The Brooklyn BrainLady

teaching & learning, in a fancy dress

For the past 16 years, I have been one of those “good” teachers: the one parents request, the one administration knows will not only keep issues to a minimum, but also manage to teach even the toughest student a thing or two in nine months. Even as a post-undergrad newbie, my “at-risk” students would score surprisingly high on standardized tests and they still liked coming to school every day, which is today’s equivalent of an educational unicorn. Continue reading


The federal government recently reminded school districts that they are allowed to use the word “dyslexia” when documenting a child’s special education needs. For you lay people, that’s like your doctor being reminded that she can use the word “insomnia” when you routinely cannot sleep. They may prefer the term “sleep disturbance” but they’re allowed to say insomnia. Regardless of what word your doctor uses, you are most likely to respond, “No shit, Sherlock.”

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It’s that time of year again. Time for calling upon the executive skills of a ninja if one wants to dress as a ninja. For us creative types, Halloween is our New Year’s Eve. It is that swoony time of year…rife with ideas for what could be, when anything is possible…that comes with a clearly established deadline. Thank god. It’s a downright conundrum for divergent thinkers who wow us at parties with costumes like “Papal Towel Dispenser” by my friend Alex (think the pope with a roll of Bounty hanging around his neck) or Laura’s “Windswept”.


My very creative friend, Laura

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Hyperactive subtype AD/HD comes with some pretty special superpowers. It took me a while to understand that the reason for my struggles was also the source of my strength. I get why Luke Skywalker needed three films to figure out what his deal was. I, too, needed lots of background knowledge, repeated contextual practice and an Obi-Wan to school me in how to use that with which I was blessed. In fact, Luke and I have uttered similar phrases on that journey:

On daily life: I want more than this! It’s so BORING here.
On fathers: I knew I got this from somewhere!
On vacations: It needs to be a very long time, preferably on another planet with no distractions, and I should leave transformed.
On cat-like reflexes in high-stakes moments: I got this, just cover me.

This Star Wars approach to my disability is an extension of my attitude on life in general: everything has two sides. Continue reading

About five years ago, the ceiling fell in on me. I was sitting at a neuroscience conference dedicated to the theme of “Attention and Learning”. The keynote speaker was a bold and articulate Patricia Quinn, renowned expert on AD/HD. I was totally connecting her presentation to my own classroom and I was *psyched*: Weak emotional regulation? That’s totally Student A! Persistent struggles with organization? Soooo Student B!

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When I was little, my brother asked me to play video games with him once a month. That was about how long it took for him to forget that I have almost no ability to make a person who is not me move by pressing buttons. I also did not want to “share” the Rubik’s cube “we” got for Christmas, nor did I want to play chess. His idea of fun baffled me.  Continue reading


“…create conditions where right from the jump you’re giving people intellectually-engaging material. And even if their skills are so poor that they can’t read it, then you read it for them. Maybe you have to scale things down a bit, maybe you rewrite it. You throw people into it, and then along the way you address the bits and pieces.  They can be defining moments for people. They’re powerful. They help shape who we are. It can happen with kids who maybe aren’t doing so well in school. It can happen if we create the right kinds of environments for them.”

~Mike Rose, The Intelligence in All Kinds of Work, and the Human Core of All Education That Matters
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September 16, 2015

20150905_114313I should never be alone in an office supply store. But every year I have to make a back-to-school pilgrimage to see what the organizational gods have designed for this year’s batch of adolescent frontal lobes. The frontal lobe, which contains the prefrontal cortex, is our executive command center- the place where problem-solving and decision-making occur. It also happens to not be fully developed until one is in their mid-late twenties, so no, you’re not off-base when muttering, “What were they thinking?” as you open your teenager’s backpack. Very little conscious thought went in there.

Everything else did, though.  Continue reading

This summer I signed up for a six-day assisted trek in the Icelandic highlands as a way to “get away from life.” Isn’t that cute? Apparently Iceland was magical, so I decided that’s where life was going to pause. No problem! I hike. I have water shoes. Bring on the vistas!

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