Once when I was traveling in Europe, I heard some American tourists grumbling that things just weren’t the same in Europe as they are at home! “Of course not,” I thought. “Isn’t that why we travel to other countries? To experience something different?”
Most of us do like routine and predictability in our lives most of the time, but a little change now and then keeps life interesting – variety is the spice of life, and all that.
But some children (and some adults) are extremely inflexible. They are completely disrupted by change. Going out for tacos on Friday night instead of pizza may throw some children into a complete tailspin.
Why is change so hard?
Learning, social skills, and overall functioning are supported by numerous underlying learning/processing skills. The more solid these foundational skills are, the more flexible we can be. When there are weak areas in the underlying foundation, people can become rigid and stuck, because it’s too scary or may not feel safe to try something different:
- If I can’t process what you say, I have to stick with topics I know
- If my body is not in control, I have to stay rigid to be in control
- If I can’t visually process my environment well or fast enough, I have to dig in so I don’t have to feel insecure with new places or things.
- If I do things the way I always do, then I can predict the result. If I have to do something in a different way, I don’t know what will happen.
These rigid behaviors can look like stubbornness, defiance, or obsessiveness – and they are – but the behaviors are often rooted in weak underlying learning/processing skills.
At the most basic level, much of the communication flowing between the brain and body via our nervous system happens as a result of reflexes. Reflexes that are active when not needed or not active when needed, create glitches in that communication.
Unintegrated reflexes, or reflexes that are not working properly, cause stress to our whole system and push us into “fight or flight” mode. Spending too much time in “fight or flight” when we don’t actually need to be fighting or running for survival, can lead to rigid, anxious behavior and fear of change.
At a little higher level in the brain, auditory and visual processing, memory, or processing speed challenges can cause students to feel lost and insecure. Once again, sticking with what they know and resisting change is often the route these students take in order to maintain control.
Thankfully, we know now from decades of clinical evidence and research that reflexes can be integrated and the brain can be re-trained or re-wired to process information more easily.
Once the culprit underlying skills are identified and developed, the person can experience a greater sense of security and confidence. Strong underlying learning/processing skills contribute to mental flexibility and easier learning.
Making and keeping friends also becomes easier and more likely as kids are able to be more flexible, try a different way, and see other points of view.
Does your child struggle with learning, behavior, or keeping friends? These challenges can be changed. While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas. Behavior, confidence and self-esteem improve. Need to know more??
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