The ADHD fog is one of the most asked about symptoms I get and one of the most ignored symptoms by professionals. It is difficult to understand if you have never experienced it. And it is one of the most frightening aspects of living with ADHD. It causes the most problems in schools. The fog is the aftermath of the daydream.
Daydreaming is healthy for children to participate in. It builds creativity and helps children with their imagination. It is encouraged by the teaching establishment during certain activities in classes and it is something that many parents enjoy for their kids to do. The quiet playtime. For kids with ADHD, it is a requirement to have time to daydream. It relaxes our over active brain and provides a place of calmness that we do not have in our real lives. However, it can have horrifying consequences if the people around us do not understand that daydreaming is almost sacred to us. And, just like you don’t want to pull the prayerful person out of their meditations too quickly, you don’t want to pull the ADHD child from their daydream in a swift manner.
You see, we just don’t daydream. We live in what I call “Lala Land”. Lala Land is not just one place, it is not just one daydream but a land of various dreams. Lala Land is a safe place where the ADHD child is protected. After a long day at school, it is a place that allows relaxation. It is a place that allows constant mental disruptions and minimal brain control. It is a wonderful place to go. As an adult, I still enjoy Lala Land.
The problem is not Lala Land itself, but how the person with ADHD is mentally removed from this sanctity. If it is done willingly there is absolutely no problem with it. If it is done gently with calmness there is no problems either. If it is done with harshness and anger, it creates the Fog.
The fog is a place of terror, pain, and confusion. It is harsh and horrible. It is every worst nightmare coming at you within a minute. It is cold. It is the exact opposite of Lala Land. It is a state of being with no emotions other than fear.
When your child, or a child that you teach, is in Lala Land. Please do not demand that they came back to reality in an instant. Be gentle. Be calm. Give them a time frame to come home. Tell them gently, “you have 10 minutes”. Then again, “you have 5 minutes”. Then again, “you have one minute”. And then tell them to come back to reality. Sometimes, this time frame is something that cannot be done. An emergency happens, or you lost track of time and have to leave 2 minutes ago. Then tell the child, “we have to go now” and gently guide them. Do not demand they put their shoes on. Assist them in putting their shoes on. Allow them the dignity to come out of Lala Land slowly.
The fog does cause physical pain when it comes on this harshly. It creates mind numbing confusion. It is something that adults can usually handle, but children cannot understand. Please be gentle with your child when Lala Land creates the fog.
The fog also engulfs the ADHD person when too much stimulus creates a need to vanish. The fog in these times isn’t painful like the Lala Land fog is, but it does create the same confusion. When you are with your child and their face goes emotionless and they seem to be thinking slowly, that is the fog. This will usually happen in public. A busy shopping mall, a theme park, or even in a library. It doesn’t need to be loud to be overwhelming, just over stimulating. If your child likes to read, walking into a library will create an overwhelming emotion and the fog. Yes, it still happens to me in library’s! I may just be a bit pathetic in my love of books.
So, the long story short is – be careful when your child is in Lala Land or in a overestimulating situation and you need their attention. If there is time, allow them to come out of it on their own. If there is limited time, or in public, give them deadlines to when they need to be in reality. If there is no time, be gentle and don’t demand they be mentally there in a moments notice.
If you notice your child in the fog while in public, it is important to get them out of it or they may stop following you. This is when the ADHD child wonders off. Anyone will be able to get them to go with them. Make them hold your hand until you can get to a safe place to get them out of the fog. If not safe place can be found, it is better for their safety to force them out of it no matter the consequences. For children with ADHD, do not force them to go to overstimulating places if they are not comfortable with it. It is for their safety.
An example of what can happen – I was overstimulated before going into a fun child approved haunted house ride at Disney World. To this day, I am terrified of haunted houses because of it. It can affect the child even into adulthood. Of course, my parents had no idea I had ADHD, and no idea why I was reacting the way I did. I was trying to tell them that I was afraid, not because of the haunted house, but because I was overstimulated. I know now that I should have been removed from the chaos until I was able to get out of the fog, but I had no way of telling my parents this and my parents had no way of knowing this is what I needed.
I feel like this post is kinda all over the place, but what do you expect? I am ADHD. I’ll probably touch more on the fog later. It is an important aspect of having ADHD. But, it is confusing for those who do not live with ADHD.