This Tākai Kōrero webinar from 1 March 2023 features André Ngāpō, Hana Tuwhare and Deb Rewiri. They introduce the fundamentals of early brain development, share what's going on in baby's brain and discuss language learning in the first 1,000 days.
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Tākai Kōrero webinar: Te hinengaro mīharo - The amazing brain 101 (transcript)
Hihiri te wairua, hihiri te whenua
Hihiri te mahara, hihiri
Hihiri te aroha, hihiri te hinengaro e
Tēnei e mihi ana ki a tātou i tēnei ata. Ngā mihi nui ki a tātou. E kore e mimiti te aroha ki ngā whānau katoa kua taumahatia i runga i ngā mahi a te āwhā. I’d like to acknowledge and mihi to everyone i te ata nei, and also acknowledge our whānau that have been impacted by the āwhā nui huri noa o te motu, around Aotearoa. E kore e mimiti te aroha ki a tātou katoa.
Mōrena tātou katoa, nau mai ki tēnei wāhanga hou o Tākai Kōrero, nau mai, and welcome to our first Tākai Kōrero for 2023. Ko Maraea Teepa ahau. Thank you for taking your time out to spend your day or this time with us on our webinar, and a big shout out to all of you watching on our Tākai Facebook. E kore e mimiti te aroha.
This session will be recorded whānau so if you want to watch later and send it out to some of your friends or community and whānau, that will be available on our Facebook.
Engari, i tēnei wā nā te iti o te wā, with our little time and I thought we’ll just jump straight into our kōrero and really ruku into our kaupapa today. Today our kaupapa is Te Hinengaro Mīharo, the amazing brain, and what a kōrero to start off the year with, especially with the trauma that is happening to some of our whānau at this moment and this hopefully will support some of those conversations that you may be having with whānau.
Whānau have an enormous role to play in our pēpis’ amazing brains and luckily we don’t have to be scientists, we can just be tīpuna and people just walking on this whenua. We’re lucky. Simple things like waiata, kōrero and tākaro make up a huge impact of our brain and the growing brain of our mokopuna. Today our panel will demystify the brain. We’ll go over the fundamentals of early child brain development breaking down what’s going on in pēpi’s brain and discussing important language development in those first thousand days.
Let’s get through to the kaikōrero. Our first kaikōrero is André Ngāpō and André is a learning designer for Our Brainwave Trust Aotearoa. He is a registered teacher with 20 years experience. He’s also a pāpā, a great one I hear, too, and is studying neuroscience through Harvard i tēnei wā. Alongside his graduate diploma he holds a Bachelor in Social Science and a Diploma in Te Aupikitanga o Te Reo Kairangi, and a Diploma in Media Arts. E te whanaunga, tēnei ka mihi ki a koe.
Our kaikōrero tuatahi, we’re lucky to have Hana Tuwhare. Hana is from Talking Matters. She’s a community activator. She has trained as speech and language therapist. Awesome for us, te ao Māori, that we have a few of these in our midst. She’s a therapist and explores the role of whanaungatanga in her honours research with Massey University. She is passionate about combining her skills and supporting the revitalisation of te reo Māori, and from that is looking at how do we grow and create rich language communities and environments.
And, of course, we’ve got our beautiful Whaea Deb. Deb is passionate about connecting neuroscience to tīpuna parenting as science is just catching up to indigenous practises and pre-colonisation. As a Brainwave Trust Kaiako, Whaea Deb is around the motu working with whānau and whānau supporters. Whaea Deb has two tamariki and four whāngai, and four mokopuna and I’m sure that that pool of whānau are growing everyday.
Tēnei ka mihi ki ō tātou kaikōrero i te ata nei. Engari, e kore e mimiti te aroha. As you may have known Crystal Pekepo and Hiraani were also going to be part of our journey today, engari, nā te taumahatanga, because of whānau commitments, were unable to come. They are in the Heretaunga area so tēnei ka mihi ki a rāua tahi, kāore i tae a-tinana engari kei konei a-wairua.
We’re going to get straight into the kōrero because that’s what we’re here today to do. To start our kōrero today I think we should go to Whaea Debs and maybe Whaea Debs hei huaki i tēnei wāhanga you could just talk about what’s happening in the brain for pēpi during hapūtanga.
