Old Habits Die Hard

Neurodiverse pupils often develop their own strategies for coping at school. However, such defence mechanisms are not always useful in the long term.

  • The pupil may prefer to be seen as the class clown rather than class dunce. 
    • The older child may choose to save face by becoming the school comic or rebel. This can make life difficult for other pupils as well as their teachers, as the child may ridicule their peers for working hard or joining in.
  • The pupil may develop a ‘chip on their shoulder’.
    • If the child receives regular criticism, they may become hypersensitive to what they feel to be negative comments. They may be aggressively defensive, ready to argue rather than listen to feedback that could support their progress.
  • They manage by becoming perfectionists.
    • The pupil may work themselves into a state of exhaustion in order to keep up with their peers. 
  • They may cultivate a ‘take me or leave me’ persona.
    • The pupil may have what appears to be a relaxed attitude, showing no desire to adapt their behaviour or increase their effort. ‘This is what I’m like: take me or leave me.’ 
  • The child may develop helplessness.
    • This is a strategy more more commonly seen amongst girls. The pupil will acquiesce by saying: ‘Oh, I can’t do this’, or ‘I’ve always been pathetic at this sort of thing’, hoping that someone else will step forward and seize the opportunity offered.
  • They may take a domineering stance.
    • Domination tends to be a tactic used by boys. If the pupil feels that they are in control, they can set the agenda, play to their strengths and avoid anyone uncovering any perceived weaknesses.
  • The pupil may blame others.
    • The pupil may blame others for their errors; shifting the blame in the hope that their shortcoming will be less obvious.
  • Or they simply give up.
    • Some of the children may get so used to failure, they give up and settle for a lifetime of underachievement.

Unfortunately, strategies developed in childhood can easily become lifetime habits, whether useful or not. Few of these strategies are helpful in adult life: being dismissive of others, arguing for argument’s sake, point scoring, appearing disinterested or overly critical are not endearing personal characteristics.

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