Every year special education professionals, classroom teachers, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and parents gather at The Wolf School for a singular purpose – to increase their knowledge of children with complex learning and attention issues and share strategies to support the optimal cognitive and social growth of Complex Learners.
The Wolf School Complex Learners Conference draws this diverse group of people together around a current topic, bringing in expert speakers who intersect research with applicable strategies for success. The focus of this year’s forum was Movement, Mindfulness & Motivation: Innovative Approaches for Helping Complex Learners, with Dr. John Ratey, Vanessa Weiner, Lise Faulise, MS, OTR/L, BCP and Wolf staff Becca Olivo, Kristyn Sequeira, and Marci Haines.
The day was filled with presentations, a panel discussion and interactive strategies with participants, creating a high energy environment for dialogue and learning. Although there was an immense amount of information and ideas shared, below are five important takeaways that grabbed our attention:
- While movement and exercise feed the circuitry of the brain, raising levels of endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, it also creates new brain cells in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning information, storing long-term memories, and regulating emotions. Children with learning and attentional challenges especially benefit from exercise and moving their bodies, demonstrating decreases in impulsivity and optimization of executive functioning.
- Play is a primitive need in all of us. The more high-interest the activity, the more likely students will participate. Two motivating “fun” activities that bring the heart rate up, help with coordination and impact learning are jump rope and cup stacking.
- Rigorous exercise can be used with older students prior to difficult classes to help wire in the information. With younger students, integrating movement into the learning plan helps solidify concepts.
- Watch what your children/students seek out and what they avoid. This will give you insight into their sensory issues to help you integrate specific movement or exercise into the day that could be helpful.
- Mindfulness techniques help us be in the present, focusing on one thing so we aren’t distracted by all the other things in our mind. Use different techniques for different types of learners, such as a sound anchor (bell, music) for an auditory learner and visual cues (pinwheels, tracing a hand) for visual learners.
Do you have ideas for movement or mindfulness that work with your child/student? If you attended the conference, what was one of your favorite takeaways? Let us know in the comments below!