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Sep 24

By Rick Nauert PhD

Experts explain that although high-functioning children with an autism spectrum disorder often have above average intellectual capabilities, they often experience social difficulties.

The communication challenges and difficulty inhibiting thoughts and regulating emotions can lead to social isolation and low self-esteem.

A method to help these children appears on the near horizon as research from the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas suggests a new virtual reality training program shows promise.

“Individuals with autism may become overwhelmed and anxious in social situations,” research clinician Dr. Nyaz Didehbani said.

“The virtual reality training platform creates a safe place for participants to practice social situations without the intense fear of consequence.”

Researchers found that participants who completed the training demonstrated improved social cognition skills and reported better relationships. Neurocognitive testing showed significant gains in emotional recognition, understanding the perspective of others and the ability to solve problems.

Study findings appear in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

For the study, 30 young people ages seven to 16 with high-functioning autism were matched into groups of two. The teams completed 10, one-hour sessions of virtual reality training for five weeks.

Participants learned strategies and practiced social situations such as meeting a peer for the first time, confronting a bully and inviting someone to a party. Participants interacted with two clinicians through virtual avatars.

One clinician served as a coach, providing instructions and guidance, while the other was the conversational partner who played a classmate, bully, teacher or others, depending on the scenario in the world that’s similar to a video game.

“This research builds on past studies we conducted with adults on the autism spectrum and demonstrates that virtual reality may be a promising and motivating platform for both age groups,” said Tandra Allen, head of virtual training programs.

“This was the first study to pair participants together with the goal of enhancing social learning. We observed relationships in life grow from virtual world conversations. We saw a lot of growth in their ability to initiate and maintain a conversation, interpret emotions, and judge the quality of a friendship.”

“It’s exciting that we can observe changes in diverse domains including emotion recognition, making social attribution, and executive functions related to reasoning through this life-like intervention,” said Dr. Daniel C. Krawczyk.

“These results demonstrate that core social skills can be enhanced using a virtual training method.”

Source: University of Texas, Dallas

For individuals with autism, learning to interact with first responders is critical. It is just as essential for first responders to understand autism and be prepared to respond effectively and safely to situations that arise involving individuals on the spectrum.

With that, here are 7 things people with autism want first responders to know…

“We know you are not our ‘friends’ and have a job to do, but treat us like your best friend. As individuals with autism, we will not comply well with aggressive tactics that will ultimately conjur a lifetime of memories involving bullying and exploitation. Remind us how things will be alright especially with our cooperation, and ask if there is anything you may do to make the process easier for us. Most importantly, ask if we have autism when you have the slightest inkling something may be a little ‘off.’ There have been numerous misunderstandings in society that have been resolved with no lingering trauma because the authority figures showed the mercy and compassion that had been denied by other citizens who were not on patrol that were guided by blind ignorance.”

– Jesse Saperstein

“Due to sensory issues from autism, when I am afraid or experiencing anxiety I may not respond to your questions like everyone else. I may shutdown completely or overreact. Typical people are wired neurologically like bottle water, not much happening. My neurological makeup is closer to carbonated Mountain Dew. When shaken, watch out!”

– Ron Sandison

“I would want first responders to know that sometimes, people with autism are very scared when first responders approach them because of the masks, suits, the yelling, and the disaster that’s happening. I would also want them to know that autistic people have a more sensitivity to our senses and because of that, we experience pain more or less than the average person does when they’re hurt. I also want them to know that we can tell if someone is stressed out and that it stresses us out. I think what would help us out a lot is if first responders approach us calmly and use gentle voices with us so we’re not so stressed out and scared. I also think what would help is first responders having a spare teddy bear, stress ball, or anything that we could squeeze or hug because it helps us calm down and release tension and stressed.”

– Taylor Orns

“Being on the autism spectrum can present plenty of challenges in everyday life, and these challenges can be even more intense when it comes to an emergency situation. First responders are often unaware of these challenges or how to handle them, which sometimes can lead to greater tragedy. Remember above all else that when you give instructions to an autistic person, we may be so overwhelmed by the emergency situation that we are unable to respond or signal understanding the way a neurotypical person would. But we are not purposely disobeying or resisting you; we are trying our best to cope with unbearable emotional and sensory overload.”

– Amy Gravino

“Autism is not a tragedy. Ignorance is the tragedy.’ For those first responders out there who educate themselves about those with autism to fight that ignorance in our society I’d just like to say thank you. When I present about growing up with autism I often say everyone you meet will have their own unique challenges but by being aware and accepting your impact will make a difference in our community.“

– Kerry Magro

Autism Speaks is committed to educating first responders about autism and best practices to help keep individuals on the spectrum safe in potentially dangerous situations through training, awareness and resources. To learn more, contact the Autism Response Team at 888-288-4762 or

May 1

By Traci Pedersen

Scientists have identified 43 genes associated with risk for both autism and cancer. This discovery could lead to the development of treatments for both conditions if the underlying mechanisms behind these genes are the same, according to a new study by the University of California (UC) Davis MIND Institute and Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This striking coincidence of a remarkably large number of genes implicated in both autism spectrum disorder and cancers has not been previously highlighted in the scientific literature,” said Jacqueline Crawley, MIND Institute distinguished professor and endowed chair.

“Potentially common biological mechanisms suggest that it may be possible to repurpose drug treatments for cancer as potential therapeutics for neurodevelopmental disorders.”

Crawley collaborated on the work with professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Wolf-Dietrich Heyer, who is affiliated with the Cancer Center and Janine LaSalle, professor of medical microbiology and immunology, who is associated with the MIND Institute.

“It may be possible to repurpose available cancer drugs with reasonable safety profiles as targeted treatments for ASD,” the authors write in the journal Trends in Genetics.

“Stratifying individuals with ASD who harbor a risk gene for autism that is also a risk gene for cancer may enable therapeutic development of personalized medicines based on the specific causal mutation.”

Included in the dozens of genes implicated in both cancer and autism are genes for relatively rare syndromes, such as Rett syndrome and tuberous sclerosis, in which patients experience a wide variety of physical and neurological symptoms, including intellectual disability, as well as some of the communication deficits often found in autism.

So what does tumor cell growth have in common with synapse formation and brain development?

“Errors associated with genome maintenance during fetal life may occur at critical time periods for [brain development] resulting in neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Heyer, “whereas errors more commonly occur during adult life in cell types susceptible to tumors.”

Considerable value can be gained from a new focus on understanding the genetic commonalities of autisms and cancers. The authors note that since autism encompasses a broad range of causes, symptoms, and outcomes — similar to different types of cancers — it is also referred to in the plural, as “autisms.”

The study, titled “Autism and Cancer Shared Risk Genes, Pathways and Drug Targets,” is published online in Trends in Genetics, a Cell Symposia publication.

Source: UC Davis Health System


Reviewer: Nancy, mom of Jason, 14
The Challenge: My son’s teachers have told me that he “spaces out” in class, and I’m worried that he will fall behind. Cell phones are prohibited in class, and a beeping alarm would be disruptive to everyone.
The Solution: The WatchMinder3 looks like a sports watch, so Jason didn’t mind wearing it to school. You can set a silent, vibrating alarm–he programmed it to go off every 20 minutes during class–as well as pre-programmed messages. He chose PYATTN (“pay attention”). The vibrating alarm nudges him out of his daydreams–at least for a few minutes. There’s also a mode for 30 daily reminders, and we set one for taking medication. The watch is rechargeable and you can create your own personal messages.

VibraLITE 3 Watch

Reviewer: Cynthia, mom of Chas, 15, and Katy, 13
The Challenge: My kids lose their watches or won’t wear them–maybe because they see them as annoying reminders from me! I want them to remember to do things on their own.
The Solution: We were mainly interested in the stopwatch function of the VibraLITE, with a silent, vibrating buzzer to notify you of the time. Katy was excited to try it, but she found it too complicated to set up. Chas figured it out easily, but the watch wasn’t his style–so Katy wore it. Katy had trouble setting the watch with one hand while wearing it on the other. Larger buttons or an easier set-up process would help. The vibrating buzzer does alert Katy to the time and helps her stay on track–when she remembers to set it.

Cadex 12-Alarm Watch

Reviewer: Stephen, dad of Jeanne, 13
The Challenge: My daughter forgets to do simple chores–taking out the garbage–and to take medication. I am tired of reminding her to do things.
The Solution: I needed something (besides me) to nag Jeanne to get things done. What I like about Cadex is the alarm, which rings every three minutes (for up to four hours), reinforced by a text message, up to 36 characters long, that appears on the face. Jeanne, even at her most distracted, can’t ignore both the auditory and visual prompts. When she finally takes out the garbage, she presses the FORWARD button on the watch to stop the alarm and text messages. At school, she takes her meds quickly when the alarm goes off, to avoid being embarrassed in front of classmates. Jeanne still doesn’t do all of her chores, but, thanks to the watch, I get an occasional reprieve from being a 24/7 nag.

Mar 12

By Neil Petersen

Today I’m an ADHD blogger. But before that I was just a guy with an ADHD diagnosis. And before that I was a guy who didn’t know much about ADHD at all.

When I finally did get diagnosed, I wondered how it took me so long to find out something that made so much sense. Part of the reason many people with ADHD get diagnosed late or not at all is that they think they know what ADHD is, and based on what they think they know they think they can’t have it.

ADHD MisconceptionsIn my case, thereare a few assumptions I made that influenced my view of ADHD before I started learning about ADHD. For anyone out there who has these misconceptions or knows other people who have them, I wanted to share them. They are:

1. Having ADHD means you can’t focus on anything

Based on the fact that ADHD is an “attention deficit” disorder, I assumed the essence of ADHD was a lack of focus and an inability to concentrate on anything.

However, more than being a simple deficit of attention, ADHD is an inability to regulate attention. When you have ADHD, you have less control over where your attention goes, so your focus will be naturally drawn towards things that are interesting/stimulating and away from things that aren’t.

In practice, what this means is that there will be some things you struggle to focus on, but there will also be some things that grab your attention. In fact, there might be somethings you can’t stop paying attention to.

That’s not to downplay the importance of inattention: in inability to sustain attention that interferes with your life is a big clue to the possibility of ADHD. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have ADHD if you can concentrate on some things, especially things you enjoy.

So having ADHD doesn’t mean you can’t focus on anything, but it does mean there will be a bigger gap between the activities you can focus on and the ones you can’t.

2. If you had ADHD, someone would have noticed by now

By the time you become an adult, it’s easy to assume that if you don’t have an ADHD diagnosis you don’t have ADHD. After all, if you did have it, a teacher, parent or doctor would have caught it when you were growing up, right?

Not necessarily!

There are many reasons ADHD can go unrecognized. Not everyone with ADHD has hyperactive symptoms, and ADHD without hyperactivity can be harder to spot from the outside. If you’re able to do alright in school despite ADHD, your parents or teachers might not have reason to suspect anything. Many people simply don’t know enough to recognize the signs of ADHD, and your doctor might not know you well enough personally to connect the dots.

You don’t know something until you know it, so you should never assume that not having an ADHD diagnosis precludes having ADHD. If you think you might have ADHD, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by making an appointment to talk it over with a professional.

3. ADHD is no big deal

By the time I was in high school, I was regularly hearing people use “ADD” as a cute shorthand for being scattered, disorganized or unfocused. “I’m so ADD,” “that’s so ADD,” “stop being so ADD,” you know how it goes.

The problem with trivializing ADHD this way isn’t just that it comes across as dismissive to people who really do have the disorder. It’s that for people don’t have the disorder or don’t know they have the disorder, it skews their perspective of what ADHD is.

Before I got diagnosed, I recognized I had some “quirks” in my ability to control my attention, impulses and so on (although I don’t think I would have articulated it in those terms at the time). If you’d asked me, I probably wouldn’t have even denied that I met the colloquial description of “so ADD.”

However, because I’d mostly heard traits like inattention and impulsivity discussed as trivial things, I wasn’t able to connect the dots to really see how these were symptoms that had a far-reaching impact on my life.

That said, even if I’d had a better objective understanding of ADHD, I doubt I would have been able to spontaneously acknowledge the full extent of how these symptoms were affecting my life. Denial is a powerful way of thinking, and we get used to how are lives are even when they’re not working that well.

We think of ADHD as a thing that’s different, but it doesn’t feel like a thing that’s different when you’ve had it all your life because it’s all you know – it’s like being the fish in water who doesn’t know what water is.

So if you do recognize possible ADHD symptoms in your life, don’t dismiss them and say “oh, I guess I’m just kind of ADD.” Research has shown that having ADHD profoundly alters the courses of people’s lives in terms of work, health and relationships just to name a few areas.

