“I’m not doing that!”
Written by Cheri Dotterer
What is causing the “I’m not doing that” response in students? Kids are innately adult pleasers who want to meet the expectations of the adults around them. It’s the wear and tear of everyday struggles that changes their hearts.
Many times, neurological slowdowns can make a child feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and anxious. Our brains learn that a task is hard, then the brain starts a fight or flight response called the Amygdala Hijack. It prevents the student from continuing their project. Refusals, verbal or physical outbursts, or withdraw follow.
The brain prefers to use a neural pathway that has already been paved. Although the job of the brain is to create new neurological pathways each day, it prefers to take the easier route, using the ones already established. If the pre-paved pathways are associated with negative behavior, a child will use those pathways despite it causing self-harm. Therefore, the next time the person does the same activity, the brain will take the route it already knows.
As occupational therapists, teachers, and parents it is our job to stop the Amygdala Hijack associated with writing. Re-routing the neural pathways will help you find breakthroughs, light bulb moments, and life-changing transformations for each child.
Finding a breakthrough in each child is different! However, the method of achieving success is through motor development. The only way to re-route a neurological pathway is to practice. Michael Jordan did not become a star basketball player overnight. Babe Ruth did not hit a home run his first time at bat.
Learning to handwrite takes practice. Re-routing a neural pathway in an average person takes a minimum of 66 days. Malcolm Gladwell says achieving true success is working at something a minimum of 20 hours per week for 10 years. Although a neural pathway can form in 66 days, it takes 10,000 hours of using it to achieve true success.
Compound that with students having neurological challenges. Their neural growth is magnified tenfold. That means they need to practice writing 100,000 hours to achieve success.
Be patient with your students. Give them the grace to achieve success! Change the negative emotional memory to a positive one! Each child was uniquely placed with you to achieve microscopic successes every day. Find them! Celebrate them! Share them in the comments so that we as a community can also celebrate them!
Share the methods you have found that work to re-route a negative emotional memory to a positive one. Make their brains work and find safety beyond the Amygdala Hijack to overcome the fear of writing. Have them practice! The only way for a neural pathway to grow is to use it! Teach them they can, and you will change their world!