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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. 28
Sarah Jane Keyser : ADHD Coach
Body Learning vs. Brain Learning
Joey, the zebra with no stripes, was moping around with his friends Koko and Sammy when Grandpa came along. "What's up? Why so blue?" he asked. "School starts next week," replied Joey glumly. "Bah, what do you need school for? Life is out there in the big wide world. You need to experience it. Learn it in your body not your head." "Here, here, 'Papa don't you start putting wild ideas in my boys' heads," said Miss Zebrette, Joey's teacher, who arrived just in time to hear Grandpa's comments. "Aw, Miss Zebrette, I didn't mean to give them wild ideas. They're good boys. But you know really, what you're teaching them is important but it's only the beginning. To really live you have to learn life in the body, " replied Papa. "Well, to be honest with you," continued Papa, "I didn't learn that out in the wide, wild world. I learned it right here from your friend, Thomas Tortoise the Organizer. And I think it's important that you understand what's going on here. You could be using this technique in your school, Miss Zebrettte. So I want to explain what I'm talking about." They all settled down to listen to Papa. "You all know that when I came back from that wild wide world I was angry. I was angry at everyone. I met a lot of stupid people and saw a lot of dumb things, and whenever I tried to tell people how much better I could do things, I got bounced." They all exchanged glances and nodded. They remembered very well how angry Papa was when he returned a few months ago. (See : Grandpa sees Red (Anger and ADHD) ) "You see, that was my brain working and my body was so tense and wound up with all that anger it didn't have a chance to get a word in edge wise." "When Mr. Thomas suggested that I think one nice thought a day about someone, my brain was screaming 'stupid people, there isn't anything nice about them', but what he asked was so simple, my brain didn't dare say 'no'." "What happened next rather surprised me. When I found something nice to think, it felt good; it tingled. As I found more nice thoughts, my body began to relax; my neck was less stiff, I could swish my tail better. I began to look for nice things about people, and I found them." "Mr. Thomas asked me to check the box on the calendar each day that I had a nice thought. Well I tell you, my brain was really screaming about that, 'What a stupid idea. That's for kindergarten kids. You're an old man for Pete's sake.' But my body was getting a big kick out of this game. It really resonated when I checked that box." "So now you see me, I'm a changed zebra." "You sure are, Papa, and we really love you!" They all shouted. "And Miss Zebrette, I'm sure you can use this in you classes even for the multiplication tables. One small step every day slides under that know-it-all censor of a brain which it saying 'I can't, I won't', and the body will learn before the brain can stop it.
The brain learns verbally, either from reading books or listening to lectures, but words fail to convey how things feel. The body learns by watching and doing.
Our modern system of education is almost exclusively focused on brain learning. Our brains are filled with rules to follow, must-do's, can't do's, don't want to do's and so on. We don't allow the body to learn and act for itself; it waits for the brain to give orders and often the communication is blocked.
Grandpa has learned to control his anger in small steps by recognizing how nice thoughts feel.
When I started to apply the small step approach to organizing, I had the same result. I started by doing just one minute a day initially just thinking about what to do with the stuff.
Now several months later, progress is visible, slow but visible. And more and more things get done, in small doses. I put dishes in the dish washer instead of the sink; I do the ironing a couple shirts at a time. I put clean clothes away instead of leaving them in a pile.
My body is learning to move without waiting for instructions from the brain which always has other things to do. I get a little tingle of satisfaction when I've done one small task. My body says 'This is fun. I want more of this feeling'.
This is the basis of routines. In coaching for ADHD we talk a lot about managing multiple tasks be creating routines.
To create routine, it is important to start small, one task, and tell your brain that one just one small step won't hurt. Keep doing that one task everyday; it will become automatic. Then add another step.
Before long you will have a daily routine which works automatically. You won't need to trouble that busy brain.
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