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Learning is a Body to Brain Story

What’s the body got to do with learning success?

In a nutshell:  If the body doesn’t support learning, it can interfere with learning.

Helping the body support learning is and has been, the focus of my work for quite a few years. And, one of the main things I’ve learned is that if the basic body systems that support learning aren’t working well or are immature, the brain has to work overtime to learn.  For some of us, it is incredibly hard.  Academic learning suffers and what shows up in the classroom is often seen as learning difficulties or behaviour challenges.  

In my practice as a neuro-developmental educator, I work with children who struggle with reaching their learning potential.  They have difficulties reading, writing, concentrating and engaging with learning activities. It isn’t a matter of them just focusing better and practising more reading/writing/mathematical algorithms etc.  The children I see, and there are more of them it seems, tend to be fighting their bodies to participate in the learning opportunities presented to them.  I use the term “fighting their bodies” because those are the words they use in my practice.

What starts as little “learning cracks”, “slight difficulties” and “learning challenges”, often become gaping gaps as they progress through the year (or years).  Children start to fall behind expected norms and standards of academic achievement, and, they often say and feel that they are stupid, dumb or just not cut out to learn at school. Usually, this translates or presents as behavioural difficulties, lack of engagement, becoming a distraction in class, hating school and reading. These challenges aren’t pleasant for them and, sometimes, impact on those around them. 

When I look at the way these children’s bodies work, it often becomes clear that actually, they aren’t ready to learn the way that they are required to learn in most of our schools. Their bodies aren’t well prepared and, consequently, they aren’t primed for learning. Even though teachers may be differentiating their curriculum and classroom ways to meet diverse needs in their classroom, it just isn’t cutting it for these kids.

What’s the problem? And, what does it mean for you as an Educator?

First, let’s look at the elephant in the room. 

Am I suggesting that all responsibility for dealing with these learning challenges lies with you as a teacher and that you have to fix them?  Am I suggesting you need to do more? And, am I looking to continue to overburden an already overloaded curriculum with more tasks and adaptations for you to manage and squeeze into the day? 

Before I answer those questions, let me be clear from the start: there is no way I am participating in a “teacher blaming game” – I have too much respect for you, your job and the challenges you face educating our children. I’ve been there, and I’m not there now, so I can’t and won’t cast stones at you.  I have, however, done lots of work and  research on learning, how we learn and teacher’s and educator’s professional learning. That’s where I can offer some thoughts and perspectives for you to consider.

So, the honest answer to those elephant-in-the-room type questions I mentioned earlier, is “Yes and No”.  Mainly “NO,” but let me tell you why it’s both.

It does mean we may need to help you look at and understand how and why these learning challenges may be happening in your classroom and WHY these children may be struggling. “Why the body is essential for learning” is a knowledge gap that teachers I work with have recognised and addressed with success in their learning contexts.

In order to “Know our students and how they learn” (that first Australian Professional Standard for Teachers)  we need to understand the neurodevelopmental processes that guide learning because learning is just as much a body thing as a brain thing.  Particularly in the early years, but in any learning activity and at any age.

In the early years of life, it’s the body and movement that leads our brain development. If our body systems, which are developed in our early years, aren’t mature enough to help us learn academically, we can struggle when it comes to learning in a more formal learning or classroom situation, and many students do. 

But, all is not lost.  The beauty of neuroplasticity and developmental movement patterns is that we can revisit and mature these body systems to provide a more effective foundational “body” base to help support and improve “brain” learning.

I know many more children are presenting in your classrooms as “neuro-diverse.” And, it is your role to cater for this diversity in your class.  It’s your role to differentiate your curriculum delivery and progress the learning of all the students in your care.  That’s a challenge – a huge one. And it can be overwhelming.  The number of teachers departing from the profession citing behavioural issues and associated complexities of meeting student learning needs in their classes as part of their reason for leaving is growing and a testament to that sense of overwhelm.

I’m suggesting that perhaps there are gaps, missing pieces, in our knowledge and understanding about how children learn from the beginning and, how they learn how to learn. 

We need to implement current research and knowledge that neuro-development and neuro-science offer us to help us understand and work more effectively with our diverse students. 

We need to understand more about how the body leads and supports learning so that we can know and understand our learners better, especially how they learn. 

Teachers who have completed extra work and study in this area, and then implemented strategies to help student learning by recognising the role of the body in the learning process, have found considerable gains in student engagement, readiness for learning and improvement in standardised academic testing.

