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Boxes (Learning Differences)

Today, where has our wisdom to call things by “their right name” led us? During the past two decades we have become masters at calling things by their right name (label/box). Lets look at our ability to name learning boxes.
We are grateful to all those who have diligently researched and created many wonderful schools and learning centers to meet the needs of their students.   Today we have sophisticated boxes (Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Auditory and Visual Processing Disorders, Visuo-spacial motor and memory disorders, ADD, ADHD, PDD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, Down Syndrome, etc.) born from diligent and expert research.  Boxes (labels) really do matter, especially when they are applied to people.  The boxes were developed to help you, as parents, teachers, or fellow professionals find the right names for the challenges that are keeping the children or adults in your care from learning to their full potential.
Boxes matter because they don’t just express our thoughts, but can shape them as well. Often without our realizing it, the boxes (labels) can lead us in the right direction or lead us astray.  They can direct our eyes to truths we might have missed or hide important facts.  Boxes may affect how closely we look at a child or adult and what we see when we do.
Sometimes, these boxes can mislead us into viewing the box as the reality and the child or adult as the abstraction, instead of the other way around.  This is the tragedy.  We must never mistake the box for the child or the adult.  Even the most precise and accurately prescribed boxes can only tell part of the story.  Even children or adults who are diagnosed for the same diagnostic box, experience differences in learning strengths and weaknesses, temperament, life experience, and personality.  This can produce dramatic differences in their learning challenges, their behaviors, and their treatments.
Boxes are also important because they can cause us to view children or adults with learning challenges as diseased or disordered rather than as simply in need of varied learning experiences and further development.  Many times the boxes applied to children or adults with learning challenges sound like fixed and unchanging brain disorders, caused by irresistible forces that a child’s development and experience have no power to change. Yet the latest brain research demonstrates that brain development is an ongoing process that can be shaped and accelerated through the use of “targeted training”.
We now know that the nervous system has a remarkable capacity to “rewire” itself in response to the right stimulation and training.  By carefully targeting the signals the brain receives (through teaching, special training processes, or play), existing brain pathways can be trained to function smoothly, old blocks can be bypassed by the development of new learning pathways, and children or adults can learn to do things they previously found impossible. This is true for all learners not just the learning different child or adult. We can use targeted training to enhance and draw out the peak intelligence for all children and adults.
Most children and adults with learning differences are literally “wired” differently.  They use different routes of information intake, different techniques for storing and processing information, different formats for expressing information, and different patterns for interacting with the environment.  However, due to the brains incredible resourcefulness, in most cases these differences need never become disabling –unless we let them.  We now have the ability not only to meet many of the special needs that arise from these differences, but we have special learning approaches, strategies, and skill building exercises so they can learn and work to the best of their ability. This is why we must change the way we view the boxes (labels) —and the children or adults to whom we apply them.  We must see them as needing new learning experiences with the accelerated processes necessary to develop their capacities to learn and function at their peak level.
Yes, we have gained much wisdom in identifying the needs of those in our wisely named boxes, but we must at least remove the seals and the lids from those boxes allowing the individual needs of each person to be diligently developed until their true potential shines brightly.  If the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right name, then maybe the gift of wisdom is the knowing that there is always more to be discovered and honored about that “right name”.
“We are not permitted to choose the ” box” of our destiny.  But what we put in it is ours.”
Dag Hammarskjold (Excuse me sir, a little rewording was necessary.)