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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘ADD’

Grown Up And Still Struggling: Journal Of An Adult With Attention Deficit Disorder

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I sometimes encourage the people I work with to keep a record of their progress. But when one client told me that she had actually started a journal shortly before she began seeing me, I was very pleased. I asked her to allow me to publish the entries that pertain to ADD, so that people in the community can identify themselves and learn from the coping techniques that helped her. The journal offers all readers a rare peek inside the life of an adult with ADD – and will help adults, parents and teachers recognize themselves, their children or their students so that they can get the help they need.

Monday, May 25

I’m starting a journal – and I must say that I am looking forward to writing down my thoughts and feelings. I’ve tried to keep a journal many times before, but somehow, as many times as I tried, it never lasted for long. My most successful journal has six entries. That is a record! The others mostly have one or two. I don’t know why I never actually kept at it, especially since I love writing. But I guess I can add my almost-empty journals to the list of other unfinished projects in my life – like the skirt I started to sew (it’s out of style by now), the letter I wrote to President Bush (I kept forgetting to buy stamps) and a thousand other things.

It’s worst when I get forgetful and abandon important projects, like studying for an exam or cleaning up after myself. Then I not only have to deal with my own ineptitude, but also with other people’s reactions.

But I’m rambling about this problem I have and that’s not really what I intended to do when I decided to keep a journal. Anyway, even if all of this is a bit embarrassing, it’s refreshing to look at myself objectively. I can do it in the pages of this journal, if only because it is so private.

Wednesday, May 27

Why am I such a scatterbrain?

Where in the world did I put my library card?

Why did I miss the bus?

I am absolutely frustrated and furious at myself. Does everyone forget where they put important things? Does everyone miss buses and appointments as often as I do? For the record, I am a perfectly normal, very intelligent woman. I have a BA in English and I am going for a Master’s Degree in Education. So why can’t I get my act together?

In retrospect, I never was able to get my act together. My childhood was marked by disorganization and clumsiness. I never had pens or loose leaf paper, my briefcase was always a mess and I was a chronic latecomer. I remember several particularly painful episodes.

Fourth Grade – We had to do a history project about the Pilgrims. I decided to make a puppet show, complete with scenery and props. First I spent three hours looking for my puppets. Then I bumped into the glue bottle and spilled glue all over the box. The whole thing was a mess. But the worst part of it was that I left the project instruction sheet in school, and didn’t know that the main requirement of the project was a written report. I didn’t do the report, the puppet show didn’t work out and I got a big red question mark on my paper instead of a real mark.

Seventh Grade – My teacher got married, and the class chipped in to buy her a beautiful engraved gift. The engraving shop was close to my house, so I volunteered to pick it up. But then I left the gift at home. My classmates were so mad; they spent the entire recess yelling at me and calling me names. I’ll never forget how awful and low I felt.

Ninth Grade – It was the beginning of high school and I was determined to do things right. One week into the school year, I needed to buy something in the morning. I gave myself five minutes for the errand. It took fifteen. I remember how shocked I was to realize that I was running late! By the end of the year, I had earned the dubious honor of being the girl who “sat detention the most in the grade.”

I thought I outgrew my problems, but after this morning’s hassle, I see I still have a major problem with organization and time management.

Thursday, May 28

More of the same.

I had to hand in a report and couldn’t find it. I thought I was going to pass out from shame. My professor stood at his desk and waited while I riffled through hundreds of papers. Why wasn’t it in my file folder? Why? Why? Why?

Thursday Night, 12:30 AM

I found my library card. It was in my cosmetic bag. I must have gotten distracted while I was putting it away and put it there without concentrating. I tend to get distracted very easily. I think that’s why I have a hard time finishing projects.

Tuesday, June 2

Reading over the past entries, I am beginning to see a pattern here. I think I have ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder. It makes sense, based on what I learned in my Psychology class about the condition. ADD is a neurological condition characterized by some of my typical behaviors.

- Difficulty sustaining attention

- Difficulty following instructions

- Losing things necessary for tasks

- Disorganization, surrounded by clutter

- Making careless mistakes

- Chronic daydreaming

- Difficulty complying with rules

I also learned that although ADD and its sister condition, ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – are usually associated with school age children, the condition does not pass with time. As a matter of fact, in order to be diagnosed with Adult ADD, symptoms must have begun in childhood. That makes sense, considering my history.

So now my problems have a name. That’s a bit of a comfort, because if I know the enemy, I can tackle it.

Tuesday, June 9

Over the past week, I’ve been reading everything I can about Adult ADD. I am positively certain that I have it. My history is so classic! Even the fact that my parents believed I outgrew my problems is typical.

