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Perceptual Enhancement Programme by Inside-Out Learning

by Jeffry and Pamela Sharp(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 66 - July 2001

Imagine the benefits of greater awareness and higher levels of concentration. For so many of us, this thought invokes memories of mental struggles that eventually led to headaches, feelings of inability, futility and the inevitable decision that "I can't ever achieve that state of perfection".

Many schools of thought perpetuate that mental obstacles can be overcome by a combination of positive thinking and applying oneself to the subject in hand, yet this is only part of the equation. In fact, the average human brain requires physical changes to occur before the genius of talent can be invoked.

Albert Einstein stated that most of us use only a small fraction of our brains and the consequences of this are that most of us only live life to a fraction of its potential.

Consider the possibility of being able to learn new things with greater ease. Ponder for a while on the potential of developing a new sporting ability for the first time in your life. These are the sorts of benefits that can be felt after completing perceptual enhancement programme.

Psychologists have been telling us for many years that the early development of children is of prime importance for later success. The initial learning process acquired as an infant forms the individual's habitual foundation for mental processing and as such affects everything that they encounter.

In terms of mental development, the first seven years of a child's life have the most influence on how they will perform for the rest of their learning career. When a child is under-achieving at school, there has to be a reason. In most cases, it can be found that these problems stem from a lack of stimulation in the early years, and when there are gaps and irregularities in any of the integrative steps of the learning process it's like trying to learn quantum mechanics before you've mastered your twelve times table.

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One Step at a Time

Essentially, everything in our lives changes with the way that we perceive it; the human mind has an almost infinite potential for expansion and development. Whether talking about physical or learning experiences, problems only begin to occur when one or more of the essential steps of the journey are missing.

The brain is fundamentally a sensory processing organ. Its communicative cells are known as neurons, and the levels to which these neurons communicate effectively decide how well we function as human beings. These neurons can be broken down into three basic categories.

The neurons that carry impulses from the body to the brain are called sensory neurons. The ones that carry impulses from the brain to the muscles and internal organs are called motor neurons. There is also a third and greater set of neurons, known as inter-neurons, that communicate with one another to filter, analyse and store informative responses that allow us to perceive the world in which we live.

The primary task of the neurons is to tell us about our body and its relationship with the environment. This allows us to produce and direct our actions and thoughts towards creating a suitable response to what is happening. In other words they direct how we respond to any situation that we encounter in both the 'inside' and 'outside' worlds.

When a baby is born it has a full set of over a billion neurons, yet in percentage terms it has very few interconnections between the various neuron cells. As a baby interacts with its surroundings, it forms new interconnections that allow it to move from one learning experience to another. This is what is meant by intelligence, as the more interconnections a person has the 'brainier' they become.

The interaction of the sensory and motor systems through all their countless interconnections gives both meaning to sensation and 'purposefulness' to movement. This analogy can be applied to physical and mental movements alike. It is this relationship between the sensory organs and 'movement' that allow us to perform any physical or mental process with any kind of effectiveness.

Most of our initial learning must occur through the integration of our sensory systems with the physical environment. This is because sensory-motor interaction provides the groundwork for later cognitive functions. In many cases it may look as though a child at play is not learning anything, yet he/she is actually learning something very basic because he is LEARNING HOW TO LEARN.

When we learn something new, the brain undergoes physical changes in that the electrical communication system in the brain performs an automatic 'upgrade' by growing what the brain scientists call neural networks. These networks then automatically contact any relevant parts of the brain, so that we can learn or perform the task in hand. Learning begins with gravity and its relationship to the body.

Learning to sit upright, shake a rattle, walk downstairs or hold a crayon helps to develop the brain's capacity to learn more complex things. When the capacity is developed on the sensory-motor level, the child is then better able to add two numbers together, write a sentence, or relate to friends.

Without the necessary network connections for a particular task, it's like picking up the telephone when it's unplugged from the socket in the wall. You can dial the number as many times as you like, yet the person you wish to contact will never hear their phone ringing.

What is Sensory Integration?

There are certain levels of sensory integration that should be well developed by the time the child reaches the age of seven and it is at this point when he/she begins to need the end products of this integration.

The abilities to organize and concentrate are of vital importance, since the child must now deal with many more people and things. A brain that can organize sensations will also be able to organize letters and numbers. Self-esteem, self-control and self-confidence are very important factors when relating to others, but those feelings about oneself only come when a lot of sensory and neural integration is in place.

