We usually think of learning problems or disabilities as referring to school or academic problems. However, many children who do well in school have learning problems when it comes to getting along with peers, learning various types of sports, learning how to regulate their appetites in order to reach their ideal weight, learning how to regulate their moods in order to enjoy life more, or learning how to get organized and make their lives more manageable and require less parental supervision.
I like to think of any problem as a learning problem. That is, I assume that either there is either insufficient reward, a developmental problem, or some combination of the two when a child is not learning a skill that they need to acquire. Fox example, if a child does not clean their room, it is possible that a parent’s providing a privilege or monetary reward would help them learn to clean their room more often.
If a reward does not work, then it could be a developmental issue. Briefly stated, a developmental perspective assumes that a child cannot learn certain things until their nervous systems and bodies have developed to a point where they are ready to do so. In spite of the best teaching strategies, we probably would not be able to teach even a gifted 7-year-old child to do Algebra. The brain’s abstract thinking processes have not developed enough to support the acquisition of such skills.
In his book, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry, M.D., details his work with children who have been severely abused and/or neglected. However, one of the outcomes of his work, the area of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) has implications for all children (see, for example, www.reclaiming.com and ChildTrauma Academy.com). Briefly stated, Perry and his colleagues have devised developmental rating scales that allow them to predict what interventions will work best for the child.
These interventions sometimes include verbal therapy, but they often include more basic means such as music, movement, breathing exercises, and drumming when the child does not appear developmentally ready for verbal techniques.
When I was a child, I was a good athlete. I excelled in baseball, football, basketball, and golf, but I did not learn to swim until I was 26-years-old. I tried very hard, and my parents provided swimming lessons for many years, but my development in this area was far behind my development in other sports, as well as in academic areas.
In brief, then, learning encompasses all areas of life, and some of us learn quickly in some others, and not so quickly in others. A thorough assessment of all of your child’s strengths and weakness should help you provide them with the intervention that is most appropriate for their developmental needs.
Remember my example with swimming, however, and be aware that your labor may not bear fruit immediately!