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.
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
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.
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.
A hill is just a hill
The parents of children with ADHD are all-too-familiar with phrases like “It’s boring” or “It’s too hard” or “I don’t like it.” As adults, these same children come to realize that society will unflinchingly demand certain tasks of us, and slightly modify their complaints to phrases such as “It’s so hard to get started” or “It‘s late and I can’t find the time” or “I’m not really motivated to complete it.”
Narrow Your Focus
With ADHD every molehill tends to become a mountain. A big aspect of learning to cope with ADHD is taking care to not magnify the workload that is actually before you. Otherwise you risk being told “That excuse only works once – now your job is on the line.”
Narrow your focus. A hill is just a hill. If you were already on top of it, you would be thinking how wonderful it would be to surrender to a childlike urge and roll down it. Visualize the joy that is waiting for you at the top. Revel in the breathless anticipation of launching yourself into the rewards that await you.
Climbing that hill might seem like an obstacle course; there are so many things to avoid! Distractions, negative thoughts, emotional diversions … so let’s talk about the strategies that will help you conquer your personal “IT.”
Activate the Brain
A difficult step for individuals with ADHD is engaging the brain so that it completes a task
Imagine making a cup of tea. You have to find a clean cup, choose the tea, and prepare the hot water (either by kettle, boiling it on the stove, or zapping it in the microwave). Once the hot water is ready, pour it in the cup, add the tea, sugar, lemon.
Yes, most people are lucky enough to handle routine tasks on “automatic pilot.” But you know you’re not most people. With ADHD and possible deficits in your Executive Functions, you won’t process information and follow steps like everybody else. Accept, forgive, allow for extra time, and be patient with yourself.
Knowing all the steps and organizing them is the key to managing an activity
You may visualize them as a list, clearly printed in black and white. Or you may think more like a mapmaker, planning your movements from one section of the kitchen counter to the next. Experiment and determine how your thoughts “move”- do they go down a list, climb up a ladder, or move in a sideways shuffle?
Whatever works, incorporate that into your game plan. You’re not lazy or unmotivated. You just want a cup of tea before your toast and eggs get cold. It’s not too much to ask of a waiter in a restaurant. And it’s just that. Sometimes you have to be your own waiter. And, here, a delicious breakfast is going to be your tip. (Amazing how a task worth doing to YOUR satisfaction stops being a hill.)
Avant-Garde has a free worksheet in our Resources and Downloads called, Activating The Brain to help you with this strategy.
What’s needed? A structure that provides a routine that is repeatable. How do you build this foundation? Understand which ADHD symptoms manifest in your actions. Know how to take charge and manage your symptoms when they arise.
Taking charge means:
- being accepting of who you are
- understanding the weaknesses in your Executive Functions
- identifying your support system
- making a commitment to yourself
- creating an accountability system
- being persistent
New Behaviors. New Hills To Climb
Fortunately, there will be a moment in your life when either you or your child will no longer have to consciously “think” about the structure because it is ingrained so deeply that it has replaced the behaviors that seek to divide you.
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.