What is reorganization? And why and when does it occur?
Reorganization is a normal, temporary, phase of development where a child has come upon a challenge that, for the moment, overwhelms their ability to cope. It’s a response to the demands placed upon them to reach the next growth level.
Almost every parent or teacher has seen a child going through a growth spurt. This is a good example of reorganization. Suddenly, the child’s body is all akimbo. They’re bumping into doorways and tripping over cracks. While they don’t have the coordination they had prior to this event, cognitively, they’re sharp. Then, after the growth spurt is integrated, there is a brain reorganization and parents notice that now the child is having trouble concentrating. We often see a seesaw pattern between physical growth and cognitive development.
In therapy, reorganization looks like an unexpected slippage of gains that had previously been made. A child may be improving their focus and attention, but then the challenge becomes a little steeper. They have to work hard to climb up to the next level of achievement, but they may reach a point where they feel a bit overwhelmed. They may think, “I can’t do this the way I did before,” so they slide back a bit to regroup into their previous level. This is temporary; it allows them to re-gather their resources and take on the challenge anew.
You say reorganization is temporary. How long does it take?
It takes as long as it takes. Without a crystal ball, we have to just let nature take its course. Our job is to be as supportive and loving as we can. When the child is ready to make that next leap, they will. Remember, it is human nature to move forward. They will do so as soon as they are able.
A favorite expression from a colleague of mine is, “You can’t help a flower to grow by pulling on it.” Growth is a natural process. It needs to be nurtured. Please be patient as this is not a permanent situation. If a child is allowed to take the time they need to regroup, they will eventually jump by leaps and bounds to a new level of ability.
How can you tell the difference between reorganization and an adverse reaction?
Reorganization is a normal growth phase and nothing special needs to be done beyond giving the child the love and attention they are seeking so they may feel more secure emotionally and refueled with the energy to face the challenge anew. This is similar to how a child behaves when overly tired: a little whiny, clingy. cranky.
An adverse reaction is due to overstimulation. This may be from the stress of learning to read, to control their behavior or to integrate body organization. When overstimulated, the child’s nervous system is on alert and goes into a kind of fight-or-flight reaction in which their regulatory state of calm is being overwhelmed. Under these circumstances, the child needs to pull back a bit from the current therapy demands. Adverse reactions require a reanalysis of what is going on.
What is the best way to support a child through adverse reactions?
A child experiencing an adverse reaction needs a lot of nurturing, patience and time. But they also need some changes to be made to what they are experiencing in therapy, at school or at home. Perhaps they need to take a break from therapy or schoolwork and instead need more playtime or hugging and reassurance. It’s important to decrease stimulation and increase proprioceptive input (deep pressure can have a calming effect). With adverse reactions, you have to be a detective and determine the reason for the response before determining the best course of action.
Are there any iLs programs that might help during a period of adverse reactions?
Yes! The Dreampad and the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) would be good supports.
The Dreampad is particularly helpful if the response of the child is of the alerting, nervous type which may cause sleep interference. The Dreampad will not only improve sleep, but it is proven to have a very strong anti-anxiety component.
The SSP would help a great deal because of its direct effect on the vagus nerve, which, as we know, has to do with calming relaxation, digestion of our food and feeling secure and safe. The intervention is based on two decades of research by Dr. Stephen Porges and is backed by two peer-reviewed, published research studies and three clinical trials in process. So this is a wonderful tool and early reports from iLs associates are quite positive about its ability to calm a client’s physiological and emotional state.
Want to learn more about reorganization?
Learn more about the Dreampad.
Learn about the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)