In this series about dealing with adults who are mean to our Sizzlers, we’ve discussed how to change the situation and how to change the Sizzler themselves. But what about the offending adult? Is there anything that can be done there?
Change the Mean Adult
I am convinced that many times people are simply uninformed. And when they don’t understand a behavior, they pick from the list of things they DO understand and attempt to explain it with one of those.
“It’s just poor discipline.”
“It’s bad parenting.”
“The child’s diet simply lacks _____________ (insert in this blank one of the following: bran, lactose, gluten, carpet fibers, wild Australian grasses, Pixie dust, whatever you think best)—added for the amusement of those of you who know how I feel about diets 🙂
I’ve come to the conclusion that even GOOD people, people who would LIKE to do well by my child. . .
are often ill-equipped and poorly informed about my child and his behavior. It’s of course all the more difficult when people aren’t particularly inclined to want to see my child in a positive light. But even these folks I believe can often be positively impacted with a little education.
“And where does such education come from?” you may well be asking. “The information is all over the air waves. The bookstores are full of books that address this topic. Certainly, if they just CARED they’d know more than they do !”
I think I’m a generally caring person. I think my empathetic antennae are out most of the time. Yet, I know nothing about Fanconi’s Anemia, Bell’s Palsy or Galloway Mowat Syndrome. Heavens! Truth is, I know almost nothing about more common things like epilepsy, insomnia and cerebral palsy. They simply aren’t part of my experience. They’ve never touched the lives of people I’m close to.
But I do know about Hirschsprung’s Disease.
And I do know about Neurofibromatosis.
And I do know about Lymphoma.
They’ve been part of my friend’s or family’s experience base and thus, part of my own.
And of course I DO know about life with an ADHD child (and spouse, and father, and self, and ….you get the idea)
Typically, no one has a bank of “correct and caring responses” to things that are outside of their own experience.
So why do we expect those WITHOUT a shared experience of ADHD to have any knowledge or understanding of it?
The answer for me is that I no longer do.
In fact I assume most people, through no fault of their own, will NOT have a good idea about my child and his behaviors. So whenever I can, I attempt to provide understanding. I attempt to educate.
Let’s proceed with the assumption that people could and perhaps even WOULD behave differently if they saw our child in a clearer and kinder light.
And the best starting place is to try to see our kids as these others see them.
Create a list of the top 10 behaviors your kid may exhibit that might, just maybe, be a wee bit annoying to others, (particularly others who don’t give him the extra margin that we do because we love him.)
My list would go something like this…
- Can talk incessantly
- Interrupts others, both adults and kids
- Fiddles with things
- Touches and instigates interactions with other kids that might be “off track”
- Will not be able to sit quietly and listen to a story or other listening intensive activities
- Will dart, not walk, anywhere he goes
- Will climb on things not intended for climbing
- Will overreact to any stimulus
- Will knock things over and continue walking away unaware of the path he leaves behind
- Will seem to never be listening.
- Often won’t look you in the eye when you speak to them
- Falls out of his chair often (okay, that’s 12 things but I just couldn’t stop myself)
Your list will be different but you may find that we share more items than you expected. It was many years ago that I took the plunge and dared to ask an audience how many of them share with me the experience of their Sizzler falling out of their chairs. I hesitated to ask for years because I feared my darling Sizzler may be the only one who suffered from this rather odd behavior. Finally I had enough courage to ask and to my utter amazement TWO-THIRDS of the room raised their hands. Now it’s a standard question every time I speak. In addition, I instruct all those with raised hands to look around. What a club we’re in! What fun (and funny) lives we lead! Just this week I got a note from someone who had her hand raised with this group years ago and now marks it as a turning point in her understanding and acceptance of her Sizzler. Goodness I love these kids! Life would be so very dull without them.
So back to those poor souls who must go through life without the Zing and delightful energy-filled days of a Sizzler.
If there is any opportunity to better equip them, take the time to do so. Consider some following possibilities:
- Schedule a meeting with the person or persons who will be working with your Sizzler. This may be Cub Scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, Tae Kwon Do instructors, or even Grandparents. Take time to go through the list, item by item, and explain the behaviors and their causes.
- Create a Brochure or letter with the same information on it. Maybe even include some “IF-THEN” items. In words, IF you see this behavior exhibited THEN handle it in one of the following ways.
- Run a Workshop You may find that many organizations are hungry for just the information that you have. They really would like to be better equipped to work with these kids but don’t have a clue where to start. You don’t have to be an expert of have every answer. Just share what you know about your child. It will certainly apply to some others. Even a little information is better than none.
What are some of the things you might want to include in such a workshop?
There are two main categories.
The first is ways to give them understanding.
- It’s Not Parenting: Point out the fact that if parenting were the only issue, then chances are all your children would exhibit the same behaviors. My Sizzler was different even in the womb from my other children.
- Feel the Tension for Yourselves: Tell them to hold their breath until it is uncomfortable. That tension, that energy, that need to burst into the action of breathing is not all that different from what these kids feel all the time. There is a giant store of that tension in them all the time, just ready to burst out into SOMETHING, some behavior. It is so very useful for us to provide that “something” instead of leaving it up to the child.
