Blog:  Expert Corner

Three Research Areas for Parents to Watch in 2015

Expert Corner blog post by Sheldon Horowitz
Nov 11, 2014

Close-up of happy teen girls hanging out together and looking on a computer

Research can make a big difference for all kids, including those with learning and attention issues. In the last few years, we’ve made steady progress in our understanding of how children learn and what they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Because so much interesting research is underway, I’ve selected a few specific areas for parents to track this year.

A word of warning: If you hear about a study or research finding in the news, don’t jump to conclusions! It takes a well-trained eye to decipher whether a study was designed well enough to draw conclusions or take action. And in some cases, a study may involve a treatment or approach that’s controversial among experts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can turn to us for help connecting the dots.

All that said, here are three areas of research for you to watch in 2015.

Some of the most exciting research is happening in the area of neuroscience (the study of the nervous system and brain). We already have lots of information about what the brain does when people engage in different reading and listening tasks. Here are some questions scientists are exploring:

  • What happens in the brain when children learn math?
  • What specific role does working memory play in children with learning and attention issues? How can we help these kids overcome weakness in this area?
  • We know that learning and attention issues are hereditary—they run in families. What are the specific genes associated with learning and attention issues? How do they pass from generation to generation? In what ways do environment and experience trigger how genes behave?

Social and Emotional Learning
Children learn better when they feel happy, engaged, curious and respected. Feelings—like confusion, anger and stress, and low self-esteem—can torpedo even the best efforts to teach and support children. Here are some questions being tackled by the research community:

  • What’s the relationship between learning and emotions? How can parents and schools prevent anxiety and stress from getting in the way of learning?
  • How can schools be more responsive to what we know about the brain chemistry of emotions and personality, as well as family and cultural issues?
  • What are the best ways to support kids’ needs when their brains and emotions are constantly changing?

After High School
During the school years, many children with learning and attention issues are provided help through IEPs and 504 plans. But that changes after high school. Some very exciting research is underway to answer questions about the struggles of young adults as they transition to college and work:

  • How can parents and schools best prepare students with learning and attention issues for college and career success?
  • What programs have had the greatest positive impact on young adults as they transition from high school?
  • What are the social and emotional characteristics of young people with learning and attention issues who have made successful transitions to college and the workplace?

If you want to stay on top of these research areas and others related to learning and attention issues, follow the Expert Corner blog.

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About the Blogger

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D. is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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