By Dov Benyaacov-Kurtzman FRSA BA LL.B BSW PgDIP Psychiatry
Understanding who we are, what brain type we have and how our brain works is imperative not only for an effective life but also a life of wellness, wholeness, and motivation.
By now most people have heard of ADD or ADHD otherwise known as Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder.
If you have not come across this before or not sure of what it means, there is an abundant amount of good information freely available on the internet.
Let me first say that I have a fundamental objection to the word “disorder” as it is used in the name of this brain type (or neurodevelopmental type), as it does not need result in disorder. In fact, it can be, if attended to appropriately, be a very productive state and so needs to be brought in to the mainstream of acceptability.
As we progress in scientific understanding of how our brains work, we are learning that there are a varied number of brain types or as I mentioned earlier neurodevelopmental types among the human population, none of which are diseases, illnesses, or disorders. AD(H)D is one of them among an array of others including Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.
Neurotypical is the word used to describe most neurodevelopmental states and neurodivergent to describe the others that are less common in the general population.
Understanding who has which type of brain can be very useful to promote wellbeing throughout the developmental stages of people – childhood, adolescence, and adulthood – which can all have their specific challenges and make the appropriate contextual adaptations.
Around 1 out of every 10 children may have a neurodivergent brain of the AD(H)D type.
Why is it important to know?
Being neurodivergent and not knowing can be a fundamental cause for misunderstood behaviour and response to what is going on in the environment under Your’s skin as much as what is going on in our environment on the outside.
Neurodivergent people think differently and experience the world differently. If not addressed appropriately this can lead to misunderstandings at school as well as at home and in social interactions. These misunderstandings can precipitate emotional distress within your body and result in outward behaviour that can alienate you or your child from their surroundings.
For example, an AD(H)D child may experience a lack of staying attentive to the teacher in a standard classroom due to their brains being much more present moment and interest lead than importance lead resulting in them wandering off inside their heads commonly known as “daydreaming” or being easily distracted with what is going on outside the window of the classroom or by talking to their friends that sit close by which can lead to a disconnect from the lesson being taught. The teacher misreads this as inappropriate behaviour of the child and may possibly punish the child either verbally or physically by removal from class in the attempt to “fix” the “disturbing behaviour” in the class. This may lead to the child being labelled as “naughty” “disruptive” “stupid” or worse. This in turn can lead to humiliation of the child in front of their peers affecting their sense of self; identity, self-worth, self-
talk (that little voice inside our heads) self-judgement. As this repeats itself over and over in their school career it may affect your child’s social relationships and social standing within their peer groups with a high risk of being low on the social hierarchy or of being marginalised from their peers which has a knock on effect of your child creating low opinions of themselves and their capabilities, low motivation, low academic success and high risk of developing detrimental behaviours like smoking, drugs, aggressive behaviour, bullying (as the victim or as the perpetrator) and possibly migrating to criminal activity where they will meet a peer group that will accept them for whom they are.
Particular attention to girls is important as girls can “suffer in silence” and not be identified as they cause less disturbance and internalise their discontent much more than boys. In fact it was once thought that AD(H)D was only a “condition of boys” which has now proven to be wrong. In girls this discontent can express itself with eating disorders and school refusal among other conditions.
Moving into adolescent life with this type of experiential history and not understanding “why me?” can lead to a breakdown of social interaction leading to inwardness, high distress, high anxiety, social anxiety in addition to the regular challenges that adolescents experience.
At least half if not more will continue to experience this well into adulthood which carries with it a whole new set of challenges like time keeping at work, staying on task, dangerous driving, social acceptability with co-workers, issues with intimate and social relationships which can increase the amount of misery on a day-to-day basis.
So how does an assessment help?
Well, I think the most important fundamental is to know that there is a reason I think and behave like this and that it is not a pathological condition. It’s a neurological state. Once I know this, I can attend to things differently. If it is my child, then I can inform the school and make provisions for them. I can advocate for them to their teachers and make arrangements that they will receive appropriate assistance in the classroom and not be on the receiving end of humiliation or unjustified punishment.
Behavioural issues can be addressed by well trained professionals showing me or my child the most efficient way of using our neurodivergent brains in the most optimal way. And if needed medication can assist with brain-based issues to help optimise our performance.
This will have a domino effect in the transition through adolescence to adulthood making for a much more competent and confident individual with a high sense of self-worth and motivation.
Of course, some only discover that it is possible to be assessed in adolescence or adulthood and here the old adage is very relevant that “it is better late than never” as your quality of life can always be raised to a higher quality when you know more about how your brain functions, and you are committed to changing your behaviour.
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