Where Do I Begin After An ADHD Diagnosis?
Your child is newly diagnosed with ADHD. What now?
Start small. Begin by identifying your expectations. Learn about your child’s strengths. This gives you the advantage. You’re ready to help your child and set them up for success.
As parents, we have expectations for our children.
These expectations come from our own experiences, values, and beliefs. Let’s start with basic recommendations found in an article by Dr. Beth Seidel titled “Parent Expectations: 2 Steps to Success”. The first step; allow yourself to mourn.
When our children are given an ADHD diagnosis we can be in shock and we want answers.
- How come?
- What is this?
- Who has this?
- What do I need to do?
- Who can help me?
Mourning is about giving yourself permission to grieve, be sad or weep if needed.
When Is The Time To Act?
Once you have given yourself the opportunity to absorb the news of the diagnosis, find out as much as you can about ADHD.
How does ADHD affect your child?
What are the treatment options for your family?
Talk to family members and answer their questions too.
Clarify your expectations and move to Dr. Seidel’s second step.
Take time to “redefine or reframe” your expectations based on what you learned about ADHD. You don’t need to raise or lower your standards or expectations.
It means you will teach, expect and support your child at their level. Dr. Seidel helps us by giving us three recommendations:
- Clarify your expectations based on the child’s developmental stages, as you would with any child
- Ask yourself where your child’s development is based on the stages of growth. Take into consideration an ADHD child is 33% or 3-5 years behind their peers. How would you respond to a meltdown or tantrum from your 10-year-old compared to your 13-year-old?
2. Define your expectations based on your child’s neurological abilities
- ADHD is a neurobiological disorder. It affects our children’s neurological abilities. Gain an understanding how the neurological abilities and executive functions, such as emotion, self-control, memory, and learning, affect your child.
3. Establish your expectations based on what’s important to you for your child’s success
- What’s most important for your child to be successful? What do you need to let go of? Are you comparing your child to a sibling, relative or another child? Are you listening to what others say about their child and how good they are doing in school and you know this isn’t the case for your child? Is it because your child needs help transitioning from one activity to the next? This means you’ll need to monitor the transition process and support your child. Is your expectation they’ll do their homework with minimal disruption and less support from you?
Areas Where You Can Redefine Your Expectations
- Your emotional response to their behaviors
- Planning a vacation
- Your child social interactions with peers
You have lots to consider as a parent of a newly diagnosed child with ADHD.
Let’s go back to those strengths. Take a look at the character strengths from VIA.
Take time to think of your child and write down all you know they are good at and do. Use the list to help you in the process.
Knowing their strengths is to your advantage. You can provide feedback. Create strategies to work for them. You have the power to inspire your child.
The small seed you have planted will grow slowly and helps them be the best person they are set to be.
Science Says 92% Of Us Will Not Reach Our Goal
As the New Year begins, a lot of us are thinking about our 2017 resolutions. There is something about a fresh calendar and the start of a brand-new year that often gives us a jolt of motivational energy. It’s time to make a change to improve our quality of life. And good for us for thinking positively. Seizing the opportunity to improve ourselves. Unfortunately for most, a couple weeks after the beginning of the New Year our goals and the tools purchased to help us get there, are long forgotten.
Does This Sound Familiar?
With a new year, brings the perception of a clean slate. A fresh new start with endless possibilities. After finishing up an often, stressful holiday season, many of us begin to search for something to help us feel optimistic about the start of the new year.
“Last year I really ate horribly…I’m going to eat healthier this year”
“Last year I was so tired all the time, I’m going to get more rest this year”
“I’ve spent the last year in a job I hate, this year, I’m going to find something new”
“And the ultimate…. My xyz birthday is this year, I’ve got to xyz before then”
What Happens To Our Best Intentions?
If we all begin the New Year with the best of intentions…what happens to this positive energy by the 2nd week of the year?
The problem may lie in the incredible amount of pressure we place on ourselves during this time of year. And the astronomical size of the goals we set.
We tend to focus too heavily on the What and not enough on the How.
When we are more concerned with the actual goal and not on the objectives (the steps you will take to get there), yucky, negative feelings roll in.
These negative feelings smother all that positive energy and motivation. Some of us become panicked that the goal will never be met. Some of us become depressed because the goal isn’t being met fast enough. Still others let guilt take over when old habits creep back into daily practice.
Begin With a Couple Key Points in Mind
Start By Being Clear & Concise
Create a hard line in the sand to define what a goal is and what an objective is. A Goal is a BIG picture item – I want to be more organized, I want to be on time to work, I want to lose 20lbs. These are goals. They are major. They are the finish line. If you think of a goal as a balloon, Objectives is the air you’re going to blow into it, one breath at a time until it’s full. I am going to buy a calendar/planner, I am going to write out a morning routine for the work-week, I am going to walk outside for 15 minutes during my lunch break – these are objectives.
Are your goals and objectives reasonable? Are they measurable? Are they big enough to be motivating but small enough to be achievable over time?
Focus On The How
Keep in mind that New Year’s resolutions tend to fall apart when we focus too heavily on the goal itself, and not enough on each one of the steps we need to take along the way. To do this, spend more time working on creating solid objectives. I want more organization? In what ways? How will organization be different at home vs. at work? What tools will you need to help you?
Create a Road Map
It’s helpful to create a roadmap, complete with stops along the way. Your goal is the final destination. This will allow you to break down the goal into consumable bites.
Put Pencil To Paper
Notice I said pencil and not pen. Writing something down increases the chances that you will complete it. Putting words on paper is imperative during this time. Pencil can be erased and re-written an endless number of times, and while your ultimate new year’s resolution may not change over time – I’ll let that the objectives you’ll develop will. Goal work is a living process; it is ever changing.
Consult your goal coach –goals and objectives need to be written down, no doubt about it. When it comes to making changes, you’ll want some guidance and support from your coach. Your coach will help you tease out why an objective isn’t being met, what changes can be made to help improve the chances of achievement.
Create Lifelong Habits
Truly there is no secret to achieving a goal. It will always come back to commitment, motivation, and the proper tools to create long-lasting change. During the new year, the goals many of us have for ourselves involve making lifelong changes that will continue to improve the quality of our life; forming new habits and getting rid of old ones. Allow yourself time to wrap your mind around this concept, it will help guide you in forming long-term goals.
Find a Goal Coach
This is where having a motivating partner, coach or counselor makes the difference between just another New Year’s resolution and an organized, structured, realistic set of New Year’s goals.
Choosing the right person(s) to partner with in the New Year is key. While you may want to include family members and friends on your NEW YEAR NEW ME team, you’ll want one person to be front and center. They will lead the way from start to finish.
Search for a centralizing GOAL COACH who will not only hold you accountable but help you organize your BIG goals into bite-size pieces – made for easier digestion.
Your GOAL COACH needs to be someone you trust. You feel comfortable with, but someone who is able to be equal parts listener, empathizer and kick in the butt jump starter.
Consult your goal coach – it’s human nature to want, what we want NOW! Part of the goal setting (and achieving) process involves creating goals that are sustainable long term. Lean on your goal coach to help you weed out “quick fixes” and short-term thinking.
Overall, good for you for beginning the New Year with a positive outlook on your future. All of us have incredible strengths that come along with areas of challenge where improvements can be made. The decision to allow a goal coach to support you can be the biggest difference between sampling wishing something to be different, and taking the steps necessary for change.
ADHD Symptoms In Adults
“Biles is a world-class athlete who just happens to have ADHD”. Simone Biles, Olympic gold medal champion is one of many famous people who have voluntarily shared their ADHD story. Some include Wendy Davis, Ty Bennington, Richard Branson, James Carville and Katherine Ellison. Many of us know someone in our life with ADHD symptoms.
Biles demonstrated confidence and bravery as she said “Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of and I’m not afraid to let people know.” Labels and describing a person by their condition or disease hurts everyone.
Physical and mental illnesses are things we have. They are not who we are.
Simone Biles was encouraged to share her story. We are grateful for her honesty and opening the door for a conversation and clarification.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD impacts all aspects of someone’s life. It could show as poor job performance, relationship issues, low self-esteem, legal challenges or substance abuse.
