Saturday, September 5, 2015

Training jiu jitsu with the drooling stare-bees, better known as ADHD: a survival guide

Growing up, I had what my family called "the drooling stare-bees." The name is pretty self-explanatory. I basically I zoned out and stared off in space a lot, oblivious to what was going on around me. (No, I didn't actually drool, except once when on a bus at Disney World).

Now, as an adult who works with kids with special needs,  I realize that what I had was likely a case of undiagnosed ADHD. When you think of ADHD, you probably picture a hyperactive boy, wired as if on a constant sugar rush. But here's the thing: Just as many girls have ADHD as boys do, but boys are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed. Why? Attention issues present in different, less obvious, and less disruptive ways in girls. I found a good overview of the issue with: Girls and ADHD: Are You Missing the Signs? Here's a quote:

“'ADHD doesn’t show up in the same ways in girls,' says Kathleen Nadeau, a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Maryland, and coauthor of Understanding Girls with AD/HD. For instance, girls are much less likely to display hyperactive or impulsive symptoms. Instead, they may just appear 'spacey,' unfocused, or inattentive." In other words, they are less disruptive in the classroom and find ways to compensate for their attention deficits, often times still performing well in school.

Unfortunately, I still suffer from the drooling stare-bees, even during a highly motivating activity like jiu jitsu. Attending for an hour long class is doable with moderate effort, but a three hour seminar? Forget about it. I had a major zone out moment at a recent seminar, after my mind had reached its capacity. When it came time to drill the technique I had spaced through, I had no idea what to do. Several people came over and tried to help me, but I just got more frustrated. I wasn't getting it. I finally gave up and hid in bathroom to escape until the next technique was taught.

Incidents like these don't happen to me that often, because I've developed some strategies to help me focus on jiu jitsu instruction. (I also have strategies in place for other attention related tasks, like finding my car in a mall parking lot). Give these a try if you too are a spacey grappler:

Take notes: just the act of note taking keeps me engaged in the subject matter. While the instructor is talking, writing keeps me actively involved, while my body is keeping still. I used to take notes during class, but now I mostly reserve it for longer seminars. I'm less likely to zone out when I take notes but if I do, at least I have a resource to consult later.

Ask questions: I try to digest information as it is presented and then ask myself "where might this break down?" and "how will I apply this in my game?" Breaking the move down focuses my attention on the technique. I try to ask questions because that too keeps me immersed in the subject matter. Some of my questions may seem dumb: if I thought about it enough, I could probably figure out the answer myself. But thinking critically and engaging with my instructor keeps my mind from wandering and keeps me attuned to the topic as it is presented.

Seek multi-sensory input: Sometimes I am the ranking person in class and am asked to be the instructor's uke. I can have a harder time attending when I am the uke because I am losing a major source of information - visual.  Since I am aware of my tendancy to drift, I am never shy about asking to see the move on someone else. In the end, receiving multi-sensory input (kinesthetic + visual) is better than receiving information from only one source. When I have the opportunity to both feel and see a technique, I experience input from multiple sources and am able to stay better engaged.

Do you ever have trouble attending to instruction? If so, what strategies do you use to stay engaged? Feel free to leave your own experiences and tips in the comments below.