Wrapping Your Mind Around the Brain

Authors: Hillary Keys, Early Childhood Consultant, Texas Deafblind Project, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: brain, neuroscience, learning, somatosensory system, cortical/cerebral visual impairment, CVI, resources

Abstract: Anyone interested in how children learn should understand how teaching impacts the brain and how the brain influences learning. The author provides examples of the importance for vision professionals to learn more about the brain. She also provides resources for study.

Perhaps the most complex part of the human body is the brain, making it “important for teachers and parents to understand that maturation of the brain influences learning readiness.” (Semrud-Clikeman, 2015). Everything teachers do changes and shapes students’ brains. When learning occurs, the brain changes, reorganizes, and grows neural networks (Cherry, 2022). Teachers of students with visual impairment (TSVIs), Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS), and teachers of students who are deafblind (TDBs) may not study the brain in the same detail as neuroscientists. However, to be most effective, they should understand enough about the brain to select appropriate strategies, design meaningful lessons, and optimize instruction.

For example, for students with cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI), a teacher’s understanding of how the brain works directly impacts their ability to help build consistent visual attention, integrate vision with function, and refine CVI characteristics (Perkins School for the Blind). For all students, understanding the somatosensory system (which includes the vestibular and proprioception systems), is an important component of learning. Whether the teacher is working on object identification, texture discrimination for learning braille, or using motor skills for any task including walking, way-finding, or sitting upright, that system is busy. It determines, among other things, temperature, differentiating tactile information, deciding how much pressure to exert when touching, where the body is in space and whether the body is upright and balanced or not, and whether there is any pain as the skin sends signals to the brain (Dougherty, 2020). Expectations for communication and self-regulation, choice of interaction strategies, and understanding a student’s readiness to learn should be based on understanding the student’s cognitive, emotional and developmental levels. Researchers from various disciplines outside of education dedicate themselves to understanding various aspects of brain development, and many share their findings.

Resources for learning more about the brain

This is not an exhaustive list of resources. It is meant to offer a cross-section of relevant and accessible information. 


Applications of Psychological Science to Teaching and Learning modules. American Psychological Association.

Cherry. K. (2022). What is neuroplasticity? Verywell Mind.

Dougherty, P. (2020). Somatosensory Systems (Section 2, Chapter 2) Neuroscience Online: An Electronic Textbook for the Neurosciences. Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. 

Perkins School for the Blind. (n.d.). Examining degree of impact and CVI phases. 

Semrud-Clikeman, Margaret. (2015). Research in brain function and learning. American Psychological Association. 

Previous Article

The Role of Vision Professionals for Students with a Visual Impairment Under Section 504

Effective Practices
Next Article

Inclusion: The Buzz Word that Always Matters

News & Views