Let’s begin by understanding what ADHD symptoms look like in adults:
- Hyperactivity – Restless
- Prioritization and Planning Problems
- Poor Time Management
- Inability To Focus
- Trouble Multitasking
- Difficulty Following Through
- Completing Things
ADHD Symptoms in Children
Parents may suspect ADHD in their child or teenager because of difficulty meeting school commitments. Behavioral problems at home. A revolving door of friends. Substance abuse. Emotional challenges.
ADHD symptoms in children look like:
- Fidgeting – Restless
- Blurting out – Excessive Talking or Interrupting
- Finds it difficult to stay focused
- Difficulty waiting in line or taking turns
- Attention to details – Careless Mistakes
- Cannot keep their focus or attention
- Doesn’t listen
- Unable to organize tasks – Jumps from task to task
- Misses deadlines – Forgetful – Doesn’t finish schoolwork or chores
- Easily distracted – Loses or Forgets Things
How Can a Parent Distinguish Between Normal Developmental Stages and ADHD Symptoms
Let me start by saying every parent I have spoken with in my 20 plus years of practice has come to me because they knew something was different. It was not just the teacher’s report.
My first suggestion to for parents is to “listen to your gut”. Watch and observe when and where the behaviors are happening.
Ask your primary health care provider or ADHD Specialist all of your questions.
It is only, when a trained clinician evaluates your child, that they can determine the severity of the ADHD symptoms. They’ll look at how the behaviors are affecting your child’s life. An ADHD diagnosis must consider two different settings where the ADHD symptoms occur.
Difference Between ADHD and Executive Function Disorder
Dr. Russell Barkley explains in his book, Taking Charge of ADHD, that “ADHD is a deficit in self-control (inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity) and on Executive Functioning (planning, organizing, managing emotions) over long periods of time”.
Executive Functioning is a set of cognitive processes occurring in the pre-frontal lobe of the brain. It impacts skills such as planning, organization, focusing, sustaining attention, regulating alertness, managing frustration, modulating emotions, accessing and recalling information, monitoring and regulating actions.
An individual may have Executive Function Disorder without having ADHD. However, someone with ADHD also has Executive Function Disorder symptoms because the “executive” in the brain that controls behaviors, and helps us organize and plan for the future is not doing the job it’s suppose to do.
ADHD Symptom Executive Function Disorder Symptoms
Inattentiveness Time Management
Impulsivity Task Initiation
Planning and Prioritization
Treatment for ADHD
Early detection and treatment of ADHD or Executive Function Disorder typically produces a more positive outcome versus when it’s diagnosed later in life. When detected early and treatment is pursued they learn how to manage it because they were educated earlier in life. In addition, adults have a life history (baggage) and possibly marriages. that make it challenging
ADHD affects the neurotransmitters in the brain. The neurotransmitters allow us to be more attentive, take control of hyperactivity and be less impulsive. As ADHD is a disorder of the brain, research has demonstrated that the only treatment to treat inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity is medication.
There is significant documented medical evidence to demonstrate that medication makes a difference. It shows it is a viable option for ADHD individuals. At the end of the day, the ADHD person needs to find the treatment options that fits them best.
However, this is just one component of ADHD. The other side is Executive Functions deficits. Medication is not going to help with Executive Function deficits because these are learned skills.
Deficits in Executive Function, such as poor organization and time management, should be addressed, as part of the ADHD disorder.
Executive Function Disorder Treatment Options
Executive Function deficits (organization, task initiation, emotional control, planning and prioritization) are best treated by the following options which focus on learned skills and behaviors.
The treatment option depends on the problem the person is facing and their age. Any of these treatment options will have a different impact on the person with ADHD or Executive Function Disorder. No one size fits all.
Education – it is important for parents of ADHD children and adults to educate themselves by learning about ADHD and Executive Functioning. You can read books, listen to podcasts, attend webinars or go to lectures, conferences and support groups. Learn how this information applies to your child or to “You” as an ADHD adult.
For parents of children and adolescents, in addition to medication management, parent coaching is about managing ADHD challenges. Learn how to establish rapport and communication. Get consistent so your children grow into adulthood without being impaired by their symptoms.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – is a type of talk therapy. It’s more structured connecting the person’s thoughts (maladaptive or distorted) with their emotions by using logic and data to rethink those thoughts. Self-esteem is one of the areas most impacted by ADHD and Executive Function Disorder. Once their symptoms are stable, CBT is a good treatment course.
