The Turn on Learning framework has five switches that need to be turned on for anyone to develop and learn successfully. The first and final switches are very firmly connected - the Safe Switch and the Use Switch.
Having control of our world helps us feel safe.
When we use the word safe we mean not having anxiety, fear or worries about what might happen. The Circle of Security model refers to feelings of being unsafe like having shark music playing in your head.
A sense of dread about the unknown.
When our words disappear.
When we can’t form the words we planned in our head.
When we attempt a movement with our body that doesn’t work.
When we try to play tag but end up pushing the other child over.
These difficulties reflect a Use Switch that is fragile. We can’t “perform” something like others can so we lose a degree of control over our world.
The Use Switch is critical for the measurement of our knowledge. When we use our body and voice the spotlight is firmly on us. It is how we “show” our skills and learning. Adults will openly admit fear of being in the spotlight. Of having to “perform”. Yet as adults, we expect children to show us their knowledge, learning, and skills all of the time, often on demand.
For children still in the midst of developing skills this fear of performing can be extreme. It places immediate pressure on the connected switch - the Safe Switch.
Children whose ability to use their body and/ or their voice is developing differently to their peers, know that their body and/ or mouth is letting them down. It stops them from being able to successfully or easily show their knowledge. One way they try to keep their Safe Switch on is to refuse or avoid ‘performing’.
Refusing to handwrite.
Controlling their world to minimise “loss of face”.
So many times we are told that children just become angry for no apparent reason. When we observe the child in the classroom we notice signs of coordination difficulty. The child bumps into others. They knock things off the desk and slip from their chair. They attempt to build a tower of blocks only to knock it down. The Safe Switch is not suddenly turned off (identifiable through the emotion of anger) but has been building unnoticed over time.
As adults, we can choose to “perform” or not.
To try to learn new content or not.
To try a new skill or never attempt to learn it.
We can keep ourselves feeling safe by not performing - unlike children with our current societal expectations.
It is critical that adults support these children by accommodating their movement or communication differences. By accommodating for the Use Switch's fragility - the adult also helps keep the Safe Switch on.