What’s the difference for these teachers in their classrooms? They’ve focused on and taken the time to learn about how the body, particularly the neuro-motor and sensory systems, are foundations for learning success and, they have learned how to support those systems in an educational setting. They recognised the gap in their professional knowledge, found this work and have implemented daily strategies and approaches that haven’t overloaded their planning or curriculum work, and, they have seen great results.

How do you learn more to fill this same knowledge gap?

I began this article with this statement: “If the body doesn’t support learning, it can interfere with learning.” It’s time in my professional journey to share some of the insights and knowledge I have about the “Body to Brain Learning Story” and how the body supports and helps us learn. 

If you would like to learn more about this body to brain learning story, then click on the “Tell me more button” below. It takes you to a page that includes a form for you to register your interest in the program and will provide you with more details.  When you register your interest in the programme I will email you a “Body to Brain Learning Educator’s Checklist” that you can use to start identifying and reading your students’ body language. It’s your student’s body language that tells you there may be neuro-motor and sensory maturity issues at play because the body tells the learning story for our students.

Tell me more please.

As I have already said, we need mature body systems to provide strong foundations for successful learning. A student’s body position, posture, coordination, movement patterns etc. can tell us the level of maturity of these foundational learning systems. The “Body to Brain Learning Educator’s Checklist”  checklist gives you a “heads up”, a starting base that you can use to start to see the body language and learning story of your students.  It will begin to fill some of the “gaps” in your knowledge in this aspect of learning that I didn’t get at Uni, and, I’m guessing, you probably didn’t either.

In addition to the “Body to Brain Learning Educator’s Checklist,” I’ll send you a follow-up email.  In that email, I will tell you about some of the other opportunities there are to learn more about this significant educational work, including a short introductory course of 5 presentations called “The Body Tells the Learning Story…”  This short course provides you with more information about why the body and it’s processes underpin successful academic “brain” learning.

“The Body Tells the Learning Story…” is a 5 part series of 50-minute presentations introducing the neuro-motor and sensory systems that support and provide strong body-based foundations that help successful brain learning. In particular, “The Body Tells the Learning Story…” provides an introduction to the neuro-developmental processes that impact on learning success.  The five parts of this story include:

  1. An overview and introduction: Why Learning & Learning Challenges can be a Body Story.
  2. The Balance and Co-ordination Learning Story,
  3. The Vision Learning Story,
  4. The Hearing Learning Story, and
  5. The Movement Learning Story.

“The Body Tells the Learning Story…” is a mini-series of professional learning opportunities presented online in 5 x 45 – 50-minute presentations.  The program includes practical ideas and some bonuses that you can use straight away.  At the end of the program, I’ll send you a poster outlining how the body supports learning.  You can use that poster to explain to your students and their families what it is that the body is telling you about their learning story. I’ll also give you some suggested readings and reference lists if you want to delve deeper into this area of educational work. And, if the planets align in this uncertain world, there will be opportunities for you to hear from practitioners in the field who can tell you what this approach looks, sounds and feels like in their schools.  They can share stories of the success they’ve experienced by incorporating this method in their practice every day. 

We all want professional learning opportunities that are:

  • practical,
  • can be implemented relatively easily without massive changes in our daily ways of working,
  • can mean we are delivering the mandated Curriculum (not adding to it) and,
  • most importantly, can help our students address some body-based learning challenges that may be limiting their current learning success.

“The Body Tells the Learning Story…” is designed to be one of those programmes.

If you would like to join me in this professional learning story, then please, click on the link below, sign up to our email list, and I will start the ball rolling for you. 

I am really looking forward to sharing what I know about this aspect of learning. And, I’m also super excited about helping you on your professional learning journey because, when it comes to the person who can make a significant educational difference for students in your classrooms – it’s you.

Tell me more please.

2018 Exciting Conferences coming up…

2018 looks to be like the year of Conference participation for Integrating Thinking and INPP Australia.

“Physiological Factors Underlying Learning Success”:  INPP Conference in Madrid, 12th & 13th May

The XXIV International Conference organized by the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology will take place in Madrid, the 12th and 13th of May 2018.  The theme of this new edition will be “Physiological Factors Underlying Learning Success”. There will be experts from different countries sharing their knowledge on how motor development, nutrition, sleep, audition, vision and emotion contribute to learning success. We aren’t presenting at this conference, but the list of speakers is pretty amazing.  Look at this site (be sure to find the link to the English version on the page if it pops up in Spanish)  INPP Spain, Conference 2018    

Then, back to a chronological order of events:

“Wholeness in Self, Practice and Community”: Australian Institute of Kinesiologists Ltd (AIK), February 24 & 25th, 2018, St Kilda: 

AIK has asked me to present information about the INPP program and work that we conduct with clients who experience Neuromotor Immaturity.  This is a great opportunity to share with other practitioners who are motivated to enhance performance and function of children and adults who face functional challenges in learning, sport and other life activities.  I’m honored to be asked to share information about the work we do and look forward to learning more about the work of these practitioners.  Information about this conference can be found here: Australian Institute of Kinesiologists Ltd 2018 Conference.

