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Labeled "Hyperactive"

Helping Hyperactive Children

Two Stories About Children Who Couldn't Sit Still

Emergence Techniques Used: Visual Dialogue, Direct Emergence
Personal Skills Age (estimated age at the time of the original injury): 8 (the girl), 7 (the boy)
Key(s): hearing the words, "sit still!"


Hearing people label people always irks me. Too cold. Too impersonal. When people casually label people, even themselves, it irks me even more. On occasion, though, I can see the positive side of labels, especially when used by caring professionals who need to give one another a quick sense of what a wounded person's suffering looks like. Even before seeing these two children, then, I had a sense of what I'd see, as both had been given the same label by professionals.

The label? "Attention deficit hyperactive disorder." "ADHD" for short.

Now before I assume you know what this looks like, let me ask you. Have you personally witnessed a child with this diagnosis? More to the point, have you ever spent time with a child with this diagnosis?

If you haven't, let me help.

Start by picturing a very uncomfortable child. Very uncomfortable. A child who looks confused and alone even when surrounded by caring friends.

Add to this picture, a child who constantly looks "elsewhere" as if elsewhere is where the stillness is.

Finally, picture a child, who, even when asked in the kindest and gentlest of voices to sit still, cannot comply and so endlessly squirms, twists and turns; a child who is constantly restless, even when comforted again and again.

Can you imagine what it is like to be one of these children, how terribly alone they feel? How about the aloneness those around these children feel? Can you sense how confused and disconnected they feel also, how constantly failing to connect to these children pains them into their own kind of deep aloneness?

Now expand this picture to the world at large.

Can you sense how hard it is for both these children and their care givers to connect to those outside their immediate family, such as to people in school settings or to relatives at family gatherings?

In truth, if you can't sit still, you can't connect to anyone, no matter how loving and patient you and those around you are.

Now imagine you are one of these children in a classroom full of beings just as alone as yourself, a whole room full of disconnected, alone beings? Can you imagine how you would feel being one of these kids, in a classroom full of others who can not connect as well?

Whether child with ADHD or caregiver, the experience is exhausting to say the least.

Can you picture "ADHD" now? With an open heart toward all those involved? Then you are ready to picture the two stories I'm about to tell you, two stories in which the children had been labeled, "ADHD."

Why tell these two stories?

My hope is that we will begin to explore more loving ways to help these children, ways which go beyond simple medical management. Why? Because hyperactivity is much more than just a group of physical symptoms. This means healing it is never simply eliminating the physical symptoms.

Thus, despite the obvious visible improvements medications sometimes make, in reality, in more cases than not, all they really do is medically "straight jacket" a child. In these cases, I consider this tact more hurtful than helpful.

What else can be done, though, especially when these you see these children, and all around them, suffering terribly?

To begin with, we can look deeper. We can look a lot deeper. And if we look deep enough, we can see, the real malady here is that these children suffer from a profound aloneness, a terrible pain no medication can alleviate. Numb it? Yes. But heal it? Never.

More so, the real remedy must focus primarily on healing the aloneness present in all those involved, as without addressing this, the pain in these stories simply becomes hidden. And yes. It does become easier for everyone involved, including the child. But it is never better for the child.

The only true remedy, then, is to find new and better ways in which we can connect to these children. Genuinely connect. Not just behaviorally connect. What I am saying is this.

Regardless of which remedies we explore, we should make helping these children connect to others the main goal, and not simply getting them to "sit still."

Where do we begin? I would ask that you try looking at what Emergence as a Therapy can add, beginning with how Emergence as a Therapy would define their actual "wounds."

Emergence as a Therapy would define their wounds as the suffering you can not see, not as the suffering you can see. Thus, while the traditional therapies would define these children's injuries as the obvious visible symptoms; literally, their twisting, turning, squirming, etc.; Emergence as a Therapy would define their injuries as their invisible symptoms; literally, something these children themselves can not internally picture.

And what makes me think this will make a difference?

It helped these two children. More important, it helped them not only to find relief from their symptoms, it also helped them heal. More over, it helped them to heal in ways not yet explored out in the larger world.

My hope here is that, together, we can make a difference in the lives of children like these two. How? By changing the focus of their treatment from getting them to "sit still" to healing their aloneness.

And the children in the two stories I'm about to tell you?

In both cases, the children had "the suffering you could see"; the twisting, turning, restless movements which were creating in them a terrible internal aloneness. More important, though, they both also had the suffering you could not see, a suffering which became visible only when the scenes which lay beneath their symptoms emerged.

How much of a difference did seeing these scenes make? A lot. In fact, afterwards, both children experienced permanent improvement. Not perfect improvement. But significant and permanent improvement.

Obviously, then, both children had a lot in common. They both suffered from the profound inability to both externally and internally "sit still." And by internally, I mean they both had great difficulty getting their thoughts and feelings to be still enough to see them clearly.

For me, then, these were challenging injuries to say the least.

What is most interesting here, though, is that both children had experienced at least one painful scene in which they had been told abruptly to "sit still." Further, after witnessing these scenes, both children experienced permanent improvements.

Can one such seemingly insignificant scene injury a child so severely?

After years of witnessing many thousands of scenes, I know the answer is yes. In all likelihood, though, you have not had my experience. Thus, please reserve judgment until after you read the stories. And remember. My whole motive here is to help.

Now the stories.

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