Monday, April 21, 2014

From Special Needs Blog: Your Child's Brain on Learning

Would you do this for me, please?
Take out your socks, and take out your cell phone, and with your feet, pick up your phone and call a number that you'd like to call.

Does this sound impossible?

It probably is.

As I say to any adult client who says "I can't do so... and so..."
I say, "Not yet."

You could learn to use your phone with your toes, but it would take learning.
You'd have to learn to move one toe separately from the other.

In your brain, you can see the toes, but in your body, probably, you can't move them separately yet.

This was once true with your fingers.
They moved as one.

And then you learned.
Call it trial and error.
Call it random movements that the brain organizes into meaning.
Call it differentiation.

Anat calls it the brain's ability to distinguish between Thing One and Thing Two.

Any time your child's brain can distinguish between Thing One ( say, her back) and Thing Two ( her shoulder, say), she has a clearer image of herself in a human body, and many many more options in movement.

And in thinking.


These lessons, for adults and children, sharpen our ability to distinguish differences and that ability is what intelligence is about.

As Anat has said many times in lectures at her trainings: " THE ABILITY TO PERCEIVE DIFFERENCES IS THE FUNDAMENTAL UNIT OF INTELLIGENCE."

In this chapter is the wonderful story of the little girl who didn't know she had two legs, and Anat's playful and creative way to break this little girl free into realizing she had two legs.

This week, in working with an Autistic child, whose mother had been taught a system of stifling her repetitive movements, which are called "stemming," I showed the mother how to simple place her hands on the child's knees, which were moving in and out, and simply ride along with their movement. As she did this she named what was happening, "Now your knees are out. Now your knees are in."

This did three things:

By touch and connection, and having her nervous system aware of what the child was doing, the child can begin to be aware that SHE is moving, instead of having the movement being unconscious discharge.

By having the mother along for the ride and speaking the differences, the child could begin to hear that language had a different word for In and Out, and perhaps in her body she could feel this difference.

Three: By approving rather than trying to control this action, the child could feel loved and accepted, rather than a machine that did ( for reasons that make no sense at all) SOMETHING WRONG.

The last thing a child needs, special needs or not, is to feel they are WRONG.

Think through your life and how awful that has felt when others or parents ( or even yourself) put you in that position.


The child needs to be exploring life as much as possible.
Stemming plus accepting touch plus naming turns what can be essentially mindless release, into one more chance for learning.

What is learning?
Finding a  Thing One and a Thing Two and noticing the difference.

And how can you help you child at any moment?
Find a Thing One and a Thing Two that you can both enjoy noticing/ perceiving.

And how can you become more mindful at any moment?

Come into the present, present with gravity, with light, with sound, with breath, even with emotional feeling. Find something slightly different, and go back and forth.

The light on the tree or the house.
The sound of the birds or the sound of the cars.
The feeling of sitting learning to the right and sitting learning to the left.
The feeling of sad when you don't breath and sad when you do breath.

If you really want to help your child, you are going to have to wake up.

This is a gift.
Not a burden.

A life not awake is a wasted life in many ways.

Don't take my word for it.

Play today with as many perceptions of differences in your life and your child's as you can find and see what the difference is.

Good luck, good cheer, good learning.
Better brain.
Better brain all the time.

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