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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

Sarah Jane Keyser : ADHD Coach

How Joey learned that he had no stripes and what that means for a little zebra, an ADHD Fairy Tale

Joey sat in a heap between the long legs of Mama Giraffe.

"It's not me that's DANGEROUS! That lion almost ate me! He's the one that's DANGEROUS."

Mama Giraffe stepped carefully over Joey to a spot under an acacia tree and started munching leaves from the top most branch. "Hmm, very good this year. Would you like to try some Joey, Dear?"

"I don't understand. My friends laugh at my jokes. They don't think I'm dangerous. Who thinks I'm dangerous?"

"Well, I don't mean that you are dangerous like the lion. No you don't have his teeth.

These leaves are good. Are you sure you wouldn't like to try some?

But you see Joey. Life is like a dance. To live in our world you need to do the right steps to the music. We all love you, Joey, you really are a joy to have with us and you have a heart of gold, I can see that when you are playing with my own baby. But you often make the wrong steps at the wrong time and you don't seem to hear the music."

“You mean like the time at the school picnic when we fell in the lake? But it was Koko who jumped in first and me that got the blame."

"Yes, for example, because when something happens, they see that it is you because you have no stripes."

"What about the time Koko and Sammy muddied the drinking stream. I wasn't even there, but everyone was mad at me."

"Yes even if its not you they think it must be you because the other youngsters don't do that sort of thing. Here have a few leaves to chew on. Chewing helps you think."

"So what can I do Mama Giraffe? How can I get stripes?"

"Well, Joey, would you be willing to do this? Keep your eyes on people around you. Open your ears to what people are saying. Do that for a while and then come back and tell me what you saw and heard."

"But I find other things to look at and listen to like the birds or the lizards."

"Well, then, repeat over and over again : L I O N. And come back tomorrow."

Being different can be dangerous.

Someone thought I was dangerous when I was working as a computer programmer. Not because they thought I might sabotage the system which I could very easily have done, but because I said what I thought and embarassed my boss. At the time I knew nothing about ADD and couldn't understand why I was always kept in a corner. If I had known, would I have done things differently? I like to think I would have said what I had to say but in a different way, a way that could have been more acceptable to managers.

Zebra Tip: From Routines to Rites

Are your routines working? To manage life with ADHD, we are told to create routines, lists of tasks to do at a certain time like "the do before leaving routine" or "the clear up the mess routine".

Routines can be a big help, but sometimes things on the list still don't get done. Now you need to look at the emotions attached to those tasks.

Emotion is the catalyst for action. We think we do what we do because it's rational and right, and indeed the "what" is, hopefully, a rational or mental decision. But to do there needs to be a spark to start the engine and that is where emotion comes in.

Take a look at the routines or parts of routines that aren't working. One possibility is that you don't feel a deep need to have that task done. What would happen if you just forgot it? Maybe someone else in the family feels more strongly that it should be done. Ask them to do it.

My next door neighbor enjoys ironing; she finds it calming. I don't see the need and iron only what absolutely has to be ironed. I was delighted to learn that my daughter doesn't even have an iron.

Many years ago, our first dog had two walks a day, afternoon and evening, plus a garden, but I felt that she should have a walk before breakfast. I suggested and nagged a bit but no one, husband or children took any notice. So, I said to myself, "You are the one who feels that this is important. You do it." I've been walking the dog before breakfast ever since. Now even the dog, the third one, doesn't feel the need to walk before breakfast so I go alone.

Walking the dog is no longer a routine, it has become a rite. A moment of meditation that wakes me up and puts me in touch with the world.

My next goal is to turn "organizing the mess" into a rite.

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

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