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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

HELP! How do I ask for help?

Mama Giraffe was munching on her favorite acacia tree when Joey, the zebra without stripes comes galloping up. In their previous conversation, Mama Giraffe had asked Joey to observe how his own manner of speaking affected his teacher, Miss Zebrette.

"Oh, Mama Giraffe, I really blew it!"

"Have a bite to eat, Joey. Here, behind my tree is some of your favorite grass. Now, tell me what you blew."

"I could even see it happening. I had been trying really hard to say things in the right way, and Miss Zebrette even seemed to be a bit less mean than usual. Then she gave me a problem to do. I looked at and I just couldn't figure it out, she was standing over me waiting for an answer and I just blurted out 'THIS IS STUPID!' She got really mad."

"My, my. I can understand. When she's waiting for an answer like that, your mind freezes up."

"That's it! That's it! You know what I mean."

"Well, Joey, I think that's progress. Your Watch-Bird has been working hard. What else has he seen or heard you say?"

"Mmmm. Yesterday, I was really fed up with "Lion Psychology" and said 'I hate this subject'. But you know Mama Giraffe, I really like it, I don't know why I said that."

"Were you having difficulty understanding the new lesson, Joey?"

“Yeah, I guess so. When I got out of class and went for a long walk by myself I got it sorted out in my head, I think, but at the moment it all seemed to be like hippopotamus speak.”

“What would you like to do about this, Joey? Shall we talk about what you could say so the next time you’ll be ready with some sentences which better fit your meaning?”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

“Instead of ‘This is stupid’, what did you really want to say?”

“Something like ‘I can’t think while you’re waiting for me to answer’”

“That’s better. What about saying this: ‘Please Miss Zebrette, I need some help getting started on this problem’. Could you try it to see how that sounds?”

“Please Miss Zebrette, I need some help getting started on this problem.”

“How does that feel?”


“Try it again. Repeat several times. Say it in different ways to see how it sounds best.”

After repeating the phrase several times, Joey said, “Yeah, that’s okay. It seems to fit.”

“Now, what about ‘I hate this subject’?”

“In that case, I just couldn’t think. I felt like my head was stuffed with cotton wool.”

“How does this sound then “I’m sorry, Miss Zebrette, I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and it’s hard for me to concentrate. I need time for my brain to digest this material. Could we talk about this again tomorrow?”

“I’ll try.” Joey repeats the phrase. “It’s too long.”

“Which parts seem best to you”

“I’m sorry, Miss Zebrette, I’m feeling really overwhelmed right now. I need time to digest this stuff. Could we talk again tomorrow?”

“Very good. Repeat it several times until it feels natural.”

Joey repeats the phrase with different intonations. “Ok. I think I’ve got it. Thanks a bunch Mama Giraffe.”

"See you next time, Joey."

(to be continued)

Mental freeze up


Mental freeze up is characteristic of the ADHD brain. I call it my morning after brain. I don't even have to wait for the morning after; its just after the fact, when its too late to say it, my brain suddenly clicks into gear and the words I should have said appear crystal clear.

If this is a problem for you, take some time to dissect the event (I don't mean obsess on) and work out what you could have said. The first rule is to say "I.." not "You are.." or "It is..." A coach, like Mama Giraffe, can help you design phrases that work for you. Don't be discouraged if your first efforts are not fruitful. It takes practice to train your brain. More about this another time.

Zebra Tips : Green, Green, Green

My husband loved the outdoors, like me; he wanted it all. We had the mountains for skiing in the winter time, and in the summer we went to the south of France and camped by the Ardeche, an idyllic little river favored by vacationers for swimming and kayaking. When we first went there, before we were married, we camped in the caves along the river. Later when civilization caught up with us, we had to stay in organized camping sites and spend the day by the river. It was lovely, I'm not complaining.

But each time as we returned to Switzerland, climbing up to the mountains, I would feel a sense of calm repose as the scenery became greener. In summer the Ardeche colors are predominantly brown, beige, sun yellow, and sky blue; the greens are gray and dusky. I felt a sort of mental sun burn from the heat and the glare. Back in the green mountains I felt more comfortable.

An article from Psychology Today (April-March 2004), which I've just seen, reports that studies done at Human Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, confirm that kids with ADHD who play outside in a green environment have fewer ADHD moments than kids who play indoors or on artificial surfaces.

And now New Scientist, 6 August 2005, reports that the ultimate in a green environment, an old-growth forest, one that has never been logged, has air that is super healthy. The Japanese call a walk in the forest shinrin-yoku or wood-air bathing and have found that a walk in the forest lowers blood sugar levels for diabetics.

Researchers (got to get these guys in there don't we) have found 120 chemical compounds in fresh mountain air, only 70 of which they can identify, most of which come from the trees. Many of these compounds are monoterpenes and have been shown to have among other health benefits, curative properties for cancer.

Joan Maloof, author of the article in New Scientist, doesn't say anything about ADHD, but the two reports together plus my own ADHD nervous system say that forests are good. If you or your kids have ADHD, think about a trip to the woods instead of the seashore for your next vacation.

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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