"Major Life Learning Changes" and Getting Injured
Over the years, I've helped quite a few people with learning disabilities. Looking back, I've noticed several patterns. This article has to do with one of these patterns; the timing of when peoples' learning disabilities first appear.
The pattern? I've noticed that often, peoples' learning disabilities first appear in and around times wherein they are first being introduced to a new skill. Thus, people who struggle with math often begin their struggles in and around the times wherein they were first learning to multiply or divide.
How can you tell?
Simply ask them to recite the nine times table aloud and while asking them, watch their eyes. If you see a blank look, even for a moment, then this usually means this person has some kind of a disability with math.
Of course, the seriousness of such a disability depends on quite a lot of factors. Also, when, where, and how you ask this question can affect what you see. Even so, given that you ask the person with kindness and consideration, should you see a blank look, this look usually indicates a disability with math.
And reading disabilities?
Reading disabilities often originate in and around the time wherein children first learn to recite the alphabet aloud. Often, too, these disabilities begin during times wherein they first learn to the name parts of speech.
To see if a person has either of these injuries, simply ask the person to read aloud and to stop at the first adverb.
Here again, should you see blankness in the person's eyes as you ask this question, or if, as the person begins to read, or while trying to name an adverb, you see the person go blank, this usually means this person has some sort of learning disability with reading.
And what about people who struggle with writing?
People who struggle with writing often get their injuries in and around the time wherein they were first learning to print, or when they were first learning to write in script. In this case, I know this to be personally true. In fact, this is what happened to me. And ever since that time, from about my age six, I have loved to print but hated writing in script. More over, if you were to have watched my eyes while asking me to write in script, or to even write in a greeting card, you would, in all likelihood, have seen me go blank. Thus, in my case, I was wounded in and around the time I was first learning to write in script. Which brings me to the story at hand; the story of how I came to heal my injury in and around writing in script.
Why tell this story?
First, I would like to encourage others who suffer similarly to begin to explore their injuries in and around writing. So, although it can take great effort, most people can learn to see the beauty in writing.
Second, I hope my story suggests some starting places for other to begin healing their injuries in and around writing. In truth, then, once begun, you can never tell where these attempts will lead you. Look at me. I'm doing something right now which I've hated for most of my life. I'm writing. And I'm loving it.
Lastly, I hope my story will at least help people with writing disabilities to begin to allow for the possibility that they are not just "wired wrong" or "bad at writing" but rather, that they may simply have a BLock or BLocks in and around writing, a psycho-spiritual injury which has prevented them from seeing the beauty in writing.
Here, I am well aware that my words may provoke some people, in that many believe people can be wired wrong with regard to specific learning skills.
So can people actually get wired wrong, in effect, be "bad at writing" because they were born with a physical disability? In some cases, perhaps. However, if this were always the case, or even mostly the case, then how can people like me have not only learned to write but also to love it?
To be honest, I think saying people get wired wrong is simply an excuse for not knowing how to help. It's also taking the easy way out, and just not true most times. Moreover, people with learning disabilities deserve more than simply getting labeled or forced to repeatedly fail or taught to avoid these failures. Then, too, I believe most people do not have learning disabilities nor are they wired wrong, but rather, they have simply suffered from some shockingly abrupt personally painful event in which their ability to see the beauty in this part of life has become "BLocked."
What do I mean by "BLocked?" Well, unfortunately, I have yet to find a simple and effective way to teach this idea to people. A teaching disability? Perhaps. Even so, I believe I can give you at least some sense of what I mean by telling you the following story, the story about how I regained my ability to love writing.
Before the Injury: Learning to Print
Before describing the stage on which my disability began, I need to first tell you about what it was like for me before this injury, when I first learned to print.
Like many people, I learned to print in first grade, when I was about five. I can, in fact, picture myself in that first grade classroom. What do I see?
A little wooden boy sitting at a little wooden desk.
A little wooden boy? Yes. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I have sat as still as a board whenever I'm in new learning situations, especially in situations wherein the teacher is a woman who looks like she could be stern.
Why do I "sit still" though and not "nervously shift?" Fear, I guess. I witnessed a lot of beatings in my early childhood, mostly my mother beating my sister Teresa.
Bad as they were, though, what made witnessing these beatings even worse for me was that I could never understand why my sister was being beaten. Not that beating a little girl, or boy, is ever something which makes sense. Still, sometimes you can make a guess as to what may have set off the violence you are witnessing.
In my case, though, I never figured it out because there never was anything for me to see. My mother had schizophrenia. Eventually, then, I filled in this missing information with that my sister had physically moved in her seat.
Now think for a moment how this belief had to have affected me in school.
For as long as I can remember, then, I have believed that if I move while I'm seated or in fact, do anything which makes noise while I'm seated, then I am being "bad." Moreover, I have also believed that if I or anyone else moved or made noise while seated in a classroom, that they were even more "bad."
