Friday, January 20, 2012

Pruning

I've been reading some really interesting books lately, including two by Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science who revolutionized animal movement systems, and has become, in no small part because of her own autism, an advocate for autism.

In The Way I See It, which I read a couple of weeks ago, Grandin offers parents and teachers specific, practical advice on helping young people on the autism spectrum. The articles collected for the book were originally published in Autism-Asperger's Digest Magazine, but they're extremely readable and quite interesting. I'm currently reading Grandin's The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism; I haven't gotten too far yet, but Grandin has really impressed me with her accessible style of writing.

I'm also currently reading The Blessings of a B Minus (I tend to have at least one book downstairs, and one book upstairs), written by Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and parenting expert. Again, I haven't gotten too far in Mogel's book, but one excerpt struck me as interesting and explanatory; I was reminded of hearing something similar in an adolescent psychology class I took as an undergrad:

Over the past twenty years, neuroscientists have learned that the teenage brain radically changes its structure in adolescence. There is a beautiful scientific term for the process of brain development that occurs betwee age ten and puberty: exuberance. This period of vigorous production of brain cells is followed, between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, by a period of pruning them back, when the gray matter thins dramatically. The brain becomes more streamlined and effecient. But the frontal lobes, the areas of the brain responsible for rationality and modulatio of impilses and desires, do not reach full development for girls until age twenty-four or twenty-five and or boys until age twenty-nine. Judgment and wisdom, or in the language of neuropsychologists, executive functions, live in the part of the brain that is last to mature. (Mogel 22)

This might explain why the late teens and early twenties are still so difficult for so many of us, why it might be difficult to keep one's temper and emotions in check, even when we're expected to act more like adults.

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