All of the experts agree that ADD manifests itself very differently in adults than in children. That’s because adults are more socially conscious, so they make a greater effort to conform. For example, I may have been a bit messy as a child, but now I work very hard at looking neat and put together. Also, I would never look out of the window during a lecture, because I am more aware of outward appearances; but my mind can still be very far from the classroom. And I find time management and organization as challenging as ever.

I have to learn how to get around the way my brain is wired!

Sunday, June 14

I am going to get help with my ADD. ADD is impacting my life in a very major way, and I deserve to give myself the tools I need to cope with it. Today’s assignment – finding a counselor.

Wednesday, June 17

I found an excellent counselor, and made an appointment. Today she helped me understand that I am not lazy or inept at all – although over the years I definitely did get that feeling. She told me that there is no cure for ADD, but that she could teach me coping techniques to help me get around it. It felt good to be validated and understood.

We also discussed time management. It started because I was apologetic for being late to my appointment and she asked me if it happens often. Does it!

My counselor told me that one reason people with ADD have trouble with time management and organization is because they are not detail oriented, but are more focused on the “big picture.” Time is just a detail surrounding everything else in life. It is, however, a crucial detail.

For many years, people with ADD were advised to wear a watch and consult it often. But people with ADD are easily distracted and don’t remember to check their watches. My counselor suggested a watch with a buzzer or vibration feature, set at strategic times. We decided that I’m going to set my cell phone to ring in the morning at ten-minute intervals. That way, I’ll be able to pace myself, so that I don’t find myself lost in time. It might also help me develop a better sense of time that will carry over to the entire day.

Sunday, June 21

Organization is my big issue.

It always was. As a child, my briefcase was always a mess of papers. As an adult, it’s much worse. I can never find anything. I find myself buying duplicates and triplicates of things, just because I can’t find the one I’m looking for. It’s an expensive problem, and the funny thing is that sometimes, even when I have four of a given item, I can’t find one!

I discussed it with my counselor, and she gave me some coping techniques that might make a difference. They might sound obvious to most people, but for me, it was helpful to learn them.

Group like objects together. In my room, for instance, it means keeping all of my hair products in one place. That will be a change for me. Right now, I have one brush on the windowsill near my bed, one in the bathroom and others scattered around the house. (I actually had to look for them before I wrote this, because I wasn’t sure exactly where they were.) I also have hair bands in different places. This is a hallmark of ADD, because people like me are typically too distracted to think about where to put things. Personally, I usually just put things down wherever I am standing.

Create an address. Every item should have a place to “live.” It should return to that place whenever it is not in use. I was taken aback when I realized that I don’t know where my brushes belong. It is impossible to put things away if “away” doesn’t exist. I am going to sit down and create an address for everything I own.

Contain all objects. It’s not enough to keep objects together; they must be contained. That means that I need to buy containers that will keep things where they belong. For my hair implements, it means buying a clear box big enough for all my things. Also, I will label each container in big attention-getting letters. That should get through the ADD-fog I so often live in.

Monday, June 22

The skills I wrote about yesterday can be adapted to my class work.

I’m trying to think of something I use a lot and lose a lot. I think the best example would be a pen. Usually, when I need a pen, I have to fumble around my book bag. My notes are written in red ink, magic marker or pencil – depending on what writing implement I come across when I need to write. This has been an endless source of frustration to me.

But suppose I group all my pens, and give them an address – maybe the front pocket of my bag – and contain them in a case. Do you think I would always have a pen when I need one?

Thursday, June 25

The more I think about ADD, the more I realize that it’s not all bad. One of the reasons I usually get distracted is because I am thinking deep and profound thoughts. This correlates with research that shows that people with ADD are generally very intelligent and creative.

Subconsciously, people with ADD often feel that they just can’t be bothered with simplistic things like where to put a brush or a particular piece of paper. Of course, this belief is part of the ADD mindset. It is probably why Albert Einstein’s hair was always a mess. He couldn’t care for it while he was developing brilliant mathematical equations!

On a similar note, I read a story about a professor who met a student on a sprawling campus and asked him if he had noticed if he (the professor!) was coming from the direction of the dining hall or not. The student said that yes, the professor was coming from that direction. To which the professor responded – “good. Then I have eaten.”

Total distractibility; total genius!

So I will cheer myself for the resilience, intelligence, and creativity that come along with ADD, and make me who I am. But I will also do everything possible to stay on top of my ADD, so that I can have as much control over my life, my time, and my environment, as possible.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

When Touch Gets Too Touchy

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Most people don’t think much about their socks, but for eight-year-old Suri W., they are all-important today. The seams at her toes are terribly irritating. Suri spent an inordinate amount of time this morning getting them into a perfect position. But now, three hours later, they apparently shifted. The teacher’s voice has receded into the background; a friend’s request for a pencil has gone unheeded. The itch has taken over.

