Training and Activating The ADD or ADHD Brain

It's Like Activating The ADD or ADHD Brain

Activating The ADD or ADHD Brain

For a person living with ADD/ADHD, life can have its exciting moments as well as its challenging moments.

In particular, a person who has ADD/ADHD finds difficulty with executive functioning skills. Executive functioning occurs in the frontal lobe of the brain.  It includes skills such as planning, organization, problem solving, attention, and impulse control.

When you activate your brain you are taking measured steps to take control of your own thoughts. There are several tips one can follow to start to train the brain to adapt better executive functioning skills. We have a free resource called, Activating The Brain, to help you as well as the points below.

Executive Functioning Skill: Planning and Organizing

Planning and organizing are sometimes difficult for a person with ADHD. Common challenges that a person may experience include forgetting scheduled appointments, frequently misplacing items, being late, etc. The following tips could help people who may struggle with planning and organization:

  • Try using a planner or smart phone to keep track of important appointments and make alarms as needed.
  • Create a weekly schedule to abide by that will help you keep up with daily tasks and household chores.
  • Break down projects or to do lists by only tackling one item at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Executive Functioning Skill: Problem Solving and Attention

To address problem solving and attention issues see the following tips:

  • Try to practice frequent self-monitoring to enhance your awareness of daily life events.
  • Keep track of your activities by using an alarm or timer to keep yourself accountable for how you are spending time in your day.
  • Make a habit of double checking your work to avoid careless mistakes.
  • If you get stuck in a situation try taking deep breaths and taking a break to refocus your attention on a problem.

Executive Functioning Skill: Impulse Control

To address impulse control issues see the following tips:

  • When talking with others, practice not interrupting others when they speak by challenging yourself to actively listen and summarize what they say before responding.
  • Try engaging in regular exercise or practicing mindfulness to help channel emotions in a positive way

 

The most important tip of all is to practice, practice, practice!!

 

How To Have A Peaceful Summertime with ADHD

ADHD Children PlayngMost parents with ADHD children experience challenges during the summer. Summer is a time for fun, relaxation, and vacations. For most people going on vacation is a nice time to get away from your regular humdrum daily routine.

How To Get Structure For ADHD Children

For people with ADHD, going on vacation can be a stressful and overwhelming event. Vacations involve planning, organizing, and attention to detail to say the least. These are skills that people with ADHD often struggle with because they often have difficulties dealing with activities involving high levels of executive functioning.

What are the skills needed to have a peaceful summertime?

Start planning ahead and with the end in mind (having a stress free, fun summer):

  • Vacation: several months out you might plan on booking the airplane tickets, hotel, and rental car.
  • Keep all correspondence in one place. Whether you prefer taking notes on paper or writing things down on your phone, it is important to keep things such as hotel reservations, tickets, and anything else related to your vacation in one place that you can reference.
  • Several weeks out start making sure each family member finds their luggage and have each person make a list of what to bring.
  • Several days before you may hold each family member accountable for packing and have him or her use the list they created for reference
  • Use:
    • Planner: Write out all the things you need to do and a time line in which to accomplish these goals
    • When you break down the planning into smaller tasks and give yourself a deadline for each task, the process becomes easier to manage and less stressful.
    • Dry erase board: In order to help with organization, you could try writing out a giant to do list on the dry erase board and placing it in the kitchen for the family to see. Everyone in the family is aware of what should be done.
    • Calendar

One thing that school and work provide is daily structure. Without structure it’s easy to become distracted and forgetful, which can lead to stress and anxiety.

While this can be an exciting time to bond as a family, it can also be stressful if one or more family members have ADHD.

Creating routines, structure and summer schedule

A creative way to plan out the summer for children with ADD/ADHD and increase family bonding is to start with a summer schedule. This brings routine and structure to the family and also keeps everyone active.

  • Create a weekly game nights and movie nights
  • Plan themed family dinners (e.g., Taco Tuesdays)
  • ADHD Summer Camps

There are also great summer camps for families with children who have ADHD.

ADHD Summer camps are a great way to provide daily structure, enhance social skills, and focus their attention on different physical activities.

