1 day ago


One of my clients is a #teacher with #ADHD herself. We plan her week ahead every Sunday and we have a laugh!

She sent me this to share with you.

One day I hope she is able to be as open about her differences as I am. In the meantime, she is in the classroom being magic and making a difference!
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3 days ago


I had a student in my class who had extreme and immediate excitability. He could go from calm to hyper-flash in a second. He was lovely, funny, caring and clever, but he was a bit of a liability when he’d go into what I’m calling ’hyper-flash’ as there isn’t a clinic name for the flashpoint that I’m talking about - as far as I know.

He didn’t recognise that he was in this state and the outcome was usually that he would get shouted at and punished. This tendency was stated in his behaviour plans and on his risk assessment for obvious reason as it was very much like a mini explosion 💥 and was (until you knew what you’re looking for) unpredictable.

Patterns! We have to look for them. There are always reasons behind behaviours, and we have to work out what they are.

In this case, it was excitability. He was literally like a wind-up toy, and of course, his peers would enjoy watching him go, so they’d turn the dial. It was so easily done. He had a cracking sense of humour so you only had to make him laugh and he was off. 💥💥💥

So every time he got excited, he got into trouble. That wasn't fair and could not continue. His friends really liked him but would sometimes avoid him because of his unpredictability and the fact that he had no off switch. I really liked him and I didn’t shy away from his company. He was great! He ws one the most misunderstood young men that I have ever met.

How did we help? We rallied the troops. His fellow classmates joined me and we tried various ways of bringing ’hyper-flash’ under control. We wanted to hear his laughter and share in his joy, but we needed to help him gain control over the extreme bit.

💥The first thing that was apparent was that he didn’t recognise when he is in this state and doesn’t see it coming. We had to teach him.
💥Double finger tap! Two fingers, tapped twice. This wasn’t the first thing we try, but it was the one that worked. If it was safe to do so, when we would see him going into hyper-flash, we’d double finger tap on his forearm. He’d freeze, recognise his state and calm right down. If it was not safe to tap him on his own arm, we’d double tap on our own arm. This visual cue worked too. He’d freeze, think and gain self-control.
💥Talking and reflection. We did a lot of that. He could never understand why he was always in trouble because he didn’t recognise his state. He couldn’t control his behaviour because he wasn’t aware of it.
💥Self-awareness. It isn’t always the case that when someone becomes aware of their behaviour that they can or will choose to bring it under control, but this young man did. He wanted better relationships with people and we’d dealt with something that was in the way of that.
💥Gaining self-control. We were mid literacy lesson and we were all laughing and being a bit silly. I’d got excited over a ’eureka moment’ with a student and was making a big deal over it (because it’s important to celebrate when our children overcome their challenges) so it was me that started it. The energy and excitement levels in the classroom raised and we were enjoying ourselves. For every other child, it was possible to do this and then return to task. Not always so with the person in question. I watched him laughing and being silly. I was ready to make him aware of himself if I needed to. But then he did something I didn’t expect. He double tapped his own arm!

Yes. That’s right! He double tapped his own arm. He carried on laughing with the others but stayed in control. He was more in control of himself than I was of myself in that moment. I sat back in my chair with tears in my eyes.

💥Team work. I’m not going to suggest that all was then perfect in his world because it wasn’t. There would still a long way to go. But we took one massive step forward and his outlook was brighter.

Notice I’m saying ‘we’. It was a team thing! Our children and young people cannot solve these problems by themselves. No, they really can’t, and nor should they have to. We’re in it together!

💥Shouting and shaming. It isn’t possible to shout and shame an unwanted behaviour out of a child, but it is often what we do. This tactic is entrenched in our culture but it does so much harm. Funnily enough, shouting and shaming is its own unwanted behaviour. We’re not exactly modelling the behaviour we want our children to mirror when we’re out of control of ourselves and judging are we? Yet we’ve all done it because we’re only human. Nonetheless, shouting and shaming doesn’t work.

