by Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry Ph.D. in 1995, the BrainWise
Program, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, has been involved in the research and development
of curricula that teach children and youth essential emotional,
social, and cognitive skills through an innovative structured
approach called the "10 Wise Ways."
need these critical thinking skills to make better choices and
responsible decisions. When they have these skills they
have fewer problems. They understand other people's points
of view and they stop and think before they act. Without
them, children have no impulse control and lack the fundamental
social skills to function easily with their peers. Emotions
are powerful and children who are unaware of this power
can fail to see the consequences of their actions. They
are unable to communicate their feelings appropriately
or handle themselves in difficult situations. When this
occurs, they can make decisions that can ruin their lives.
are the children and youth for whom the BrainWise Program was developed and with more than 25 years of experience
working with at-risk youth and with a background in domestic
violence prevention, public health and education, Dr.
Barry was well prepared to create such a program.
Barry received her Ph.D. in sociology and has served as
adjunct faculty at the University of Colorado, the University
of Denver, and Regis University. Her professional background
includes work as a public health, school, migrant and
adolescent psychiatric nurse. As a home visitation and
school nurse, Dr. Barry counseled teen mothers, battered
women, victims of physical and sexual abuse, youth with
sexually transmitted diseases, truants, drop-outs, substance
abusers, suicidal youth, and the families of suicide victims.
Her work in these areas lead her to an understanding of
why the BrainWise approach in breaking a cycle of inappropriate
behavior is essential.
an in-depth research background of her own, she based
the program on the proven theory that cognitive behavior models
are essential in helping individuals restructure distorted
thinking processes. Dr. Barry's basic philosophy in BrainWise is a departure from accepted strategies of intervention
and "quick fix" programs that focus on rote
learning of packaged responses that do not teach children
to "think for themselves." These strategies,
which inappropriately assume that at-risk youth possess
the necessary foundation of thinking skills, do not provide
a comprehensive package of learning that meets the students'
The Beginning of BrainWise
Positive Life Choices®
1995, Dr. Barry and several instructors piloted the BrainWise
for Grades 6-12 to at-risk youth in Denver middle and
high schools. She served as the lead teacher, experiencing
first-hand the challenges facing teachers, counselors
and students. Daily classroom contact with inner-city
teens and feedback from teachers and other students helped
her make BrainWise a teacher-friendly and student-receptive
program, centered around a scripted curriculum designed
to make BrainWise easy to teach, even by peer educators
and community volunteers.
BrainWise materials were designed to be affordable and
reproducible, allowing instructors to purchase materials
with their own money if school funds are unavailable.
Learning- based activities were created for easy integration
into literature, history, social studies, and science
courses, as well as experiences and topics inside and
outside the classroom.
response to requests from mentors, counselors, and social
workers who work individually with youth, Dr. Barry developed
BrainWise One-on-One. After program graduates lamented,
"I should have learned this in grade school,"
Dr. Barry, again working with teachers and in the classroom,
developed BrainWise for Grades K-5. A companion piece
for parents and a curriculum for severely disabled students
have also been developed.