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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. 29

Sarah Jane Keyser : ADHD Coach

Mastery for Self-Esteem with ADHD

School was out for the day. Joey went straight to the foot-ball field
to practice his kicking.
Head down, hind legs up, and the ball rocketed straight into the goal.
Another ball , another goal. Joey moved to a different angle and again
his kick sent the ball hurtling into the goal.

Miss Zebrette, the zebra teacher, was grazing quietly after a turbulent
day in class. She watched Joey expertly manage the ball around the

"Joey," she said when he stopped for a moment, "if you would put as
much effort into your school work as you do into your football, you
would be my star pupil in class. School work takes practice just as
football does."

"Well ma'am, you may be right. But you know my feet are much smarter
than my brain. My feet want to learn, but my brain goes AWOL when I ask
it to work."

"Hey! Way to go Joey!. We're really counting on you for Saturday's
game!" Joey's fans arrived to watch the practice.

"You know, Miss Zebrette, that has something to do with it. My feet
have fans to cheer them on; my brain doesn't."

"I see what you mean Joey, but recognition comes with mastery and
mastery takes practice. Can we make a deal? If you do the practice;
I'll provide the cheering squad for your brain."

"OK, Miss Zebrette, it's a deal."



Self- esteem is a big issue for lots of people and especially for people with ADHD. Self-esteem is an internal sense of respect for yourself. Perfectionists, idealists, and control-freaks suffer because they are comparing themselves to an exceptionally high measuring stick. Outside encouragement and praise doesn't often help if it contradicts your own internal sense of worth.

In the water I am a fish. I learned by myself with a minimum of effort. One summer I was a swimming instructor at a camp. My co-instructor told me "You can't teach because you don't know how hard it is. I can teach children because I had to work at learning every movement." Thanks for the bump.

I also ride horses. For years I rode in classes, the horse knew the routine, I wasn't responsible for we did. Then I had a horse of my own and could go for promenades alone. I had to decide where we were going and figure out how to make the horse do what I wanted. I began to learn.

When I started jumping I was petrified to jump over a log on the ground. When I went alone to the woods I would negotiate with myself whether or how many jumps I would try. I would decide to jump three jumps, the easy ones of course. Before there was the fear, after the jumps immense satisfaction. Little by little I built up the confidence to jump all the obstacles in the woods.

Then one evening I was doing a jumping lesson. My horse at the time was a clown; he would get terribly excited, buck , kick and then charge the jump. This was not the way we were supposed to do it. The instructor took my horse to show me how it was supposed to be done. My horse was worse with the instructor. When he gave me back my horse , he said "You do very well with that horse". That was recognition! My self-esteem sky rocketed. I had worked, I had achieved a sense of satisfaction with this horse and now the recognition.

Mastery is that Ah-Ha moment when you get the feeling "I can do this".

With ADHD, mastery is elusive for several reasons:

  • A faulty attention system doesn't register experience fully so learning is slowed.
  • When behavior is impulsive, the individual doesn't know what they have done or why and can neither learn not to do it again or when right to do it again.
  • Faulty memory means that each new experience is a fresh start.
  • Distractability means that the interest and passion which are necessary to persevere over time keep shifting from one object to another so mastery is never achieved.

What can you do?

  1. Slow down. Gently, help your ADHD child or spouse to see the whole experience.

  2. Help them get started. They avoid practice because they don't know how to start.

  3. Help them see the small increments of improvement.

  4. Exercise to stimulate the brain.

  5. Develop regular routines to teach the body to do the practice without asking the brain to make decisions.

For more About Sarah Jane

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

You May Use This Article In Your Ezine Or Web Site

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Here's the attribution you'll use: "By Sarah Jane Keyser ADHD Coach for adults and adolescents. Sarah Jane Keyser helps adults and parents of children with ADD to live life fully. Please visit her site at http://www.CoachingKeytoADD.com for more articles and resources on living more easily with Adult ADHD."

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