Archive for the ‘ADHD’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Lifestyle changes for individuals with ADHD

Individuals with ADHD, whether it is a child or an adult often need to make changes in their lifestyle in order to be successful at home, school, or work. Often times kids or adults need to adapt or make changes in their daily routines in order to be more functional on a day-to-day basis.
First and foremost, they should have positive contacts with others. What I mean by this is, individuals need to feel truly connected with those around them or in other words there needs to be a good and positive support system in place. Secondly, reduce the amount of electronics in your life. Studies really have shown that too much time spent on technology is a precursor to ADD. Thirdly, getting enough sleep is a key to proper functioning. Anyone who does not get enough sleep has difficulty concentrating and paying attention throughout the day. A proper diet is also essential to being able to function at an optimal level for adults and kids. Too often, especially seen with adults, ADHD suffers try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in order to function and cope with life. Proper exercise is also a key lifestyle change that helps those ADHD. Exercise stimulates the production of epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Medications that treat ADHD comprise of these very things. Lastly, either prayer (whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs) or meditation will help calm the mind.
Making these necessary lifestyle changes will help kids and adults better deal with the symptoms of ADHD on a daily basis.

PostHeaderIcon Treatment of ADHD

Treatment for ADHD, whether it is a child or an adult, should be a comprehensive plan and should include a number of different interventions to choose from. What works for one child/adult may not necessarily work for another child/adult. Assistance given should be done so over a long-term basis as ADHD is often not a short-term problem. The following steps should be considered for treatment of ADHD.
1.) Diagnosis is tantamount in treatment of ADHD. Several other medical and psychiatric disorders highly resemble ADHD symptoms and you want to be sure you are treating the right problem. 2.) A plan that promotes your talents/strengths as these will help you compensate for ADHD symptoms. 3.) Education-you must know exactly what ADHD is and how it affects you. 4.) Lifestyle changes-change in diet, exercise, sleep habits, study habits, etc… 5.) Structure-as individuals with ADHD are often scattered, unorganized, the more structure or scheduled life is, the easier life will be for an individual with ADHD. Make lists, schedules and post them throughout the house. 6.) Counseling-whether it is psychotherapy, career counseling, vocational counseling, family therapy, as ADHD affects others in your life as well as schooling and work performance. 7.) Other types of therapies-such as physical or occupational therapy, exercise programs, nutritional supplements, or tutoring. 8.) Medication-medication is prescribed only as needed and is a personal choice. Some are willing to take medications for ADHD and some are not. Medication should never be used alone and should only be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

PostHeaderIcon How can we help inattentive children focus?

Whether a child suffers from ADHD, Inattentive Type or simply struggles with sustaining attention at school, these children will appear very disorganized, uninterested in class, spacey, and absent minded. Parents and teachers alike are often frustrated with inattentive children, because they appear to be completely detached and uninterested in school. These children are often very intelligent, however teachers and parents often feel that they are simply “lazy” and do not want to do their work. Fortunately, there are a number of very ineffective interventions that can help the inattentive child and it is usually the case that these children are simply overlooked in the classroom because they are not disruptive in the classroom setting.

Here are a list of interventions that can help for inattention whether at school or at home:
Make the child is aware when all assignments are due at school
Establish eye contact with the child when speaking to them whether at home or school
Redirect when the child becomes disengaged
Give clear; concise directions
Make sure the child sits in front when in class; too many distractions in the back of the classroom
Teachers should make sure that a classroom schedule of when assignments are due is conveyed to the child’s parents
Should your child how to effectively take notes in class to help with study habits
Have a reward system in place for when assignments and homework are done effectively
Make sure the child loses privileges when assignments are not completed
Keep all homework assignments in one folder and make sure their backpack is organized and not in disarray
Teachers and parents should check to make sure assignments are written down and they should have a homework folder

Make sure everyone works together on keeping the inattentive child focused. If everyone, including the child does not do their part, then the child is being set up to fail. Children that are inattentive should always have a regular routine, know what is expected of them and receive feedback when they have succeeded and when they have failed. Above all else, minimize distractions for the inattentive child! We do not watch television or listen to music while we are completing homework and a quiet place to complete homework should be designated. The end result will be a child who is much happier and will be more successful in the classroom setting as well as listen better at home.

PostHeaderIcon ADHD Medications for kids

The question as a parent of a child with ADHD is often, “should I give my child medication or not?” Parents are often at odds with themself and with their spouse on the decision of whether or not to give their child medications because of the potential side effects. In addition, they often hear other parents saying negative things about the medications. As a therapist, what I often hear from parents is, “I don’t want anything that will make my child like a zombie.” To make the decision to medicate your child is often a difficult one and you and your doctor will have to consider many factors in making this important decision.
As a parent, if you decide to medicate your ADHD child then you need to monitor your child’s reactions to the medications and if their are adverse effects then the trial of medication should be stopped immediately.

