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To Angela: On Attention Deficits and Hyperactivity

Visually Defining the Nature of the Injury

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This emergence transcript is excerpted from emails in which I discussed with a young mother her son's possible ADHD.

Fri, January 23, 2004

Dear Mr. Paglierani,

I just read your stories about Alice and Alex. I found them very interesting. I have a 9 year old boy who seems to have some of the signs of ADHD. I have not had him tested for this, and am reluctant to because the area where I live is very "medication happy." I don't want my child on medication and have been trying to find alternative treatments which may help him.

I am writing this to you to ask if a parent can or should try "emergence techniques" to find out if there was an injury of sorts and to help their child? If so, how would I go about doing this?

I believe that there are several different things which could attribute to my sons behavior, but whether it is one, all, or none of them remains to be found out.

Please let me know your opinion and perhaps some suggestions on how I can best help my child.

Thank you.

Best regards,

Angela C*****

Dear Angela,

Thank you for writing. As you might guess from my article, though, I am just at the beginning of my work with ADHD. Even so, we may, together, you and I, be able to make a difference with you son. Further, even if we can make but a small amount of real healing, any amount of real healing is always worth the effort as what truly heals stays healed. So if you are willing to write back and forth, I am willing to offer your son whatever help I can offer.

Please, before we start though, I need to let you know that if the words which pass between us might help other children like your son, then I would want to post them on my site. I would, of course, disguise the facts which might identify you and your son similarly to how I disguised the children in the stories about "Alice" and "Alex" (not their real names, of course).

If this is OK with you, then we can begin. Where? With me helping you to find a starting point from which to more accurately identify your son's difficulties. How? By using the most basic emergence technique; visually defining the nature of his injury, working from the general to the specific.

I myself use several ideas to help me to accomplish this.

The first idea:

I begin by separating a child's symptoms into "hyperactivity" and / or "attention deficits." Why"? Because I see these two conditions as symptoms stemming from two separate wounding events.

Thus, all too often, children are seen as having "ADHD," when in fact they have not one combined injury but two separate but overlapping injuries.

What does exploring these two sets of symptoms separately do?

It allows us to explore a child's inner life more accurately and gently, and allows us to look for a scene or scenes in which each wounding script may have occurred, rather than looking for scenes which account for all the symptoms. For instance, with Alice and Alex, in both cases, I believe the initial wounding events occurred in scenes wherein these two children were injured when they heard the phrase, "sit still" in a startling way. This means neither child suffered an injury anything like what I suffered as a child, wherein I failed to emerge from my "pre-verbal world" into a "verbal world."

Let me now explain this a bit, starting with the "attention deficit" part.

By this, I mean, I believe the "attention deficit" part stems from some life event or events wherein children fail to emerge from their first inner world, a world wherein they are primarily interested in exploring and connecting to everything they sense, the "Universe" per se. This world differs markedly from their next world, the verbal world, wherein connecting to other human beings becomes the priority. Then too, the onset of this time in a babies life is often initiated by the many requests those around the child make to verbally interact. This includes each and every person who wishes to teach the child something, and each and every person wanting to meet the child's needs.

Now, if you could, just for a moment, picture your son at six months old. What I'm sure you will picture is him intensely exploring each and every thing which he finds interesting, thing after thing, object after object.

In these scenes, then, if you watch and remember for awhile, what you'll likely see is your son, again and again, momentarily captivated by some person, place or thing, something which intensely interests him. Of course, these intense interests last only moments at best, each ending moments later when he gets distracted by the next beautiful thing he see, hears, touches, tastes, or smells.

Let me state this idea again.

Babies, and I'm assuming your son too, for about the first two years of their lives, live in a pre-verbal world wherein they experience beautiful distraction after beautiful distraction. THESE DISTRACTIONS ARE HEALTHY AND ARE SIMPLY THE NATURE OF BABIES, LITTLE BEINGS WHO NEED TO RAPIDLY ADAPT TO THE NEW WORLD IN WHICH THEY FIND THEMSELVES. Thus, these rapid distractions help them to quickly learn the basics of the world in which they now live.

