By Rodger C Bailey, MS
Since 2001, I have been teaching rhythmicity (the ability to maintain a steady beat) to children with ADHD and other Developmental Disorders. About 70% of them lose all their symptoms as a result of the training program alone. Most of their symptoms fade away during the 2-4 month training. Other symptoms disappear over the next 6 months.
We have developed a test which permits us to measure someone’s rhythmicity. When we teach rhythmicity, we can measure progress during the training program. We know how poor the person’s rhythmicity was when they started, we measure in each training session, and we know when they have achieved a high level of rhythmicity. We can also measure the person’s rhythmicity in the future to make sure he/she continues to maintain the high level achieved in the training.
How can rhythmicity be related to ADHD?
The ability to maintain a steady beat has a variety of components.
A) You have to hear the beat you need to match.
B) You need to understand that this beat is something you need to adapt yourself to.
C) You need to be able to control your body in such a way that you can replicate the beat in a manner that the technology can measure your accuracy at maintaining the beat (tapping some sensing device).
D) You need to have enough focus to not get distracted as you tap out the beat.
E) You need to be able to hold the rhythm in your mind, so that you tap on the next beat. Instead of hearing the beat and then tapping in reaction, you need to ‘understand’ the beat and tap on the next beat. And,
F) you need to manage your body so that you hold your intention to stay with the beat during the whole testing period.
If you look carefully at these components, you will see that those with ADHD would have difficulty doing them.
Getting Information From The Context.
As in items A & B, those with Hyperactivity often cannot recognize that the context provides information about how they are supposed to act. In this case, the beat is the context. They often cannot recognize the beat as something they need to adapt to. We often have severe cases of Hyperactivity where the child hears the beat and they start tapping, but the tapping they do does not relate to the beat. For them the beat is the signal to tap, but they do not understand that the beat we provide is to be followed. This is common for those with severe Hyperactivity; because they get little of the information available from the context. I often tell people the severe ADHD person cannot recognize the difference between an exciting hockey game and a library. They don’t get information from the context about what they are supposed to do.
When I ask these children about the tapping and the beat, they clearly do not understand concepts about being on the beat, or following the beat, or tapping at the same time as the beat. Later in their training program, when their brain and body has learned how to recognize and to follow the beat, they do understand the concepts.
So, I believe that before they learn how to get (to understand) this kind of specific contextual information, they cannot make sense of the instructions they receive. No matter what their parents or teachers tell them; their brains are simply not making sense of those instructions. They cannot recognize the difference between one context and the next. You know what you mean when you say, “Be quiet, we are in church.” You know what you mean when you say, “Sit still, you are supposed to be focusing on your test like everyone else.” But these children do not get it; they do not know what you mean. They do not get information from the context, so their behavior in most contexts does not relate to the context.
Rhythmicity training is designed to re-build certain timing circuits in the basal ganglia (at least, that’s where I think theses circuits reside) of the brain. For the\ose severe hyperactive children, the first breakthrough comes when they start to get information from the context. This coincides with them starting to recognize the beat as something they need to follow. They do not have appropriate timing circuits or muscle control to be good at following the beat, but they start to understand they need to follow the beat.
Other aspects of ADHD have parallels in rhythmicity training. Over the course of our training programs, our students learn how to focus and attend, they learn impulse control, they learn how to be steady, and they reduce their extreme sensitivities to light, touch, and sound. As they proceed through the training program their self-esteem improves as well.
ADHD & Developmental Disorders Are Cultural Problems.
We do not believe that ADHD is a medical or psychological problem. We think it is a cultural problem.
Primitive cultures teach their children rhythmicity from an early age. They continue to practice rhythmicity as adults. Their games are rhythmic. The village ceremonies are rhythmic. Everything in their village life is rhythmic from childhood to old age.
Native Hawaiian children have ADHD at 20% the rate of the rest of the USA. Most native Hawaiian children are required by their parents to attend hula classes from a very young age. They continue these classes through elementary school. Hula is very rhythmic.
I was interviewing Amish schoolteachers and they told me they never see ADHD patterns among their students. One Amish school principal did not even know what ADHD was. Amish mothers and grandmothers carry children in their arms or on their hips when they walk (rhythmic activity), and they rock their children in rocking chairs (rhythmic behavior). Amish children and adults have to walk everywhere they go (rhythmic behavior). They sometimes ride their work horses (rhythmic behavior). They do not have cartoons or video-games (arrhythmic activities). Their culture supports learning rhythmicity from an early age and continues to support rhythmicity for the adults.
There are 3-4 times more boys with ADHD in the USA than girls. Here, the only remaining rhythmic games for small children are patty-cake, hop-scotch, jump rope, and jacks. Girls play these games, but boys do not. Girls have a chance to develop rhythmicity at an early age in the USA, so fewer of them show up as ADHD.
Boys do not get the chance to develop rhythmicity because they do not play those rhythmicity developing games. When non-rhythmic children go to school and play games in the playground, they do not have the basic skills to be good at any of the competition games. The rhythmic children quickly recognize who can perform well and chose other rhythmic children for their side. Non-rhythmic children quickly decide not to like those games which require rhythmicity.
Our modern culture has lost most rhythmic behaviors. We now ride everywhere in cars, trains, and airplanes. We ‘walk’ our children using strollers. We spend our time watching TV and playing video-games. None of these are rhythmic activities. Our children do not have the opportunity to learn rhythmicity and so those that need that rhythmic development do not get the chance. When they need it and they do not get it, normal development is blocked and we get a variety of Developmental Disorders including ADHD.