My 4 and a half year-old daughter refuses to color, write, read, and play independently. She heads straight for the TV, computer, or anything electronic she can get her hands on. She’s very bright. I’ve had to take all the computer games away, sell her iTouch, and disconnect the TV. I also have a 14 years-old son with ADHD. When he gets home from school, they play off each other. That’s when the yelling starts. My daughter doesn’t listen, doesn’t want to follow directions, I have to lock her in her room
with a timer set for 5 minutes for her to get dressed. My husband is in complete denial. I am bipolar, ADHD, depressed, and medicated. My son is on lamictal and it wears off too early.
My daughter is the problem. What do I do? Who do I see? What kind of Dr. do I bring her to? School says she recognizes her words, but only when copying them, not trying on her own.
Firstly I’ll give you some background which will explain a lot of these phenomena. Then I’ll give you practical steps to implement at home without spending a cent if you have similar issues with your children.
The background: this girl is highly visual, which means that she processes most information from her environment as seeing pictures in her head. What this parent is describing + many similar occurrences happens – paradoxically – to the most visual people on this planet. Highly visual people process information the fastest of all people and that means they’ll always be (a) easily distractible / bored and (b) drawn to things that are constantly moving, such as pictures on TV, computer games, and all else on a computer screen. They’re drawn to things that are constantly moving because fast movement is what’s happening in their heads all the time and thus is natural for them. Today’s children are born into a fast moving world and all things electronic of which many have screens with fast moving action on them, and parents buy electronic gadgets to even 2 year-olds nowadays, thus a young child knows no other but fast movement of everything – and his/her brain which has to cope and process everything from the environment. Every coin has 2 sides and speedy imagination can be a drawback if it serves a person in ways in which it serves this girl in some contexts.
Drawbacks are one side of this coin, but the other is that a child like this is extremely bright and creative! I wouldn’t be surprised if this mother wrote to me in 25 years that her daughter became a successful architect, engineer, interior, fashion, or web designer, computer programmer, software, or applications developer, film maker, or photographer! That’s exactly what most highly visual people do become! So intelligence is abundant, and thus in a similar situation to this girl’s you won’t have any problems putting things right! A few simple principles that’ll teach this child’s brain to use the right tool for the right job are what’s called for here. A parent in desperation doing her best will do anything that comes to mind with all the best intentions, but disconnecting a child from technology in a situation like this is going to have the opposite effect to that intended, because it’ll give the child the subtle but powerful message that the child has done something wrong which at 4 and a half years of age the child won’t understand and that will confuse and distract her even more = produce even more frantic brain activity – and yelling! Another thing is that this girl has modeled a lot of this frantic brain activity from her 14 year-old brother who has ADHD and from her mother who is bipolar and also has ADHD. That suggests that the brother and mother are also immensely visual, bright, creative. Thence there’s no wonder that the girl and her brother play off each other and have great fun! They’re very similar and know it on the intuitive level.
Highly visual people find it difficult to follow directions and listen. Why? Because they’re visual – they LOOK and SEE – while you’re asking them to respond to AUDITORY approach – you’re TELLING them what to do and ASKING them to LISTEN! That won’t happen, because their visual sense is already so crowded that all other senses necessarily go down in performance. This is also why so many autistic people don’t communicate auditorily with their environment. Locking your child in her room with a timer won’t help – the child will feel abandoned, isolated, confused, and frustrated, which will again produce more frantic brain activity and the opposite of the intended effect. The husband mentioned here is in denial because he too doesn’t know how to deal with this mess and that’s making him frustrated and pressurised. Being bipolar causes severe mood swings, which makes bouts of frustration more severe. The fact that this mother has ADHD suggests that both of her children have modeled it from her, so one can’t blame them. Children’s way of thinking is: “if mom and dad do things this way, that’s how I should do them.” This is exactly why most learning difficulties are learnt behaviors – because children model and copy them from their parents.
That was the background. Here’re practical steps:
1. Shed all negativity, frustration, and the attitude that “your child is the problem“. For the next few weeks take on a more patient attitude and treat your children as that it’s not their fault that they are the way they are and that they, amidst the mess in their heads, are doing their best in every situation. Do not isolate your child by locking him/her in their room nor away from technology. Do not take their pleasures away from them, instead use the pleasures to teach your children’s brains useful ways of working for them.
2. Teach your child’s brain to freeze the action first. The girl mentioned here refuses to color, write, read, and try for words independently because she probably has a lot of movement in her head and thus can’t see anything in front of her on paper. We don’t know this because we’ve never asked her, but I suspect this is at the root of the problem. Use her love of technology and practise freezing the action by asking her to imagine what happens to a picture on a TV screen when she presses the pause button on the remote control. Once her brain learns to see any picture still, you’ll be able to give her pictures to color and words to read and write. At present she won’t do anything independently because [at her very young age] she’s too terrified to try on her own because of this mess in her head.
3. Once his/her images are still in their imagination, any child will start drawing and later writing. At this stage invest in several large sheets of paper akin to postit notes with a sticky strip to hold the sheets on the wall – such as are used for flipcharts in the conference and training environment. Stick one sheet of paper at a time on a wall slightly above your child’s eye level – which is where his/her visual field is – and practise drawing and writing on it for several weeks until the child gets more proficient. Start with asking your child to draw whatever s/he imagines. Because s/he is imagining it, s/he is doing it independently, i.e. from the brain to the paper without your help. At a later stage when you intuitively feel that you can progress, start asking your child to write letters, then syllables, then words. Once s/he does, his/her confidence will grow, and after some time s/he’ll be writing easily. The initial stage of sticking the paper on the wall will be tremendously important because it’ll take the child out of the feelings and into the visual field which is where s/he needs to be for writing independently.
4. Take your child out of the feelings. What I mean by this is the following: our visual field is slightly above our eye level, hence we look up every time we visualise something – and we look up whether we’re aware of this or not. On the other hand, if we’re processing some information through our feelings, we’ll naturally be looking down toward our stomach area, which is toward the floor. This is why depressed people keep looking at the floor. They’re processing their lives through feelings. Because feelings of people who have trouble with writing, reading, coloring, etc. will inevitably be negative, such as “I’m terrible at this”, “I hate doing this”, “I can’t do this”, “I fee sick / confused / horrible / terrified by doing this and avoid doing it”, you’ll succeed only if you take this person out of their feelings. Whenever you practise freezing your child’s pictures, coloring, writing, or reading, hold the page of the material you’re working with in front of your child’s face at or slightly above their eye level and thus out of the feelings. Being in the visual field will help the child’s brain process the information in front of him/her much faster and negative feelings won’t be there to inhibit the learning experience.
5. When practising visualisation and freezing the movement in your child’s imagination, use something that is familiar and fun for him/her, such as a favorite TV or computer game character. Visualisation will also increase the memory and sharpen your child’s observational skills.
6. Implement grounding. It’ll help your whole family. Grounding is a vital tool for calming down the brain activity which is what you want to achieve for your child and everyone else.
7. Once your child gets more proficient at using visualisation successfully, s/he will visualise tasks s/he needs to complete during the course of the day, such as the morning routine or getting down straight to homework after coming home from school.
8. Make it fun for everyone! When you all feel that what you’re doing is fun and entertaining, you’ll all be motivated to stick to it and it’ll all come much more naturally than it would if it were presented as another chore. So use your creativity, your children’s love of technology, TV and computer game characters, them being able to see the computer keyboard and how they’re typing numbers – useful when visualising phone numbers, PIN numbers, etc.
Contact me for more NLP help with ADHD and / or auditory problems.