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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Attention Deficit Disorders or: pay attention!

The idea that made me write this entry arose over a photograph that I took of a cardinal bird, honestly I just saw the cardinal but my good friend Roberto Estévez made me a comment: it seems the bird is looking at you!.

My response to that comment was that surely the bird was watching paying attention to every detail since they are being a wild creature there are around several predators, also because it has to compete for food.

Two days later, my husband went to a meeting to another city and when he called explained me he was surprised and upset with so many people around, because it looks like everybody was absorbed by sending messages on their cell phones and they seemed not to look at who was at their side, making any walk a struggle for space and attention. Even drivers seemed to not be pay attention or remember that there was a  junglearound them.

An extra element to write this was the constant news about how more and more children are diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Disorder all of them highlighting that is alarming the number of cases submitted.

What "experts" don’t know

Ok, who am I to say experts don’t know something?, Maybe they don’t say this because to much complexity don’t sell enough magazines, but the thing is the attentional process is given to the survival of the species (not a school term) to provide tied sensory mechanisms to protect themselves from the dangers of the environment or to provide the capacity of food and caring for the offspring.

Imagine a rabbit focused on its inteligent phone screen or just looking at the female bunny front him without paying attention to the smell of possible predators, without looking at if something strange moves around, without listening to the movement of the wind and the leaves. While you are reading this, the rabbit was already attacked byyour cat, a hawk, a more attentive rabbit fornicated with the beautiful rabbit it was trying to conquest and our rabbit lost the chance of eating and of course, it  lost its cell phone in the confusion. 

What happens when a species loses its capacity of adaptation to the environment or they are unable to respond to the warning signs?, simple, extinguishes!. Therefore the capacity of attention to the environment is so important.

Now let’s return to the attention deficit deficit issue, psychologists and teachers believe that children do not have the ability to pay attention, just because does not see me as I speak them or have no view stuck on the Board or on the display, and also dare to be multitasking! that sounds, what do  these children believe?.

Let`s go by steps: attention is not an action, it is a process which involves all the senses and other superior processes such as working memory. 

Although someone can have their eyes focused on a screen, that person can hear the click, click of the keys, other noises of the environment, as the television or Spotify, or even  he or she can smell the environment, for example if something is burning, and we can’t  forget is feeling  the position of  his or her body over the chair. 

So I am sorry but even if someone ask me to pay attention to only one thing, there is no way to disconnect the cranial nerves or sensory areas and even less the information flowing between the areas of association or biochemical information flow, or erase years of evolution, that is foolish.

What you have is selective attention, which is captured naturally if a stimulus is interesting, enjoyable, or dangerous. Yes, if I see someone going to hit me I move to avoid any contact because we usually react quicklier to fast movements different than slow movements.

Selective attention is one of the problems of many children, but does not only tell someone pay attention!, when I hear that I wonder to which put attention?, do to your speech, to the intensity of your words, your choice or how you move your mouth?.

There is evidence that we evolved to looking at the lips and face of other persons to recognize emotional emphasis in speech, and of course the gestures.

But attention cannot be sustained for long time, eyes tend to move, noises of the environment will cause that there is another source of attention, and it’s not only an extreme noise, in a classroom where you can hear the thoughts, even the hint of a pencil or a pen on the paper can cause a rotation of our heads to find the focus of noise. And if someone pulls out a pencil tip during an examination?, if... we are going to flip, because naturally, the ears are intensified, since that may depend on our life.

Many people then, to forget these natural principles, but it doesn’t mean they don’t knkow it,  I believe they sometimes forget that we are not experts, but how can we avoid years of evolution and selection natural and that attention as a mean of survival depends on the environment, then says that if a child not focuses attention on one single thing  has a  damaged brain.

Schools of the 16th century, which were basically churches built to avoid the temptations, where you can hear a yawn to far because of those wonderful domes and the acoustics that allows you to hear every note of praise choir, it was clear that meditation was the best way to listen to God, but if we see them as laboratories, it was certainly possible to maintain attention because after the first time of admiration, there isn't much to see.