This is not an isolated incident. Things like this happen to Suri all the time. Suri can’t take sock seams, finger paints, crumby fingers, glaring sunlight, and swings – and she absolutely abhors itchy wool. She is super-sensitive to touch. Just now, her teacher, sensing that Suri is tuned out of the lesson, tapped her lightly on the shoulder. Suri recoiled from the gentle touch, leaving her teacher wondering if she did something wrong. To Suri, the teacher’s touch felt shocking – more like a slap than a gentle pat. Little wonder, than, that she recoiled.

Suri suffers from a form of Sensory Processing Disorder. Her sense of touch is over-responsive. The disorder affects her life, in every way – by distracting her from schoolwork, holding her back from joining her classmates in activities, and filling her life with pain and frustration.

Sensory Processing is the way the Central Nervous System processes information coming from the five senses. Good sensory processing is vital to human health and functioning. It is the way we take in messages from our bodies and surroundings, the way we interpret those messages, and the way we organize our responses to those messages.

When a person has a Sensory Processing Disorder, the central nervous system is out of sync. It interprets messages too intensely or too weakly – or confuses messages about space, leaving its victims unsure of where they, their limbs, and the people and things around them are situated in space.

Children with the disorder are missing the “sixth sense” that makes the world make sense. They often can’t understand the world around them – and the world can’t understand them. Learning can be difficult. So can acquiring gross and fine motor skills. Body language is a major issue.

Experts say that 90% of communication is not verbal – but children with sensory processing disorders often can’t interpret body language. They don’t notice other people’s anger, boredom, or shock – a problem that understandably creates major social and behavioral issues. Many children who suffer from a Sensory Processing Disorder are misunderstood and mislabeled – with disastrous results.

“My teacher used to give me a ‘look’, and expect me to stop whatever I was doing,” says seventeen-year-old Malky R. “She thought I was being chutzpadik, but I honestly didn’t understand that when she stared at me with pursed lips, she expected me to stop what I was doing. I can’t tell you how many times I was punished – but I never understood why.”

“I also had a problem with friends,” Malky adds. “I would lean close to a classmate’s face, or keep tapping her arm, and never notice that she was feeling uncomfortable

Seven-year-old Toby also suffers a Sensory Processing Disorder.

“Toby is so sluggish,” says her mother. “The world just goes on around her. It’s like she’s not an active participant. She doesn’t have friends, because she doesn’t do anything. When she does get up, she is so clumsy; she falls over her own two feet. She is having trouble reading, too. My pediatrician says that she is a healthy child who is just uncoordinated and unmotivated, but I think there has to be an explanation.”

There is. Toby suffers from Under Responsivity – when the central nervous system under-responds to messages. She is suffering academically and socially.

Moishy W. suffers from a different sensory disorder.

“Moishy can’t get enough of things,” says his mother, Leah. “He splashes in the muddiest puddles, turns the music up to blasting, and loves touching the radiator – even when it feels dangerously hot. Yesterday, I found him pricking himself with a pin. He seemed to enjoy the sensation of pain.”

Moishy is a sensory seeker. He craves sensory input, and seeks intense sensations. He doesn’t mind things that others would find irritating or painful – and doesn’t seem to notice normal sensations. This creates many problems with issues such as hygiene. Moishy doesn’t seem to feel dirt on his face and hands – a huge social issue. His behavior is also often dangerous.

Moishy’s sensory issues carry over to his vestibular system – the system that lets a person sense direction, and his relationship to it. Up and down; right and left; fast and slow, are all issues. Since Moishy is a sensory seeker, he loves action and speed. His rebbe calls him a “troublemaker.” His mother is extremely frustrated.

“Yesterday, Moishy rode his bike down a steep hill. I saw him speeding, peyos flying, and this picture of sheer joy on his face. Then he hit a rock – and flew off his bike. I was afraid to look – but Moishy just picked himself up and laughed. To him, it was fun.”

A child whose vestibular system is over responsive will behave the opposite way. He will get dizzy on a swing, be a poor traveler, and trip often. Such children often suffer from social issues, because they can’t seem to get things “right.”

“Sruly is so clumsy; he’s always spilling or dropping something. At breakfast this morning, he broke a glass, spilled milk all over his sister, and banged into his brother on his way to the fridge – all in the space of two minutes. The kids yelled at him and called him a klutz. I couldn’t bear to see the look on his face. He looked so defeated.”

The problem is worse, in school.

“When Chanie’s teacher told her to glue sequins onto the class banner, the girls in her group groaned. A minute later, she banged her elbow into the plate of glue. Her classmates were furious, as they watched the thick white puddle spread onto the blue velvet.

