The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain

By JoAnn and Terrence Deak, Ph.D

The first draw for any reader of this owner’s manual of the brain by Drs. JoAnne and Terrence Deak are illustrator Freya Harrison’s fun, stylistic and colourful graphics. The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain attempts to distill the basics of developmental neuroscience into digestible tidbits for curious teenagers.

While the concept and layout of the book are appropriate, this is a text to be studied in consultation with a Special Education, Family Studies or Psychology teacher rather than an accessible resource for the self-directed teen learner. The introduction acknowledges the complexity of adolescence and promises to help teens “interpret all the warning signs and prevent problems down the road.” However the bulk of the text would require a classroom teacher’s skillset to make the brain’s anatomy and processes understandable and relevant for most students.

There are a few quick experiments for readers to test their brains, as well as explanations about how hormones, emotions and sleep hamper or enhance brain development. There are as many eye-catching subheadings scattered throughout this resource as there are pieces of folksy advice. The tone seamlessly merges hip scientist with caring adult. The overarching message is that if you take the classic advice from adults— get sleep, persist through challenges, be patient and be careful with alcohol and drugs—you will probably get through adolescence intact. The advice is nicely dressed up with neuroscience and an easy glossary of terms.

Is it a must read? No. Is it a fun text to share in a Learning Strategies, Parenting or Introduction to Psychology? Absolutely!

About Nanci Henderson
Nanci Henderson is a teacher in District 24, Waterloo and is a member of the provincial Communications/Political Action Committee.

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