How do all of the pieces work together
I have been trained to stop behaviors using rewards and consequences. It took a long time for me to understand that parenting from a misbehavior perspective is not getting anyone to change their behavior. Let’s take a look to see if the source of the challenge is their Executive Functions.
When Their Behavior Is Not Working
When a person isn’t changing or adjusting to the situation, this is described as having a maladaptive behavior. When parenting a child with Executive Functions challenges, shifting our thinking to a maladaptive view will give us a better understanding of their challenges. From there, set realistic goals and get true outcomes.
Let me clarify from the get go that using rewards and consequences do work with some people. If it works for you – don’t change it (“if is not broken why fix it”).
Children and adolescents with behavioral challenges know what we want from them. They know we want them to act in a manner where they are accepted by others. As a parent, I want them to not get in trouble. However, they lack important “thinking skills”.
What Are Executive Functions
Dr. Ross Greene of Lives in the Balance tells us that “Thinking Skills” are:
- regulating one’s emotions
- considering the outcomes of one’s actions before one acts
- understanding how one’s behaviors affect others
- communicating to others what’s the matter
- being flexible
When your techniques are working with your kids, no need to change. However, when what you or the school is doing is not working, it is time to do something different. Children and adolescents need the “thinking skills” to handle life challenges. To learn how to problem-solve.
Individuals with ADHD have challenges with Executive Functions.
Executive Functions is the name given to a set of “thinking skills” that facilitate critical thinking and self-regulation. Executive Functions are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe.
Executive Functions Challenges
Children and adolescents with “thinking skills” challenges include:
- Organizing themselves
- Maintaining attention and shift attention when needed
- Sustaining and regulating their effort
- Processing Speed
- Modulating their emotions (frustration, excitement, anger)
- Recalling information – memory challenges
- Monitoring and self-regulating their actions
What do we do? We learn how to identify the (lagging skills). Use this tool when you are calm, have time and energy. Use this tool with your professional provider however; as a parent you can start noticing the challenging areas and have a discussion with your provider.
After you identify the lagging skills, then you can define the problem to be solved.
An example of questions to help identify “difficulty managing emotional response to frustration”:
What am I trying to solve? The time my kid goes to bed.
When does this problem happens? When my child is playing video games.
Where is this a problem? At home, every single night.
Who is involved? My child, myself, my partner
How would you like the situation resolve? I want my child to be in bed by 9:00pm.
Consider Collaborative Parenting Skills
You have an incredible opportunity to improve your child or teenager’s ability to manage their own ADHD, behavioral challenges and learn how to parent differently.
Happy Holidays from Avant-Garde Center
By Guest Blogger Alyssa Lee, MRC, CRC, LPC Intern
Supervised by Dulce Torres, LPC-S
Minimize Stress and Maximize Enjoyment
The holidays are full of fun, excitement, and (unfortunately) a litany of things to do. For a person with ADHD, preparing for the holidays can be stressful and overwhelming. There are a number of things one can do to prepare for the holidays in a way that minimizes stress and maximizes enjoyment.
Organization is key to keeping afloat during this busy time of year. In order to do that, it is helpful to make lists and prioritize the most important things to get done.
If your list becomes too long, pick 3-4 items a day that you know you must finish in order to stay on track.
- For example, 5 days before Christmas choose to focus on:
- wrapping all the presents
- picking out the menu for Christmas dinner
- cleaning/stocking the guest bathroom
- Then, 4 days before Christmas focus on:
- buying all of the ingredients for Christmas dinner
- vacuuming the house
- washing all the holiday dishes
By breaking things up, it becomes less stressful and more manageable.
Only One Thing At A Time
Another way to stay on track would be to focus on one task at a time. For instance, if you know you have three tasks to complete in one day, put all your energy into only one thing.
Try not to think about the other tasks or else you might get distracted. That way, you can feel a sense of accomplishment after completing each individual task.
Lastly, it is important to remember to have fun!
- Take breaks
- Enjoy some Christmas music
- Drink hot cocoa with your family
Sometimes it is helpful to set a timer or phone alarm to keep track of your breaks. That way, you won’t lose track of your day and you can still have time to do other things without feeling like you have wasted time.
Have fun this holiday season and remember these tips!
Click here and print this out and use it to help keep your holidays under control
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.”
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.
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.
This might not be the answer you want to hear. ADD/ADHD, Anxiety or Depression manifest in different ways. There’s no definite and absolute answer when working with children and adolescents. However, what I will say that is absolute, is the love you have for your child and their love for you.
Help Our Children Manage Their Emotions
A child, like us, have good days and bad days. It is your job as the parent to remain calm when they are out of control. I know this is easier said than done.
However, as the adult we are the ones responsible to help them understand and learn to manage their emotions. We create a safe place for them to do that.
As an adult, it’s easier to tell when we’re stressed, worried or sad. We can use our words. We have options to help ourselves. We go for a walk. We talk with a friend. We even take some time out.
Children are not this self-aware. They don’t understand what, why or how about their emotions. Much less how to react. A child knows how to scream, cry or call out for you when something doesn’t feel right.
Be Aware Of How ADD/ADHD, Anxiety or Depression Manifests
But when they’re hurting emotionally, the pain inside is inexplicable to them. They only know how awful it feels so they act out on that pain. This can manifest itself in so many ways.
- Throwing things
- Not eating
- Loss of sleep
- Become clingy
- Problems come up at school
- Lack of energy
- Increased worry
- Loss of interest in their hobbies
- Overly engaged
Noticing your child’s behavior is very important.
It is up to you to identify if the behavior is part of their developmental growth, ADD/ADHD or another physical reason. Look at how often this behavior comes up. The intensity of the behavior. These are cues.
Create a Safe Place
When you’re talking with your child, it is critical you create a safe place. Do you stay with them? Or sometimes an adolescent may be left alone to calm down.
Are you talking to them at their level? If not, drop down to your knees and hold direct eye contact.
You want to create a connection with love and respect. This creates safety and trust.
Are you like the millions of other adults who have a full schedule and are regularly challenged by symptoms of ADHD? If so, then constant distraction, procrastination, and poor time management are among the obstacles you face daily.
While one area of your life might be managed very well (by using all of your energy to stay focused), other areas are drastically affected and suffer. Everyday social relationships can become so painful that you find yourself with no hope, desperate and aching to do something, anything, different.
Diagnosis of ADHD
For starters, don’t try to diagnose yourself. “ADHD is a misunderstood diagnosis even in the modern age,” says Dr. Anthony Rostain, MD.
Not only can ADHD symptoms mimic other disorders, ADHD can also co-exist with those same other disorders. Only by sorting through these sneaky partnerships can you choose the best, most effective, treatment for you.
Rostain, “There are a lot of myths and skepticism that want to cast doubts on the validity of the diagnosis”. CHADD, the leading national organization for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, maintains a website that both validates ADHD is a real disorder and provides evidence that it can be treated effectively. It will help you dispel the myths and silence the skeptics.
A clear diagnosis will pinpoint the troublesome symptoms that are unique to you.
Many of these symptoms are centered in an area of our thoughts labeled as “Executive Functions.” Executive Functions (EF, for short) form the governing body of the average human mind. EF involves your brain’s ability to absorb, process, and interpret incoming facts and then make a decision on how best to proceed.