Monday, July 18, 2011

Ballet Instead of Ritalin

Ritalin is a stimulant that increases extracellular dopamine levels in the brain. This enables one to focus more intensely on the task at hand. At the same time the drug decreases the firing of background neurons not associated with task performance-- distractions. The end result? The brain is able to fire a clear signal which is not as easily distracted. Kinda like switching from antenna TV to cable.

The Problem?

Ritalin is a mind-altering drug that changes brain chemistry in children & adults. It is also habit-forming and comes with a whole slew of warnings and side effects. Not enough research is available to determine what the long term effects of Ritalin are on the central nervous system.

After 35 yrs. in the ballet, I have seen indisputable evidence of how ballet training has changed the lives of children as well as adults who were thought to have ADD or ADHD.

How does it work?

1.Repetition.

Ballet exercises at the barre are repetitive. Every class involves repeating the same series of exercises day after day with only slight variations depending on level and experience. This creates new muscle memories that become second nature over time. The body/mind connection becomes more in sync as new synapses are created in the brain. The result? More mental & physical discipline and focus.

2. Classical Music.

It has long been known there is a there is a direct connection between classical music and its effect on memory. Ever heard of the "Mozart Effect"?

Studies have shown that students who listened to classical music while learning a new language were able to learn more words per day and had a 92% retention rate. Freaky, huh?

The best results were found when using music that had a rate of 60 beats per minute.
Hmmm...kinda like the human heart. Weird, huh?



3. Ballet is the Ultimate in Multi-Tasking.

Ever watch a child (or adult) playing video games? Good luck trying to distract them when they are "In the Zone." I wouldn't advise bothering them or turning off the power during these times of hyper-vigilance. Yikes!

Ballet does the same thing, but in a much calmer way, mentally and physically.
They can operate "In the Zone" at the same intense level mentally and physically, but without the increased changes in blood pressure and heart rate.

The highest levels of mental and physical performance occur during an ultimate state of relaxation.

Is ballet the only way help people who have been diagnosed with ADD & ADHD?
Of course not. It's one of many. But in my opinion, it sure trumps the alternative.
Mind-Altering, psychotropic drugs.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a dancer and I have been taking a stimulant for my ADHD for years. Medication is the first-line treatment for ADHD in this country, because it works, and they are not all stimulants. The stimulant plus ADHD coaching is effective for me. Ballet class is still difficult after all these years because I don't ever get the steps as quick as the others. I need a teacher who does not judge medications or me. Running out of ideas. Any thoughts? p.s. NOT going off of "psychotropic" meds any time soon.

Doctorballet said...

Greetings Anonymous,
First of all, sorry for the very, very, long delay. I had to take a year off to take care of two terminally-ill family members.
I hope you are continuing to dance regardless of what medications are required, for you to do what you love. Dance!!!
I have had many parents who have brought their kids to me that suffered from mild to severe ADHD, ADD, OCD, Asperger's Syndrome.
I have had very good results. I knew exactly what they were going through because I had suffered from it myself as a teenager.
My parents put me on meds & I secretly weaned myself off of em'. I did not like the way they made me feel. It wasn't ME.
Every case is different. You need to find a teacher in your area who understands that. Not an easy task.
I've had stunning results because I understand how their mind works & what to do to focus it in the right direction.
I had one student who couldn't focus long enough to get through a few exercises at the barre without sitting down, stopping mid-exercise or leaving the room. Sometimes in the middle of an exercise.
Within a month,(working privately & in class) he was able to get through the barre & put together steps across the room without faltering. His mom cried when she saw it for herself the first time.
Our minds are just wired differently. You need a teacher who either had/has it themselves or has had specialized training. YOU are CORRECT! Medication is the first line of treatment. It's also an easy way out for a lot of doctors & parents. Drs. hate alternative solutions for some reason. Makes no sense. Whatever works..works! Right?
If you need the meds to accomplish your goals, to participate in your passion, you do whatever works for YOU. That's No. 1.
The first question I always ask is what other options did they try first? Most say none & blindly follow whatever a doctor says. Because there a Dr. I get it.
Unfortunately, over the years I have seen first-hand what Ritalin does to perfectly happy, healthy kids that just happen to be a little more hyper & distracted than the rest of us. It was sad. They became little zombies. Not the fun, vivacious kids, I had known before.
Like I said, every case is different. Do the research. There are many answers out there. Now, more than ever before.
Dance is by far your BEST medicine for ADHD.
So what if it takes you longer to get the step. You're not dancing for others. You're dancing for yourself & how it makes YOU feel. That's what's most important. (Medication or not)
Many blessings to you in your journey.
For now, I hope you have a awesome teacher that has compassion & understands.
If not, look for one who does.
You deserve it!

Dr. "B"