ADHD is made up of two key challenging disorders. Attention deficit and hyperactivity. Both of these disorders can exist without the other, meaning that someone can have attention deficit without being hyperactive or they can be hyperactive without attention deficit.
A few years ago, I was approached by a parent who had a child with ADHD. As she had 2 other children, both of which had their own difficulties, she was finding it very difficult to help the oldest child (who had the ADHD diagnosis) to keep out of mischief.
He had a tendency to leave a trail of destruction around the home and to then disappear when he knew he had done something he shouldn’t have.
Talking to the parent with the boy there was quite a challenge too because his attention on anything other than cars would last for 3 minutes as a maximum. I was starting to mental make a list of all of the different activities I’d need to throw at him in any one session just to keep him from dismantling the ikea chairs in the office. (He did do this with one of the chairs!)
However, I noticed that with his cars he could focus in a way. It wasn’t focused as you might seen another child play with his cars. He still seemed to flit from the blue car to the red car, or from the car on wheels to turning it upside down and opening the doors or crashing it into a plastic tree, but by his standards it was focused all the same.
The other quirk was that he didn’t seem to connect easily. He was happy to mainly play on his own and go to mum every now and again with a request or to show her something, but he seemed almost annoyed when I started to show an interest in his car world. He wouldn’t answer me a lot of the time and if he did it was a one word answer as if he was too busy to deal with me!
The mother had initially enquired as to whether I could use some hypnotherapy with him to settle him down a little and perhaps help him to concentrate better. In the context of how most people would imagine hypnotherapy to be – an eyes closed deeply relaxing trance state – I made it clear that we were unlikely to achieve that with him. Even if he hadn’t dismantled the chair, I doubted that I had the ability to get him to focus for long enough to create a trance like that.
However, I did believe that within his own abilities there would be something I could make the most of and I felt that the answer would be in the cars somehow.
After mum went outside to leave me on a one to one with him for a short while, I picked up one of the cars and began to move it around the track on the floor at a similar speed to him. His car was moving pretty quickly so I made the sound my car would be making if I was driving it at speed.
After a time, I changed the speed of my car, as if I were shifting down a gear. The engine hum I made was lower and I moved the car more slowly. I remained in each ‘gear’ for a minute or two before dropping down a gear and slowing the speed of my car as I did.
I didn’t notice at first, but gradually he began to slow down too. Not just his car but his whole demeanor seemed less highly strung. When I eventually stopped my car, he stopped too and looked me square in the eye and said “Would you like this one?” and handed me the car he had.
Not only had we suddenly got connection but his energy output seemed to have settled to a manageable level. The next time I saw him we transferred the racy sounds of the car into the speed with which he operated, so that when mum said “Take it down a gear” he could replicate the sound of the car engine becoming lower and take a breath, then begin to move more slowly alongside that. It didn’t ‘cure’ his ADHD but it did give them a technique to help him to focus and behave in a more settled way.
By Gemma Bailey