The Amazing Brain Part 3
Posted: Tue, 27 Apr 2021 12:16
The Amazing Brain! Part Three
This four-part mini-series is all about our brain: It is the most remarkable organ in our bodies, it can reorganize and change itself (neuroplasticity) and there are links to what and how we do things in Conductive Education.
This third part is "Conductive Education and Neuroplasticity".
Conductive Education (CE) was developed in the 1940's in Hungary, at what became known as the "Petӧ Institute". At its most basic level, CE is a comprehensive system that focuses on developing and nurturing the abilities of children or adults with neurological, impaired, or delayed movement problems, through a structured biopsychosocial model of teaching and learning.
The National Institute of Conductive Education describes CE as "based on a 'simple' concept of human potential". Our philosophy is that every child, regardless of their starting point, has the ability to learn and thrive and will be given the opportunity to maximise their potential.
Neuroplasticity is an important part of what our amazing brains are capable of. By harnessing neuroplasticity through practise and repetition, the brain will create and reinforce new neural pathways to learn new skills, habits, and ways of thinking. Researchers Kleim and Jones (2008) outlined ten principles that are proven to facilitate neuroplasticity in the therapy environment. If you think about Conductive Education and your sessions, we encourage and use many of these principles:
1. Use it or lose it: Children who do not regularly use and practise a skill can lose these skills and the brain function dedicated to these skills. The skills you and your child will learn in CE will become a part of your child's development and this will help to transfer these skills to help and support you in your everyday lives. CE becomes a way of life!
2. Use it and improve it: Training or specific practise will enhance a function.
3. Specificity: Practise of each skill must be very specific to induce plasticity. For example, to learn to walk, the child must specifically practice walking, not just general movement skills. In CE we do both. In this example we break down the skills needed for walking and practise these in the lying position (and in sitting and standing positions if appropriate) and then put all the skills together to practise walking (with help if needed).
4. Repetition matters: Sufficient repetition is required to induce plasticity, refinement of the skill and memory for how to perform the skill. You will notice the familiarity of the CE sessions which are consistent and full of repetition.
5. Intensity matters: Practising skills must occur regularly to induce plasticity. The frequency of the skill practised is very important for infants, who tire easily.
6. Time matters: Different forms of plasticity occur during different stages of the learning. For example, learning new knowledge about a task, refining execution, and making the skill automatic so you can execute without even thinking about it.
7. Motivation matters: If the tasks are motivating for the child more plasticity occurs. Our CE sessions are carefully planned to create the motivation necessary for your child, through play, trusting relationships and lots of encouragement.
8. Age matters: Plasticity occurs more readily in younger brains, as the younger brain is more open to possibilities. Early intervention is so important.
9. Transference: Practising skills should occur in multiple environments, so that the child can learn to execute the task without you being present or with competing demands. In CE, this is our goal, to encourage your child to be an active participant in learning skills and solving their own unique challenges. The daily routine in CE encourages practising skills in multiple environments. For example, the skill of sitting is practiced in multiple ways and with practical applications; on the floor or plinth (long, crossed legged or side sitting), on a chair to play, to have a snack and sitting on the potty.
10. Interference: Plasticity can be for good or bad. For example, if you have a bad habit it is hard to unlearn. It takes time and dedication to learn a new alternative habit.
Children with special needs have the best chance of flourishing when early intervention is delivered harnessing the principles of neuroplasticity.
Kleim, J. A., Jones, T. A. (2008). Principles of Experience-Dependent Neural Plasticity: Implications for Rehabilitation After Brain Damage. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Vol. 51, S225–S239, February 2008
National Institute for Conductive Education. (2018). What is Conductive Education? Available at www.conductive-education.org.uk. (Accessed 18/03/2021).
Novak, I. (2019). Why Neuroplasticity is the Secret Ingredient for Kids with Special Needs. Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Available at www.cerebralpalsy.org.au. (Accessed: 15/03/2021).