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Zebra Stripes for ADHD

A monthly newsletter of stories tips and news for those concerned with ADHD, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, No. 15

Sarah Jane Keyser : ADHD Coach

Safari Organizing

Joey, the zebra with no stripes, wasn't eating. He looked disconsolate, 
his head hanging down to his knees.

"What's the matter, Joey?  You aren't hungry?", Koko said.

"There's some fresh new buffalo grass over here, " added Sammy

"My tummy doesn't feel so good. I'm just going to lie down for a bit,"
replied Joey.

"No, no! If you have colic, you must get up and walk around," said Miss
Zebrette, their teacher. 

Chip and Chap, Joey's monkey friends, were chattering to themselves up
in their favorite tree. They swung out of sight on a convenient vine.
Chip was soon back with a handful of twigs. Chap arrived just behind
him with bunch of dark green leaves.

"Here's what you need, Joey. This will fix you up in no time."	He
swung down to the ground with Chap, and they both set to work stripping
the branches of leaves and bark leaving the bare pith.

"You chew on those twigs now, Joey ."

Miss Zebrette sniffed the twigs suspiciously, "What are these, Chip"

"It's called Vernonia amygdalina, and we use it when we don't feel too
good. It helps to improve appetite and get rid of parasites.  My Mom
showed me where to find them," replied Chip. 

Joey nibbled at  one of the twigs. "Aach! It tastes awful."

"Yes, it tastes bitter, but that means it's good for you. You'll feel
better soon",  said Chap encouragingly.

Joey snorted and wrinkled up his nose, but he chewed on the stems to
extract the pith before spitting out the tough stuff.

They all stood around and watched. 

Koko tested one with his tongue, "That stuff is revolting, I'd die
before eating it" 

Joey was more philosophical, he nibbled methodicallyon the twigs. After
a while he shifted to the nearby buffalo grass. Everybody gave a cheer.
Joey replied, "Hee! Haw!"

Organizing Tips

I love stories about the cognitive abilities of animals. How dare they do something so clever like tool use. Why only us humans have (supposedly) the ability to do whatever?

The case I'm referring to now is story about chimpanzees who can identify and use 200 different plant species. They know where and when to find them. One of them, Vernonia amygdalina, is used to get rid of parasites. The hairy rough leaves of another, Aspilia mossambicensis, are swallowed whole. They pass through the system intact carrying with them worms which have been attached to the intestines. How did they ever learn these things??

They are also better than human beings at the card game, Pelmanism or pairs, in which you lay out a deck of cards face down, turn up two cards at a time and try to turn up matching pairs.

So what's this all about ? Distinguishing differences between plant species and matching categories is what it's all about. Two skills that some times baffle people with ADHD. It's boring name is Organizing.

So you, well okay, I have these piles of paper plus stuff; lets call it what it is a jungle. Many of my coaching clients report difficulty dealing with piles of paper.

How can we deal with it? Lets consider how chimpanzees learn. They don't sit in class rooms separated from real life listening to blah, blah. They are not fully adult until they are 12 to 13 years old, they live in extended family groups so they have time and opportunity to observe adult behavior.

One group of chimpanzees are skilled at cracking nuts with stone hammers, Youngsters learn by observing adults and then trying for themselves, and they keep trying until they succeed. It takes 3 to 4 years to become proficient.

Perhaps if you had paid more attention to Mom when you were toddling around behind her, you would have learned a few tricks about organizing. Ah, but we're talking about ADHDers and by definition they aren't so good at paying attention. Probably she told you over and over again, and it just never sank in.

Now you're on your own with this jungle of paper.

Let's make a game of it. Imagine that you are a botanist exploring a jungle you've never seen before.

  1. First you have to inventory the different types of plants you find in your jungle, like bank statements, bills, entertainment, travel, and of course quite a few weeds. They go directly to the compost heap.

  2. Second you have put similar plants together; that's called categorizing or identifying the species. It also means identifying subspecies. For example bank statements are a species but each separate account is a subspecies. This may not be as easy as it seems. If you have difficulty deciding how to classify some papers, take your time and highlight key words. You could ask someone to advise you, not tell you; Mom is probably not the right person to ask. Whatever categories your buddy suggests need to make sense to you.

  3. Third you need to decide how each species might be used in the future. Knowing it's use will help you decide where to plant it. Does it need to be close at hand for easy reference, or can it be stored in a box , carefully marked, for long term storage?

  4. What kind of soil does it need? Will a loose leaf ring binder work (more trouble to pull out, open, close and put away) or will a plastic, see-thru folder do (can't hold a lot and is easy to spill out)?

Organizing is a skill that needs to be learned. Slow down and accept that it takes time to build expertise. Learning is a process of approximations and internalization. Take time be patient, be persistent. ADD is not good at these but don't give up if baby chimpanzees can learn to crack nuts, you can too.

Are you ready to pull on your botanist's boots, don your safari hat and head into the jungle? Happy hunting.


Zebra Tips : Making Distinctions

Have you heard about the man who didn't like tomatoes? He never tried them because he didn't like them. His mother tried, his wife tried and his daughter tried to persuade him to try tomatoes.

Then at an advanced age he found himself in the hospital. The nurse brought in his dinner tray, arranged it on his bed, and as she left she said "Now you eat everything on your plate Mr. Smith."

When she came back, he asked her " What was that red stuff; that was really good"

"Why that was stewed tomatoes. Did you like them?"

When his wife and daughter came to visit, he greeted them with "Why didn't you ever give me tomatoes! I've only just discovered them, and I could have been enjoying them all my life."

For more about me, Sarah Jane Keyser, About Sarah Jane

Do you need a safe place to talk?   email me today for a free coaching session.

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