Parents have become obsessed with labels, not solutions

fragile-label-1-600x573-600x573Parents have become obsessed with labels, not solutions


There is nothing like working on a passion for a decade to give you perspective, mine is literacy. Besides how much I've learnt since those early days, 10 years ago last month, when I got the keys to my own school. I've seen a frightening trend developing over the last five years in particular. I've been trying to chart the reasons as to why I now work with increasingly traumatised souls younger and younger. In the beginning, I felt I was a victim of my own success. I wondered did I attract these situations others had struggled to find solutions for simply as my own reputation grew? Sure, there was an aspect of this as I became known for being an expert in reuniting the world with teens who'd been trapped in their bedrooms for years. But this doesn't explain the 6 and 7-year-olds I am meeting regularly. Why has not being able to read, write or pronounce a few words become such an issue? When did this become the end of the world? Why does this shatter their confidence so much? Why is everything from anxiety to bed wetting or not sleeping now in the mix? Why have they all been for so many assessments or "interventions" before I meet them? Why has so little helped them? They are all in learning support.


The answers? I realised that parents have been sucked into a vortex of feeling that a label, not a solution will give their children the "edge" in life, especially in the education system. The only reason we do assessments is to provide schools with a branded identity for our children to have resource time that very often doesn't help them at all. I know this sounds harsh but it's the truth that I've seen on a repeat loop for a decade. A loop that is becoming increasingly more traumatising for the children involved. Now it has become so skewed that parents feel they must label their children before even entering the system in order to provide a survival net. Yet teachers complain to me their classes are filled with excessively labelled students. But often it is the schools insisting on these assessments or even taking the power to do them without the inclusion of the parents. A label means money for a school. Not a solution to the problem or tailor made help for your child to learn differently. It doesn't provide them with coping strategies for life. As a by-product of the label, I listen to parents every day tell me what their child will never be able to do well. As I've done and succeeded at it all despite these claims, I feel qualified to say this is utter rubbish. In fact, I only went to college to do a degree and later a PhD in order to be a qualified voice on what you can achieve with a severe dyslexia label. It's why I'm now a writer too.


It's time parents took their power back and stopped feeling forced to label their child as a solution to often very insignificant challenges. So what if they take 6 months longer to talk? So what if they are quiet? So what if they fidget? So what if phonics don't teach them to read? So what if they use their fingers to count? Or mix up their b's and d's. Does it matter if they don't ace the spelling tests? Who cares if you get your pen pass first or last? Who invented the pen pass? Your child's happiness is so much more important than these educational milestones. Life doesn't have to be such a competitive race.


In the long run, It's better energy spent If you start to look online for solutions for ways to support rather than brand your child. Your child will not grow up to feel there is something fundamentally wrong with them. We need a change of mindset to readdress the power dynamics currently being played out at younger and younger ages in schools not just across this country but the world. Daily, I deal with the same problems, the same trauma created across 6 countries globally. The same problems in mindset in contrasting cultures with parents all seeking the "edge" for their child. A very important part of being a parent is to be an educator yourself. No one else is going to fix your child's challenges better than you.


Parents seem shocked initially when I set them 6 weeks of work for them to do with their child at home. Yes, you can take the power back. Yes, you can help. And yes, in a very short few weeks they are all reading, writing or speaking better. No therapists. No labels. There is a whole world of internet material on various platforms to help you. I personally record a podcast for this very purpose, Purple Psychology. But there are endless resources out there on Pinterest or Youtube and so on to help you.


The biggest part of my work is not the help or program to learn differently. It's the rebuilding of confidence of little damaged souls and the encouragement of parents to trust their guts. You do know your child better than anyone else. Don't listen to any therapist or psychologist who tells you differently. You know the days to push. You know the days to back off. The times to hug. You have all the encouragement inside in you. Just stop the labels, please. Stop racing to some universal "average" someone else dreamed up for your child. We need to embrace difference again and parents need to be the ones to decide this shift. Years ago, I wrote, "It doesn't matter what you can't do, only what you can."


Naoisé O'Reilly reflections February 2019



Dr Naoise O’Reilly Work and Research Areas

Dr Naoise O'Reilly Work and Research Areas 

What matters most in educational development nature or nurture


What matters most in educational development? Nature or Nurture?



That age-old debate of what makes us who we are? How much of ourselves is down to genes, parents or environment? How much is learned?


What are Nature and Nurture?:


I have always been obsessed with two aspects of the people I work with, their personality and the way they process the world around them. For me, personality is nature and processing ability, how you learn, is nurture.


This has been a huge focus of my work as in order to help people change often long-term generational destructive patterns you have to understand where they steam from and what you have control over.


How did this discovery come about for me?:


Like all big research eureka moments this one came about by accident. Almost 8 years ago now, at the end of the first term at The Homework Club (my development center), we work through an evaluation process with the students to wrap up the term's achievements. Firstly, I decided to do the evaluation with all ages from 5 upwards. This turned out to be a great decision.


