Sunday, October 11, 2009

Potential Unlimited

I've probably mentioned this once before, but my husband's step-mother is an amateur playwright. She writes at least one play a year, has entered many, many contests and has won many accolades for her writing. As part of her process, she has several play readings. Play readings are relatively simple affairs. She has actors that she knows read the script aloud for an audience. The audience provides feedback that helps her to fine tune her piece.

Tonight's play was about an older woman who loses her hearing after being treated for a serious infection. The play follows her journey as a person who is newly deaf and who must learn to function in a hearing world.

The play especially struck home for me in light of the post I wrote yesterday, and the comments I received. I felt that things didn't come out of my mouth the way I intended, so this is a more in-depth follow-up that I hope makes my position a little clearer.

Yesterday I reported the finding that children who receive music instruction prior to the age six have a demonstrably larger corpus callosum then those who do not. I also stated the opinion of one person that a the first five years of a person's life are the most vital in terms of learning.

I did not intend for that to sound like a deadline. It isn't a deadline. For me, five years old is a long ways away and that seems like plenty of time. Five years old, however, isn't the finish line for a person's potential. Do I think that very young children learn very easily? Yes. They are designed to do so. But there is research that suggests that brains continue to form new neural pathways into early adolescence using methods that involve multi-sensory stimulation and repetition. To this day I can repeat the list of conjunctions my sixth grade teacher made me memorize. I myself have taught children who were labeled "retarded" to solve algebraic equations. There are even studies now that show that people who lose their eye sight from a stroke, can regain it through a series of "eye exercises."

Maybe a person can't make their corpus callosum bigger after the age of six. Maybe the first five years are a great time for learning. That doesn't mean that that it's ever too late. The human brain is still a great unknown and even scientists are surprised by what it does sometimes. With work, I think that many, many things can be accomplished. That work part is key, though. Small children make neural pathways almost effortlessly. As we get older, it involves more work. So if your child is six, then that doesn't mean that you should lie down and give up, but rather it means that it might be a little more work for both of you. Really, people are amazing, and capable of so much. I would hate for anyone to ever think I felt differently than that.