Love: The Most Effective Therapy Part-2

Every individual in the world is unique in several respects. The same applies to students in any educational institution. Every student has unique needs especially those who are educationally challenged. These students learn very easily and with great interest if teaching methods synchronize with their needs. Educational experts and psychologists have discovered and developed various methods and strategies of teaching them. The aim of teaching is to provide an educational set-up where such students are able to reach their maximum potential.

There is a long list of different methodologies used by teachers to make learning as interesting and effective as possible. Some students are visual learners, others are auditory. Some use more tactual cues for learning.  A student learns better if the classroom is organized according to each student’s needs. The light, room temperature and cleanliness are important aspects. The teaching material and equipment must be readily available. Distractions must be as limited as possible so that students can concentrate on what is being taught. The schedule must be displayed very clearly. The instructions must be easy for the student to understand. Instructions must be one word, a short sentence or just a picture, sound or touch to start with.  Effective teaching requires multi-sensory strategies. Teachers are advised to use loads of colors and musical effects for various activities. The aim of teachers is to help and guide students to succeed and not to fail.

Volumes have been written by experts in this field. Recently, research has promoted Music Therapy as a very effective tool in education. Some experts recommend ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and TEACCH for students with autism. The Greenspan Floortime system of teaching special needs children is used widely with challenged students. Kindergarten and Montessori teachers have specialized methods of teaching children with Down’s syndrome and other challenges.  Pavlov’s studies on classical conditioning and Skinner’s studies on operant conditioning have informed   teachers to use strategies to control and manage the behavior of students aimed at reinforcing positive behavior and reducing unwanted responses. The list is unending if we go into details of methods of teaching.  Although every teaching method and strategy has its merits, they are not the panacea for all the problems of learning and behavior. A time comes when everything fails and experts are unable to resolve the situation. This is a time when a teacher waits for a miracle to happen.

In Emad’s (not his real name) case, the miracle did not come out of any volume of teaching methods and strategies. Emad was a 15-year-old special needs student. He was tall, thin and skinny. He walked holding both his hands forward in a stooping manner. Emad did not speak to anybody in his class. His hands and feet were always cold. He was not interested in any indoor or outdoor games. Emad needed total physical support to participate in individual or group activities. He would eat his snack very slowly without any interest in the food he ate. He drooled a lot and had to be helped to wipe has mouth. Emad was a perfect example of loneliness and retarded relationships. He had no connection with anybody around him

The teacher and the school’s multi-disciplinary team tried a multitude of methods and teaching strategies. Every technique of behavior management failed with Emad. No reinforcement appeared to work on him. A year passed. There was no improvement in Emad’s behavior. Every day was the same for him and the teacher. Emad required physical help from one activity to another. There was a total stand-still. The teacher was just waiting patiently for a miracle.

The miracle happened. One fine day Emad came to class smiling and in very happy and jovial mood. He spoke to everybody. It was a surprise for the teacher to see Emad connecting and communicating with all the boys in his group. Emad took interest in games and all the group activities. He attended the music session participating in singing the songs. He enjoyed eating his snack. The best part was that his drooling stopped. Emad’s gait and physical posture changed dramatically. Emad started walking with confidence moving his arms and legs in perfect rhythm.  His learning skills improved miraculously.  It was such a joy to see him in this positive mood. Emad remained in this positive mood for a few days but unfortunately returned to his old self bringing upon him all the symptoms of loneliness and depression. (Please note that Emad was not diagnosed as a case of maniac depression). The teacher was sad but not disappointed. The change indicated that there was something which Emad liked that could bring positive change in his overall behavior. Emad’s parents revealed the secret of his behavioral change. Emad had an aunt residing in another country. The parents reported that whenever his aunt visited them Emad became a normal and healthy person. His aunt gave him the kind of unconditional love that he needed at this time to which he responded so well. Emad did not need any medical or psychological treatment. Without his aunt he was in a lonely world of despair.  But the moment Emad got what he needed, his drooling stopped, his digestive system started working appropriately, his nervous system, his muscles, and his physical body movements became normal.

Emad needed a very specific kind of loving support. The methods and techniques of special education and psychotherapy were useless for him. It was a waste of time. Emad had no interest in the world around until and unless his aunt was with him. Could the world provide a situation where Emad’s aunt would stay with him on permanent basis until he completed his training and became an independent person?  This may not be a feasible solution to the problem, but it may indicate the kind of plan based on love that needs to be designed and implemented in such circumstances.

Mumtaz Shah