The Teenage Brain: How Can Parents, Teachers, and Therapists Help Teens Succeed

Real Advice From a Real Therapist

We spoke with Kyra Minichan, head therapist of The Cognitive Emporium on how parents, teachers, and therapists can help teenagers succeed in school and in life.

Kyra is a speech-language pathologist with a master’s in education. She is a mother of two sons and strong advocate for building cognitive skills in the education setting. She lives in Tennessee and focuses on helping the bright, but struggling student.

This is what she has to say:

For Parents: Remember It Is Not About You

“It’s a mindset and paradigm shift in the way that we feel. We have to shake off our own feelings, for the betterment of our child’s emotional well-being”.
What does this mean? This means not making your teen’s problems about you. Often times, teens are not getting the help they need because the parent’s are not allowing them to get it. Why? Because intervention or seeking help can be interpreted as not only a character failure of the parent, but a failure of parenting itself.
What can parents do? Not project themselves onto the problems their teen is facing emotionally, socially, and academically. It means listening to your teen when they ask for help and being an active listener, so you can help your teen find the resources they need to achieve emotional and cognitive success.

For Teachers: Know That FINE is a Dangerous Word

“Parents come to me when their child has undergone an assessment by the school, and the school system deemed them “fine” – that their child does not get services. Those kids continue to struggle, because the school system does not test to see if there is a problem.”
What Can Teachers Do When a Student Is “Fine”: If you have a student who you know was tested, you know that there is a problem. Logically, a student would not be tested if there were no indication of an issue. It is important for teachers to openly communicate with families what is going on in the classroom.
What Does This Mean?: This means looking at a student’s homework, tests, and behavior in class and at home to get an understanding of the whole picture. If a student is working with a therapist, teachers should be in contact with that therapist and the parents so that all “players” are on the same team.
Closeup portrait young nervous woman biting her fingernails craving something or anxious, isolated on gray wall background. Negative human emotions facial expression feeling

For Therapists: Conduct Your Own Assessment and Make Your Own Diagnosis 


This means not labeling a child before you evaluate them. Parents and teachers can easily bias a therapists diagnoses with misleading or confused information. This is particularly dangerous as misdiagnoses further the cycle of pain teens with cognitive or learning disorders endure.


Kyra worked with a child who was labeled as having ADHD. The teachers and parents both labeled the child as having ADHD. Kyra conducted her own assessment and learned that the child had sustained a significant concussion. This led to a different treatment plan and course of action that included cognitive intervention. Following treatment, the student was able to obtain an ACT score high enough to get accepted into his college of choice. He is now in his third year without accommodations! A good diagnostician is critical in determining the right action steps and transformation.

During the teen years, the brain undergoes an enormous amount of change. Dendrites grow and connect to new areas, synapses are pruned, and hormonal changes cause brain activity patterns to fire in a number of ways. Along with physical change, teens must balance the pressures of academic, social, and emotional success. Any one of these factors can easily cause an adult a lot of stress. Imagine the effect on teens!
Parents, teachers, and therapists play a critical role during this time period. Each of these roles must work together with one another to foster the well-being of a teen. If one player is not working with the other three, the “tricycle” will not run. The open communication, open-mindedness, and desire to help are the key components all players must have to foster cognitive success for teens.
For more information on how to foster cognitive success for teens, contact Kyra for a 10 minute consultation at 615-757-3643 or by emailing
Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

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