"Talk with your child about their school day. Getting involved in unravelling questions that require more than a yes or no answer can help parents uncover how their child is feeling in school. Create more accessible opportunities for your child to discuss things with you, like while walking or driving when direct eye contact is not needed. Give them the opportunity to talk about any self-confidence/behavior-related issues at school," said Dr. Singh.
(This article was first published in Authority Magazine.)
School is really not easy these days. Many students have been out of school for a long time because of the pandemic, and the continued disruptions and anxieties are still breaking the flow of normal learning. What can parents do to help their children thrive and excel in school, particularly during these challenging and anxiety-provoking times?
To address this, we started a new series called ‘5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School.” In this interview series, we are talking to teachers, principals, education experts, and successful parents to learn from their insights and experience.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Vinay Singh. Dr. Vinay Singh is the founder and CEO of Orange Neurosciences, a social venture to empower neurodiverse people globally. A passionate educator, public speaker and author, Dr. Singh is currently an advisor and board member of several start-ups in Canada, the USA and India. He is an adjunct professor at Loyalist College and a New Venture Course Advisor at the Smith School of Business.
Dr. Singh holds a Ph.D. in biotechnology specializing in bioinformatics and an MBA from Smith School of Business, Queen’s University. He was an award-winning Professor at Queen’s University School of Medicine until 2016. He produced thirty-five high-impact international publications with over a few thousand total citations and five independent discoveries leading to over two dozen patents.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us a bit about your “backstory”?
I am a MedTech Entrepreneur who is passionate about changing lives. As a trained Biotechnologist with a background in Bioinformatics, Biophysics and Drug Discovery, I have always been passionate about transforming my research into much-needed products. When I first started developing products, I wanted them to reach people who need fast and affordable solutions. Currently, I am bridging the gap between early childhood education and mental health for adults who are struggling due to undiagnosed learning disorders and the absence of appropriate intervention tools. As a professor, I have personally witnessed the consequences of mental health challenges faced by students with learning disorders.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Every time I give a presentation about the technology we’ve developed, there’s a quiet parent in the room or an audience member that would reach out to me afterwards and say that they now know why they behave in a certain way or tell me that they are inspired to get a diagnosis. From this I’ve learned just how vital early intervention is, not only for children but well into adulthood as well.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Live Life like there is no tomorrow.” I enjoy the time I have in the present and put in the hard work not only today but every day. If I am not around tomorrow, I want people to know, care about and remember all that I have done.
You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I’m passionate and truly care about the work I do.
I get the job done.
I’m not concerned with what others think of me.
When I see something that bothers me or I care about, I take action. When I was at a crossroads of being a successful academic and fighting for a tenure-like faculty position, and doing things that mattered to me, I chose to do the things that mattered most to me without worrying about the consequences or being concerned with what people would think. I care about mental health and education for everyone. I know that I have the knowledge, expertise and skills to create meaningful solutions that will make a lasting impact on people’s lives, so I ventured on this entrepreneurial journey. It’s a long, arduous and lonely journey but the strength in me comes from the smiles and happy tears I see on the faces of students and parents who have used our products when they see transformational changes they had never thought would be possible.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our digital cognitive therapy platform, DigiCoT, is truly unique. It is an online gamified platform — not an app — with applications that address various neurological and mental health conditions. Because we use the science of neuroplasticity, these scientifically backed gamified exercises engage kids and they learn and re-train (or re-wire) their brains while completing each online session.
ReadON is our first product that helps neurodiverse learners become fluent readers faster than the traditional types of technical support. It works for everyone — whether that person has a learning difference, is simply struggling with reading and comprehension, wants to improve their English language abilities, has suffered a traumatic brain injury and more. Computer algorithms backed by AI help adapt the sessions as per the user’s needs. We have also released ReadONPlus to assess reading speeds and executive functioning skills in less than 15 minutes. The assessment can be performed regularly over time to help parents, teachers and clinicians follow the child’s progress.
Our current most exciting work is completing trials of Titli.ai, a digital cognitive therapy platform for Autistic people. Titli.ai targets core symptoms of Autism and can be used by parents at home, with or without remote supervision.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority about how to help children succeed in school?
