The truth and hope of the A.D.D. child
/ by Ming
Parents and children alike, all those who may be reading this, I want you to know several things before I began the memoirs of my life being an individual blessed with A.D.D. Yes, I believe I am blessed. And I hope through reading my scattered entries, you will soon understand how you as parents and you children are both blessed.
First, I need to explain the biological fact and truth behind A.D.D. – it is not a disease, nor a disability. Its simply a hyper-active function of the brain and its neuro-chemicals. Without boring you of all the details I've studied as a Bioengineering student (with a Psychology minor) at UCSD, I'll explain it in the best way I know in the following analogy.
Pretend there is a kid in 1st grade. And lets measure his "attention span". Now what you must understand is that A.D.D. is not truly a "deficit" or lack of attention… it is in fact the over abundance of attention.
Back to the kid… the kid must sit there in class to be a “good” kid. At least here in America, 1st graders are taught to “raise their hands” before they speak. They must also “keep their hands to themselves” and listen attentively to the teacher. Now let us quantify “attention” in units of marbles in a jar. The jar is the total amount of attention this normal 1st grader can have. Each marble that is placed into the jar will take up part of his attention. Now let's say, the average 1st grader has a jar that can hold 10 marbles. To sit there quietly, it requires 2 marbles … to resist the temptation to hit his friend, it takes another marble… finally to sit and raise his hand at the appropriate time, it takes another 2 marbles. So far, he has used 5 marbles out of 10 marble spaces. Thus, he has 5 more marble spaces to fill before his attention is filled and he can no longer pay attention to all the elements around him. Thus, resisting the urge to fill 5 more attention "spots" isn't that hard.
Now let us consider the A.D.D. child. ME!
So I'm sitting there in 1st grade … I'm sitting and listening attentively and not hitting anyone and raising my hand… all of a sudden, I get up and I walk around the classroom looking for projects to do, more maps of the world to memorize, more multiplication tables to master. Why did I do what I did? Well the A.D.D. child also has a jar which marbles can be filled. Except, when I was sitting there, something with my neuro-chemistry DROVE me, COMPELLED me, FORCED me … to get up and move around. The reason is this. The A.D.D. child (each child being slightly different) has a jar that holds not 10 marbles… but say 50 marbles, maybe even 100, maybe even 1000. So lets say 50. With 50, only 5/50 marble spots are filled. We have SO MANY MORE THINGS we can do with our minds and we only have 10% of our minds being sufficiently stimulated by the things around us.
Now I cannot fully describe how deep and wrenching the feeling is inside of a person when they forced to under-stimulate their minds in this fashion. The internal pain and agony of having only 5/50 marble spaces filled is indescribable at best and a living temporary taste of hell's torture at worst. But is that it? Is there no hope? Will we be cursed for the rest of our lives? No. Of course not. If it was so, then I would not be writing these words to you.
You must understand that the A.D.D. kid MUST be fully mentally engaged otherwise they will naturally find other venues to fill those marble spaces. If they do not, the utter discomfort (不舒服) is unbearable. You CANNOT deny these kids their need to be mentally fed.
But as a result of institutionalized education, the A.D.D. kid will be seen as "bad" and "disruptive" when all he or she really wants, is to have their minds engaged and active.
But there is another part of the equation I must explain. Salient reality – what we can see, hear, taste, understand, etc… is different for those with the A.D.D. mind. When the teacher said “raise your hands before you speak” … I remember my thoughts at the time was “if I have my hands up, I can talk all I want!" … very excited, I raised BOTH hands. Now with TWICE the power to talk, I could talk all I wanted whenever I wanted!
Until we A.D.D. children can understand how our own minds work, we will continually stumble around blind in a "normal" world. It takes the guiding hand of loving and patient parents to teach their children how to see not only what the world sees, but to allow for these kids to naturally and ON THEIR OWN … see for themselves the truth in front of their own eyes… and match that in parallel to that which the rest of the world sees. When the child is able to do that, they will enormously powerful… seeing from 2 different scopes of life… understanding what is innately empowered within them… and understanding the normality which the world functions by.
Still not clear? Its okay =) it's a journey we are all making together. I'm so very proud of you (especially you mothers) as you've begun to humble yourself to accept the reality of such situations.
As a note of encouragement and a tribute to my own mother I must say the following:
I believe that the psychology of the parent to their children should be this – that the children are the most important thing EVER. EVER! And that they are willing to do anything, be anything, change anything, sacrifice all but their souls and their faith… for the betterment of their children.
My mother did.
My mother was a talented pharmacist from Taiwan. She went to all of the best of schools there, top of her classes. She'll deny it out of a cultural habit of being humble, but I know its true.
From such great beginning came her son. Me. From there, she sacrificed everything… her entire livelihood to the dedication of raising her son to the grown man he is now. I am ever so grateful and even more proud of her. She has placed my needs above her own, she has learned to set aside her culture, her own pride, her preferences, even her own needs… to ensure that I, her son… would be able to function as a productive member of society. She changed ever fiber within her being for this war she has been fighting for me. And she has finally won the last battle. She has won the war. So I write all this to you now to tell you… it can be done. For the sake of our dear children, it must be.
I implore and beg all of you parents, especially you mothers out there… to take heart and strengthen yourselves in the changes you must make.
So to you, mom:
I want to thank you for every moment of every day. From the moment I was born to the past recent months. You've poured out your livelihood for me that I may hope to have one. And I do. And I want to honor you with mine.
A final and simple word of encouragement to the parents: You must finally do the following – after fully accepting your child for who and what he or she, a child with A.D.D., you must become an "A.D.D. parent". And here is the start of how to do it.
Remember that car ride at Disneyland? I'm not sure if its still there. But many cultures attribute life to being a "road". Since the automobile is the most common means of transportation we will continue that analogy.
Early in the child's life, the parent is to be the center rail (a rail between the wheels… a rail that the wheels cannot escape from thus, the car can turn as it wishes but it must follow the center track. It can waver from side to side but will be jolted back into position if the wheels make contact with the center rail).
Later in life, the parents need only be the guard rails on the sides of the highways and freeways –A protection so that the car will not dive over into the cliffs surrounding that road of life.
Finally, as the child grows to become a young adult, the parent needs only be those road signs. "10 miles to nearest gas station" … "3 miles until such and such an exit”. Parents, the #1 thing NEVER to do is to nag and nag and NAG your kids. Psychologically they will experience what is called "reactance" and they will NOT do what you keep telling them to do. You must also understand that ESPECIALLY for these children with A.D.D. (and kids in general)… repeating instructions over and over communicates to them that you do not believe they are intelligent or capable because you seem to need to repeat everything OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. Especially in this day and age, insulting young people's intelligence is often the best way to get negative results from the requests you press upon them. That is why you must only be a road sign. You are simply there, you don't repeat thing too many times, but you give them direction. They can follow you if they want to, and they can choose not to. Unlike when they are an infant, toddler, or small child… you must be a safe-guide rail… preventing them from going off track and even off the center of the track. As they reach their teen years, you must be those guard-rails… unlike the guide rails they can weave on the road as much as they want. So long as their lives are not in danger, you must not intervene – if you do, they will never learn and if you do… they will learn not to enjoy your presence in their lives. But I'm sure by now you understand such concepts.
I truly believe that if these concepts are understood and your love for your child leads you to parent in a revolutionary way… you may be finding other parents around you asking you, "So… what is the secret to having a child as good as yours?"
God bless all of you.
I hope you enjoyed the reading.
Thank you so much.
(1/26/05 by Ming)