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!!
Most 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
- 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.
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
Reach For Your Goals
By Guest Blogger Elizabeth Carr, LPC, NCC from ResourcED Student Support Services
This post speaks to my parents of teenagers with ADHD, who often initiate counseling because they’re at the end of their metaphorical rope trying to help their kiddo get back on track, stay on track, follow the rules etc. With or without an ADHD diagnosis, teenagers can test every nerve in your body that you never knew you had! Goal setting is often where I start with my clients to help us hash out where their strengths and struggles lie. While the concepts for goal building are pretty general, the examples given are taken from past clients with ADHD. The list can ultimately be used to create goals for anyone. Let’s collectively take a deep breath and keep the following in mind:
1. Set and maintain realistic, achievable goals.
To start, putting goals in order of urgency. For example, it may be more important that your teenager improves his/her failing grade in math vs. making his/her bed. As to not overwhelm, work on one or two goals at a time. Create a list of goals with a few thoughts in mind;
- Is the goal specific enough? For example: Attend weekly math tutoring session after school vs. raise math class grade.
- Is the goal within your teen’s abilities? Start small and build toward a goal to test this out. For example a starting goal can be: After school each Thursday, throw away all items (papers, gum wrappers, broken pens etc) from your backpack. Building into a goal like: Throw away all unneeded items from backpack, re-organize left over items into correct folders, pencil holders, desk drawers etc.
2. Allow room for mistakes
It takes about 21 days to form a habit. There are going to be slip ups, and that’s ok. Notice where things fell off track and help them problem solve.
3. Listen to their input and allow them to have a say
During sessions, I usually let my teens write their own goals…with guidance. I have found that they are more likely to take them seriously if they had a hand in their creation.
4. Outsource the reminders
It has been my experience that the more I, as their counselor, and you, as their parent, can empower your teenager to be independent, the more willing they are to work towards achieving set goals. If your teen requires reminders to stay on top of their goals, or to complete certain tasks, don’t take this on yourself…outsource it. Use Google alerts, iPhone reminders, sticky notes on the mirror, whatever it takes.
5. Check in on progress/struggle often
How’s it going? I know, I know, they’ll probably be annoyed with you “budding in” and asking questions. Usually I allow my clients who are insistent that they can achieve the set goals on their own without input from others to test it out. Again, it takes about 21 days to make a behavior a habit, and even longer if you are trying to replace an already established habit. So if there is still struggle or resistance with a set goal, revisit it, does it need to be broken down into a smaller task? Would an automatic reminder (through their cell phone or calendar) help?
Progress can sometimes be hard to spot, but keep in mind how great it feels to hear encouragement. Even a small positive push, Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve been working hard to…., can go a long way.
Elizabeth is CEO of ResourcED Student Support Services, Empowering Detroit’s Future Leaders. For more about her, to see the original post or checkout Elizabeth’s bi-weekly blog, we encourage you to click on this link
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.
Journal: Discover New Puzzle Pieces & A Fresh Perspective
Journaling Is A Powerful Tool. The benefits of writing a journal may be unintentional but profound. This ancient tool has been around for centuries and has helped us learn about our history, our families and ourselves.
Journal Writing Ideas
Journaling is not just about what you did every minute of the day, what you ate or when you went to sleep. It can be so much more. Journaling is about emotions. It’s about learning. It’s about growth. It’s about pain. It’s about love. It’s about you.
You can write what you did each day, venting about something that bothers you. It could be something you want to get off your mind. Or how you behaved in a certain relationship. Or your bucket list goals. There’s no one way.
The point is for you to STOP. BREATH. THINK about your life.
Journaling brings you clarity. It may increase your perspective or reduce tension. The journaling process can help you deal with difficult situations. Be creative. Think of your future and DREAM.
Benefits of Writing a Journal
History has given us so many amazing people who have kept journals. Anne Frank, Ernest Hemingway, Oprah Winfrey and Harry S. Truman. And then there’s the scientific findings.
The University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker confirms regular journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with it and therefore reduces the impact of these stressors on your physical health. Learn More about James Pennebaker’s findings.
Start by writing. Any way you want to do it. Whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be in complete sentences or poetic. It can be a few words, bullets or notes. It’s your style. It’s Yours.
Use a calendar. Add an entry in your calendar, each day 10 – 15 minutes to sit down and journal. For ADD / ADHD individuals, keep this simple. The calendar reminder will help you remember and once you’ve completed your journaling, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You reached your goal. Start small and make it simple.
Create your own Journaling Template. Or check out the apps that are available. Or find a bound journal that has inspirational quotes on the pages. These often offer support and encouragement.
Make journaling a part of your daily routine. Make it a habit.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” Oscar Wilde – 19th century Author, Playwright & Poet
Free Downloadable Ad-Free Writing Journal Pages
There’s no reason to delay. Click this link below for a couple of different journal pages. It will help you get started today.
AG – Printable Journal Writing Paper
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?
- Create calm and order in your home
- Establish appropriate rules and expectations
- Minimize power struggles, meltdowns and angry outbursts over daily events
- Help your child learn to manage frustration
- Reduce homework stress for you and your child
- Help your child capitalize on their strengths and increase their self-esteem
- 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.