Understanding Learning Difficulties and Challenging Behaviours

Starting school is an exciting time, and parents always have great hopes for their children’s future. However, for many children, life in the classroom can be quite overwhelming. This feeling of overwhelm may increase anxiety, resulting in learning and behavioural challenges.

These behaviours are often seen as signs of autism, ADD, ADHD or dyslexia.

Your Child’s Behaviours are Telling us a Story

Children’s behaviours tell us a story. They are your child’s way of expressing some really big feelings that they are unable to understand and find the words for.

A stressed child’s nervous system can be constantly triggered in the classroom. This continually interrupts their ability to focus and pay attention. Rather than using strategies and systems of punishment to manage behaviours, it is important to look behind these behaviours, and address the cause.

Smart but Feeling Dumb

Children I have seen in my practise may describe themselves as “smart but feeling dumb”. They know they’re not stupid, but don’t understand why they can’t keep up with others in the classroom. They feel dumb, and self esteem suffers. As a result they often become restless and act out though frustration, or shutdown and withdraw into themselves.

Learning and behaviour naturally improves when we are able to identify and address gaps in their early development, known as developmental delay.

Small Child as a Sponge

Small children are like sponges. Their senses are completely open to their surroundings, and they take in everything. Sometimes, however, these sensory impressions are too much for them to process, and they become easily overwhelmed.

These “undigested” sense impressions remain in the body and automatically trigger challenging behaviours. Your child is reacting as though the event is happening in present time. This behaviour is the child’s survival mechanism, a signal to us that something is wrong. 

Development Happens Sequentially

Your child’s early development naturally happens in a certain sequence (a follows b, etc…) and in a pre-determined order, with newer stages developing on top of those already completed. This sequence can be disrupted in a number of ways, particularly when your child has had stressful or overwhelming experiences.

You can think of this early development as a stack of building blocks. When the foundations are a bit wobbly, the whole stack can come crashing down. Learning and behavioural difficulties are the result.

Since 2005 I have been assessing children for gaps in their early sensory and motor development. These gaps represent the missing or “wobbly” parts of the stack. When seeing children I also look for signs of anxiety and restlessness, and their ability to connect and make eye contact with me. I may ask about friendships, and how they feel about school. 

My experience is that when we identify and address developmental delay, both behaviours and learning naturally improve. We are building firm foundations for your child’s lifelong learning in all areas, physical, social, emotional, behavioural and in the classroom. 

Counselling Sessions to help your Child

The first step is to accept your child for who they are, offering them a place of safety and trust.  This stable connection gives the child permission to rest, and the opportunity to learn how to gently regulate their behaviour.

I generally offer counselling support for both you and your child, . In the sessions we work on developing motor coordination, as well as your child’s ability to process sensory information.

A predictable routine helps to create a sense of safety. There is no rush, or pressure to succeed, and we work at your child’s pace. Feeling safe, the children learn to regulate their emotions and become less reactive. 

Playfulness and Acceptance

Playfulness and acceptance are an important part of your child’s learning. Sessions often include movement, craft, painting, games and puzzles depending on your child’s interests. The most important thing is that your child is able to relax and enjoy themselves.

Creative tasks such as baking bread can be immensely satisfying. As well as building fine and gross motor skills, your child has visible sense of achievement, and a growing awareness that “I can”.

Playing games helps your child build important social skills. They learn to take turns, to listen and express themselves and to regulate their emotions. Self esteem develops through achieving their own goals.

I use person-centred counselling skills to help your child process things that might be troubling them. Children may not be consciously aware of stressful events from their past. However, memories may rise to the surface in a session.

I will not try to suppress your child’s behaviour. Rather, my aim is to help them to become aware of  how they are feeling, and learn how to express themselves safely. We will often do this in a fun way, using sounds, movements, pictures, imagination, play and role playing.

Typically gains are expected not only in the classroom, but you may also find physical, social and emotional  growth. 

Healing Happens in Relationship

I believe that healing happens through relationship, and the most powerful therapy is human love. Children with learning and behavioural difficulties are often stressed and anxious. When your child is gently supported, he or she is able to feel safe and gain confidence in their own time. 

We can’t change the past, but by working together, we can help to create a better future.

The Next Step

My aim is to help you raise happy, healthy children, able to realise their potential and find their place in the world. The first step is to make an appointment for an initial parent consultation. We can talk about what is worrying you, and work together to create the changes you are seeking.

About Rosalind

Since 2005 I have been helping children with learning and behavioural challenges such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other sensory processing difficulties. I use an holistic, or whole child approach combining counselling with a development movement program, known as The Extra Lesson. This program addresses underlying immaturities in early development that are contributing to their learning and behavioural challenges. Sessions are available both online and in person at Moruya South Head.

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