In our last blog, we talked about how sensory strategies increase stimulation—and therefore focus—for people with ADHD. How exactly does this happen? The answer lies deep within our brains.
We have two motion-triggered senses there that work in conjunction with our five basic senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The vestibular sense makes you aware of gravity, balance, rhythm, and motion. The proprioceptive sense lets you know how hard your muscles, joints, tendons are working and gives you an awareness of body position.
According to Sara Wright and Roland Rotz, who wrote Fidgit to Focus, the vestibular and proprioceptive senses are involved in all motor activity, because they involve movement and rhythmic activity so crucial to self-regulation. These senses work on an unconscious level in our brain circuitry with our other five senses. That’s where we get the term “sensory motor.” Generally speaking, when we add movement to any of our other senses, it enhances their effectiveness and upgrades our ability to focus.
Most of us with ADHD need a sensory motor strategy when we have to sit still for any extended period of time, whether at school, work or church. While we may need to move in some way while seated, the movement needs to be respectful and not distracting to others.
This might look like chewing gum, eating lemon hard candy, or standing up to complete a task. All three of these strategies involve movement. The first two are enhanced by the sense of taste. Lemon is a particularly good choice, because its scent and flavor enhance focus.
Wearing a compression shirt underneath your clothing can give proprioceptive input that leads to calm and focus. Playing with fidgets—anything from stress balls to your car keys—can provide the movement, visual, and tactile input you need to pay attention while the rest of your body must be still. It can also be helpful to sit in the back of a meeting or in an aisle seat, so that you can move, if necessary.
Keeping colored pens and paper with you can make a huge difference in your ability to focus. This sensory motor strategy might look like taking notes, coloring or doodling in order to pay attention. We know that the moving brain is the working brain. The person who looks like he can’t settle down may, in effect, be moving in order to focus. Hyperactivity is an outward indicator that the brain is not active enough!
Students with ADHD can do very well in school when they have a moving seat, like the Disc ‘o’ Sit, or bouncy bands on their chairs. Students may also find that they read more effectively while sitting on an exercise ball or in a rocking chair, or when they are using a standing desk.
Think about times in your day when you are expected to be seated. What strategies could you use that would add movement and increase focus?
If you’d like help, an ADHD coach can support you in creating daily strategies for success. Call today for your complimentary session!