The Label is Only Half of the Story
I had a very interesting situation this past year with my grade 2 physical education classes in Kuala Lumpur. Normally our department follows a rotation system so that each child has a chance to be on the field, a smaller multipurpose room, the climbing wall, the pool, and then gym each semester. My grade 2 classes had decidedly more boys than girls and a few with the dreaded ADHD label (everyone’s favorite).
Most people look at an ADHD child and are horrified. Coaches often look at them and say, “at last!” because they finally have someone gifted that sees the entire space and knows how to move in it. When I got to the multipurpose room with my classes, I noticed that those classes with the very active students were really hard to control in that environment because it was a small space and required that the students move less. In the second semester the multipurpose room was scheduled first, but I decided to skip it entirely for this age group and instead do a huge amount of cardio work which especially included running games across a large space. As the year progressed I just started seeing the students as extremely gifted rather than hyperactive because they were.
In a classroom where you have to sit for a long time hyperactive students just start causing a lot of difficulties because they need more activity that is physical so that they can develop their giftedness. Regular classrooms do not allow them to develop their talents that show up on the athletic field more than the class. They are expected to sit and concentrate and be quiet. When they are allowed to be engaged in more sport, they get excited and look forward to school.
In my previous schools the teachers always used to punish the hyperactive ones by not letting them go out and be really physical as if that would control them. It usually just makes them worse. The problem with most of us is that we see the increased activity as a handicap rather than a gift so we try to extinguish it rather than encourage it. When you add the factor that physical education is not a very validated part of the curriculum, then the ADHD kids are just a huge problem for everyone. When they are seen as problems, then they start acting it out by becoming destructive with all of their extra energy.
The key is to see the energy and the abilities as assets rather than liabilities, as spiritual qualities rather than handicaps. So what can they do that is valuable? In many cases a high energy child will be able to see everything and everyone with all of their details all at once. And then they go about interacting with everything and everyone by trying to connect with as much as they can in the environment. When an active type is encouraged in the right way and trained with the right boundaries, they become great unifiers because they always interact with everyone.
School is not about seeing wholes and then doing unity building or interacting with others. It is about sequence and keeping quiet and doing what the teacher wants. Nothing could be further from what stimulates in a positive way an active child. They need to connect with everyone often in a very joyous way and in so doing bring everyone together. In sport like in a soccer match they see the whole pitch, where everyone is, where the holes are and how to get from one place to another quickly.
The key with any energy that does not fit the cultural norm like being very active is to look for the positive equivalent and then understand that as a parent you have to find the environment that will develop the person’s abilities. You cannot count on the way that the culture currently does it. ADHD is there so that the culture will change, not remain stagnant.
In the same way there is a term called the sensitive child who gets overwhelmed easily by a lot of noise and activity. This child tends to lose who they are when they are in environments where people don’t recognize their needs. If you think about the sensitive child as a handicap in the same way that you think about an active child as a handicap, then you may not put them in the environments that develop their special abilities. What they seem to be able to be gifted in is the auditory tonal abilities. They can hear tones and be uplifted by them.
In our current culture most people have become tone deaf because of the loudness of everything around us and the fact that music is not taught. The preferred music is loud and repetitive and usually out of tune. Sensitive people have built in high harmonics. This allows them to be in harmony with others and themselves. The current world is like a foreign environment for them because it is just too loud and too out of tune. Sensitive people can not get in tune with others when it is so noisy around them. They first need quieting and then they can start to hear and be in tune with others.
So whether you are sensitive or overly active it is the culture that is the handicap and not you because the culture does not provide for the right kinds of environments to develop these abilities. Furthermore, it is a huge threat to some of the current practices in the world to have active and sensitive people fully functioning because unity and harmony bring down greed and centralized power.