Learning difficulties and being ungrounded

freddy smallIn short, being un-grounded is akin to driving a bus whilst sitting on the roof; exciting but not exactly effective!

As any school teacher would agree, learning is impossible without focus, concentration and creating an effective learning state.  What most schoolteachers will not know, however, is that the ability to “ground” oneself is a major contributor to learning difficulties, especially for a neurodivergent mind.  Though some people find it easy to be naturally grounded, others need to work at getting into that state.

A common expression, as you may have heard, is “being in a bit of a state”.  A state can be thought of as a snapshot of how you are at any particular time.  Most people can recall the state of being confused, overwhelmed, unable to focus, having too much stuff going on in or around your head.  In simple terms, this is an “un-grounded” state.  In fact, many SpLD symptoms are related to being ungrounded, some of which might sound familiar to you:

  • High levels of anxiety, fear, feeling unsafe at some level, regular stressful emotions, feeling nervous, manifesting that familiar “fight, flight or freeze symptom.”
  • Daydreaming, being in a daze or not really here, “spaced out”.
  • A racing mind – overloaded by thousands of thoughts, with too much going on in or above your head.
  • Finding it difficult to articulate thoughts, being unclear.
  • Arguing, yet unable to convey your argument clearly.
  • Lack of balance – clumsiness, lack of coordination, wobbly, losing core stability, walking on toes – like a “ Weeble” toy[i].


  • Wriggling, being unable to relax, irritable, in perpetual motion, “uncomfortable in your own skin,” “ants in your pants.” Children’s feet might be in the air or up the side of chairs and are often anywhere but on the floor.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Static shocks.
  • Confusion, forgetful, lack of focus and concentration.
  • Feeling sick or dizzy.
  • Hearing may range from poor to oversensitive.
  • Sight may be inconsistent, oversensitive and your mind’s eye stuck in uncontrollable fast moving videos, which compete for your attention.
  • Speech may falter, stutter, be inconsistent
  • Speech may revert to speaking very fast, in a childish manner or even in another voice
  • Lacking feelings and disliking being touched.
  • There is limited or no access to your internal dialogue (small warning voice in the head), leading to inappropriate behaviour and danger.
  • Some bodily systems may not seem to function well; the autonomic nervous system (bodily signals such as needing to drink water, stop eating or urinating) may be affected, your immune system or circulation.
  • Lack of coordination and strength, averse to sport
  • Children resorting to head banging
  • Behaving inappropriately whether physically, verbally and emotionally, possibly because of a lack of a developed internal dialogue.
  • Twitching or worse, symptoms that may develop into Tourette’s over a period of time
  • Flickering eyes, as they recall fast-moving videos.
  • Flapping about.
  • Laughing although things don’t seem funny.
  • Angry and in some cases completely overreacting to relatively minor things.

This is an extract from Bridges to Success – How to Transform Learning Difficulties, available in physical form or on Kindle at

[i] Weebles is a trademark for several lines of children’s roly-poly toys originating in Hasbro‘s Playskool division on July 23, 1971.  Shaped like eggs with a weight at the fat, or bottom end, they wobble when pushed, but never fall completely over.


About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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