What do you think?

A big thank you to everyone who emailed me or shared your feedback in the hallway about our new curriculum unit "What do you think". From what I gather two of the biggest concerns for parents are rigid, inflexible thinking and peer pressure. 

Last week we introduced the conversation we will be having by exploring the factors that cause people with similar brain anatomy in the same situation to perceive things so differently. In other words, what creates an experience. The kids came up with great things like experience, family beliefs, memories and culture.

This week we will begin to examine our own biases. Self awareness is an important step on the road to developing the qualities we hope for our children to have such as thoughtful listening, nuanced thinking, comfort with ambiguity, tolerance, and patience. Here is a quote about confronting our own biases by the wonderful science fiction author Terry Pratchett who just passed away:

"Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things…well, new things aren't what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don't want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds…Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true."

"Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things…well, new things aren't what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don't want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds…Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true." 

Electrophysiology

Good morning Friends,

This week we get into the electrophysiology of the brain, the part of our strange anatomy that sounds like a super hero origin story. It even has a super hero name... "action potential!" The release of the neurotransmitters that we talked about last week is regulated by a reaction of electrical signals. It's a complicated but beautiful mess of electrical and chemical reactions that regulate our reactions and responses. It's enough to make your head hurt to think about, or is that just a cascade of chemicals released by an electrical jolt?

If you want a deeper understanding of what we are discussing, here is a good video below. 

 

Neurocurriculum

This week begins one of the most popular portions of our curriculum arc, "A Users Guide to the Brain". We learn the basic biology of the brain, how the nervous system produces behavior, and how to "hack" the mind to get outcomes that leave us feeling in control and joyful. 

This week we will be discussing neurons and neural networks, the structures where everything we feel, remember, and dream is written. All of our complex sensory preceptors and nerves send their signals back to the neurons to be parsed and interpreted. 

There are heroes and explorers along the way. This week we will meet Santiago Ramon Cajal, a pioneering investigator of the structures of the brain, and Camillo Golgi, an Italian scientist who showed us the first images of neurons and originated Reticular Theory (which turned out to be not quite right).

Exciting stuff, see you in group! 

E

Honest Valentines

Tonight in T group we made honest valentines. we talked about how typical valentines cards are superficial, and decided to make an effort to express an honest authentic emotion, either positive or negative. We processed how it feels good to get an honest emotion out into the world. We also spent some time discussing the value of optimistic thinking. Eric shared some take aways from a book he is reading on the topic and we discussed the health benefits of positive thinking.

 

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Weathering the Storm

No group tomorrow, Tuesday the 27th because the rec center is closed in anticipation of the blizzard. Here are some great tips for helping your child to cope with the storm from one of our Kids Cooperate parents.

1. glow sticks  - Awesome for those who have rising anxiety with darkness.  It's their personal light.  They are fun. They can pick their own color.  Heck, everyone in the house could have their own color.  They actually produce more light than you would think.   Hang one around your neck and you have light everywhere you go.  They have a long life time so that helps save on batteries that parents would rather not waste in case needed for more important items.  It also cuts down on kids accidentally shining flashlights in other peoples eyes which then leads to arguing.  Over night, they make great night lights!

 

2. During power outages, it's a great time to play "camping" or what I like to call "Little House on the Prairie".  Basically, we play roughing it.  We may assign "jobs" and talk a lot about how things were done years ago.

 

3. Information without overload.  With Ben we need to walk a fine line with anxiety and weather.  The unknown really drives up that anxiety however following the news on tv or radio can drive everyone's anxiety through the roof with all the "doom and gloom" talk.  So that leaves us in a pickle.  What works with Ben is monitor how he gets his information.  Being a computer kid, he will look up the weather on radar.  It actually works fairly well.   By watching the radar he gets information that helps with the unknown but does so in a way that avoids all of the sensationalism.   He can see what is happening in the moment and when he needs to prepare himself for the scariest part but it also allows him to see that the worst parts won't last forever.  He can say ok this is going to be bad but it's only going to be bad during this set block of time.

Vulnerability

This week we will start a segment of group with the elementary and preschoolers that is a staple of the intermediate, middle and high school groups. Each child will share something positive from their week, a recommendation of something they enjoyed and would suggest others try, and have the opportunity to share something challenging that they would like advice or support on. Here is why this is such a powerful tool for social emotional growth.

