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Thoughts Traumatic Learning Disabilities

Thoughts Traumatic Learning Disabilities
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  Thoughts on Traumatic Learning FailureMyrna Orenstein, Ph.D. and Fred Levin, M.D.Published in “The Educational Therapist !olume "#,$"% &pring'&ummer "(()*. *ntroductionEmotional gro+th and development occur +hen learning and achievement proceed at a normal pace. The result o repeated ailure is over+helming to the sel $Palombo "((-%. Everyone no+s ho+ rustrating it is not to be able to learn +hen one +ishes to. &adly, +hen this occurs in school or on the /ob, there oten is no escape.This paper e0amines learning ailure rom t+o related vie+points1 neurocognitive'organi2ational, and emotional. 3s +e avor an interdisciplinary psycho4biological approach, our discussion is centered on speciic e0periences o individuals +ith learning disabilities $LD%, e0periences +e call “the chasm, a term irst used by Orenstein $"((-%. The chasm is e0perienced +hen a cognitive bloc is ollo+ed by a cycle o shame. 3s learning rustrations multiply, so do cycles o shame $Tomins, -5678 9ohut, -57-, -56#8 :athanson, -567%. Ethnographic research on learning ailure, coupled +ith clinical indings rom patients +ith learning disabilities, suggest that the chasm is a phenomenon that deserves attention. **. The emotional side o LD;hat e0actly is traumatic about learning ailure< ;ebster=s dictionary $-56-% deines trauma as >a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting rom mental or emotional stress or physical in/ury.> *ndividuals +ho are not a+are that they have LD $most beore diagnosis% may become traumati2ed +hen they e0perience learning ailures. ;e are unprepared or that +hich +e -  do not e0pect, and this leads to traumatic overload $Freud, -5"(%. The trauma o learning ailure may result in the ollo+ing conse?uences1 -diminished value o the sel, since the true cause$s% o the ailure are unno+n8 "blaming others in an attempt to protect the sel, thereby complicating relations +ith crucial caregivers8 )+ithdra+al rom those activities that +ould, in the right circumstances, be conducive to urther learning.The comple0ity o +hat happens emotionally +hen LD causes personal distress should not be underestimated. For e0ample, beore the diagnoses o LD, biological causes may be do+n played because the primary causes o learning problems are +rongly attributed to psychological or environmental actors. *ndividuals +ith undiagnosed learning disabilities oten assume that a change in motivation can turn ailure into success $i only they +ould try harder%. To mae matters +orse, parents or teachers may assume children +ho ail to learn /ust don=t care. 3gencies may blame the child and the  parents. @ltimately, +rong attributions can create serious ruptures in the sel4esteem o all1 the child, the parent, the teacher, and the therapist. "If I (the child) can't learn it must be my fault." "If I can't teach (or help) this child,  I'm a bad teacher (or therapist)." "If my child is failing, I must be a bad  parent."   Emotionally, acing one=s o+n LD may lead to grieving or depression. @ninormed people, +ho believe that neurocognitive la+s are hard4+ired in the brain, may not be a+are o the beneits o compensatory sills and strategies. They do not understand ho+ changeable or adaptive the mind'brain can be $Levin, -55-, "(("%. Moreover, those individuals +ith LD +ho develop successul ne+ learning strategies oten eel irreversibly damaged and intensely envious o others they see as having an easier time "  achieving. Psychotherapy can help these people restore and preserve their sel4esteem.***. Possibilities o change*n addressing >la+edness,> Daniel &iegel $"((-% states that >the mind is a process that controls the patterns in the lo+ o energy and inormation,> +here lo+ is >the change o something across time.> The term  flow  can be applied to learning because it involves changes in a number o variables, especially in memory. Paula Fu?ua $-55)% states that an >essential aspect o learning is the addition o something ne+ to an e0isting structure, producing a necessary change in that structure.