- Inside the Head of a Sizzler: If you can get some audience participation, you may want to recreate something I saw on TV a few months ago. In this show they were attempting to recreate for a NON-autistic person what it was like for the autistic person. They sat them on a chair with something stiff and uncomfortable to sit on. They put a kitchen scrungey under the back of their shirt where the label would be against the skin. They put lemon juice in their mouths. A few folks flashed a flash light on and off toward their eyes. Several people talked in their ears all at once. You get the idea. Lots of sensory input all at once. Here’s what astounded me. As my family sat and watched this my husband turned to me with a stunned look on his face and proclaimed “That’s IT! That’s what it’s like for me all the time!!!” Now it was my turn to be stunned. I had no idea how much he (and thus my son) were dealing with all the time. It’s no WONDER they have a hard time focusing. My husband has often told me that the inside of his head is a noisy place, but I don’t think I really “got it” until we saw this show together. This little recreational lesson like this may just be the “ah ha” moment for many people you’re trying to reach.
- Two-Track Minds: I have always felt it useful to see the Sizzler as having 2 tracks in his brain. One is his information track. This is the track on which he takes on information to be learned, things to be accomplished, his connection to the activity of the moment. The second track however I call a pure STIM (stimulation) track. It needs motion; mindless, repetitive activity. This second track MUST have input for the first track to function. And if you don’t give this child something to put on this STIM track, he will find something on his own. This track can not go un-fed if you want any sort of participation from this child. However, if you DO feed this track, it will astound you how well this child will engage in the learning activity, how much they can absorb if this track is busy. It changed our entire schooling experience. Motion is essential for processing, not optional.
Now let’s give these folks ways to deal with our Sizzlers.
- Put Something In Their Hands: Let this adult know that value of putting something in this child’s hands whenever he is expected to sit and just absorb information. It may be Silly putty. It may be mindless making an endless paper chain. It may be a sketch pad and pencil with an instruction to draw an object that is related to the lesson. It may be any number of things that keep that STIM track busy while the information track is expected to receive input.
- Put Motion into the Lesson: Whenever possible get this child moving. Instead of asking them to repeat the memory verse or the Boy Scout rules, throw a bean bag back and forth with each word or section to be memorized. Put the answers to questions on 3 x 5 cards and have the students jump on the answers. Put the list of items on 3 x 5 cards and have them run around gathering them in order.
- Give them a Job: (just mentioned in a recent email) Not only will they hear better if they are dusting around the room while you speak, they’ll usually be delighted to be of service. Everyone wins.
- Keep tabs on the Energy in the Room: If you feel the energy level of the room rising, this child’s level of excitement is rising exponentially with it. It is NOT a one-to-one ration. Expect that the Sizzler’s need to have a burst of activity is coming soon. Head it off by finding something for him while you the mood of the room.
If you’ve been a member of Sizzle Bop for any time at all, or if you’ve read my books, you already have a skillion (my new favorite number) ideas that you could share with them. So I won’t repeat them all here. But there is one more thing that I believe is essential to the education of those who deal with our kids.
Share the UPSIDE.
These kids have a WONDERFUL upside. But if you don’t point it out, it is often missed in the more frequent messages of “defective” and “troublesome”. Share some of the GOOD news about these kids.
- Bursts of Productive Creativity are often the result this energy. This child my not be able to focus for much of the time. But they also often have an ability called “hyper-focus” where they are so VERY focused on something that is seems they cannot let it go. This hyper-focus can result in amazing bursts of productivity. They may become almost obsessed with a Lego creation of epic proportions. They may create a perpetual motion machine that is amazing in complexity. As they get older it can result in piece of old furniture suddenly and beautifully restored.
- They Walk in Mighty Shadows: There is a long history of people with this same level of distractability who have accomplished amazing things. They too, were often perceived as “difficult” or “odd” and did not gain the general acceptance of those around them. But the very same things that set them apart in a negative way also set them apart in a positive way. Get a hold of a list of highly successful people who are believed to be Sizzlers. Some are Winston Churchill, Michael Faraday, Galileo, Bruce Jenner, Napoleon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Van Gogh. There are many lists out there. Do a Google search on “famous people with ADHD” and you’ll have a great arsenal of names.
- They Want to Please: If you give this child the slightest bit of understanding they will give you their heart and soul. They want to please adults. They love being useful. They seek out ways to assist. Use that. And everyone wins.
- Articulate: While they certainly DO talk a lot, it is usually quite well said and even, dare I say it?…interesting! I must admit, I often enjoy the ramblings and tangents that my son’s brain takes. He comes up with some amazing observations (along with some that might have been better left alone 🙂 But such an articulate tongue will certainly be an asset in his future.
- Many Wonderful Qualities: Here are just a few of my favorite. Willing to take risks, bright, spontaneous, can think out-of-the-box, good problem solvers, creative, eager, inquisitive, quick to forgive, and of course….never boring.
With a little education, many folks will see our Sizzlers in a new light.
It’s good for us, good for the adult, and good for our Sizzlers.
Check in tomorrow for the last of our four-part series on dealing with mean adults.
Have an Out-of-the-Box Day!
From your friends at Sizzle Bop!