My youngest child, Beckie, has always been cuddly and affectionate. As a newborn, she quieted as soon as I picked her up and held her cheek next to mine. I thought she recognized my voice, but it was the skin-to skin contact at least as much as my words to her that seemed to calm her. As she grew, I noticed that when others picked her up her little hands immediately started fingering the material of the holder’s clothing. She gently explored the feel of earrings, necklaces, scarves, and even daddy’s whiskers. At age three, I took her with me to a craft show. Knowing how she loved to touch different textures, before we went in to the show I reminded her to look with her eyes and not her hands. She looked both sad and surprised as she protested, “But Mommy, to look IS to touch.” Those were her exact words, and it confirmed that I had a very tactile learner and that I needed to allow her to touch some of the items that caught her interest. I ended up telling her that if she saw something she wanted to feel, she could ask me first and I would find out from the vendor if Beckie could touch the objects to see how they felt in her hand. As she grew older still, I heard the same request every day during our homeschool time when I was reading to the children: “Tickle my back, Mom!” If you are familiar with sensory integration (AKA sensory processing), you know that tickling can be aversive and irritating to some children. In Beckie’s case, she was sensory seeking and had lower registration for tactile input so the tickling was alerting to her. When she is just listening and not actively moving, it is hard for her to focus. Her AD/HD leads her into daydreaming and distractions. She recognized this about herself, and one strategy she found that seemed to help was to have her back tickled. The light touch was enough to help her stay alert and focus on listening to what I was reading. I became adept at one-hand holding or propping a book, depending on the size of the book, and using my other hand to trace lightly over Beckie’s back. I tried using a wooden backscratcher once, but that didn’t have the same effect for Beckie. I tried a backscratcher with metal scratchers, but that was also not acceptable to Beckie. When I became too absorbed by what I was reading or needed a drink of water and would thus cease the tickling, Beckie noticed immediately and either wiggled against me to prompt me back to task or grabbed my hand and placed it where it clearly belonged – on her back again! Sensory input can be calming or alerting, and each individual’s response to input varies. Often, as in Beckie’s case, our children show us over and over what they need and what works for them. Be observant and sensitive to individual differences, and take advantage of the strategies that work.
Many people with AD/HD and learning challenges also struggle with organizing their possessions. Add to that the difficulty with time management that often accompanies disorganization, and the result can be extreme clutter and cringe-inducing messes. Unfortunately for those of us who like to have things neat and orderly, the cringing is usually emanating from us, not those who created the clutter fest. Another unfortunate fact is that the organizing strategies used by those who are naturally organized do not typically work for those who tend to be clutterbugs. (I think I made up a word there, but if you are one or live with a “clutterbug” you’ll know what I mean.) Because the messes and the clutter bothers me, I have spent a great deal of time trying various strategies to conquer the piles and bring order (and may I add, inner peace for me) to my surroundings. My ways do not work for my family. I have tried methods that made no sense to me, but promise to work for the naturally disorganized – but they, too, have failed. My daughter has a very messy and cluttered room, but she does not struggle with it because it genuinely doesn’t faze her. Once I pointed out that she should at least have a clear path to her bed instead of a few cleared off patches on the floor. “Doesn’t it bother you to be surrounded by all the mess?” I asked her, trying not to appear as appalled as I felt. Her reply was “No, not at all! I just leap like a gazelle through the mess to get to my bed.” She said this quite proudly, as gazelles are truly admirable in their graceful maneuvers and Beckie is truly athletic and probably capable of some gazelle-like moves. I couldn’t think of anything to say at that point, so I withdrew to regroup and try again another day. My husband, Scott, also tends toward cluttering things up and not noticing them so his solution is to wait until things get really bad and then grab a trash bag and start stuffing things into it. While the initial result is less clutter, it is followed by weeping and gnashing of teeth when the kids find their prized possessions mixed in with trash. Not to mention they are even less likely to sort through a trash bag than things that are out in the open in their rooms. My son, Josh, who has the most severe AD/HD in my family, has been the one to conquer his disorganization with the greatest degree of success. His room is the neatest of the three children’s rooms. He figured out what works for him, and now he is the one taking up the challenge of helping Beckie. I am standing aside and letting Josh work with Beckie on this. I’m hopeful that she can still be like a gazelle without all the mess and clutter.
I know this is a very late announcement, but Clark Lawrence will be speaking at the CHADD of Columbus meeting tomorrow, January 24, 2009 at 2:00 in Gahanna, Ohio. His topic will be “Developing a Positive ADD Lifestyle”. Clark is Director of the Executive Function Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
A description of his topic:
Positively addressing adult ADD requires more than working on the problem areas (goal-setting, procrastination, etc); people with ADD also need to adopt a lifestyle that works with their ADD to overcome its effects - as opposed to continually working against their ADD. This talk will address the lifestyle problems of people with ADD and offer a vision and techniques to create a positive ADD lifestyle
The meeting is being held at Mifflin Presbyterian Church, 123 Granville St., Gahanna, OH 43230
Melinda had the opportunity to interview Dr Lawrence at the 2009 CHADD conference in Cleveland, Oh. Here is the interview.