LEARNING PROBLEMS AND BEHAVIORAL CHANGES
The brain is meant for learning. It learns at its best from interactive experience and language, but what and how it learns in our day and age is to be seriously questioned, in large part because of the decline in number of children’s interactive experiences and reduction in quality of social interchange. Miraculously meant for language, the brain actually experiences a pleasure response when it has understood something new. According to Piaget, the only limit in learning is the rate at which the brain accommodates information. Our clinical experience supports that observation. Most people have seen how the learning/pleasure cycle works with young children. However, it is a lifelong operation and we must seriously question why it might appear to be diminished or even extinguished with certain children in the school setting.
The following cycle is the way we most often see behavior change with ineffective learning:
- Learning Curiosity – new information can cause passing confusion until it is processed (Assimilation*) and integrated into memory and operations (Accommodation*). The pleasure response of learning results and the child is enabled to operate at a higher level of understanding and skill. This is all normal.
- Sadness/Frustration – If the learning cycle is broken, confusion and disillusionment can occur and move rapidly into frustration, especially if time pressure is being applied. The causes are almost one or more of the following: perceptual problems; sensorimotor barriers; emotional distress from any source; inappropriate lesson structuring; and a few others. Grades begin to fall. If the cause is not correctly identified and a remedy applied, daydreaming, homework difficulties, attendance problems, depression, acting-out behaviors, and other affective changes often arise from the confusion. The child who is honestly trying (at least initially) and failing, knows he knows the material, but can’t understand why we don’t know that he or she knows It.
- Resentment – arises out of sustained, repeated failure and, frequently, being blamed for all the failures occurring (“poor study habits”). Labeling and name calling often occur (“underachiever”, “unmotivated”, “day dreamer”, “slow learner”, “lazy”, “goof-off”, etc.) all based upon the symptoms of the problems noted in Stage II. This frequently obscures the cause – and the search for the cause – of the learning/pleasure cycle breakdown. A recent trend in education called “Metacognition” is valuable in helping efficient and borderline children to develop better study habits, but does not address breaks in the learning cycle as we are considering here, thus further tending to lay blame upon some volitional process in the child. Good students who should be excellent learners get overlooked because it is assumed that they could, “do better if they tried harder”.
- Anger – the sustained confusion, sadness, depression, blame-taking, and hopelessness will result in acting out behaviors if support from family and school is not present and oppressive blaming or physical punishment is maintained. Delinquent behaviors can occur.
This spiral of deterioration can be interrupted at any stage but remediation must be aimed, ultimately, at the identification and correction of the dysfunction(s) at Stage II.
This is the model we are using at The Learning Clinic, through our sensorimotor assessment and interdisciplinary intervention.
* Terms used by Piaget