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Learning Differences and Life Experiences part 2

“Okay, so I thought your last post was interesting. Now what?”

I will preface this portion of the blog with this: if your child has learning differences, that does not mean they will turn into a psycho. Learning differences can create schemas. The Oxford dictionary defines schema as “a representation of a plan or theory in the form of an outline or model.” In short, schemas can help us figure out a narrative for how we fit into the world, and the world fits us.

On the note of trauma. In recent months, I have stopped using the word “trauma” as much and replaced it with “adverse” or “unfortunate” life experiences. Trauma is a buzz word at the moment and often is highjacked, overused, or misused. Plus, many of us do not like to think we have been traumatized. It seems extreme. “People in Ukraine are traumatized. Abused and neglected children are traumatized. Me, I’ve had a pretty good life. Everything hasn’t been perfect, but I wasn’t abused or mistreated. I’m haven’t experienced ‘trauma.’” So, I try to stay away from “trauma.” My general explanation for the reason most of us end up in therapy is that life is hard. Before we know it, we look like a bruised banana. Adverse experiences take their toll over time, and it’s helpful to have someone to process with. Interestingly enough, some of the most significant trauma work I have done has been with clients who would never consider themselves “traumatized.” I am obsessed with Gabor Mate. He says we all experience bad things in life, but it is only when we are left alone with those things and no support, that we experience trauma. The event was not traumatizing, but rather the aftermath.

Simply because a child has the adverse experience of having a learning difference, does not mean they will end up scarred forever. I will say, I think it takes a lot of support and intentionality by parents as well as the disposition of the child. Attachment is 50% genetic. In a study, they had people literally spit into a tube and analyzed it. The results showed that people with anxious and avoidant attachment styles had a biological difference than those with secure attachment. Parenting is not everything. I love what my dad once told me, “We can’t take the credit for your successes or your failures.” Sometimes, kids struggle no matter the support offered by parents and caregivers. All we can do is try our hardest and keep boundaries of “support” and “rescuing” well defined. Kiddos don’t need to be treated differently, they need to be treated appropriately. Some of the most brilliant people you will ever meet have learning differences.

Another thing to consider also with learning differences is enneagram numbers. Some numbers are more predisposed to these diagnoses than others. That could be a blog post in itself. I think it is incredibly important to know your child and their personality to differentiate what is pathology and what is your kid. It is equally as important for us as adults to realize the same. I think I will do a blog post on that. Enneagram wisdom is life changing to me. Hopefully, it can help you get to know yourself better too.

So, pathology and learning differences. I have seen the gamut of diagnoses that I attribute to have begun with feeling different in the classroom:

· Depression and poor self-esteem from not being able to perform

· Extensive daydreaming to the point of dissociation in an effort to escape

· Obsessive compulsive disorders arising from a need to control something

· “Conduct disorders” (a diagnosis I hate) because students “refuse” to be compliant in the classroom

· Borderline personality disorder developed from a fear of abandonment based on the nature of grades being conditional upon correct answers (no matter how much parents do not emphasize grades)

People get diagnosed with all kinds of things to explain what it is happening instead of seeing the behaviors as a self-protective response of self-preservation. Realizing the role of self-preservation is vital to understanding how to help yourself or your child.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) purposes that we all have “parts.” All these parts work together to protect us in life and help us survive. For adults with learning differences, these parts developed as children and have followed us into adulthood where often they have stopped being helpful and are now limiting. Identify these different parts and befriending them is critical for becoming the whole version of “Self.” Jung calls these parts our “shadow self.” It is not until we can embrace our shadow selves that we can embrace who we really are. Therapy helps with that. Our child selves worked extremely hard to help us survive. My grandfather always said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies” but neither is childhood. You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back to Mrs. Bell’s third grade classroom where I was slapped in the face with how stupid I was. I can still remember the shame of having to write sentences for not putting my name on my paper or striking out in spelling baseball. Shame. I didn’t stop seeing myself as dumb until I started strictly psychology classes junior year of college (and it took me a long time to get there). Imagine my surprise when I ended my master’s career with a 3.89 GPA. I’m still proud of that. However, not believing I was smart protected me. It protected me from rejection and failure. My, then, fragile ego could not have taken the blow of putting myself out there only to fail once more.

Another mode of therapy I have found to be helpful is EMDR. I wrote about this some in the first post. I have done over 100 hours of EMDR training at this point, and I am still amazing at the freedom it brings to clients. Because the premise of EMDR is the first memory of the negative cognition, it goes back to the beginning of pattern. Like a weed, you must be able to pull it out by the root to eradicate it. The dance of EMDR and adverse childhood experiences is like nothing I have ever seen. To be able to connect with the child self is healing in and of itself, but to be able to add truth to that is invaluable.

My next post will be about and explanation coping skills for parents and adults who identify with any of this.

10-4. Be kind.


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