“From Vision to Practice: Establishing the Future:  International Congress of Behavioural Optometry (ICBO) April 26-29, Sydney.

“ICBO is a global optometric congress that celebrates the collaborative nature of [the optometric] profession. It brings people together from many countries, many disciplines, many backgrounds and many stages of their careers. It’s about exploring commonalities, making connections, working together and exchanging ideas.”  My focus as a speaker at this conference will be: “Children First:  Cross- disciplinary collaboration in fit for purpose research.”  This exciting opportunity to share knowledge and experience with very experienced practitioners and theorists from around the world again will be a highlight of the first part of the year.  Our behavioural optometrist colleagues provide wonderful work in addressing functional performance in life and learning around the perception and processing of our world through our visual system.  There is always much to be learned from this motivated group of professionals. Here’s the site outlining the speakers: ICBO Conference 2018, Sydney.

 

We will keep you posted of other events and activities we are invited to participate in.  Please let us know if you want us to submit abstracts for presentations at any other conferences or events that are coming up in an area of interest of yours. We are all about putting children first and helping families and other care providers address issues associated with neuro-motor immaturity.  Collaborating with other like minded professionals is a corner stone of our work. Drop us an email:  admin@integratingthinking.com.au or chris@integratingthinking.com.au

 

NAPLAN Does NOT Equal Learning.

News headline this week:  

“NAPLAN results: Annual numeracy and literacy report shows ‘limited’ significant improvement in students’ skills”  (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-05/naplan-results-show-limited-improvement-in-students-skills/6673118)

This is not surprising to many of us involved in Education. Testing (such as NAPLAN) provides data enabling us to inform change in practice that should lead to improving learning opportunities, if we use it properly.  Improvement in student learning happens when we use that data to identify and address underlying issues and difficulties.  school-testing1

Learning is not just a thinking task, it is also a physiological and neurological activity.  This means we need to consider learning from a physiological and neurological developmental perspective and ask “Is the student’s body supporting their learning, or could it be making it more challenging?”  Providing teachers with the skills to identify and work with these attributes of the learning process is an element of education that needs to be examined and supported in our schools.

Developmental programs that address physiological and neurological readiness for learning can help students access the curriculum.  Parents and teachers working together on these issues can contribute to improved student outcomes in accessing the curriculum and enhancing learning potential.  The obvious place to address these fundamental learning platforms is in the early years of school.  But, if the body seems to be “getting in the way” of the learning at any year level, there is opportunity to address those difficulties.  The INPP program is one program that can help address fundamental and foundational elements in student’s readiness for learning.  

INPP practitioners working in conjunction with educators can provide simple, non-invasive, developmentally focussed programs that support learning. It takes time, however, and requires a commitment to longer term solutions, not quick fixes. The focus needs to be on the growing and developing child with their continued learning process throughout childhood and adolescence, not just the testing and reporting of their skills at key points in time. 

Yes, Mr Pyne, it is “about the basics of school education – curriculum, teacher quality, parental engagement and school autonomy,” but there’s a clause missing.  We need to add: ‘with the focus on children and their learning.’ Perhaps it’s implicit and goes without saying. Let’s make it explicit not only in our speech, but in our actions!  Use the NAPLAN data effectively to create change and form appropriate learning environments that support the whole learner. Testing doesn’t improve learning.  Learning improves learning.  

Video:  Peter Goss (the Grattan Institute) on the ABC on Wednesday 5th August discussing the NAPLAN results. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-05/naplan-results-fail-to-show-any-real-overall-improvement/6673632

Spreading the INPP word….

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth Conference coming up and we are a small part of that! 

INPP AUstralia map 2

Networking. Raising the profile of the work we do in Australia… that’s one of the team goals for INPP Australia.

One of the ways we are doing that is by spreading the word in national, child focussed forums.

Along those lines, we’ve recently been advised of the acceptance of an abstract for a poster presentation as part of the ARACY (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth) National conference: “Coming Together for Australia’s Children” in Hobart June 24th to 26th.  (Link: http://www.togetherforchildren.net.au/index.php)

This is an opportunity to get some information out about INPP work and some of the growing research data coming through outlining the impact and success of the INPP program, particularly the schools program: “Assessing Neuro-Motor Readiness for Learning”. 

