APRICOT, Inc. was formed to provide services based on the philosophy of Pragmaticism Methodology. The term pragmaticism was coined by Charles Sanders Peirce in the 1800's to refer to the functional and natural consequences of how thinking and human language is greater than the parts of language such as words or grammar. Ellyn Lucas Arwood, Ed.D. is the contemporary originator of Pragmaticism Methodology which considers the learning system of the whole child or learner, not just the products of the child or learner. Learning language is a function of the brain and today’s neuroscience provides the research for understanding how language functions. Language is the tool for literacy; how we view, think, read, write, listen, speak, and calculate. The more language a learner is able to use, the better the learner is able to think. The better a learner is able to think, the better the learner is able to function in society. Over decades of work, Dr. Arwood created the Neuro-Semantic Language Learning Theory (NsLLT) by synthesizing the literature and research from three disciplines; neuroscience of the brain, cognitive psychology of the mind, and the language function of semantics, pragmatics, and semiotics. The application of the NsLLT has been documented qualitatively and quantitatively with different populations including those with severe needs as well as those with mild academic or social needs.
APRICOT, Inc. was founded on the premise that practitioners and theoreticians from many disciplines must work together in order to provide quality assessment and intervention or supports for those with learning, language, behavior problems.
Pragmatics refers to the use of either verbal or non-verbal behavior in context. The way in which a child initiates a verbal interaction or the nonverbal way a child walks across the room to signal a listener are examples of considering behavior in a context. The study of such behavior is called pragmatics. The study of pragmatics was used by the American philosophers during the latter half of the 19th Century to denote an area of philosophy which dealt with the interactions between science, God, and mankind. These philosophical writings, speeches, letters were best known as the pragmatists' writing of people such as William James. One of the pragmatists, Charles Sanders Peirce, created a new term, pragmaticism, to denote the difference between what can be held constant and measured in the external world and what is altered through a person's use of symbols. According to Peirce, in the use of symbols, the final representation is always greater than the pieces. So, an idea such as "There goes the cat!" is different than the addition of each of the separate pieces (there + goes + the + cat). Since the use of use of signs and symbols is uniquely characteristic of people, Peirce wanted this term, "pragmaticism," to also represent such uniqueness. Thus , when verbal behavior is used, there are consequences within the learning system as well as effects upon the listener that are different than the individual meanings of ideas. Meanings or semantics are neurobiological as well as socio-cognitive and create the underlying basis of how language functions to represent thinking between two or more people. The purpose of relating meanings and then sharing with others has purpose or semiosis. These semiotic (sign usage) consequences raise the level of meaning (semantics) of the symbols and therefore the thinking, behavior, and/or levels of literacy.
Are a high percentage of those children labeled as behaviorally disordered actually children with learning differences? The following response is from Dr. Arwood and was published in a past newsletter: "Yes. I gave a presentation in Nebraska in October, 1987, titled "Learning How to Behave" and what I meant by that is that a child who is trying to organize a particular way to behave does so only with language. If the child doesn't have the language, then the child behaves according to the situational information without concern for the consequences. Many of our children who have behavior disorders do not have the language tools to mediate their behavior with their learning; so, they get part of the information such as "Sit down", but, they don't get all the information such as "Sit down in your seat." The result is that they are sitting down next to somebody rather than in their own seat and they are in trouble again. Many of our kids try to follow instructions and to comply, but they can't process the words and match the words with their behavior. In other words, they don't have the language to mediate learning and behavior, so they end up in trouble. The children that are identified at three and four as having the potential for behavior problems because of such things as aggressiveness, inappropriate responses to others' interactions, and problems with socialization are also those kids who are at risk for language/learning problems. Sometimes a study of some of the case histories of these young children show them becoming juvenile delinquents in later years. In Oregon, we have classes of kids who have been diagnosed as behaviorally disordered, and so far, I have not met one of those children who did not have a language/learning problem." This is 2020, and I still have not met a child with social, and/or behavior, problems who does not have a problem matching their thinking with the use of language in their environment.
Language is the tool for learning. So, if you have a child who has an impaired learning system, the more language you give that child, the more information that child has to function. Therefore, the more language we give the child, the better the tool, the better the functioning, and the better the behavior. We have to provide lots of information to our language/learning impaired children. For example, if we have a child who has hurt another child, but does not understand the relationship between hitting and hurting, we may have to present a verbal sequence such as this:
Q: Did you fight with that child on the playground?
A: No . . .
Q: Did you hit that child on the playground?
A: No . . .
Q: Did your hand touch that child's face?
A: Yes . . .
