Behavioral Growth & Change

Professional Development Workshops

Behavioral Growth & Change Workshop Topics

1). Trauma, Resilience and the Developing Brain

Key discoveries in neuroscience have revealed a more comprehensive and sophisticated understanding of the impact of trauma on the developing brain. With incredible specificity, scientists have mapped how the experience of trauma in childhood changes the growing brain and predisposes it to mental health vulnerabilities throughout childhood. Trauma produces severe stress in the brain. This overwhelming exposure to physiological stress in the brain results in enduring alterations in brain structure and function. These alterations pave the way for “inward-directed” problems like depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and post-traumatic stress disorder and/or “outward-directed” problems such as aggression, addiction and impulsiveness. Understanding the specific consequences of trauma on the growing brain can significantly inform interventions and inspire new approaches for the focus and goal of treatment for trauma victims – building resilience.

Brain science can be an intimidating and sometimes boring topic for professionals in child-serving organizations, parents and policymakers. This workshop makes neuroscience understandable and accessible to non-scientists so that the importance and usefulness of these brain-based discoveries can be shared and utilized across the helping professions. Most importantly, these findings provide a compass for those programs serving trauma victims by focusing on resilience-building as the antidote to adversity and traumatic experience. The strength of the findings regarding trauma and brain development provides a clear direction to helpers on what interventions and characteristics are most important for fostering resilient minds and designing emotionally-connected child-serving environments. By understanding this direction, helpers can compare and assess current practices and align them with this groundbreaking research to improve treatment for childhood victims of trauma and adversity. This workshop will teach you how to transform from “trauma-informed” to becoming a genuine resilience builder.

2). Rethinking Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: How to Enhance the Foundational Strengths of the ADHD Brain

Many believe that children with ADHD suffer from poor parenting or lack the moral fortitude to behave appropriately. Nothing could be further from the truth. ADHD is a physiological disorder of the brain with definite, predictable behavioral consequences. While the focus is most often on the negative aspect of these behaviors, developing minds with ADHD have a host of positive, adaptive and extraordinary behaviors and capacities. Equipped with this new knowledge about the nature of ADHD, this learning experience explores how the ADHD brain works differently from non-ADHD brains and provides scores of practical interventions for enhancing ADHD strengths and effectively meeting ADHD-inspired needs for learning and behavior. Participants learn how to become “the surrogate frontal lobes” for their ADHD students and how to change their view of ADHD from a purely behavioral disorder to a unique brain construct that can be accommodated with highly successful outcomes. In this illuminating workshop, you’ll learn the 12 Power Tools for maximizing the strengths and minimizing the contextual struggles of the ADHD brain. This workshop is designed for educators, counselors, paraprofessionals and parents of students with ADHD. School leaders will also find effective, low cost or no cost interventions very useful as school-wide strategies.

3). Change Your Language, Change Their Lives: What Adults can Say Differently Today to Transform the Tomorrows of our Youth

Neuroscience discoveries have revolutionized our understanding of how the brains of our children and youth learn and grow. In particular, brain research reveals how the specific language used by adults who teach, mentor, counsel and parent youth has a much more profound effect on their development than previously realized. Adults can talk to kids in ways that dramatically boost the development of resilience. Learn eight specific “use tomorrow” strategies you can apply immediately to transform the lives of the children and youth you serve. Walk away with a new way of talking to youth that builds resilience, promotes intrinsic motivation, improves behavior, boosts listening and memory skills and engenders hope and optimism. One of our most popular workshops and newly updated with “Say This, Not That!” tools, you’ll learn that what you say matters, more than you ever knew!

4). Becoming a Mental Health Sleuth: The "Sherlock Holmes Skills" Every Helper Needs

Our students’ mental health significantly impacts school attendance, academic performance, social-emotional development and school safety. Empowering faculty with the “Sherlock Holmes Skills” of awareness, observation, identification and communication of the most common mental health issues in school-aged children will result in early identification of concerns, improved and timelier interventions, effective risk management, stronger parent collaboration and increased student happiness. We’ll help you see through the misunderstandings and misconceptions about mental health in children and youth and generate confidence in your understanding of mental health, and most importantly, what you can do about it.

Every extraordinary child-serving professional can develop, practice and constantly improve her/his:

1)  Awareness of mental health concerns and how these challenges manifest at various grade levels;

2)  Ability to look for and identify the symptoms of some of the most common mental health challenges in the specific context of schools and classrooms and;

3)  Commitment to communicating about observed symptoms with professionals and parents to get the earliest and most effective interventions possible.

This workshop provides the tools for establishing and developing expertise in these “Sherlock Holmes Skills” by providing participants exposure to the key symptoms, causes and interventions for common mental health concerns in school-age children including depression, anxiety disorders, trauma and stress-related disorders, oppositional disorder, conduct disorder, and attention disorders. Applying these safe, no-harm interventions early and often heals, teaches and nurtures young minds.

