David is a special needs student who had been in my BrainWise class for three years and now was aging out of high school. I often wondered if he had learned anything at all. At the end of the school year, he and Ed, a classmate, were in a student-filled hall when David had a psychotic episode – he saw flying clocks coming to steal his brain. He was terrified, and started hitting is head and shouting. The other students made comments and got out of his way as Ed led him to my office. David fell to the floor in a fetal position, hitting his forehead, saying he needed to find the green. I told him that I did not know what “the green” was, and Ed replied: “Yes you do! He wants to find his Wizard Brain.” I realized that David connected “the green” with his prefrontal cortex. In class, he had learned that that was the thinking part of the brain. On a picture of the brain, we called the prefrontal cortex the Wizard Brain and colored it green. David as trying to use his Wizard Brain to help him get rid of the clocks! I stabilized David, called his parents, and contacted his doctor and social worker. David was hospitalized and put on meds. His parents were schizophrenics, and David was, too. Pat A., High School Counselor and BrainWise Instructor
School counselors have been longtime BrainWise champions and supporters, and helped pilot the first courses taught to at-risk teens. Today, they continue to be the largest group of program users. The BrainWise team presented a session at the 2015 Colorado School Counselors’ Association Conference, and received high evaluations from participants.
Afterwards, some of the counselors talked about how they planned to introduce BrainWise throughout their schools, and how they will work to create a school-wide culture that reinforces the concepts. These outstanding educators help students deal with formidable issues on a daily basis, and live up the conference’s theme: School Counselors: The Super Heroes of Education.
Tricia Jones, Ph.D., President, Faculty Senate, Professor, Department of Strategic Communication, Temple University, and Board Member, the Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR), invited the BrainWise organization to submit a grant for the 2015 ACR/JAMS Funding Cycle. The focus of the grant was a project that supported the development, implementation and/or assessment of conflict education serving special needs youth populations. BrainWise responded with a 175-page document that proposed teaching BrainWise enhanced with the BrainWise online course infused with conflict problems faced by youth with special needs (i.e., youth with intellectual disabilities, social emotional/emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, hearing and/or visually impaired, physical disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, autism spectrum disorders, and other disabilities).
The turn-around time for the grant was short, and heartfelt thanks go out to BrainWise board members Matt Sena, M.S. (help writing the grant), Dan Himelspach, J.D. (finding the grant), and Don Eberle, J.D. (editing and organizing the grant). Master BrainWise teacher, Karyn Singley Blair, School Psychologist at Aurora Central High School, teaches BrainWise to “exceptional students,” including special needs. Karyn was thrilled to be part of the grant and wrote a letter saying her classroom would be a teaching site. Similarly, Susan McAlonan, Ph.D., Director of Student Services at HOPE Online Academy, volunteered special needs students attending HOPE, an innovative blended learning school, as another project site.
Dr. Jones and the ACR Board will notify grant recipients in November. This is an exciting opportunity to showcase BrainWise as a conflict resolution intervention, publicize the program’s use with students who have special needs, and get the BrainWise online program up and running.
The ACR/JAMS grant provides an opportunity to highlight school psychologist Karyn Singley Blair and the 15 years she has spent
teaching BrainWise to high school students at Aurora Central High School in Colorado, including those with who are blind, hearing impaired, having autism, emotional disabilities, executive functioning difficulties, cognitive impairment and other emotional and physical limitations. She teaches BrainWise because it gives her tools to help her students deal with the challenges they face daily, and worked with the teacher who developed the Wizard Brain/Lizard Brain in yarn with Braille descriptors to teach BrainWise to blind students.
The educational team at Wesley Spectrum Highland Services School in Pittsburgh, PA have been teaching BrainWise to children and youth with special needs for over seven years. Gary Swanson, M.D., medical director of the inpatient/outpatient facility, says that BrainWise is easy to teach and helps children, youth, parents and staff understand “that behavioral and emotional problems are not all due to chemical imbalances or ADHD, but rather the results of developmental connection problems that can be addressed both through therapy and medications.”
Teachers notice that today’s students are in greater need of psychological support, and say they find that teaching the 10 Wise Ways helps students understand how to take responsibility for their behaviors, identify support sources and how to contact them, and recognize why problems happened and how to prevent or manage them.
