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  • Writer's pictureGeoff Watson

ASD & ADHD

More and more we see students coming to our dojang with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They may not be be diagnosed... but regardless we need to know how to manage them.



Here is some basic information you may find helpful: 

  • Despite the name, there is no deficit of attention, its a misnomer. The problem is that they have too much attention. They hear and see EVERYTHING. It's an overwhelming of their attention which makes it difficult to focus.

  • They struggle with knowing what to focus their attention on. This is  because in their brain, all things have the same importance. Nothing is more important than any other thing. They will just pick at random which one to pay attention to.

  • Eye contact is a real struggle. You never want to force a child with ASD/ADHD to look you in the eyes, it makes them wildly uncomfortable.

  • Instruction and feedback often work best using the "car-ride" method. Bring yourself down to their height and sit/stand next to them, shoulder to shoulder and talk to them (like two people sitting in the front seat of a car). This will reduce the chances of their amygdala firing off their "Fight or Flight" reflex. This reflex is especially high in children on the spectrum (not too unlike someone suffering from PTSD)

  • Loud noises are a real challenge for some kids, often in direct opposition to the amount of noise they themselves make.

  • Many children with ASD/ADHD struggle with being physically touched but others, and it takes a high amount of time and trust for them to allow it. Anyone instructing these children should seek permission EVERY time they want to touch them. Even if they have been granted permission before, that does not mean it will be given the next time.

  • Social queues are often missed, they are unable to "read the room" or the emotions of others they do not know well. It takes a lot of time for them to learn this and as such they often only master it with their immediate family.

  • Due to delays in mental processing, you can see cases where they will display what we determine to be inappropriate behaviour or language. This is due to their brains working at a different pace. They process 100x the information that neurotypical people do, and as such it can be slower to get through some things. Gentle coaxing and reminders work best, but don't expect that the behaviour will change, it takes a long time and lots of practice for them to get better at this.

  • Audio Processing is an issue many suffer from. It is a delay between hearing and instruction and understanding it. Their brain is buffering and so responding can take time (up to 30-60s sometimes). This can come across like they are ignoring someone but they are not.

  • Only give them a single set of instructions at a time. If they have only one thing to do, they can do it. If they have 5, nothing will get done. They will get lost in the order and understanding, this will cause stress and result in meltdowns.


Hope that helps.

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