(NOTE – This is a way long blog!)

At the moment. I’m sitting at an ADHD course. Can you tell that I’m not concentrating. Anyhow I’ve learnt some seriously interesting things. Which we all know but so easily forget in our day to day parenting.

Here’s a disclaimer by the way I haven’t actually had Prince No. 1 assessed officially so I don’t know what he is. And this taps onto the issue of labeling children. It’s something that Psychologist Dr Sandy Gluckman is very against. She asks, ‘Do we want our children standing under the chuppah with the label ADHD on their heads?’

The question is, is ADHD a disorder? In other words are our kids who can’t sit still and concentrate in class the problem, or, is it the system?

This week at the ADHD course with a life coach who focuses on ADHD kids. I’ve learnt to ask a better question – should we be calling these kids ADHD at all?

First of all how can every second child have ADHD. It’s like a scourge that’s hit almost every family I know.

Furthermore the way kids are diagnosed isn’t clear. How do you measure attention? Why is it that these kids who ‘can’t concentrate’ can play video games, computer, soccer games, and complete entire projects on their own? My Princes have no problem concentrating when their Dad reads them Harry Potter. No one’s jumping up and down saying, ‘This is boring.’

It doesn’t make sense. What does make sense to me is what I learnt on the course – ADHD children are actually RIGHT BRAIN children. That’s right. Kids who are diagnosed as ADHD are all Right brained. I don’t know the exact research behind this but this is what Gilad said and it definitely rings true. My Prince No. 1 has the biggest imagination ever.

He said that on the spectrum you have extreme right brain – Autism (hence you get autistic children who can memorise a whole city after one look from a helicopter, or have extremely amazing musical gifts, but can’t hold a conversation). Extreme left brain – Schizophrenia (they only think in details). In between is the middle, that balance between left and right brain. I suppose where both brains are integrated. Gilad says (based on research) that ADHD falls between extreme right and the middle of this spectrum.

RIGHT BRAIN                                    MIDDLE                                                  LEFT BRAIN

Autistic                       ADHD                                       Teachers                      Schizophrenia

If you relate more to the diagram above – it’s likely that you’re a bit right brain and need to see things visually.

ADHD kids are simply kids who are more right brained. They are considered almost on the spectrum by some research. But really they’re only more right brained than most. They think differently, process things differently and are  more often than not misunderstood, especially in the school system.

Why? Because the school system is left brained orientated. Subjects are taught in a left brain way by left brain teachers. (Hence teachers are in between extreme left brain and middle.) I was offended when I first heard this. How can you just categorise like that. But Gilad explained that Right brained people in general aren’t attracted to become teachers because it’s a left brained system. That made sense to me. I’m a Right Brainer if there ever was one (We even did a test in the course. Whichever way you saw the dancer turning was the way your brain worked. I was Right, Right, Right all the way.), I wouldn’t want to go back into the school system. Truth be taught I was a bit traumatized when Prince No. 1 began Grade 1. (I wish I was joking.) So it’s actually not an offensive comment. Some teachers certainly aren’t just left brain, but they do tend to be that way.

I suppose I should say here that being Left Brain is obviously a good thing. It’s detailed, organised, on time, scheduled, predictable etc. But being Right brained is also a good thing and the trick is to get the best of the Right brain’s creativity which the world needs.

Some of our greatest thinkers, artists, scientists and entrepreneurs were ADHD – Right Brained. Churchill, Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Davinci (apparently a lot of his paintings are considered unfinished for his time), Richard Branson, the kids at school who were always in trouble but now are leading billion rand companies (my hubbie has a friend just like that).

They are the free spirits of this world, the creative thinkers, the story tellers, the risk takers.  In the past they used to be the hunters. Who were able to be super alert and aware of their environment on many levels in order to catch prey and survive in the wild.

But we’re not living in the wild (although I do suggest you keep your wits about you in Johannesburg) and until our kids become geniuses and prove themselves beyond the label of ADHD, they have to go to school.

So what to do? I’d love to start a school but it’s not really my thing… I’d love to send my Princes to a system like Waldorf where their potential is mined and their individuality is treasured. But I’d like my kids to get a Jewish education. So the solution takes a bit of hard work. And the course I went on highlighted how we can get into their Right Brain minds and teach them the neccessary Left Brain skills that they need not only for school but for life. (And this is true whether your child is on medication or not.)

