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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Understanding Child Brain Development, a review

What do you do when you have a child who’s just different…and you suspect that the difference comes from his completely unique life experience and feel you can never hope to get inside and understand that life experience?  His brain just works differently from yours.

Maybe you’ll find the answers you need from the Family Hope Center in their video seminar, Understanding Child Brain Development.

Running time:  approximately 2 hours

price:  $19

For:  parents and teachers

This video can be purchased at the above link or by calling 610-397-1737.

Understanding Child Brain Development is an informational video that explains the FHC’s approach to helping kids with issues like ADHD, Austism, Cerebral Palsy, and other conditions by recognizing the part brain development plays as both cause and solution.

View encouraging stories about some of the kids FHC works with here.

Matthew and Carol Newell, co-directors of the FHC who have numerous certifications in brain development and working with special needs kids, will take you through stories of hope from their center and explain how hiccups in brain development can lead to issues and how you can help your own children.

The format is a video-taped live lecture given in a conference room with an audience.  As such the video and sound quality is not very high (I had to turn the volume way up and the lighting is not good). 

The slides that are used during the presentation are also given to you as a pdf (they are not edited into the video, you just see them as they were projected on a screen for the live audience, so many of them are not readable without the pdf).

There are 15 short chapters, and I do recommend watching this in bits, rather than straight through---there’s a lot of information to digest.   

You will learn about the various stages of brain development from birth to 36 months and how those correspond to the various centers of the brain: 

  • the medulla oblongata
  • the pons
  • the midbrain
  • the limbic brain
  • the cortex (and its 4 lobes)

And you’ll find out how missed development in one of these areas can lead to difficulties in the here and now and the types of activities that can help your child catch up in brain development.  You can read an introduction to your child’s brain here.

You will also learn how important it is to feed the brain with quality nutrition.

Gulp!  Sounds a bit scarily scientific, doesn’t it?  There are plenty of  visual aids and Mr. Newell is an engaging speaker (he does most of the talking in this presentation).  I found his lecture to be quite interesting and easy to follow.

Why did I want to see this video?

I’m a skeptic, but I’m also a believer.  I have a little guy who is different and no one’s been able to sufficiently explain that to me.  Or they’ve said he’s “doing great” developmentally, and yet I know that there’s part of the story I don’t understand.

I had a conversation with our family doctor once about some things Peter was having difficulty with and when I said, “I don’t know how much of this is related to his Ichthyosis…” the doctor cut me off and said it didn’t matter.  That the end result is the same.

I know that it does matter.  The cause matters, because the end result may look the same, but that doesn’t mean that the way to help it is the same.

But I can’t get inside Peter’s head and understand what’s going on.  Most doctors I’ve spoken to seem to think, “this is good enough.”  We will treat his skin and call it good.

I don’t think it is good enough.  I want to understand my son.

For that reason, I was particularly interested in viewing Understanding Child Brain Development.

What did I think?

I found the segments and charts explaining brain development at various ages to be particularly helpful---I could readily see areas where I may be able to work with my son. 

But I would have liked more information on applying that information in practical terms.  It felt like the recommendations were a bit vague (creeping and crawling, for instance---what is the difference between creeping and crawling, and should we start with one and progress to the other or…?).  Actual demonstrations or video showing this process would have really added to the presentation.

In many ways the presentation came across as a way of promoting the Family Hope Center (located in Pennsylvania) and the work they do, rather than as a stand-alone product.

The presentation itself could be updated to better use available technology---shots of the audience taking notes doesn’t enhance a video audience’s understanding of the material, but video of techniques to use would have.

Some of the “scientific” information given near the end seemed sketchy.  There’s a whole segment on the dangers of signals from TVs, microwaves, and other electronics to the human brain.  There very well may be something in that (I don’t deny it, there’s probably nothing good about staring at a TV for hours which is why we don’t do that around here), but there didn’t seem to be enough evidence given here to support the conclusions drawn.  My internal “logical fallacy” meter was going off.

But, in spite of those flaws, what I liked about this seminar is that it is full of hope for our kids!  The folks at the Family Hope Center don’t look at children as a collection of symptoms or behaviors to be treated, but as individuals.  Our kids aren’t the problem.  “The problem is the problem,” says Matthew Newell.

There is a lot of very useful information in Understanding Child Brain Development and I would recommend it to anyone with a child who has developmental issues.  It has given me plenty of food for thought (and for more research).

To order the DVD, please call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development from IEW.

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