Children whose bodily systems function “normally” tend to enjoy learning. These children most often willingly participate in many social and physical activities. In contrast, the child who lives with functional difficulties can find “normal” activities overwhelming. It is even likely that he/she avoids many of these activities altogether.
Usually the parents are the first to recognize a problematic situation because they witness changes or inconsistencies in their child over time. Unfortunately, children often acquire labels that are difficult to cope with, understand, or change from doctors, teachers, and other professionals involved in the child¥s life.
It is important to consider that because the body’s systems are interdependent; difficulties in one area can cause problems in other areas to arise. Therefore, it is also important to recognize a few facts about functional difficulties:
- Children express their frustrations in a number of ways — at home, in school, or both. These frustrations do not always clearly point to the underlying issues.
- It is possible to display many symptoms or few symptoms given any kind of difficulty.
- It is possible to experience functional difficulties in more than one system of the body.
Following are some of the most common symptoms of learning, concentration, and behavioral difficulties that can occur as a result of dysfunction in bodily system(s):
- Lack of Focus
- Lack of Patience
- Low self-esteem
- Poor spatial awareness
- Poor reading comprehension/poor decoding/dyslexia/reading avoidance
- Poor problem-solving or dyscalculia
- Illegible handwriting/hand and finger fatigue or pain/writing avoidance
Difficulties Involving One or More Systems
When one or more of a person’s bodily systems are unable to function optimally, tension accumulates — particularly in the muscles. This can be problematic because every task that we perform involves the use of our muscles; what is more, our muscles need to coordinate with other systems in order to perform any task. Most of our bodies systems are entirely interdependent and do not operate singularly.
From the motor and sensory points-of-view, the body is a receptacle for various inputs; in response, it produces various outputs. With any input that causes tension (e.g., very loud music), a different output will be produced (e.g., aggression or impulsivity or avoidance).
Unfortunately, these types of outputs come to be classified as “learning disabilities” or “behavioral disorders” because their root causes are often not investigated. From the motor and sensory point-of-view, we can begin to understand why symptoms of learning and behavioral issues correlate with how the body’s systems function in terms of input and output.
Following are typical examples of children who have difficulties involving many systems:
- A child with poor voluntary eye motor control can suffer from issues in reading comprehension (dyslexia), poor athletic ability, poor spatial awareness, high frustration, impulsivity, and a general lack of patience for or interest in reading, sports, or other activities.
- A child who has difficulty with fine motor activities will feel muscular tension during every task in which he uses his hands: writing, drawing, cutting with scissors, holding utensils, buttoning buttons, and so on. As a result, the tension that accumulates in his body will also cause emotional frustration, thereby affecting his moods and self-image.
Without proper training to correct these issues, such functional difficulties will not improve on their own over time.
To modulate one’s senses is to filter and interpret sensory input according to its significance to the brain and to the task at hand.
When a child’s brain does not have the ability to modulate sensory information, the brain becomes flooded with data. This condition is known as hypersensitivity. The flooding of input often leads to a lack of concentration, and can lead to impulsivity, aggression, avoidance, and/or many other symptoms. The effort required to cope with this flooding doesn’t leave much energy for other processes, including cognitive processes such as learning or staying focused. Hence, the child can be labeled as “learning disabled.”
When a child suffers from a lack of sensing ability, he will seek out strong stimulations in order to feel stimulated. Because his body will need the stimulation, his attention will be diverted from learning and other tasks requiring concentration. Like the hypersensitive child, this child may also display symptoms of hyperactivity, aggression, impulsivity, and so on.
It is important to remember that — no matter the difficulty — the child can display many different symptoms or outputs. But there is one bottom line relative to difficulties in motor coordination, sensory processing, or both: with proper training, these issues can be improved or fully resolved.
Dr Moshe Elbaum-Intelligence Integration.