The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimated
that in 2011, 6.4 million children — or 11 percent of
American children ages 4 to 17 — had a diagnosis
of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Clinical and therapeutic experience tells us that
most of the discomfort and psychological suffering of educators
and therapists facing children with ADHD is inherent to
their subjective interpretation of the child’s behavior, conditioned
by individual experiences that sometimes do not allow
them to see the child’s real needs. To prevent the child from
harming themselves and others, we quickly jump to the gun:
we want to ‘fix’ this immediately, and as a result these young
people are frequently subjected to heavy dosing and often-risky
psychopharmacological drug therapies that can have negative
long-term side effects.
What if there was an effective and non-invasive way to help?
An unusual inspiration
An unusual inspiration is appearing in our culture, one that
takes its cue from the other end of life.
It is presented in a new book called The Impact of Empathy—A
New Approach to Working with ADHD Children, which refers to
the Empathic Care of the End of Life (ECEL), a method awarded
the Italian Terzani National Prize for the Medical Humanities. It has been included in numerous masters degree programs
in Nursing, Psychooncology and Thanatology departments at
universities in Italy and other countries, as well as in projects
of Continuing Medical Education (CME) conducted in hospitals
and hospices for staff training purposes.
One of the Authors, Professor Emilia Costa, is an Italian
psychiatrist who specialized in treating children with ADHD,
so in a sense it was ‘normal’ for her to write this book; while
her co-author, Daniela Muggia, specializes in death and dying.
Muggia developed ECEL during her 22 years of experience with
the dying. Unexpectedly, this method brings new light into the
ADHD approach, uniting the fields of Tibetan Thanatology (science
of death and dying), neuroscience and an understanding
of quantum physics to illustrate that the state of inner peace
one achieves through meditative training, has a significant effect
on soothing those afflicted by confusion and anxiety, provided
they are capable of absorbing this state empathically.
How does it work?
Similarities between those who are at the end of life and those
who are at the beginning of life are striking: both are very empathic
by nature, and directly experience the state of mind of
those in their surroundings. Both, when suffering a discomfort,
cannot verbalize it.
So, there are two things to do:
- Find a fresh vision unaffected by past conditioning that is able to perceive the child’s real needs that lie under the behavior. This is a complete training in ‘empathic listening’ through meditation;
- Root our relationship with a difficult child in deep peace, which might in turn be felt empathically and recognized by the child with ADHD. He or she will feel the urge to learn how to achieve that state in an independent way, which in turn shall help them to develop coping capacity and skills for long-term self-care.
Both things are not only very useful, but can bring great
strength and peace to the moment, which can, again, be directly
absorbed by the child.
When a caregiver is trained to access and maintain a
peaceful and compassionate state of mind, children can empathically
‘taste’ that same state from within. Therefore the
approach described in the book—both the ECEL method, and other empathy-based techniques deriving from Jung—
addresses mainly the adults (parents, teachers, caregivers),
teaching them how to accomplish and maintain a state of deep
inner peace, no matter what the ADHD child does.
No chemical straitjackets, no physical containment: “just
become peace yourself, no matter what, and the childrens’ repeated
experience of this will enable them to not only desire,
but replicate this state within themselves.” In this sense, this
approach differs from many others that also use meditation
with ADHD children: here, children are not directly taught
meditation, they just experience empathically the fruit of it repeatedly,
as a new form of non-conflictual relationship with the
adults and, in some case, with the rest of their schoolmates.
Sometimes, it is their first experience of true mind peace.
The wealth of resources and scientific information available
in this book is impressive: for instance, you will discover a
rich offering of high-level research done on meditation results
on ADHD children, a vast series of scientific studies, both pilot
studies and peer-reviewed ones, conducted on a number of
methods based on different meditation techniques that have
been applied indirectly or directly to children with ADHD.
