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Working with ADHD

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  • Working with ADHD

    Hi all,
    So i help manage a small boarding, training and lesson farm in Mass and we could always use tons of help.
    We recently had a young girl express tons and tons of interest in riding and working and helping out.
    We have a tiny "working student" program which usually just entails doing a few stalls, filling some buckets, and either getting a lesson or just some free riding time, depending on the childs riding level.
    Well this one girl, and her mother have both come right out and mentioned the fact that she has ADHD. I have very little to no experience with this disease, but its pretty evident in this young woman.
    I worked with her for the first time under saddle today. She has ridden before, and her family owns a very small pony that she has been able to bomb around on for the past year. She has greaaaattt natural talent and a want to learn, but doesnt know to much at this time.

    I am in no way a therapeutic riding person, and dont really think its needed in this case.
    I was just wondering if anyone had any exercises or programs that have working with keeping their own or a students mind focused.
    For example, today we were working in the round pen on a lunge just so i could see what she could and couldnt do. She would trot half way around the pen, and then i could see her mind wander. I know its mentally hard for her to keep her mind on whats at hand, but i was just wondering what peoples experiences were with this and how they handled it.

    Thanks all!

  • #2
    We work with several students with cognitive issues including ADHD/ADD. I don't ever like to do this (it's the PC-ness of it) but you phrased ADHD/ADD as a "disease", which it is not. It is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder.

    Children is ADHD can be a blessing to have in the barn and at the same time they can be some of the most challenging. There are several contraindications for ADHD and equine activities, the biggest ones to look at conduct disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder. Saftey is big concern! For the rider, for you and for the horses.

    Since you aren't a TR facility asking for a thorough medical background can be difficult and to be compliant you would need to ask the same of all your working students.

    Short, focused lessons are key. Sometimes they might last just a few minutes and you have to get them focused again. Make sure that direction is received...they may look as if they have heard you and understood, but they really did not. Always make eye contact when you are speaking and speak slower and carefully...in black and white...no flowery rhetoric.

    I would spend some long solid lessons with her on the ground before having her ride. Our kids have a much easier time in the saddle because of all the ground work. They know what everything is and what it does and what they are they to do before they do it.
    I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

    Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.

    Comment


    • #3
      Speaking from personal experience, having been a young rider with ADHD and now an adult rider with ADHD, here are some things I can tell you:

      * Keep yourself grounded in the absolute basics of how the human animal learns. Corrections and especially rewards should be FAIR, IMMEDIATE and SPECIFIC. This is one reason (of many) that I loved horseback riding The instant feedback. If you can imagine being a small, curious, person bursting with energy who is always getting into trouble and then getting chastised for it six hours (or six minutes) later, you might be able to imagine why those with ADHD get frustrated and tune people out. This is of course true for all children and all people, but is especially true of those with ADHD. And maybe accept that some days will be better than others.

      * If backtalk becomes a problem, think about your tone. "Amelia, we talked already about your heels today!" will generate backtalk or at least tension. Limit yourself and use key phrases. "Heels down!" is perfectly sufficient.

      You may hear conflicting information about how much multitasking a person with ADHD ought to be doing. Because they are often in search of MORE stimulation, a person with ADHD may multitask to get it. That does not necessarily mean that they will (or won't!) be able to juggle everything.

      For me, ADHD is an asset to my riding. I am deeply sensitive, in the moment, do not hold grudges against the horse, and my natural impulse is to react quickly and then move on. This is not to say that every horse appreciates the kind of ride I give, but to a horse, I am at least very clear about what I want
      Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by equineartworks View Post
        There are several contraindications for ADHD and equine activities, the biggest ones to look at conduct disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder. Saftey is big concern! For the rider, for you and for the horses.
        This is a pretty big leap: It is one that I have seen both NARHA and EAGALA harmfully make a couple of times as well. First of all, Conduct Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder are not "contraindications for ADHD and" EA: Conduct Disorder or ODD can be a co-morbid condition of ADHD. But so can anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and a host of other diagnoses. The majority of individuals who have ADD/ADHD do not develop CD or ODD.

        And, even if a child were to be diagnosed with ODD, folks need to understand that this label, in and of itself, does not mean ER activities are contraindicated. There are many EAP, EAA, and TR programs that serve children with ODD and teens who have been diagnosed with Conduct Disorder. Yes, they bear very close watching, but it is certain behaviors that some of the children may engage in that would make EAA/TR/etc. contraindicated.

        As for the OP's question - if mom and daughter have been open about discussing the kid's ADHD, then your best bet would be to be open with them right back. Tell them straight up that you haven't worked with anyone with ADHD before and don't know a lot about it. Ask about the type of things the young lady is good at, as well as things that she might have difficulty with. You can share the things you noticed, such as her mind seeming to "wander", and then ask what types of things her teachers in school do or her parents do at home that assist her with this.

        Not knowing the kid, people on here can give you general advice (like, develop a code word to get her back on track when her mind wanders OR, during a lesson, simply ask her "what are you working on?"; provide her with a written "to do" list of the tasks she needs to accomplish at the barn for the day; reinforce verbal direction with visual cues; blah, blah, blah) for working with a child who has ADD/ADHD but mom and kid will be a good first step for info on how the disorder impacts the kid and, hopefully, what type of support from adults helps her do her best.

