Oppositional, Defiant, Aggressive, Dys-regulated, Hyper-aroused, Unmotivated…
Withdrawn, Depressed, Anxious, Disengaged, Alienated…
We hear these descriptions of the behavior of children and adolescents all too frequently. While there is a sense of urgency in resolving these issues and helping young people develop the skills necessary for successful transition to adulthood, we can also experience a sense of great frustration regarding the efficacy of our interventions.
During the 1990’s, the so-called “Decade of the Brain,” technological advances catalyzed research in the fields of neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, epidemiology, evolutionary biology and a host of other disciplines.
Findings from these fields have become increasingly integrated and convincingly point to the critical relationship between neurobiological development and the development of social, emotional and behavioral skills.
Dr. Rick Robinson’s Neurodevelopmental Lens is dedicated to the application of key concepts and principles, from these disciplines, in both school and therapeutic settings. Foundational concepts include the following:
- An environment that supports learning and growth is: relational (safe); relevant (developmentally matched); repetitive (patterned); rewarding (pleasurable); rhythmic (resonant with neural patterns); and respectful (child, family and culture). (Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.)
- Kids Do Well if They Can: “Behind every challenging behavior is a lagging skill and a demand for that skill.” (Ross Greene, Ph.D.)
- Regulation involves monitoring and modifying processes across time, such as emotions, physiological states, motor movement and communication. Regulation involves executive functions (“top-down” control of behavior in the service of a goal). It is also seen as a process involving management of physiological arousal and emotional functions (“bottom-up” modulation). (Daniel Siegel, M.D.; Adele Diamond, Ph.D.)
- Neurons and neural systems are designed to change in a “use dependent” fashion. That is, “use it or lose it.” The pattern, frequency, and timing of key experiences are crucial for healthy development. Patterned, repetitive activity changes the brain. Further, in the development of neural architecture, “what fires together, wires together.” (Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.; Jack Shonkoff, M.D.)
- “The only way schools can increase learning is to increase the amount of relevant instructional time delivered…Relevant instruction can be understood, attended to, and involves topics that have not already been learned and that are mandated by the curriculum.” (R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.)
- Viewing social, emotional and behavioral issues through a Neurodevelopmental Lens (NDLens) leads us to understand the central role Regulation Deficits play in these difficulties. By utilizing this perspective we can steer around the intervention “cul-de-sac” we so often experience when neurodevelopmental issues are not part of our explanation. Analyzing the incompatibility between neurodevelopmental skills, and the demands that overwhelm them, leads us to a host of intervention possibilities in two critical domains:
1. Environmental structure, routines and rituals
2. The development of facilitative relationships