The inspiration for ReadON began when I, then a university professor, recognized the challenges that post-secondary neurodiverse students faced with little-to-no additional resources available after the age of 15. I realized that early diagnosis and intervention for children with exceptionalities was vital to protect future mental health challenges as an adult. We felt that better options were needed for both academic institutions and for parents of neurodiverse children to help children succeed early on at school and grow later in life. We needed an inclusive, non-pharmacological and affordable tool that could bridge the gap between education and mental health, a tool that educators could use at school, therapists, and, most importantly, parents in the comfort of their own home. ReadON was born from that need.
I assembled a team of global experts in special education, computer engineering, cognitive neuroscience, ML/AI and others to create an accessible, affordable and scalable tool to create more enormous impacts, which was impossible through one-on-one sessions.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Can you help articulate the main challenges that students face today that make it difficult to succeed in school?
The pandemic has had a massive impact on students, teachers and parents. The move to online learning with the reduction in socialization, in-person support, and the added burden placed on parents is tremendously damaging.
But aside from the pandemic, there has always been a shortage of academic support for students with exceptionalities. Larger class sizes make it a genuine challenge for teachers to help all students in their class. At Orange Neurosciences we have all heard stories about teachers who spend the majority of class time with a few select students who need one-on-one time, other teachers who struggle to devote the necessary time to students with learning difficulties and Educational Assistants who are deeply concerned about the lack of tools available to them to help students.
Mental health concerns and learning differences are very real challenges to children’s success. Children today face a plethora of things that previous generations did not. Online bullying and the onslaught of shaming that they experience can create real mental health issues.
These struggles are not only at the elementary and secondary levels. As a university professor, I saw daily the challenges students faced in accessing mental health and academic support. That’s why we created DigiCoT and why we are providing this platform: to assist a wide range of neurological and mental health conditions to improve educational and life skills now and well into adulthood.
Can you suggest a few reforms that you think schools should make to help students to thrive and excel?
I don’t have the expertise to advise policymakers, however having said that I can certainly point out that if money is allocated to early intervention with children, it will do wonders in helping adults thrive in the future — when learning resources after the age of 15 are limited — and prevent future mental health challenges.
Here is our primary question. Can you please share your “5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School?” Please share a story or example for each.
Teach children organizational skills early. As they move through their academic careers, this skill will help them reduce the stress of completing assignments and exams. I have seen many young people in post-secondary who have still not mastered how to organize their time, and the consequences can be devastating to their mental health.
Be involved with the school. Visit the school’s website, be aware of assignments. Parents are better able to support their children when they are aware of what the expectations are. It also avoids last-minute requests for help with a project that is due in the morning. Talk with your child’s teacher to understand how your child is developing.
Provide a stress-free environment for homework. It can be challenging with limited multi-use space in our homes, but distractions are a growing challenge for our kids to overcome. Consider setting aside study-time at the kitchen table or planning trips to the local library for example.
Talk with your child about their school day. Getting involved in unravelling questions that require more than a yes or no answer can help parents uncover how their child is feeling in school. Create more accessible opportunities for your child to discuss things with you, like while walking or driving when direct eye contact is not needed. Give them the opportunity to talk about any self-confidence/behavior-related issues at school.
Understand reading is an acquired skill that can be improved and polished. Reading and writing fluency enhances self-confidence. Help your child learn to read. It cannot be understated how critical this skill is crucial to academic and future career success. I have seen so many students arrive in post-secondary classes who are ill-equipped to tackle academic work because their reading skills are not developed.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
Teachers shape the lives of our future citizens, but they are unfortunately working with limited resources. We need to equip teachers with the proper tools as well as the freedom to use them. Most people become teachers not because it’s a good “job” but because they themselves have had incredible teachers in the past who had impacted their lives. We need to both motivate and appreciate teachers to not only teach, but to also be role models to attract top talents to the education field.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-) How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can know more about us from our website: www.orangeneurosciences.ca. Readers can also sign up on the website for email notifications to learn about our upcoming products, to try free tools and to receive educational resources. They can also follow us on social media: @orangeneurosciences on Instagram, @orangeneuro on Twitter and also on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!