What Teachers Need to Know About Their Students’ Brains

Why it’s crucial to move physical activity from the playground to the classroom

Originally Published In Psychology Today

Recent research on improving cognitive abilities of autistic children has shed new light on development of “normal” children’s brains and has profound implications for improving education at all grade levels for all types of students.

A sweeping statement, I know, but one that is warranted by the exciting results.

I‘ll summarize the results of the new research, outline the implications, explain the neuroscience underlying the cognitive improvements, then conclude with specific recommendations for getting better results in the classroom.

Multi-sensory and motor enrichment in autistic children

Here’s what Cynthia Woo and colleagues of the Neurobiology and Behavior Department at UC Irvine found last year and why it’s so important.

Building on a wealth of animal research showing that enriched sensorimotor experiences early in life significantly improve brain development and cognitive abilities, Woo’s teamcompared IQ scores of autistic children ages 3-6 who either had standard care or 6 months of enriched sensorimotor experience.

Sensorimotor enrichment included activities such as

  • Scented bath and massage with oil
  • Walking on foam pad or pillow
  • Smelling different pairs of scents among a selection of lemon, lavender, vanilla, anise, orange, apple, and hyacinth
  • Drawing shapes, tracking moving colored objects
  • Viewing paired images and sounds

© Dr. Eric Haseltine

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