Sam Peters – Sonoma [email protected]
Audio cassette tape ADHD Self-Control and
Russell Barkley, Ph.D.
How does the ADD child see the world? This simple, elegant,
maddening question has turned my world upside down and inside out
over the last 10 years. The doctor who posed the question opened a
door for me through which I willingly walked because I love my son.
What I found on the other side of the door was empty space.
Sure, I studied parenting skills, 50 ways to organize, 100 ways to
motivate, how to deal with school and community, other parents
dealing with their own ADD kids (some of them with ADD too), not to
mention numerous opinions and theories that are flat out wrong, at
least as they apply to my son. I even spent a year as a CHADD
coordinator sharing the wealth of available material with the many
parents and adults seeking information. Yet, despite the undeniable
value of putting a name to the disorder, validating the usefulness of
medication, and learning the genealogy of ADD within my family, the
question How does the ADD child see the world? remained
If I look at my son’s feelings of alienation, frustration, and
anger, I sense lack of attention (not always), lack of goals
(sometimes), poor sense of time (usually), lack of interest in social
activities (mostly), and so on. Inevitably I’m drawn toward the usual
explanation as lack of focus. However, after 10 years of observing I
have concluded that this definition while better than nothing gives
me no useful insight into the fundamental question How does the ADD
child see the world?
Consequently, I was really ready for Russell Barkley, Ph.D.’s
audio cassette tape ADHD Self-Control and Time (available from CHADD)
of his speech to the 10th Annual CHADD International Conference,
10/17/1998, on which he summarizes his theory of ADD. Barkley
emphasizes that a 1 hour talk cannot adequately cover his theory; but
I found many of his statements thought provoking, particularly in the
important sense that I saw new ways to approach understanding what
ADD truly is to those wrestling with it.
First, ADD is not a deficit. Children are on the low end of an
understood spectrum of mental abilities. Their problems are obviously
real but their mental abilities are complete, just not fully
available to them because of their difficulty with short term memory.
Thus, ADD children fall farther and farther behind their peers
because they are unable to access their mental abilities as
thoroughly as their peers. This has implications for what I can
expect from schools, if anything; the age at which my child will
reach maturity; and what impact growing up in a safe, nurturing
environment might have on adult ADD.
Second, ADD children do not have time horizons as distant as
others. For example, children may look an hour into the future at the
consequences of their own actions where ADD children are able to look
only 30 seconds into the future at the consequences of their actions.
Guess which children will be more frustrated. Note that when ADD
children are operating within their short time horizons they behave
normally, but when they must think beyond their time horizon they
cannot function. This accounts for the fact that ADD children can
appear to be perfectly normal in some situations but, as we know so
well, not in others. ADD children’s time horizons can be lengthened
by medication but can they be educated into growth? Is sensing longer
time lines a learnable skill ? Not likely.
Third, children learn by first hearing rules for living, then
speaking them, and then internalizing them into voices speaking only
in their own heads. To the degree that these thousands of rules which
affect one another are not internalized in ADD children, they must be
immediately available in the ADD children’s external environment to
speak the multitude of rules for living that the children have not
yet internalized. How can a parent shape ADD children’s environments
to reflect this multitude of rules for living not yet internalized?
Is it possible to create an environment that provides a minimum of
frustration for ADD children?
I think any member of CHADD will enjoy and be challenged by this
tape. Also, my apologies to to Dr. Barkley for any misrepresentations
I may have inadvertently made of his complex theory. I make do with
what I can find, and I’m deeply appreciative of his remarks. And
thanks to Dr. Barkley I now have some some answers to that key
question How does the ADD child see the world?
by Russell A. Barkley