" a need to go back to the CCN Alphabet posts that I started sometime ago and at least do the N post, focusing in on narrative development.

Below I have included the visuals of what jumped out at me while reading this chapter. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Chapter 3 (Mindsight)

As mentioned at the end of my last post, I am jumping up to Chapter 3 for this next post. In Chapter 3, one of the main characters, Harold, is introduced. The chapter covers information from conception through to his first months of life and examines how the brain is formed throught these times.

I have chosen the books on my list with the intention of looking at them through the Self-Reg lens. For several years now I have been on a journey to learn more about Self-Reg. At first the quest was tied to wanting to find an anwer to "behaviour management" but as time has gone on it has become about concepts so much larger - healthy development, human flourishing, creating an unconscious sense of safety, reducing barriers to learning through disarming the fear response, nurturing relationships, individual and collective resilience...etc. I believed when I started to dig that the digging would be finite; That at the end of it all I would have a neat cognitive package. Instead I discovered that there was so much that was happening under the surface of our consciousness. It connected to the part of me that has always been a problem solver; The part of me that has always wanted to dig down one layer deeper on the question of why.

As I read through this chapter, I was reminded again and again of the beginning of the Self-Reg Foundations Course and learning about secondary altriciality and the inter-brain.

Secondary altriciality in its most simplified explanation simply means that when a baby is born their brain is not fully developed. This equates to our babies being born completely dependent on others... really "fetuses outside of the womb". Because so little of the brain is developed a birth, it continues to develop beyond birth and how it develops is dependent upon the child-caregiver relationship. This chapter addesses some of what is critical to healthy brain development and although it doesn't directly reference the development of regulatory skills, it hints at it often. The chapter also references the many of the sensory experiences but does not step in to the process of the sensory systems integrating. Perhaps this will come up in the next chapter?

In reference to the inter-brain, because the baby's born is so underdeveloped in the first months of his/her life, the baby relies on the primary care-giver to serve as an external brain that will help to regulate the baby's physiological state. This chapter discusses a lot of the mechanisms that serve to connect the parent to the baby but doesn't reference much the attunement so the parent is able to read their baby's cues and help to regulate them until their brain develops the ability to self-regulate. It's interesting the interplay between it all - the baby being born with what it needs to draw the connection, the parent serving as an external brain, the caregivers shaping the baby's brain, the caregiver's brains changing themselves in response to the new relationship with the baby. It speaks to how deeply connected we all are and how our brains really do not function in isolation. It speaks to how every interaction serves to change our brain ever so slighting and then potentially drastically over time in relationship with someone.

From the teaching perspective, this chapter highlights several of the "roots of cognition". I am including a visual that I made some time ago when reading The Learning Tree by Dr. Stanley Greenspan here as this chapter triggered that connection for me. The idea of behind the learning tree is that often the challenges we see students having in education (those that are within the branches and leaves of the trees) are connected to something that needs to be strengthened either at the roots or up the trunk of the stem. The trunk of the stem represents the social-emotional learning continuum that is references in Floortime. I found the model helpful in that it makes you stop and think below the surface of what you are seeing. From working with students who often experirence bariers to learning it has me thinking about what happens when those roots are not fully developed and about how to ensure that we continue to work on the ones that may need more attention.

From time to time I might link to another book or lecture. If I do this visually, I will include a link picture like the one on the visual above. Below I have included the visuals of my what jumped out at me while reading this chapter. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see. 

... And just because this video is too cute I'm going to include here in connection to the last information on in this chapter around how laughter is a comoponent of connecting as well as something that often comes forward in pattern finding moments. Enjoy!

Friday, August 3, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Chapter 1 (Decision Making)

Set in the middle of a the story of a young couple's first date, Chapter 1 digs into the idea of "decision making" and shares research and thoughts on how we make decisions. The information reflects an understanding that the brain is built upon experiences and that those experiences impact any future decisions. It also speaks the importance of "emotion" in the decision making process. Emotion was not explicity defined but it seemed to reference mroe our bodily sensations (somatic markers) rather than what we traditional think of as emotions. The theme that I kept seeing over and over again is one of the importance of the brain-body connection.

I was also fascinated with the research that was referenced around examining the decision making process in people who have had brain injuries that impact that their emotional processing abilities. In these situations, the people were unable to make decisions even though they could engage in all the cognitive steps involved in the decision making process (listing the options, analyzing the options). The conclusion made was that without the unconscious referencing of "emotions" that we do in the decision making process, making decisions is not possible.

There was reference in this chapter to people rely on reason alone to make decisions engaging in self-destrcutive and dangerous behaviours. Emotion and the abiltiy to feel other people are important in making sound decisions. As someone who at times can be acused of being overly-emotional, this idea sits well with me.

My visual summary of Chapter 1 is below. There is much more than this in the actual chapter but this reflects the concepts that jumped out at me and the way that I see them connecting. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see.

Note that my next post about this book will be on Chapter 3. Chapter 2 is simply a part of the story that the book is told within. It carries the story through the first months of the marriage of the parents of one of the main characters (Harold). 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections: The Social Animal by David Brooks - Introduction

I heard about this book while listening in on Dr. Stuart Shanker's talk on Resilience at the 2018 Self-Reg Summer Symposium. As it is quite challening for me to this symposium, I was thankful that VoiceEd Radio broadcast several of the speaker presentations as part of their Voices of Self-Reg series.

This talk was fascinating as it wrapped the Self-Reg lens around the concept of "resilience". I have found along this Self-Reg learning joruney that I circle back often and, in those times, concepts get reworked. The key message that I took out of this particular lecture was that our aim is the "blue-brain" (pre-frontal cortex, rational brain) and the "red-brain" (limbic system, social-emotinal brain) to be in balance. Much of my focus to this point had been on those times when the red-brain had taken over to a negative point of fight, flight or freeze. I was fascinated to hear that the blue-brain functioning alone would also result in a negative personality profile (i.e. narcisism).

The whole lecture left me wanting more and, as I so often do after hearing Dr. Stuart Shanker speak, I went back to the list of books he mentioned while he lectured to consider if any of those books could wet my thirst for more. The Social Animal by David Brooks is one of the books he mentioned during this talk and when I read the summary of it on Amazon I felt confident that reading it would allow me to digger deeper into what I had begun to think about while listening to this talk.

I am finding each chapter of the book full of things to think about. The book is frame by telling the story of two individuals from birth (actually before birth) through their entire lives. As the story unfolds the author adds in relevant information. The challenge for me is the same as everytime I read a book... how to pick out and summarize the relevant pieces right now. To do this, I am going to experiment with a version of "sketch-noting". I tried at first to do it with pencil and paper but found myself getting too caught up in trying to cretae a perfect drawing (which I am along ways away from). I will continue to play with that approach but for not I wanted to explore just summarizing with a combinations of visuals and words using technology. My summary of the introduction is below. Clicking on each graphic should make it larger and easier to see.

I found myself nodding my head a lot while I read this introduction as it reinforces so much of what I've been learning since first starting to dig into a deeper understanding of the brain. It really speaks ot how unique each of brains are and how they are shaped by things that we often completely unaware of. I was also fascinated by the idea of gaining a deeper understanding of what is required for "human flourishing". I'm looking forward to continuing to read, explore and share related to this book. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A New Blogging Journey... My Reading Thoughts, Summaries and Connections

As each school year approaches, I put together a "reading list". I know that books will come along during the course of the year that might bumped the ones that are currently on my list but also find that sometimes I work through books so quickly the first time that I want to go back and spend more time with at a later date. As I compiled my list, I realized that so many of the books on the list got there as a result of a combination of my recommendations during my Masters degree, books that explore ideas that are connected to Self-Reg that came up while doing my Self-Reg couress and/or personal interest books focused on how neuroscience and inform education.

Upon thinking a bit more about the list of books that I had made for this year, I decided to add going back and rereading Self-Reg by Dr. Stuart Shanker again as well... but to save that one until after I had read the others. I also thought that this might be an opportunity to get back into blogging as I have been longing to do that but then find myself stuck when I sit down to write. Perhaps if I were to write reflections as I read through these books I will have a focus and be able to push passed this.

The list is a 2018-19 list but looking at it now I'm not sure I will get all the way through it. Still, I want to share the list right now.  Hopefully soon I will also start posting my summary and reflection posts as I work through the books. I know that I will be strarting with The Social Animal but do not yet have an order for the others. I am including here the Amazon descriptions of the books.

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Acheivement by David Brooks

With unequaled insight and brio, New York Times columnist David Brooks has long explored and explaied the way we live. Now Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life. This is the story of how success happens, told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica. Drawing on a wealth of curent research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to old age, illustrating a fundamental new understanding of human nature along the way. The unconsious mind, it turns out, is not a dark, vestigial place, but a creative one, where most of the brain's work gets done. This is the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made - the natural habitate of The Social Animal. Brooks revelas the deeply social aspect of our minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. He demolishes conventional definitions of success and looks toward a culture based on trust and humility. The Social Animal is a moving intellectual adventure, a story of achievement and defense of progress. It is an essential book for our time - one that will have broad social impact and will change the way we see ourselves and the world.

Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety by Joseph LeDoux

Collectively, anxiety disorders are our most prevalent psychiatric problem, affecting about forty million adults in the United States. In Anxious, JosephLeDoux, whose NYU lab has been at the forefront of research efforts to understand and treat fear and anxiety, explains the range of these disorders, their origins, and discoveries that can restore sufferers to normalcy.

LeDoux's groundbreaking premise is that we've been thinking about fear and anxiety in the wrong way. These are not innate states waiting to be unleashed from the brain, but experiences that we assemble cognitively. Treatment of these problems must address both their conscious manifestations and underlying non-conscious processes. While knowledge about how the brain works will help us discover new drugs, LeDoux argues that the greatest breakthroughs may come from using brain research to help reshape psychology.

A major work on our most pressing mental health issue. Anxious explains the science behind fear and anxiety disorders.

The Pocket Guide to Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe by Stephen W. Porges

When The Polyvagal Theory was published in 2011, it took the therapeutic world by storm, bringing Stephen Porges’s insights about the autonomic nervous system to a clinical audience interested in understanding trauma, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. The book made accessible to clinicians and other professionals a polyvagal perspective that provided new concepts and insights for understanding human behavior. The perspective placed an emphasis on the important link between psychological experiences and physical manifestations in the body. That book was brilliant but also quite challenging to read for some.

Since publication of that book, Stephen Porges has been urged to make these ideas more accessible and The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory is the result. Constructs and concepts embedded in polyvagal theory are explained conversationally in The Pocket Guide and there is an introductory chapter which discusses the science and the scientific culture in which polyvagal theory was originally developed. Publication of this work enables Stephen Porges to expand the meaning and clinical relevance of this groundbreaking theory.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Two systems drive the way we think and make choices. Daniel Kahneman explains: System One is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System Two is slower, more deliberate, and more logical. Examining how both systems function within the mind, Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities as well as the biases of fast thinking and the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and our choices. Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, he shows where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, contrasting the two-system view of the mind with the standard model of the reational economic agent. 

Kahneman's singularly influential work has transformed cognitive psychology and launched the new fields of behavioural economics and happiness studies. In this path-breaking book, Kahneman shows how the mind works, and offere practical and enlighting insights into how choices are made in both our business and personal lives - and how we can guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. 

The Origins of Everyday Moods: Managing Energy, Tension, and Stress by Robert E. Thayer 

Caffeine. Candy. Sex. Shopping. Smoking. Whether we realize it or not, all of us have strategies for self-medicating ourselves when we feel threatened or overwhelmed by tension or tiredness. But why does one person respond to pressure by going for a five-mile run, while another indulges in a five-hour drinking marathon? Why do some of us crave companionship, while others just want to be alone? And what really helps most to reduce tension and increase energy, a brisk ten-minute walk, twenty minutes of meditation, or two hours of watching TV? In this fascinating new book, nationally known psychologist Robert E. Thayer serves as an expert guide through the latest research into moods and mood management, offering proven techniques for putting today's most important breakthroughs to work in our day-to-day lives. Thayer, whose own work on the biopsychology of moods has been widely discussed in the leading scientific journals--as well as in the pages of Reader's Digest, Prevention, USA Today, McCall's, Good Housekeeping, Men's Health, Redbook, and hundreds of other magazines and newspapers, and on the popular radio show "The Osgood File"--evaluates the hard scientific evidence as he reveals which behaviors energize and empower us, and which sabotage our best interests. (Just five or ten minutes of walking, for example, can enhance mood for an hour or more, while sugar snacking, Thayer shows, causes more tension than it reduces.) Thayer argues that when we learn to see moods as vital barometers of our whole psychology and physiology, rather than mysterious, purely emotional reactions to events around us, we not only understand ourselves better, we have the opportunity to substantially improve our personal effectiveness, both mentally and physically. Thayer offers compelling evidence that our moods--particularly feelings of energy and tension--are closely tied to the rhythms of our evolutionary past. They are directly affected by our health, the food we eat, the amount of sleep we get, exercise (or lack of it), and the time of day. We learn why problems seem more serious late at night, and why a simple disagreement with a co-worker or spouse is more apt to turn into an emotional flare-up at certain times of day. We investigate key differences in the most common ways men and women deal with bad moods, and probe the implications of these findings on our understanding of alcoholism and depression. Far from a shallow quick-fix book, Everyday Moods: Energy and Tension is an in-depth exploration of the origins and influences of moods that affect us every day of our lives. It brings readers to a new understanding of the underlying biology of their daily cycles of energy and tension, and offers powerful recommendations for breaking self-destructive habits and leading a richer, more enjoyable life.

Developing Through Relationships by Alan Fogel

This accessible book explains how individuals develop through their relationships with others. Alan Fogel demonstrates that human development is driven by a social dynamic process call co-regualtion - the creative interaction of individuals to achieve a common goal. He focuses on communication - between adults, between parents and children, among non-human animals, and even among cells and genes - to create an original model of human development.

Fogel explores the origins of communication, personal identity, and cultural participation and argues that from birth communication, self, and culture are inseperable. He shows that the ability to participate as a human being in the world does not come about only with the acquistion of language, as many scholars have thought, but begins during an infant's earliest nonverbal period. According to Fogel, the human mind and sense of self start to devleop at birth through communication and relationships between individuals.

Fogel weaves together theroy and research from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, biology, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and cognitive science. He rejects the objectivist perspective on development in favor of a relationsal perspective: to treat the mind as an objective, mechanical thing, Fogel concedes, is to ignore the interactive character of thinking. He argues that the life of the mind is a dialogue between imagined points of view, like a dialogue between two different people, and he uses this view to explain his relational theory of human development.

Developing through Relationships makes a substantial contribution not only to developmental psycholgoy but also to the fields of communcation, cognitive science, linguistics, and biology.

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children by Alison Gopnik

Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call "parenting" is a surprisingly new invention. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult. In The Gardener and the Carpenter, the pioneering developmental psycholgist and philosopher Allison Gopnik argues that the family twenty-first-century picture of parents and children is profoundly wrong - it's not just based on bad science, it's bad for kids and parents too.

Drawing on the study of human evolution and her own cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn, Gopnik showes that although caring for children is profoundly important, it is not a matter of shaping them to turn out a particular way. Children are designed to be messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and to be very different both from their parents and from each other. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredicable world. "Parenting" won't make children learn - but caing parents let children learn by creating a secure, loving environment.

Social and Emotional Development in Early Intervention: A Skill Guide for Working with Children by Mona Delahooke

A groundbreaking resoruce for the field of early intervention.

Full of clear, straightforward steps, guiding principles and useful techniques backed by neuroscience and research. Dr. Mona Delahooke provides practical methods so that all childhood providers can better support the social and emtoional lives of children and families.

Illustrated with worksheets, charts and handouts, this reader-friendly book will provide valuable tools to nurture relationships, measure progress, reduce child stress, address challening behaviours and promote self-regulation.

Self-Reg: Helping Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life by Dr. Stuart Shanker

There is no such thing as a bad kid. According to world-renowned researcher Stuart Shanker, even the most frustrating, annoying or troubling behaviour has an explanation. That means there is a way to make things better.

Shankers's research has shown that for every child and every adult the ability to thrive - to complete tasks, form friendships, learn, and even love - depends on being able to self-regulate. In the past twenty years neurobiology research has been showing us a lot about brain states, and what is clearn now is that the ability to self-regulate in response to stress is central.

There are dramatic consequences to looking at a child's behaviour through the lens of self-regualtion. Above all it discards the knee-jerk reaction that a child who is having trouble paying attention, controlling his impulses, or who gives up easily on a difficult task, is somehow eak or lacks self-discipline or is not making a great enough effort to apply himself.

According to Shanker, the ability to deal effectively with stress is limited, though. Like a tank of gas our energy researves eventually dwindel, leaving a kid - or an adult - simply unable to control his or her impluses. That is, misbehaving kids aren't chosing to be difficult. They literally can't help themselves. And what draws down our reserves? Excessive stress. Stress of all kinds, fromsocial anxiety to an uncomfortable chair. Reduce teh stress loads, and problems quickly dissipate.

Optimizing Learning Outcomes: Proven Brain-Centric, Trauma-Sensitive Proactices by William Steele

Optimizing Learning Outcomes provides answers for the most pressing questions that mental health professioanls, teachers, and administrators are facing in today's schools. Chapters provide a wide array of evidence-based resoruces - including links to video segments - that promote understanding, discussion, and successful modeling. Accessible how-to trainings provide readers with multiple sensory-based practices that improve academic success and promote behavioral regulation. Clinicians and educators will come away from this book with a variety of tools for facilaiting brain-based, trauma-sensitive learning for all, realizing improved learning outcomes, improving teacher satisfaction, and reducing disciplinary actions and suspensions.

Educational Neuroscience: DevelopmentAcross the Life Span by Michael S. C. Thoma and Denis Mareshcal

This book is expected to be released in January 2019.

