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Neurodevelopment and Giftedness

November 11, 2011

Normal neurodevelopment uses sensory input (taste, touch, smell, balance, hearing) to feed information to the limbic system, which then impacts language processing, and ultimately influences executive functioning.  Within this system, there can be delays and gaps which disrupt the ability of the brain to function optimally.  As a result, children might have disabilities due to sensory processing, slow psychomotor speed, lack of flexible thinking, difficulty with attention and planning, or language difficulties.  Neurodevelopmental Treatment (ND) was designed to treat Pathophysiology of the Central Nervous System (primarily children with cerebral palsy and adults with cerebral vascular accidents) and has been broadened to include treatment to improve the functioning of the brain which can increase academic performance.

In the DVD The Neurodevelopmental Approach, Jan Bedell, Certified Neurodevelopmentalist, explains:

Disorganized Brain = Disorganized Behavior

There are 4 steps to learning:

      1. receive
      2. process
      3. store
      4. utilize

Often, the focus is placed on output (utilization) without determining if input (other 3 steps) is working efficiently.  ND Treatment focuses on the input steps by stimulating specific areas of the brain to improve functioning.

According to the article THE NEURODEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT  by Linda Kane, Neurodevelopmentalist, Sound Therapy Specialist (found at

The ND Approach uses a developmental profile to look at two primary areas. The first area addresses sensory input. In the area of sensory input, auditory, visual, and tactile function is identified. The second primary area addresses motor output. In the area of motor output, gross motor, fine motor, and language function is identified. You cannot have good output without good, clean input. It is important to look at the whole individual. If the tactility is not developed, you can have problems in all the other areas. If an individual cannot feel their feet, they will not stand unaided, no matter how many hours are spent in a stander. If an individual cannot feel their hands, it is hard for them to write. If an individual does not use their central detail vision properly they have a hard time formulating language, coloring within lines, and doing anything that requires detailed vision.  They also can have many problems that develop through having an enhanced peripheral vision. An individual who does not process sequential information auditorily will have many problems. They will be limited in their ability to follow directions, stay on task, and keep up with normal conversational language. They will have problems with distractibility and conceptual thought processes.  Language problems encompass looking at the tactility of the mouth, oral motor control, control and utilization of the lips, vital capacity, resonation, phonation, sinus passage development, auditory sequential and tonal processing, auditory processing rate, health, and the condition of the ears (ear canal, inner ear, middle ear, eardrum). All pieces need to be evaluated in order to effectively design a treatment program.

Where does this fit in gifted education?

The most obvious opportunity for using ND approach with a gifted child is with a twice-exceptional student (students that are both gifted and have various additional exceptionalities, including ADD, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral and emotional disorders, and learning disabilities).  Additionally, most definitions of gifted children include a provision for potential ability, recognizing that performance and ability are not always equal. CISD defines giftedness as students who perform at a remarkably high level of accomplishment or show potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment in the following areas:

    • General intellectual ability
    • Subject specific aptitude in mathematics and science
    • Subject specific aptitude in language, literacy, and social studies.

Whether a child is identified as twice-exceptional or just seems to show great promise in some areas while all “scores” do not measure up, the neurodevelopmental approach could isolate problem areas and offer specific stimulation to improve.

What are resources for more information about neurodevelopment?

  • International Christian Association of Neurodevelopmentalists –

The theory behind this work is based on the truths of neural plasticity (the ability of the brain to change and adapt), that function determines structure (the manner in which the brain is used impacts function and structure), and that function can be improved through specific stimulation of the central nervous system.  Combined with information processing theory, we also relate function to the way individuals receive, process, store and utilize information.

Little Neurodevelopmental Steps = Giant Strides in Academic Achievement.

This is a world where children, teens, and adults can reach greater heights in development, academics, and the workplace. Since 1992, Little Giant Steps has provided helpful solutions for accelerating learning abilities in individuals whether they are gifted or challenged.

The Children’s Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), under the leadership of founder and director Dr. Susan H. Landry, combines data and studies from the fields of psychology, neurodevelopment, education and child development to provide proven learning solutions derived from, and supported by, documented research. The Children’s Learning Institute strives to be the preeminent source for proven clinical and educational programs covering early childhood through adolescence.

Beth M. Houskamp, Ph.D. is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Los Angeles Campus of the California School of Professional Psychology/Alliant International University. Her research and clinical interests focus on a neurodevelopmental approach to helping gifted and talented children with emotional regulation and behavioral challenges. She has been a speaker at many gifted conferences including the 2011 SENG Conference.

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