The Beginner's Guide to Natural Living
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Attention Deficit Disorder
5) Why some children can't sit still & listen
ADD/ADHD Article Index

By Carmela D'Amico & Judith Bluestone

Here are a few examples that illustrate the philosophy that when children are exhibiting symptoms of “ADD/ADHD” they are actually engaging in self-protective behaviors. These are taken taken directly from “Turning Point: Some Pivotal Insights into Behavior and Learning,” a paper written by Judith Bluestone: One common mistake teachers make is to direct children to "Sit still and listen." Without getting into the technicalities of nervous system structure and function, let me explain briefly why, for some children, those are two contradictory statements. There are actually several explanations, depending on the nature of the movement the child is exhibiting.

One scenario: The behaviors you see: The child is stretching, yawning, pushing off from the table, bouncing her head around, rocking from side to side in her chair, getting up and jumping from time to time, or engaging in other fast and sudden movements. She is telling you something important. What this might mean: This child is saying that her vestibular (inner ear) functions are too weak to simultaneously serve awareness of body in space, looking and listening. She knows that what you really want and what is important for her to learn is that she listen. And so she moves and bounces to keep her vestibular system alert, energized, so she can listen. If she were to heed the first part of the direction and sit still, then she would tune out, and miss the learning that is taking place. This is only one example but it illustrates quite clearly the link between faulty processing and anomalous behavior.

Another example would be a child who looks away a lot, uses her hands as a visor or has difficulty copying or reading from books and whiteboards. These behaviors may be her way of attempting to communicate that her vestibular system, which supports visual functions, isn’t operating correctly. This has probably made her sensitive to light, as well, and she may also have an underlying problem of binocular functions, so that each eye is processing light differently.

Since the inner ear system also regulates muscle tone, another example of an attempt to communicate a weakness of this system would be a child who can’t seem to sit up for long, and who is always sliding way down or back in his chair. This child may be trying to communicate that he does not have a strong enough vestibular system to support muscle tone and body-in-space and at the same time look and listen. He feels that in order to look and listen, he must first tend to the feeling that he cannot hold himself up. If he doesn’t tend to that first, and instead attempts to skip that step and look and listen first, he will be too distracted by his physical discomfort to do so.

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