This post was originally intended to address Learning Disabilities. However, as I was writing this post, I realized that the information below in fact applies to any new learning as well. We all have specific ways of learning; we all come across attempts that don't give us the desired outcomes. Sometimes it is discovering the new successful behaviour, thought or belief and its repetitive application that gives us the successful outcome.
What does this label “learning disability,” mean? To so many with this label, and to those parents, siblings, friends….close to them, it means so many different things. The professional world uses this label to describe a process by which an individual has difficulty learning. Often these difficulties arise within the traditional educational settings for example, where information is delivered orally and taken in mainly through sight and sound. However, not all children, or adults, learn this way. Many children deemed learning disabled are kinaesthetic, that is to say, they learn physically. I have had children in my office who have demonstrated powerful learning through play, or art.
Human beings are “learning machines”, as we are "meaning making machines". It is impossible for us not to learn; it is essential for our survival. Even if we resist learning something new, we are learning something through our resistance. Perhaps we fear what there is to learn and therefore we may learn that learning is fearful, or that we like learning in a particular way, or that learning that particular thing commits us to something we are not comfortable with. We are still learning, however it is understood or made to mean.
There is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. Funny how our language sets up one word or concept for opposites. The opposite of success is often voiced as failure, and not as any other possible option. The concept of “feedback” as an opposite to success sounds like this; if we don’t succeed at the desired outcome, there is information (feedback) that something we did, thought, and/or believed, that doesn’t fit into the paradigm of the desired outcome. If we look at this as failure, then we make it mean something flawed about ourselves, and we might not try again. However, if we curiously look at the “failure” as “feedback”, it now becomes the necessary information to support us in getting that outcome. Then we are empowered to change the behaviour, thought or belief, and we can get what we want. For example, we may try to peel an orange with a potato peeler, having observed someone use a peeler on a potato. After several attempts, we get tired and frustrated, and give up on peeling the orange. We don’t ever get the sweet juiciness of a ripe orange. We might give up if we see that as a personal failure. However, if we get curious about why that action, thought or belief about potato peelers didn’t work on the orange, we may try to use an alternate utensil, or ultimately, our fingers. Aha…..success.
It is imperative to look at all life in this way if what we are after is empowerment in area we feel disempowered. All there is, is to learn the skills and obtain the resources we need to get what we want. If a child has what’s called a “learning disability”, “ADHD”, etcetera, then we can curiously observe for the circumstances that support their learning, the conditions under which they “forget” to not focus, the resources they have that they tend to lean on, and the resources they need to learn in particular settings. Then we can learn, and help them learn the behaviours, thoughts and beliefs they need to be successful in areas that challenge their natural way of learning.
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