Update: ADHD and Safe and Sound Protocol Experience

This is an update to the post below, published last month before our early half term.

My son listened to 15 minutes of SSP per day with me. A lot of the time, we cuddled while listening, tapping out rhythms, but a few times we used a Buddha Board, and a couple of times, we played “Consequences” – but the drawing version rather than writing. If you don’t know what that is, watch these little girls explain:

We started to notice improved settling to sleep almost immediately, which is always a good thing with a child with a racing mind.

We noticed a happier, more naturally compliant (not forced compliant) child, who was happy to lay the table for dinner without argument, volunteered to help vacuum the floor and load the washing machine – just to help me, rather than because we had bribed him to or because he “had” to.

The most striking difference was noted by everyone when we met with friends to camp in the New Forest. Normally he’d take himself off to do drawing or play on a tablet, but this time, he was naturally sociable. He made smalltalk. He asked our friends’ teen all about his new secondary school and asked relevant questions to keep the conversation going. He was articulate and engaging.

He returned to school last week and even after a day, we’d heard back from school that they had seen a major change in social engagement and articulation of speech as well. He’s also MUCH happier getting on the bus in the morning, and talks enthusiastically and in detail about his school days.

School has taken on board my request for a balance ball in class – of course, all the other children want one now! We also have one at home for him to use for watching TV.

He’s still not there in terms of occasionally shutting down, but things are SO much better.

The plan now is plenty of spinal, grasp and STNR reflex work.

I will update again in the near future.

About ADHD – original post

We have recently realised that my child might have a set of symptoms that could qualify him for a diagnosis of (inattentive) ADHD (or ADD).

When I’m so busy looking at other people’s children all day, it’s sometimes hard to look at my own objectively.

He has always had very few friends, but those he has, he plays well with. In fact, we have recently realised that he is being rejected by many other children, and endures a lot of very unkind treatment from other children – the latest being a group of children asking him for the password to play with them and that kind of thing. Heartbreaking to hear.

He annoys one of the children in his class by putting his hands over his mouth and sniggering. I’ve seen him snigger at inappropriate moments too and have thought we need to do a bit of work on his Moro reflex, as that is clearly still active in those with inappropriate reactions.

In the classroom, he frequently completely disengages from learning. The teacher cannot reach him at all. If someone works with him on a one-to-one basis, they are seeing flashes of brilliance – but in the classroom, he’s under-achieving. All the feedback from school has been that he must try harder – and yet he IS trying!

When I sat in on a speech therapy session last week, I noticed that he could not sit still. Bear in mind that I work with primitive reflexes for a living – and yet I had never noticed his need to move before – not even during lockdown learning.

What’s going on?

His fear paralysis reflex is off the scale. His need to move is almost certainly caused by an active spinal galant reflex, and I wouldn’t mind betting that he has extremely strong plantar and palmar reflexes active too.

I had not noticed these struggles before, because he’s been in a class of 30 or so children in the past, and the teacher just assumed he was being difficult or stubborn, and would complain that he was working slowly and not making any effort. He flies below the radar, as his behaviour in itself isn’t “poor” or unacceptable, and he isn’t aggressive or violent. Also, he doesn’t have any obvious learning difficulties – in fact, I’ve always been slightly annoyed that he doesn’t appear to be getting enough challenge as I know he can do this stuff – and yet that’s not what I’ve been hearing from his teachers. The more his old teacher used to tell him to hurry up, etc, the more anxious he became. I was especially sad that he put in a ton of effort during lockdown and yet didn’t get a single “star award”, or indeed any praise at all for his work.

ADHD children CONSTANTLY hear “no”, “stop it”, “don’t do that”, etc. They need us to help reinforce their boundaries so that they feel safe.

Our ADHD-ers NEED praise and reassurance! They need praising on their efforts at every opportunity.

Talking of which, he starred in Josie Proto’s latest music video, quite aptly named “Problem Child”, with quite appropriate lyrics – and I’m so proud of him for going through with it, as I’d half expected him to chicken out when push came to shove:

These children are also so used to being rejected by others that they simply need our time – they need lots of cuddles and love. This has always been obvious anyway – he’s always been super cuddly, but also very confident at joining in with new things such as ballroom dancing, Beavers, etc.

Gabor Maté equates ADHD to trauma, and I can see in my own child that the more rejection and the lower the self esteem, the greater the trauma.

So what am I going to do to help?

We are now working with the Safe and Sound Protocol. We haven’t done it together this year so far, in fact. We are working at around 10 minutes of listening per day. He tends towards dorsal vagal, so for this reason, we are listening later in the day. We either sneak off for a listen and a cuddle, or use my Buddha Board and draw silly faces together, and gradually watch them disappear.

In the absence of anything other than my gut instinct, school is going to allow him to sit on a yoga ball to do work in class. They will be offering these to any other children with a need to move while learning too – a very positive step forward.

The plan once he’s finished SSP is to go to my osteopath, and get her to review. Her feedback from the last session was that his breathing was dysregulated and that he felt “stuck” – and I’m not surprised as this has been striking me for the past few weeks too. It’s always great to go to the osteopath post SSP, by the way, as she usually notices the immense shifts.

A couple of weeks later, we’ll tackle that pesky FPR reflex, as well as seeing what we can do about his spinal galant and grasp reflexes. Those should help him immensely.

If they don’t, I’ll retire.

What I expect to see

After the Safe and Sound Protocol, I expect to see improved social engagement. At the very least, in my son, who has already repeated the SSP a couple of times in the past, this should look like improved eye contact, improved ability to self regulate (potentially less sniggering), improved focus in the classroom and a better ability to express his feelings. It might be that he even finds it easier to relate to the other children – AND that they find it easier to relate to him. This is because SSP goes both ways: his face will become easier to read, his voice will modulate better, and he’ll be more socially engaging, while he’ll find it easier to read others.

I’ll update in a month or two. Because this work takes time.

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