When Odette moved in to her new apartment she worried that her young baby might bother the neighbors late at night. But in fact, it was the other way around. Her newborn would be fast asleep and she would hear the neighbors screaming at each other. She wasn’t sure how many kids even lived there, but someone always seemed to be yelling or crying or slamming doors. Most of all, she’d hear them shouting at Chanoch. “Chanoch come here, Chanoch stop that, Chanoch leave your sister alone, Chanoch that’s dangerous.” It was never-ending. “Chanoch, Chanoch, Chanoch.”
He’s a bit hyperactive.
Odette didn’t want to cause offense but eventually she couldn’t take it anymore. She slipped a Kav L’Noar flier into her neighbors’ letterbox. Sure enough, Kav L’Noar got a phone call the following week. Chanoch’s mother explained what a well-meaning, intelligent, spirited boy her son was. She told us she was just having a little trouble reining him in. “He’s a bit hyperactive. He needs to learn how to calm down sometimes. Do you have anyone who could help?”
A bit hyperactive turned out to be an understatement. Chanoch was bouncing around the Kav L’Noar office from the moment he came in and he didn’t stop talking for a second. When Chanoch was asked what his favorite class was in school he told us all about the three books he’d started during the weekend. Subsequently he then interrupted himself to mention the school trip he was going on the next day, then moved on to his thoughts about his soccer team’s chances in the league and what sort of food he likes to cook. While he talked, he kept moving the office chair up and down, rolling it around and banging into filing cabinets.
No more tears over a burst balloon
Benny was assigned to be Chanoch’s Kav L’Noar mentor. Benny was a graduate student, who had a side job as a children’s entertainer. He made balloon animals, juggled and was also proficient in basic acrobatics. Chanoch was impressed and said he wanted to learn these skills too. But he struggled to focus, and no sooner had he started trying to juggle then he gave up and demanded that Benny teach him to somersault. When he couldn’t do it, he tried to make a balloon dog, but it burst in his hands before it was even half-formed. In a rage, Chanoch took a pair of scissors and cut up all of the balloons. “You’re supposed to be helping me”- he yelled at Benny. “Why can’t you do what I want? Why do you have to make things so difficult for me!”
Benny was extremely frustrated. It was bad enough that Chanoch was acting so bratty, but the destroyed balloons meant that all the allowance that Kav L’Noar had given them to spend on a shared activity was wasted and there wasn’t any money left.
At the next meeting, Benny announced. “From now on, we do things my way. No more Benny do this, Benny do that. I’m in charge now.” Benny expected Chanoch to blow up but he was so surprised, he didn’t say a word. Benny spent the session teaching juggling again, but this time, he insisted that Chanoch do all the beginner’s exercises, step by step.
Next time, when Chanoch asked if they could get pizza, Benny explained that there wouldn’t be any spending money available for a few weeks, and reminded him where the money had gone. Chanoch was upset, saying he was really in the mood for going out, and Benny was sympathetic, but firm.
Hyperactive children need structure
As time went on, Benny added more ground rules. Now, when he called him and Chanoch was eating while on the phone or talking to other people at the same time, Benny would hang up. Chanoch would call him back when he was ready to have a focused conversation. He insisted that they stick to the meeting times they set and not change them for no good reason. He split up the meetings into 15-minute blocks, and allocated specific topics to discuss or activities to do in each block. The more rules he added, the calmer and more relaxed Chanoch became. With Benny, Chanoch finally felt safe.
An organised and structured environment creates a sense of security for hyperactive children. Benny is now working with Chanoch to help him take the steps he needs to control his hyperactivity and thrive at home and in school as well.
*All names and identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.