I’m not an expert on ADHD, or children, or any combo or variation thereof. I have simply worked with a lot of kids who either have been diagnosed with ADHD or are suspected of having it.
Today I am going to describe what it is like to listen to these children from a deep place – from a place of having no idea of who or how they should be and simply being very curious as to what is.
The problem with the notion of “normal” is that it is based on averages that have to do with statistics and eugenics and nationalism from way back in the mid 1800’s. And this notion of normal causes us to look at children through a very box-like lens and to try to squish them into a space that is usually too small or too average for who they are.
Recently a young girl came in for a session. Her mom warned me she wouldn’t focus and especially wouldn’t be able to lay still on the table for energy work.
When they came in, I just started to listen. The girl repeatedly “interrupted” our conversation, especially to make seemingly random comments about my dog Bella – how cute she is, how pretty she is, etc.
I also think my dog is very cute and pretty.
After quite a while of this happening, the blurting, the seemingly random conversational diversions, I started to get a sense, to “hear”, this girl.
In our world we tend to base our understanding of something on comparisons we make between that thing and something else. Which is a pretty limiting approach.
One of the things I teach in my workshops is how to observe a thing to understand what it is, what qualities it has that are innate to it, rather than defining it by comparisons. I think this is especially useful with children or anyone whose beauty is constricted by definitions and boxes.
So after maybe half an hour with this girl suspected of having ADHD I finally “heard” her unique song, her perspective.
What I realized is that she isn’t so much “distracted” as she is not really interested in the way other people construct meaning – she has a different order of priorities than most people do. She is interested in what is sweet and pretty and soft and, well, innocent.
She is also very sensitive and perceptive to the energy around her in a way most people aren’t. Intense energy is “loud” to her and “hurts” her. This may seem ridiculous to someone who can’t sense at this level.
So instead of telling her or her mom this girl is wrong, I listened for how we could build a bridge between her and the rest of the world.
When it was time to do energy work, her mom left us alone and as she was leaving let me know the girl wouldn’t be on the table for more than a minute.
So she gets on the table and I tell her what we are going to do, how it works, that I start with a silent prayer then touch her feet then move right up to her back then draw a picture and show her what she looks like to me energetically.
She doesn’t have any questions and is ready to go. So we start. (All kids love this as it falls into the realm of magic!)
Right away I can feel her mind reaching out, her perception extending well beyond her physical body. And I can feel her feeling everything around her. So I start talking (which I normally don’t do during sessions).
I start telling her what I am doing and why. And as I do, her mind calms and she gets more still and more quiet. (Because I am giving her what she needs before she has to ask, or blurt – which is a kind of unconscious asking).
Pretty soon I’m not talking at all and we’re quiet. At one point I have one hand on her back and one hand in the air about three feet over the backs of her knees. She is face-down with her face in the face cradle so she can’t see me.
Out of the blue she says “Are you touching my knees?”
I said “Not physically, but I am energetically” and that was that.
She was on the table for 15 minutes – the normal time length for anyone I work on. Then we talked about what I saw.
When her mom came in I told them both that this girl basically has a satellite dish and most everyone else has a radio antenna, so she is picking up waaaaay more than most people. What this means is that she complains about things hurting her, like other people’s energy, and light, and noises – things that “normal” people aren’t hurt by, and then people tell her it’s not painful or that she is making it up or whatever. Meaning she is constantly getting invalidated.
So here I am telling her I get it and that her way of being is valid. She got so excited. Then I explained that she needs to cultivate tools that allow her to be in the world instead of trying to make the world fit her. I taught her an energy technique to practice to get her started.
What happens with this girl and with many children with ADHD and the like is that they are wired differently than a lot of other people and their priorities and their way of seeing the world doesn’t mesh with the majority of how society is wired.
But this doesn’t mean they are wrong, it simply means society is not very nimble and spacious.
This means their parents and other people don’t have the tools and skills to meet them in the realities they live in so they constantly get the message they are wrong. And because we, as adults, tend to be fairly arrogant, we then focus on the child needing to change rather than wondering how we might be limited in our abilities to meet them on more neutral ground.
This girl’s mother was, rightfully, very clear that her daughter needs to learn to live in the world. And I agree. She needs skills and tools taught to her that work from her own orientation and sensitivities. But her mom was also very open to how she is bringing her own limitations to her daughter and was very curious how she herself could grow – which is pretty amazing.
When I explained things to the girl from her own values and priorities and sensitivities she was able to hear me, to not resist, to not blurt, to not flit away.
When she felt heard, she listened. And this is what I find with the majority of kids I see: They have so much energy coming at them of how wrong they are that a lot of their not paying attention is their own way of shielding themselves from being invalidated.
With children, as with adults, the first thing to establish is this: You aren’t wrong for how you are.
And until they are clear that I really feel that way, that I really see that, they won’t engage the process – they won’t listen.
I think that we need, as caregivers of unique children (meaning all children), to learn how to expand beyond our own limitations of right and wrong, normal and abnormal, and explore how we might better listen to and see the children in our lives. Because this girl’s mother was doing that when she brought her in, even though she was frustrated, she was looking for new ways she could be as well. This allowed her daughter to get a unique kind of help – the kind that didn’t make her daughter a problem.
I was very honest with this girl about how challenging things will be. But by helping her see herself in a positive way, by helping her to understand how she is different and explain those differences in a way that didn’t make anyone wrong (her or her mom or her teachers or other kids) she felt empowered to do what she needs to do to better navigate a world she really doesn’t fit in.
All of us deserve to be seen for who we are, without comparisons but for our unique expressions in the world. But this is especially true with kids who really don’t fit in to conventional models and expectations.
What can we, as adults and caregivers, do to expand our tools and our perspectives to make room for these unique beings? To support them in ways that are effective not only for the children but for us? It can be very frustrating and challenging and exhausting to have children differently wired. But that is not their limitation, it’s ours. So how can we more effectively bridge the gap? How can we give these kids the tools they need to navigate a world that doesn’t fundamentally support them?
I think learning to listen is key. And that means being curious and creative and truly believing that these children aren’t wrong, they’re just different. It’s a difficult practice, to be sure. Especially in a world that is filled with the expectation of “normal”.