for special needs
Birgitta Sundvall, Sweden.
The last years of neuroscience shows that our intelligence
can be blocked by feelings like fear, sadness, irritation, anger
Today we know that feelings are something.
Feelings are tied to a mechanism, a substance called peptides. These
peptides move through the body to different receptors in the brain,
the nervous system, the immune system etc. If the feelings are negative,
different functions are affected.
Our brain is not like a car engine - good or bad.
It is dynamic and can develop in a stimulating environment.
Only words do not fire everybody’s intelligence. The
content is important. Our brain needs engagements, variation and
good feelings to develop. This is how we where meant to function.
The answer is written in our cells and thanks to fantastic scientists
we know this today.
My learning methods really developed from when I was a pupil myself.
My first years in school were very difficult. I could see the text
- but still I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t grasp the
content. I tried and tried but it didn’t work. I had to sit
there at my desk hour after hour, year after year, with empty, meaningless
words in front of me.
However, one day in secondary school a miracle happened. A friend
had promised to help me with my English grammar. We were out having
fun and happily we sat down on the grass. When I opened my book
I suddenly could SEE the entire page. Everything seemed so obvious.
After a few minutes I knew my homework without any help.
Gradually I learned to recognize this certain state, where I knew
that NOW I could learn. I found my own ways to learn. Later as a
teacher I recognized this problem in many pupils that had concentration
difficulties, and therefore often was disturbing the class.
The brain works in different frequencies that can be measured with
an EEG. These frequencies are called Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta
waves. In a relaxed and friendly mood the brain works in Alpha waves,
7-13 cycles per second.
This is where we have an effective learning process. It was this
state that I intuitively found in my early years at school.
Too many lessons are full with words and numbers, completely free
of feelings and engagement. Many teachers fool themselves to believe
that we only have time for “stuffing”. Many pupils drop
off and some become frustrated and disturbing in the class-room.
Through the years as a teacher I developed a learning system that
got all the pupils to grow, step by step especially in math, English
and creative writing.
Considering how the brain works it is important HOW we work with
the traditional school subjects to get the knowledge anchored and
then to retain.
I also strive to interweave meaningful content that will
awake kindness, hope and consideration etc. to make the pupils feel
Our senses must be stimulated in a good way to develop our intelligence.
We need to alter between the functions in the right hemisphere and
the left hemisphere of the brain, alter between analytic and holistic,
between focusing and defocusing and we need to be serious as well
as joyful etc.
With the right kind of music and good creative activities we get
the right atmosphere in the classroom for an optimal learning situation.
Today I give talks and seminars at different schools all over the
country about neuroscience and my learning system. In many schools
it becomes a complement to the traditional education.
In Sweden I was asked to help Andreas, 12 years old. He had refused
to go to school for three months and teachers, psychologists and
curators had tried in different ways to get him back - but he refused.
Finally his desperate parents tried to pull him to school. However,
he escaped to the forest as soon as he could.
Andreas told me he was the one most behind in the math book and
he didn’t understand anything.
His friends gave him hints and his teacher considered him to be
a weak pupil.
It was like an invisible wall that he couldn’t break through.
He had tried and tried and now he had given up. When I tested him
I realized that he was a very creative and a typical holistic child.
We tried different exercises and there - bingo!
Suddenly he was alert and concentrated.
A friendly and harmonious atmosphere is necessary for a satisfying
learning environment. It doesn’t work when we are under stress,
fear, tension etc.
Our breathing is important. A person under stress or fear is often
breathing the wrong way. It becomes a bad circle; negative feelings
build up and block different functions in the body.
With the right breathing exercises we find the Alpha frequency again
and the body starts to relax so the blockages can disappear.
I think that it has been especially interesting to work
with pupils with great difficulties like dyslexia, DAMP
etc. to prove that they in a short time can learn many things that
seemed impossible for years.
But of course I also worked with many “normal” pupils
because all pupils can advance much more - if we stimulate them.
And on the contrary - they slow down if we don’t.
more about the pupils further down.....(click