“I knew something was going to happen when Chanie joined us,” a girl said.”Now we won’t win the contest.”

Sruli’s and Chanie’s sensory issues have serious social implications. Their clumsiness causes frustration and anger, and makes them the perfect target for teasing and bullying.

Often, children with a sensory processing disorder are misdiagnosed as having ADD or ADHD. Although the conditions sometimes overlap, they are separate conditions.

Sensory Processing Disorder is very common. Experts say that as many as 5% of children have some form. The percentage is much higher amongst autistic children. The good news is that the condition is treatable. Social skills training, reading help, and tutoring can teach a child to overcome the problem, and become successful, academically and socially.

Malky, the girl who misunderstood body language, was extremely successful in overcoming her disorder.

“For me, it was a matter of training,” she says.”Once I learned that my behaviors were annoying, I was able to avoid them. My whole life changed,” she says.

All children with Sensory Processing Disorder need to be evaluated by a professional. Conditioning and training can help them learn to respond to sensory stimulation appropriately, and to develop an appropriate sense of themselves and others in the world.

An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net.

Changing Schools (Part II)

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Our 12-year-old son is not doing well in his 7th grade local yeshiva class.

We are considering moving him to another local yeshiva in mid-year, as things are rapidly deteriorating. We are not asking for specific advice, as you do not know him or us. But can you share with us what questions to ask and answers to give when making this difficult decision?

Names Withheld

Rabbi Horowitz Responds

Two weeks ago, we discussed the following questions parents ought to explore before making the decision to switch their child’s school setting:

Which mechanech (educator) knows my child best? Which rav knows our family best?

This week, we will talk about the following:

Have we explored all possible reasons for our son’s lack of success in the current setting? Is the difficulty he is experiencing a one-year phenomenon or does it follow a pattern of poor performance over a number of years?

There are many reasons why a child underachieves in a particular school setting. But they can be broken down to three basic categories: The shortcomings of the school he is currently attending, educational or social challenges that he may have, and poor chemistry between him (and family) and the current school.

I would encourage you to begin by focusing on the second of the aforementioned points, namely your child’s learning and social profile. That component will help you address the other two segments more easily. This is because it is not uncommon for parents to switch their child’s school, only to find out later that the issues that complicated their child’s experience in the initial school followed him/her to the new setting. (A similar pattern often manifests itself with “retention” – having an underachieving child repeat a particular grade, hoping things will improve in the next round. Recent studies indicate that in a significant percentage of these cases, the problems are merely ignored and not solved at all.)

Start by thinking back to the past few years of your son’s school experience and ask yourselves if there were any signs of the problems he is currently having. Keep in mind that children, like adults, rarely change their learning styles and/or personality traits. We hope to improve the weaker points of our overall temperament – but our DNA doesn’t change.

I encourage you to explore the learning profile of your son in order to better understand the challenges he is facing this year. Is he a visual, auditory or textual learner? (Keep in mind that I only addressed the main learning patterns despite there being other, lesser- known styles such as kinesthetic learners.) Does he have attention issues such as ADD? Does he have impulse control challenges? (Please visit my website, www.rabbihorowitz.com, to review three columns I wrote on learning profiles named “Different Strokes” along with three columns on ADD.)

Answering all of these questions will help you understand your son better, as you try engaging in a forensic analysis of what is really going wrong this year. Having this information will also help you develop the “medical records” (see previous column) you can share with individuals whose advice you may seek in deciding if you ought to switch schools.

Finally, I would strongly suggest that you get an educational evaluation from a credentialed professional. Most school districts in the United States offer free educational/psychological assessments of students – including those who attend non-public schools. Your child’s principal or the director of special services can probably direct you to the appropriate office to arrange for an evaluation. If you find it difficult to access district services, consider contacting Mrs. Leah Steinberg, director of Agudath Israel’s Project LEARN (Limud Education Advocacy and Referral Network). LEARN helps parents navigate the path from determining that their child has special education needs to obtaining the services they are legally entitled to. Mrs. Steinberg can be contacted at 212-797-9000 x 325, or via e-mail at lsteinberg@thejnet.com.

Part III: More questions: How well does our child adjust to change? Are we truly open to exploring the way we parent our children?

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the founder andmenahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey,and the founder and director of Agudath Israel’s Project Y.E.S.To purchase Rabbi Horowitz’s D’var Torah sefer, Growing With the Parshah, or his popular parenting tapesand CDs (including his 2-CD set on “Raising your Adolescent Children”) please visit www.rabbihorowitz.com, e-mail udi528@aol.com or call 845-352-7100 x 133.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/changing-schools-part-ii/2007/12/27/

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