In the end, summer is a time for fun in the sun! Planning ahead and staying organized can help to minimize stress. By using some of these simple strategies for ADDH/ADHD, you can adjust to the changing summer schedule in a positive and healthy way!

 

By: Alyssa Lee, MRC, CRC, LPC Intern

Supervised by: Dulce Torres, MA, LPC-S

 

Good News Diagnosis Sometimes Means Bad News for the Relationship

Your relationship answers are unique

Find your answers

By Guest Author Gina Pera

Years ago, when my husband first agreed to be evaluated for ADHD, he did it on one condition: that I be evaluated for it, too.  Whether he simply disliked being singled out or truly thought me ADHD’ish remains lost in the mists of time and perhaps distorted perception.

My guess: He simply wasn’t connecting the dots between his actions and my reactions, which from his perspective seemed to come irrationally flying out of nowhere. From my perspective, of course, my reactions were entirely justified. But could I be sure? No.  Beside, something had to be up with me if I continued to “ride the rollercoaster” of miscommunications, conflict, agreements gone kerflooie, and so on.  So, I happily agreed to join him in a professional workup.

Two lengthy evaluations later, my husband was diagnosed with ADHD and I was not. Instead, the psychiatrist pronounced me “complex” and said, “We usually recommend that our patients with ADHD have partners who are organized and can take care of practical matters.”  It took me a minute to comprehend: Wait, you’re prescribing ME for my husband? (What might they prescribe if my husband didn’t already happen to be married to an organized  person. Divorce? A professional organizer love-match-making service? I didn’t think to ask.)

For the next few years, we endured some head-spinning confusion as we struggled to understand and smooth out the dynamics between the two of us, between our respective neurons, and various permutations thereof. During that tumultuous time, an outside observer might have been tempted to diagnose us with a smorgasbord of conditions. And, at some points, we certainly would have agreed.

Fast forward several years. My husband still has ADHD, though most of the time it’s now just a difference and not a big deal. I still don’t have ADHD, as my husband will confirm. I’m not perfect (who is?), but I’m much less confused, anxious, depressed, and reactionary than I used to be while the ADHD Roller Coaster ran full tilt and neither of us knew why. We’ve both made big changes.

Our story will resonate for many couples affected by unrecognized ADHD. That is, once the ADHD was diagnosed and addressed in a cooperative way, the rest of their challenges were more easily targeted and resolved. It was truly a “good news” diagnosis. For other couples, though, reaching the ADHD diagnosis creates more questions about the relationship’s dysfunction than it answers.  Which brings us to Part II of why the good-news diagnosis of ADHD sometimes means bad news for the relationship.

Previous Blog Recap: Good News/Bad News

To recap the previous blog post (click here to read the entire post):

       Newly diagnosed adults with ADHD begin treatment, often including medication, and soon the “fog” of distractibility, impulsivity, and inattention begins dissipating.  With newfound clarity, many of these adults start re-examining their choices – job and career, friendships, health habits, and sometimes even their mates.

      Frequently for the first time in their lives, adults feel solidly optimistic about their ability to evoke permanent changes; after all, they finally have the right answers and right tools. As they excitedly embrace new competencies and confidence, though, inevitably the “balance of power” in their relationship starts shifting.

Jack provided our case study in the previous blog post. Newly on board with ADHD treatment, he expressed bitter resentment over what he felt was his wife’s abject lack of appreciation for his stellar progress. He concluded she had unacknowledged problems of her own, including a drinking habit that had grown increasingly problematic over the years. Last I heard from him, they were headed to divorce.

Post-ADHD-Diagnosis and Reality

Last month, I offered a few reasons why Jack might not be seeing his wife’s side of things and might even be misperceiving his level of progress. The post-ADHD-diagnosis phenomenon is a big and complex topic, full of surprising twists and turns.

For example, sometimes the partners of adults with ADHD go a bit ballistic when the diagnosis finally is made. This typically occurs when they’ve long struggled to “explain the inexplicable” and “manage the unmanageable” around a partner’s unrecognized ADHD symptoms.

When they finally learn that not only did their partner’s problematic behavior have a name it also had a solution, their reaction might be akin to a psychological pressure-cooker blowing its lid. They think back to all the years of frustrating therapy sessions, of futile accommodations, of being blamed by their partner for being “too controlling” or  “fill in the blank.”  They might finally understand how they developed a drinking habit to compensate. The resentment might ratchet up by an order of magnitude if they are also suddenly expected to be their ADHD partners’ support system while receiving no acknowledgement of past hurts or any focused therapy to address their own trauma. All of these are common scenarios.

Another equally possible scenario for Jack is that his wife’s dysfunctional behaviors had long flown under the radar screen and had in fact been lifetime problems for her; he simply had been too “disconnected” to notice before marriage or after.  With treatment, though, he was noticing and dynamics were shifting.

I received a comment from Katy, who writes about Adult ADHD. She explained how her ADHD diagnosis had a similar bad-news effect on the relationship but a good-news effect in the end:

Katy: Another Real Life Story

Bad news: It was one catalyst for the end of the relationship I was in when I was diagnosed…but that relationship wasn’t a good fit for me or him anyway. He was a nice guy with a little toxic care taking streak that even pre-diagnosis I didn’t need imposed upon me. And frankly, some of my ADHD quirks were a little stressful for him to live with…duh 🙂 He was far too rigid in his routines for me to be able to accommodate.

        My diagnosis process made him appreciate me as someone who was working hard to take responsibility for their whole selves…but that didn’t change the fact that my whole self wasn’t a good fit for his whole self. Plus, he was using my eccentricities to hide behind, so he didn’t have to deal with his own…!

       I think we’re both better off having split up. I got tired of being “the person with the problem” and he got tired of stepping over the garbage can to get to the front door (hey, what can I say, I need visual cues).



Good news: I met the love of my life (sappy, sappy, sappy…but TRUE!) after breaking up with the other dude. He has ADHD too. We absolutely adore each other, and aren’t one bit annoyed with each others’ ADHD quirks. Half the time we don’t even notice each other’s ADHD quirks, the other half of the time we’re delighted with them.

      I find it highly amusing to watch him wandering around doing some of the exact same funny things that I do to myself all the time, it’s so funny to see it from the outside! Ex: today he tore the house apart from top to bottom, looking for his W-2. He says “I just know that I put it somewhere allegedly safe, and I have no idea where that might be!”. Every year I lose my W-2’s, tear apart the house, and say exactly the same thing. We really need to stop putting things in safe places! I just gave him big hug 🙂

As Katy’s story illustrates, one person’s ADHD diagnosis and treatment can “level the playing field” in the relationship.

In other words,it allows the couple to more clearly assess compatibility beyond the obvious level of, for example,  “I’m disorganized and he’s very disorganized.” Moreover, it ups the ante on the other partner “copping” to any dysfunctional behavior of his or her own instead of, as Katy points out, hiding behind a partner’s dysfunction.

When The “Partner Of” Does Have ADHD, Too

Using the term non-ADHD partners to describe the partners of adults with ADHD  never made sense to me.  For starters, what if they have ADHD, too?  Happens all the time.

But what if they don’t yet know they have ADHD? Given the millions of adults with undiagnosed ADHD, of course it’s possible. Moreover, it figures that the partner with the most obvious or extreme ADHD symptoms will be diagnosed first while the other might come to it only years later. Or never.

Over the years of moderating support groups for partners of adults with ADHD, I’ve often wondered about certain members who over long periods of time continue to report no progress on the home front. They also tend to be the ones who keep repeating the same problems and asking me the same questions, never seeming to internalize the information and take action. Could they possibly have ADHD, along with their partners? (Side note: I also see this phenomenon among some parents of children with ADHD who don’t seem to notice they might have ADHD, too.)

Some eventually do figure it out. But, from what I’ve observed, it typically happens months or even years after a partner’s treatment starts to stabilize. When the dust finally begins to settle—when they’re not constantly being drawn into a partner’s ADHD-related crises and dramas—they (or their therapists) can more clearly perceive their own contributions to the problems in the relationship. Finally, they can start separating years of poor coping mechanisms (in reacting to a partner’s unrecognized ADHD symptoms) from their own lifelong challenges.