In children and grown-ups alike, these inadequacies are often expressed as behavioural problems, causing the person to be punished, or to develop the 'I can't do' syndrome, which itself is a behavioural problem.

When the sensory integrative capacity of the brain is sufficient to meet the demands of the environment, the child's response is efficient, creative and satisfying. When the child experiences challenges to which he can respond effectively, he has fun and behaves more responsibly and to a great extent fun is the child's word for sensory integration.

We gain a great deal of satisfaction from organizing sensations and even more from responding effectively to those sensations. This process leads to adaptive responses that are more mature and complex than anything we've done before. In essence, this is what growing up is all about.

Happy, productive and well- coordinated people may come the closest to perfection, yet if the brain has ANY problem with sensory integration this will interfere with many things in life. This means that there will be more effort and difficulty in learning something new for a return of less success and satisfaction. We're all better at some things than others and we all have an inner desire to perform better in certain areas.

Whether our aim is to pass the grade at school, perform better at a certain sport, write or play music, or just understand what's going on in our day-to-day life, we require an effective communication between the sources of these abilities and the parts of our brains that can put that into action.

Someone that has learned how to learn will fly through his or her schooling and training with greater ease. This is because they are able to formulate a 3D picture of what is happening in the world within their brain.

The more the sensory systems work together, the more someone can learn and the easier it is for them to initiate the learning process automatically. Once the neural networks are stimulated to grow, previously dormant parts of the brain are brought to life and our system begins to function better. The benefits can be felt by anyone of any age regardless of whether they currently perceive themselves as a success or failure.

Once awakened, these communication networks begin to grow and strengthen until we automatically gain new insights and perspectives about everything we encounter. Old subjects that were a struggle begin to fall into place and new subjects present themselves with greater ease.

The consequences of this psychological enlightenment are improved physical coordination, a greater IQ, a more holistic appreciation of whatever we encounter, and the fear of learning something new disappears. The ability to communicate what you can see to others is also greatly improved, which in essence improves your saleability and as such your career or business prospects.

Integration of the Brain and How It Works

By referring to the picture below, we can see that the cerebral cortex (thinking area) of the brain is a complex set of matter, consisting of two hemispheres that have bioelectrical connecters allowing the cells to relate to each other. Each hemisphere has different functions, and when they work as a team they communicate in a split second, allowing awareness and usability to increase at a phenomenal rate. Coordination of the hemispheres allows us to continue processing the information towards the frontal cortex where creative thinking takes place.

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When the two hemispheres of the brain are not well coordinated, we have a tendency towards posterior (rear brain) thinking. This type of interaction relates a task to a specific context and as such means that we have to learn each new thing from scratch. Rear-brain function causes everything to be kept 'out there' and separate from the person that is learning the material.

When emphasis is placed on the outer world of objects as possessions for physical and emotional survival, thinking and processing are limited to the posterior cortex of the brain. Consequently, the growing child is taught to relate to objects without giving thought to personal interpretations that are essential to developing character skills. This concentration on 'What is?' as opposed to 'Why is?' has led to an alarming rise in people without a sense of purpose.

The deprivation of inner-sense learning during the early developmental years distorts the ability to think and solve problems throughout ones life. It also limits the essential character-building skills of respect, kindness, generosity, honesty, fairness and inner peace.

Every experience and activity in life involves an infinitely complex maze of neural interconnections. To produce an appropriate perception or behavioural response, the impulses must stay on the right path. When sensory stimulation does not produce an appropriate perception, we know that somewhere in the nervous system neural messages are literally getting lost in the maze.

When the front of the brain is in full swing, we gain a sense of intimacy with whatever we encounter. This is the sort of feeling that we get when something is easy to learn. As the thinking process moves towards the front of the brain, the brain gains a holistic perspective and quickly integrates what has already been encountered with what is currently being processed.

Once a relationship is established on a personal level, such as many months after passing a driving test, we tend to relate to things as an extension of our being. The easier something is to learn, the better the emotional response will be, and as the emotional response is improved we stimulate more of the front of the brain and the more we are able to improve in that field.

What Games and Exercises Do

The perceptual enhancement programme involves an interactive set of games, puzzles and exercises that allow people to stimulate their own brain so that they begin learning things from an inside-out perspective. This encourages an internal questioning process, which is where our personal self-development skills are invoked. In turn, this enables someone to read a situation better, which then leads to an improved ability to read and write, as well as increasing physical coordination and abilities.

