The Future of an Ancient Community
By: Rifka Schonfeld
Eli and his father were spending some time playing a game of Monopoly together, when suddenly Eli screamed, “Daddy, make them stop drilling!” His father hadn’t noticed the construction across the avenue, but clearly the noise was bothering Eli, who couldn’t concentrate on the game anymore.
“I can’t make them stop drilling,” the father said, “but we can move away from the sound. You know what? It’s time for your bath anyway.” He then braced himself for another scream, which came right on cue.
“No hair washing! You know I hate washing my hair!” Eli shouted, stamping his foot.
Two houses down, Rachel was trying to do her homework. “Mommy, can I stop now?” she called to her mother.
Her mother peaked her head into the room and asked, “Did you finish?”
Rachel had to look down to see if she had finished. “No, I have a few questions left, but that drill keeps making me stop.”
“They’re doing construction across the street. Finish your worksheet and then it’s time for dinner.”
A few minutes later, Rachel called again to her mother. “What are you cooking? It smells so good.”
Rachel’s mother sighed. With her Rachel, those two worksheets were going to take all night.
The two situations described above have similarities and differences. While both Eli and Rachel are easily distracted, their problems are the result of two different conditions. Eli suffers from a sensory processing disorder (SPD), while Rachel suffers from ADHD. These conditions often come together, and teachers and parents sometimes confuse them. But it’s important to clarify the differences so children experiencing these difficulties can receive the help and treatment they need.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
There is a good deal of confusion surrounding sensory processing disorder, mainly because there are several vastly different disorders that fall under this broad category. These disorders include:
- Sensory Over-responsiveness: Children respond very strongly to minimal stimuli. They avoid touch, and often react strongly to certain textures. They will get overexcited with too much to look at or with strong smells or sound.
- Sensory Under-responsiveness: Children often pay little or no attention to sensory experiences around them. They are unaware of messy hands, face, or clothes. They will fail to notice how things feel and will often drop them. When presented with new stimuli, they will often ignore them.
- Sensory Seeking: Children always look for new sensations. They dump toys and rummage purposelessly, chew on shirt cuffs, and rub against walls. They welcome loud noises, seek strong odors, and enjoy spicy or tangy foods.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a behavioral disorder that affects between 8-10 percent of school age children. Boys are three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. Children with ADHD have trouble sitting still, focusing on one thing at one time, and attending to details. While their attention seems unfocused, it is actually multi-focused. Their mind takes in multiple stimuli, making it hard to engage in one activity for long periods. For this reason, studying through conventional methods can be frustrating.
Until 1994, ADHD was known as ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD and broken down into three subtypes with specific characteristics.
Inattentive Type, with signs that include:
- Difficulty with sustained tasks
- Noticeable listening problems
- Difficulty following directions
- Tendency to lose things such as toys or homework assignments
- Distracted easily
Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, with signs that include:
- Fidgeting or squirming
- Difficulty remaining seated
- Always “on the go”
- Difficulty waiting for a turn
- Excessive talking
- Problems with interrupting and intruding
The third type is a combination of inattentive hyperactive-impulsive type, and is the most common form.
In my upcoming children’s book dealing with ADHD and focus problems, My Friend the Troublemaker, I address many different forms of treatment, including educational modifications, daily schedules, buzzers, and medication. In contrast, treatment for SPD often involves creating a sensory diet in order to balance the child’s over-stimulation or under-stimulation.
Therefore, though ADHD and SPD often are comorbid, or come together, it is important to receive a proper diagnosis to determine whether your child has one, the other, or both. Once diagnosed, there are multiple ways to make both your child’s life and yours a lot more manageable, and to guarantee your child’s success and happiness both at school at home.
Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld, founder and director of the SOS program, is an educator and educational consultant with specialization as a keriah and reading coach. Serving the Jewish community for close to 30 years, she has experience providing evaluations, G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness.