Thankful? You bet your lucky stars you are! Sharing your life with a unique learner stirs an aspect of the heart that embraces compassion. People that live and work with unique learners know how the experience continually taps into all things “good” about human integrity.
The range of human emotions allows us the freedom to respond fully to certain experiences. Our entire body tingles with joy at the sound of a symphony, the site of fireworks and the feel of a warm evening breeze. The good feeling that results from these experiences is the foundation for thankfulness or gratitude.
Gratitude has been scientifically proven to produce many positive health benefits. A significant result is the release of three hormones (oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin) that quite literally reduce the stress hormone in your body. (Learn more in these two articles:
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good and http://www.saragottfriedmd.com/thanksgiving-what-gratitude-does-to-your-brain/.)
Thanksgiving is a time when we naturally think about what we are grateful for. Which brings up an interesting point. We often need a reminder to be grateful.
The good news is that an attitude of gratitude can be developed by intentionally building a habit of thankfulness. And it is definitely worth the effort. Gratitude has a positive effect on our relationships, our stress levels, and our health.
But gratitude doesn’t always come easily for unique learners. Some might not even think of it. Others may say whatever comes to mind – which can sound rude. Many unique learners might struggle with self-esteem or other issues that make eye contact and communication difficult.
Unique learners need our help to understand how to be thankful and what gratitude feels like. Helping our children develop an attitude of gratitude will provide lifelong benefits to them. Not only does experiencing gratitude in the moment produce lasting benefits, but also just recalling these memories and associated emotions helps restore the brain from periods of stress.
We need to teach our unique learners to feel positive emotions as well as create situations that produce those emotions. Gratitude is one of the most concrete and easy to explain human emotions. Start here. Not just what gratitude is, although this is very important, but also what it feels like. Try exploring emotions by asking your child, “Is it a feeling like the feeling of happiness?” “Do you feel happy in your tummy or in your brain or your heart?” “It’s nice to remember what happy feels like.” “Gratitude makes that feeling spread.”
All of us need to experience positive emotions (with “gratitude” scientifically researched at the top of the list, followed by the positive emotion of “love”) in order to counter the stress response. All day long we problem solve and make corrections and take another risk. These brave actions can pile up as stress. Trust me, your unique learners are very stressed.
For unique learners, there is just as much stress at recess and lunchtime as within the classroom structure. Sometimes they have no real “downtime” to take a deep breath. Believe it or not, even field trips can cause terror.
Gratitude, more than just speaking the words “thank-you”, can be a shared exchange of goodwill. It can be a tripwire that triggers a greater and greater spread of positive emotion. Not surprisingly, positive emotion impacts the ability of the brain to become more receptive to learning.
What can you do to teach gratitude? See the Strategies to Try article HERE.