Participants will then engage in experiential activities to identify students with each mental health challenge, design effective communication trajectories and implement evidenced-based, behavioral and educational interventions to effectively support students and enhance individual resilience. Using a project-based learning model, participants will collaborate to generate systematic approaches to building Sherlock Holmes Skills in every school. Participants will receive a workbook of course materials and a Mental Health Matrix outlining the background, causes, symptoms and foundational interventions for each mental health concern.

5). Beyond Poverty: Brain-inspired Ways to Understand and Respond to Poverty

Poverty can have a synergistic and pervasive negative impact on developing brains. Given the many developmental windows occurring in childhood, poverty often wreaks havoc on the brain’s ability to grow and function optimally. In this workshop, participants will learn the specific impact of poverty on the developing brain, the outcomes of that impact in the classroom and the community, and the interventions that can be used to overcome poverty’s effects. Specific, research-based strategies for combating the negative impact of poverty on learning will be introduced for infants, pre-school and school-aged children.

Exciting discoveries in neuroscience have revealed that the brain is a dynamic and changing organ — particularly in childhood. Known as “neuroplasticity,” the brain’s ability to change and grow through exposure to environmental stimulus offers exciting new approaches and strategies for educators, parents and child-serving professionals working with children from poverty. The impoverished brain can be changed significantly for the better and these techniques provide you with the tools to begin transforming young minds. These interventions are categorized into learning improvement and emotional/behavioral improvement. The learning improvement category describes the enrichment model, a practical, low cost, integrated structure for remediating and accelerating acquisition, retention, and application of information in the impoverished brain.  Consisting of eight (8) fundamental practices, the enrichment model provides a coherent, sensible and “doable” method for counteracting poverty influences on learning.  The emotional/ behavioral category, likewise, provides techniques that are practical, meaningful, and effective; these techniques are organized into seven (7) strategies that powerfully impact the emotional (and, consequently, behavioral) health of the brains of children and youth from poverty.

6). The Poverty Simulation: The Impact of Scarcity on Thinking, Feeling and Behavior

A powerful experience of scarcity in childhood shapes us in unique ways. In this special learning experience, participants simulate living in different socioeconomic conditions and how those conditions impact them. Research suggests that people think differently and make different decisions under the often overwhelming stress of poverty. In this simulation, participants will join a new city and experience how socio-economic status makes them think, feel and perform. Participants will do their learning through experience as they engage with fellow citizens to meet their needs, form communities and manage stress. Participants will relate to your students in an entirely different way! 

7). Giving a Fish a Bath: The Untold Story of the Amazing Adolescent Mind

Ever think the adolescent mind was impossible to understand? Recent discoveries in neuroscience offer exciting insights into how the brains of our adolescents really work and the special “brain-based” challenges facing adolescents as they mature. Most importantly, these developmental insights demonstrate just how incredible the adolescent brain is and its remarkable capacity to learn, connect, explore and discover. This workshop reveals some of the most common myths and facts about the adolescent mind and the often mystifying role of hormones in adolescent development. The key role that stress and sleep have on teen learning processes is also highlighted. In addition, the workshop offers seven essential strategies compatible with the many strengths and opportunities available during this miraculous developmental period. If you’ve ever thought that the adolescent mind could not be understood, this workshop will arm you with the latest insights and information on knowing and empowering the adolescent brain.

8). Trouble Letting Go: Understanding and Responding to Addiction in the Adolescent Brain

In this workshop participants will learn why adolescents are developmentally more sensitive and more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, nicotine, and other intoxicating drugs than adults. This workshop will examine why this vulnerability exists and will provide concrete methods on both prevention and intervention for adolescent substance use. In addition, the process of addiction in the brain is examined with implications for changing addictive behaviors in adolescents, supporting healing and recovery and strengthening responsive resilience. Addiction in adolescence is especially challenging and this learning experience shares the strategies most effective in equipping adolescents with skills to move beyond chemical use to embrace their inherent desire to heal and thrive.

9). The Saddest Song: Adolescence, Suicide and the Developing Brain

This topic introduces participants to the emerging research findings on how the adolescent brain develops and functions in the context of  depression and suicidal behavior. The workshop will share with participants the significant insight gained into suicidal behavior over the last decade. The seminar will also supply participants with multiple tools for the practical application of this research to adolescents identified as “at-risk” for severe depression and/or suicide. The workshop also exposes participants to the growing body of resources on brain-compatible therapy and treatment programs for at-risk youth. More than 20 preventative and resilience-building strategies will be shared with participants to teach adolescents how to effectively cope with the adversity, depression, anxiety, and stress associated with adolescence development and challenging life circumstances.

10). Best Behavior: The Five Essential but Uncommon Tools for Every Helper's Resilience Toolbox

Building your behavioral toolbox is an ongoing project that truly lasts a career. This learning experience shares our five essential behavior support tools accumulated over more than 20 years serving children and youth. These surprisingly uncommon but highly effective behavior-shaping skills can be used anywhere to help children and youth learn and select the best behavior in every context. If you’re ready to restock your toolbox for effectively helping young minds build a rich and varied behavior repertoire, this workshop will bring you up-to-date on the latest successful practices.

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