Stimulant medications are the most popular medications used with children with ADHD, especially when your child’s inattention or impulsivity/hyperactivity is interfering with their school work or in their ability to get along with other children due to behavioral problems. Also to consider as a parent are alternative treatments such as individual counseling for your child as well as holistic treatments such as Attend, Focus or Omega 3 with Fish Oil, which are considered alternative treatments. Your child’s dietary intake should also be considered as well as if they are getting enough exercise. The food your child eats really does make a difference in their behaviors.

There is no way to predict which children will respond well to ADHD medications and which children will not, which is unfortunate because children often have to be tried on a number of treatments before something finally works for them. The most helpful criterion to date in predicting which children will respond to medications is the degree or severity of the child’s hyperactivity or inattention. The more severe these symptoms, the better a child will respond to the medications. However, a diagnosis of ADHD does NOT mean that a child should automatically receive ADHD medications. There are other things to consider before medications are used and these need to be discussed with your child’s doctor. For example, the age of the child should be considered, have other approaches been used, have all physical or developmental disorders been ruled out, can the medications be properly supervised by you as a parent, is the child’s behavior severe enough to warrant the use of medications, and lastly how does your child typically respond to medications.

If all of these things have been taken into account and have been discussed with your child’s doctor, then medication for ADHD can be considered. ADHD medications should never be used as a first resort but as a last resort when all other treatment approaches and factors have been looked at. If a parent makes the decision to medicate their ADHD child, then medications should be monitored regularly by their child’s physician. The decision to medicate your child is a difficult one and all factors need to be considered before making the choice to give your child ADHD medications.

PostHeaderIcon How is ADHD diagnosed?

The most important component at arriving at an accurate diagnosis of ADHD is to complete a thorough and comprehensive evaluation.  Many times, I have seen children and they have have been brought in by their parents and diagnosed by their pediatrician after being seen for five to ten minutes.  In addition, parents will often tell me that either their child’s pediatrician or a child psychiatrist, prescribed their child medication after being seen and the parent is uncertain as to whether or not their child received an accurate diagnosis.  Unfortunately, this happens all too often and the steps to arrive at a diagnosis of ADHD should take more than 5-10 minutes in a doctor’s office. 

First and foremost,  a clinical interview should be completed with the parents to obtain a thorough background history.  This should include developmental history, medical problems or complications, school and home issues, any behavioral problems, social/interpersonal skills, etc… In other words, everything else should be ruled out before a diagnosis of ADHD is given.  ADHD is a diagnosis of exclusion.  We need to rule out that their is not another issue or problem before we arrive at a diagnosis of ADHD.  A medical evaluation may also be needed to determine that the behavior or symptoms are not caused by a medical issue.

Both a child’s parents and the child’s teacher should complete a behavior rating scale in order to determine the child’s behavior in both settings.  In addition, this is a good method to compare if their are any discrepancies between the parent’s report of behavior and the child’s teacher’s report.  If there is a huge difference between what the parents are saying and what the teacher is saying, this might strictly be a behavioral issue in one of the settings and we should be looking at a discipline problem and not an attentional issue.

The child should also be interviewed and behavioral observations should be made by the psychiatrist, psychologist, or a mental health professional that is conducting the evaluation.  Direct behavioral observation of the child are often very helpful, however this is not a necessary component to reach a diagnosis of ADHD. 

Also, intelligence and/or achievement testing is also beneficial to determine if their is a learning difficulty.  Children who are struggling in school, often act out or are inattentive as a result of extreme frustration with their school work.  A learning disability evaluation is often beneficial to rule out that the child is not struggling academically, which affects their behavior at school.  Before any child can be diagnosed as having ADHD, a complete and thorough evaluation needs to be completed and all information obtained should be scrutinized carefully and all issues/problems ruled out that may be causing attentional difficulties.  Most evaluations completed by a psychologist or psychiatrist to diagnosis ADHD last at least 2-3 hours in order to obtain the necessary clinical information.  If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD after a 5-10 minute session with your child’s pediatrician than a comprehensive evaluation should now be completed.

PostHeaderIcon Managing social problems with ADHD children

Children that have been diagnosed with ADHD often have severe problems getting along with other children.  The child with ADHD tends to be very impulsive, has problems sharing, and they tend to be overactive.  Other children may find this child’s behaviors aversive and they often will not want to play with the ADHD child.  Other children may not like when the ADHD child blurts out whatever they are thinking, as ADHD children often have problems showing restraint in what they do or in what they say to others.  In addition, ADHD children often fail to consider how their behaviors or actions will affect those around them and they usually do not consider that there are consequences to all of their actions. 

