Remember any ‘challenging behaviour’ we see begins in the child’s brain stem, the reptilian brain. Until we learn to think of ourselves as ‘brain whisperers’ – arousal regulators rather than behaviour managers – the child will not be able to learn, no matter how good the teacher is!
A child’s brain organises from the bottom up, & the higher brain region (the corticol brain, or thinking part of the brain) cannot work properly if a child has become over reliant on their lower brain regions – the limbic brain & brain stem.
This can happen when a child has been exposed to relational trauma. Very little information can get passed up to the thinking brain when a child has an overactive limbic system & stays continuously in survival mode. This child operates constantly in fight/flight/freeze mode & even ordinary, every-day events can signal danger to their brain.
Without us meeting the developmental needs of the brainstem, the other parts of the brain will remain virtually immune to teaching. Dr Bruce Perry, in his Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, suggests that a useful way to help a child move from fear & anxiety, into their thinking brain, is through patterned, repetitive & rhythmic activity. This can calm the brainstem over time & teach the brain & body that it is safe.
Such activities, facilitated & structured by a kind & caring adult, can include walking, dancing, drumming, tapping, singing, breathing, music & movement.