Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fear as the driving force behind an 8 year old boy's ADHD

An eight-year-old boy, his older sister, his mother, and I went out to look at some foreclosed homes. I was going to buy one as an investment property, and she was going to rent it if we found one which suited her needs and her budget, and the purchase price of which was within my investment comfort zone.

I was really enjoying the boy's high spirits, his rushing out of the car to be the first to climb up the porch steps of the houses, his patter about how he wants a place that has second floor so he can climb up and down, and a bathroom that has shiny black toilet as he had seen on a TV show, a fireplace, and all the other cool things that his friends' houses had.

The mother declared him to be a child who gets into everything but told me to diagnose him less as an  ADHD and more as an Irish child: "they must stick their nose into everything."

Now we were driving from one house to another without a Realtor, who could open the lockbox with the code and show us the houses from inside. We had printed out a list of foreclosed homes from the Internet and were assessing their worth from the outside and by looking through the windows. Though most of the houses had some window latch somewhere not properly secured, or a sliding back door that could be slid open, or a main entrance that despite the lockbox hanging from the doorknob could just be pushed open, and the mother, endowed with the same Irish genes as the son, would with an uncanny ability manage to find and stick her nose into these deviant openings , and voila we would be inside, free to explore the in and out of the house.

But what really caught my attention about that child was that the last house that we went to see that  afternoon, instead of rushing out as he had done earlier, he refused to come out altogether on grounds that somebody was inside the house.

The mother said that is nonsense. The house is bank owned, and foreclosed, so nobody could be inside.

But when the son could not be persuaded to leave the car, the rest of us decided to go inside the house without him.  However, when we climbed up the porch steps and peeked through the stained glass panes, lo and behold, there was somebody inside.The house indeed was occupied. We rushed down the three steps,  ran over the grass and quickly got in to the car so we do not get subjected to rude shooing off for trespassing. The mother had not done her homework right. The house was not in foreclosure but in short sale.

The mother asked the child how in the world did he know the house was occupied.

"Because the smoke was coming out of chimney,' the boy replied.

"And what does that mean?"

"It means that either the furnace is on or somebody is drying his clothes in the dryer."

So this hyperactive boy was constantly scanning the environment wherever he went making lightening fast deductions whether it was safe to go ahead with his exploratory urges or take to his heels.

 Later we went to a restaurant to eat and once again he was observing everything. As we waited for the waiter to bring out the food,  the boy remarked that there is a gold record of some singer mounted on a plaque inside a glass case on the wall next to the cash register. He wanted very badly to examine it at close quarters, but could not be persuaded to do so.

The mother remarked Zach has grown now. Before he would have rushed to it physically. But now he is afraid to do so.

And I wondered if the boy was very high spirited and full of observations to fulfill a bundle of inborn (genetically determined) needs and since they all had to be satisfied in a limited time he was rushing from one thing to another and which was behind his ADHD.

But the mother said no, that cannot be entirely true. Because Zach, if you encourage him, or if he is genuinely interested in something, he can sit on it for a long time without getting distracted.

So despite having all these needs to be fulfilled, all clamoring for expression, and all wanting exploration of the environment for the objects of their desire, the boy could stay and concentrate on something if he was given proper encouragement (output of dopamine generated through pleasure experienced due to parental appreciation?) or through his own intrinsic enjoyment of it (self generated dopamine?).

I asked the mother then what is the cause of his ADHD.

And she said his exploratory urges have been prematurely blocked by a frightening world. It is the fear of getting into trouble with grown ups [with their superior power/authority] that keeps him going from one exploratory behavior to another. If you are exploring something and get yelled at, and a fear arises in you that you will get into trouble doing that, then at the slightest hint of somebody coming after you makes you give up what you are doing and pick up something else to explore.

And now my child instead of rushing into whatever interests him [out of fear of everything and everybody] first scans the environment to locate all the possible sources of danger and if he sees any, quickly abandons that avenue of exploration and moves on to the next. Only if I am around to encourage him to continue exploring which implies that I will be at his side to deal with the danger, or if the exploratory behavior has high dividends such as when he is playing sports, that he continues his activity without bolting to another.

And I wondered if both these factors: presence of the mother while he is doing his exploratory behavior and big rewards that he obtains from sports and other activities that he enjoys improve his attention via the medium of higher dopamine secretion.

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