Dr. Conway: When I was 19 years old, I began to work for a private company out in California, and they were focused on treatments and programs for children with dyslexia. My expertise is not just the assessment part of that, it really is what do you do when you have figured out what the problem is. Because diagnoses don’t tell you a thing about what to do – the real question to be answered is – how do we change the skills? Can we actually make the weaker skills stronger?
Dr. Conway: Here’s your first question of the day – you are all capable of learning new information we know that learning really means that the brain makes new connections. So the question becomes at what time your life are you going to lose the ability to make new connections. When does it stop happening? What age is that?
[crowd response- never] Is that wishful thinking? She says never – could be true.
Dr. Conway: There actually is one point in time when you are not going to learn anything new. You’re dead. That’s it. When you’re dead, which is the same as never, then you definitely cannot do any new learning. We now know that neuroplasticity; the brain’s ability to wire itself and rewire itself is capable and lifelong.
Dr. Conway: But there are three key principles it applies to anything that you are going to learn. The intensity of the practice – how much time per day do you practice this new activity. Besides intensity, the brain’s learning is really driven by frequency of the practice, which means how many days per week.
Dr. Conway:If I told you – Barbara is going to learn Swahili. She is going to get a free Swahili lesson every Monday for one hour. We say Vicky has won an all-expense paid trip to Africa, she is going to live with the Royal Family for three months, and oh, and one problem though – the African family speaks no English, they only speak Swahili. So Barbara can do a year of Mondays, Vicki could go and do three months and come back and guess who is going to be more fluent – [Vicki]– how come, what’s the differential factor there?
Dr. Conway: It’s intensity, it’s frequency and the explicitness of the instruction That’s the third principle –It’s how explicit – they’re going to teach her the basics first. It doesn’t really help her to know how to say ‘see you later’ if she doesn’t know how to say ‘bathroom’. They want to teach you the more core elements first and the fine-tuned ones later on.
Dr. Conway: So intensity of the instruction, frequency of instruction and the developmental specificity of the instruction are the three key principles that we know that rewires the brain. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about children – elementary school, middle school, high school, college or adult, we’re talking about the brain and it applies across all ages of the population.
Dr. Conway: Medicare even knows this. If you have an injury to your body and you’re in the hospital and so you need speech therapy, or you need PT – guess how often you’re going to get it? Daily, six days a week. Medicare almost mandates it has to happen six days a week – why? Why do we care?
Dr. Conway: What’s going to happen if you get therapy six days a week? You’ll be discharged sooner – they will spend less money and you’ll still have a higher functional outcome. So Medicaid knows that in some of these medical rehab situations, intensity and frequency lead to better recovery and faster recovery.