Some genes are like exotic seeds – planted in just the right, supportive environment they will exceptionally thrive and flourish, but in the wrong environment they may never flower at all.
The “Orchid” concept
The Orchid Profile evolved from genetic research showing that over 20% of individuals inherit specific patterns of genes that make their response to stress factors particularly pronounced. While this research was developing, a parallel line of enquiry led by the paediatrician W. Thomas Boyce MD found there was a large group of children who appeared to have a greater cardiovascular or immune reactivity to stressors than the norm. If exposed to stressful environmental influences, these children were more likely to develop respiratory diseases.
It was found that the genetic pattern shared by all of these individuals involved a different balance of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which could make their reaction to environmental or ‘epigenetic’ stress factors much more marked and destabilising than in the rest of the population.
In contrast, the research also revealed that this genetic profile could produce some extraordinary benefits. Many of these individuals stood out from the general population as being happier and more able than others, but this was only the case if they suffered no significant environmental trauma, or successfully overcame it.
It was this research that led to the formulation of the “Orchid” concept. Originally termed the “Orchid-Dandelion hypothesis”, it contrasts ‘dandelion children’ who seem to thrive almost anywhere, with ‘orchid children’ who are sensitive, less tolerant of stress and thrive or suffer depending on whether their environments appropriately support their needs.
Over the past 25 years Edutherapy has been involved with many such Orchid children who had failed to thrive as they should. Our primary focus has been on academic, emotional and behavioural functioning and performance enhancement. We have found that the high sensitivity which Orchids have to environmental stress factors can destabilise aspects of the neurodevelopmental functioning on which their full success depends. Fortunately, we have also found that the increased brain plasticity which the Orchid genetic inheritance confers makes them particularly receptive to our therapeutic intervention techniques.
“Orchids” and Edutherapy
As a result of using a thorough assessment and review system with large numbers of people over many years we have acquired a unique understanding of the Orchid profile, not only of the full spectrum of underlying issues but also of the nature of the journey from dysfunction to the full expression of potential.
Children with an Orchid profile often display an enigmatic pattern of behaviour and difficulties which do not fit traditional labels or are misdiagnosed. They may show great promise which fails to materialise as their schooling goes on. Many show symptoms of anxiety, depression or obsessive behaviours – with a strong tendency to focus exclusively on what particularly interests them. Poor digestion and food intolerances are also common.
There are clear differences in the ways that boys and girls with an Orchid profile respond. For the boys, problems are generally quite clear in the early years of education and a variety of labels may be applied, often involving attention, fidgeting, handwriting, organisation and time awareness. Orchid girls, on the other hand, frequently develop intensive coping strategies to deal with their various undiagnosed symptoms – it is only when these compensatory strategies are overwhelmed, typically when public examinations are looming, that problems surface. These can often result in stress disorders such as self-harming or anorexia.
People with an Orchid profile often have high potential and in many cases excel at certain types of activity. They can be sensitive, gifted, creative and tend to have an alternative way of looking at things. From our work over the past 25 years, we have seen that once the epigenetic stress is cancelled out, children often develop to become strong, resilient, empathetic young people with a clear sense of purpose and exciting creative talents – all of which builds confidence and can provide the impetus for even greater achievement. In the last ten years large numbers of adults with Orchid profiles have also benefitted from our programmes.