FAQ's

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  • What makes BrainWise different?

    BrainWise simplifies and presents brain research so that children as young as five, as well as teenagers, and adults understand how thinking affects their behavior. The program is easy-to-teach, and its scripted lesson plans, teaching aids, and reinforcement activities lay a foundation that can be integrated into existing curricula, programs, and school, home, and work cultures. The program’s concepts and vocabulary address all problems, from playground altercations to workplace hostility, and from hurt feelings to suicidal ideation. Program instructors can easily customize lessons to address problems specific to their students or clients. They are told that practice of 50 or more hours is necessary to insure that BrainWise graduates will retain the skills and use them to make good choices and decisions.

    BrainWise has been independently evaluated by academic researchers, a private research company, and government researcher. The results consistently demonstrate that the BrainWise method helps graduates improve their critical thinking, executive functions, and social and emotional learning skills.

    BrainWise is recognized internationally as a comprehensive program that teaches critical thinking concepts and executive function skills, applies them to everyday situations, and reinforces them through practice to create new, and lasting, brain pathways. The program’s results have been validated by independent research, and its successful outcomes have been presented at national and international academic conferences.

    These features distinguish BrainWise, and highlight its effectiveness as a program that problem-solving and decision-making skills.

  • Is BrainWise an evidence-based program?

    BrainWise has an extensive history of applied research and evidence-based evaluations that show program graduates make improvements in behaviors that affect their health and well-being. The program has been evaluated by analysts with a private research company, academics at two universities, and researchers with a state health agency. They used qualitative and quantitative measures, including focus groups, standardized self-administered behavior questionnaires, and instructor assessments. The instruments measured changes is social and emotional behaviors, including executive functions.

    Research results show that program graduates — middle school students, high school students, and adults – improved or significantly improved on items that measured problem solving behaviors. The researchers have presented the program’s outcomes at national and international academic conferences. A chapter on the BrainWise program is published in Adolescent Psychopathology and the Developing Brain: Integrating Brain and Prevention Research. (Link here to timeline showing Milestones for BrainWise Research.)

  • How was BrainWise developed?

    In 1997, teaching about the brain and how to use it to make good decisions was rare. Dr. Barry’s background in public health and psychiatric nursing, and her graduate school research on decision-making, contributed to the BrainWise program’s scientific focus. She was frustrated by the dire consequences caused by the impulsive and emotional choices her clients made and later realized that this was the only way they knew how to respond. They reacted to problems using the lizard brain’s hardwired survival instincts because they had not learned how to use thinking skills in the prefrontal cortex – the thinking or wizard brain. BrainWise teaches them how to do this. She based the approach in neuroscience, and applied Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Eric Kandel’s research that showed how neural pathways are created when something new is learned. BrainWise uses this finding to teach ten skills as a way to build connections to the Wizard Brain, helping all of us to “stop and think.”

  • Who can benefit from the program?

    BrainWise benefits people whose behaviors raise the questions: What was I thinking? What was he thinking? What was she thinking? What were they thinking? Children, youth, and adults need the critical thinking skills BrainWise teaches to help them make better choices and responsible decisions. When they learn and use the 10 Wise Ways, they stop and think before they act. Without them, they use embedded Lizard Brain survival instincts that react to intense emotions.

    The program is taught to special needs children and teens, as well as to average and high performing children and teens. And while the benefits for welfare mothers and homeless men are more dramatic, BrainWise has individually helped parents, teachers, health professionals, and employers as well as families, students, clients and patients.

    The program’s benefits extend across cultures, benefiting youth and adults in China, including women who are targeted by sex traffickers. The U.S. Indian Health Services approved BrainWise as a program that benefits Native Americans and Alaska Natives. It is taught in India, Canada, Taiwan, and other countries to improve health behaviors and prevent suicide, drug and substance abuse, and family violence. The 10 Wise Ways are being taught to help people of all educational and socioeconomic levels. The program’s benefits are recognized by educators, parents, caregivers, health providers, behavioral health specialists and others who want to teach critical thinking and decision making skills. (Link her to BrainWise success stories and testimonials.)

  • Who is using BrainWise?