Unfortunately, some babies, all too many in recent years, seem to want to stay in this world. Why? I have no idea. What I do know though is that these babies, and I was one of them, are in good company. Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Bill Gates, Da Vinci; in fact all of the most creative geniuses whom have ever existed on our planet have lived in this same state for most of their adulthood's.

This state, then, is the essence of the place wherein human beings discover and create, the primary motive being to connect to whomever or whatever created us; in other words, to connect to the beautiful Universe around us and to whomever created it.

What about the second state?

The second state is the one wherein children learn to connect to the other human beings around us. This state, then, is the state wherein children learn to see the beauty in other human beings, and as it is the nature of all humans to need each other, most human babies move progressively out of the first state, the non-verbal state," into the second, "verbal" state, an inner world wherein the desire to connect to other beings like themselves gradually displaces the desire to connect to the awe and wonder in the Universe.

Of course, THIS SECOND STATE IS ALSO HEALTHY, as it is here, in this "verbal" world, that a child learns to see the beauty in words; the beauty in the words of others, and the beauty in their own words.

In the verbal world, then, reading and writing becomes the means with which babies can connect to other human beings, a way out of aloneness, a way to begin to see themselves through the mirrored words of others. Words, then, become a wonderful tool for babies, in that they become the means with which to reach and connect to other beings like themselves. In fact, if you step back for a moment and look at what we are now doing with each other, we are doing exactly this; we are using words to try to connect to each other.

The problem, of course, is that in order to be whole, happy human beings, we need to be able to access to both worlds, the "pre-verbal" and the "verbal." Further, we need to be able to switch between these two worlds by choice, not just as the result of some random events like being distracted. Ideally then, we each would learn to consciously choose which state we want to be in based on what our current needs are, and not from some random influence like the distractions which normally fill classrooms.

Enough theory. Let me now ask you some personal stuff about your son, questions which may help us both to begin to help your son.

[1] Do you see his problem more as problems sitting still or as problems connecting to others through language? Or both? Understandably, this may be hard to discern at first. If so, try this.

Try watching his eyes during times wherein he gets distracted or has a hard time sitting or both. If he looks like he is rapidly shifting his focus but never really landing anywhere, in my limited experience, his problems may lie more within the realm of hyperactivity than in distraction. However, if during his difficult times he seems to be drawn elsewhere as if he is drawn away to some other scene or scenes in his head, perhaps even to an offshoot of where he started but a jump none the less, then his difficulties, in all likelihood, lie more within the realm of an attention deficit.

[2] Do you remember him speaking what I call, "pseudo speech?"; meaning, did he, between about age one and two, imitate conversations with others using baby talk rather than actual content. Said again, did he imitate the pace, timing, and pitch of conversations using made up sounds for words? Did he actually try to talk to you even if he had not yet learned any words?

If yes, then he is more likely in hyperactive category than the attention deficit category. Probably. But not certainly.

[3] You mentioned knowing possible causes. And although I rarely believe we discover the actual causes of any injury, these hunches, the kind you mention, especially from mothers about their own children, often are very good places to start looking for the injury. Perhaps, then, you could briefly tell me what you do suspect has affected him.

[4] Lastly, despite my good intentions, please do remember, we are writing e-mails. Thus, our conversations are no substitute for face to face evaluations. So yes, while my heart is definitely in the right place here, I am all too aware that these e-mail conversations have limits as to what we can expect to do.

On the other hand, I have helped a few people to have what many consider miracles, so who knows. Perhaps we will be guided by something higher than us both. Your son certainly deserves this help. And I will certainly try.

Please write back.


P. S. And please do call me Steven. So while I very much appreciate the respect of being called by my family name, to me, "Mr. Paglierani" is still what people call my dad <grin>. And even for him, it's rare.

God Bless.

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