I receive many letters from readers of my book, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?  As you would expect, many are written by the partners of adults with ADHD. Surprisingly, though, most letters come from adults with ADHD.

What The Research Tells Us

The anecdotes from Katy are just that: anecdotes. They are not statistical probabilities; they are simply possibilities. And when it comes to the mental health of partners of adults with ADHD—newly partnered or in longstanding relationships—anything is possible. That hasn’t stopped the pundits, however, from issuing often-repeated stereotypes about the partners’ psychological makeup or personality, including

  • They have ADHD, too
  • They have low self-esteem
  • They are “sadistic and controlling”
  • They are boring “muggles “

Trouble is, such certainties are based purely on bias and conjecture even when issued by alleged experts, as they regrettably often are.

First, consider this: ADHD affects an estimated 10 to 30  million adults in the U.S., it is a syndrome with highly variable traits, and there’s much more to a person than ADHD symptoms.   In short, we cannot make any one-size-fits-all pronouncements about adults with ADHD. How then can we possibly do that for their partners, past or current?

Second:  We cannot assess the partners’ psychological characteristics without also considering the end result of living with a mate’s undiagnosed or untreated ADHD symptoms—sometimes for decades and sometimes while also raising children with ADHD. Sure, we can make anecdotal observations how the partners typically seem now, a few months or a few decades into these often high-stress relationships (and this, it seems, is what the alleged experts do).  But what were they like before a few spins around the ADHD Roller Coaster? And what about the partners we don’t see in support groups?

Research is extremely limited on this topic, yet there are two small but important published studies from well-known researchers that shed some light. And there is the ADHD Partner Survey, which examined this topic from several angles.  First the published research:

  1. The psychosocial functioning of children and spouses of adults with ADHD found that “overall, spouses of ADHD adults show no more lifetime and current psychiatric disorders than spouses of comparison adults, challenging the concept of selective mating. They do, however, report more psychological distress on the SCL-90-R and less marital satisfaction. “
  2. The marital and family functioning of adults with ADHD and their spouses – found that the spouses of adults with ADHD did not differ from the control group in terms of psychiatric health.

The ADHD Partner Survey asked respondents about the state of their mental health both before and during the relationship. The goal for this part of the survey was to differentiate between baseline mental health-conditions (prior to relationship) and the psychological impact of living with a partner’s unrecognized ADHD symptoms.  The picture that emerges is of a diverse group who bring to these relationships very different backgrounds and mental states. No surprise there.

It seems the only accurate description we have for the partners of adults with ADHD is this: They live with (or used to live with) a partner who has ADHD. After that, anything is possible and no one-size-fits-all characterizations are useful.

Gina Pera is an internationally renowned author dedicated to exploring ADHD especially its impact on relationships. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaPera or on her website www.ginapera.com.

New Challenges Even As Old Ones Are Resolved

New Challenges Even As Old Ones Are Resolved

Look at long-running dysfunction in relationships

Different Perspectives

When a “Good News” Diagnosis Means “Bad News” for the Relationship

By Guest Author: Gina Pera

We call ADHD a “good news” diagnosis. That’s because it offers not only a long-elusive rational explanation for vexing behavior but also effective treatment strategies.  So, why does diagnosis (and sometimes even treatment) mean “bad news” for some relationships?

The reasons run the gamut, as complex as the individuals involved and their history together. To explore this topic a bit here, let’s begin with a letter (below) sent to me by a reader.  This is only one example of how the ADHD diagnosis and treatment might create new challenges even as it resolves old ones.

Jack Celebrates His Success: Why Can’t His Wife? 

Consider Jack, 42, married 12 years and diagnosed nine months ago:

“It took about six months for me to get on board with medication, and the doc and I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet in that regard. But let’s put it this way: Before I started taking medication, I was often criticized for being hyper, loud, disorganized and easily distracted. Since the medication, I hear myself as I sound to others and so have much more sensitivity to my own volume. I am also now more aware of my tendency to rant. A good argument used to be like food to me.  Now, I don’t have to be in the ring with every discussion, and I can focus normally on a discussion that I am engaged in.

