Webinar Recap: Teach Lifelong Communication Skills Through Practice-Based Learning

We recently held a webinar with a panel of experts discussing mental health and the lifelong communication skills that educators and students need in order to thrive both in and out of the classroom. Additionally, the webinar focused on techniques for trauma-informed practices and how Kognito can help your school or district achieve its health and wellness goals.

Our panelists included Hailey Hardcastle, mental health advocate and 2023 graduate from the University of Oregon. Hailey’s perspective draws from her own mental health journey and advocacy work as well as her experience using a Kognito product. Dr. Glenn Albright, Co-Founder of Kognito, explained how childhood trauma impacts learning experiences, and suggested techniques educators can employ to create a supportive school environment. Nadia Stamp, PK–12 Product Manager at Kognito, described why Kognito’s practice-based learning is a game changer and how it positively impacts behavior and skills.

Continue reading for highlights of this webinar and watch the full recording here.

Early Intervention, Whole Child Approach, and Emotional Skill Building

The webinar begins with Hailey Hardcastle, a mental health advocate, giving an overview of who she is, what led her to mental health advocacy, and her connection with Kognito. Hailey’s mental health journey began when she was in kindergarten. Her teachers described her as a “worrier” but a pleasure to have in class. Later, they noticed that her anxiety heightened and she had become disengaged in the classroom. When her teachers and counselors pulled her aside to have a conversation about what was going on, she told them about the abuse she was experiencing at home. Looking back, Hailey describes how fortunate she was to have been able to tell the trusted adults in her life what was happening.

The emotional skills she acquired were part of a school-based mental health program. Hailey was able to access counseling and therapy through her school, which ultimately became her safe space. From there, she turned her experience into activism. When she was in high school, Hailey and a group of her peers began to advocate for improving the mental health landscape in their home state of Oregon. They passed House Bill 2191, which allows K–12 students to take mental health days in the same way they would take an excused physical sick day. The purpose of the bill was to equalize mental and physical health and help students who are struggling. As a result, Hailey and her peers started a larger conversation about physical and mental health being connected. Now, this is a law in 11 states and 9 other states have proposed it at this time. Hailey has also conducted a Ted Talk on why students should have mental health days.

When Hailey started college, she joined the Student Advisory Board at the counseling center at the University of Oregon. This was where she was first introduced to Kognito’s At-Risk Mental Health for Students. In the webinar, she mentions how scary it was when peers would approach her with mental health challenges, and she did not know how to respond to help them. She needed to build these communication skills and practice how to respond to someone in emotional distress. Kognito’s role-play simulation allowed her to practice those skills efficiently in a comfortable setting.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) That Impact Learning

Dr. Glenn Albright, Co-Founder and Director of Research at Kognito, discusses what Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are, the determinants of ACEs, and how they impact the learning experience for students. ACEs happen in the first 18 years of life and can be caused by determinants, such as a parent’s or another adult’s behavior in the household, such as the following:

  • Swearing at you
  • Insulting you
  • Putting you down
  • Humiliating you
  • Making you afraid that you would be physically hurt
  • Hitting you so hard it left a mark

ACEs are also caused by sexual abuse, a household member being incarcerated and/or a problem drinker, divorce, mental illness, or attempted suicide. According to the CDC, 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states had one ACE, and 16% had 4 or more. 30% had experienced two or more ACES by age 17.

Glenn discusses how the impact of ACEs and trauma affect students in the classroom. There are many emotional and behavioral issues that can stem from ACEs, such as:

  • Executive functioning (following directions, problem solving, etc.)
  • Memory systems
  • Emotional regulation
  • Concentration/attention
  • Learning disabilities
  • Social/behavioral problems
  • Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and substance use

Those with high ACEs also have an increased risk of suicide attempts and chronic diseases. More than 50% of K–12 students with learning or behavioral problems have four or more ACEs. Glenn goes on to describe how students can compensate for ACEs through over-achievement and resiliency.

Dr. Glenn Albright is also a Clinical Psychologist and describes how ACEs impact a child’s brain development. The brain makes more than one million new neural connections per second in the first few years of life and wires itself based on the individual’s environment. Check out the full webinar to hear more in-depth details about this.

What Makes Kognito Simulations Effective?

Kognito simulations use a learning model of evidence-based communication tactics drawn from components of neuroscience, social cognition, adult learning theory, and applied game mechanics. This involves Motivational Interviewing, a communication technique that creates a safe and nonjudgmental environment. Kognito training simulations allow everyone to practice and benefit from this technique. These simulations also allow learners to emotionally regulate, mentalize the theory of the mind, and experience empathy, empathic accuracy, or cognitive empathy.

Kognito simulations practice opportunities to engage with virtual humans in a safe environment. The instructional benefits of virtual humans include:

  • Allowing for a safe space to self-disclose and experiment
  • Encouraging increased engagement and openness
  • Decreasing transference reactions
  • Decreasing social evaluative threats
  • Addressing implicit bias
  • Working effective across races/ethnicities
  • Providing neutral appearances

Kognito has several efficacy studies that show a significant increase in self-efficacy or confidence to recognize a student in distress and approach them to talk about seeking support services. It was also found that students taking a Kognito trainings are more likely to seek help for themselves if they are feeling stressed.

How Does Kognito Work?

Nadia Stamp, PK–12 Product Manager at Kognito, explains what a Kognito simulation looks like and describes the goal of creating a safe and caring environment for students who have experienced trauma or distress.

Lifelong Communication Skills

Kognito products are developed to provide realistic scenarios that teachers, administrators, staff, parents, caregivers, and students face on a regular basis. Subject matter experts are involved in the design and delivery process to ensure our programs not only provide accurate and research-based information, but also realistic practice scenarios. The goal is to provide better opportunities for students to succeed in the short-term as well as after graduation.

Nadia highlights Kognito’s entire PK–12 Program Library, which includes training for educators, staff, students, parents/community. See our entire program library here.

Watch the Full Webinar

Want to hear more? Watch the full webinar today to learn more from Hailey, Glenn, and Nadia as they discuss mental health in schools and how Kognito is a game changer. Click here to watch the full webinar or contact us to learn more about how Kognito can help make an impact on your school district.

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