Instructions and guidance for how to use each page of The Brain Building Book

Page 1: Introducing the Book

Goals:

  • Introduce assessment as a discovery process
  • Introduce the book as a way to document what you discover!

Things to Say:

We are here to learn about your brain!  Brains are amazing – they all have parts that are pretty similar, but everyone’s brain does things a little differently. 

We’re going to be doing a bunch of different things that will help us discover how your unique brain works, and what’s going to be most helpful to you to do things that you want to do!  What are some things you already know about the brain?

Things to Write:

Writing on this page is optional. 

Additional Notes:

There are no wrong answers here.  What the child says will help you understand their attitude towards and understanding of the testing process.  


Pages 2-3: The Parts of the Brain

Goals:

  • Introduce brain-based vocabulary
  • Show the child that there are many parts of the brain that work together to do what they like to do
  • Show the child that they use their whole brain to do the things they love  

Things to Say:

The brain has different parts, all working together to help you do the things you want to do.  There are parts in charge of understanding what you hear, what you see, where you are, coordinating movement, and keeping you organized and on top of things.  

Deep in the center of your brain are parts in charge of feelings, memory, and taking in a bunch of information from the world around you.

What are some of the things your brain likes to do? Let’s figure out how your brain does them!

Things to Write:

  • Write an activity the child likes to do at the top of page 2, then talk about how the different parts of their brain help them do that thing.  
  • For example, to play video games, you need to see the images, know where things are, hear sounds or comments from teammates, coordinate your movements, make some quick decisions, and remember moves.  
  • These pages include very general labels.  Depending on the child, you may wish to:
    • Write in additional information about each part
    • Name the lobes
    • Label other areas of the brain (e.g., sensory and motor strip)
    • Draw in specific circuits or pathways relevant to the child

Additional Notes:

I often revisit this page throughout testing as we discover new things, if a particular test is easy or hard, or if the child asks a question about the brain.


Page 4: The Role of Feelings

Goals:

  • Explain how our feelings-parts and our thinking-parts interact
  • Normalize how hard it is to think when we’re having big feelings
  • Encourage kids to talk about times they are feeling big feelings
  • Introduce the idea that “the boss” can get stronger and learn new skills to help when we have big feelings

Things to Say:

When we’re feeling anxious or frustrated, these parts of the brain take action to make sure we stay safe.  The parts are really good at things like getting our bodies to run from danger – like a charging tiger! Though sometimes it’s hard for these parts to tell the difference between a tiger and a math test.  

The front part of our brain has an important job here.  It acts like “the boss” of our brain and helps us create a plan and make good decisions when we are having a hard time. This boss gets better and better at its job as we get older.

Feelings can have a big impact on what we do.  Sometimes when we have big feelings, it’s hard to think.  For instance, when you get frustrated, it can be hard to [keep going on your homework].  Has that ever happened to you? If it happens while we’re doing things together here, let me know!

Things to Write:

Writing on this page is optional. You may wish to write an example of a situation that can bring about big feelings and a “plan” that the Boss may come up with to help.

Additional Notes:

  • If this isn’t an issue for the child, you may not need to spend much time here.  
  • If this is a big challenge for the child or they have trouble talking about it, you may want to revisit this page multiple times to introduce the concepts slowly.

Pages 5-6: Neurons Connecting Like Roads

Goals:

  • Introduce the “roads under construction” metaphor
  • Introduce the idea that everyone is always making new connections, including children and adults

Things to Say:

All these different parts talk to each other by sending messages using special cells called neurons.  Neurons connect to each other, making pathways in your brain like billions of tiny roads.  

When you have a thought or want to do something, you can think of these messages as cars bringing information from one place to the next.  

Things to Write:

I do not typically write on these pages; however, you are welcome to do so!


Page 7: Highways

Goals:

  • Talk about the child’s amazing superpowers!
  • Document strengths discovered during testing

Things to Say:

There are some things our brains make easy for us to do.  These are your brain’s highways! A highway may be something that came naturally, or something you’ve practiced a lot.  What are some of the things that come easily to your brain?

Things to Write:

  • What the child identifies as a strength or comes easily
  • What you’ve heard from parents or teachers about their strengths
  • Strengths you discover during testing

Additional Notes:

  • During testing, you can continue to add things to this “strengths” page as they come up in conversation.
  • At the feedback session, use this page to add specific strengths found in the testing in kid-friendly language.

Pages 8-9: Under Construction

Goals:

  • Establish that the brain is constantly growing, learning, and changing
  • Make it easier to talk about current challenges
  • Find out what they are proud of learning

Things to Say:

When you try something new or difficult, it may take a little longer for the messages to get where they need to go.  That’s because the roads are still under construction.  However, the more you practice, the faster these roads get! What’s something that used to be challenging but isn’t anymore?

Things to Write:

  • Any skill the child identifies as something they had to get better at over time
  • Any skill parents or teachers have noted as areas of improvement

Additional Notes:

This page is critical for children who have difficulty talking about their challenges. While it’s hard to talk about things you can’t do, it’s exciting to talk about the things you used to have difficulty with but don’t anymore! Pointing out how they’ve already built their brain sets them up for thinking about current challenges as the “next construction project,” rather than a permanent roadblock.

If a child has difficulty coming up with something, you can think about things like walking, talking, riding a bike, or learning a new video game.