Now consider the fact that I was frequently asked to sit still for long silent periods in my early classrooms, and you can see how learning could be especially difficult for me. Add to this that at the time I was learning to write in script that I was young and still learning the rules, and you can see why I was so afraid that day in school. Not being sure of the rules meant that at any moment, I could do the wrong thing and not ever know I had done anything wrong.
Looking back, it's a miracle I learned anything in school. For instance, how I learned to love printing is still a major mystery to me.
I did though, and in fact, I still love printing. Perhaps, when I learned to print, for the first time, I had a way to communicate my thoughts silently and with almost no movement. Certainly, in my house, if you made any kind of noise, any sound at all, you might get a beating. Sometimes a physical beating. Sometimes a verbal one. And sometime nothing happened.
I did know, though, that if you made a noise, you always had to worry if you were going to get a beating.
Why the noise thing? My mother was like the brother and sister in Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher." She hated sound.
Looking back, I wonder if the children were allowed to make noise in that first grade classroom? I do know they were never beaten.
I also know, albeit mostly intellectually, that the woman who taught me first grade was someone who cared very much about little kids. How she once told my parents that they needed to get me to play more, that I worked too hard and never played.
God, image that. A teacher telling my parents that I worked too much and did not play enough?
I remember working hard to learn to print. In fact, I can still picture the paper with the three light blue dashed lines, within which you were supposed to learn to print. And I can also still picture sitting at my desk, in perfect silence, concentrating as hard as I could to print letters within those lines.
I also remember the teacher telling me I was doing well. No surprise, then, that I learned to love printing or that I still print well.
Why, then, did I not learn to love cursive writing as well? In fact, what made me so dislike writing in script that even in situations wherein writing in script would have been easier than printing I printed anyway? For instance, even in college, I printed my notes, even when I needed to copy long amounts of text such as when I needed to copy assignments from the blackboard.
Obviously, because avoiding the ordinary is a good way to know where your injuries are. I was injured in and around cursive writing, and I knew this
Thus, I avoided writing in script even when it would have been much easier, for instance, when I needed to take notes in college. No surprise, I sucked at taking notes in college. Or anywhere else for that matter. Unless I printed them, which of course, meant I had to write faster in order to keep up.
the Wounding Scene
As best as I can now see, I probably got my injury about cursive writing in or around the first or second week I was learning to do it. What makes me think so? The emergence I've done in and around my BLocks with writing. And because a representative scene emerged in me.
I am sitting at my desk in my second grade classroom, silently witnessing a heavy set woman instruct the class on discipline. How? By beating a little, six year old boy's outstretched arm with a long wooden ruler. Worse, yet, this boy had done nothing at all to provoke this woman. In fact, in the moments before the teacher beat him, he had been sitting as perfectly still and as silently as I had been. Not that there could ever be anything which would warrant such a beating. Or any beating.
What does this have to do with me learning to write cursively?
As he was being beaten, I was sitting perfectly still, and staring down at my desk, and through a piece of paper on which I was supposed to be practicing writing in script.
The Wounding Script
Now if for look at the scripted event diagram above and if you follow the red "P" Curve from left to right, you can get a pretty good idea of exactly how I came to have this injury about writing.
As you can see, this scene takes place in a classroom. I'm six and am sitting about four seats back in the middle of three rows of wooden seats.
This is my second grade classroom, and I can picture it being about mid morning on a sunny Fall day.
Can you picture this scene? We are about twenty or so perfectly silent six year old boys and girls, all nervously sitting at our little wooden desks on the second floor of a small Catholic school. And as the Mother Superior enters, the young nun nervously tells us to take out the work we had previously been working on, a manila paper on which we had been learning to write the alphabet in script.
Now while the Mother Superior tells the young nun that she is to go over to the corner and stand there while she talks to the class, we silently wait. And when the Mother Superior turns and begins to lecture the class about discipline, I see myself staring terrified right through that manila paper on my desk.
What did she say? I have no idea. I do know I was not really trying to do the assignment or if I was, that I was so scared that could hardly concentrate.
I also sense I was imitating the "sit perfectly still and make no noise" behavior I had come to feel might help me to avoid a beating. And as the Mother Superior began to walk up the aisle, my aisle in fact, I know I was staring through the page so hard that It's a wonder I ever reclaimed what I saw.
Then she stopped. At the desk of the boy sitting in front of me.
Then she asked him to stand and to hold out his arm.
I can not see this although I can imagine it. And when I heard the loud "swack" of the ruler landing on his outstretched arm, I also heard him begin to cry.
At this point, the Mother Superior became furious and she began to yell at the boy to stop his crying. Then, momentarily satisfied she had properly instructed both the little boys and girls and the young nun in how discipline was administered, she had a final few words with the young nun, then glanced back at us and silently left.
the After Math
What exactly happened to me?
Well, if you again follow the scripted event diagram, and if you read the primary keys, you'll see that I incurred several startling injuries.
For one thing, I came to hate that "swack" sound no matter what was being hit, and I would literally jump out of my skin whenever I heard it. For another, I began to react violently to little kids whenever I heard them cry out loud. In fact, for years, although I held this reaction in, I feared I would lash out and do the very same thing to them the Mother Superior did.
Finally, I hated most of all anyone who cried, "ow!" In fact, after I recovered from the startle I felt, I would silently call them "cowards" in my head, while at the same time, beating myself up for being so callous toward them.
And then there were the secondary keys, the things to which the startling energy of this scene got attached.
I hated manila paper, especially the kind of which coloring books were made. In fact, I remember my sister loving coloring books while I made fun of her for loving them.
Now, having done much work in and around this scene, I can see where I came to dislike coloring and that it wasn't even the coloring I disliked but rather the manila paper on which those coloring books were printed.
Next, I came to hate even more anything written in script, especially script which had been written above broken dashed lines. No surprise here. The whole time the Mother Superior was beating the boy, I had been staring through a paper on which I had written in script above broken dashed lines. Thus, whenever I saw script written above dashed lines, I, without knowing it, had been reliving much of what I had felt that first time; blank, scared I'd do something wrong, helpless, and alone.
Next, I hated four dashed lines more than five dashed lines. Ultimately, I came to see I hated three dashed lines even more. What's going on here?
The first set of lines I can see on the page are a set of five lines printed below the outline of an apple. Here, I can see and could always see that I had colored in the apple with red crayon, and then wrote the word apple in script on the dashed lines. Next, I can see and could always the outline of a blue colored bird, and below it, four dashed lines on which I had written, "bird." Finally, and I became able to see this only after it emerged during one of my healing sessions, I can now see a cat which I have colored in black crayon. Below it, I can see three dashed lines which never did have their corresponding word written above them. And during one of my healing sessions, I reclaimed what felt like my original though back then. I thought to myself that I don't like the color black.
So can you guess how much these things being charged has had on my life, and on my likes and dislikes?
The easy one is, I've hated writing in script and even hated seeing script. Thus, I remained stuck at the printing stage.
I also hated dashed lines and remember involuntarily filling in the spaces between them whenever I could. In fact, I felt compelled to fill in these spaces.
I also hated coloring books, and crayons, and people who colored. And I hated cats all my life, especially black ones. Thus, I hated Halloween decorations.
So Have I Healed Any of These Injuries?
So have I healed any of these injuries?
Yes. And the main proof is, I have come to love those things which had for most of my life been keys. For instance, I now love dashes. In fact, If you were to look through the drawings I've done on this site, you'd see a lot of evidence I love dashes.
What else? I now love cats. No surprise, I first began to love cats at about the exact same time I first pictured a black cat on that page I had been staring through.
And the color of the paper; manila?
Well, I now love the color manila too. In fact, I painted my office this color at just about the same time as well.
As for kids crying, I've literally helped dozens of people to hear the "words" babies cry, a language I come to realize is as expressive and beautiful as any other language, spoken or otherwise.
And I respond with ease to people saying "ow!" And with no effort at all, I offer help and sympathy.
Most of all, though, I have come to love italics. Translation: I now love script. In fact, I probably use italics on my site more than most web designers, in fact, whenever I want to emphasize a point. More over, I use these italics knowing most web designers suggest you do not use them on web pages as italics on the web can be harder for folks to read than normal characters.
Even so, because I now love cursive writing, I love italics. And because I now love so many of the things I came to hate in this wounding scene, I have much proof that I've healed this injury. How? Because loving the thing you previously hated is the best proof you have healed a particular injury.
Closing Thoughts On "Writing" Wounds
Have you a writing wound? Do you tell people you have just never been good at writing? And how do you react inside when asked to write something for work or to a friend?
If you, too, feel uncomfortable or worse, then perhaps there is more to your discomfort than just some simple inert inability. Perhaps you too get startled once long ago while you wrote or read or memorized the alphabet. Or perhaps you too witnessed violence on a stage on which you were learning grammar or punctuation. Or perhaps the kids laughed at you when you mispronounced a word or stuttered through a sentence or couldn't even guess at how it was supposed to be spoken.
Whatever the case, please, look again. And although you might now laugh at what I'm about to say, you may just be a great writer who has just not yet learned to love writing.
Finally, don't give up looking. You never know. And since you are never too old to heal a childhood, you are never too old to heal a writing injury.
Steven Paglierani is a writer, teacher, personality theorist, and therapist whose work on human consciousness is read weekly by thousands all over the world. He is the author of the first fractal personality theory; Emergence Personality Theory, and his mission is to make the world better for children by restoring and deepening their love of learning.