Frontiers of Developmental Science is a series of edited voluments that aims to deliver inclusive developmental perspectives on substantive areas of psychology. Interdisciplinary and life-span orienteed in its objectives and coverage, the series underscores the dynamic and exciting status of contemporary developmental science. The goal of Frontiers of Developmental Science is to bring together within each volume many of the leading scienteist on fundamental aspects of human development. In each volume, authors and editors strive to integrate distinct theoretical and methodological perspectives, and to offer critical information for future directions in scholarship and practice. Alongside a traditaional table of contents, each volume also features a cross-cutting themes chart that shows which chapters align with specific cross-cutting themes pertinent to the field of developmental science. Current and forthcoming volumes span social cognition to executive function, genetic and epigentic processes, motor development, emotion regulation, and educational neuroscience.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Defining Inclusion

"We cannot become what we cannot see."

I've been blogging and talking and doing work about "inclusion" for many years now. The concept seems sometimes to incredibly complex and, at other times, so very simple. This is mostly a reflection of the difference between "theory" and "practice". For me personally it is important from time to time to step back and reconnect to the "theory" in order to ensure that the actions one is taking are leading in the right direction. And so, I pulled a few of the visuals about inclusion that are "out there" to anchor myself.

In the journey toward inclusive education, it is always important from time to time to step back and ensure that what one is aiming for is actually inclusive education.  I think the most powerful statement in this graphic is "intergration does not automatically guarentee the transition from segregation to inclusion." If "content, teaching methodes, approaches, structures and strategies" are not evolving we are not moving toward inclusive education. 

The above images have been shared many times on social media. Shelley Moore has taken the images one step further and added "teaching to diversity". This presents the idea that all students are unique and we need approaches that are responsive to all rather than just to those who "are integrated". On a continuum this really links in to the definition of "inclusion" above as it gets to the level of systemic change. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

To create a life that is both satisfying and successful... (Part 1)

“Inclusion is not a place; instead it is a lifestyle in which a person is an active participant in his or her life, rather than a passive observer and recipient of decisions someone else has made. To this end, inclusion promotes quality of life by (a) empowering individuals to have control over their own lives, (b) providing individuals with the opportunity to select the lives of their choosing, and (c)  conferring individuals with the sociopolitical power to defend their choices. Thus, in sum, the conceptual basis of inclusion is to create a life that is both satisfying and successful for a person with a disability.”

It seems like yesterday that my "baby" was sitting through his kindergarten graduation ceremony. At that point it had already become apparent to me that figuring out how to make school work for him was not going to be an easy task; That in the intersection between who he is and what school is his "disability" would be compounded and that through the years I would have to work hard to ensure that he was defined by more than what existed in that intersection.  

I began his education with a a dream of an inclusive and meaningful life with little awareness of how often that dream would be challenged. I knew it was about more than education and ensured that he was involved in gymnastics, soccer, music classes, scouting...etc. In the middle of all these activities we worked hard to find the balance that Mikey required between social interactions and time alone to explore and recharge.  

Through his elementary years it took planning and coordination to ensure he had normative social opportunities including birthday parties and attending his grade 6 camping trip (without his mother tagging along and getting in the way). Clearly, there were girls to be flirted with and squirrels to be chased and nobody needs their mom in the way for that. 

Junior high brought with it a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. Challenges in that there were many who believed the "gap was too big" for him to get anything out of being in a general education classrooms. Being in the general education classroom though is what created both social and academic opportunities - be it exploring the arts, hanging out with friends, contributing to group projects, or becoming completely fascinated with the concept of density. He was also finally able to get a communication devise in his Junior High years which opened new doors both socially and academically. 

High school, like every other part of his education has had it's ups and downs. He has discovered cooking and photography and continues to expand his circle of people. People who would joke with him, shoot baskets with him, and even comfort him when he was upset. These past three years seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. A few weeks back he participated in the school's grad ceremonies and on Wednesday of this upcoming week he will go the school for the last time as a student. It seems a bit surreal at this point that this part of the journey is all but over. 

I have written this post as a "Part 1" to give some context to my next post (which may take a bit of time to put into words). My son's story is not an inclusion story where the student becomes a super star as a result of inclusion. In fact, to those who believe in segregated education his story would be seen as one where others do not believe he came to his full potential through school. It's a debate that matters little to me. It's been hard at times. He has been lonely at times. But there are also so many experiences and learnings that connect into the goal of "creating a life that is both satisfying and successful". Although it is not going to be easy moving forward, we will be able to draw from those experiences to work with him in creating an normative adult life that is driven by him (although, like his education, it might take a lot of much worth-it time and effort and problem solving).  

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I dig a bit deeper into inclusive education, inclusive lives and dreams for adulthood through mommy eyes.