As I mentioned I’m quite Right Brained. Actually I’m extremely Right Brained probably and ADD worthy. I find it hard to schedule, I want to float through my days, not drive through them in a 4×4. I want to learn what I want to learn. Love what I do. And I think in feelings and pictures. Thinking in feelings is I learnt on the course called kinesthetic thinking. I had no idea. I thought I was plain weird. Because having a ‘feeling’ didn’t seem as relevant as ‘fact’. This may seem like a digression but it’s not. It’s taken me a long, long, long time to realise that this is just as valuable a tool for life as any other. It’s what informs my writing, my interaction with people and it’s the way I filter life, from sunsets to the daily news.

Now what would have been in school if I was taught math visually and through feelings. If the numbers were given personalities, spoke to each other, came alive. I may not have done as badly. What if I were allowed to do what I love, encouraged in it. Appreciated for it.  Instead of having to feel weird and different for how long… 30 years.

This is what ADHD children often feel. Misunderstood. Lost in a world where they are told they’re different in a bad way, a stupid way. Why don’t they just get it? Why can’t they keep still? Why can’t they just listen?

Because they think through pictures and you’re giving them words. Because they think through movement and can’t sit on a chair for hours. Because they’re not hearing you speak, their brains are processing things in an entirely different realm.

Of course it’s all very frustrating for everyone concerned. Teachers, children and parents.

So action needs to be taken. A new knowledge learnt. If we don’t understand right brained children, they lose confidence and their gifts become lost. They try mold themselves into left brain boxes and this isn’t who they are.

Luckily I’m very right brained and have known it most of my life. At least I can help my Princes not only survive school but hopefully thrive. I’m also lucky that their school is open to introducing elements in the classroom that cater for my Prince’s right brain way of learning. He needs to move so he has a moving cushion that he sits on. I’m getting him a trampoline for the back of the classroom, and I’m assessing him so that we can see how he learns and sees the world.

I learnt a lot on the course. So much that it’s quite overwhelming to repeat it all here coherently.

I will add tips of what I’m integrating with Prince No. 1 through my blogs.

Tip 1:

At the moment I’m focusing on the effort he puts in to things rather than the result. Apparently there was an experiment where two groups of people were given a test. Group A was praised for their result. Group B was praised for their effort. Then both groups were offered to take an easy test or a hard test. Majority of Group A opted for the easy test. Group B, on the other hand preferred the hard test. What does this teach us? When we praise the result we disable our kids from accessing their potential. They feel not good enough. They feel they’re about a result. If they’re praised on effort it builds their confidence that they’re not just about the outcome, but how they do things. And then they can do anything, for whatever the result the main thing is that they tried.

Somehow I’ve failed at this so I’m trying to rectify if now by praising the effort Prince No. 1 puts into his work. Slowly, (nothing happens overnight) I hope it’ll have a positive impact.

Tip 2:

Are kids are how we see them. If we see them as ‘naughty’ and ‘bad’, that is how they’ll be. If we label them, ‘responsible’, ‘kind’. Then they’ll live up to that. Of course when we tell them, ‘You are so responsible.’ You need to add the details of why they are responsible otherwise it’s an empty compliment that they see through. So you’d say, ‘You are so kind. Do you know why you’re so kind? Because you helped your brother get his ball from the tree. I can see that you really tried hard and had to climb the tree to get it. Well done. I love you.’

Quite a compliment. It’s called conscious parenting. No body said it’s easy.

Now I have a confession. I began typing this blog – tired out of my mind at the ADHD course. I’m finishing it off at Oliver Tambo Airport. I’m opting out of my parenting for 2 weeks. Bludging, as Australians would say. I’m going to New York and LA, to see my family. But New York has ended up being a real holiday. The whole thing is, from sitting here typing without anyone pulling my skirts (although I was frisked like a criminal at security. Everyone was.)

So I thought I’d do a bit of a travel log for the next couple of weeks. As I explore the world without the label ‘mom’.

And yes I do feel a tad bit guilty that not everyone gets to go away. But I will practice what I preach and live the best life I have. (Furthermore you need to immigrate and have no family around in order to travel overseas to see them. Not always fun. Often very sad.) It’s the only one I’ve got. Meanwhile I will send a prayer out and special wishes to every mom and woman out there. That they should have a chance to take a break, go away, do a dream holiday. And if you can’t at the moment, well there’s always the good old coffee break.