The Benefits and Mechanisms Associated with a Practical Skills-Based Curriculum

by Dr. Aric Sigman.

Abstract: While the outcomes of a practical skills therapeutic education have been valued and noted (LSC, 2008; Ofsted, 2007, 2010, 2014), research in cognitive neuroscience and psychology continues to find surprising and previously unrecognised benefits that are conferred upon pupils. Moreover, the mechanisms behind these benefits point to the urgent need for greater incorporation of such practical elements into mainstream education. Beyond the cognitive and neurological aspects of the practical skills-based curriculum are secondary processes such as mentoring through apprenticeship. These produce further benefits that aid the development of the pupil into a more socially viable and employable young adult. The findings of this report are applicable to pupils with or without learning difficulties. Commissioned by the Ruskin Mill Trust (RMT)

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A New Challenge for Child Neurology

by Dr. Aric Sigman.

Abstract: Children’s neurological development is influenced by their experiences. Early experiences and the environments in which they occur can alter gene expression and affect long-term neural development. Today, discretionary screen time, often involving multiple devices, is the single main experience and environment of children. Various screen activities are reported to induce structural and functional brain plasticity in adults. However, childhood is a time of significantly greater changes in brain anatomical structure and connectivity. There is empirical evidence that extensive exposure to video-game playing during childhood may lead to neuroadaptation and structural changes in neural regions associated with addiction. Digital natives exhibit a higher prevalence of screen-related ‘addictive’ behaviour that reflect impaired neurological reward processing
and impulse-control mechanisms. Associations are emerging between screen dependency disorders such as
Internet Addiction Disorder and specific neurogenetic polymorphisms, abnormal neural tissue and neural function. Although abnormal neural structural and functional characteristics may be a precondition rather than a consequence of addiction, there may also be a bidirectional relationship. As is the case with substance addictions, it is possible that intensive routine exposure to certain screen activities during critical stages of neural development may alter gene expression resulting in structural, synaptic and functional changes in the developing brain leading to screen dependency disorders, particularly in children with predisposing neurogenetic profiles. There may also be compound/secondary effects on neural development. Screen dependency disorders, even at subclinical levels, involve high levels of discretionary screen time, inducing greater child sedentary behaviour thereby reducing vital aerobic fitness, which plays an important role in the neurological health of children, particularly in brain structure and function. Child health policy must therefore adhere to the principle of precaution as a prudent approach to protecting child neurological integrity and well-being. This paper explains the basis of current paediatric neurological concerns surrounding screen dependency disorders and proposes preventive strategies for child neurology and allied professions.

Download here: Screen Dependency Disorders