Challenging Behaviours and Learning Difficulties

At times, all parents feel at a loss to understand what their child might be needing from them. This is normal. The vast array of options to address a child’s challenging behaviours and learning difficulties can leave many of us feeling totally confused. 

Challenging behaviours are like the tip of an iceberg. When we look beneath the surface we can explore the reasons for the behaviour. For example, on the surface, we might see a restless and impulsive child. Underneath this, the part we don’t see, might be a child who is easily overwhelmed by crowds or loud noises.

Your child’s early sensory and motor development provides the building blocks for learning. When earlier stages are incomplete, children often struggle to keep up with their peers.  The result is not only delays in classroom learning, but also confidence and self esteem.

The programs summarised here may help to make things a little clearer. The aim is to address the “why” beneath the surface.

Parenting Support

Parenting a child with learning and behavioural challenges isn’t easy. Supporting you is an essential part of helping your child. Individual counselling sessions are your time to feel heard and understood, and we will work together to help both you and your family.

The Circle of Security Parenting program has helped many parents to build closer relationship with their children. This program is based on many decades of research, and will help you to strengthen secure family connections. You will learn how to read your child’s emotional needs, and how to support them.

The course comprises 8 weekly sessions, each 1 to 1.5 hours. These can be arranged at a time to suit you and/or your partner. Parent Feedback  has been very positive, with many commenting how this program has changed their lives.

Listening Therapy

Learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, are often linked to listening and auditory memory. You know your child can hear, but how well can they listen, and understand what they are hearing? Listening also affects the way we socialise, and poor listening can damage self esteem.

Restless in the classroom is often a sign that a child is struggling with auditory processing. The ability to listen is linked to their sense of balance, and you might have noticed that they need to move in order to listen. They may also struggle with emotional balance.

A program of listening therapy can make a big difference for many children. I use a program that combines music with movement to create a foundation for learning, attention, processing and behaviour. The child listens to specially filtered music through headphones attached to an iPod, allowing freedom of movement while listening. Parents report improvements in concentration and confidence as well as gains in reading and other classroom skills.

Reflex Inhibition Program

Your child’s early sensory motor development provides the basic building blocks for all later learning. Screening for retained primitive reflexes will identify gaps or immaturities in these early stages.

Normally inhibited in the first 12 months, when retained, these reflexes can interrupt all later stages of learning. A reflex inhibition program will help provide a firm foundation for later sensory and motor skills. This can be achieved with 5 minutes of simple home exercises, repeated daily, for about 6 weeks.

Once inhibited, these reflexes can return after stress or trauma. Given the stresses that children (and all of us) have experienced in recent times, it is not surprising that these reflexes could be recurring. Re-testing as children move through the school system can’t hurt.

Looking Ahead

Research shows strong links between learning difficulties, challenging behaviours, developmental delay and stress or trauma during infancy and early childhood. We have all experienced  the stress of bushfires and a global pandemic in the last 18 months. As a result, it is likely that we will see an increase in learning difficulties and challenging behaviours in many children.

Wouldn’t it be good if schools were able to offer a quick check for developmental readiness on school entry? This could identify the potential for learning and behavioural challenges before they become major issues. Children notice when they can’t keep up with their peers, and they don’t understand why. They become frustrated, often acting out, or shutting themselves away. Neither response is helpful for learning.

A short set of reflex inhibition exercises, practised daily, could have a major positive impact for many children. Likewise with listening therapy, which has been introduced very effectively in some schools.

NDIS Participants

Depending on the learning and behavioural goals outlined in your child’s NDIS plan, the supports outlined above can help your child achieve their potential for lifelong learning. They may be covered by your child’s NDIS plan.

Reaching Out

If you have any questions, and would like to know more, please give me a call.

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