    Individuals who use BrainWise are seeking teaching tools that will help them give their students, clients, and patients skills to make better choices and decisions.
    BrainWise is used by kindergarten teachers and college professors, by educators who work with severely developmentally disabled youth, as well as teachers of gifted and talented. It is used by nurses working for home visitation programs and by counselors with drug and alcohol treatment programs. Social workers, behavioral health specialists, therapists, career counselors, principals, professors CEOs and directors use BrainWise. They teach the program to Girl Scouts, teens on probation, incarcerated men and women, elementary school children high school students, broken families, peer educators and homeless women and men. The program is used by public schools and private schools, in court-ordered treatment programs and after school community programs, in church organized parent groups and private businesses. BrainWise is used in the workplace to increase job retention, worker productivity and workplace safety.

    To see how BrainWise is being used in a variety of settings, click on the “BrainWise and Your Program” button on the top left side of this page.

    If you would like to develop a customized program to fit your particular situation, please contact us at 303-837-0229 or email us at info@brainwise-plc.org with your request.

  • What do people say about BrainWise?

    Testimonials from BrainWise graduates show their support for the program’s effectiveness, and express enthusiasm for the way using its skills has helped them. A frequent comment is “I LOVE BrainWise!” followed by examples showing the positive changes they have made. An analysis of testimonials identified themes that included how BrainWise had helped them make better choices, how they are happier after learning the skills, how BrainWise changed their thinking from negative to positive; how helped them become responsible for their actions; and a recommendation that BrainWise be taught to everyone.

    Graduates talked about how they feel happier, have skills to control their actions, have learned how to make better choices, how they no longer feel like a victim, and how they have learned to get help when they have a problem. They said that they have fewer problems at school, home, or work, and attribute this to BrainWise.

    More dramatic examples include statements about how BrainWise helped participants change behaviors involving substance abuse, how it helped them get help for suicidal thoughts, and how it helped them get out of a gang. Parents who took BrainWise said the skills they learned helped them not hit their children.
    To read additional comments from teachers, parents, and students, and to view actual “before and after” drawings by students, click on the “Success Stories” button on the top left side of this page.

  • How is the program structured?

    Developed through careful research and field testing, the curricula and teaching aids were designed to be flexible for instructors and adaptable to fit different populations, school and agency structures, and settings. While developed in a classroom setting for children and teens, the BrainWise Program is adaptable to a variety of demographic groups and programs, including leadership training, the workforce, money management, family health management, parenting, and many other formats.

    Program fidelity requires that participants be taught each of the 10 Wise Ways and complete the accompanying worksheets. Additionally, key to retention is having participants gain 50 or more hours of practice using the concepts. Encourage participants to use their BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheets inside and outside the classroom, and have them how reinforce the 10 Wise Ways using daily situations, current events, games, and other activities. Organization create a “BrainWise Culture” where problems are assessed using the programs concepts and terms.

    BrainWise concepts are easy to teach, but merely learning the concepts does not mean they will be retained without the necessary practice. To facilitate both the learning of the concepts and their practice, the program is divided into two distinct sections:

    Part I – BrainWise: Learn It! This section of the curricula introduces the 10 Wise Ways. The modules can be taught separately or combined. Instructors are encouraged to integrate the concepts into existing materials, as well as to use BrainWise terms for discussing problems as they arise. Use the worksheets for practice, and help participants pull them together by assessing problems using the BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheet. Have participants practice using the skills outside the classroom.

    Developed through careful research and field testing, the curricula and teaching aids were designed to be flexible for instructors and adaptable to fit different populations, school and agency structures, and settings.  While developed in a classroom setting for children and teens, the BrainWise Program is adaptable to a variety of demographic groups and programs, including leadership training, the workforce, money management, family health management, parenting, and many other formats. 

    Program fidelity requires that participants be taught each of the 10 Wise Ways and complete the accompanying worksheets.  Additionally, key to retention is having participants gain 50 or more hours of practice using the concepts. Encourage participants to use their BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheets inside and outside the classroom, and have them how reinforce the 10 Wise Ways using daily situations, current events, games, and other activities. Organization create a “BrainWise Culture” where problems are assessed using the programs concepts and terms.     

    BrainWise concepts are easy to teach, but merely learning the concepts does not mean they will be retained without the necessary practice. To facilitate both the learning of the concepts and their practice, the program is divided into two distinct sections:

    Part I – BrainWise: Learn It!  This section of the curricula introduces the 10 Wise Ways.  The modules can be taught separately or combined.  Instructors are encouraged to integrate the concepts into existing materials, as well as to use BrainWise terms for discussing problems as they arise.  Use the worksheets for practice, and help participants pull them together by assessing problems using the BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheet.  Have participants practice using the skills outside the classroom. 

