Learning Problems? Look to Immature Neurodevelopmental Systems for the Answer

Sounds scary! Not really, here’s the deal. We are made up of neurological systems – that is systems in our body that process information we receive both internally and externally (through our senses for example), relay the information to the brain which in turn, sends the next set of instructions on how to respond back to our bodies. In a perfect world, this happens instantaneously and with organized precision. And, then again, sometimes, not so much….

Neurodevelopment is at once a systemic and hierarchical phenomenon. What does that mean? It means that while neurological systems initially develop in a sequential manner, they also develop with interdependence upon one another. An interruption in the organized development of any one system affects the development and performance of other systems and the overall functioning of the individual.  A student must be able to attend to academic study without being overly distracted by the needs of immature neurological systems. When these needs supersede academic focus, the student must develop compensatory measures (or sometimes shutdowns) to do the work at all. This can result in more effort and/or less successful output. Thus, academic “failure” or challenges may be a result of the student attending to neurodevelopmental priorities such as remaining vigilant to relative body position in space, feeling eyestrain because the eyes are struggling to work together, or protecting the inner ear from sounds that cannot be screened out of the environment – rarely the lack of intelligence or the unwillingness to learn.

For example, “inattentive behavior”  such as unconscious and continuous body movements, stretching, yawning, etc.  might be the result of undifferentiated reflexes or seeking a proprioceptive (sense of where one’s body is in space) boundary. In order to pay attention, the student must know where s/he is relative to their environment. If the body isn’t giving this information readily, s/he must seek it out, often unwittingly triggering reflex responses. Usually unconscious, often frustrating, and significantly stressful, this experience limits academic learning as well as social development and places demands for more energy on already weak systems.

For each immature neurodevelopmental system there are a variety of challenges that can occur. In that all these systems are interrelated, students will often have immaturities in more than one area, further limiting their academic progress. When neurological systems are immature, interhemispheric integration (organized coordination of specialized functions of both brain hemispheres) is also challenged. Academics as well as social interaction, especially as we get older, rely on fully integrated use of the neurological system.

Frustration, fear, anger and acting out are natural results of consistent academic failure caused by neurodevelopmental immaturities. If unaddressed, the inability to be academically productive, coupled with frustration, shame and lowered self-esteem can breed anxiety, depression, juvenile delinquency (in a search of belonging and a feeling of success in some venue), and a general belief that there is something wrong and bad about oneself. This is exacerbated by the fact that most often the neurodevelopmental disorganization shows up subtly, not an obvious “disability” like blindness. It is invisible except through behavioral and learning patterns that lead to detection.

The beauty and excitement of the HANDLE® approach is that it detects these systemic immaturities and gently, respectfully enhances, integrates and organizes the individual neurodevelopmental systems and the network as a whole. And it does so at any age.  As systems are gently strengthened, the student is able to perform related academic tasks with increasing ease. As the neurodevelopmental network strengthens, the student is able to integrate information previously confusing. They can “catch up” on the missed or inconsistently understood academic concepts. Once there is enough neurodevelopmental maturity to support higher level functioning, learning is no longer a struggle, but a welcomed process.

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