You will find what benefits were found in 2012 in 91 American
schools of various kinds and levels, scattered over thirteen
states, where one of the available trainings lasted from three to
six months, with daily or twice-weekly sessions of ten to forty
minutes each (practicing with children Mindfullness Meditation
or Transcendental Meditation (TM):
- days of absence: decreased by 25%;
- suspension days: decreased by 38%;
- significantly improved scores on validated attention skills tests;
- aggressive behavior: decreased by 8%;
- rules infraction: decreased by 50%.
You might be surprised as well to learn that approximately 600
studies, of which more than 350 have been peer-reviewed, were
conducted on TM, for example, and you will become familiar
with them: in the book we explain things in a way that the reader
enters the lab and understands absolutely everything.
You will read about the ‘historical’ studies on meditation
led by important neorosicentists that encouraged many more
to enquire into the matter or to build pioneer meditation-based
projects in schools, where the innate value of “troublemakers”
is recognized, instead of perceiving them as “broken” children
to be “fixed” chemically, and upon whom others merely project
All these benefits occur without the side effects of medication,
such as sleep disturbances, poor appetite, weight loss,
stunted growth and mood disorders, which then need to be
treated with further medication, which are often unsuitable or
children, and which in the long-term are suspected of leading
to a higher risk of cardiac problems and sudden death,
liver damage, psychiatric disorders, as well as higher rates of
delinquency in adulthood, drug use and growth retardation,
as highlighted in a 2010 study sponsored by the Ministry of
Health of Western Australia and many other studies.
You will become enthusiastic about the UCLA Map Project,
or the Shamatha International Project, modelled on the
Human Genome Project, bringing together many researchers
and scientific laboratories from all over the world, sharing their
discoveries to bring together teachers and meditators from
the different Buddhist schools to explore the methods and the
most favorable conditions for achieving, at the present time,
mastery of a basic meditative techinques involving attention,
traditionally called “shamatha.”
And when you start wondering whether and how do school
systems react to all this scientific data, you will be shown
amazingly inspiring projects being run throughout the world:
from the Alice Project in India and several European countries,
involving thousands of students, to the Quiet Time Program
involving more than 200,000 students, mainly in U.S.
All of this is supported with plenty of case stories: some
tender, some amusing, all very touching and alive because they
are coming straight from the real experience of both the authors’
work with young Italian ‘troublemakers’ whose lives are
now endowed with a better chance of success.
Co-authors of The Impact of Empathy
Daniela Muggia is a Thanatologist and the
winner of the prestigious Terzani Award
for the Medical Humanities in 2008. For
almost 30 years she studied the Tibetan
tradition of death and dying with Sogyal
Rinpoche, author of the ground-breaking
Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. She also
trained with Cesare Boni, a professor and teacher of Master
classes in Thanatology, the study of death and dying, at Naples
University. After more than 20 years of working with the terminally
ill, she has developed the ECEL method, Empathic Care
at the End of Life, one of the most popular courses taught in
hospitals, hospices and for Masters degree programs at universities
in Italy and other countries.
Emilia Costa, MD, a former professor of psychiatry and psychotherapy
at La Sapienza University in Rome has authored
over 360 pioneering scientific publications. She studied directly
with some great masters—Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli,
an Italian Psychiatrist and pioneer in the fields of humanistic
and transpersonal psychology, and Psychiatrist Gianfranco Tedeschi,
founding member of the professional Jungian group,
AIPA, in Italy. Currently, she is the Dean of a Scientific Committee
of Pharmacovigilance with the organization, Hands off
the Children, which works to inform teachers, parents, medical
doctors and scientists about the danger of over prescription of
drugs to children.
Title: The Impact of Empathy—A New Approach to Working with ADHD Children
Author: Emilia Costa and Daniela Muggia
Price: $18.99 U.S.
Publisher/Imprint: BlossomingBooks, US subsidiary of Edizioni Amrita, srl
Format:Trade Paperback, ebook