Chapter 1 Opening the "Black Box" One evening some years ago, I received a call from a young teacher whom I hadn't seen since she had left school on maternity leave. We had often talked about her hopes and plans for the baby, but tonight she sounded worried. "Jane, I'm sorry to call you at home, but I just have to ask for some advice about Tony. He seems very advanced, and I'm doing all the things we talked about--playing with him, talking to him, reading to him--but this neighbor of mine has just signed up for a course that advertises ways to raise her child's IQ by increasing his brain development. Should I be doing more? Can parents really help build their kids' brains?" Amy's call didn't surprise me, since over the years I have gotten the same question in many forms. The pressure on parents becomes more intense all the time. They come to my office wanting to do a "perfect" job despite the constraints of busy schedules, but they are confused by conflicting theories about child development and by omnipresent advertising for products that claim to make children smarter sooner. Confusion and guilt are inevitable: Am I doing enough? How much and what kind of enrichment does a preschooler need? What is the best way to teach reading and math--and what if my child is having difficulty? Should parents help with schoolwork? Can creativity be developed? How can we act as a child's advocate if school personnel aren't attuned to individual needs? What, really, is "attention deficit disorder"? How can we make kids more motivated? What about the child who doesn't "fit the mold"? These questions have never been easy ones, but now the science of developmental neuropsychology, integrating brain research with children's behavior and learning, offers some answers. We know more about learning, individual differences in abilities, and emotional development than we did even five years ago. Although no two human brains are alike and no one set of answers is right for every child, new information can help teachers do a better job and assist parents in making wise decisions--while confirming the innate wisdom of their own best instincts. An incident much earlier in my career makes me realize just how far we have come. I met nine-year-old Aaron when he tripped over me as he was entering his science class. As a visiting consultant, I was trying to be invisible, and apparently I had succeeded as far as Aaron was concerned. I began to suspect that this waifish-looking little fellow had a problem when he next bumped into the doorway, scattering a mass of smudged work sheets whose mangled manuscript letters would be an embarrassment to most six-year-olds and which bore the indelible marks of teacher rejection: "Messy!" "F." Ignoring my mission to evaluate the science curriculum, I watched him struggle to organize himself around a desk, dropping his pencil and fumbling through a tattered folder for misplaced homework. A discussion of space exploration immediately attracted his attention, and his skinny arm gyrated in the air, once more knocking his pencil, unnoticed, from the desk. Recognized at last by the teacher, he delivered a stunning exposition of rocket trajectories, fuel needs, and relative astral distances. I couldn't resist asking the principal about Aaron. "Has he ever had a neurodevelopmental evaluation? It sure looks as if something is misfiring when he tries to translate his good ideas into action." "Oh, no," he said. "Poor kid has an emotional problem. He's being treated by a psychiatrist. Believe it or not, he still wets his bed! His mother rejected him emotionally when he was born, and he's always had difficulty with schoolwork even though we can tell he's smart." "Well, you might consider looking further," I ventured. I was quite sure Aaron had some prHealy, Jane M. is the author of 'Your Child's Growing Mind: A Parent's Guide To Learning From Birth To Adolescence' with ISBN 9780385231497 and ISBN 0385231490.