Learning more about ADHD and getting rid of my misconceptions has been a gradual process. Probably the biggest step forward I took in building more awareness was talking to a professional and stumbling into a diagnosis, which is why I always recommend this to other people (the talking to a professional part; the stumbling part is optional). And hopefully reading ADHD blogs can help too.

Mar 8

By Rick Nauert PhD

New research suggests the ability to ignore distraction is often associated with a better working memory.

Specifically, investigators from Simon Fraser University discovered differences in an individual’s working memory capacity correlate with the brain’s ability to actively ignore distraction.

A research team led by psychology professor Dr. John McDonald and doctoral student John Gaspar used EEG technology to determine that “high-capacity” individuals (those who perform well on memory tasks) are able to suppress distractors.

Conversely, “low-capacity” individuals are unable to suppress distractors in time to prevent them from grabbing their attention.

The suppressed memory capabilities has implications for individuals challenged with attention deficit disorders. Academic performance and individual safety concerns may be influenced by the attention deficits.

The research has been published in the journal PNAS.

“Distraction is a leading cause of injury and death in driving and other high-stakes environments, and has been associated with attentional deficits, so these results have important implications,” said McDonald, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience.

The study is linked to two previous papers in 2009 and 2014 in which McDonald’s research team showed that when people search the visual world for a particular object, the brain has distinct mechanisms for both locking attention onto relevant information and for suppressing irrelevant information.

The study is the first to relate these specific visual-search mechanisms to memory and show that the suppression mechanism is absent in individuals with low memory capacity.

Source: Simon Fraser University

Mar 1

10 Signs of Adult ADHD


Eileen Bailey Health Guide
ADHD was once considered a “childhood” disorder – something that went away as you reached adulthood. Today, we know different. We know that many adults continue to struggle with symptoms of ADHD, in their personal lives and in the workplace. For many, ADHD has gone undiagnosed, discovered only after their children are diagnosed. While the main symptoms of ADHD – inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – remain the same, how they show up may be different. The following are 10 signs of ADHD in adults:

Lack of Focus

The typical inattention symptom of ADHD often continues into adulthood. You may find you are always starting a project – but never finishing. You may find it difficult to follow along in conversations or find you are easily distracted. You may miss important details – or details in general.


Hyperactivity in children shows up as overly energetic and has often been described as “driven by a non-stop motor.” In adults hyperactivity appears as restlessness or feeling fidgety. You may remember being a “high-energy” child.

History of Frequent Job Changes

Frequent job changes occur for two different reasons. You may have a history of being fired – your lack of attention to detail, making mistakes, personality conflicts or impulsiveness can lead to being fired from jobs. Or, you may find yourself bored with your job and constantly searching for a more interesting job. While many adults with ADHD do end up with successful careers, it can take time to find the right job to fit your skills and personality.

Difficult Relationships

Statistics show that the divorce rate for adults with ADHD is much higher than for those without ADHD. Adults indicate that forgetting important dates and details, not listening, impulsive spending and being unreliable are some of the symptoms of ADHD that cause problems in relationships.


The opposite of lack of focus, hyperfocus is when you become completely engrossed in an activity you like that you forget everything around you. You ignore those around you, lose track of time and forget about responsibilities. While hyper-focus can be an asset and may help you sometimes, at other times it interferes with relationships.


Just as disorganization is a problem for children with ADHD it is also a problem for adults with ADHD. Procrastination, lack of time-management skills, always being late, difficulty with prioritizing tasks and clutter all are signs of disorganization.

Addiction Problems

Adults with ADHD are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than the general public. Smoking is also more common in adults with ADHD – about one-fourth of the general public smokes but for adults with ADHD that number jumps to about 40 percent. [1]

Money Problems

A number of the symptoms that cause problems in other areas of your life – disorganization, procrastination, impulsiveness – can wreak havoc on your finances. You might find yourself paying late payments because you lost the bill or simply forgot to pay it. You may make impulsive purchases and then not have enough money to pay your bills.

Anger Issues

Adults with ADHD may have trouble controlling their emotions, leading to angry outbursts where you explode over trivial issues. You may find that you are angry one moment and then, as quickly as your anger appeared, it dissipates. Your family may still be dealing with your outburst but you have moved on to the next problem leaving your partner and children confused about what happened.


You don’t just forget the unimportant details, you forget important dates, to meet your spouse or friend for lunch, where you put your keys, you name it, you forget it. Forgetfulness is a routine part of your everyday life.

It is never too late to seek help for ADHD symptoms. Remember, if you have a child with ADHD, there is a good chance that either you or your spouse has ADHD as well. That is just as true if there are siblings or any other family history of ADHD. If you are having difficulty with the previous signs, talk to your doctor about what steps you can take to be assessed for ADHD.
– See more at:

Feb 24

By Traci Pedersen

Children with vision problems that are not correctable with glasses or contacts, such as color blindness or lazy eye, are more likely to present with symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

For the study, researchers looked at the data of 75,000 children ages four to 17 as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health. The findings show that more than 15 percent of children with vision impairment also had an ADHD diagnosis, compared with 8.3 percent of children with normal vision.

The researchers suggest that parents of children with both vision impairment and symptoms of ADHD should discuss these issues with their doctor.

“If a child seems to have attention problems in addition to vision problems, his or her parents may wish to discuss their child’s vision with their pediatrician and consider an eye examination as well as discussing the attention difficulties,” said lead researcher Dawn DeCarlo, O.D., Director of the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation.

The national study was carried out in response to DeCarlo’s observation that many of her patients with vision impairment also had symptoms of ADHD. As part of the study, researchers asked if the child had a vision problem not correctable with glasses or contacts. These types of vision problems might include color vision deficiency or lazy eye (amblyopia) as well as more severe types of vision impairment.

A previous paper reported an increased prevalence of ADHD among the children in her clinic.

DeCarlo cautions that just because these types of vision problems are associated with ADHD, it does not necessarily mean that one causes the other or vice versa.

“Because we do not know if the relationship is causal, we have no recommendations for prevention,” DeCarlo said. “I think it is more important that parents realize that children with vision problems may not realize they do not see as well as everyone else.”

DeCarlo says a follow-up study involving pediatricians and eye care professionals to confirm the children’s conditions would add to the findings.

In conclusion, if a child presents with both conditions, DeCarlo suggests correcting the vision problems first in case they are contributing to the ADHD symptoms. “I wouldn’t worry about their developing ADHD,” DeCarlo said. “I’d get them an eye exam and see if it fixes the problem.”

The findings are published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Feb 9

Rick Nauert PhD
For many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), symptoms decrease as they age. For some children, however, the symptoms persist, and a new study implicates persistent parental criticism.

“Why ADHD symptoms decline in some children as they reach adolescence and not for others is an important phenomenon to be better understood. The finding here is that children with ADHD whose parents regularly expressed high levels of criticism over time were less likely to experience this decline in symptoms,” said Erica Musser, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Florida International University and lead author of the study.

The study appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Musser and her colleagues studied a sample of 388 children with ADHD and 127 without, as well as their families, over three years. Of the children with ADHD, 69 percent were male, 79 percent were white, and 75 percent came from two-parent households.

The researchers measured change in ADHD symptoms over that period and measured the parents’ levels of criticism and emotional involvement.

Parents were asked to talk about their relationship with their child uninterrupted for five minutes. Audio recordings of these sessions were then rated by experts for levels of criticism (harsh, negative statements about the child, rather than the child’s behavior) and emotional over-involvement (overprotective feelings toward the child).

Measurements were taken on two occasions one year apart.

Only sustained parental criticism (high levels at both measurements, not just one) was associated with the continuance of ADHD symptoms in the children who had been diagnosed with ADHD.

“The novel finding here is that children with ADHD whose families continued to express high levels of criticism over time failed to experience the usual decline in symptoms with age and instead maintained persistent, high levels of ADHD symptoms,” said Musser.

While the findings indicate an association between sustained parental criticism and ADHD symptoms over time, this doesn’t mean one thing causes the other, said Musser.

“We cannot say, from our data, that criticism is the cause of the sustained symptoms,” she said. That is, a cause-and-effect relationship between a hypercritical parent and the extension of ADHD symptoms can not be inferred from the current study.

Nevertheless, improved parenting behavior as well as other interventions to reduce symptoms may be beneficial.

“Interventions to reduce parental criticism could lead to a reduction in ADHD symptoms, but other efforts to improve the severe symptoms of children with ADHD could also lead to a reduction in parental criticism, creating greater well-being in the family over time.”

Source: American Psychological Association/EurekAlert

Feb 1

The Three Different Types of ADHD


By W. R. Cummings
Did you know the term “ADD” is no longer used in the fields of medicine and psychology?

It’s true. ADHD is now the only term used, but it’s broken up into three different classifications. A person can have “Inattentive ADHD,” “Hyperactive ADHD,” or “Combined ADHD.”

I want to explain the differences of these to you because it’s important for people to be properly informed. The general public is still using the term “ADD,” which is no longer accurate and can cause miscommunication errors when used inappropriately. For us to fully understand the people in our lives who have ADHD, and for us to be able to help them in the way they need, we have to know what’s going on with them ,specifically.

Just because Billy has ADHD, and Susie has ADHD, and Jimmy has ADHD, that does not mean that Billy and Susie and Jimmy will all show the same symptoms of the disorder. We need to be able to distinguish between the three different types, and we have to learn not to stereotype anyone!

Each person/kid/teen with ADHD is so different.

Here are the three different types of ADHD…

According to WebMD, “Inattentive ADHD” manifests in the following ways:

— Daydreaming
— Shifting from task to task without finishing anything
— Becoming easily distracted
— Missing important details (habitually)
— Making careless mistakes in homework and tests
— Getting bored quickly
— Having trouble getting organized (for example, losing homework assignments or keeping the bedroom messy and cluttered)
— Seemingly not listening when spoken to
— Slowness to understand information
— Having trouble following instructions

* * * * * *

Contrastingly, WebMD explains that “Hyperactive ADHD” (or “Impulsive ADHD”) manifests in the following ways:

— Fidgeting (not being able to sit still)
— Seemingly not listening when spoken to
— Talking incessantly
— Trouble doing quiet tasks, such as reading
— Touching and getting into everything
— Running from place to place
— Banging into people or objects
— Acting like he or she is “driven by a motor”
— Constantly jumping or climbing (on furniture or other inappropriate places)
— Not having patience
— Blurting out comments at inappropriate times
— Interrupting conversations or speaking out of turn
— Trouble waiting for a turn or standing in line

* * * * * *

There’s also a third type of ADHD, though, which encompasses both of the previously stated branches of ADHD. It’s called “Combined ADHD,” and it manifests with the symptoms of both Inattentive ADHD and Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD.

People who have Combined ADHD have a hard time paying attention and listening to what’s being said, but they also can’t sit still or stay quiet. Whereas Inattentive ADHD kids are kind of known as the “daydreamers,” and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD kids are known as the “goers,” Combined ADHD kids are known as the “daydreaming goers.”

They have double the symptoms, and, therefore, double the obstacles when it comes to learning and functioning within society’s walls.

If someone you love has been diagnosed with Combined ADHD, and you’d like to help them live more easily, you can find helpful advice here through “Right Diagnosis.”

* * * * * *

Please keep in mind that all diagnoses come with varying levels of intensity/severity. Two children can be diagnosed with the same type of ADHD (Hyperactive ADHD, for example), and one child will only show hyper-activeness sometimes, while the other will show it twenty-four hours a day. Every person is different, especially if other diagnoses are added in, too, like Autism or OCD.

No two cases are ever identical so try to remember that we can’t put people in boxes. We can only spend time with them, learn who they are on a deeper level, and offer them help in the specific way they require.

* * * * * *

Do you have any questions about the three different types of ADHD? If so, feel free to comment below. We’d love to help!

Do you know someone who’s been diagnosed with one of these three branches of ADHD? Let us know about that, too! Matching up parents/families of children with ADHD is kind of our specialty.

Do you have any advice to give for any of these three types of ADHD? Throw it all our way. We love to hear practical, life-changing advice that people are actually implementing into their daily lives.

Dec 17

ADHD Isn’t Just a Disorder of Attention


By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Many people think of ADHD as a disorder of attention or lack thereof. This is the traditional view of ADHD. But ADHD is much more complex. It involves issues with executive functioning, a set of cognitive skills, which has far-reaching effects.

