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The Science Behind Thrively’s Groundbreaking Strength Assessment

Dr. Jayme Neiman-Kimel and Dr. Jonine Biesman are two of California’s seven Board-certified pediatric neuropsychologists. Together they developed Thrively’s Strength Assessment, an online survey that allows children to discover their strengths. The results are a custom profile built to offer insights into a child’s dynamic personality.

With the incredible and exciting advances in neuroimaging that have emerged over the past decade, we now know that the brain is an extremely dynamic and adaptable organ that can become more efficient based on the experiences to which it is exposed. Its growth and organization is not fixed, but rather ever-changing. Thus, what we do matters! This is the basis of the recommended activities offered through Thrively including out of the box, cutting edge opportunities that not only contribute to the emergence of highly well-rounded children and adolescents but to healthier brains. Specific activities are recommended following a student’s completion of a thoughtfully designed strength finder that is engaging and fun to complete and highly informative for parents.

The science behind the Thrively Strength Explorer and Map is grounded in principles of life span development, strength-based research, the most current understanding of neural connectivity, the mechanisms of optimal brain functioning, motivational variables, as well as over forty years of combined assessment experience with thousands of children and adolescents. It is safe to say that countless tests exist to assess specific “domains of functioning” such as a student’s language skills, academic knowledge, and memory. While these measures provide information about an individual’s capacities as well as their areas of need; most tests that children and adolescents take do not generalize well to their day to day activities nor do they provide direction for enrichment.

The Thrively Strength Explorer formulated by Dr. Biesman and Dr. Neiman-Kimel, board-certified pediatric neuropsychologists, was designed by drawing upon their vast database and knowledge of existing test questions, problem-solving tasks, and brain-behavior relationships coupled with their understanding of personality dynamics, child development, children’s social-emotional needs, and real-life demands. As just one example, we get at the question of a child’s social acumen through a robust set of questions, each with many viable answers. All of this is presented in a way that does not signal anyone answer as more correct than any other. The result is an honest assessment of more than 23 different strengths. Thus, the questions were created to capture information across a broad range of areas essential to one’s functioning but are offered in a much more accessible, engaging, fun and interesting format than students are used to seeing.

Children and adolescents immensely enjoy learning about themselves. What distinguishes the Thrively Strength Explorer is its ability to tap into essential areas of a child’s life in a format that makes sense to them without being overwhelming. Self-awareness is a powerful gift to give our children. Surprisingly, many students when asked, “What is good about you?” struggle with this question.  To have a tool that is entirely strength-based is refreshing and innovative in the current world of assessment and fills a missing need in the library of tests available for children and adolescents.

Once completed, an individualized profile is generated from which directed activities are identified.  The activities offered may embellish upon already existing strengths as well as to nurture those areas that will help students become more versatile. We seek to optimize each student’s capacity to fully thrive – intellectually, creatively, socially, emotionally, physically, motivationally, morally, and neurologically. Appreciate these principles:

  1. There are an estimated 100 billion neurons in the human brain. The connectivity of these neurons is what makes us our unique selves. While these connections are to some degree genetically determined, experiences can also influence their optimal arrangement. The brain is in continuous formation throughout life.
  2. There is no question that motor development and cognitive development are intricately connected and do increase grey matter in the brain, so keep your children moving!
  3. Brain networks do not work in isolation. Neither should we. Affiliative activities are essential in development.
  4. Experience can change neural connectivity. Neural connectivity or large scale brain networks influence everything human from cognition to personality to motivation to emotion to our sensory and motor systems. You can be instrumental in shaping your child’s experiences.
  5. Take an interest in your child’s passions and nurture those passions above all else.  The outcome will be worth the journey!


Dr. Jonine Biesman



Without Passion, Kids Struggle


When we examine the essence of what Thrively is about, it boils down to passion. We help kids discover and pursue their passion in life. Understanding core strengths and connecting children with the right activities based on those strengths are a means to the end. As part of our constant self-examination, we look for research on happiness and success, in search of that secret ingredient to a thriving child.

Shawn Achor spent eight years living in the Harvard dorms studying that link between happiness and success. His research turned a fundamental assumption on its head. Society has longed believed that if you work harder, you will be more successful, and then you will be happy.  Shawn’s research found that to be reversed. He found that we are far more productive, 31% more in fact, when we are happy. So happiness leads to more efficient work, and thus to success. Not the other way around!

We also came across a study that may be more intuitive: that perceived ability is the only reliable indicator of continued participation in activities. In other words, if you believe you’re good at something, you’re more likely to stick with it. This is where a firm understanding of the core strengths of a child can help us provide critical guidance.

Obviously, there are no silver bullets to the challenges of growing up, but research clearly shows that when you find someone who has discovered their passion and has been given the freedom and encouragement to fully pursue it, they will feel a strong measure of self-respect, confidence, and determination to succeed.  And that’s why passion has such an important role to play for Thrively and for all of the families we serve.

Discover Your Child's Strengths


Watch this young boy turn nothing into something amazing!

This is a story that has gotten incredible mileage on YouTube, and for good reason. It is the ultimate illustration of how passion is contagious. When you watch Caine, you can’t help but think of the potential of a world where this kind of creativity and imagination is nurtured and celebrated everywhere, and even integrated as part of our core educational culture. Caine’s strength is his irrepressible imagination and his raw determination to see his vision through.

Another important notion that Caine’s pursuit drives home is that anything is possible, as long as there is passion driving it. It’s a cliché that we rarely get to see exemplified in real life, but there were multiple transformations in this story that we didn’t see coming:

  • First, the transformation of a seemingly bored but patient kid into an ambitious creator and true entrepreneurial dreamer – he clearly believed he was building something important, even if he had almost nothing to build it with!
  • Second, the transformation of pile of cardboard into a collection of make-shift arcade games.
  • Third, the transformation of a group of simple cardboard games with very limited objective pizzazz or anything resembling professional finish into an absolutely inspirational arcade with lines of paying customers around the block, a video with millions of fans, and a college scholarship fund in the six figures!

What sort of things have your children created with ordinary everyday stuff?

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