    Part II – BrainWise: Live it! In the BrainWise Zone!  This section provides examples of ways instructors can encourage participants practice using BrainWise CPR by applying them to assess a variety of problems.  This includes using the 10 Wise Ways to analyze stories, movies, videos, popular TV shows, advertising, and current events.  Other ways to gain practice include creating categories involving the 10 Wise Ways for game templates for shows like Jeopardy! and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Examples for the latter are available in back issues of the BrainWise newsletter for instructors. 

    This structure engages participants and uses current events and popular culture to give them opportunities to apply what they have learned to a wide range of situations.  The BrainWise CPR Problem Solving Worksheet helps them apply their skills, and can be used as little or often as is necessary for each participant.   The result is that students, clients, and patients learn to stop and think and use the 10 Wise Ways to process problems.  They learn how to avoid reacting to emotions and impulse.  They also learn they have a choice:  Use these skills or lose them, leaving the brain to revert to impulsive and reactive Lizard Brain thinking.

    In the BrainWise Zone! This section provides examples of ways instructors can encourage participants practice using BrainWise CPR by applying them to assess a variety of problems. This includes using the 10 Wise Ways to analyze stories, movies, videos, popular TV shows, advertising, and current events. Other ways to gain practice include creating categories involving the 10 Wise Ways for game templates for shows like Jeopardy! and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Examples for the latter are available in back issues of the BrainWise newsletter for instructors.

    This structure engages participants and uses current events and popular culture to give them opportunities to apply what they have learned to a wide range of situations. The BrainWise CPR Problem Solving Worksheet helps them apply their skills, and can be used as little or often as is necessary for each participant. The result is that students, clients, and patients learn to stop and think and use the 10 Wise Ways to process problems. They learn how to avoid reacting to emotions and impulse. They also learn they have a choice: Use these skills or lose them, leaving the brain to revert to impulsive and reactive Lizard Brain thinking.

  • Are there support materials available?

    Yes! Here is a list of Support Materials and Training:

    1. Scripted BrainWise curricula for children, youth and adults. Each curriculum includes reproducible worksheets.
    2. The BrainWise Knowledge Survey, a pre/post measure and scoring rubric, is available upon request.
    3. Optional teaching aids that include coated bookmarks, laminated classroom posters of the 10 Wise Ways, and card-size sets of the 10 Wise Ways.
    4. Companion book for teens, parents and other adult program users that summarizes and reinforces the 10 Wise Ways.
    5. Optional training that can be conducted on-site or off-site.
    6. Pre- and posttests that measure knowledge of the BrainWise concepts.
    7. BrainWise CPR Problem Solving Worksheet helps students apply their skills.
  • Can BrainWise be integrated into other teaching materials and programs?

    BrainWise is praised by instructors for how easy they can integrate into other programs. The program’s universal framework is key for its adaptability, as it enables instructors to discuss problem situations appropriate for the ages, academic abilities, and cultural backgrounds of whomever they are teaching. Even though its foundation is rooted in complex brain processes, the program uses concepts and words that are easy to understand. The BrainWise approach can be used to assess personal problems, as well as the problems of characters in stories, movies, videos, TV shows, advertising, and current events.

    “Be BrainWise with Money” is an example of how an instructor incorporated the 10 Wise Ways into a money management curses. BrainWise has been integrated into behavioral health courses, substance abuse prevention, leadership classes parenting courses, and others. Instructors teach BrainWise as a foundation, and apply the 10 Wise Ways to whatever problems their students and clients need to address. The program’s thinking skills help them solve problems affiliated with family, relationships, school, work and community.

  • Is BrainWise culturally relevant?

    BrainWise is a universal program — everyone needs to learn how to build brain connections to stop and think. Its framework for teaching decision making concepts can be applied to anyone. The program’s cross-cultural relevancy is demonstrated by its use in cultures ranging from illiterate women in China targeted by sex traffickers to Native youth and families Alaska at-risk for suicide, substance abuse and violence. BrainWise is being taught to individuals of all ages, educational levels, and mental abilities, as well as cultural backgrounds. In a Colorado high school that serves students from 80 countries, a BrainWise instructor teaches the class to special needs students. BrainWise has been approved by the U.S. Indian Health Services as a program that works to improve the health and well-being of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. This recognition is difficult to obtain, and further proof that BrainWise is culturally relevant.

  • Can I teach BrainWise?

