Sensory Strategies for Success
This article is PART ONE in an exciting summer series!
Have you ever been told to work in a quiet place, like the library, only to find that the silence was so deafening, you couldn’t get anything done?
Maybe you went to Starbucks instead. All of the loud sounds helped to calm the chatter in your head, UNTIL that person sat right next to you and started a conversation on their phone.
Individuals with ADHD have a unique brain wiring. When most people work on a task that requires a great deal of concentration, activity in the prefrontal cortex increases. When people with ADHD concentrate, activity in the prefrontal cortex decreases, according to brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen.
The prefrontal cortex has been called the brain’s command center, or CEO. It’s the part of the brain that allows us to start, follow through on tasks, plan, organize, manage time, shift from task to task, and modulate emotion. It requires a certain amount of activity in order to work properly.
Sensory strategies play an important role in increasing stimulation for the ADHD brain. When we increase stimulation, we increase focus.
Sara Wright and Roland Rotz wrote an excellent book called Fidget to Focus. Its subtitle reads, “Outwit your Boredom: Sensory Strategies for Living with ADHD.”
Our nervous system must be in a state of alertness that is appropriate for each activity we have to do, the authors write. When we can do this, we are self-regulated. People with ADHD can hyper focus on tasks that are stimulating or interesting, but we have a much harder time with tasks that are routine or boring. For the person with ADHD, interest equals focus.
So what does this look like in everyday life? It typically involves doing two things at once: A necessary task alongside an enjoyable activity. One of the most helpful strategies for me is having a flat-screen TV in the kitchen. When I am doing tasks that are routine (boring), like emptying out the dishwasher or washing dishes, I can put on a TV show (boosting interest/focus). My mind is then centered on one story instead of the 500 ideas running around in my head. This acts like a filter and helps me move from A to B. When I add stimulation or interest to the task of doing dishes, I can actually do them.
Think about a routine task that is difficult for you. How can you add something interesting to give you the extra stimulation and focus you need to get the job done?
Add that activity to your routine for a week and note the results. Were you able to accomplish more? Do you feel better than you did before?