Sharing something positive:  In order to avoid danger, our brains have developed to notice and remember negative things easier and more persistently than positive ones. That means that we must make a conscious effort to focus on positive things in our lives, in fact science tells us a 5:1 ration is needed to feel happier.  What happens when we make a concerted effort to notice the things that make us happy is that we notice them more often. Neuroscientists say that "the neurons that fire together, wire together" meaning that when we make something a habit, the brain forms neural networks around the task. 

Recommendations: Sharing a recommendation with a friend is a profoundly pro-social act. It requires the use of social-emotional intelligence to process an experience that you've had through your layers of social knowledge to decide whether it is something your friends might also enjoy.

Challenges: To share a challenge requires trust and emotional vulnerability but the payoffs are immense. The earlier we learn to lean on our support network the better. When kids share challenges that they are having at home or with peers there is almost always someone with a connection or some valuable experience to share. Even if there is no "magic solution" discovered for resolving the issue it is helpful to get an empathetic response. It is also valuable for the other group members to have an opportunity to practice empathy. The trick, which is hard for adults too, is to make an empathetic connection without "rubbernecking" or shifting attention away from the person and on to yourself. So here are Aarons two rules for empathetic responses.

1. Make a general empathetic response. "I'm sorry to hear that" "is there anything I can do?" "I hope you feel better soon".

2. IF you have a DIRECT experience or connection to the challenge you may share IF...

Your connection will give them helpful information
OR
Your connection will make them feel better.

The Empathy Code

Each group we share 1. Something positive that happened over their week. 2. A recommendation. 3. A challenge that they would like support with or advice on. We had a great discussion tonight about how to offer appropriate empathetic responses when someone shares a challenge. The trick, which is hard for adults too, is to make an empathetic connection without "rubbernecking" or shifting attention away from the person and on to yourself. So here are Aarons two rules for empathetic responses.

1. Make a general empathetic response. "I'm sorry to hear that" "is there anything I can do?" "I hope you feel better soon".

2. IF you have a DIRECT experience or connection to the challenge you may share IF...

Your connection will give them helpful information
OR
Your connection will make them feel better.

Great job everyone on learning and practicing a difficult skill.

Great job everyone on learning and practicing a difficult skill. 

New Year

Happy New Year! I missed seeing everyone in the group over our break but we are back tomorrow with some exciting, interesting, and inspiring material to discuss. We will continue to spend some time each week discussing weird news and current events to provide conversation starters (as well as talking about cultural norms and taboos around topics like religion and politics). We will also continue to talk about issues related to social emotional development, and being an adolescent.

We will be discussing setting goals for 2015. Here are a few of my suggestions: 

  • Lean on your crew- Use our Kids Cooperate crew to hold each other accountable for positive change.
  • Stay curious- One of the things we love about group is the rambling discussions from everything from super heroes to quantum physics. 
  • Create- There are so many fascinating words and images to consume and so many ways to consume them. Try to balance consumption with creation.

Here are some things you can do to help your children understand new years resolutions in a developmentally appropriate and positive way.

1. Model- as you pick your positive habits for the new year. Talk to your child about self improvement and why you are setting goals around healthy choices.

2. Stay positive- Keep family goals focused on positive change. Rather than "stop fighting so much" a good goal might be "find time to do fun things as a family" "talk calmly about the things that upset us."

3. Maximize social connections- Lean on your crew. Friends and family that can be counted on for fun and emotional support.

4. Balance consumption with creation- find a creative outlet to balance the time you spend consuming fun words and images.

 

Welcome Eric!

We are excited to have a new UConn intern staring soon who you will probably see around Kids Cooperate. Here is a little about him.

Hello, my name is Eric Newman. I am a Master’s degree student at the University of Connecticut in Special Education. I grew up in Connecticut andlove the different seasons here. I played soccer and enjoy snowboarding. Now, I play the guitar and recently started bouldering. I was honored by becoming an Eagle Scout in High School. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree from UConn in 2009, I taught English throughout Europe and Asia until 2014. Since coming back to the USA, I have learned so much about students with disabilities in my UConn program. The joy of teaching them is like no other. I know the needs of children with autism are diverse and desire to learn as much as I possibly can.

I am really looking forward to my internship at Kids Cooperate and working with Mr. Weintraub over the following 10 weeks.

I am really looking forward to my internship at Kids Cooperate and working with Mr. Weintraub over the following 10 weeks. 

New Group Time

Tuesday and Thursday Kids Cooperate Families, we are considering offering a Saturday group for intermediate and/or middle schoolers at 1:45 if there is enough interest. Please email Aaron directly if you would be interested in this option.