Is It a Learning Difficulty or a Matter of Perspective?

Filed Under (UnLearning Difficulties With NLP) on 11-06-2011

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The following case inspired me to share another important point: in some cases it isn’t a learning difficulty, but the [lack of] perspective of the person who appends the learning difficulty label.  Let me demonstrate.  The shortened wording of the enquiry I received follows: 

My 6-grader child writes backwards.  An example will be if I write a lower case d, I will write it just as the typed one.  He will first write the l and then the c to join it with the l to form the d.  I am concerned because I never had a challenge like that.  His writing is also untidy, which raises concerns in me about how he’ll fit in when he goes to higher grades.

…and here’s how I answered this mother’s concern:

I don’t see your son’s challenge as a problem for as long as he does write the d!  I’ve worked with children who don’t know how to write the d at all at your son’s age, which is a problem!  Where I do see a problem is in your perception of this situation.  This may sound cruel, but I don’t intend to patronize your thinking.  You say that you’re concerned because you have never had a challenge like that.  Since the way in which your son writes the d is radically different from the way you write it, you perceive it as wrong or at least weird, but a different way of doing things doesn’t have to be wrong – especially not if it does create the desired result. I’ll liken this to making coffee to demonstrate my point:

Some people make coffee by pouring the coffee, then water, then milk into the cup.  Others pour the coffee, then milk, then water into the cup.  For the purposes of the coffee being ready to drink the order in which people poured the ingredients doesn’t matter, as long as I have a cup of coffee ready for drinking.  Where I see your concern is in the fact that you noticed me pouring the milk in first and realized “wow, I’ve never seen that done before!  Is that wrong because I pour the milk in last?”

If this is the case, the problem will be solved if you accept that others have ways of doing the same things in a different order of steps.  However, if this issue is not the core of your concern, then I missed your point.

…and then I went on about untidy writing which is more of a problem, but which I won’t repeat myself on in this entry, because I’ve written about it here, here, and here.  The gist – and inspiration – of this article is that sometimes people are concerned about the fact that others do the same things in different ways, or don’t do them in the same ways.  And it is these different ways that the concerned tend to interpret as wrong or weird which inevitably raises the concern.  So if you’re a parent, family member, or acquaintance of someone who you think may have a learning difficulty because of how s/he does certain things, reexamine your perspective before you append the label to that person.

Do you have a similar experience or situation in life which you’d like an NLP perspective on?  Contact me.

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