I’ll be there for the conference and look forward to the possibility of meeting people interested in our work in Australia and promoting positive outcomes for children in education.  Supporting children’s learning is the goal. 

This is the abstract for the presentation which forms part of the ‘Research and Evaluation’ stream at the conference:

Neuro-motor Readiness for Learning: Supporting positive outcomes for Children.

The importance of movement in development and supporting learning in childhood is challenged by an Education curriculum encouraging more desk time and greater standardised accountability processes in early learning environments. Policies for improving learning outcomes can only translate into reality if the children for whom the policies are intended to assist are developmentally, physically and neurologically ready for the learning situations they encounter. Physical literacy and readiness for learning is foundational for other academic literacies. This paper presents a method of innovative practice with positive outcomes drawing on the work and experience of a group of multidisciplinary neuro-developmental professionals in the UK, Australia and other countries. Practitioners identify and address neuro-motor immaturity in children through individualised and school based movement programs using the INPP method ( INPP.org.uk; Peter Blythe, PhD; Goddard-Blythe, 2009 & 2012), a standardised testing protocol to assess early movement patterns and sensory system development that provides a view of a child’s neuro-motor maturity and readiness for learning. A school-based movement program and post-assessment of neuro-motor maturity provides insight into the importance of supporting children’s learning from a neuro-developmental perspective. Work spanning 40 years indicates that addressing neuro-motor immaturity can improve children’s capacity to attend, modify behaviour and more readily access learning opportunities and the curriculum.

Presenter: Dr Christine Payard [B Ed(Hons); M Ed Studies (Language & Literacy); PhD; NDT (INPP)] Neuro- Developmental Educator, Director of “Integrating Thinking” and INPP Australia Principal. 

A key feature of the INPP schools program is the testing protocol and measured assessment of neuro-motor maturity changes in children participating in the programs.  

If you are coming please pop over and say “Hi”.

What is Neuro-Developmental Education?

By Chris Payard

Neuro- Developmental Education assumes that learning is more than just “thinking about” and “concentrating on” what you are learning. 

Neuro-Developmental Education investigates and addresses underlying developmental, neuro-motor and neuro-physiological aspects needed to support learning. 

book on head

Learning is, initially a physiological function – a neuro-physiological function that occurs in and through our body and doesn’t just occur in our brain.  At a physiological level, it involves neurological change triggered by various stimuli and chemical transmitters that form neurological pathways which allow our brains and bodies to function in complex ways (neurotransmitters and other complicated processes, chemicals and steps are involved). Learning is more than just deliberately “using your brain” and “focussing on” what you are hearing, seeing or feeling.  It is also much more than a concentrated effort to rote learn and imprint an action or information in our brains so that we can tap into it at a later stage like an automatic information filing and retrieval system. 

We need to have well-functioning neurological processes to build our ability to learn and function well in our world AND, we need to have well-functioning physiological process to support learning. For example, vision, hearing and interpreting information obtained through our senses enable us to make sense of our world.  Those processes need to be working well. 

Learning is a highly complex physiological activity and ignoring the basis of that physiology when considering learning is like building a house without considering the structural support and foundations necessary to make that house strong and capable of withstanding environmental and physical conditions in which it is situated.

The development of neurological and physiological processes that enhance and support learning begins well before we are born and continues through early childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. 

As soon as sweet Mary Jane is born she begins to learn about her world and her place in the world through physical experience impacting on her genetic predisposition which in turn helps her learn to function.  This physical learning process enabling Mary Jane to function independently in the world initially begins through primitive reflex movements.  Primitive reflexes help her  respond to her environment and develop the physiological skills and posture that helps her to stand in a gravitational environment and move as an upright being, sit on a chair at a desk, move in a co-ordinated manner and learn from others around her, as well as books and other sources of information.

Primitive reflexes are there for a specific job and once they achieve their purpose, they should be integrated and then replaced by postural reflexes.  If the primitive reflexes are still present, then it is probable that the reflex hasn’t done its job.  While we may still be able to function and override some reflex responses, we generally require more energy to do so before our brains access their higher functioning capacity.  For some children and adults this can impair function and capacity.  The automatic pathways to higher function are more complex because the primitive, slower pathways still require physiological attention and energy to deal with them. 

Imagine, if you will, learning to drive. 

At first you must learn each of the skills and gradually put them together. 