But today at any place away from home or school, children face the streets, where cars are moving at a certain speed, there are many people talking, they must  pay attention to traffic lights or the movement of the cars to know when crossing the streets, and pay attention to so many other persons around and even notice if the light is red or if a driver may decide that being in a hurry is worther than a life. Also  if mom is  texting while crossing street, so she is not careful while people is crossing and hit eachother, and there is a bicycle in the opposite direction... and trees move and birds singing…

Attention on the natural environment

We have asked children to  focus  on something or someone, do not you look anything else!, and at the same time have increased the transit accidents, in particular those fatal accidents because people are not able to attend all stimuli a round such as number of passengers in the car, number of cars around, number of hours of monotonous journey or level of danger at the intersections  are factors of the most serious accidents.

To this we must be add that we learned to pay attention to the voice that speaks or the screen. Ups, if you drive don't send text messages!.

What do happen to children in the family environment?, children vie for attention of parents or caregivers that are between the cell phone, Facebook, twitter, television, problems at work, trying to finish a proposal while cooking, the dog barks, siblings yells, brother shouts stronger and if they ask for a little attention with the wonderful phrase as “look what I did!”, sometimes only receives a: “not now”,  “I can't answer”, “leave me alone”, “perhaps later”, and sometimes a good!, without even looking at what the child  did, or sometimes only receives a grunt in response. Who can meet the request of the child when there are many things by turning at the same time?.

Teachers complain that they are between 15 and 20 children, all looking for their  attention, talking, making noises, of course they want a little peace!, but their  reaction is to say to everybody: if you sit down and cab be quiet, you will look prettier!, and if any of them dare to stand up without permission no doubt some children will win a visit to the and a flight non stop with all expenses paid to the psychologist’s office, who is faithful friend of the ignorance of the neurodevelopmental but who knows very well how not only apply harmless tests and without context, also know how to ask money for them as if they  are useful.

Attention to the brain

I won't say that attention-deficit disorder does not exist, the brain studies show differences in anatomical and electrophysiological brain mechanisms in children affected with one of three types of 3 attention deficit disorders. Hey! Wait a second: 3?  everyone is talking only about deficit of attention disorder!, when have you seen a happy meal with three toys?. The popular side of the disorder usually don’t talk  about it, but there are three types, the hyperactivity, inattention, and the combined type attention deficit disorder.

Neurological studies show that children with attention deficit have a slow brain development a lower overall, but specifically the cerebellar, volume especially in portions postero inferior (lobes VIII to X) as well as the vermix, the volume of the nigra substance in the right frontal gyrus and putamen are at the same time lower than the brains of healthy children, however it is worth mentioning that this can not be seen with a test in a doctor's Office.

The main problem with the diagnosis of the call children epidemics, i.e attention deficit deficit  and never well recognized autism, is that manuals of diagnostic observed clinical and non-neurological shunts, what I mean is diagnostics are based on subjective observations reported by parents, teachers based on questionnaires that analyze the inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity under criteria such as "often"regardless of the contexts in which behaviors are manifested.

Occasionally apply two or three tests, is observed to the child, and as an immediate response to the problem, it prescribes a pill, and is sent to the world with a diagnosis that for better or for worse will follow throughout all  life.

But, what if the child was not the problem?, andif the problem is the environment?, and if rather than ask parents how the child behaves asked how parents and teachers to behave with the child?, what do happen when children ask something? Do we ignore them?, if when children speak they are ignored  so we push them to  do something extrem like a stop breathing and vomiting the carpet so that caregivers give them 2 seconds of attention.

Yes, because like the screen that jumps so we notice we have received a new message, an update or a new email, the child jumps, makes noise, not to disturb the world, but to say: "here I am,  pay me attention!".

The environment is chaotic, certainly to survive must pay attention to many stimuli, but is not the case  that we are becoming psychotic, reality is that way, or  the car will run and hit us, the boss asks us something that we don't know how to do because we lost the sticky note where we detailed instructions, overflowing emails and accounts invoices do not stop. The reality is that each one must find a way to adapt to the environment and does not expect the environment adapts to each of us.


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