Kia ora Maraea. Tēnei te mihi ki a koutou katoa. What’s actually happening shortly after conception, the neural plate is formed and then the neural fold. Part of this process is the neurons start gathering and then multiplying so there’s this explosion of multiplication of these neurons which are the building blocks of the brain. Because the brain comes off everything. We talk about what we think, what we feel. But more importantly I think the in-utero development, like our tūpuna looked at it in a way that to be hapūtanga was to be in a state of sacredness. They knew that that whole connection to whenua, ki te whenua, when we put the placenta back into the whenua to Papatūānuku, the pito, every single thing that happened to us within that birthing process was begun in-utero, and we call it Te Āhuru Mōwai, the Sacred Waters of the Womb and how that actually evolved and developed us into a human being.
The protection of te whare tangata was key and most important, so anything that the mother ingested, the environment around her had to be at a level of tau. But whatever she desired was actually brought to her. Back in the day if she desired Kererū or any of those other specialties that we gave to them and I always remember my grandmother-in-law, she’d always say to me, “What do you feel like?” I would say to her, “I don’t know,” and she said, “You just tell me what you feel like and I’ll go and get it,” or, “I’ll make the boys go and get it.” For me, that whole process was one of protection but, also, one of ensuring that our baby’s brain and the foetus was growing in an environment that actually nurtured and grew it, because anything that the mother ingests crosses the placenta line. That developing foetus has no way of excreting anything and so it was key and important for our tūpuna to have that understanding.
In a modern day context what does that mean? I remember young tāne, he said to me, “Kia ora whaea. I need to go home and make sure my hoa rangatira is feeling calm and from me, that I can get her what she needs and what she wants.” That is actually helping to encourage our baby to grow in a warm environment. I said, “Ae Ka pai.” He said, “Can I sing to the baby? Can I play with the baby in utero?” I said, “Of course.” Because oriori were sung to our babies at that developmental stage and so we know that as a culture that had language rich, was that the kōrero was always happening around us. There were oriori sung, there were pūrākau shared, the whakapapa was shared. I know from some of the kaumātua up here in the north, they just said the whakapapa was sung into the babies in utero so that they understood where they belonged, you know, from whose waters do you flow.
All the capacity of the Āhuru Mōwai, the sacredness of the womb was really, really key and important and I see it as so much more important now, and how whānau can actually help to encourage and develop that whole concept of Te Āhuru Mōwai. Kia ora.
Kia ora Whaea Deb. I think that’s the most important thing that you talked about is that Āhuru Mōwai space protection. Thinking about Te Āhuru Mōwai, te kūnengatanga from conception right to being in utero with their pēpi, and then we come to te ao mārama where our pēpi is born into this world. Thinking about being born into the world and we’re walking into a new space and thinking about, okay, what’s happening in the brain after birth. Maybe someone, André, you could walk us through what happens after birth, we’ve gone from Te Āhuru Mōwai and kua whānau tātou, we’ve been born into this new world and we’re experiencing new things. What is happening for our pēpi when they’re born André?
Tuatahi, tēnā koe e te kaiwhakahaere, e te kaikarakia Maraea, tēnā koe, and tēnā koutou. Tēnā kōrua ngā māreikura, Whaea Deb, Whaea Hana, tēnā koutou katoa.
As Whaea Deb said Maraea, our pēpi are developing those neurons, those cells, right from in utero from the earliest times and those cells which are storing and carrying messages through the brain and around the body, 86 billion of those roughly by the time a pēpi is born are formed in their brain. Those brain cells are all about making connections, about carrying and storing those messages and there are so many connections that are made through the experiences that our pēpi are having. Those experiences start in utero and then once they are born out into te ao mārama, of course what they are seeing and hearing, tasting and touching and experiencing is so much. Really, it’s a time of them reading and responding to their world, learning about what is this place, where am I, who am I, and as Whaea Deb said that happens right from in utero with the messages that our pēpi are receiving and through the environment that a māmā and pēpi are receiving. Out into this world they come and there is rapid development. Pēpi starts off with a brain that largely has the parts in place that we as adults have. If we look at their body, their organs are developed. They’re ready to go, they can suck, they can cry, they can digest food but of course there’s a lot that they need to learn about this world.