The evaluation had two main functions, firstly to get the students thinking about their own progress over the term, where they had reached and where they would still like to improve in each topic. This gave them control over their own learning objectives and helps them map out a plan for the new year. The second function allowed them to study their learning style across 4 types of learner.The answer I expected was that the underdeveloped students to tick boxes across all 4 areas and have no real idea what their learning style was.


This also allowed us to reflect on the students and their personalities. When I first started this study of the students, I saw a trend very quickly that the disorganized, unstructured and unfocused students didn't fit neatly into one category of learning style. They ticked one box in each section with no clear direction of thought. Many of these students simply didn't know where their strengths lied or how they learned best. This evaluation exercise would allow as a teaching team to focus on key skills we felt that needed to be improved or to help the students develop more structure in certain areas and so on throughout the second term in preparation for the exams at the end of term three. But this exercise turned out to be much more significant.


After the 3rd year of this study, I saw an even bigger significance than I did initially. As the student cohort had expanded in the ages (from 5 to 20+) and the learning difficulties of the students became more diverse, I now saw a new more important trend.


The younger students, especially those with conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, and Aspergers all exhibit a "multiplicity". This means they can honestly tick all the boxes on the questionnaire for their learning style. I initially thought the younger students just didn't understand the task. But then I reflected they can't have all got it wrong? I thought about the individuals involved and their learning styles and realized that they had done the excise correctly.


What this amounted to was that these students had multiple ways to work and process information. I referred to this as multiplicity, learning in 3 to 4 learning styles simultaneously. They needed to learn in many ways at once, especially to make it interesting and challenging for them. So for example when we always separate out reading, writing and creative tasks separately, it is hard for them to learn and to stay interested. If we suddenly use very visual ways to learn reading and writing around exciting visual and auditory style topics we suddenly saw much better results. It's worth noting that we also didn't see any of the behavior difficulties associated with the conditions.


As students go through the system they seem to lose this gift of multiplicity.


I only saw a very small proportion of very well adjusted personalities and diversely interested students in the senior cycle above the age of 15. Most had become linear in their way of processing because of the environment or nurturing. Since we always force students to work in one way in a very segregated style in the conversational school system, it seems to me that they lose this wonderful diverse multiplicity along the way. Not only does this mean they don't learn well within their learning style but they get out of the habit of using key skills they possess to do tasks in new, creative and fresh ways. Something that would be hugely beneficial for later working life in all sectors.


The time factor:


Often you feel you are racing the clock. I now know it is so much easier to cause a lasting significant change in people pre 7. Particularly in helping with literacy, learning or personality difficulties. I find myself ranting to those close to me about how we don't work to diagnose people with a condition pre 7 because we have become obsessed with conditions and labels for children instead of development. I think for me there is a whole sperate article on labels versus development.


How about we forget the label and realize the importance of the opportunity that exists for us in this golden timeframe? So this leads me back to what matters most nature or nurture? Which is changeable?


Can you change Nature or Nurture?


From my research over the last 8 years, I have proven that it is possible to change the processing abilities of students if you work with the student pre 10. By 15 you have lost the golden opportunity to nurture people to a more dynamic processing abilities.


For some personalities, they naturally process the world in more ways than others. But with the Purple Learning environment system where you teach people in all 4 processing ways, visual, auditory, kinesthetic and practical you can develop the more predisposed linear people to work in all of these ways beyond the age of 15.


The death of creativity:


It was a shock for me to realise that the traditional school system appears to flatten what I call multiplicity out of students. I think when Ken Robinson talks about the death of creativity in the school system, for me, he is talking about this linear processing that we develop by the conformity of the traditional education ways. So this nurturing is an environmental created way of working, experiencing and seeing the world around you.


So how about nature? Nature is personality. This is generational. I've been particularly researching the correlation between personality and processing abilities. How you take in the world around you and how you communicate this interpretation. What I find really striking about personalities in families is that they often skip a generation. You can have a child in a family who resembles a grandparent or an Aunt or Uncle from either side of the parent's families. Often many of the clashes or black sheep in families are the rarer personalities that only seem to surface less in the generations.


Why are certain ages important?


The image shows what I call the Purple Development Timescale. In this, you can see that ages 6, 7, 10 and 15 are all vitally important milestones in learning and development.


So why are 7 and 10 such critical ages in learning? At 7 your personality starts to cement itself. So combined with how you naturally take in the world around you so prior to this is a huge pivotal time to work with someone on their learning styles. By 10 you start to see yourself in context to the outer world. So this is another vital time period up to 15 to increase your capacity for being different and stretch the development beyond your natural comfort zone.


