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The Biological Components of Learning


The process of learning is incredibly complex and involves the senses, emotions, cognitive processes, engagement, motivation and neuro-psychological and biological integration. The elements involved in aqcuiring a new skill or information are often taken for granted and assumed to be in tact. However, learning disorders and difficulties are actually quite common, affecting at least 20% of the population and many more are misdiagnosed as having behavioural issues.

Specific learning disorders may include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia and auditory processing disorder, but there are many people who do not fall into any of these categories yet they still have difficulties with learning. It is important to note that learning difficulties have very little to do with intelligence, and many people with high IQ's still suffer with learning challenges.

Whilst many educational therapies prescribe a top-down, cognitive approach to learning remediation, there is mounting evidence of the importance of addressing the physiological, bottom-up components required to pay attention, retain and work with new information.

Signs of a possible learning disorder include (but are not limited to):

- difficulties discriminating size, shape or colour

- reversals in reading and writing letters

- poor visual-motor coordination

- difficulty with sequencing and/ or remembering multiple instructions

- slowness and fatigue when completing age-appropriate tasks

- hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness or avoidance of tasks/ school

- disorganisation, confusion and a sense of overwhelm

- poor short or long term memory

- low self esteem and challenges with peer groups

- asking for things to be repeated multiple times

What you can do if you feel that you or your child may have a learning difficulty:

- Check the basics: eyes and ears - we recommend a behavioural optometry assessment as a thorough alternative to standard optometry and auditory processing assessment rather than a standard hearing test

- Address any sleep and nutritional disorders. Fatigue from insomnia or nutritional deficiencies will make it extremely difficult for the brain to function optimally for learning. If you or your child are chronically tired or unwell, seek advice from a suitably qualified naturopath or your trusted health care professional.

- If coordination, physical pain and/ or structural alignment are a concern, we recommend consulting an osteopath or chiropractor. This is particularly important if there were birth, feeding and/ or walking/ crawling difficulties.

- For sensory integration issues such as sensory seeking (constant movement/ hyperactivity) or sensory avoidance (dislike of clothing, certain textures, sounds, light and movement), we recommending seeing an occupational therapist.

- For anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, memory problems, behavioural issues and trauma, we recommend seeing a psychologist

When the body is in good health, the brain is better able to manage the process of learning. Often, once an aspect of physiological imbalance is addressed, everything else will click into place and learning becomes an enjoyable task. You may still benefit from top-down approaches such as tutoring, but these too will work better with an integrated nervous system.

As you can see, there are so many factors to consider when it comes to learning, but this also means that there are many options available to address any difficulties we may encounter. We are designed to learn, we are adaptable and have incredible minds and bodies. Neuroplacticity shows us that we can and DO change and create incredible new neural pathways to better develop in accordance with our needs. So a diagnosis of a specific learning disorder, or an acknowledgement of a learning difficulty is not the end of the world, it is the beginning of an adventure that may lead you down paths you never even knew existed.

At Strength Resources, we provide workshops on educational therapy based on our experience in Kinesiology. We take an holistic approach, integrating structural, nutritional, emotional and environmental aspects to optimise wellbeing. We are passionate about providing practical solutions to enhance learning and performance.

For further information and upcoming workshops, please visit www.strengthresources.com or like our page www.facebook.com/strengthresources

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