Neurosequential learning

Understanding the brain, to help children learn.

When you’ve felt frustrated or upset, has someone ever told you to ‘calm down’? What effect did it have? More than likely, you felt even more irritated.


When you’ve felt frustrated or upset, has someone ever told you to ‘calm down’? What effect did it have? More than likely, you felt even more irritated.


That is because the person was trying to reason with you before you were regulated and ready to listen. And that’s never going to work, because it pays no attention to the structure and organisation of the brain.

Wait a minute, how is the brain organised? 

Let me tell you about the Neurosequential Model in Education…


The Neurosequential Model in Education (NME) was developed by Dr. Bruce Perry and is basically a classroom-based approach to support children’s educational experience and help educators understand student behaviour and performance.


The model is rooted in support for children who’ve experienced trauma – but I believe it’s core principles are relevant to all children.


I like it because it’s a simple way to think about how we process information, and how we learn best.


Being aware that the human brain is organised in a hierarchical way, from bottom to top and that the lower regions can really impact on how we process information, was quite a revelation to me, in terms of children’s ability to learn.


A child must be in a calm and alert state – regulated – before they can make an emotional connection with us. Regulation and feeling connected and safe, happens in the bottom/middle part of the brain and is the foundation to engage the thinking brain (cortex).


Understanding more about how the brain works and how to reach the thinking brain is a great tool for not only teachers but also for parents.


It also helps us to see how the small daily interactions we have multiple times a day, can be therapeutic moments and that they can be more powerful then we think!


Dr Bruce Perry is a pioneering neuroscientist in the field of trauma. He has shown us that we need to follow a simple sequence to help children to learn.


I follow this neuro sequential model, often referred to as the 3 R’s in my Occupational therapy sessions and often share it with parents and teaching staff:


(Brainstem and mid brain, the sensory brain) we must help the child to regulate and calm their fight, flight, or freeze state by offering soothing comfort and reassurance.


(Limbic brain – the emotional regulation brain) We must relate and connect with the child through an attuned approach by empathising and validating the child’s feelings. This helps the child to feel seen, heard, understood and safe.


(The Cortex – thinking brain) We can support the child to reflect, learn, remember, articulate and become self-assured keeping in mind the importance of the two other R’s.

“‘Heading straight to the reasoning part of the brain CANNOT work if a child is dysregulated and disconnected from others.’
Dr Bruce Perry

Kris Grimm

Occupational Therapist
Occupational Therapist
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