Pages 10-11: Current Challenges

Goals:

  • Help the child name the things that are challenging
  • Figure out what challenge is most important to the child
  • Identify the starting place for the feedback session

Things to Say:

Sometimes your brain doesn’t make it easy for you to get from one place to another.  What are some things that your brain is working harder to do? These are your construction zones.

When your brain is having a tough time, you may feel a lot of big feelings like being frustrated, embarrassed, or super tired! Like we said before, that can make it even harder to think. Does that ever happen to you?

Things to Write:

  • The challenges that the child names – even if they are not part of the referral question
  • If needed, suggest writing challenges noted by parents or teachers

Additional Notes:

This page will give you key insights into how to approach the feedback session and where to start.  It can be really helpful to start by responding to the concern that the child writes on this page.  This way they are prepared to hear it, it solves a real problem for them, and it does not overwhelm them.

After establishing the challenges, remind them that the purpose of the assessment is to figure out ways to make those roads easier to travel.  Once we have all the information, we can start thinking of lots of different ways to get them where they want to go!


Page 12: Special Words

Goals:

  • Identify some specific words the child can use to describe their strengths and challenges
  • Define these words in a child-friendly way
  • Demystify and destigmatize the diagnosis 

Things to Say:

Wow, we’ve done a lot of work together!  I’m excited to share with you some of the things we found out!  Let’s take a look at what we already know.  

(You may wish to review the pages you’ve already completed to remind the child what you’ve discovered.)  

In our work together, we discovered a few more strengths [add them to the Highways page].  We also found out why the things you said were challenging are so hard.  In fact, you’re not alone!  Lots of people have the same highways and construction zones as you.  When we see this pattern, we call it [ADHD, Dyslexia, challenges with executive functioning, etc.].  

Things to Write:

  • The special word you’ve identified (this may be a diagnosis or a more general term)
  • A definition of that special word

For example:

  • ADHD: Your brain is built in a way that gives you a lot of creativity, energy, and passion.  It may also make it harder to sit still and remember things.
  • Super Feeler: Your brain is built in a way that gives you big feelings, like your passion for Legos, and how much you care about others.  Your big feelings may also mean it’s easy to get frustrated or angry about something.

For ideas for special words and definitions of common diagnoses, click here to see my blog series on this topic.

Additional Notes:

You might think of this page as giving kids the answer to “What did you learn about yourself?”  The child should be able to open to this page and say, “I learned this – I have an ADHD brain, which means it’s built with a lot of creativity but can make it hard to focus.” 


Page 13: Construction Crew

Goals:

  • Identify the people who will help the child build their brain, learn new skills, or just be there for support
  • Introduce any new crew members if applicable, such as a new tutor or the school’s learning specialist 

Things to Say:

Nobody builds their brain alone.  We all have a construction crew to help us out!  Who’s on your crew?  Who has been most helpful to you?

If applicable: 

There’s another person who is joining your construction crew.  This person is called a Learning Specialist, and their job is to help kids figure out strategies that work best for their brains.  You’ll work with this person a few times a week at school.  

Things to Write:

  • The names of family members, friends, teachers, tutors, the family dog, etc.
  • Be sure to include parents, you (the assessor or therapist), and the child themself!

Additional Notes:

If the parent is in the room (which I recommend), this can be a powerful place to name the ways that the parent has been helpful or help the child articulate ways they could be helpful in the future.  


Page 14: Tools

Goals:

  • Connect the intervention or tools to what we learned about the child’s brain
  • Gain the child’s buy-in to the interventions by talking through which recommendations feel the most promising
  • Introduce any new services or supports the child may receive

Say:

What has been most helpful to you so far?  

Here are a few other things that I was thinking might be helpful.  Let me know on a scale of 1-5 how helpful you think they might be.

Write:

  • Strategies or tools the child identifies as helpful
  • Ways to use their strengths to help get through tough tasks
  • New strategies or tools the child agrees could be helpful (even a little) – this may include technology, accommodations, or things the teacher, parent, or child can do
  • You may wish to include some basic “brain health” strategies here such as:
    • Sleep
    • Exercise
    • Diet
    • Connecting to community
    • Meditation

Additional Notes:

I encourage parents to continue to add to this page over time. Children may wish to share this page with their teacher, tutor, or therapist to share and see if there is anything else to add.

If the child will have an IEP or 504 Plan, parents can add to this page after the meeting as a way to share any information with their child.


Page 15: Finalizing the Book and Sending it Home!

At the end of your feedback session, the child gets to take their book home!  Encourage them to share it with family members, educators, other providers, and even friends if they feel comfortable.  

Remember that this conversation is on-going.  Kids will be at different stages when you get to the feedback session.  For some, you will write in a lot of information.  For others, it may be one small piece.

My hope is that this book makes it easy to start and stop, so that you can go at the pace the child needs, or pass it along to the next professional to continue the conversation building on your words.  

Many parents report that the book has been a great reference to return to for the language to reinforce the messages shared at the feedback session.  

Every time the child shares the book, it gives them a chance to revisit the conversation.  By sharing, explaining, and revisiting the information, they begin to process it more deeply.


I hope you enjoy using this feedback book!  Let me know how it goes by sending me an email, making a short video response (www.Loom.com), or filling out this short survey: bit.ly/BrainBookSurvey

As more and more practitioners use The Brain Building Book, I will be actively collecting feedback over time and incorporating it into the online version of this manual, as well as future versions of the book.  After all, much like our brains, these tools are constantly under construction!

Thank you for all you do to help kids build their amazing brains!

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