ADD/ADHD: A CHANGE OF FOCUS                                                  By Randy W. Green, Ph.D.                       "Be careful how you interpret the world: It is like that."                                                   Erich Heller (1909-1990)
Several years ago while traveling through India, Thom Hartmann, who authored many books on attention deficit disorder began a conversation with some Indian businessmen: "I’m curious, but in your country, are you familiar with the personality type where people seem to crave stimulation but have a hard time staying with any particular thing?"   
One businessman offered, "Ah yes, we know this type well."   
"What do you call it," Hartmann asked.  
"Very holy," he replied.  "These are old souls near the end of their Karmic cycle … people who are very close to becoming enlightened … and the result of many reincarnations to free themselves of entanglements and desire."
"We have great respect for such individuals. Though their lives may be difficult, it is these difficulties that purify the soul," another interjected. 
Then they asked Hartmann, "How do you view these people in America?"  
Hartmann said, "In America, they are considered to have a psychiatric disorder." The businessmen laughed simultaneously in disbelief.
Of late, an increased number of children — and adults — observed to exhibit behaviors that fall within the general categories of distractibility, impulsivity (including frequent shifts in attending and failure to follow instructions); and risk-taking, have been labeled as having either attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)." Both are considered psychiatric "disorders" or illnesses.
Historically, our desire to define, classify and label goes back thousands of years. Through time, labels have offered a sense of order to those who applied them. However, the recipients of those labels have often experienced disorder… a way of being in which their self-esteem (i.e., their ability to experience themselves as successful in some way) is severely compromised. An illustration of this occurs when children, whose behaviors are perceived as "abnormal," are classified as having an internal deficiency — a brain disorder. Prior to 1980, their disease was called "minimal brain dysfunction" and then "hyperkinetic disorder in childhood." Since 1980, the label for the same "disease" has been attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Framing children this way leads them to expect failure as the default outcome. And the programs designed to address children classified in this manner, which carry further pejorative labels such as "resource rooms" and "special education," simply exacerbate the situation. Consider the traumatic impact this has on your child’s expectations for being successful. After all, the childhood social imperative is to fit in with peers — not be different — especially when "different" means "inferior."
The trauma of being classified as "inferior" first shows up and is held within the body at the neuromuscular level. All thinking involves movement and is first expressed as a bodily experience called, the somatic form. The specific form (e.g., tiny muscle movements, postural shifts, breathing, eye accessing cues, gestures, gait) held by a child facing the stigma of pathology, in which his behavior is framed as a problem or "disease," perpetuates both his feelings of failing in the world and his ADD/ADHD behaviors in a vicious cycle. That is, observed behavior is followed by negative feedback such as a diagnosis, which the child holds in his body in a certain way that translates into expectations of failure. This, in turn leads to more of the observed behavior, and so forth.
So what if the real problem is: trying to overcome the problem? The somatic form we hold at any given time is wrapped around the powerful stories we live by that translate into "cans" and "can-nots." When those "stories" focus on limitations, self-esteem—so important, especially in adolescence— can be compromised and show up as an inhibitory somatic (body) form. So imagine how those "stories" change when we adopt a somatic form in relation to what is possible—what "works"—instead of problems! Restoring self-esteem can empower an ADD/ADHD child to change.
The key is to discover what an ADD/ADHD child "does" inside to access the somatic form he holds when something fascinates him; a form that represents who he is at his best. And since "function follows form," once that strength has been identified, the task becomes designing life circumstances that can sustain that form so he masters through-time skills such as schoolwork?
Furthermore, what would be the impact of parents and educators viewing ADD/ADHD through a new lens — one that stimulates kids by generating an enthusiasm for learning, instead of blaming a child’s failure to learn on faulty neurology? This requires paying attention to what ADD/ADHD children already do well. Have you ever noticed these children will play video games for hours, skateboard, dance, communicate effectively with peers and perform many other complex tasks? Not bad for kids who have an "attention deficiency," eh?
Of relevance here is that they learn and perform best when there is a good deal of stimulation, especially visual. This is not surprising since a majority of people select visualizing as their "primary modality" for experiencing life. Yet most of education is transmitted through the auditory channel. Think how spelling and reading are taught… (Actually, in a sense, "phonetics" is a violation of itself.). Modifying the way material is presented to stimulate children through their most valued learning modality — which for many ADD/ADHD kids is visual — more than makes "sense" … it plays into their fascinations and interests. And like this, they can begin to manifest a truly enlightened way of being.  
Dr. Randy W. Green is a New York state licensed psychologist practicing in Mt. Kisco and Hopewell Junction, NY.  He can be reached at 845-226-2356 or visit him online at or the "private access" section (specifically for ADD/ADHD: