Input

No matter who you are, in the 21st century, “input” comes at one fast and furiously.  Whether it’s TV, radio, online information, music, movies, the phone, the sounds at the mall, or even a camp director’s blog, it seems we are almost constantly bombarded with “input”.  Input can come through any of the five senses or from within one’s brain.  Most neurotypicals can drown out enough input most of the time to keep them going in a relatively balanced manner.

Input for those of us with neurobiological disorders (Tourette’s Syndrome, Learning Disabilities, Anxiety disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders…) is like the experience of neurotypicals only MUCH MORE SO! For different ones of us, input is louder, brighter, more intense, more constant, more overwhelming, and harder/impossible to screen out.  If this is difficult to imagine, I invite you to sit in silence for one full minute (this may feel awkward and long!) and the listen for how many sounds you can find in the “silence.”  The length of your list may surprise you.  Now imagine that you can’t screen out these sounds (lights humming, footsteps, rain on the roof, your own breathing, a fan…) to pay attention to what the world expects of you.  Now add to that intrusive thoughts, tics, impulsiveness, co-ordination challenges, and learning disabilities.  No surprise that this is a recipe for one stressed kid!

Here are some suggestions to make input more manageable for our children:

1)    Don’t chatter to the child unless the topic interests him/her.  Give short, simple, clear instructions, eg “The pen is on the blue table” as opposed to “It’s right there”.

2)    Answer all questions in full sentences, so distractible children know clearly what you mean, eg “Yes you may play with Sam after your homework is done”

3)    Give your child a quiet, well lit place to do homework.  Some children focus better while multitasking, most do not.

4)    Do not allow your home to be a 3 ring circus.  It clutters most people’s heads to have TVs, radios, computers, videogames and phones all operational at the same time.  Set limits on how much time is spent with electronics and how much is going on at once.

5)    Teach and model skills to thrive without constant electronics.  Let your kid catch you reading, writing letters, working with a collection, meditating, having tea and friendly conversation with a friend, gardening, joining martial arts and/or a choir…

6)    Turn off all electronics and play a board game.

7)    Don’t answer phones during meals

8)    Understand that the input your child with neurobiological disorders receives from his/her own brain is often internally louder, more compelling, brighter and just MORE in quantity than you can imagine.  What medication cannot control at all or without significant side effects, you can help to some degree by changing the environment (“environmental engineering”)