In his comprehensive and excellent book Mindful Parenting for ADHD: A Guide to Cultivating Calm, Reducing Stress & Helping Children Thrive, developmental behavioral pediatrician Mark Bertin, MD, likens ADHD to an iceberg.

Above the water, people see poor focus, impulsivity and other noticeable symptoms. However, below the surface are a slew of issues caused by impaired executive function (which Bertin calls “an inefficient, off-task brain manager”).

Understanding the role of executive function in ADHD is critical for parents, so they can find the right tools to address their child’s ADHD. Plus, what may look like deliberate misbehaving may be an issue with ADHD, a symptom that requires a different solution.

And if you’re an adult with ADHD, learning about the underlying issues can help you better understand yourself and find strategies that actually work — versus trying harder, which doesn’t.

It helps to think of executive function as involving six skills. In Mindful Parenting for ADHD, Dr. Bertin models this idea after an outline from ADHD expert Thomas E. Brown. The categories are:
Attention Management

ADHD isn’t an inability to pay attention. ADHD makes it harder to manage your attention. According to Bertin, “It leads to trouble focusing when demands rise, being overly focused when intensely engaged, and difficulty shifting attention.”

For instance, in noisy settings, kids with ADHD can lose the details of a conversation, feel overwhelmed and shut down (or act out). It’s also common for kids with ADHD to be so engrossed in an activity that they won’t register anything you say to them during that time.
Action Management

This is the “ability to monitor your own physical activity and behavior,” Bertin writes. Delays in this type of executive function can lead to fidgeting, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

It also can take longer to learn from mistakes, which requires being aware of the details and consequences of your actions. And it can cause motor delays, poor coordination and problems with handwriting.
Task Management

This includes organizing, planning, prioritizing and managing time. As kids get older, it’s task management (and not attention) that tends to become the most problematic.

Also, “Unlike some ADHD-related difficulties, task management doesn’t respond robustly to medication,” Bertin writes. This means that it’s important to teach your kids strategies for getting organized.
Information Management

People with ADHD can have poor working memory. “Working memory is the capacity to manage the voluminous information we encounter in the world and integrate it with what we know,” Bertin writes. We need to be able to temporarily hold information for everything from conversations to reading to writing.

This explains why your child may not follow through when you give them a series of requests. They simply lose the details. What can help is to write a list for your child, or give them a shorter list of verbal instructions.
Emotion Management

Kids with ADHD tend to be more emotionally reactive. They get upset and frustrated faster than others. But that’s because they may not have the ability to control their emotions and instead react right away.
Effort Management

Individuals with ADHD have difficulty sustaining effort. It isn’t that they don’t value work or aren’t motivated, but they may run out of steam. Some kids with ADHD also may not work as quickly or efficiently.

Trying to push them can backfire. “For many kids with ADHD, external pressure may decrease productivity …Stress decreases cognitive efficiency, making it harder to solve problems and make choices,” Bertin writes. This can include tasks such as leaving the house and taking tests.
Other Issues

Bertin features a list of other signs in Mindful Parenting for ADHD because many ADHD symptoms involve several parts of executive function. For instance, kids with ADHD tend to struggle with maintaining routines, and parents might need to help them manage these routines longer than other kids.

Kids with ADHD also have inconsistent performance. This leads to a common myth: If you just try harder, you’ll do better. However, as Bertin notes, “Their inconsistency is their ADHD. If they could succeed more often, they would.”

Managing time is another issue. For instance, individuals with ADHD may not initially see all the steps that are required for a project, thereby taking a whole lot more time. They may underestimate how long a task will take (“I’ll watch the movie tonight and write my paper before the bus tomorrow”). They may not track their time accurately or prioritize effectively (playing until it’s too late to do homework).

In addition, people with ADHD often have a hard time finishing what they start. Kids may rarely put things away, leaving cabinets open and leaving their toys and clothes all over the house.

ADHD is complex and disruptions in executive functioning affect all areas of a person’s life. But this doesn’t mean that you or your child is doomed. Rather, by learning more about how ADHD really works, you can find specific strategies to address each challenge.

And thankfully there are many tools to pick from. You can start by typing in “strategies for ADHD” in the search bar on Psych Central and checking out Bertin’s valuable book.

Nov 26

Adult ADHD Brain


By Brian Wu, Ph.D.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common yet complex mental disorder, which can adversely affect a persons work, schooling, or interpersonal relationships. The symptoms of ADHD vary from case to case and are difficult to recognize. Though it is typically diagnosed in childhood, there are many adults with ADHD. While it may have only been diagnosed later in life, most adults with ADHD have shown symptoms since childhood.

There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined. Inattentive ADHD typically means a person is showing enough symptoms of inattention and is easily distracted, but isn’t necessarily hyperactive or impulsive. In contrast to this is the Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, which occurs when a person has symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness but not inattention. A person with Combined ADHD shows enough symptoms of impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness.

The first, and possibly most noticeable symptom type is inattention. A person can be diagnosed as inattentive if they are easily distracted, forgetful in daily activities, or have trouble organizing. Those who have Inattentive ADHD tend to have trouble focusing on tasks or activities that require long periods of mental focus, such as class work or routine tasks.They tend to make careless mistakes in their work, and become easily sidetracked. Inattentive ADHD patients may ignore speakers, even when being directly spoken to, and may not follow instructions. This inattentiveness manifests itself in different ways for different people.

Though we often think of people with ADHD as having lack of focus, an unexpected sign of ADHD is hyperfocus. People with ADHD may become so enveloped in a task that they neglect the world around them. This can lead to losing track of time and neglecting friendships or relationships.

Someone with ADHD may have trouble with organization, things may seem to be constantly “falling out of place”. They may have trouble keeping track of their tasks or prioritizing their time.

People with Inattentive ADHD tend to have a routine of being forgetful. They may consistently misplace small items or forget important dates. In professional settings or relationships, this can be mistaken for carelessness, and can lead to trouble.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
The other symptom types are hyperactivity and impulsivity, which tend to be clumped together. A person may be diagnosed as hyperactive or impulsive if they talk excessively, constantly interrupt others, have trouble engaging in quiet activities, and blurt out answers before the question has been finished. Those with hyperactive or impulsive ADHD also appear to be always on the go, they may squirm in their seats, tap their hands or feet, and be impatient waiting in lines. This restless activity can lead to anxiety, as the mind constantly replays missed opportunities or worrisome events such as incomplete tasks. Impulsivity often rears it’s head in shopping habits. People with adult ADHD may have a tendency to impulse buy items they can’t afford.

Other Factors

Emotional instability tends to be a factor for those for ADHD. It may seem like they are on an emotional roller coaster. They may become easily bored and look to distract and entertain themselves. Small frustrations may be blown out of proportion and lead to anxiety and depression.

Due to many of these polarizing factors, Adults with ADHD are usually hypercritical of themselves. They may view things outside of the realm of their control as “their fault”, taking blame and small failures to heart in the worst way. This can lead to a poor self image, which in turn can cause problems in work or social relationships.

The problems people with ADHD experience in relationships are often due to their symptoms. The undesirable traits of talking over people, inattentiveness, and easily being bored can take their toll on relationships, as a person can come across as insensitive or uncaring.

Other signs typical of adults with ADHD are higher use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco (trying to calm the nervous symptoms), changing employers often, and repeated negative relationship patterns.

The symptoms of ADHD can range from mild to severe, depending upon environment and physiology. Some people are mildly inattentive with tasks they don’t enjoy, yet excel at those that they do enjoy. Others may have an inability to focus on all tasks, whether they enjoy them or not. This can have a drastically negative impact on them in social situations, at work or in schooling. There is a tendency for symptoms to be more severe in unstructured environments, such as social settings. Symptoms are typically less severe in controlled environments where rewards are given for good behavior, such as in the workplace. Having other conditions, such as depression or a learning disability, may worsen the symptoms of ADHD.

Before you diagnose yourself or others with ADD or ADHD, discuss all symptoms with your doctor. Include length of time with these symptoms as well as severity, and remember that other disabilities may play a role into the behaviors you are noticing. Being well informed is the first step towards treatment.

If you have been diagnosed with Adult ADHD, behavioral therapy may begin to help you with getting organized and completing tasks. Talk to your health care provider and get informed about your next step.

To learn more about health topics that concern the whole family, please visit

Better sleep leads to better control of ADHD symptoms for children. Here are parent-tested solutions for a good night’s rest.
by Jeanne Gehret and Patricia Quinn, M.D.

The Sleep-Deprived ADHD Household
Getting a good night’s sleep can be a big problem for ADHD families. A British research study shows that three times as many children with ADHD have difficulty falling or staying asleep and 57 percent of the parents of ADHD children slept less than six hours. More than half of the kids got up four times during the night. Almost half woke up before 6:00 a.m. It doesn’t take much to figure out what’s going on here: When children are awake, it’s hard for parents to get any shuteye.

Sleep Deprivation Has a Huge Impact
Sleep deprivation makes both adults and children irritable, impatient, and less efficient at everything they do. Adults who haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep are more likely to miss work. Studies show that not getting enough rest can worsen ADD/ADHD symptoms, leading to loss of emotional control. It can also adversely affect working memory, a problem many of our children suffer from.

The Attention Sleep Connection
There’s a biological reason why children with ADHD tend to sleep less: Many of the same regions of the brain regulate both attention and sleep. A child who has attention problems is likely to have sleep problems, as well. You can’t change your child’s biology. But there are ADD-friendly strategies to help kids overcome their sleep problems. Here’s what you need to do.

Avoid Sleeping Pills
Most sleep medications that work well for adults haven’t been adequately tested for their safety and effectiveness in children. That goes for the over-the-counter sleep aid melatonin, as well as prescription sleeping pills. Doctors sometimes prescribe clonidine for ADD children who have trouble falling asleep. The drug does make it easier to fall asleep, but many kids who take it awaken around two o’clock in the morning.

The Value of Exercise
Have your child exercise–jog, jump rope, ride a bike, walk–in the morning or during the day. Physical activity helps our bodies make the transition between the phases of sleep. Also, since exercise places physical stress on the body, the brain increases the time a child spends in deep sleep.

Set a Realistic Bedtime and Stick to It
Accept the fact that your child may need less sleep than other kids his age. If you put him to bed too early, there’s a chance that he’ll just lie there, wide awake, becoming increasingly anxious. Whatever bedtime you establish, enforce it consistently — on weekends as well as during the week. Letting your child stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights will disrupt his circadian clock; come Monday morning, he’ll wake up with something akin to jet lag.

Nighttime Rituals
Evening rituals signal the brain and body to slow down. The hour or so leading up to your child’s bedtime should be devoted to reading, listening to music, or some other calm, relaxing activity. Violent TV programs and video games should be strictly off-limits at this time. No roughhousing, either. Tell or read a bedtime story to a younger child. Allow older children to read in bed. Be sure your child has her favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Older kids may prefer to cuddle with a squishy, soft pillow.

Eat and Drink Right for a Good Night’s Sleep
Avoid eating and snacking two or three hours before bedtime. Digestion, especially of foods containing caffeine or sugar, can keep your child up. If he insists on snacking, give him warm milk, saltines, or a little turkey, which has the natural sleep-inducing chemical tryptophan.Your child should drink enough water during the day to prevent his asking for a glass of water at bedtime–and his subsequent bathroom break later.

Keep the Room Dark
In addition to cueing your child that it’s time to go to sleep, darkness eliminates the visual distractions that keep him from falling asleep. If a child can’t see his toys, he’s less likely to get out of bed to play with them. What if your child is afraid of the dark and needs a light on to fall asleep? Make sure that the light is dim, and that it goes off once he falls asleep (use a timer). Choose a clock with a face that lights up only when a button is pressed. Reduce light from windows by putting up blackout curtains.

Look Into Relaxation Routines
Deep breathing or listening to soothing music can make it easier to fall asleep. A foot rub or back rub relaxes a restless child. Have your child focus on breathing while visualizing an elevator gently ascending and descending with every inhalation and exhalation. Consider an evening prayer.

Dress for Sleep Comfort
Chilly feet keep some children awake; wearing socks may send them into dreamland.
Remove any scratchy tags from pajamas.
Don’t combine flannel pajamas and flannel sheets. The fabrics may stick together and make it difficult to turn over in bed.
If the room is warm, all-cotton sleepwear can prevent sweating–and tossing.
Air conditioning or a fan will cool down the room–and the whirring sound of the fan blades is calming.