“So, between medication and therapy, I feel my approach to life has changed dramatically.  I’m also better organized, more focused, and doing better at work.  But has all this helped my marriage?  That’s the big surprise. The situation at home has actually gotten worse in many respects.

“In fact, now that my ‘ADHD Fog’ has cleared, I’m seeing the long-running dysfunction in our relationship and wondering if my wife, Judy, could use a diagnosis. Maybe she has ADHD, too, or she’s codependent. Whatever it is, it seems that she can’t stand my being higher functioning; I think it’s because it means she’s losing control. You’d think she’d be happy for me, but she’s not.
“My psychiatrist and therapist agree that my therapy is not only working, it’s a success story! With my therapist’s support, I’m standing up for myself more – demanding more control over our finances, for example — and Judy doesn’t like that.  She seems lots angrier in general these days, or maybe I just notice it more because the medication means I can’t tune her out as well as I used to.”

New Challenges

Jack’s is one variation on a common theme: Newly diagnosed adults with ADHD begin treatment, often including medication, and soon the “fog” of distractibility, impulsivity, and inattention begins dissipating.

With newfound clarity, many of these adults start re-examining their choices – job and career, friendships, health habits, and sometimes even their mates.

Frequently for the first time in their lives, adults feel solidly optimistic about their ability to evoke permanent changes; after all, they finally have the right answers and right tools. As they excitedly embrace new competencies and confidence, though, inevitably the “balance of power” in their relationship starts shifting.
Therefore, it’s understandable that adults, such as Jack, might feel deflated or even resentful when their partners don’t share their optimism and, in fact, rain on their parade, constantly demoralizing them by dragging them back to past misdeeds.

Understandably, they chafe at a partner who, as if on auto-pilot, constantly issues reminders, directives and second-guesses. It must be devastating, or at least highly irritating, to hear a partner chide, “Well, I give your latest self-help kick six weeks.”
No doubt about it. Change can be threatening, especially when a couple isn’t unified in learning about ADHD and collaborating on new strategies. “Denial” about ADHD can be a problem on both sides. In other words, it might be true that Jack’s wife is unwilling to accept that he can possibly change old habits. Moreover, she might be blind to her own little peccadilloes or even pathology.

But Is Jack Understanding His Wife’s Reactions? 

For edification’s sake, though, let’s ponder what Jack might be missing in this equation. Perhaps Judy has valid reasons for her reactions, reasons that might totally elude Jack, who self-admittedly spent many years in an “ADHD Fog.”  Judy might, in fact, be asking herself these questions:

  • How long will Jack’s “new and improved” behavior last this time?

If Jack is typical, he no doubt has a pre-diagnosis history of “doing better” for weeks or even months at a time – improved focus at home, regular exercise, more patience with the kids, following through on agreements, and the like. Gradually, though, his attention faded or moved on to more stimulating activities. Lather, rinse, repeat. Many times over the years.
His acknowledgement of this pattern? Perhaps rather fleeting and vague, in part because it depresses him to talk about past failures; he’s trying to remain positive about the future. But Judy’s more worried about the past as prologue.

  • How can I trust Jack when he won’t accurately acknowledge past problems as well as show empathy for my experience over the years?

Caught up in the excitement of embracing new possibilities and seeing the past in a rather distorted rear-view mirror, Jack might not clearly remember past  patterns, much less their relevance to today. After all, he (and his therapist) consider him a success story.

Judy’s Perspective On All This

Then again, has this therapist solicited Judy’s perspective on all this? Some people with ADHD can talk a real good game during that stimulating hour of therapy (not really lying but perhaps being a bit unrealistic); therefore, how it plays out in real life is only the therapist’s guess. Hence the recommendation for couples working as a team on ADHD education and treatment strategies.

For her part, Judy long ago learned to protect herself from Jack’s “other shoe” inevitably dropping. She’s sworn to never again prematurely celebrate any positive changes he makes; it’s simply too devastating when the positive changes stop suddenly, with no explanation or even acknowledgement from Jack.
As far as him demanding more financial control, how can she possibly acquiesce when he fails to even acknowledge his old spendthrift ways and the devastating impact it had on their family, not to mention how he plans on avoiding the same predicament? It took years for her to dig them out of debt. And just the idea of his demanding financial freedom — as if she never wanted to work together on decisions — makes her neck veins pop. Angry? Darn straight she’s angry.