Couple or Family Therapy – ADHD or Executive Function Disorder can result in a big impact on families and relationships. Learn the effects. Learn communication skills. Understand the role everyone’s play in the family/relationship. Find a mental health provider who understands and helps people with ADHD and co-existing conditions.
More Executive Function Treatment Options
ADHD Coaching – An ADHD Coach will work collaboratively with individuals with ADHD or Executive Function challenges to address specific needs and personal goals. An ADHD Coach address their client’s needs by identifying their strengths and building upon them.
Your ADHD Coach will likely emphasize the importance of building your own support system. People you can count on. An accountability partner who will support you and hold you accountable. That could be a teacher or a good friend in college. One of the things accountability partners do is to offer support by reminding you of things. Finding support is critical to developing accountability.
Mindfulness – more individuals with ADHD are using mindfulness in conjunction with other treatments. More research is being conducted in this area. The Journal of Child & Family Studies research defines mindfulness as a form of attention or meditation training, based on Buddhist tradition and Western knowledge of psychology, in which awareness of the present moment and non-judgmental observation is increased, whereas automatic responding is reduced Kabat-Zinn J (2003).
Exercise – Exercise increases the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Dr. Ratey, in his book Spark, explains how exercise physically can improve the attention system called Executive Functions.
Support Groups – CHADD and ADDA are among the free support groups for parents or adults with ADHD.
Academic Tutor – finding a tutor who understand how the ADHD brain works is a must when a child, adolescent or college student is having difficulty with their academics.
A combination of medication, with any of the above mentioned treatment options are excellent options.
How Do I Decide On Which ADHD Treatment Option
There are many treatment options for a child, teenager or adult with ADHD or Executive Function Disorder. There are pro’s and con’s for each option. Every person must make their own unique choice and decision.
- Understand the treatment options and tradeoffs
- Determine which treatment will work best for your child and your family
First, get educated. Open yourself up to options. Find out what works for you or for your child. Understand that everyone will have an opinion. However, you are the only one who knows what works for your child, for your family or for yourself. Next:
- Be self-aware and find the best resources
- Acknowledge what needs to be different
- Seek the right help. Interview the therapist or ADHD Coach
- Attend different support groups. Find where you fit best
- Work with the support group.
- Develop a partnership with the therapist or ADHD Coach
- Find the right Psychiatrist to help with medication
For parents looking for solutions for their child:
- Start with your Pediatrician or General Practitioner
- Bring information about the behaviors you’re noticing at home and at school
- Bring your questions
- Get recommendations about what you’ll need to do
Where Do I Begin When I Know I Want To Pursue ADHD Treatment Options
Obtain a diagnosis from a professional mental health provider who understands ADHD. Obtaining a diagnosis is important. A diagnosis includes:
- standardized clinical scales from the school, home and client
- as a thorough medical and family history
- Some practitioners will also include a child’s intelligence, aptitude, personality or processing skills evaluation.
If your Pediatrician or General Practitioner doesn’t perform ADHD diagnosis, ask for a referral.
For additional information on ADHD treatment for children, see The National Resource Center article on this topic.
Evidence demonstrates most of these treatments work well when someone with ADHD is also receiving medication management. All of these treatments are a personal choice. Use of medication is not mandatory to see a positive outcome and the benefits of other treatments.
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!!
Struggling With Executive Functioning Skills?
Summertime presents challenges for anyone with ADD or ADHD. Although summertime is filled with fun, play time and vacations and ….. there are strategies to help you have less stress or anxiety and more fun.
- Start Planning NOW for summer time activities
- Use a Calendar, Planner or White Board
- Create a Master List For Each Family Member To See The Big Picture For The Entire Family
2. Organizing and Structure
- Schedule Your Day … and Everyone Else too
- Your Summer Has To Be Structured
- Wake Up and Bed Time
- Weekly Game Nights
- Movie Day
- And more …..
Dulce Torres, CEO of Avant-Garde Center presented for JST Coaching on this topic. Here’s her presentation for you – check it out (Summertime Presentation)