Refusing to Go to Bed
Some ADHD children—especially those with oppositional defiant or anxiety disorder—will do anything to avoid sleeping. Try a behavioral approach: Give strict orders for your child to stay in bed between certain hours. Sit outside her door and calmly tuck her back into bed if she gets up. After a few nights, you’ll no longer have to sit vigilantly outside. Don’t attempt this unless you have the resolve to follow through. If you allow your child to break the rules, even once, you’re sunk.

Take Action
Dealing with an ADD child’s sleep problem isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. Given the consequences of chronic sleep problems—for the entire family—it’s best to take action sooner rather than later.

Aug 22

What It’s Like to Have ADHD As a Grown Woman


By Rae Jacobson
Years ago, with the start date of a new job closing in, I made the mistake of trying to explain my mounting panic to the guy I was dating at the time. “I’m so afraid of screwing up,” I told him, trying to keep my voice even, “with the ADHD stuff. I’ll forget something or get it wrong or …”

“Juuuuust chill out,” he interrupted, patting my knee in a fatherly sort of way. “You don’t have ADD. You’re just lazy.” His tone suggested this was a compliment. “Besides,” his smile widened, “isn’t that a little-boy thing?”

I wasn’t surprised by his reaction. Start talking about a disorder people can’t see and you learn to expect a certain amount of doubt, along with the occasional conspiracy theory involving drug companies, gluten, mass delusions, and other byproducts of this, our modern age. I understand (some) of where they’re coming from. ADHD, a chronic behavioral disorder, is complicated, confusing, and undeniably overdiagnosed.

If you’re female, the conversation is even more fraught. For decades ADHD was seen as a young boy’s disorder. New evidence suggests that it likely affects males and females equally, but that girls are far less likely to be diagnosed. For years the diagnosis ratio of males to females was 10:1. These days we’re looking at a slightly brighter 3:1.

One reason for the discrepancy is that, in girls, the disorder doesn’t always look the way we think it should: fidgety, energetic, distracting. In her book 100 Questions & Answers About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dr. Patricia Quinn, one of the great gurus of women with ADHD, writes that girls tend to be less disruptive than boys, manifesting their lack of attention in subtler ways — disorganization, distraction, and difficulty following directions. Even more hyperactive girls are less likely to be noticed. Instead of bouncing off the walls, “A girl with ADHD may be hypertalkative or hyperreactive (crying a lot or slamming doors) — behaviors one may not typically think of as being associated with ADHD.” Then there’s the sexist skepticism: She’s just a ditz.

Diagnosis can be tricky, because the disorder, which is likely genetic, can look more like a disciplinary problem than a medical one, and because everyone has these behaviors to some extent: You have a hard time paying attention to boring things? How awful and unique! Oh, man, you lost your driver’s license? That is so demoralizing, and never happens to anyone else. An hour late to something important? Burned dinner? Missed half the lecture because you were daydreaming about being a crane operator? Haven’t we all?

Part of what separates ADHD-havers from the merely forgetful is that for us, to use DSM parlance, the symptoms “have a significant impact on daily life and functioning.” When I was a kid “significant impact” meant being in perpetual trouble: always being late, never hearing the assignment, enduring depressingly frequent teen-magazine “It Happened to Me”–type moments (I was often surprised by my period’s arrival). Teacher’s pet I wasn’t: “Clearly Rae has not been,” snapped my sixth-grade math teacher, flinging an eraser at my desk, “PAYING ATTENTION, so the whole class will have to wait while I go over this again.”

By high school, I had fully internalized the fact that I was a screwup and began acting the part with teenage gusto. “Fuck you, fail me,” I spat at a particularly hateful teacher, middle fingers aloft. “It’s not my first time.”

Then I’d go home and cry. Repeated failure is destructive. It chips away at your self-confidence and eats at your resolve. It makes you hate yourself.

“Why am I like this? Why am I fucking like this?” I’d ask myself, over and over.

My whole life, I was not once early — not on homework, not on planning, not on anything. If I was on time, it appeared as though I’d been recently airlifted from a desert island. Beyond my failures at school and work, not being able to focus made me feel like I’d failed at being a girl. Having ADHD is challenging regardless of gender but in a world predisposed to undermining women, not having your shit together can feel like a dereliction of feminine duty. “Practically perfect in every way,” trills Mary Poppins, that great betrayer, showing us all how fun cleanliness can be.

Once, upon seeing my apartment, a potential suitor raised an eyebrow at the ransacked living room, “You live with dudes?” he asked, dubious.

“Yup,” I lied.

Bombing at Stepford Wifery would have been fine, except that I was also far from being a successful, capable ambassatrix for who-gives-a-fuck feminism. I felt useless: not professional or brilliant enough to be the academic outsider, not confident enough to be a punk-rock rebel, not cute enough to be an endearing space cadet. The more I tried to hide how much I was struggling, the worse it got. Every lost thing and new mistake was another chance to confirm my increasingly obvious worthlessness. Why, why, why, I asked myself, am I so dumb/useless/pathetic?

Dr. Quinn notes that women and girls with ADHD, often undiagnosed and overlooked, are prone to blaming themselves for the negative feedback they get going through life. Without a diagnosis, the disorder’s fallout — bad grades, poor time management, a sense that basic life skills are out of reach — read as character flaws, a suspicion often confirmed by outside sources: You’re just lazy!

Women with ADHD show consistently lower levels of self-esteem than our neurotypical counterparts and report correspondingly higher rates of depression, anxiety, and feelings of shame. The social pressures that tend to make women overly apologetic are compounded by ADHD, because you can never be sure it really isn’t your fault. My mistake? Probably. Yes.

At 21, I was finally diagnosed. “Your testing is bell-clear,” the brusque psychiatrist told me. She looked surprised when I started to cry.

“You’re upset?”

“I’m relieved.”

I still have ADHD. I’m still disorganized. My room isn’t what you’d call clean. I still have to fight to stay on top of things that seem easy for others. Getting diagnosed wasn’t a cure, it was a key; I finally have the missing information I need to manage my life. I suck at time management so I’ve become a Google Calendar devotee. The phone plays snippets of “Bizarre Love Triangle” 20 minutes before it’s time to leave, then ten, then five. I’ve got four copies of my birth certificate and six sets of backup keys. I take medication when I need it.

A lot of these little strategies sound like common sense, but for me, they were revelations. In retrospect, I see my fuck-ups for what they were. Not intrinsic, horrible failings, just symptoms, patterns made by a brain that works a little differently. You don’t grow out of ADHD. It’s a lifelong thing. But these days I don’t mind that so much. The disorder has its upsides: creativity, a tendency to view the world from odd angles. And the blaring anxiety I used to feel just trying to get through the day is slowly quieting, turning into the regular white noise of a life.

Aug 22

Addicted to Computer Games!


Game-playing can boost coordination and computer literacy. Here’s how to keep a good thing from turning destructive.
by Larry Silver, M.D.

Children love computer games, and that’s not always a bad thing. Whether played on a handheld device, a computer, or a television set, the games can provide hours of quiet fun. (That’s one reason parents often rely on them to keep the peace on family vacations.) The games can boost computer skills and improve eye-hand coordination. One 2004 study showed that surgeons who play computer games commit fewer surgical errors than do their non-game-playing counterparts.

Computer games are emotionally “safe.” When a child makes a mistake, no one else knows (unlike the public humiliation of, say, striking out in a real-life baseball game). And because each error made in a computer game helps the player learn the specific action needed to advance the next time, the player gets the satisfaction of steadily improving and ultimately winning.

Big downsides
But computer games carry some big downsides. Besides being very expensive, many popular games involve graphic sex and violence. Perhaps most worrisome, they can be extremely habit-forming. Any child can become “addicted” to computer games, but kids with AD/HD seem to be at particular risk. Many of them have poor social or athletic skills, and this doesn’t matter in the world of computer games. Such games level the playing field for children with AD/HD. And kids bothered by distractibility in the real world are capable of intense focus (hyperfocus) while playing. The computer game “trance” is often so deep that the only way to get the player’s attention is to shake her or “get in her face.”

Do you find yourself monitoring how much time your child spends with his Gameboy? Do you constantly urge him to turn off the X Box? Does the desire to play computer games dominate her life? When you insist that the set be turned off, do you get an angry outburst? If so, the time has come to help this child or adolescent (and the whole family).

Finding alternatives
To make the games less seductive, find ways to minimize your child’s downtime at home, especially those times when he is alone. Maybe your child would be interested in arts and crafts, theater, or movie-making. Maybe a social-skills group would be a good idea. Maybe he could join a youth group at your church or synagogue.

If she has trouble with a particular sport because of poor motor skills, or has difficulty understanding the rules or strategies, look for another sport that might be more accommodating – for example, martial arts, bowling, or swimming. Help your child find some activity that he likes and a place where he can do it.

My Child Is Addicted to Computer Games!
Setting limits
Children with AD/HD often lack the “internal controls” needed to regulate how much time they spend playing computer games. It’s up to parents to rein in the use of the games.

The first step is often the hardest: Both parents must agree on a set of rules. How much time may be spent playing the games on school nights? Must homework be done first? Chores? How much time may be spent on a weekend day? Which games are taboo, and which are O.K.? If the child plays Internet-based games, which sites are acceptable?

Once parents agree, sit down with your child and discuss the rules. Make it clear which rules are negotiable and which are not. Then announce that the rules start right now. Be sure you can enforce the rules. For example, if your child is allowed to spend 30 minutes at computer games on school nights – and only after homework and chores are done – the game and game controls must be physically unavailable when she gets home from school.

If games involve a computer or a television set, find a way to secure the system until its use is permitted. When the 30 minutes of playing are up, retake the controls. If she balks, she loses the privilege to play the game the following day. If you come into her bedroom and find her playing the game under the covers, she might lose the privilege for several days.

Avoiding confrontations
Give warning times: “You have 15 more minutes… You now have 10 minutes… There are only five minutes left.” A timer that is visible to the child can be helpful. When the buzzer rings, say, “I know you need to reach a point where you can save the game. If you need a few more minutes, I will wait here and let you have them.”

If he continues to play despite your step-by-step warnings, do not shout or grab the game or disconnect the power. Calmly remind him of the rules, then announce that for each minute he continues to play, one minute will be subtracted from the time allowed the next day (or days). Once you get the game back, lock it up. When he finally regains the privilege to play, say, “Would you like to try again to follow the family rules?”

Aug 22

by Russell Barkley, Ph.D., and the ADDitude Editors
One hallmark of ADHD is executive function trouble. Our kids aren’t the best planners, organizers, or self-regulators. And that can get very frustrating very quickly. Parents, follow these 10 simple tips to boost all 7 executive functions — and help your child gain more independence.

Understanding Executive Function
Children and adults with ADHD tend to struggle with these 7 core executive functions:
1. Self-awareness
2. Inhibition
3. Non-verbal working memory
4. Verbal working memory
5. Emotional self-regulation
6. Self-motivation
7. Planning and problem solving

Here’s how you can help your child build up these muscles, gaining more control over their ADHD symptoms and taking strides toward independence along the way.

1. Enforce Accountability
A lot of parents wonder how much accountability is appropriate. If ADHD is a disability outside of my child’s control, should she be held accountable for her actions?

My answer is an unequivocal yes. The problem with ADHD is not with failure to understand consequences; it’s with timing. With the steps that follow, you can help your child bolster her executive functions — but the first step is to not excuse her from accountability. If anything, make her more accountable — show her you have faith in her abilities by expecting her to do what is needed.

2. Write It Down
Compensate for working memory deficits by making information visible, using notes cards, signs, sticky notes, lists, journals — anything at all! Once your child can see the information right in front of him, it’ll be easier to jog his executive functions and help him build his working memory.

3. Make Time External
Make time a physical, measurable thing by using clocks, timers, counters, or apps — there are tons of options! Helping your child see how much time has passed, how much is left, and how quickly it’s passing is a great way to beat that classic ADHD enemy, “time blindness.”

4. Offer Rewards
Use rewards to make motivation external. Someone who struggles with executive functions will have trouble motivating herself to complete tasks that don’t have immediate rewards. In these cases, it’s best to create artificial forms of motivation, like token systems or daily report cards. Reinforcing long-term goals with short-term rewards strengthens a child’s sense of self-motivation.

5. Make Learning Hands On
Put the problem in their hands! Making problems as physical as possible — like using jelly beans or colored blocks to teach simple adding and subtracting, or utilizing word magnets to work on sentence structure — helps children reconcile their verbal and non-verbal working memories, and build their executive functions in the process.

6. Stop to Refuel
Self-regulation and executive functions come in limited quantities. They can be depleted very quickly when your child works too hard over too short a time (like while taking a test). Give your child a chance to refuel by encouraging frequent breaks during tasks that stress the executive system. Breaks work best if they’re 3 to 10 minutes long, and can help your child will get the fuel they need to tackle an assignment without getting distracted and losing track.

7. Practice Pep Talks
You know that locker room pep talk before a big game? Your child needs one every day — sometimes more often. Teach your child to pump herself up by practicing saying “You can do this!” Positive self-statement push kids to try harder and put them one step closer to accomplishing their goals. Visualizing future rewards and talking themselves through the steps needed to achieve them is another great way to replenish the system and boost planning skills.

8. Get Physical
Physical exercise has tons of well-known benefits — including giving a boost to your child’s executive functioning! Routine physical exercise throughout the week can help refuel the tank (even make the tank bigger!) and help him cope better with his ADHD symptoms. Exercise can be found anywhere — try an organized sport, a bi-weekly park playdate, or a spur-of-the-moment run around the backyard!

9. Sip on Sugar (Yes, Really)
Sugar has sometimes been known to exacerbate ADHD symptoms, but when your child is doing a lot of executive functioning (like taking an exam or finishing a big project), it may be a good idea to have her sip on some sugar-containing fluids, like lemonade or a sports drink. The glucose in these drinks fuels the frontal lobe, where the executive functions come from. The operative word here is “sip” — just a little should be able to keep your child’s blood glucose up enough to get the job done.

10. Show Compassion
This is a big one, folks. In most cases, ADHDers are just as smart as their peers, but their executive function problems keep them from showing what they know. The key to treatment is changing their environment to help them do that. So it’s important that the people in their lives — especially parents — show compassion and willingness to help them learn. When your child messes up, don’t go straight to yelling. Try to understand what went wrong — and how you can help him learn from his mistake.

Aug 2


It’s rare to find a student who consistently exhibits strong motivation towards all academic subjects. Jennifer may race towards math, but run from her Spanish homework. James may dive headfirst into history, but approach his math homework only after he’s exhausted every other academic activity and spent hours deep in procrastination.

In other words, most students don’t like all subjects equally.

Not surprisingly, interest generally directs a student’s preferences. It’s no secret that most of us tend to like the things we are good at and dislike those that are more challenging for us.

What Makes a Student “Unmotivated”?

When a student seems unmotivated for an academic task, there is a reasonable likelihood that the student doubts his or her ability to successfully accomplish the task. Most of us avoid activities that may result in frustration or failure. After all, failure can be quite tough on the ego.

When students tell me “I hate math,” that’s frequently code for “I dislike how math makes me feel less capable than I’d like to be.” They don’t honestly hate math. They do hate looking bad. They hate feeling frustrated, incompetent or embarrassed by their performance.

If I can help a student feel more competent in math, amazingly, that dislike for math will frequently diminish (though it may not necessarily become preferred).

The Role of Mastery in Motivation

One of the most useful ways to help a student who does not seem motivated is to focus on mastery. Give the student a feeling of accomplishment. In my practice, I’ve been continually impressed by the power of successes – even small ones — to help students recalibrate their self-perceptions and overcome limiting self-beliefs. Success begets more success

Sometimes students refuse to engage with a particular academic subject. They’ve mentally checked out and refuse to put their egos on the line by risking failure or further embarrassment. In these cases, we need to step back and reframe the whole experience.

I teach my students to maintain a “growth mindset.” Leaning heavily upon Carol Dweck’s work on learning mindsets, I create a learning environment in which mistakes are viewed as the foundation of learning and growth, rather than a source of embarrassment. Mistakes become the fuel for the most rapid advancement a student can attain.

Four Words to Spur Motivation

Setting up appropriate challenges for students can also spur on motivation. Many young people love a challenge, a chance to test their mettle, an opportunity to overcome obstacles and come out ahead. When a student’s motivation for a particular task is low, there are four words that can act as a remedy: “Let’s play a game.” Many unmotivated students light up in the face of a challenge that they believe they can overcome. Boys especially love an element of competition in their pursuits.

To help transform an academic task into a game, you can agree upon new constraints in which to “play”: perhaps you can ratchet up the timing constraints, or add some limitation, or set a lofty goal. A game emerges. Honoring the sage counsel of renowned educational researcher, Mary Poppins, what was tedious can become more fun and more naturally motivating.

Using Rewards for Motivation

To help students feel competent and accurately track their progress and growth, it’s important to provide encouragement and positive feedback, or “informational rewards.” Be specific and accurate with your feedback, with emphasis on successes. Over time, encourage students to provide their own feedback, to reflect more upon and appraise their own learning and growth.

When it comes to using rewards other than informational rewards, be careful not to undermine intrinsic motivation. As a rule, use verbal/informational rewards liberally, but tangible rewards sparingly.

For example, it’s okay to reward a great performance after the fact — in a celebratory fashion — but it’s far from ideal to make rewards contingent upon specific performance. If you do set up a contingency (i.e. if you hit this academic goal, you get this reward), keep the reward as small as possible, while still being motivating. If a student has no intrinsic motivation for achievement, dangling a reward might shift a student’s behaviors, and in the process, the student might discover a degree of intrinsic motivation for the activity. Then, when the reward is extinguished, the student has a newfound respect for/enjoyment of the activity. But if the student starts with a level of intrinsic motivation (e.g. genuinely motivated by achievement), and the reward is introduced and then extinguished, that can permanently transform the student’s relationship to the activity.

Instilling a Love for Learning

Most researchers agree that it’s important to steer clear of threats or punishment as a way to motivate academic achievement. While threats and punishment may get results in the short them, they can negatively affect the students relationship to academics in the long term, undermining a student’s sense of autonomy vis a vis their academics.

Whenever possible, attempt to motivate students by helping them build feelings of competence and mastery. In the 21st century, students will need to be lifelong learners, so it is all the more important that we foster in them the love for learning from an early age.

Aug 1

By Rick Nauert PhD
Interesting new research finds that positive reinforcement is especially beneficial for children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Although it was known that praise improves the performance of children with ADHD on certain cognitive tasks, experts were unsure if the results were due to enhanced motivation or because ADHD kids had greater room for improvement.

University of Buffalo (UB) researchers discovered a little recognition for a job well done means a lot to children with ADHD, more so than it would for typically developing kids.

And the reason behind the improvement appears to be related to motivational factors, rather than innate intellect.

“Our results suggest that the motivation piece is critical,” says Whitney Fosco, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences.

“Kids with ADHD showed more improvement because they are more motivated by the opportunity to gain rewards, not because they simply did worse from the beginning.”

The findings come out of a novel study published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions that collectively examined two leading theories on ADHD, combining what previous work had mostly looked at separately.

One of those theories suggests that lower-than-average cognitive abilities contribute to symptoms associated with ADHD, such as inattentiveness. The other theory favors motivation over ability, focusing on whether kids with ADHD have an increased sensitivity to reward.

“When asking whether the performance difference we see is the result of ability or motivation, this research has more of an answer than any study that comes before it,” says UB psychologist Larry Hawk, the paper’s principle investigator.

The results of the research conducted by Hawk, Fosco, UB graduate student Michelle Bubnik and Keri Rosch of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, have clinical parallels as well.

Behavioral therapy, which uses positive consequences to increase the likelihood of achieving certain behaviors, is among the leading psychosocial interventions for children with an ADHD diagnosis.

The authors point out that the benefits of reward are not specific to children with ADHD.

“The major difference is that typically developing kids usually perform well even when simply asked to do their best,” says Fosco. “But kids with ADHD typically need an external or an additional reinforcement to perform their best.”

It’s a tricky area of research area, according to Hawk, since some of the subjects are being tested on tasks on which they have a demonstrated history of poor performance.

There is also a degree of variability between the two groups.

The authors say that having a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t necessarily mean that a child will perform poorly on any given task, and neither does the absence of a diagnosis mean that the child will perform well on any given task.

“You can’t say kids with ADHD respond more to reinforcement because they were doing poorly to begin with,” says Hawk.

“We showed that was not true. It was greater motivation to obtain external rewards that drove the effects we observed.”

Source: University of Buffalo

Jul 14

What Most People Don’t Know about ADHD


By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Today, there are still many myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Everyone from the media to mental health professionals may perpetuate these erroneous beliefs. Below, experts shared what most people don’t know (or commonly misunderstand) about ADHD. You’ll find everything from what causes ADHD to what helps it.

1. ADHD is not caused by our super-busy, tech-consumed culture.

Today’s world is certainly busier and more distracting and more hectic than it’s ever been. Our attention spans are shorter. We have a harder time staying focused. We often can’t go an hour or 30 minutes without checking email or glancing at our phones.

However, those of us that don’t have ADHD still manage adequately, said Mark Bertin, MD, a board certified developmental behavioral pediatrician. ADHD is a complex neurological disorder that goes beyond being distracted.

“ADHD affects self-management skills called executive function that include not only attention and impulse control but organization, planning, time management and far more,” said Dr. Bertin. In this post he further explains how ADHD really functions:

ADHD is a poorly named condition. The stereotypical symptoms – lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – merely scratch the surface. The parts of the brain implicated in ADHD also control executive function skills – abilities such as time management, judgment, organization, and emotional regulation. Executive function is kind of like the brain manager, responsible for supervising and coordinating our planning, our thoughts and our interactions with the world. The true issue with ADHD is one of executive function and as has been said by Dr. Russell Barkley and others, a more appropriate name for ADHD might be ‘executive function deficit disorder.’

Multitasking, social media, email and other distractions may exacerbate ADHD. But they don’t cause it.

2. ADHD affects all areas of a person’s life.

People often think that ADHD solely affects academic performance or possibly one’s productivity at work. Unfortunately, ADHD has far-reaching effects.

“ADHD can affect anything in your life that requires proper regulation, organization, planning, attention, impulse control and emotional grounding,” said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a psychologist who treats ADHD and a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

This could be anything from sleeping to paying the bills to cleaning the house to interacting with your spouse.

For instance, as Bertin notes in this piece, kids with ADHD are at an increased risk for language delays. They also struggle with finding the right words and stringing thoughts together quickly. They have a hard time focusing on conversations in groups or noisy environments.

3. Up to two-thirds of people with ADHD have another disorder.

People with ADHD also may have depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder. (This piece lays out comorbid disorders in kids with ADHD along with recommended resources.)

This is why it’s important to receive a comprehensive evaluation, which screens for other disorders. According to Bertin, “if treatment stalls, it’s worth looking again to see if something else is going on with ADHD.”

4. ADHD is highly genetic.

“If two tall people have children, and put them up for adoption, people expect the child to be tall regardless,” said Bertin, also author of The Family ADHD Solution. “The heritability of ADHD is similar.”

That is, if a family member has ADHD, the chances of another person in the family having ADHD increases three- to fivefold, he said. “For identical twins the risk may rise to 80 percent.” Bertin emphasized that ADHD is a medical disorder, which is “primarily programmed by genetics.”

Olivardia cited this 2012 review and this 2014 review for more on the genetics (and neurobiology) of ADHD.

5. Learning disabilities go underdiagnosed in ADHD.

This typically happens because the learning problem is believed to be part of ADHD, instead of something that’s exacerbated by ADHD, Olivardia said.

For instance, he noted that dyslexia is massively underdiagnosed. “It is assumed that the trouble reading is attention-related (ADHD) when there could be significant decoding, phonemic awareness, comprehension, or fluency issues that are completely independent of the ADHD.”

Anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of people with ADHD have a learning disability, Olivardia said. Almost half of children with ADHD might have a specific writing disability, Bertin added. (He cited this study as an example.)

This is why it’s essential for all students with ADHD to be properly evaluated for a learning disability.

6. Overcoming ADHD isn’t about working harder.

Often people assume that someone with ADHD just needs to work harder. They assume the person is lazy or lacks motivation or just doesn’t want to put in the work.

However, as Bertin points out, “You wouldn’t say to a child with asthma, ‘Just try harder, stop wheezing.’ Likewise, expecting a child with poor executive function skills to ‘pull it together’ right now is unfair and sets up challenging, often unrealistic expectations.”

Plus, people with ADHD are already working hard. “Studies show that an important mental control area of the brain — the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex — works much harder and less efficiently [in people with ADHD] than for those without ADHD,” said Terry Matlen, ACSW, a psychotherapist and ADHD coach, in this piece.

Instead of working harder, the key is to work differently. That means finding strategies that work with one’s ADHD brain. This can include everything from setting alarms as reminders to organizing with a specific paper system.

Again, ADHD is a complex neurological disorder. It’s also a highly treatable one. It’s important to get a comprehensive evaluation and seek treatment. This may or may not include medication.

“[P]eople sometimes avoid evaluation because they equate diagnosis and treatment of ADHD with deciding to use medication,” Bertin said. However, just knowing that you have ADHD can help you make positive changes.

“[P]eople often choose not to take medication, and still can take steps that help make ADHD easier to live with. Which isn’t to discredit what medication has been shown to do for ADHD, either.” Plus, if you’re not in crisis, starting with non-medical approaches to see how much they help is a great first step, he said.

Whether you’re taking medication or not, it’s important to use ADHD-friendly strategies, practice healthy habits and work with a therapist and/or ADHD coach.

Jul 1



Posted by Chris Jones-Cardiff
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to have small segments of their DNA duplicated or missing than other children.

The first study to find a genetic link to ADHD also finds significant overlap between these segments, known as copy number variants (CNVs), and genetic variants implicated in autism and schizophrenia.

Researchers say the findings prove strong evidence that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder—in other words, that the brains of children with the disorder differ from those of other children.

Details are published in The Lancet.

“We hope that these findings will help overcome the stigma associated with ADHD,” says Anita Thapar, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Cardiff University.

“Too often, people dismiss ADHD as being down to bad parenting or poor diet. As a clinician, it was clear to me that this was unlikely to be the case.

“Now we can say with confidence that ADHD is a genetic disease and that the brains of children with this condition develop differently to those of other children,” she says.

ADHD is one of the most common mental health disorders in childhood, affecting around one in 50 children in the UK. Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and distractible, and experience difficulties at home and in school.

Although no cure exists for the condition, symptoms can be reduced by a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.

The condition is highly heritable–children with ADHD are statistically more likely to also have a parent with the condition and a child with an identical twin with ADHD has a three in four chance of also having the condition.

Until now there has been no direct evidence that the condition is genetic and there has been much controversy surrounding its causes, which some people have put down to poor parenting skills or a sugar-rich diet.

Genomes of 366 children, all of whom had been given a clinical diagnosis of ADHD, were analyzed against more than 1,000 control samples in search of variations in their genetic make-up that were more common in children with the condition.

“Children with ADHD have a significantly higher rate of missing or duplicated DNA segments compared to other children and we have seen a clear genetic link between these segments and other brain disorders,” explains Nigel Williams, senior lecturer in the department of psychological medicine who took part in the study.

“These findings give us tantalizing clues to the changes that can lead to ADHD,” he adds

The researchers found that rare CNVs were almost twice as common in children with ADHD compared to the control sample—and even higher for children with learning difficulties. CNVs are particularly common in disorders of the brain.

There was also significant overlap between CNVs identified in children with ADHD and regions of the genome which are known to influence susceptibility to autism and schizophrenia.

While these disorders are currently thought to be entirely separate, there is some overlap between ADHD and autism in terms of symptoms and learning difficulties. The new research suggests there may be a shared biological basis to the two conditions.

The most significant overlap was found at a particular region on chromosome 16 which has been previously implicated in schizophrenia and other major psychiatric disorders and spans a number of genes including one known to play a role in the development of the brain.

“ADHD is not caused by a single genetic change, but is likely caused by a number of genetic changes, including CNVs, interacting with a child’s environment,” explains Kate Langley from Cardiff’s School of Medicine.

Jun 28

Fidgeting May Benefit Children With A.D.H.D.


Instead of telling children with hyperactivity and attention problems to sit still, perhaps we should encourage them to wriggle at will, according to a new study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or A.D.H.D. The study, in Child Neuropsychology, found that children with A.D.H.D. concentrate much better when they fidget than when they don’t.

Hyperactivity is, of course, one of the defining symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is in the disorder’s name and is usually the first symptom that parents, teachers and others notice. Most of us may be unable to gauge precisely how well a child concentrates. But we can tell if he or she can — or cannot — stay still.

But the relationship between hyperactivity and children’s concentration problems has been less clear. Does their hyperactivity intensify the attention deficit? Are the two problems — hyperactivity and attention deficits — unrelated except that they happen to occur together? Or could hyperactivity play some other role in the thinking and behavior of children with attention problems, possibly even a beneficial one?

Those questions intrigued Julie Schweitzer, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, and her colleagues.

Past studies had suggested that children with A.D.H.D. concentrate better and improve academically if they are physically active during the school day. But that research had focused primarily on how to re-channel the children’s hyperactivity.

Dr. Schweitzer, who treats many children with A.D.H.D., had begun to wonder whether that emphasis was misplaced. Perhaps experiments should look into why the children were so hyperactive in the first place.

To find out, she and her colleagues gathered 26 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17 who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D.; the researchers independently confirmed that diagnosis. Then they recruited an additional 18 children without A.D.H.D.

All of the children visited the group’s lab and were outfitted with an unobtrusive activity monitor on one ankle that could track how often and how intensely the children bobbled their leg, which is a good marker of fidgeting.

Then the scientists had the children complete a simple computerized test of attention and cognitive control, during which they had to note the direction an arrow was pointing and push a key showing that direction. The arrow in question was flanked by other arrows, which sometimes pointed in the same direction as the primary arrow and sometimes did not.

The children were told to respond as quickly as possible to the test, punching the proper key as soon as the arrows appeared on screen.

Then they repeated that same test more than 200 times in rapid succession, while the arrows shifted directions and each child’s ability to concentrate was sorely strained.

Afterward, the scientists compared the accuracy of the children’s responses during each of the more than 200 trials with the corresponding data from the activity monitors. In effect, they were examining how much and how intensely each child fidgeted every time they punched the key to indicate the arrow’s direction.

They found that the more intensely that the children with A.D.H.D. wiggled and fidgeted — the more ferociously they bobbled their legs — the more accurate their answers were. When these children were relatively still, their responses were much more likely to be wrong, indicating that they had had trouble concentrating then.

Meanwhile, fidgeting had played no discernible role, positive or negative, in the performance of the children without A.D.H.D., most of whom didn’t fidget much anyway.

These results suggest that hyperactivity is fundamentally beneficial for children with attention deficits, Dr. Schweitzer said, and probably developed to help them cope with their inability otherwise to focus.

“Hyperactivity appears to be a mechanism for cognitive self-regulation,” she said. In other words, children with A.D.H.D. may be hyperactive because the physical restlessness helps them to sharpen their mental control.

Dr. Schweitzer speculated that this constant movement probably increases mental arousal for children with A.D.H.D., much as stimulant drugs do. (Most of the children with A.D.H.D. in this experiment were taking such medications.)

Of course, this was a small, short-term study, involving only one type of cognitive test.

But its message seems straightforward, if unsettling, for weary parents and teachers who must deal with hyperactive children: let them squirm and fidget and bounce and jiggle and generally maintain that constant, disconcerting restiveness, if you want them also to be better able to concentrate.

The accommodations can be fairly discrete. Maybe install elastic bands beneath children’s desks, Dr. Schweitzer suggested, so that they can pull and play with them in a way that shouldn’t bother other children. Or use yoga balls as chairs, so the children can bounce. Even encouraging them to stand more often may help.

“I know it’s difficult to accommodate hyperactivity,” Dr. Schweitzer said, but it may really help children whose fidgeting bodies seem to contribute to calmer, more focused brains.

Jun 6

ADHD Symptom Checklist for Women


by Sari Solden
Only a mental health professional can tell for sure if you have ADHD, but reviewing this handy checklist will give you an idea.

ADD symptoms in women look different than they do in men

Do you have ADD? Does your daughter? Only a mental-health professional can tell for sure, but completing a do-it-yourself symptom checklist will give you an idea. The more questions you answer in the affirmative, the more likely you are to have ADD. Be sure to share your completed checklist with a doctor.

Do you feel overwhelmed in stores, at the office, or at parties? Is it impossible for you to shut out sounds and distractions that don’t bother others?
Is time, money, paper, or “stuff” dominating your life and hampering your ability to achieve your goals?
Are you spending most of your time coping, looking for things, catching up, or covering up? Do you avoid people because of this?
Have you stopped having people over to your house because of your shame at the mess?
Do you have trouble balancing your checkbook?
Do you often feel as if life is out of control, that it’s impossible to meet demands?
Do you feel that you have better ideas than other people but are unable to organize them or act on them?
Do you start each day determined to get organized?
Have you watched others of equal intelligence and education pass you by?
Do you despair of ever fulfilling your potential and meeting your goals?
Have you ever been thought of as selfish because you don’t write thank-you notes or send birthday cards?
Are you clueless as to how others manage to lead consistent, regular lives?
Are you called “a slob” or “spacey?” Are you “passing for normal?” Do you feel as if you are an impostor?
Symptom checklists are available at and, as well as at (the site from which the questions above are adapted).

Jun 3

ADHD and Depression
People with ADHD are three times more likely to develop depression than the general population. Depression and ADHD share some symptoms, such as inattention, sleep problems, and lack of motivation, but the causes of symptoms are different. With ADHD, you may lack motivation because you are overwhelmed. With depression, you may not want to do anything at all. If feelings of sadness, lethargy, or insomnia persist, despite ADHD treatment, talk to your doctor.

ADHD and Learning Disabilities
ADHD impacts learning and behaviors in school, but the condition is different than a learning disability. Children with ADHD are three to five times more likely to develop a learning disability as those without ADHD. Around one-half of all those with ADHD also have some type of LD. Those with an LD may have trouble organizing thoughts, finding the right word to use when speaking, mastering reading, writing, or math, or having difficulty with memory.

ADHD and Anxiety
About one-fourth of those with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. As with depression, the two share common symptoms, such as lack of focus and insomnia. Nervousness is also a possible side effect of stimulants. If you have unexplained and persistent fears, or experience panic attacks, and feel that your ADHD treatment is not working, talk with your doctor about an anxiety disorder.

DHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) include repeated temper tantrums, excessive arguing with adults, being uncooperative, deliberately annoying others, seeking revenge, being mean and spiteful. Research shows anywhere from 45 to 84 percent of children with ADHD will develop ODD. Treatment for ODD includes psychotherapy and medication.

ADHD and Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings—high, euphoric periods (mania) and low periods of depression. The mania stage is sometimes seen as hyperactivity and the low states as inattention and lack of motivation, all of which are common with ADHD. Those with bipolar may lose touch with reality or have a distorted sense of reality; their moods, both mania and depression, may last for weeks. About one-fifth of those with ADHD also have bipolar disorder.

ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is an inability to sort out external stimuli—making the smallest stimuli unbearable—or the need to search out high-stimulus activities to arouse sluggish senses. When researchers looked at children who showed symptoms of ADHD or SPD, 40 percent showed symptoms of both. It is important that both conditions are identified and treated early.

ADHD and Autism
A new study suggests that ADHD kids are 20 times more likely to exhibit some signs of autism compared with non-ADHD kids. There isn’t a lab test to diagnose autism. Because symptoms of both conditions overlap, diagnosing and separating the disorders can be hard. Autism is characterized by social and communication difficulties and repetitive behaviors. Some early symptoms are delayed speech and avoiding eye contact. Early detection and treatment are important.

DHD and Substance Abuse
Twenty to 30 percent of adults with ADHD go on to develop substance abuse problems at some point in their life. Some use drugs or alcohol to combat symptoms of ADHD—to sleep better or improve mood. People with substance abuse problems have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. Misusing drugs and alcohol makes treating ADHD more difficult.

ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome
Stimulant medication was previously thought to cause Tourette’s syndrome in ADHD kids. Recent research has shown that both disorders have similar risk factors—smoking during pregnancy, being born prematurely, and low birth weight. Those with Tourette’s exhibit motor and vocal tics—rapid, repetitive movements and sounds. About 90 percent of those with Tourette’s syndrome also have another disorder, the most common being ADHD.

ADHD and Conduct Disorder
Between 25 and 45 percent of ADHD kids develop conduct disorder (CD). Characteristics of CD include fighting, cruelty toward others, destructiveness, lying, stealing, truancy, and running away from home. Treatment for CD includes making sure ADHD symptoms are adequately treated, behavior therapy, and counseling. Your doctor may also suggest parental counseling to learn more productive ways of responding to your child’s behaviors.

May 19

What Do Video Games Do to the ADHD Brain?


Posted by

Part II: What Do Video Games Do to the ADHD Brain?

The bad seems to outweigh the good
Not all video games are created equal. The most popular games, according to Forbes magazine, are first person shooter games and role playing games such as Batman Arkham Knight, Battlefield Hardline, and Bloodborne. The primary goal is to kill one’s enemies with a variety of sophisticated high-tech guns and save the world.
Other video games create environments with good story lines, puzzle solving, and empire building. Cognitive games or games that teach mental tasks are also available. However, studies performed on these games show they have very little to no impact on ADHD either positive or negative.
Play Attention uses a body-based attention controlled feedback system inspired by NASA where players can actually move game characters by mind (attention) alone. This system has been tested by medical schools in randomized, controlled studies and has proven to have lasting positive effects for ADHD students.Boy playing video games making faces isolated in white
A new study says that playing video games can create a vicious cycle for ADHD children. In the past, most research has focused on biological and genetic factors. Very little has been done to determine how much the child’s environment affects their outcomes. However, Douglas A. Gentile, PhD, of Iowa State University and lead author of the study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture shows that environment, especially video games, can have a significant impact on children with issues like impulse control and ADHD.
Gentile’s team tracked the behavior and gaming habits of more than 3,000 Singaporean school children, aged 8 to 17, over three years. The children were administered various self-reporting tests to diagnose ADHD and impulse-control issues. The reports also required the children to track how often they played video games and the video games’ degrees of violence. The study, Gentile said, was part of a much larger study on the positive and negative effects of video games.
As has been found in past research (Christakis 2004; Landhuis 2007, etc.) the researchers found that video games both help and hurt with attention issues.
Video game play seems to increase short-term visual attention which is the ability to rapidly process information from your surroundings. For example, if you’re playing an aerial combat game, it’s necessary to quickly process and assess the number of opposing combatants so that you don’t get shot down. While this skill is necessary for this task, it is of little value in the ordinary classroom or workplace.
The negative impact is far greater than the benefits. Gentile thinks it can make it harder for some children to complete goal-oriented tasks that require long-term concentration. According to his research, the excitement and excessive stimulation of playing a video game far exceeds any ordinary daily stimulation making the real world less interesting.
Gentile also notes that time spent playing video games may also detract from the time a child might spend developing their impulse control. “Electronic media use can impair attention necessary for concentration even as it enhances the ability to notice and process visual information.”
So, the bottom line for ADHD brains: Gentile’s research and prior research have found that children who spent more time playing video games were more impulsive and had more attention problems. Even more importantly, he discovered that children who have those issues also tended to play more video games producing a vicious cycle.
Part III coming soon: How to Manage Video Game Use
Your ADHD experts are at Call them at 800.788.6786

May 3

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
There are many misconceptions about getting organized for adults with ADHD. Believing these misconceptions can quickly stall and sabotage your efforts.

For instance, one common myth is that one organizational approach works for everyone. If you internalize this myth, when one approach doesn’t work for you, you give up and assume you’ll never get your life in order. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Below, ADHD experts set the record straight on three stubborn myths about organizing — and what works instead.

1. Myth: You should handle paper only once.

Fact: “I cannot count how many times I’ve read or heard about this so-called life-saver of a technique for getting and keeping things organized,” said Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW, a psychotherapist and ADHD coach.

However, handling paper once is just not realistic. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to put away every piece of mail you received after a long, tough day at work. Often you just don’t have the energy to file a bill or pay it right away, she said.

Plus, following this myth can actually build clutter. “[With this] myth playing in your head pushing against the reality of your schedule, you’re likely to just toss the mail in a pile,” said Dana Rayburn, a certified ADHD coach. And that pile is likely to grow and grow.

Instead, Rayburn suggested a strategy called “planned delay.” “Set up your paper system knowing you will handle paper more than once.” Create a temporary spot where you’ll stash papers until you’re ready to deal with them.

“When paper comes in, quickly decide what you need to do with it. If you won’t use it, toss it in the recycling or shredder. If you need to handle it later, put it in the temporary place.”

Review your stack every few days, so it doesn’t add up, added Rayburn, who provides group and private coaching programs to guide ADHD business owners and professionals to get organized and manage time so they can live more successful and effortless lives.

Matlen suggested this system for managing paperwork, which she discusses in her book The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done.

She also added: “I’m not saying it’s not worth trying — maybe it will work for you — but I find that most adults with ADHD have quite a tough time with this strategy.”

2. Myth: If a strategy didn’t work the first time or stopped working, forget it.

Fact: Clients often dismiss a strategy that worked for a short time or never worked, said Abigail Levrini, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and co-author of the book Succeeding With Adult ADHD: Daily Strategies to Help You Achieve Your Goals and Manage Your Life with Frances Prevatt, Ph.D.

They assume that this indicates it wasn’t the answer for them, she said. But because of the nature of ADHD, it’s common for strategies to stop working. That is, the novelty of a strategy eventually wears off and loses its effect, she said.

Instead of tossing out a strategy altogether, what’s more helpful is setting it aside or tweaking it, said Levrini, co-author of the forthcoming book ADHD Coaching: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals. In the future, the idea might feel fresh and new, and thus work more effectively. If you’re using a color-coding system, a tweak might mean trying stickers, numbers or different colors, she said. In other words, slightly change a strategy, “but keep the main idea the same.”

3. Myth: Manage tasks and paperwork with a “tickler file.”

Fact: Rayburn has come across this tip in several books for people with ADHD. If you don’t know what a “tickler file” is, it’s a notebook or set of files numbered one through 31 for the days of the month, she said. People place paperwork, notes or even entire folders behind the date you’re supposed to work on them (e.g., pay a bill). You have to check the tickler file daily.

Rayburn surveyed her newsletter readers to see what they thought. “Most people said that tickler files don’t work for inconsistent people.” This kind of system is “too darn easy to screw up.” It falls apart, she said, when you neglect to check it for a day or two or more. “Bills go unpaid, papers get lost, planned tasks don’t get done.”

Instead, it’s better to create systems that function despite being neglected, she said. Rayburn suggested setting routine reminders on your phone or planner to prompt you when to do things.

When you have ADHD, knowing how to get organized and doing it can be overwhelming. It can help to see an ADHD coach or a therapist to find strategies that work specifically for you.

Mar 13

ADHD Could Lead to Obesity



Childhood obesityChildren with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could be at greater risk of becoming obese, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry shows. “We found that ADHD was a risk factor for later obesity,” said Alina Rodriguez, a visiting professor at Imperial College London, UK, whose recent study found that children with ADHD symptoms were less likely to engage in physical activity and more likely to become obese as adolescents.

This may sound counterintuitive to the image most people have of a child with ADHD: sprightly and in constant motion. How could someone who can’t sit still ever become lethargic and paunchy? Kids with ADHD, though, are more squirmy than energetic, and both inattention and impulsivity — defining characteristics of ADHD — could increase the risk of obesity.

“It may seem paradoxical,” said Samuele Cortese, M.D., Ph.D. and clinical associate professor at Southampton University, UK, “rather than being hyperactive, individuals with obesity are often described as ‘lazy.’”

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed disorder among U.S. children ages 4-17. It affects nearly seven percent of children and adolescents as of 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Medications such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (dextroamphetamine) typically increase attention span and lessen impulsivity. What’s more, a common side effect of these stimulant medications is appetite suppression. Left untreated, however, ADHD could lead to indolence.

Obesity affects over a third of U.S. adults, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder could be the root of a problem plaguing more than half the adults in the U.S.

Rodriguez and her team followed over 6,500 children from age 8 to age 16 and found that nine percent who had ADHD symptoms as children were more likely to be physically inactive and obese as teens. Physical activity, or lack thereof, seems the underlying factor. “The main take-away [from the study] is that physical activity really had a moderating impact on obesity,” said Rodriguez. Since children with ADHD play less, they are significantly more susceptible to obesity as adolescents.

“It is self-evident that engaging in physical activity (at school and also outside of school) is important, and it might be even more important for children with ADHD since they might be at higher risk of obesity,” said Cortese. But why are children with ADHD less inclined to exercise?

“A lot of 8-year-olds like to sit in front of the computer,” said Rodriguez. One to two hours spent watching television or playing on the computer is acceptable, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but research has shown children spend over six hours per day sitting in front of screens. That number is even larger for those with ADHD, said Cortese. “Children with ADHD have been shown to exercise less and watch more TV than children without ADHD.”

Kids already spend six to seven hours on average sitting in school and they barely get any time to burn off energy on the playground. Mathew Pontifex, a professor of Kinesiology at Michigan State University, points to an underlying problem in school funding. “It’s increasingly being tied to achievement scores, and that means cutting opportunities for physical activity for additional time in the classroom,” said Pontifex. These cuts hurt children with ADHD the most.

To be sure, ADHD is merely one of many potential risk factors for later obesity. Both Rodriguez and Cortese hesitate to identify one sole cause for why children with and without ADHD become obese. “We are trying to uncover causal risk factors for ADHD. If we can change or eliminate a cause then we may be able to potentially prevent or ameliorate ADHD symptoms,” said Rodriguez.

One thing is for certain, though: regardless of whether children have ADHD, they need more exercise. “Physical activity is good for you anyway, and there are a lot of studies that show it helps mental health,” Rodriguez said. Help mental health and stave off obesity? Exercise sounds like the best medicine.

Jan 3

The Cause of Autism May Not Be Unknown



Today, the often-repeated refrain is, “The cause of autism is unknown.” Yet, even though most so-called autism experts generally admit that the cause of autism has not been proven, they generally offer only non-environmental theories.

Bernard, et al., found in a 2001 article in Medical Hypotheses that mercury in certain vaccines caused autism. Cannell, also in Medical Hypotheses (2007), theorized that autistic children suffered from a lack of Vitamin D. Giulivi, et al., in a 2010 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, blamed autism on something called “mitochondrial dysfunction”–the brains inability to produce energy.

A 2011 study by Ozonoff in Pediatrics which looked at more than 600 cases of autism and found that if a child has the disorder, a younger sibling has a 19 percent chance of also having it, concluded that autism is genetic. However, this statistic does not prove genetics as the cause, since it could explain family parenting patterns.

While none of these theories has been validated, much research has meanwhile been done with mothers who suffer from postpartum depression or major depression. A study by Laura Murray in the Journal of child Psychology and Psychiatry in 1992 showed that children of severely depressed mothers develop severe cognitive and relationship problems by 18 months (the time when autistic symptoms begin appearing). Salvanos, et al. studied 291 mothers and infants and found a strong link between postpartum depression and autistic traits. The article appeared in European Psychiatry (2009).

Other researchers, J. Hallmayer et al., stated succinctly what some have intimated. “We have to look at both sides of the coin.” His study in the Archives of General Psychiatry provided scientific evidence that both genetics and the environment produce autism. Using state records, the researchers, who were all at Stanford University, identified 192 pairs of twins in which at least one of the two had some form of autism. Among these sets, there were 54 pairs of identical and 138 pairs of fraternal twins.

What they found was that the genes twins share can increase the risk of getting autism by about 38%, but the environment that twins share may increase the risk an estimated 58%. The environmental risk is nearly twice that of genetics.

Evidence is accumulating that maternal depression leads to severe developmental problems in children. A study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute released on their website in 2008 found that 46% of mothers of autistic children reported being depressed following pregnancy. Ainsworth, in her famous study of attachment (Ainsworth, et al., 1978), found that children could develop an avoidant attachment, with symptoms very like the symptoms of autism, when they had a mother who was avoidant toward them as infants.

The increasing number of such studies seems to indicate that there is a relationship between a mother’s depression (and hence neglect) and a child’s subsequent development. The developmental defects brought about by postpartum depression are similar to those of autism. It therefore seems to follow that there is a relation between postpartum depression and autism.

The universal tendency to protect the feelings of mothers has perhaps led to the environmental theory of the cause of autism to be ignored. Mothers feelings are important. They do the very best they can, and they don’t get the credit they deserve. And it should also be noted that there are good reasons why mothers might suffer from depression, postpartum or otherwise, and they do not intentionally seek to harm their babies. I would suggest, however, that raising emotionally healthy children should be our number one priority. If it is true that postpartum depression leads to developmental defects, that is something that should be taken notice of.

Some would say that even if a mother has postpartum depression for a month or two, any damage done to the baby can be overcome later on. This is true, early damage can be overcome. However we are learning how crucial those first weeks and months of life are–and indeed, how crucial the prenatal period is, for development. Harm done then can affect a person’s personality and health the rest of his or her life if it is not caught in time.

Even if we don’t buy into this theory completely, we can still take precautionary measures. Common sense tells us a mother suffering from severe depression will not be able to provide the attention a newborn needs.

Therefore, if a mother has postpartum depression and can’t care for her baby, perhaps–for the sake of the child–someone else such as the husband or aunt or grandmother should step in.