Q: When your hand touched that child's face did his nose bleed?
A: Yes . . . . . . . . . .
Well, this is what it looked like... Then we proceed to draw a picture of: a) both children with the first child hitting the other child's face b) the child with the resulting bloody nose, and c) the children doing what they should have been doing on the playground without any injury in order to compare the unacceptable behavior with the acceptable behavior so that the child has a visual representation of what is expected rather than just an auditory input.
No, not really. I don't refer to them as "behavior problems" because I know that usually there is an underlying explanation. Behavior can be a problem when it is not acceptable or when it is not conventional or when it is considered abnormal or aberrant; but, unacceptable, abnormal, aberrant or unconventional behavior results when a child does something that is outside the realm of opportunity for doing something else. If we change the opportunities, then we change what the child does and therefore we limit behavior problems. These are outside the neurobiological results of chemistry changes which some children display along with the behavior problems.
The token reward system works very well for conditioning a child who has no language, but once a child has language then language becomes the tool that mediates the behavior with the learning. Therefore, even though we may think that we are reinforcing a particular act into a certain kind of behavior and even though we may think that we are punishing a child - that child's language will determine whether or not it is being suppressed or punished. It is a lot easier to work through the child's language/learning system than it is to try to second guess what is being reinforced, rewarded or punished.
When attending a staffing on my child, I heard references to scores on memory tests. What does memory have to do with learning? The concept of memory has often been referred to as "information that can be recalled." Types of variables that affect recall have been researched over the past two hundred years. Most of this research has concluded that recall is best when the material is meaningful. In other words, the more meaningful the material, the better the recall. When a child can recall classroom material, then the material is meaningful or a meaningful "memorization" process such as a mnemonic device has been used. Once the mnemonic device has been "forgotten", the material can no longer be recalled. Research also shows that such "memorized" material is not "lost" but is stored in an unconnected form. When "connections" or "semantic relationships" are created so that the material is added to other information, the recall is permanent. Therefore, when a school tells me that a child has a "poor memory," I immediately assume that as educators, we, haven't made sufficient "connections" for the child. When we use our own language to make information meaningful, then the ideas become part of semantic or long-term memory.
Children with learning/language problems cannot integrate auditory concepts (e.g., time, sound-based ideas) with what is visually recognized (phonics or phonetics). Therefore, these children cannot manipulate visual symbols (letters) by acoustically rearranging, coding, decoding, etc. without also losing the meaning of the word being "attacked." Asking these children to perform well on a phonics test is asking them to use a neurobiological process they don't have and therefore can't use. Ideas or concepts can also be recognized in print as shapes without sounds attached. These are processed in circuits that connect the visual cortex of the brain to the language areas of processing. In this way, APRICOT methods aligned with the NsLLT can help our students learn to read using their strengths, not their weaknesses.
ADD represents a specific physiological problem and currently many people are diagnosing ADD/ADHD based upon specific behaviors such as the inability to visually follow or track or based upon rapid eye movements in relationship to a specific focus. If we watch our children who have language/learning problems, we will see that many of these children have very quick movements of the eyes because they are trying to get as much meaning as they can from the environment.
Perhaps we should look at the diagnosis of ADD as an etiology, that is, there is a deficit in attention, therefore, certain behaviors occur; but, in fact, attention is an output or representation of the learning system. That is, we are able to attend only when something is meaningful to us. So, when we, as educators, increase the ability of the child to organize what he/she is able to see and take in and make meaning out of, then we also increase his/her ability to attend. The visual system of the brain processes movement so that rapid movements of the eyes or body also tell us that this is the way the learner processes information. And, APRICOT consultants use the strengths of the learner (visual access through movements of the eyes, mouth, hands, face) to make the connections and help the student process and organize the environment. This way, the input is meaningful for the learner.
For example, an eighteen month old child will sit and watch cartoons for 45 minutes, attending to the color and music changes in them, but that same child would not focus or attend to a dimly lit room, soft music, formal place setting and quiet talk in a fancy restaurant because the information is not meaningful. That is, it is not symbolized as: "Oh, this is a restaurant and I am supposed to be quiet here." Similarly, we may find that many of our kids that have problems cannot attend in class, but could sit in front of a computer for hours.
In summary, if you have a child that has been given a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder, you have a child who has been diagnosed because of noticeable behavioral characteristics affecting the way the child learns. Perhaps we could approach the problem from a different perspective - which is: The child shows a number of problems with his/her learning system as evidenced by certain behavior. Let's work with that learning system trying to make information more meaningful, thus, making the child's learning system work more effectively so the child functions or attends better.