    Absolutely!  BrainWise is fun and easy to teach.  We welcome all who want to learn how to teach others the skills that underlie problem-solving and making good decisions! Each chapter clearly sets forth the goal and objectives of each lesson and provides the instructor with age appropriate group teaching activities. The flexible lesson plans allow for individual creativity and also show how to infuse the thinking skills into other subjects and activities outside the classroom.

    For lasting results, it is important that students and clients practice using the skills by applying them to problems inside and outside the classroom for a minimum of 50 hours.  The greatest impact comes when the program is taught with fidelity. This means that that each of the 10 Wise Ways is taught in the order they are presented – easy to do with the scripted curriculum and problem solving worksheets, and that all are taught to the student or client.

    Training is available, but is not required. Arrangements can be made for groups interested in obtaining specialized practice, and others can attend training sessions offered throughout the year.

    We have found that the best instructors want to teach BrainWise and are committed to teaching it with fidelity. The BrainWise staff and volunteers/instructors are available to help answer questions. Please contact the BrainWise program at info@brainwise-plc.org

  • How can I make BrainWise work for me and my agency or school?

    Thank you for recognizing the importance of having the support of your colleagues to teach BrainWise at your school or agency! If you can create an organization-wide culture where everyone knows and uses BrainWise terms, the critical reinforcement needed for retention will be a given. Every location is different, but the following suggestions used by BrainWise champions have helped them get support for the program:

    • Understand the benefits of BrainWise. Share this information with others, and identify those who are interested in teaching decision making skills.
    • Target behaviors important for your potential allies and highlight how BrainWise provides tools to achieve them.
    • Identify individuals who will be receptive to teaching or reinforcing BrainWise. Send them our newsletters and links to the webpage.
    • Insert the BrainWise language into your vocabulary. Even people unfamiliar with the program will quickly pick up on using the “wizard brain” vs. the “lizard brain,” the “constellation of support”, “red flags” and “exiting the emotions elevator.”
    • Make a short presentation on BrainWise. You can contact us for support.
    • Talk about the changes in behaviors that you have recognized. If you administered pre- and posttests, share the results.
    • Share BrainWise success stories that are pertinent to your colleagues. The monthly BrainWise newsletter has these kinds of stories, as does the web page.
    • Engage parents or families of clients as BrainWise advocates.
  • Do you have any suggestions/ideas that might help orient me to the task of presenting BrainWise to a more educated adult population?

    You are teaching BrainWise because you recognize that the program is for everyone, and that its simple terms make it easy to remember and apply complex skills that change behaviors. The challenge is that the use of these same terms can be interpreted by some who say that the program is “beneath their students” or that their clients “already know it.” However, just because a concept may be labeled or described by a simple term—think of a “black hole”—doesn’t make it simplistic or easy to understand or master.

    Here are some ways these issues can be addressed:

    • Replace “Lizard Brain” with “limbic system”, and its components, the hypothalamus and amygdala. You can also call it the “emotional brain.”
    • Replace “Wizard Brain” with “prefrontal cortex.” You can also call it the “thinking brain.”
    • Replace “Relay Center” with “thalamus.”
    • Replace “Constellation of Support” with “support system.”
    • Emphasize that research conducted by university professors and research experts with private companies and government agencies, found that teens and adults who completed BrainWise showed significant improvements in behaviors that included executive functions (planning, working memory, and impulse control) and social and emotional learning. Program graduates consistently credit the program with teaching them skills that help them make better choices and decisions.

    Use the term “BrainWise CPR” to present the 10 Wise Ways as “first response” skills that help prevent problems.  Present the BrainWise CPR problem solving worksheet as an effective way to assess and analyze problems they want to prevent or manage.

    Give each client his own copy of How to be BrainWise to keep and use outside of class. Present the 10 Wise Ways in one or a few sessions, and have participants immediately start applying the concepts to their own, and others, problems. Ask class members to share how they used their thinking skills, and how they are teaching them to others.

    Reinforce the material by customizing games like Jeopardy! and Who Wants to be a Millionaire with sophisticated questions and categories infused with the 10 Wise Ways. (There are templates for the games online.) The BrainWise team has been impressed with how effective games are for reinforcing BrainWise. Continually tie in the BrainWise concepts in your other neurobehavioral material, and more educated clients will have fun while learning important skills.

    Check our website and newsletter for updates and post questions to get suggestions from other BrainWise instructors