Story Continues With The Next Blog Post

Jack and Judy’s story, along with a new story from Katy, continues in our next blog post titled “Good News Diagnosis Sometimes Means Bad News For The Relationship”.

Subscribe to our blog and you’ll receive an email with the conclusion. The information shared by Gina Pera provides perspective, insights and challenges individuals to look at the whole picture.

Gina Pera is an internationally renowned author dedicated to exploring ADHD especially its impact on relationships. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaPera or on her website www.ginapera.com.

Executive Functions Make A Difference

Executive Functions Make A Difference

 

Brain Neurons

Brain Neurons

By Guest Blogger Paula Donnelly, MEd, LPC

Executive function skills refer to the management area of the brain which performs tasks and solve problems. The CEO of the brain. We all have management areas which are stronger.  And areas which are less developed. Knowing this allows people to focus on their strengths and build up their weaknesses.  Use Your strengths to compensate for weaker areas.

Impulse Control – The capacity to:

  • think before you act or speak
  • manage emotions
  • use rational thinking

Working Memory – The ability to:

  • hold information in memory while performing complex tasks
  • draw on experience to apply to the situation at hand or to project into the future

Flexibility – The ability to:

  • revise plans in the face of setbacks, new information, or obstacles

Attention – The capacity to:

  • begin projects without undue procrastination
  • keep paying attention to a task in spite of distractibility, fatigue or boredom
  • complete goals

Planning and Organizing – The ability to:

  • create a road map to complete a task
  • make decisions about what is important to focus on and what is not important
  • create and maintain systems to keep track of information or material

Time Management – The capacity to:

  • estimate how much time one has
  • how to allocate it
  • how to stay within time limits and deadlines, a sense time urgency and that time is important

Self-Monitoring– The ability to:

  • stand back and take a bird’s-eye view of yourself in a situation
  • accept feedback from others in decision making

Strengthening Your Weaker Executive Functions

Live Life Beyond Limitation requires a focus on strengthening executive functioning through strategies, awareness and immediate feedback. Discover the strengths to control impulses, plan, organize, manage time, stay on task and reach goals.

Avant-Garde Counseling and Coaching Center offers a nine-week social skills group for 3rd – 6th graders starting October 14, 2015.  Learn more about how this time can help children with ADHD and their parents.

Fresh Start For A Successful School Year

Building Blocks of A New School Year

Have a Successful School Year

Every year our children have the chance to start the new school year with a fresh start.  Parents have the same opportunity – a fresh start.  How will this school year be different?  What tips and strategies will you use this school year?

For most families, schedules go out the door during the summer. There are late night bedtimes and countless hours playing video games, watching TV, vacations and summer camps with lots of activities. By now parents are ready for the kids to return to school and regain normalcy and structure at home.

What’s Your School Year Goal?

When your child has Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder Hyperactivity or behavioral challenges, school time can cause you to worry.  And your children may also be scared or anxious.  Possibly last school year was not a positive experience.  Everyone is concerned about what is to come 2015-2016 school year.

Having a successful school year is everyone’s goal.

Parenting an ADD / ADHD child requires time, consistency, structure, routines and strategies. As a parent, you already have lots of love. You’re going to need to hold on to that when you’re at your wits end (which is perfectly okay to feel).

Tips For Having a Successful School Year

How can you delay or even avoid getting to your wits end?

  1. Create calm and order in your home
  2. Establish appropriate rules and expectations
  3. Minimize power struggles, meltdowns and angry outbursts over daily events
  4. Help your child learn to manage frustration
  5. Reduce homework stress for you and your child
  6. Help your child capitalize on their strengths and increase their self-esteem
  7. Gain from other parent’s experiences and support

This School Year Can Be Different

It may be time to look at new ways, the latest tools, strategies and techniques.  Click Here to participate with other parents who are also looking for new ways to have a successful school year.