January 20, 2023
Dr. Judy Cameron, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Cameron presented on the impact of stress and how we can build brain resilience in students with deafblindness. Specifically, her presentation provided us with information on the neurological development in children and offered suggestions for supporting brain development through positive interactions with our students.
Dr. Cameron began her presentation teaching us about brain architecture and how neural circuits are built and pruned, prenatally through adulthood. While the sensory pathways (vision, hearing) and language pathways are most active early in life, higher cognitive function lasts until an individual is in their 20s. Experiences play an important role in strengthening neural connections. Activities and skills need to be practiced 10,000 times for a pathway to be very strong. It’s important to look for creative ways to give students with deafblindness are variety of opportunities and experiences so they can develop neural pathways. The more fun an experience is, the more the student will want to do it.
Stress impacts neural circuits that are developing, and stresses are cumulative over time. Teaching children how to cope with adversity is a beneficial way of strengthening brain development. Protective interventions can impact executive function and self-regulation in six areas: focusing attention, problem solving, planning ahead, behaviour regulation, controlling impulses, and adjusting to new circumstances.
Dr. Cameron provided us with a few effective interventions that are researched and recommended for fostering positive interactions that support brain development. They include connection, serve & return, progression, and charging stations. More information can be found on the following websites and videos:
- Working for Kids: Building Skills
- First Pathways: A Working For Kids Program
- Center on the Developing Child – Harvard University