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March 2017 Subscribe to the Struggling Learner newsletter >>

How to Build a Better Brain

Picture of Faith Faith Berens

By Faith Berens
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

Join HSLDA’s Special Needs Department in celebrating Brain Awareness Week, March 13-19. These seven days are designated as a time for focusing on the benefits and progress of brain research.

Our special needs consultants often look to brain research for tools and techniques to help struggling learners.

One of our consultants, Carol Brown, drew from neuroscience in developing curriculum to improve students’ cognitive skills. Carol also recently added to her academic credentials—earning a doctorate in education—because she wanted to be a more effective advocate for people who struggle to learn.

Carol will be speaking at the Teaching Parents Conference, March 9-10 in Wichita, Kansas. She will deliver the keynote address and will present four workshops on equipping minds. 

Additionally, Carol’s research is scheduled to be published next year in The Journal of Alternative Medicine

Read her story here >>

Brain Facts

Do you know why you yawn when you see someone else yawn?  It is because we have cells in our brains called mirror neurons.  If this part of the brain is damaged, a person will find it hard to communicate and socialize.  With stimulation, mediation, and therapies, such as social skills training and speech/language therapy, the brain can be changed and can learn new pathways. 

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The brain consists of at least 60% fat, making it the fattest organ in your body!
To help maintain the brain, make sure your diet is rich in good, healthy fats, like avocados, walnuts, salmon, coconut oil and milk, etc.  

-- Dianne Craft, The Biology of Behavior

Read more: One Mom’s Journey Toward Healthy Living

Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen in your body!
  Without enough oxygen our brains “go to sleep”.  Movement and frequent stretch breaks can help to wake up the brain by providing a flow of oxygen, which will enhance attention, focus and learning.  Movement helps to integrate the brain and body systems, such as the vestibular, auditory, and visual systems, as well as the limbic system (emotions).  Additionally, movement helps with bi-lateral integration, which is the ability of the left and right hemispheres of the brain to work together and communicate efficiently and quickly.  So let’s turn off  electronics and get our kids moving!

Some great resources for this are:

Learning Success through Physical Development

The Symphony of Reflexes: Interventions for Autism, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, and Human  Development  by Bonnie Brandes, M.Ed. Bonnie’s program “QRI Brain Boost,” is designed to help children with learning disabilities and neurological conditions. As the founder of Quantum Reflex Integration, QRI®, the author uses acu-reflex points and cold laser to integrate primitive reflexes. Her programs are used in over thirty countries.

Walks on the Wild Side: A Guide for Creatively Promoting Motor Skills in Children by Jean A. Wetherilt, OTR/L

Maintaining Brains Every Day DVD (Primitive Reflex Exercises) by Kathy Johnson,

Movements that Heal by Harald Blomberg, MD

Smart Moves by Carla Hanniford, Ph.D

Brain Breaks by Heather Haupt

Brain Integration Therapy Manual by Dianne Craft

For research on this topic, click here.

Our brains are not fixed! They are modifiable.
  They do not stop growing and developing at 18, but continue to develop well into our 20s.  And that’s not all, they continue to change over our lifetime.  In fact, our own Carol Brown found in her research with 32 students that received cognitive development training using her Equipping Minds Cognitive Development program increased in IQ and in the areas of verbal and non-verbal abilities.  And not only that, growth in cognitive skills generalized to academic testing scores! The results of her research will be published in 2018 in a major medical journal.  Please visit to read more about her research and the Equipping Minds program. 

Learning a foreign language actually alters the very structure of the brain.
  Children who learn 2 languages between the ages of 2-5 have a much denser gray matter in the brain. 

Resources to Consider:

Song School Spanish

Lively Latin

Greek or Latin,

The right kinds of music can have a profound impact on the brain and IQ!
  Of course, piano teachers will tell you that playing the piano makes you smarter, but did you know there is research to support this? Frances Rauscher, who taught at the University of California Irvine’s Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, found in her research with preschool children and music instruction that those given piano lessons on a daily basis scored 43% higher on spatial-temporal IQ measures than other children who simply had free play, singing, and/or computer games.  Why not consider harp, piano, violin, or guitar lessons? 


Home School Piano

Gibson Learn and Master Guitar

Memoria Press

Memoria Press carries the Curriculum Discovering Music and offers either hard copy of on-line version, for Grades 8-12.

Sound Therapy International

Integrated Listening Systems

Tomatis Program

Puzzles and games for kids

Sources of Brain Facts:

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