Understanding ADD and ADHD Behavior


by Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D.


The individuals with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder characteristics were the hunters of old, the warriors whose responsibilities included keeping others safe. The jobs assigned to these individuals included constantly monitoring the environment to keep themselves fully aware of any dangers. Movement was of prime import, flexibility a desired talent.

Quick decisions and the ability to constantly change strategies through bursts of energy coupled with staying power were the marks of leaders. These people were to be envied because of their ability to think visually. They used actions rather than words and were easily bored longing for the hunt. They were praised for their ability to take risks and face dangers others avoided. They cared for those reliant individuals whose brains allowed them to sit around and engage in long range planning in a cautious manner. Some authors refer to this group as farmers, I personally think of them as planners and doers. The people who keep details in view as they plan realistically for the future.

Accordingly, if we subscribe to the description of differing individuals, we must try to understand how the more important people, responsible for keeping others alive, are today those individuals who find themselves in great stress and suffering from mental health problems. How did it happen that the “winners” are now seeing themselves as those needing help? Why are 25 million adults and children taking medications, seeing psychiatrists and suffering from stress related diseases when history portrays them as those responsible for the survival of others?

The question may arise as to the characteristic behavior of the ADD and ADHD individual.

The following are some of these characteristics:

1. Easily distractible.

2. Possess short but intense attention spans.

3. Tend to make impulsive decisions.

4. Disorganized.

5. Distort time and space.

6. Difficulty following verbal directions.

7. Periodic depression or “down moods”.

8. High risk takers.

9. Easily frustrated.

10. Periodic anxieties.

11. Rapid talkers.

The above characteristics are shared by those individuals diagnosed as ADD or ADHD. Added to the above challenges is the fact that these individuals are hard on themselves and those around them.

The challenges of attention deficit and hyperactive behaviors are worldwide. All continents have these individuals. Great Britain has the largest number and Japan the least. It is postulated that those individuals coming to America on the Mayflower brought the characteristics with them to this country. Surely, any explorer could be the possessor of ADD characteristics.

There are many survival guides written for the adult ADD and ADHD challenged. It is common sense to realize that if the left side of the brain is not doing its job then it should be awakened and allowed to share the responsibilities. Until this happens the person would do well to adopt the following suggestions for survival:

1. When there is a specific task to be completed, organize your time around the task using short attention times of high quality. This will allow you to use the short bursts of energy you possess in a positive manner. It will be useless for you to plan to spend long periods of time sitting trying to accomplish a task. Use a timer, set it for five minutes to start with.

Work hard during this time and then move the timer on to ten minutes with a short break in between. If the task is sedentary, get up and move around during the short break. This will ensure better concentration.

2. Utilize some sort of relaxation training such as avs before you undertake a difficult task. Meditation is useful but is very difficult for some individuals.

3. Set up all tasks in “little sets” with the same needs and outcomes. This can be thought of as breaking up large assignments into small tasks. You will gain momentum as you accomplish each little task and soon the larger one will be finished.

4. Work within a clean environment keeping yourself free from distractions that will occupy your time. If you are a professional person working outside the home, try to budget your funds to allow you a housekeeper at least a few hours weekly. This will allow you a decrease in frustration and an increase in self-worth as you give yourself the gift.

5. Good eating habits and exercise are essential for good brain power. The person dealing with attention deficit behavior uses up a great deal of energy and it must be replaced.

6. Impulsive decisions are a challenge for these individuals. Any decision should be given a few days for rethinking before becoming final.

7. The wish for certain things is characteristic. This craving can be for anything from food to emotional support. Many times the cravings cannot be satisfied and it is necessary to consider medication until structural changes are apparent in behavior activity.

8. The ADD and ADHD individuals are highly successful and bright. They have good ideas but cannot see them through. If this is the case, hire a good strong “left” brained person who can organize and structure the business. This merger will produce positive results.

9. If depression becomes a problematic challenge, seek help until you can understand and cope with the situation.

10. Above all, it is important to realize that the person with ADD and ADHD characteristics is not a disabled individual. His is not a disorder but a way of life handed down genetically from generation to generation.

Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D., who has spent years developing programs for sport science, learning styles, sensory stimulation and movement science, is presently immersed in research developing sensory integration-avs programs for athletic enhancement. She currently is working with a range of athletes, including swimmers in all age groups to Olympians, golfers and baseball players.

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Copyright Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D. From the AVS Journal, Fall 2001