        Comment


        • #5
          Geez Shanky, I guess I could have typed that a little better and so it didn't sound like I was saying that it was an automatic contraindication with ADHD no need to rip me a new one...I have been doing this a while and really do know what I am doing.

          I guess I wont post anymore until I have coffee in my system.
          I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

          Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.

          Comment


          • #6
            My dream boss doesn't care about how I achieve a goal, just when and what it is.

            If you can't stand having a person half clean one stall, move on to something else for a while then clean the rest of the stall...make it clear that you want things done in a specific order by a specific time. If you just want everything done, give the kid a chance to find her own method and DON'T NAG about how she does it. It might not seem logical to you, but it probably is to her.

            I have worked with horse people who were absolutely psychotic about doing things in a specific order. Fine, but kindly explain that to me up front and MAYBE give me a legit reason for it. Don't be condescending and DON'T NAG. Quick, short instructions.

            ADHD kids get told constantly that they are stupid, hyper, disruptive, not working to their potential, LAZY (that one kills me)...they just internalize it and expect it. ADHD kids thrive in an environment with clear goals and an open-minded boss/teacher who lets them excel in achieving those goals creatively.
            Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior

            Comment


            • #7
              Here is one suggestion that I used when I had an ADHD student:

              Every day she worked for her lessons I gave her a copy of a list of chores that she needed to get done in order to have her lesson at such an such time. On her list there were time frames of when these things needed to get done by (i.e. horses get fed at 5, so water and evening grain needs to be done by 4, stalls need to be done by 3 etc.) And then I left her alone to work as she needed to. I tried to schedule her with other students who were capable of allowing her to work on her list at her own pace and not with the whiny bratty gossipy ones that made her feel bad.
              Then after we went over the list, we would agree that I would come check on her list at suchandsuch time and then leave her be.
              I found that giving her her space with a schedule seemed to help. I didn't hawk over her or make her feel bad because she would do things different than me. As long as the end results were what I needed then I was happy.
              It worked for her very well because she could mark off what she needed to get done at her pace but still knew that she had certain time limits to do it in.
              Maybe something like this would work with your student.

              Lessons with her were shorter and we would kind of work on a list of what we wanted to accomplish in 15 minutes. (That was her general focus time.) So we generally broke up her lessons into 4 parts keeping things related but different (riding with stirrups, regaining stirrups after losing them, riding without, etc)

              It wasn't easy to work with her but once you take the time to readjust your way of thinking in order for her to thinking more like you, try to come at her indirectly and you might be more successful. Too many times we teach people in one language and we don't alter our positions, we don't adapt ourselves to our students but we really should. Just because her thought process is different than yours doesn't mean that she is going to be harder or more difficult than any other student- you just need to alter your teaching a bit to adjust to hers and you'll find that it really in't as daunting as it may seem.

              Good luck!

              Comment


              • #8
                How would you work with a young horse who was brave, energetic, talented and eager to learn?

                You'd give them something else to do when their mind starts to wander. You'd be careful not to over face them just because they were brave and talented - get the basics done, even if they find them boring, by teaching in short intervals, changing the exercises and immediately rewarding every improvement.

                Don't nag, or they will just tune you out - you already know how to teach a horse to ignore your aids, right?

                Consider for a minute how lucky you are to have a chance to work with a student like this. You describe her yourself as having "greaaaattt natural talent".

                Comment


                • #9
                  I loved onelove's ideas about structuring the jobs that need to be done and then letting her do them on her own. I live with an adult with ADHD and that's something we've stumbled on at home - in the morning we decide "at 3 we're going to go to the barn and before that we're going to finish the laundry, unload the dishwasher, clean up the project you started, etc" then we divide up the jobs. She does hers, I do mine, and at 3 we go to the barn. If we didn't have an endpoint or if we didn't make the to-do list, she'd have half a dozen things underway and it would be 5 pm and I'd be screaming because the horses needed to be done and the house was still a mess and we were two hours late. On the other hand, some Sundays we skip the organization and she spends the day on the half dozen random projects and cleans up at bedtime, and I go ride four horses!

                  That said, I also teach a bunch of kids with ADD/ADHD in both therapeutic riding and private lessons. They don't always come up with "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line" -- so if there's a certain way things need to be done, you do need to SHOW them the simplest way to do the job, because they won't necessarily come up with it on their own. Tacking a horse is a good example - things have to be done in a certain sequence - you can't tighten the girth before you put on the saddle pad. But I'm willing to live with a little disorganization in grooming - overall I'd prefer they start grooming at the horses poll and work their way systematically from poll to tail, but with these kids that's just not gonna happen! So as long as the horse is thoroughly groomed in the alotted time, I can live with their system being different from mine.