Dec 13

Help for the Daydreaming Child



Girl Looking Up While Sitting With Head In Hands In Class

Children who display disrupting behaviors, such as hyperactivity, talking when they are not supposed to, aggression, fidgeting, and other more challenging behaviors are often the children who receive the most attention in terms of being identified as a child in need of support services in school or as a child who’s parents are struggling to find what discipline and other parenting strategies to use at home. However, there are other children who receive less immediate attention from adults and the school systems because they are not displaying these more disruptive behaviors. Instead, these children often daydream which does not lead to many adults feeling the need to create any interventions for the kids. The kids who daydream may or may not need support services. As a parent or professional working with a child, it is important to consider whether a particular child’s daydreaming warrants further monitoring and possible intervention or not. Read the following information to find out more information about children and daydreaming.


Amy Fries’ article, “The Power of Daydreaming” on Psychology Today presents the positive aspects of daydreaming. Fries makes reference to a few research studies that provide support for how daydreaming helps children develop social skills, creativity, and helps them to process information.

Daydreaming can help children to create, practice, and process dialogues they may have with others. Daydreaming, or the wandering mind, may provide the benefit of allowing a child to improve their creativity by its very nature of allowing the mind to free associate meaning the mind more freely flows from one thought to another which can lead to more creative ideas, more thinking “outside the box” (outside the current situation being experienced). Research has suggested that nighttime dreaming helps individuals to process information they learned during the day as well as process the experiences they had. This may also be true of daydreaming, as well.

Daydreaming is certainly not all bad. Adults should not attempt to stop children from daydreaming completely. According to Joseph Stromberg’s article, “The Benefits of Daydreaming,” at the, daydreamers may actually have better working memory particularly in the face of distraction which can definitely be a useful skill in these busy and sometimes chaotic times.

Is-Daydreaming-Good-For-You[image credit: Alive Campus]


Certainly some daydreaming can be a symptom of certain mental health or neurological disorders (such as ADHD, schizophrenia, Autism, etc.). Some daydreaming can be problematic when it impairs functioning in academics, in social situations, or at home. Daydreaming can be a side effect of a learning disorder or may contribute to a learning disorder. Daydreaming may be problematic when it negatively impacts a child’s connection with others, as well.

Many teachers, parents, and others often attribute daydreaming to an attention disorder like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, this is not necessarily the case although some children with ADHD may also daydream.

When daydreaming occurs so frequently that your child or a child you work with is experiencing negative outcomes frequently within any area of life, it is worth taking a serious look at the cause and possible solutions for addressing daydreaming.


As mentioned above, daydreaming is not a problem. The problem occurs when daydreaming impairs a person’s functioning in an area of life that creates significant problems for that individual in comparison to most of their peers. Even then, without knowing your particular, unique situation, I can’t say that daydreaming is for sure a problem. Daydreaming can be beneficial to a person’s overall well-being. Trying to eliminate daydreaming may not be the answer. The answer is more likely to help a child know when and how much to daydream and to know how to snap out of daydreaming when necessary. For instance, a child’s educational performance may suffer tremendously if they daydream during all reading lessons for weeks in a row.

We all daydream to an extent. The voice in our heads that gives us an idea, that plans ahead, that decides what’s for dinner, or that replays a situation that occurred to us previously in the day or further in the past are all forms of daydreaming. Our minds are focusing on something else besides the particular situation we are currently in. So most of us daydream regularly but daydreaming is only problematic for some people.

Sometimes people daydream when they are in a situation that is not as entertaining, not as interesting, not as attention-maintaining, or not as reinforcing as what is necessary to hold their minds to remain focused on the current situation. It may be more difficult for some people to remain “mindful” in the present moment particularly in these less preferred situations.

If daydreaming is a problem for a child you know, consider the following tips:

Don’t try to stop a daydreamer from daydreaming (not completely anyway). Instead, teach the child to become more self-aware by helping them to catch themselves daydreaming and to learn the skills to re-focus their attention.
Teach the child to monitor their own behavior. One way to do this is described by Additude Magazine. The idea was also introduced to me by my supervisor at the Autism Center of Central Michigan, Leasa Androl, MA, BCBA. The technique is to provide the child with a device that will vibrate or make a sound every so many seconds or minutes (whatever amount of time you decide for your child). When the device vibrates or makes a sound, the child is to mark on a provided piece of paper or index card whether, in that moment, he was daydreaming (or paying attention to the task whether it’s his homework or listening to the teacher). The parent can help the child to learn how to do this and then he can try it on his own.
Practice (or have the child practice) “mindful breathing” to help keep daydreaming to a minimum. To do this, one study by Smallwood and Schooler (2012) cited by Urge Surf suggests focusing on your breathe for eight minutes a day. When your mind wanders from the breathe, bring your attention back to your breathe.
Consider the child’s environment & your teaching strategies. Are there things that can be changed in the child’s environment to help them daydream less often? For instance, if you are a teacher or an educator of some sort, can the curriculum be provided in a more engaging manner? (Please don’t take offense if you are a teacher. I am sure that most teachers and parents do the best job that they can and teachers are not always able to keep every single child engaged at all times.) If you are a parent, are there things you can do for your child that will enhance their focus during homework time, such as make it a race to finish the homework in order to earn a reward?
Improve nutrition. Healthy foods are, of course, good for many reasons. Eating nutritious foods can certainly help a child to have better control over their attention as well as have more focus on the task at hand throughout the day.
Get enough rest. Being sleep deprived can also lead to more daydreaming. Sleep deprivation can make it easier to drift off into one’s own mind especially in a not so entertaining environment.

Dec 2

Once again, we had an amazing experience at CHADD’s (Children and Adults with ADHD) annual conference, and we want to share our biggest “aha’s” with you! This year it was in Chicago – and as the snow was falling outside, we were talking with attendees at our booth, learning from other experts, and doing a workshop for parents.

As always at CHADD, we were jazzed by the experience. Over the years it’s become a kind of reunion for us, because we met each other at CHADD in 2010, and we launched ImpactADHD’s website as an Innovative Program in 2011!

While we were talking with parents throughout most of the conference, we did find our way into some sessions and keynote speeches! And as is always the case, there was a lesson to learn from every session we attended!

So we decided to use this week’s Guest Expert article to share a few tidbits of what we have learned from MANY experts over the years – at the CHADD conference, and beyond. Some of these tips may not be new to you, but we’re confident they’ll be useful.

Messages for Managing ADHD

You can’t start treating ADHD until you recognize that it’s real. Acknowledging it – and accepting it – sets you on the road to management. When you stop blaming yourself, or your child, you can take major steps towards improvement.

After acknowledging ADHD, it’s time to get informed! Information is a powerful antidote to self-blame. With better understanding, you can begin to take steps that really help in management.

While the most common recommendation for managing ADHD is medication, in one form or another nearly every professional we encountered recommended coaching. For individuals. For families. For parents. When asked the best way to balance “creativity” with the “need for structure,” Dr. Ned Hallowell responded: “Get A Coach.”

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A strength-based approach to managing ADHD, coupled with a belief in possibility of success, is incredibly powerful. Without intervention or effective treatment, ADHD can devastate lives. With hope and a focus on talents, people with ADHD achieve extraordinary success.

The identification and treatment of ADHD relies on a combination of scientific analysis and informed observation. ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all kind of diagnosis, and treatment protocols are equally as diverse, depending on the individual.

Success depends on the use of structures. Hallowell says, “Team up with someone with structure and yield to it.” But the structures must match an individual’s abilities, and be implemented in the context of positivity and realistic expectations.

In addition to coaching, mindfulness is another non-medication-based approach that can be really effective in managing ADHD. Simply placing attention on what’s most important can shift your approach to all kinds of complications. For parents, mindfulness encourages you to choose priorities – is a clean room more important than academic success?

People “medicate” or “manage” their ADHD in a number of ways outside of prescription medication. Some of them can be very positive strategies (sleep, brain-training, exercise, meditation, nutrition, & food management), and some not necessarily healthy (caffeine, illegal drugs, alcohol, sexuality, thrill-seeking/risk-taking behaviors, anger, procrastination). Recognition of how we are “self-medicating” – for better and worse – can lead us to more conscious management. For example, anger can be something that people with ADHD use to help them focus. Depending on time and location, it can be helpful, or particularly irritating!

Sleep. It’s so important. Can’t underestimate it’s role in complicating ADHD, or helping to manage it better.

Medication alone is generally not a sufficient treatment for ADHD. Accompanying treatments like coaching, therapy, organizational management, mindfulness and others are critical to success over a lifetime!

Executive function deficits do not necessarily respond directly to medication, and they are at the core of the challenges people with ADHD face every day.

Co-existing conditions, like anxiety or learning disabilities, add to an individual’s frustration, and it’s important to manage each diagnosis, not just treat each one separately. People with ADHD may have to work harder than their peers in some aspects of life, especially in school. Acceptance of that reality can help parents find more compassion, and kids find more determination.

Mastering motivation is key to accomplishing any task for an individual with ADHD. Motivation doesn’t come naturally, necessarily – it needs to be consciously identified.

ADHD symptoms are contextual. Dr. Tom Brown explains that an individual’s ability to perform any given task will depend on the circumstances. If someone is distracted by intense emotions or loud noises, for example, she may not be able to concentrate, even if she could do the same task perfectly at another time.

Dec 1

7 Ways that Parents can Help


Is your child easily distracted? Does homework that should take 45 minutes end up consuming two hours? If so, you are probably a frustrated parent. Chances are you have learned that punishing inattentive behavior doesn’t work. The question is: What works? Here are some ideas that might do the trick for managing ADHD and homework.

Set Up the Correct Type of Study Space
Most inattentive students need a fairly quiet place to study, but a small group of these students thrive on the hum of a busy area. To determine the type of space your child needs, you’ll need to do some detective work. For two days, have your child do his homework in a well-traveled area and then switch to a quieter area for the next two days. If you determine your child does better in a quiet place, find a couple of areas free from household action, but close enough to monitor his activity. Interestingly, kids retain more information when they vary the place in which they study. Switching locations every day or few days is a good idea.

Don’t Fear the Floor
For some students, sitting at a traditional desk isn’t productive; however, there are other options. One is an exercise ball chair (www.sitin¬ which is a sturdy exercise ball in a steel frame with a comfortable back rest. Another option is a lap desk ( — a mini-desk that lies across your child’s lap. With a lap desk, the student can sit on the couch or another chair more comfortably. Some children actually perform better doing their homework standing up. Still others need to stand, pace, or even lay on the floor; therefore, don’t fear the floor!

Make a Mountain a Molehill
Depending on the age of your child, he may only be able to focus well for 20 minutes at a time. Often, the time you spend refocusing his efforts after 20 minutes may be better spent giving him a break so he can recharge and begin again. This can be done in two ways – by task or time.

By task – Fold a worksheet in half. Instruct your child to do the top half, show it to you, and then finish the second half. Allow him to choose the problems or questions he wants to do first. When he’s done with half of them, go on to the rest.

By length of time – Set the timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Tell your child, “Work as hard as you can for this time. When the timer goes off, you can daydream or play for 5 minutes.” Another option is to set the timer for a length of time for which you absolutely know he’ll be successful. When he succeeds, lengthen the span by a minute.

Let Her Fidget
Various studies have shown that distractible students can actually attend better when they are given something to hold or touch. A few good options are the Tangle Junior (, Wikki Stix (, or even a simple stress ball. By simply manipulating these toys in their hands, many students are better able to focus.

Insist On Exercise – The Miracle Drug
Aerobic exercise almost immediately elevates the chemicals in the brain that increase attention and focus. These chemicals act a bit like Ritalin or other medications used to treat ADHD. With frequent aerobic exercise, a distractible student can improve his ability to learn, so be sure to encourage your child to get out and exercise regularly.

Nag No More
If you feel like the only way your child can focus and finish is with your constant reminders, try a different method. Ask your child how many reminders she’ll need to finish an assignment. If she says she’ll need two reminders, then stick to that number. When she’s off track, state that you are giving a warning and then walk away. At any point when you see that she’s doing the right thing, praise her diligence. By giving warnings and positively reinforcing on task behavior, constant reminders will be gone for good.

Keep a Homework Log
Teachers may be unaware that homework is so problematic. They only see the final, corrected product, not the inordinate amount of effort behind it. For at least one week, jot down the date and length of homework. You may also want to document any reasons you see for your child’s homework struggles. Meet with the teacher and share the information you’ve recorded. Ask for suggestions to help your child accomplish homework tasks. Remember, students should be spending about 10 minutes per grade level on homework per night.

Try using a few of these strategies and see what works with your child. Odds are he or she will be focusing and completing work in no time at all!

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