Scientists believe that children are born with an innate drive for neural and mental growth. Beginning in the latter part of their first year the brains of typically-developing infants begin to engage in the process of developing the capacity for more complex information processing, through initiating opportunistic programs that reinforce the infant’s seeking out and engaging with growth-promoting, mentally challenging situations.
We experience mental challenge within a mid-range of personal difficulty, expecting that the challenge will require that we stretch our mental processing beyond our typically functioning, but still believing that we can prevail.
Extensive research demonstrates that, while our drive for growth is inborn, our brains will only initiate neural growth-promoting programs under three specific conditions:
1) When learners perceive their environment as sufficiently safe and supportive.
2) When surplus physiologic & neural resources are available and that are not required for maintaining homeostatic life maintenance. If homeostatic demands are too great, then all of the brains resources will have to be devoted to maintaining the regulatory functioning of the organism.
3) When learners are provided with opportunities to engage with productive mental challenges, with the expectation that trusted guides will ensure that challenges do not become overwhelming.
Related: Social Disengagement in Autism
One of the things that distinguishes us from what others do is our focus on neural rehabilitation, instead of social skills training. Since mental challenges are the ways that the brain develops increased neural mental complexity, our programs train parents to facilitate opportunities to allow students to safely explore and experiment with the mental challenges; the problems, concepts and ideas that are one step ahead of the current level of understanding.
Next week, we will talk more about this important MindGuiding relationship that facilitates this growth.