Therefore, they need adults who can guide them and lead the way and help them to experience or shape those experiences, the quality of those experiences and guide and nurture them. It’s a time of trial and error for them. If we take, say, the whānau might have a pōti, a cat, and enough times māmā or pāpā, whānau, says the word cat, pōti, ngeru, the child starts to associate that pōti with the cat and then over time of course tamariki being naturally curious and exploring, they learn soon what a cat feels like, what fur is, what hair is, and they learn what a cat smells like and what a cat feels like when its claws dig in. Maybe even because they’re so naturally curious our tamariki maybe even what a cat tastes like. From that experience they learn.
I think one of the things that I like to say Maraea when I’m talking about experiences for our tamariki is that the earlier the better. The earlier we provide experiences that are nurturing and loving, filled with ngākau aroha, the better for our tamariki. Later on we’ll talk about better late than never, also e hoa. Hopefully I’ve answered your question there. Kia ora.
Ka pai. He nui ngā kōrero, there’s so many things that we could pick up from there, especially from both of you and Whaea Deb and you talked about the kupu and pōti and ngeru, and Whaea Deb talked about oriori. Thinking about why the first thousand days, some people are actually saying the first two thousand days from a te ao Māori space, and Whaea Deb has answered that as that we’re from Te Kūnengatanga, from conception, that’s when we start our two thousand days conversation and how important brain development is in that.
Thinking about that Hana, why is the first thousand or two thousand days so important for brain development, e hoa.
Mōrena koutou. E mihi kau ana ki a koe e Maraea, anei te mihi ki a kōrua hoki ko ngā kaikōrero o te ata nei me te rā. E mihi ana ki a koutou katoa. In the first thousand days, āe, I just tautoko what’s been said earlier as well. Our babies’ brains double in size in the first year, so doubling in size is quite big for a brain. Eighty percent of our neural connections are made in the first three years of life so we’re laying down the foundations for the way that our brain is, or the architecture of our brain, are being laid down in those first three years of life, and we have a million neural connections being made every second. Our babies’ brains in those first three years, the first thousand days, learning a lot, growing a lot. When we’re thinking about 80 percent of our neural connections being made in the first three years we can see how much of that is happening so early on that has impacts for the rest of our lives going into adulthood.
The neuroscience coming out of Harvard affirms what our tūpuna have always known and practised, so tautoko what you say Whaea Deb around nurturing and caring approaches best support our brain development, and that’s best supported by collectives like our whānau, hapū, iwi, our communities. When we think about it from a te ao Māori perspective our pēpi are born with mana and tapu, so we can acknowledge the mana and tapu of pēpi by responding to them, noticing what they’re interested in, what they’re looking at and responding to them. This supports their language and their brain development.
During that first three years of life, those first thousand days, those first two thousand days, tamariki, they’re building their long-term capacities to think, to trust, to feel, to feel concern for others, to understand and construct ideas. These are all being shaped, it also impacts our future learning, how we build relationships with each other and also our health and wellbeing. The quality of interactions that we experience in those first thousand days have a big impact on our health and wellbeing later in life.
Language is one of the cornerstones of development. The research is showing that the amount and quality of language we experience in the first thousand days has a big impact going into adulthood. We’re often not thinking about language development in the first thousand days, or especially in that first year because we’re not hearing a lot of kupu yet. We often start thinking more about language when we hear those first kupu or we’re starting hear some sentences being said by our pēpi, our tamariki. Even as adults 80 percent of communication happens through body language so we communicate so much with our eyes, with our smiles, with our bodies, and as do our pēpi. It’s easy to associate communication with words and talking but when we think about communication more broadly, especially with our young ones who aren’t using kupu yet, we can see all the ways that our pēpi are communicating with us, reaching for interaction with us and when we respond to our babies reaching out to us for interaction it has positive impacts on brain development, on language development and especially when we’re thinking about sharing te reo Māori, so a lot of our whānau are wanting to share te reo Māori with our babies that also creates, it’s a protective factor so connecting to our culture, our language, our identity as protective factors.
We have a lot of language practises within te ao Māori and in te reo Māori that help us reduce stress. For a lot of our whānau who are experiencing a lot of stress at the moment, our practises like waiata and karakia all help with brain development with reducing stress with bringing us back into a relaxed state of mind where we can learn language. The awesome thing about waiata and karakia is that you don’t have to be fluent, there’s something that you can learn and once you’ve got them you can share them all the time. I really just encourage whānau to use what you know, recognise what you know in te reo and use that. Kia ora.