Colorado School Counselor Association (CSCA). Thank you CSCA and Matt Clemens! Matt wrote a marketing plan for BrainWise as part of his MBA studies at the University of Colorado. He found that school counselors were large users of BrainWise, and we are excited that our submission, “BrainWise: Teaching K-12 Students Executive Functions and SEL” will be presented at the annual Colorado School Counselors’ Association (CSCA) conference. The conference, titled Superheroes in Education, will be held in Colorado Springs on November 11-13th. Samantha Haviland, PhD, Director of Counseling Support Services at Denver Public Schools and Presenter Liaison for CSCA said that the review committee had received an overwhelming number of presentations, and congratulated us on our acceptance. We will present an overview of BrainWise and outcomes that include Colorado State University’s Christine Cerbana, M.S. and Juliana Rosa, M.S. found when they collected and analyzed data on 600 K-5 students at Manitou Springs Elementary School, as well as earlier research Dr. Welsh conducted on adolescents.
Avaya Communications has a new corporate giving program that involves loaning the expertise of one of their senior management staff to a nonprofit organization. BrainWise is the fortunate recipient of technical advice from Rob McMaher, M.S., APS Chief Architect and Consultant/Global ASA Team. Rob is helping us put together a 5-minute You Tube video and an instructor training video. He will share his expertise with us as a developer of online corporate training programs for Avaya.
BrainWise Board Member Dan Himelspach, J.D., is co-founder of Dispute Management, Inc. When he learned that the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), in partnership with the JAMS Foundation, had announced a 2015 request for initial proposals, he encouraged BrainWise to submit one. ACL/JAMS asked for projects that “advance the development, implementation, and/or assessment of conflict resolutions education servicing special needs youth populations.” The 10 Wise Ways have been taught to this target population for years, and the skills help students manage inappropriate behavior, including conflict and bullying. The good news is that BrainWise was invited to submit a full proposal, due in October. Our project will request funds to pilot a blended learning approach with special needs teens. They will be taught BrainWise face-to-face, and will use educational software and a companion mobile phone app to reinforce the concepts. The problem examples will include specific conflict situations faced by deaf, blind and special needs students, as well as the typical problems everyone faces.
RYLA Plus is a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program for potential future leaders with physical disabilities, or other similar challenges. Targeted for high school or college students ages 16-20, this is the third year that the Rotary Club of Denver Southeast and Easter Seals Colorado have held the week-long camp (www.easterseals.com/co/shared…/ryla/ryla-2015-flyer.pdf) Rotarian Karen Loeb, Ed.D., PMP, professor of leadership and technical management at the University of Denver Daniels College of Business, leads the staff and students in leadership classes and activities. She has invited BrainWise to be part of the curriculum, and will integrate the 10 Wise Ways into True Colors®, a program that helps individuals understand themselves and others based on their personality temperaments.
Serendipitous connections involving Rotary, and Indian educator, and a Tibetan Buddhist nun have resulted in BrainWise being taught in five schools for girls in Ladakh, a remote and desolate area of India. Linda Sue Shirkey, a member of Denver Mile High Rotary Club, met Indian educator, Marguerite Theophil, Ph.D., on a trip to India. She learned about Marga’s work, including efforts to help improve education for girls in the Kashmir/Jammu area where Ladakh is located.
Linda Sue was familiar with BrainWise from her Rotary club’s teaching of the program to inner city children and teens, and knew Dr. Li taught BrainWise to girls in Kunming. She sent Dr. Theophil a copy of How to Be BrainWise and told her the program was taught to girls in the U.S. and other countries. Dr. Theophil gave the book to one of the Buddhist nuns who was connected with five schools for girls in Ladakh, and was asked if she could help them add BrainWise to their curriculum. Together, they raised funds to purchase five sets of the three curricula. BrainWise discounted the materials and sent them to Ladakh via FedEx. We look forward to hearing more when the project gets started!
Matt Sena, M.S. , BrainWise master instructor, trainer and Board member, compiled a summary of his ten years of work using BrainWise with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) children and caregivers. Matt worked with the aboriginal peoples of Alaska, and his reflection on teaching BrainWise discusses strategies to successfully introduce and implement BrainWise in a culturally sensitive and effective way. Matt prepared the summary for Gary Brayton, Ph.D., who is seeking funding to teach BrainWise to FASD populations in Canada.