How Does Empathy Work? A Writer Explores the Science and Its Applications

Depending on your point of view, Cris Beam’s “I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy” might seem either laughably behind the times or naïvely, maybe even willfully, ahead — so far beyond our collective horizon as to be pretty darned invisible. After all, ours is an age when the president is more concerned with building walls than feeding and educating poor kids, Congress is polarized to the point of paralysis and just about everyone else is seemingly focused on getting theirs first. We’ve become a nation of hard cases, armed to the teeth, with fury battling cynicism for primacy as the default emotion. In this world, a book with a cover featuring one bonsai tree leaning lovingly toward another does not appear likely to find much of a place. And yet here is Beam passionately asserting that “the pendulum is swinging back toward feeling, back toward love and the communal. Back toward empathy.” Read more from The New York Times.

May 9th, 2018|

Is Your Child a Phone ‘Addict?’

On the heels of two large Apple investors urging the company to address kids’ phone addiction, many parents may be wondering: How do I know if my child is addicted to his or her smartphone? And how can I prevent problematic overuse? There are reasons for concern. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media found that half of teenagers felt addicted to their devices, and 78 percent checked their devices at least hourly. Seventy-two percent of teens felt pressured to respond immediately to texts, notifications and social media messaging. Read more from The New York Times.

April 16th, 2018|

How Empathy Affects Learning, And How To Cultivate It In Your Students

We now recognize empathy as the driving force behind much of human behavior, from social bonding and prenatal care to morality and human rights activism. Only recently, however, have we come to conceptualize empathy as a driving force for learning (and we’re not talking emotional intelligence here)…So there you have it–people who receive empathy from others, especially from an early age, develop a higher capacity to learn. Part of the reason for this is that empathy is an especially effective antidote to stress. In humans, stress negatively affects learning and brain development in children, mostly affecting the prefrontal cortex which manages non-cognitive skills like self-control along with memory and reasoning. Poor children, who are at greater risk of adverse childhood experiences, are disproportionately affected. Read more from informEd.

March 5th, 2018|

Anxiety in Teens – How to Help a Teenager Deal With Anxiety

Anxiety can be tough for anyone to deal with, but add in the whirlwind of changes that come with adolescence, and anxiety can feel like an intrusive mind hog that spends way too much time squeezing, surprising and overwhelming anyone it lands on.

If anxiety is making a menace of itself, the good news is that there are ways to take it back to small enough. First though, it’s important to understand the telltale signs of anxiety and where they come from. When you understand this, anxiety will start to lose the power that comes from its mystery and its unpredictability. Anxiety happens because your brain thinks there might be danger, even when there is no danger at all. Brains are smart, but they can all read things a little bit wrong sometimes. Read more from Hey Sigmund.

February 13th, 2018|

When the Bullies of a Child With a Disability Are the Adults

The other day I was at a birthday party with my 8-year-old, which may sound like a normal weekend evening to some, but for us it was thrilling. My son had hardly been invited to any parties prior to last year, so getting an invitation from a classmate was a big deal. At the height of struggling with autism and anxiety, my son found it hard to make and keep friends because his behavior became unpredictable. Understandably, kids became standoffish because they didn’t know what to expect….As part of his developmental disability, my son struggles with social language/pragmatics, an under-responsive proprioceptive system, an over-responsive vestibular system and social skills. He also has extreme anxiety. These are real challenges he faces that can cause behavior issues that many times are beyond his control. He has to learn things that come naturally to most kids, and it’s a huge challenge for him. Read more from The Mighty.

January 31st, 2018|

Wrestling With The Mental Distress Of Disability

Being born with cerebral palsy, it’s nearly impossible to forget I’m in a wheelchair. It brings an entire lifestyle of its own, along with a constant flood of thoughts and feelings. I wrote the following piece in light of all the people the world has lost over the past number of years ― to depression or suicide. It is my hope that this piece serves as a reminder that there is hope and help out there ― and that disability is often much more than meets the eye. Read more on HuffingtonPost.

Woman in wheelchair next to an office desk, hand close up, unrecognizable person

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January 18th, 2018|

How to Design a School That Prioritizes Kindness and Caring

Countless schools across the nation strive to make character a feature of education. Whether through classes on social-emotional learningmindfulness exercises or reminders about the virtues of gratitude, thousands of students are exposed to messages that deplore cheating and bullying and celebrate kindness and consideration. In spite of the lecturing, however, 51 percent of high school kids owned up to cheating on exams, according to the Josephson Institute. Another 62 percentbelieve that teachers value academic achievement over kindness to others. Read more from Mindshift.

January 3rd, 2018|

Changing Perspectives Featured in The Washington Post!

Bringing ‘Wonder’s’ lessons of empathy and inclusion to life for students

It isn’t often that my son jumps in the car after school full of excitement over a class assembly, but that’s what happened last spring, when Sam Drazin visited to talk about empathy and what it means to be different. Drazin was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, the same rare congenital disorder that the character Auggie Pullman has in R.J. Palacio’s best-selling book “Wonder.”

My son does not have a physical disability, but he immediately connected with Drazin’s story. Read more from The Washington Post:

November 29th, 2017|

Why ‘Wonder,’ the Movie, Can’t Best the Book It’s Based On

Like most people who love the best-selling book “Wonder,” I’ve been thrilled by the success of the movie version. It captures beautifully the book’s central premise, that we should choose to be kind and inclusive to people like Auggie Pullman, the protagonist, who was born with facial deformities that are at first shocking to look at. The young actor Jacob Tremblay, wearing mask-like makeup that rearranges his features, gracefully inhabits the role of Auggie not only by showing his pain and vulnerability, but also by convincing us of one of the secret weapons of R. J. Palacio’s book: Auggie is fun, clever and generous, and the kids who call him “the freak” actually have the most to gain by his friendship. So I feel gratified that the movie seems to be catching on — but also, I’ll admit, a bit wary. Read more from The New York Times. 

November 27th, 2017|

Transforming Schoolyards, Our Most Abundant Public Spaces

Green Schoolyards America founder Sharon Danks has a plan to turn asphalt schoolyards across America into green spaces that improve children’s wellbeing, learning, and play while also contributing to the ecological health and resilience of cities. Ashoka’s Michael Zakaras caught up with Danks to learn more. Read the inspiring & informative interview on Forbes.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 16th, 2017|