It is so important to accept and appreciate our children for who they are. It starts with that. We have to teach self-awareness. We have to work with our children rather than against them.

Picture a tug of war. If it’s like that for you and your child (or student), you’ve positioned yourself in opposition to your child. Move yourself to their team. No, they do not have to (and will not be able to) move to your team. If you think it’s hard for you to shift sides, it’s harder (or impossible) for them.

Our children and young people are perfectly imperfect. They are who they are supposed to be. It is for us to join them and understand them, and then lead them until they can lead themselves. Whatever the challenges you have with the children in your life, you have to be in it together and work it through as a team. They can't do it without you!
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Today I heard a professional I respect praising a young person for improved eye contact. I was quite taken aback as it isn’t something I have ever felt we should be insisting upon. Being as she is quite an enlightened person, it occurs to me that many people do not know what I know about eye contact so I thought I’d share.

Eye contact can be physically painful! Yes it can! I know this because whilst I can maintain eye contact for a short time, I cannot maintain it for long enough to conduct a meeting for example. If I try, my eyes will close against my will. I will try, but the effort is painful and I will eventually fail.

It’s hard to explain why that is but I’ll try. If I’m looking at your eyes, I’m really looking. I can see the array of colours, the pupil dilation, the reflections in your pupils, the whites of your eyes, the red blood vessels, and if you’re wearing them, the outline of your contact lenses. I see your eyelashes as they go from dark at the base, to lighter and thinner at the ends. I see the details of your make up or your wrinkles. I think I also see deeper into your eyes, so I make judgements about whether you’re interested in what I’m saying, whether you like or respect me, and I decide whether I like and trust you.

That’s intense isn’t it? That’s tough to maintain isn’t it? My eyes blur and water from trying. I find myself trying to force it – and it hurts.

If I remember in time, I can ‘fake’ eye contact. This can be by focussing on eyebrows, glasses frames or make up – or anything like that. This prevents the fatigue that comes from actually making eye contact and is very effective. But I have to think about the strategy. It doesn’t come naturally and I’m often in trouble before it occurs to me.

So if a child finds eye contact as intense and painful as I do, is it any wonder they avoid it? Does a person with this difficulty ever consider why they avoid it? Do family and professionals ever consider why the person avoids it?

Probably not. I hadn’t until I heard the comment that inspired this blog.

Is it right for society to insist on eye contact?

Well, it’s a socially expected thing to do. Eye contact is supposed to mean something, and for some of us, it means too much – so we avoid it. It is considered to be a way of communicating that a person is listening, but for some of us, it’s impossible to look and listen at the same time. It can cause a sensory overload.

I would say that eye contact is a socially constructed norm, rather than something that is necessary to communicate. I understand that society is so entrenched in what it thinks is acceptable and normal that it probably hasn’t even considered that its insistence on eye contact might cause pain or discomfort – as well as actually inhibiting the persons ability to pay attention to what you’re saying.

Being as I said eye contact is not something I insist upon, what do I do instead?

As a parent and a teacher, I ask for verbal confirmation that I have been heard and understood. I might ask a child to look in my direction so I know they’re not distracted. Mostly I know I have my children’s attention because they are talking with me – rather than me talking at them.

I’ve taught my students to make notes, this means I can just check that they’re on task from what they are putting down on the page. The use of visual displays such as PowerPoint, video and white board writing means they have something to look at that engages them without ever needing to make eye contact. We also have sufficient dialogue in class that I know I have their attention because they are talking with me.

I have never considered it before, but I realise now that my own difficulties with eye contact mean I have removed that barrier to communication from my home, and my classroom without even thinking about it.

I don’t believe eye contact is necessary for communication, but society expects it. Maybe it’s helpful to teach a cheat method to help your child fit in? But please don’t force eye contact under the assumption that you’re helping the child. You might be unwittingly inflicting discomfort and pain. Your child avoids eye contact for a reason.

Jannine Harris PGCE MA