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Focusing on A.D.D

Adults and children living with Attention Deficit Disorder know the daily struggles of hyperactivity, social isolation, and drug side effects. But yoga may help control these symptoms as well as reduce long-term dependency on medication.

By Fernando Pagés Ruiz

When 8-year-old Clayton Petersen began taking yoga, he had a hard time staying focused. He would assume a posture and then get distracted. His teacher, Kathleen Randolph, had to recapture his attention about once every minute, guiding him back to the center of the room and then into the next asana. She recalls these first lessons, staged within the confines of her small basement studio, were "like being inside a pinball machine." Clayton bounced from wall to wall, scattering his considerable energies throughout the studio in a way any parent of a hyperactive child with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) would immediately recognize.

The clinical label ADD describes one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral impairments of childhood, affecting an estimated 3 to 9 percent of the school-age population and 2 percent of adults. While most outgrow their hyperactivity in adolescence, about two-thirds carry other symptoms like distractibility into adulthood.

ADD's core symptoms include inattention, difficulty following directions, poor control over impulses, excessive motor activity in many but not all cases, and difficulty conforming to social norms. But low intelligence is not among these, despite the fact that ADD can hamper learning. On the contrary, a great majority of those diagnosed enjoy above-average intelligence. Bonnie Cramond, Ph.D., associate professor of education at the University of Georgia, authored a provocative paper comparing the symptoms of ADD with creativity. She found that children diagnosed with ADD share traits with such innovators as Robert Frost, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Leonardo DaVinci.

Since the 1940s, psychiatrists have used various labels to describe children who seem inordinately hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. These labels have included "minimal brain dysfunction," "hyperkinetic reaction of childhood," and, since the 1970s, "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD). But it turns out that certain children are inattentive and easily distracted without being hyperactive. These quiet, spaced-out kids don't disrupt class and often go unnoticed.Today the simpler label Attention Deficit Disorder has gained favor to acknowledge attention deficits that come with or without hyperactivity.

For decades, doctors blamed ADD on bad parenting, character weakness, refined sugar, and a host of other causes. Recent research, however, using sophisticated brain-scanning technology suggests a subtle neurological impairment. Studies report that several brain regions in ADD appear underdeveloped, most notably the right prefrontal cortex—an area of the brain associated with inhibition. It turns out that inhibition acts as a precursor to concentration.

One's ability to concentrate emerges from restraining mental distractions in a process neurologists call "neural inhibition"—a description that squares with Patanjali's definition of concentration as "quieting the mind of its compulsions." Here's how it works: As you read this sentence, your brain intensifies the neural circuits related to language by suppressing competing stimuli like ambient sounds, peripheral vision, and extraneous thoughts. The contrast created between the circuits highlighted and those inhibited allows you to focus your concentration. In the ADD brain, the inhibiting portion of the system malfunctions. ADD brains get flooded with competing stimuli and lack the means to sort them out; each internal voice shouts as loudly as the others.

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Reader Comments

Meaghan

A great intro presentation about yoga:
http://www.wepapers.com/Papers/92152/YOGA.ppt

Ann

I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 34, just this year. I went through life with no self-esteem, self-worth, or confidence.
Like Mary Alice, I was lost and disorganized from class to class. I unfortunately went undiagnosed and by the time I was 22 I was in and out of hospitals and therapy sessions and treated for mental problems I did not have.
My son is ADHD, I recognized it quckily and have been struggling with his behavioral problems and everything involved with being a parent of an ADHD child.
I started doing Vinyasha Yoga about 3 months ago. I had tried Power Yoga but it agitated my mind and tension in my body more than it helped, so I dropped out of it.
I am on Adderall for the ADHD and I had to adjust to a sudden peace with in my mind. I was scared to death of the silence, then I decided to go to the yoga class offered at the gym. It has changed my body and mind as described in the article. I do have a long way to go to achieve the state Mary Alice has come to find. However, I am always thrilled by yoga, I go into it excited and ready but holding on to worries and other problems, but by the end of a practice or class I am alive and awake in my mind, body, and soul but also wrapped in calm. Just recently I have started practice everyday at home inbetween classes. It is greatly reducing my everyday stress.
After I read this article I was able to understand many things I have questioned lately. I mentioned to my husband a couple of days ago about the fact that I have stuck to the practice of Vinyasha and how it has affected me. He pointed out the fact that I have become happy with my body as well. Not just mentally and spiritually it has, as put in the article, made me aware of myself and comfortable in my own skin. Typing that made my eyes tear up.
I am going to get the DVD for yoga for special children and work my son into it. There are no yoga classes around here for his age group, they do have it for 6-8 and 13-16 but nothing inbetween. Until then I will have to assist with poses and breathe before we can practice together. He does like trying poses already. I was practicing The Crane the first time it was introduced to me in class, my son comes along and starts doing the same movements I was and the little stinker did it on the first try. We laughed and for a moment were able to connect.
Your article was full of answers and possibilities for myself but it also pointed me in the right direction for helping my son but not leaving me blinded to the hardships and time it will take to see the benefits it will have for him in the long run.
Thank you.

Gail

Can anyone tell me the date of this article???

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