>&imilarly, Fred Levin $-55-, "(("%, sees learning as the relection o  brain plasticity, namely, the updating o mind'brain databases. @pdating is acilitated by t+o sets o structures1 the declarative system, lead by the hippocampus in each temporal lobe, and a procedural system lead by the  brainstem basal ganglia and the cerebellum Thus, i the mind'brain is vie+ed as a change4producing agent +ith the  potential to create and capture learning, then it seems reasonable to assume it +ill retain at least some o this potential even in those +ith LD. The only ?uestion is ho+ to help individuals tap this vital potential.;e no+ there are many high achievers +ith learning disabilities. Aet in spite o their obvious intelligence, many do not eel intelligent and are reticent to admit and ace their disability. &uch individuals not inre?uently nod >uh huh> indicating that they are >getting it> +hen in reality they are not. *t +ill thereore help to e0plore the issue o shame, one small piece o a larger  pu22le, +hich e0plains at least part o the pain o having a learning disability.*!. The Bhasm and &hame )   An obviously bright  , articulate young woman in her twenties came into treatment because of depression and boredom. She eperienced her life as !going nowhere and without meaning. As treatment progressed, she eplained that her boss had  , several times , offered her a better #ob at wor$ but that she turned it down.  As she began to eplore her reasons for this refusal, she told of her fear of being eposed and humiliated because she $new that, although she could was able to learn in general  , she learned did this many new thing  s only very slowly. She could not stand feeling  so  stupid, and  she especially  she hated   feeling   publicly eposed  publically.  In other words, S  she had turned down the possibility of a #ob promotion because she believed that the new #obthis represented  a danger of  such eposure. Investigation into her feeling  s  stupid lead to her history of painful eperiences in school where, although  she  succeed ed ing  , she felt the chasm (!isolating mind free%e) whenever she saw others achieving more &uic$ly than herself . She could not bear !not getting it.this  mpathical l  y  c   onnecting  empathetically with this her    feeling  s of !not getting it  allowed her therapist  to help her  to understand this why  individual  she was forced to turn down a more interesting #ob even though  she was bored out of her mind .    , and   h   ow her fear of eposing her  learning difficulty inability to lear n seriously added contributed  to her feeling of that life having had no meaning . *hy she was depressed. (i.e., her underlying depression ). Ceactions to the e0perience o shame can be diverse. &ometimes, &shame e0periences are can be constructive and enhance uture learning. 3n embarrassment over ailure can lead to the reormulation o learning strategies. For e0ample, students +ho ail their spelling e0ams, but are not #  over+helmed by shame, might decide to put in more time studying or the ne0t one. Destructive or severe shame usually +ors against learning. E0periences o repetitive ailure seem to predispose to negative emotional eedbac patterns +ithin the mind that compromise achievement no matter ho+ bright the student or ho+ eective the therapist $!ail, -55#8 &ussman, -5658 Palombo, "((-%. One=s o+n disavo+al o the shame e0perience $asserting +e understand, +hen +e do not% serves as a psychological deensive unction that can deeply undermine the sel. For e0ample, people dont see treatment because they insist they really don=t need help.The patterns o destructive shame and deensive disavo+al oten ollo+ rom repeated, acute, and severe e0periences o cognitive ree2ing in association +ith shame. ;e call this cognitive ree2e the chasm , +hich reers to an internal $in the moment% temporary cognitive paralysis e0perienced +hen someone e0pects to learn but cannot $Orenstein "((-%. This ailure to meet internal learning e0pectations oten has a proound impact on sel4esteem. For e0ample, even the a smart student +ho aces a recurrent daily chasm because he cannot read even in the lo+est reading group $due to @LD% learns that humiliation and cognitive gaps go hand in hand. This The  pattern o recurrent chasms in the ace o high e0pectations on a day to day basis can seriously interere +ith healthy emotional gro+th.The ollo+ing inormation stems rom Orenstein=s research $-55"% on the impact o the chasm on imprisoned intelligence. People hate looing stupid to themselves and others. Diminished sel4esteem contaminates learning even in areas o one=s strengths. LD individuals may try anything to circumvent the shame hurdle. The  Follo+ing are some testimonies are rom Orensteins research sub/ects .  Their humiliation is tangible, and their memories o past ailure are hard to orget poignant1 


May 1, 2018
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