Interventions for Children with ADHD

Visualization technique for ADHD children by Ms. Suzanne Ferreira, M.Ed. (Special Education)

Children with ADHD are often found to be in a state of stress, especially in school, either on account of their physiological state of arousal or difficulties encountered in learning and understanding -which again could increase their levels of activate. There are a variety of counselling techniques that have proven effective in helping children slow down their hyperactivity, focus awareness and improve attention. These include, laughter therapy, breathing techniques, yoga etc. Visualization is one such counselling technique, which not only has therapeutic applications for ADHD children but has also provided a framework for improving their learning and memory.

Visualization is the process or result of mentally picturing objects or events that are experienced directly. The process of reading or listening to stories involves visual imagery or the forming such mental pictures, a skill which many children with ADHD lack mastery in. Hence they tend to get only parts of what is presented, they are able to locate only a few facts, their writing is often not specific to the topic, they have difficulties in expressing their ideas in an organised manner, difficulties in following directions, connecting to conversations, understanding the concepts of cause and effect etc..

These difficulties lead to them losing attention in class, getting easily frustrated, losing their self- control and finding themselves being tagged with “behaviour problems”.

Nanci Bell, developer of the Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking Programme says that learning to learn depends on how well a student has mastered the skills of reading to learn (i.e. comprehension). Comprehension requires symbol imagery, i.e. visualization of the letters and words as well as concept imagery/visualization of the concept.

Steps to help develop visual imagery:

A) Search for the picture words: words in the text related to things, actions, feelings experienced or read about e.g. the seagull soared high above the sea.

B) Create a scene: sometimes pictures in the text help create a backdrop for the image in mind. If there are no pictures, then you can create your own scenes

C) Enter a lot of details: add in the finer details. The more specific the details the better the image created

D) Name the parts: Describe the image and the action using your own words. This allows you to transform the information and make it more real for you to understand.

E) Evaluate your picture: check if the picture you have created mentally, matches what has been read in the text or if you have missed any details or if it is unclear. This technique helps children with ADHD work on their comprehension in an organized, systematic manner, by helping them link new information to previously learned information.

 When a child realizes certain signs of their own anxiety and stress such as tightening of muscles, clenching of fists etc they can be taught to use visualization. One such guided visualization recommended by Holly Huth is to have them imagine a colour that makes them feel relaxed. Imagine themselves blowing that colour throughout their bodies, slowly down their throat, neck, down to their stomachs and so on, until they are completely full of that colour and covered with relaxation. Other visualizations could involve …being in sailboats… rocking on a calm cool pond, a feather floating through the air, walking through space among the stars etc.

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Ms. Karishma Jivani conducting a counselling session with a child

Through visualization children can be taught that, when their minds and bodies are relaxed they can think better, plan carefully and that they have the capacity to gain a certain amount of control over and regulate their bodies actions, feelings and thoughts.

They can also be taught “success visualizations” i.e. visualize themselves in situations where they are able to achieve and are successful -especially in exam situations e.g. they must visualize themselves walking confidently in to the examination hall, sitting with a proper posture at their desks etc.

More importantly, they must view themselves as being relaxed and confident, as they read each question and answer it, completing the paper within the time limit, rechecking for errors etc In this way, the visualization technique help children with AD/HD not only to deal with complex reading material and improve understanding but also it can help reduce their distractibility, anxiety and help them find a sense of inner peace.

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