What are the educational development implications?:


So what are the implications of these factors? Well, firstly it has a huge impact on widening people's processing abilities. The more dynamic education is up to the age of 10 the wider the learning possibilities are for the future of each student. If there are learning challenges these need to be addressed pre the age of 7. I get my best literacy difficulty results with students before the age of 6 in a positive way without obsessing over what's wrong with them or what label they should be given. The irony is that time and time I have shown that if I work with a student before 7 they don't require a label later as the literacy difficulties are gone. Ages 10 t0 15 require much more thought in education. We need to be much more aware of the comfort zones of certain personalities and the quirks of what each need. The biggest school refusal stages are between 13 and 15. But the challenges that have to lead to these have begun at age 10. I often tell people that I need to go backward in order to find the result for now. But the reality is for me that I wish I was starting at the ground zero point. If we encouraged multiplicity in schools rather than our very linear approach we would be creating more dynamic people for the current environment and times we live in. But we don't, we have the most amount of control and linearity in education pre 15. After this stage, there is little point in becoming more dynamic. The damage is already done. The opportunity to nurture lost. The personalities who are naturally dynamic that we currently label as everything from ADHD to gifted wouldn't be bored either and stitch off as many of them do currently. This is why nature and nurture both have important roles to play in educational development.


So what matters most in development Nature or Nurture. The answer is both, but what is more important is time. You have a crucial window of opportunity. You can't control Nature but you can optimise people's personality for the better. You are completely in control of Nurture and the more diverse you are at critical ages of development the bigger the impact in producing well-rounded people. This is the key to escaping the label vortex that we are currently creating in conventional education.



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Top 10 Reasons Why Students Don’t Go to School

hate schoolI recently read a very striking article which outlined how people don't go to school because of war, Ebola or simply because they are girls. We are all familiar with the story of how a schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for continuing to exercise her right to education. These seem like really huge and profound reasons to be denied education.

However, having read this article I was struck by the top ten reasons for students avoiding school everyday in what is supposed to be a better climate and a more evolved society. I have so many students who suffer extreme anxiety daily. Who are depressed - who feel there will never be a place in the world for them. Education doesn't seem like a gift or a right.

So, the most common reasons:

1: Homework. They can't do it. They live in fear of getting it wrong. They dread the public classroom retaliations for what they have produced. Maybe they don't have the perfect "happy family" at home to help them. Many of these students have literacy issues and spend hours on what they hand up. They never get the praise to match the effort. They feel like they have no life. They spend hours working in school and hours at home working too. Is there no more to life?

2: Bullying. This comes in all forms. From the students but it is often driven from the system by what you can't do or how you don't fit in. Especially, what the teachers say in front of the class can be very specific in terms of what others feel you are capable of. Every word that is ever said to a student is caried around by them forever. You need to remember this before you open your mouth. Students often quote the horrible things said to them by teachers years after the fact. The next biggest issue that I know first hand for myself is that teachers ignore bullying taking place in front of them or don't do anything when it is reported to them. This leaves students feeling very vulnerable and believing that no one is on their side.

3: Lack of Respect. It seems totally fine to make you look dreadfully bad in front of a whole class, year or assembly hall of people. Respect is a two way street and it is not something you automatically have - you have to earn it. You have to treat people with respect in order to earn it. For personalities that thrive on justice - they cannot cope with an environment that does not have respect.

4: Boring. School is horendiously boring for these bright people and usually by the age of 11 they have switched off forever and never bother again. They often have really involved interests outside school and endlessly research them. The school material is just not interesting enough and there seems to be no space for discussion on real life events, research and ground breaking ideas.

5: The endless drone of the fact that you are no good and never will be. What I experience myself and the feedback I hear back: "You can only do pass subjects." Even if your dreams hinges on being able to get certain grades. "Forget your dreams." Well then, why are you in school? Why bother? You are not going to be allowed to do any of it anyway. "You are too stupid to be here." "You should not be in this class." "If you get 40% you can stay in this class, no sorry, I have changed my mind you need to get 50% now because you came up 10%." This is what is happening in our schools.

6: You are not a social extrovert butterfly. You are a misfit. You are quiet and serious. You are often seen as too intense and are never invited to parties. You do not feel like you will ever meet anyone similar to you.

7: You are no good at sports. You lack the social "cudos" of fitting in to the whole set of what it seems really matters to fellow students.

8: Rules. Why are there so many rules? They are never explained. Many of them seem to create control for the sake of control.

9: Sitting still for far too long. They live for break time or yard time even from young ages. These people live for the sports pitch and only ever seem good there - but at least this leads to popularity.

10: Lack of expression. This even starts as young as 5. Sit down and be quiet. Sometimes as young as 7, you are battling not to be left as the only person in the class that has not received a "pen pass” and be the only one left using a pencil because you are "too stupid" to be allowed a pen. You will carry around the feeling forever that you cannot write. We will then wonder what "expand" really means on all of our essays for the rest of school life. What does this good mythical writing really look like?

Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly.



Literacy & Intelligence

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Welcome to the Purple Learning Project.

The aim of the Purple Learning Project Foundation is to create a legacy of the methods which Dr Naoisé O’Reilly has developed since 2009.

The methods in learning and personality theory have been developed while working with people of a variety of ages, backgrounds, and cultures. The methods have been applied to the education, business and sporting environments. The ages are in the spectrum of 4 to 70's. The methods include: Purple Profiling, Purple Processing Scales, The Periodic Table of the Development of Results, Forget Phonics Reading Method, Purple Pre-School Success and so on...

There has always been a clear distinction for Dr Naosié in working with people who currently need help within the system and leaving behind something of integrity for the future generations.