You don’t go and practice driving on the fastest interstate Freeway before having the skills of starting and controlling the vehicle. Source: Google images

The multi-tasking capacity of an experienced driver is far more developed and complex than that of the novice driver.Eventually the skills required in foot, hand, eye and sensory perception of sound, moving at speed, controlling a moving object much heavier than ourselves (and sometimes with several passengers and additional cargo), innately understanding the physics of movement within that vehicle, and so on, become automatic.  Not only can we drive on the busy highways and freeways, we can also listen to music, discuss complex concepts with our passengers and think about workplace conversations while driving at speed towards our chosen destination. 

If, however, as an experienced driver, you find yourself in a new city, town or country, the freeway is busy, traffic is merging and you are in the middle lane of a 5 lane freeway requiring an exit that you aren’t really sure about, you tend to turn off the radio, stop the conversation with your passengers (in fact, often tell them politely to “be quiet”) and intensify your concentration on the more basic tasks of driving and navigation. You pay attention to the more basic features of driving.  You minimise the distractions and concentrate on the tasks involved in keeping the car moving in the traffic to avoid an accident.  You may even experience physiological stress symptoms:  sudden perspiration or sweaty palms, faster breathing or breath holding, faster heart rate.  You feel yourself in a much more alert state.

Neuro-Developmental Educators help those who have Neuro-Motor Immaturity (the novice drivers in our analogy) address some of the underlying issues that may inhibit their capacity to learn and function in the world.  School, life and even home and daily life situations can be like a 6 lane super highway for these novice drivers. A child/adult with neuro-motor immaturity is like your novice driver being forced into that high intensity advanced driver situation of the busy freeway in another country with a car load of chatty passengers.  They really don’t have the skills or capacity to drive well in that situation, and, they definitely fatigue more quickly than the experienced driver; in some cases, that situation could be an accident or traumatic experience waiting to happen.  thinking pain

Neuro-Developmental Practitioners identify Neuro-Motor Immaturity and help address the underlying issues that may be contributing to the difficulties the person is experiencing.  The processes used incorporate principles of neuro-plasticity to build and enhance the neuro-physiological foundations required for learning. 

INPP Neuro Developmental Educators and Practitioners use the INPP method to address Neuro-motor immaturity. The INPP method of reflex integration is non-invasive and drug free and has been used in the UK for 40 years.  The INPP method has helped many children and adults with various problems including ADD, ASD, dyslexia and other learning and behavioural issues address this aspect of their limited capacity to function effectively in school, home or social situations.

For more information regarding the INPP program or becoming a Neuro-Developmental practitioner using the INPP method, contact Integrating Thinking: email: admin@integratingthinking.com.au or use our inquiry form on our website.

 Images sourced from Google images.

A PDF version of this post is available through this link: What is Neuro Developmental Education?

Welcome to our blogs!

Welcome!

At Integrating Thinking we consider learning as a “whole child” activity and experience of life that occurs in various contexts and situations. We know many others think the same way and enjoy sharing the wisdom!

The plan is to present various neuro-developmental topics and other interesting things relating to the education of children and enhancing learning potential from a neurological, movement, biophysical and general all-round perspective.  

There is no “one right way” to educate a child.  So often it is the child and their experiences that educates us “grown ups” about our world, our learning situations and how we learn. In our field of work, they educate us about the challenges of developmental delays and immaturity issues,about the importance of everyday things like movement, rest and appropriate nutrition as well as more complex lessons pertaining to neurological dysfunction the causes of which we may not fully understand, but the consequences of which we all have to deal and cope with.

It is the parents, carers and champions of these children that advocate for the special needs child and the child who just isn’t quite reaching their potential at home or at school.

Our role as neuro-developmental educators is to assist in that journey helping to address some of the fundamental building blocks and foundational issues that may contribute to the challenges the child and family face. As “grown ups” we do know alot and our goal is to help use that knowledge to enhance others learning potential.

Our work is constantly changing. The need for our sort of work also appears to be growing as more children and adults present with issues associated with neuro-motor immaturity and difficulties participating in and functioning in our ever-changing environments. 

If you have a story to tell regarding the success of the INPP program in your family or the Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation program and you are happy to share that with others, please contact us: admin@integratinghtinking.com.au     Shared knowledge and wisdom may help make the journey of another family in similar circumstances that little bit easier.

Just to let you know, we welcome your comments, But… Please be cordial and polite respecting the different experience of others.  Informed and varied discussion is great!  

Once again, welcome to this information and discussion zone. 🙂

Chris

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