                  Structuring lessons: sound bites. Short chunks. Don't do any one thing for very long, but you can build in some repetition. Say your plan for the day is to jump a grid (or practice a dressage test). You might intersperse your flatwork and your trips through the grid, throughout the hour, instead of doing all your flatwork first then all your jumping. You might work on all the different pieces and parts of the dressage test, out of order, each one for a few minutes then on to the next, going back to the harder ones for a second try. You might build the grid up differently for this rider than some others - maybe you make two short grids with 3 elements each, instead of one huge grid with 6 or 7, so they don't get lost in the middle (and over time you might work towards more complex grids with the understanding that they will be harder for this kid than some others). Private lessons will go better than group lessons if you have that luxury.

                  Have fun! Some kids with ADHD are a blast to be around and their enthusiasm can be infectuous. Also, some kids are much better able to focus on things they enjoy, which works in everybody's favor.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by betsyk View Post
                    I loved onelove's ideas about structuring the jobs that need to be done and then letting her do them on her own. I live with an adult with ADHD and that's something we've stumbled on at home - in the morning we decide "at 3 we're going to go to the barn and before that we're going to finish the laundry, unload the dishwasher, clean up the project you started, etc" then we divide up the jobs. She does hers, I do mine, and at 3 we go to the barn. If we didn't have an endpoint or if we didn't make the to-do list, she'd have half a dozen things underway and it would be 5 pm and I'd be screaming because the horses needed to be done and the house was still a mess and we were two hours late. On the other hand, some Sundays we skip the organization and she spends the day on the half dozen random projects and cleans up at bedtime, and I go ride four horses!

                    That said, I also teach a bunch of kids with ADD/ADHD in both therapeutic riding and private lessons. They don't always come up with "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line" -- so if there's a certain way things need to be done, you do need to SHOW them the simplest way to do the job, because they won't necessarily come up with it on their own. Tacking a horse is a good example - things have to be done in a certain sequence - you can't tighten the girth before you put on the saddle pad. But I'm willing to live with a little disorganization in grooming - overall I'd prefer they start grooming at the horses poll and work their way systematically from poll to tail, but with these kids that's just not gonna happen! So as long as the horse is thoroughly groomed in the alotted time, I can live with their system being different from mine.

                    Structuring lessons: sound bites. Short chunks. Don't do any one thing for very long, but you can build in some repetition. Say your plan for the day is to jump a grid (or practice a dressage test). You might intersperse your flatwork and your trips through the grid, throughout the hour, instead of doing all your flatwork first then all your jumping. You might work on all the different pieces and parts of the dressage test, out of order, each one for a few minutes then on to the next, going back to the harder ones for a second try. You might build the grid up differently for this rider than some others - maybe you make two short grids with 3 elements each, instead of one huge grid with 6 or 7, so they don't get lost in the middle (and over time you might work towards more complex grids with the understanding that they will be harder for this kid than some others). Private lessons will go better than group lessons if you have that luxury.

                    Have fun! Some kids with ADHD are a blast to be around and their enthusiasm can be infectuous. Also, some kids are much better able to focus on things they enjoy, which works in everybody's favor.
                    Some would argue, and perhaps rightfully so, that the most dangerous time for an individual with ADHD is in their teenage years when raging hormones, sexuality, and peer pressure rule the day.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have done entire sessions with a child standing on her head. I typically do not ask my ADHD children to sit - I ask them to stay in an "area" (marked with red tape). I always make sure they are looking at me when I speak to them, and I give short instructions, and have them repeat them back to me. Depending on age, I give 1-3 steps at a time.

                      Great suggestions here, by the way.
                      All of us are crazy, just some of us get caught.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by deboraharangel View Post
                        Some would argue, and perhaps rightfully so, that the most dangerous time for an individual with ADHD is in their teenage years when raging hormones, sexuality, and peer pressure rule the day.

                        Not quite sure what this comment has to do with what betsyk wrote...expound?
                        Disclaimer: My mom told me that people might look at my name and think I had an addiction other than horses. I don't; his name was Bravado.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Maybe she's telepathic -- the kids I was thinking of when I wrote that are all in middle school and high school!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Oh boy.....
                            Thus do we growl that our big toes have, at this moment, been thrown up from below!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              With kids who have issues with attention, I use games a lot in my lessons with both able and sn students. I made cards with pictures of different soft plastic animals that I place around the perimeter of the ring. The rider has to pick a card out of my hands, identify the animal and ride the pony to that animal, pick it up and ride back to drop it in a bucket. It's how we fine tune walk/whoa/steering in a creative setting. I also use games like short obstacle courses with things like stepping over rails that have imaginary hot lava under them, riding through cones and going on 'treasure' hunts with clues drawn, not hand written.

                              A wonderful isntructor once said to me, "A kid can't be frightened if they're laughing," and I always remember that. I also reinforce sequencing in our lessons, from the use of brushes to our preparation before mounting the horse, dismounting and tacking down.

                              I have found that horses are a great way for kids with attention deficit issues to find relaxation and peace because when you are working with horses or riding, you are right there in the moment without even thinking about it.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                It might be worth picking up a couple of Dr. Hallowell's books. There's also a fair bit of information and links to other resources on his site.

                                I'd ask the Mom what strategies have worked best so far in other realms of the girl's life. Not all ADD/ADHD presents as distractibility, sometimes it can be hyper-focus (which has its own set of issues).

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