Kia ora e te hoa. That’s a beautiful segue into the next pātai we’re thinking about, you know, tikanga, reo and how do we relate that to everyday use and brain development and how it affects the brain or builds that brain up. Thinking about that, how does this understanding of the brain relate to our pūrākau and the knowledge passed down from our tīpuna Whaea Deb?
Kia ora Maraea. Āe, tika tāu. I was just thinking about an example I was given. Whenever a baby was born, a pēpi was born in the village, going back to our tūpuna time, they’d take the pūrākau out and… no, not the pūrākau. Anyway, one of the taonga pūoro and they’d bang it on the ground and say, “Anei, he mokopuna anō.” Thanking Papatūānuku for another moko born to the hapū, to the whānau. How does that inform us? Well, actually, the more that we feel strong within our cultural mores, the more opportunity we have to share them. I think as Hana said, whatever little you know use it because even if we don’t know fully what it is yet our tūpuna hear us. It’s always that context for us is that as much as we stand in the physical realm and in the scientific realm, for us, it’s more important that we acknowledge that there’s a wairua. There’s an aspect of our wairua that is significant for us and is connecting us to the ‘more than’ and that’s how other people who pray or speak to a spiritual being. But for us it’s intrinsic and innate in our cultural mores.
We talk about love and warmth and children who grow with warm, trusting, responsive and reciprocal relationships, and this comes from the Six Principles that we have and part of that process is knowing that this is why our tūpuna never harmed our babies. When I take this kōrero around the motu, people just say, ‘Oh, okay it makes sense.’ Because keeping whakapapa intently at the forefront it’s like, would we do anything to damage whakapapa? The correct answer is, no, why would we do that? In that, that is where protection is built, so that process of loving, warm relationships where we’re guiding. I just want to say in terms of the science we know that the coherence of the brain is determined by the coherence of the heart. The brain and the heart talk to each other, and we have so many whakataukī i te reo Māori that say that, actually, one doesn’t operate without the other. Growing these emotional beings because if I segue into the capacity of children to play, and play is about a human coming into being, to being really special. Yes, they’re learning how to become confident and learning competence through what they do, through playing in water, how do we know, like the young scientist experimenting with those aspects of play. What they’re doing is actually creating a practical perception of being through that process of play.
All this understanding of how we can simplify it in a way where whānau actually what we’re doing is creating an understanding with them so they have the building blocks because they are the experts, not us. We may have some information around why it’s important to build those foundations but, actually, unless we build a relationship with whānau then we’re not building anything. To build that first we need to actually understand where they’re coming from.
Mason Durie often talks about building capacity through a growth mindset which our tūpuna had and looking at the strengths of the whānau rather than looking at the deficits. We can look at the deficits but actually how we’re building the strengths within a whānau if we’re just focusing on deficits and so, for me, working in a te ao Māori process with the science is actually embracing all that we know but also simplifying the language. We may know transgenerational developmental heterogeneity but actually whakawhanaungatanga falls off the tongue far more easily and our whānau know what that means, exactly the same thing.
If we can demystify that science in a way that our whānau go, you know, I remember one kaumātua he said to me, “You know when you’re talking about that Oxytocin, Deb?” And I said, “Āe.” He said, “You’re really talking about love aren’t you?” And I said, “Yeah.” He says, “Well, let’s just say that aroha, eh.” I said, “Ka pai mātua.” For me it’s demystifying. If we can simplify it in a way using our pūrākau as really key examples then our whānau are going to be able to warm into it because what we’re doing is building their cultural context saying, gee, how awesome are we as te ao Māori that we knew this way before 1990, the decade of the brain. Kia ora.
I think there are some really good comments in there Whaea Deb just around the importance of play and actually we come from tīpuna that played all the time. We had Maui who was always playful and wanted to discover new things and his brain must have been huge because he was just so mischievous and playful. I think that’s one of those things around the reo and play because play can be so many things and I think it's about how do we support our whānau and influence them that playing is brain development for their tamariki and I’m going to throw that to you André. What are some simple ways for whānau to support them to play with their mokopuna and to acknowledge that this is growing my mokopuna or my child’s brain?
Tēnā koe, and tēnā koe Whaea Deb. He ngākau aroha is one whakataukī that we can take forward into all we do with tamariki. That’s a heart of love, a heart of aroha, a heart of compassion and generosity and kindness. I think sometimes it gets a little bit high stakes for some parents and it’s all about learning and it’s all about how as our tamariki get a bit older are we getting them ready for school and have they got the skills and the competencies that Whaea Deb said. Āe, tautoko, play in the first instance is a child’s world. Those everyday experiences that they have they’re actually building and developing that brain architecture that Hana talked about. As I mentioned, there are parts of their brain that come online and wired up and then there are others that they need to make connections through experiences to get those parts of the brain connected and wired for taking forward out into the world.
What do I mean by that? Well I’ll just grab out my model brain. One thing that we know from the science there are some things that we can glean from the science which kind of help us to understand. We’ve got our brain stem, which is responsible and monitors things like breathing and circulation and heart rate and those kinds of things. If I open up this brain here, he taonga tēnei, we’ve got our brain stem at the bottom – I’ll use this half – at the bottom here, and then we’re going up into what we call our limbic system which is a part of the brain responsible largely for emotions and memories. The kinds of memories that our tamariki have will potentially last and stay with them for life. So play, positive, fun, memories can really help to shape their brain. It’s also known that when we have strong emotions that can create strong networks or connections within the brain.
What are the kinds of memories that our tamariki are having is something that we can ask. In terms of other parts of the brain we’ve got the cerebellum there responsible for movement and coordination associated with that. As our children are playing they’re actually wiring up the different parts of the brain, they are wiring up that cerebellum in terms of movement and coordination. They are wiring up that limbic system with memories and the quality of the memories can affect, as Hana said, their wellbeing into the future. The brain stem, like I said, largely that comes online but the relationships that tamariki have with the adults around them also affect how that brain stem communications or works with the brain and the body. Everything has to go through that brain stem. All of the messages that we receive come up through that brain stem, everything that we touch the exception being what we see and hear. But all of the things to do with our body are coming up through that brain stem.
Keeping it simple for whānau, those everyday experiences are actually shaping and wiring a tamaiti’s brain for the future. I’ll leave it there because I’m sure Hana has got some great things to add as well. Kia ora koutou.
I think that’s the most important thing, keeping it simple like as Whaea Deb, as Hana and yourself has mentioned that it’s these simple things that you don’t have to go way over. It might be the same that playing a twist on kupu like ‘TaumatawhakatangihangakōauauaTamateaPokaiWhenua’. I haven’t done the whole thing but it’s a game, it’s play, it’s learning whakapapa, it’s learning kupu and stuff like that. Thinking about that and going to Hana and these are the playfulness of using your culture to grow that tamaiti brain is: what is the research telling us about bilingual, when you raise a pēpi that’s bilingual and what’s happening in the brain Hana?
Kia ora koutou. I’ll start off by saying there are some myths out there around bilingualism and how it can be confusing for tamariki when they’re hearing multiple languages. However, the current research doesn’t support this. Our pēpi and our tamariki are wired for learning language in the early years than at any other time in our lives. If our tamariki are struggling with language it might be because something else is going on and not because we’re trying to learn two languages. Our tamariki are beautiful at learning languages. The research is telling us that new-borns have a preference for the languages they’ve heard in utero, in hapūtanga, so they can tell the difference between languages even before birth. They’re picking up on the different languages, they’re tuning in to different languages. By the age of two they can match the language to the one used by the person they’re talking to, so they’re adaptive and they respond to whatever language is being spoken to them. If they know those languages they’ll respond and adapt.
When we’re thinking about when to start teaching te reo Māori or sharing our home languages or our indigenous languages with our babies, we can do this from utero, from conception even. At around to five to seven months or earlier pēpi’s started to gain control of their head and their neck and their tongue muscles, so that at this age, maybe a bit earlier maybe a bit later, they’re able to start mimicking the sounds that they hear most often. If they’re regularly hearing te reo Māori they’re going to start playing with those sounds, mimicking the sounds. Often some of those sounds that are difficult for us as adults if we haven’t learnt te reo when we were younger, those ‘ngā’ sounds or the ‘r’, the rolled ‘r’ sounds. Babies are playing with all of those sounds, getting used to them.
