Like many adoptive parents, I worry from time to time whether the poor pre-natal care and early nutrition that my kids received in Russia might have affected their brain development. I worry about whether impaired brain development might hamper their performance in school and restrict them in later life.
Maybe now I can stop worrying so much.
Today’s New York Times carried a front page story about two astounding new studies on behavior and brain development. They were done by separate teams of researchers and published in separate professional journals. The first study found that kindergartners labeled as “troubled” eventually do just as well academically as their peers in elementary school. The second determined that children diagnosed with attention deficit disorders only have a delay in brain development, not some permanent problem.
The studies did not single out adopted children or focus on them in any way. But there may well be some in the study groups, which encompassed 36,000 children in the kindergarten/elementary school study alone.
The findings for the latter were reported in the journal Developmental Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association; you can read them in full here. The researchers found that disruptive or antisocial behaviors in kindergarten did not presage academic problems in later grades. The key to success, which was not as well pointed out in the Times story as it should have been, seems to be the presence of elementary math and reading skills when the children entered school, a motivation to learn and the ability to concentrate while completing a task.
The second study used imaging technology to look at the brains of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. What the researchers found, in a nutshell, is that their brains simply mature more slowly–as much as three years more slowly depending on the area of the brain. (You can learn more about the study from the National Institute of Mental Health’s Web site here).
This just blew me away. So many kids have been tagged with ADHD and put on prescription drugs to control their behavior and improve their concentration. And now maybe all we need is more patience?
Image credit: Kevin Rosseel, Morguefile.com