The plight of the learning challenged community is rooted in a communication breakdown. The neurotypical population fears what they don’t understand and the children and adults with cognitive dysfunctions don’t know how to communicate with the world.
A recent news item on EarthSky.org focused on the lonely story of the 52 Hz Whale. This is a single whale that was first identified by the U.S. Navy in 1989 with underwater recordings. This whale sings a song at 52 Hz which is way outside of the other whale songs (similar to the low notes on a tuba.) Therefore, it has no other whales that will communicate with it. It also follows a migratory path that is different from all of the other whales. The scientists are trying to find out if: it is the last of its kind; a cross between two different whales and therefore a one-of-a-kind; or is it a whale with a mutation that has ostracized it from the rest of the whale community. Whatever the case may be, this whale is forced to live alone because it isn’t able to communicate with the other whales.
Children and adults with cognitive issues often experience a similarly lonely experience. Early on, they develop coping skills (both positive and negative) to make their way through life. Almost like the whale with its solitary path that it travels, many people with learning challenges live an isolated life.
Some negative coping skills that are employed by those with cognitive dysfunctions include bullying or giving in to loud outbursts. Most people with learning challenges seem to be very introverted. This may not be by choice. Their inability to follow conversations or to put their own thoughts into words obstructs them from communicating with others. Shame also comes into play. Many children with undetected cognitive deficits experience cold criticism from teachers and peers which brings their social and academic efforts to a grinding halt.
On the flip side, some people with cognitive dysfunctions become overly extroverted. They use charm to hide their deficits. These are also the people who are better at finding work-arounds to forge their way through life. Many of these people find success as actors. Those that are good at delegating often find themselves in entrepreneurial positions.
There is hope for the learning challenged. Breakthroughs have been made in the area of neuroplasticity. We now know that with proper training, the brain can reroute and repair areas continuously through a person’s lifetime. Once a cognitive deficit is identified, training can begin to correct the deficit. A holistic approach comprising of cognitive training, emotional healing and behavior modification is necessary to bring the learning challenged into the land of the living.