Imagine having a learning disability, and for years, never being able to do what other kids are able to do, or do it as well or quickly.
Kids want to please adults, want to be the kind of person adults want them to be. They compare themselves to others kids all the time. These are innate tendencies.
The symbolic self is the person a kid wants to be, and be seen as by others. Not being able to do what other kids do is threatening to their symbolic self, and frustrates their tendencies to want to please. Comparing themselves to others exacerbates the threat and frustration.
Believing you’re not living up to expectations is the formula for shame. It’s easy to imagine you won’t again in the future, and everyday tasks start become threatening – another opportunity to not live up to expectations.
The brain’s primary function is to recognize and protect us from threats. Kids start to react to school activities as they might life threatening events. They adopt the mistaken goal of avoidance of failure, and shut down, stay home, or even drop out eventually. Failing again is simply too threatening. It’s a mistaken goal because in shutting down, staying home or dropping out they’ll never get what they always really wanted.
The anxiety can become so intense that they literally plug into fight or flight. It’s why some run, some suck into their shells, and others coil, rattle and may even strike out with venom.
The shame and anxiety have to be addressed before our efforts to accommodate them academically can work. Otherwise, it’s like putting the cart before the horse.
One approach is to teach and encourage them to have Unconditional Self-Acceptance.
We need to help them see that they SHOULD on themselves, and LABEL and DAMN themselves, and that it just makes things worse.
Teach them to have an internal locus of control so they won’t be at the mercy of past failures, or others comments.