The therapy leads to increased confidence, improved fitness, enhanced sporting abilities and a better connectivity to the environment. These benefits are further enhanced with greater concentration, an increased ability to notice things, cognitive development (the ability to connect one thing to the next) and pattern seeking (the ability to see how things work).

The non-academic tabletop games and puzzles trace what should be the brain's development, filling in any gaps that are preventing sensory integration. This then provides the grounding or building blocks on which any further education can be built.

The goal of therapy is to bring the thinking process to the frontal cortex by playing games and engaging in exercises that coordinate and link the two hemispheres of the brain. The various sequential and coordinated tasks cause neural growth towards the front of the brain, which is where creativity and problem solving take place.

Consequently, the individual begins to relate to objects and personal interpretations in a way that further develops various character-building skills.

The programme is introduced in four developmental stages, which are loosely termed as spatial awareness, controlled attention skills, cognitive processing and abstract thinking.

Spatial Awareness

Planning, monitoring and organization skills allow us to perceive how things fit into the world (and where necessary to copy a successful plan or picture accurately). This allows us to formulate a scalable picture in the mind from outline to detail, including selection skills, improvisation and achieving an objective within preset criteria.

Controlled Attention Skills

These are the skills that stimulate someone to focus on specific criteria when performing certain tasks. Without these skills, people are easily distracted from the desired goal and a project may appear to be overwhelming. These skills improve our levels of concentration and the ability to access our memory banks readily.

Cognitive Processing

Cognitive processing allows us to move automatically from one stage to the next. As we improve the ability to hold two or more things in the mind at the same time and make a comparative judgement, we are also improving our 're-cognition' skills. These cognitive and 're-cognitive' abilities allow us to make a conscious decision about what to do next. They also enable us to explain ourselves in a set format, which allows others to understand what we are saying and why we are saying it.

Abstract Thinking

Our ability to think laterally increases the opportunity to change a situation for the better. This includes opportunity spotting and holistic vision, which involve the ability to see both sides of a coin so that we can turn a situation to our advantage.

A combination of all these stimuli is required to enable people to think things out for themselves. The confidence created as someone gets to grips with the programme means that they are more likely to achieve their desired goals.

Case Studies

1. 'Master J', aged 12, disliked school. His primary symptom was difficulty with reading, and this resulted in low self-esteem. Within two months of completing the course, he won a school prize for reading and now reads avidly at every opportunity.

2. 'Ms P', aged 51, was very self- conscious and had difficulties focusing on the finer details of a project. After the programme, she was able to organize her affairs effectively and even began giving public presentations.

3. 'Master T', aged 10, suffered from bullying, and had low self-confidence and poor levels of concentration. The following school term, the bullying stopped, and his concentration abilities and self-confidence had greatly improved.

4. 'Mr R', aged 39, had problems starting anything new because he feared the difficulties involved. After taking the programme, his attitude to life underwent great change and he found that he could do anything to which he put his mind. He literally changed from an 'I can't' to an 'I can' type of person.

5. 'Master D', aged 10, lacked self-esteem, was extremely introverted and was behind with his reading. The following term, he was taking home two books every night to catch up the lost time and also became more outgoing.

6. 'Ms J', aged 26, was very self-conscious, had difficulty standing up for herself, hated learning anything 'new' and had a tendency to let everyone else's problems affect her life. After the programme, she gained a stronger personality and a connection with her own needs and takes new things to task with an eagerness to learn.

7. 'Mr J', aged 32, struggled with an extreme right-hand dominance and this affected his sporting ability. After taking the programme, he found that his sporting abilities improved, he uses the left hand much more and is able to catch a ball 'dead centre' every time.

Further Information

Inside-Out Learning provides facilitator training programmes, workshops and 'one-to-one' sessions for improving health and personal development. Further details can be obtained from: Inside-Out Learning, 4 Well's Walk, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9LH; tel/fax: 01943 601064; info@insideoutlearning.net.

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About Jeffry and Pamela Sharp

Jeffry and Pamela Sharp have been inspired into finding and developing a unique understanding of how the human mind is constructed and developed. They have discovered much about how human consciousness functions and have created a range of self-development tools enable an individual to function at ever- increasing levels of success. Both Jeffry and Pamela would like to offer special thanks for the research done by Pat Theissen who developed the perceptual enrichment programme, Britta Holle for her work on motor development in children and Dr Jean Ayers for her research into sensory integration.

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