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Adult Integration Work Integration Waking to Grow Up

Difference is Strength

Learning and growing contexts for Atypical Learners and Thinkers

As a an adult working with children, it can be tempting to go into interactions with our young people thinking with assumptions of similarity. Parents assume themselves within their children and teachers will assume a “oneness” of the group, an average. Both of these positions are about starting from a place of adult comfort, which immediately closes us off, as educators to difference.

Discomfort can be an excellent starting place when working with young people, a search for uncertainty. This doesn’t mean removing our connection as similiar or together, it means starting from a place of curiosity and questioning.

Sameness

As a parent, holding our newborn or a child who we have welcomed into our heart, we look for ourselves, to feel ” They are like me!” Teachers do the same thing. When they meet a new student they search for the connection point as a similarity. We all know that the moment of sameness can make the connection swift and seemingly rich. It is a hard choice to not follow that comfortable path.

The discomfort comes from a search for our tribe, for ease, for equilibrium as our default; drawn from a belief of our Self as compared to the “typical” we were proffered in our childhood. From that point, our benchmark is what we know, what we think, what we feel and when the child is not matching those expectations we identify them as “atypical”, different.

Difference

The fear of difference builds on our concrete experiences of not being part of the group, our behaviour making us stand out; the desperate loneliness of that moment. That core muddy Self-identity is a powerful challenge when working with atypical learners, our shadowed fear of expulsion and abandonment sees us project the same terror onto the little person in front of us.

  • They are just lazy
  • They are not trying hard enough
  • They just don’t care
  • Why can’t they just do what they are told
  • Why can’t they…

Because they are themselves, not us. Not you. You are identifying their challenging behaviours as alien to you, through the lens of negative judgement.

Differentiation and integration practice

To best support, the children in your orbit who exhibit sensory, emotional, cognitive, or physical challenges, explore the notion of integration of the shadowed Self or expelled Other, who was different. These early binary judgments are important to identify and accept as part of ourselves. The steps to achieve this will allow you to explore your projections from both frames as we will be using the Binary Disruption process. Before you start you will need:

  • Your Awakening Journal
  • A pen/pencil
  • A safe space in which to write
  • 20-30 minutes uninterrupted

Centering

Stand and breathe deeply, in for 5 seconds and then out for 5 seconds – repeat five times.

If possible and safe, close your eyes and wrap your arms around yourself as you take these five breaths.

Keep two feet on the ground.

Hold yourself in this pose for 10 more breaths as you remember the most recent interchange with a challenging child, who demonstrated difference. Focus on the feelings their behaviour aroused in you.

Explore

Make yourself comfortable with some blank paper and a pen. You are going to finish the statements below, you MUST not edit your answers to be “nice” let yourself sit in your judgement state and record what arises first. Remember, you were a little child when you built these ways of seeing the world. This is your chance to unearth them.

1a Smart kids…

2a Good friends always…

3aTeachers and parents like kids who …

Now write the opposite

1bDumb kids …

2b Bad friends …

3b Teachers and parents don’t like kids who …

Review and Integrate

Now we will put these statements together and speak them aloud. Look at the groupings below and write the statements out again putting them together as below.

I am a smart kid and I …( answer 1a ) and ( answer 1b )

Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.

I am a good friend and I ( answer 2a ) and ( answer 2b)

Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.

Teachers and parents liked me and I am ( answer 3a ) and ( answer 3b )

Notice anything that arises as you read that aloud.

In your Awakening Journal, note down anything that arose for you, discomfort in your body, a change in posture, opposing statements and internal argument.

This practice can be used for the statements that emerge when you are working with your atypical little person. If possible, when a judgment about them arises, go and write it down so you can use the Binary Disruption process to explore both sides of the story in your mind. This does not mean that you are trying to ignore behaviours that are not acceptable to you, it allows you to hold both possible behaviours and consciously choose one, instead of defaulting automatically.

For the sake of the child you are caring for, so that you can understand the challenges they face. Stay in awareness of the integrated whole that is both possibilities.