At six months they’re starting to understand everyday words that we’re using so even before we’ve heard, six months before we’ve even started hearing their first kupu or their first words, there’s so much language learning and development happening in there. Some of the benefits of bilingualism, or being able to speak two languages. When you’re bilingual you switch between two different language systems so the brains are very active, they’re very flexible. If you’re bilingual you have an easier time understanding maths concepts, solving word problems, using logic, focusing, remembering, making decisions, critical thinking skills and learning other languages. Being bilingual also supports maintaining strong relationships with your whānau, with your culture, with your identity and those relationships are a protective factor against stress. Being confident in your culture, your language, identity, is a protective factor not only in terms of maintaining strong relationships but also in being confident in yourself.
I’m not sure if this is the research or not but I definitely see it in our kura kaupapa kids who are strong and confident and you see how that is protective for them. I also see a lot of whānau who want to speak te reo Māori with their tamariki, they’re new speakers of te reo so they’re moving towards fluency themselves. As I said earlier it’s important to recognise what you know and hear that, but also having conversations within your whānau around your aspirations so not always focusing on what we don’t have, or the mamae or the whakamā but thinking about having a kōrero within your whānau. What are our language aspirations, what would we be proud of, who can support us in doing that and how can we share what we know? Having those kōrero within your whānau goes a long way. Kia ora.
I think that’s a real good tikanga that we can start with our whānau. It’s really important around acknowledging our own whānau tikanga around reo, around play, around how we want to whakatipu this kākano, how we want to grow our pēpi and grow with them as a whānau.
Thinking about that, Whaea Deb, also is to really think about how do we make these places and spaces available for whānau.
One more pātai and this is going out to you all, Whaea Deb, how do we make all of this real for whānau to participate or be part of this? How do we make this a whānau tikanga?
I think one of the first things that’s really important is premised off whakawhanaungatanga, we have to build relationship. There’s no sense in going with our lens of everything that we understand unless we have a preparedness to build relationship wherever the whānau are at. In that process what we’re doing is actually building a trusting, warm, responsive, reciprocal relationship with them. What we’re doing is modelling that. Then we simplify the language in a way that they can take it make it more meaningful for them, rather than thinking like, I’m the teacher, I’m the expert, I’m going to tell you how to get it right. In that context what we’re doing is we’re differentiating the knowledge and saying, we have more knowledge than you. How we want to do it, is build up their capacity to be able to engage because one of the key things that I’m noticing in this day and age, like, Te Kai a Rangatira. Our whānau used to always sit and kōrero and our babies, our pēpi, our tamariki were involved in that kōrero. That’s something that, with some whanau, has gone by the wayside but some of the whānau I work with they still do it, Te Kai a Rangatira. The rangatira is everybody within that whānau and their ability and opportunity to speak.
I think that’s an important aspect first and foremost. I’ll reiterate it again. We have to simplify the process. When I capture a moment and it has to be a teachable moment, when I see them doing something that’s beneficial I will point it out, rather than, ‘Oh, why did you do that?’ Saying like, I’m immediately making you wrong and me right. Well, have I got the answer for you? For me, simplifying the language, also finding teachable moment where we can pick up on what the whānau and observe how they are rather than saying, well, if you were more like this. Observe how they currently are and actually uplifting them, hāpai hoki them from that perspective.
I think this stuff is really about modelling what we do and what we know as educators in a way where they can take it and make it more meaningful for them. I was talking to a group just recently, a Samoan husband, Māori mother. I want to pick up on what Hana said. I said to the father, “Do you kōrero Samoan to your mokopuna?” He said, “Yeah, I do, but I thought it was wrong.” I said, “No, carry it on because these pathways these babies are building in their brain and we know they’re specific pathways and when they close off that’s why it’s harder for us as adult learners to learn language, different languages”.
And play and have fun. Childhood is an environment where we are building the foundation and we’re scaffolding up off it. For the higher learning process that we want our babies to have because they talk about, I say they can’t learn anything new off a device that they can’t learn from you. They look at me and I say, “You know these babysitting tools we use? Like the Playstation and all of that.” They look at me and they laugh. I said it might be helpful for a moment in time but actually what is it you’re saying to them emotionally when you’re not connecting with them?
I always talk about time in emotionally with your tamariki rather than time out and give them a device. Those whānau that know me they know like when I walk in the whare and I don’t growl them or anything, they just go, “I know Deb, I know. We shouldn’t be on these devices but I just need ten minutes.” I go, “Ka pai, it’s your whare not mine. I’ve given you the information you make the decision from there.” Kia ora.
Kia ora tātou katoa. We’ve gone into our Q&A session ināianei whānau, so if you have pātai we’ll try and answer them all and we’ve got a few pātai here. I go to Te Aroha Devin and she says: “Tēnā koutou mō ngā kōrero. Does anyone have any kōrero on learning a musical instrument and reading music as a form of expression in relation to brain development?” I’ll let you figure out.
Kia ora Te Aroha. There is a lot of research out there about how learning instruments can shape the tamariki’s brain in positive ways. You’re welcome to get in touch through our website. We can kōrero more about that. One thing I can say about reading and learning in general is that any learning does actually physically shape the brain and has an affect on the tamariki. What can happen is a skill that they learn in one area can be transferred over into another. We know that there’s a lot of connections between mathematics and music, for instance. That we know that there’s connections between reading and other skills. The simple answer is, āe, there is research out there and then another way to look at it as anything we do can be helping to build the tamaiti’s brain and which they can carry forward into other skills.
However, one thing I will say, you know that the tamaiti, especially in those early years, has a very what we call plastic or spongey brain where they have this capacity to draw in a lot and there are a lot of people out there that think, oh, I just have to squeeze in as much as possible in the early years because that’s like this real massive window of opportunity. We don’t have to force it e te whānau. We talk about play there are some whānau who think, well, my tamaiti has to do music after school on a Monday and they have to do karate on a Tuesday, and they have to swimming because they need to learn. Just have a think about the experience of the child as well.
That was going a bit sideways but I just needed to add that in as well. Kia ora e te whānau.
Sometimes the over-stimulation of the brain and as pakeke we forget that sometimes there’s that too much interaction and that the brain needs to breathe and have that time out.
Another pātai from Stacey Porter: “E tika ana te kōrero Hana, ka kapi te taringa ki te rerekētanga o ngā oro reo hei te marama tuangahuru.” I think e whakanui ana i ō kōrero Hana.
Maybe one kōrero from Aroha Lee is: “How can we describe what bilingualism is protective against – us, be as a protective factor?” Kia ora Aroha Lee.
Some of the other might be able to help me with this pātai as well. One way I think of it is, so Harvard University talks about toxic stress and toxic, so long-term stress has negative impacts on brain development, on child development. One of the things that some of us experience is racism. Racism can cause toxic stress and has lasting impacts on our tamariki and development. Anything that we can wrap around our tamariki that brings us closer to or makes us feel more confident in our reo, our culture and our identity is a protective factor. When we’re thinking about bilingualism and te reo Māori and celebrating that with our tamariki, creating warm positive experiences around being Māori, sharing our pūrākau are all protective factors. That’s probably the easiest way I can answer that.
This is another pātai. “My tamariki and I are autistic and have some speech development struggles. The only supports I found are for English. Where can reo speakers go for support?”
Pai te pātai. We have about four te reo Māori speaking speech therapists in the country. If you have any young rangatahi out there who are trying to figure out what to do with the profession and they speak te reo, get them into speech therapy. Maybe I can get in contact with you afterwards but there are some kaupapa around supporting whānau who speak te reo with Takiwātanga. I think there’s a big community in Gisborne that have a focus on that. It is hard to find supports so it’s good to find out who is doing that and then go from there. I think they’re starting to activate different people in different rohe around the country. Deb’s nodding her head, I’m not sure if she knows anymore. I can get in contact with Jessica after this as well.
Do you have some more kōrero Whaea Deb?
Just to the neurological differences that our babies are coming through with, and remember our tūpuna never looked at that as a deficit, they looked at that as something awesome. The explanation is that somebody perceives the world differently from the rest of us one of the explanations that I’ve heard. Generally now what we have are great support systems in place because it’s become a burgeoning challenge for a lot of whānau and how to work with that in a way that not only builds capacity for that individual child but actually how can the kura, how can the kōhanga reo, how can they wrap around this tamaiti in a way that they feel supported and part of the whānau system? But supported in that rather than sitting out on a limb on their own. I just think, yeah, everything that Hana said I want to tautoko. Yeah, look for your own local resources because they’re there in the community. Kia ora.
We’ve got a few more pātai, we may get to all of them. I think this is a comment, I think it could be. Angus Thomson talks about te ao Māori perspective on neuroscience, what is that especially with respect to diagnosis and deficit positions of mainstream?
Kia ora Angus. For me it’s always from a cultural context. We’ve always been looked at as a deficit. For me upbuilding our own whānau, our own hapū, our own iwi is to change the narrative from how our tūpuna thought about us within that context. I’m not saying chuck out the baby with the bath water. The science is actually validating what te ao Māori already knew. Part of the process for me is learning about the roro in a way where our tūpuna actually differentiated what the different parts were. I was recently at a tangi and we had a whole lot of taonga pūoro play. I was just listening to that sound vibration and I thought, gee, they really understood, clever.
Our tūpuna were so clever. They understood that sound vibration in a way that encapsulated a whole sense of memory and you know we talk about epigenetics from a science lens, but actually they talk about it through whakapapa. If you don’t have a narrative you don’t have a whakapapa. For me everything can go back to where we’ve come from and we bring it forward. How do we look at that? Well for me the uplifting of us is within a te ao Māori perspective because we have all the tools within that cultural framework. If anything, Western science validates that. That’s how I differentiate.
It’s difficult because in terms of the labelling of us as individuals or as collectives, we have to push back on that because the pushing back is saying, actually, we know or we understand where we’re coming from. Uplifting a whānau to hāpai hoki them is to be able to say, what is it you need from where you are right now? Here are some of the tools and it may be in a Western framework but actually more and more what we’re doing is integrating that into a te ao Māori world just to actually help frame it in a way where our whānau understand and feel like they’re warmed into the process rather than, well, this is how we’re going to fix you. Kia ora. I hope that’s helpful.
I think that’s really helpful Whaea Deb. Hei whakakapi i tēnei wāhanga. Aroha mai we didn’t get to all our pātai but Georgina we will get to that pātai because I think it’s a really important one around brain development and mental health and what does a bi-cultural lens look like. We will get onto that and support that to answer that pātai.
Engari, e te whānau, tēnei ka haere ki tēnei wāhanga and ka mihi ki a tātou katoa. That part of the kōrero is over, however, we’ve got a few rauemi that will support our kaupapa going forward.
We’ve got the baby wall frieze. Each panel shows some simple ways whānau can look at this and show different little pictures. Ali Teo is our artist who developed these but this is all brain development. I love to learn, waiata mai ki ahau, sing to me. These are simple brain development activities. You can get them in te reo Māori, te reo Pākehā, Samoan and Cook Island Māori. Go on to our website and order you your baby wall frieze.
Well here are some of our websites, our other rauemi.
Our baby wall frieze and also our Brainwave Trust Aotearoa website which is brainwave.org.nz and Talking Matters where they’ve got some beautiful kōrero and research from Moana Research and the Centre of Developing Child at Harvard University, alongside with some real rich kōrero which Hana is part of, little videos with our good friend Liz Harte around tīpuna parenting. Go and visit these websites to support the kaupapa.
Hei whakamutu ake i tēnei wāhanga tēnei ka mihi ki te tokotoru tapu o tō tātou paepae i te rā nei, ngā kaiwero i ngā hinengaro a te whānau. I want to acknowledge our beautiful panel today and the knowledge that they shared to us as whānau, as community and people that support whānau in this space. Tēnei ka mihi ki a koutou tokotoru, e kore e mimiti te aroha ki a tātou.
Remember there’s lot of rauemi on our Tākai website and the websites that we talked about but tēnei ka mihi ki a tātou katoa.
E te iwi, ngā mihi ki a koutou. Ka kite.
André Ngāpō, Brainwave Trust Aotearoa
André is Learning Designer and National Coach for Brainwave Trust. A registered teacher with over 20 year’s experience in primary, high school and adult education, he is currently studying neuroscience through Harvard’s online edX programme. Alongside his Graduate Diploma in Teaching, he holds a Bachelor of Social Science, a Diploma in Te Aupikitanga-ki-te-Reo-Kairangi, and a Diploma in Media Arts.
Hana Tuwhare, Talking Matters
Hana is a Talking Matters Community Activator. She trained as a speech and language therapist and explored the role of whanaungatanga in her honours research at Massey University. She is passionate about combining her skills to support the revitalisation of te reo from the beginning of life by creating rich language environments.
Deb Rewiri, Brainwave Trust Aotearoa
Deb is passionate about connecting neuroscience and tūpuna parenting, as science is just catching up to indigenous practices pre-colonisation. As a Brainwave Trust kaiako she travels across the motu working with whānau and whānau supporters. Deb has two adult children, four whāngai and four mokopuna.