Neuroscience doctor to speak to parents in Park City School District
Wendy St. James measures students’ success not just on their ability to learn math or science, but on their ability to be flexible and exercise self-control.
She is an instructional coach at Park City High School, and she works with teens who do not perform well in class because they have not mastered what are called executive functioning skills. The skills include planning, organization, time management and self regulation. St. James invited Parth Gandhi, director of the Neuro Assessment and Development Center in Salt Lake City, to speak to parents, teachers and students about how to recognize those skills and to help students develop them.
Gandhi is set to be available to meet with parents and students at the high school on Thursday, March 7, from 3 to 7 p.m. Then, he is scheduled to present in the school’s lecture hall from 7 to 7:30 p.m.
St. James is hosting the event with funding from the school’s community council.
She learned about executive functioning skills five years ago while working at a residential treatment center, and she began using a self-assessment tool to measure the youths’ development of the skills. When she started her role at the high school in the fall, she realized the tool could come in handy again. She frequently spoke with parents who said their children were smart, but they were not performing well in school.
“They knew something was wrong but they couldn’t really pinpoint it,” she said.
St. James brought out her self-assessment tool and worked with the students and their parents to determine where the student was lacking skills. Once St. James and the families came up with ways to improve the skills, St. James said parents noticed a difference in their children’s grades. St. James realized more people could benefit from the skills, so she asked Gandhi to teach parents, teachers and counselors.
He has a doctoral education in clinical neuropsychology and performs research in the fields of developmental psychology, neuropsychology, family systems and applied neuroscience.
St. James said at the core of executive functioning skills is accountability, a trait many teens are still trying to develop, she said. Students with learning disabilities are especially prone to having challenges developing these skills, St. James said.
She hopes parents who attend the event with Gandhi leave with a greater understanding of where their student can improve, as well as what resources are available to help them create healthy habits.
A Parkite who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13 is giving scholarships and internships to three first-generation graduates from PCHS.