Classroom struggles are a familiar story. Many children find the intensity and variety of classroom sensations completely overwhelming. This feeling of overwhelm makes it difficult to concentrate and pay attention.
For these children, learning is more that simply a matter of trying harder. Generally smart, they often feel dumb as they struggle to keep up with their peers. Children know they‘re not stupid, but can’t understand why their work is never good enough.
They may respond by acting out in anger and frustration, or simply by giving up and tuning out. Classroom struggles often leave a child with feelings of poor self esteem and shame undermining their belief in themselves and their ability.
Early Development is the Foundation of Later Classroom Success
Your child’s classroom learning is supported by a good foundation of early stages of development. A simple assessment can look for gaps or immaturities. This helps us understand how to help children to reach their potential.
Addressing these immaturities early in a child’s school career can save years of frustration and lifelong struggles with reading and writing. This is particularly important before your child starts high school, when the learning becomes more abstract and intellectual.
An Wholistic or Whole Child Approach to Learning and Behavioural Difficulties
I offer an holistic, whole child approach to learning and behavioural challenges. Screening a child with learning and/or behavioural challenges, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD, one of the first things I look for is signs of Retained Primitive Reflexes.
Primitive reflexes develop before your child is born. They are automatic movements, and should inhibit naturally during infancy. When retained beyond the normal timeline, they can interrupt later stages of learning and development.
These automatic movements may be retained for a number of reasons. Floor play is the best way for your child to naturally inhibit these reflexes. Trying to rush them through this stage means they may miss some important early milestones. Stress and overwhelm can also contribute to delays in early development.
Retained Primitive Reflexes
Typical signs of Retained Primitive Reflexes include restlessness, clumsiness, poor posture and motor coordination difficulties. They may be linked to symptoms of ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia and other learning difficulties.
Your child will struggle to maintain a good posture for reading and writing, while their body wants to wriggle and squirm. A seemingly simple task of sitting upright in a chair with their feet flat on the floor can be extremely uncomfortable, causing the child to constantly change position.
If you feel that your child is unable to sit still and maintain focus, and is behind their classmates in reading and writing skills, then retained reflexes could be the problem. You might also notice poor impulse control, fidgeting, interrupted eye tracking, motion sickness, poor posture, clumsiness and anxiety about going to school.
Screening for Gaps in Early Stages of Development
All of the children with learning and behavioural difficulties that I have seen in my practise in the last 15 years have had signs of immaturities in natural stages of early development
A simple screening can identify if these automatic patterns of movement have been inhibited. Early screening of three to four year olds can help to identify issues before they become too entrenched. The next important screening age is at 7 to 8 years old, when demands for literacy, numeracy and abstract learning are increasing.
When we are able to identify the reasons why a child is struggling, it is much easier to help them. The result is improved learning in all forms, not only in the classroom, but in many other areas as well. This can include gains in reading, writing, spelling and written expression, as well as improved behaviour, emotional regulation, social skills, and better coordination.
One way to help is with a movement program that follows a natural sequence of development. The child is supported in repeating early stages of rolling and crawling, gradually progressing to more mature movements. This can free your child for later stages of physical, social, emotional and academic learning.
Retained Primitive Reflexes underlie many later developmental immaturities. They may not answer all of your child’s classroom struggles, but identifying and addressing them is a good start.