Expanding your child's brain

Psychologist & Author JoAnn Deak, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best ways to expand your child's brain and improve their ability to solve difficult problems
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Expanding your child's brain

There is increasing research almost every day that shows if – what I call neurologic units, also called children – if a neurologic unit understands that they don’t have to live with the brain they came into the world with, that they can change it, that it’s plastic – I tend to use rubber bands as metaphors. And I say, “If spelling is hard for you,” for instance, “You came in with that part of your brain smaller than it needs to be and now, if you work on it, especially within the first two decades of life, that’s where the most stretchability is, you can change that and actually become a good speller. Or if math is already easy for you, luck of the draw – you came with those parts in your brain, they’re already big. And the natural big parts actually grow on their own. It’s weird. But it’s the parts that you don’t have enough capability yet that you need to work on.” And when kids really understand that, see they think that if they can’t do something, they’re just not smart enough. It just means that muscle – that particular part of the brain – that muscle isn’t big enough yet and they can change it. And when they understand that, we have evidence that they actually do the hard thing and work hard to adjust the brain that they came into the world with.

Psychologist & Author JoAnn Deak, PhD, shares advice for parents on the best ways to expand your child's brain and improve their ability to solve difficult problems


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JoAnn Deak, PhD

Psychologist & Author

JoAnn Deak, PhD, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and psychologist, helping children develop into confident and competent adults. The latter half of that period has also focused on working with adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or ‘neurosculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that best describes her perspective on her work: “every interaction a child has, during the course of a day, influences the adult that child will become.”

Parents and educators at schools from New York to Hawaii, as well as such organizations as the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of International Schools, the American Montessori Society and the International Baccalaureate Association, have heralded Dr. Deak’s ability to demystify complex issues of child development, learning, identify formation and brain research.

Dr. Deak has been an advisor to Outward Bound, a past chair of the National Committee for Girls and Women in Independent Schools, on the advisory board for the Center on Research for Girls (Laurel School), for the Seattle Girls’ School, Bromley Brook School, the Red Oak School, Power Play and GOAL. She consults with organizations and schools across the United States. Most recently, she has worked internationally with schools, organizations, associations and parent groups in every continent (except Antarctica!) She has been awarded the Woman of Achievement Award by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, was given the first Female Educator of the Year Award by Orchard House School, and the Outstanding Partner for Girls Award from Clemson University. She has been named the Visiting Scholar in New Zealand, the Visiting Scholar for Montessori Children’s House and has been the Resident Scholar for the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs for the past five years.

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