August 2011

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BrainWise founder and director Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry received a Texas-sized welcome for her presentation: How to Be BrainWise: Teaching Teens to Make Good Decisions, at the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) 2011 conference, held August 15 and 16 in Midland, Texas. School nurses from across Texas Region 18, which represents 34 school districts, attended the two-day conference.

In her remarks, Dr. Barry discussed some of the biological and social factors that can lead to risk behaviors in teens. In addition, according to Dr. Barry, “Many youth never learn skills to stop and think, manage emotions, consider consequences or plan effectively, or they are taught them in a ‘hit or miss’ fashion.”

Dr. Barry related the success of BrainWise in helping young people learn to make choices that have positive consequences. She explained that executive functions, the higher brain processes that control impulses and emotions, must be learned. Dr. Barry discussed how the BrainWise program helps individuals understand this need by teaching them about the brain using metaphors taken from neuroscience. Once students gain an understanding of why they need to build connections, they can begin a series of lessons that teach thinking skills and develop higher brain processes that control impulsive and emotional behaviors.

Finally, Dr. Barry explained that managing emotions and impulse can be difficult, so it takes practice to make good decisions. Students gain practice by using skills in class and at home. A checklist reminder of the skills is provided to the students, and can be the basis of a reinforcement program.

Dr. Barry was invited to speak at NASN by Cathy Harris, school health specialist for Region 18, Texas Education Services Center in Midland. Harris had learned about BrainWise from a school counselor who was using the BrainWise One-on-One curriculum with students in her school. When Dr. Barry returned to Denver after the conference, she received an e-mail from Harris with positive praise for BrainWise. “I was on the phone this week with Odessa’s counseling Department and Amarillo, so I am glad to help spread the word (about BrainWise). I love the checklists and will start applying them personally,” Harris said.