These children often do not see an immediate reward for playing well with other children, with sharing, cooperating, or taking turns with other children and other children usually perceive the child to be very selfish and self-centered.  As a result of their poor social skills, children with ADHD often have few friends and the school year can be a very harrowing and difficult one as a result of poor peer relationships.  How often has it been said by the ADHD child, “I have no friends, no one wants to play with me.”  Another common comment is, “everyone seems to make fun of me” and parents will often hear, “I don’t want your son playing over at our house, he misbehaves and hits my son.”  How can we as parents teach our children better social skills in order to improve their relationships.  There are a number of steps that can be taken in order to improve social skills:

1.) First and foremost, establish a reward or behavior management program in which tokens or a chip program are used in order to improve social behaviors.  Choose only one or two social behaviors that you would like to see improved such as sharing or say your child keeping their hands to themselves and not hitting or touching another child.  Only pick one or two behaviors, more than that and your child will most likely not be successful.  Choose the unwanted behaviors that you see your child doing the most and work on these such as being bossy, not speak loudly, or taking turns.

2.) Post the social behaviors that you want to see changed in a prominent place that you want your child to see.  I usually advise parents to post a chart on the refrigerator, in the child’s bathroom, and possibly on the mirror in your child’s bedroom.  The chart does not have to be too detailed, simply post the unwanted social behaviors that you want to see changed in your child.  If your child’s friends are coming over take the charts down, they will probably embarrass your child otherwise.

3.) When you observe your child playing with other children and your child is displaying appropriate social behaviors, make sure to tell them they are acting appropriately.  This should be done in a discrete manner and not to embarrass your child or take them away from an activity with their friends that they are enjoying.  When you see your child acting in an inappropriate fashion (ie… bossing their friends around or not taking turns) remind them that they lose tokens for their behavior.  Also, before your child has friends over or goes over to play with friends or at the beginning of a school day, remind them of the unwanted social behaviors that you want them to change.  Observe your child more frequently when they are playing with their friends to ensure that that their social skills are appropriate.  Reward or punish according to the behaviors that they are displaying.

4.) A few times each week, you and your child should set aside time to go over the positive behaviors that you have observed and the negative behaviors that you have observed while they were with their friends.  Make sure to point out the positive aspects so your child does not become discouraged. 

5.) Role playing appropriate social behaviors can also be a very useful tool.  As a parent, you pretend to be your child and model the negative behavior you see them displaying and then model the appropriate more positive social skill such as taking turns and then have your child try the positive new skill.  Encourage your child to display this new, more appropriate skill the next time they are playing with their friends and they will more likely get a more positive result from their friends.  Remind your child every time they go off to play with friends or if friends come over to the house, that they need to use their new social skills when they are playing with them. 

The main areas of concern that children with ADHD may have problems with are: starting or maintaining a conversation with another child, listening to other children when they are speaking and not interrupting, resolving conflicts when everything is not going their way, and sharing and taking turns with other children.  Be patient with your child when trying to teach them these new skills and focus on only one or two behaviors at a time in order to improve their social skills.  Peer relationships are such an important part of a child’s life, whereby teaching them these skills will make them alot more comfortable in their social interactions.

PostHeaderIcon How to help your ADHD child cope with the stigma

Are you saying, does a stigma still exist for kids that have ADHD?  Absolutely!  Many kids are still ashamed to tell anyone that they have ADHD and even more embarrassed if they have to take medications at school!  Older children and teenagers that I have seen in therapy often quit taking medications for ADHD because they do not want their friends to find out that they have ADHD or even worse that they have to take medications for it.  How can we help our children overcome the stigma that still exists among adults and kids alike when a child or teenager has ADHD.  Of course for children, parents, caregivers, and teachers, the best way to cope with the symptoms of ADHD are often a struggle, however a good starting point is how to overcome the stigma of a label or diagnosis of ADHD.  There are several steps that can be taken to combat the stigma:

1.) As a parent, the first thing you need to do to reduce the stigma of ADHD, is to not make a big deal about it.  Watch and control your reaction about the symptoms of ADHD when they rear their ugly head.  You making a big deal about having ADHD or that they have to take medications or an alternative treatment (natural vitamins or therapy) will only increase the challenge that they are already fighting.

2.) Don’t tell your child not to tell anyone!  This definitely sends the message that having ADHD is something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

3.) If your child is embarrassed to take medications for ADHD at school then work with your child’s pediatrician or psychiatrist on finding a way for your child to take medicines before or right after school.  Many children and especially older children and teenagers are embarrassed in front of their friends no matter what you say to them about taking medication.

4.) Remind your child regularly that ADHD is merely a different way of thinking about things and that their brain works differently.  Don’t treat ADHD as something awful, I have found that ADHD has many positive aspects and treat it as a gift.  Do not treat your child differently because they have ADHD and expect less of them, they will act accordingly and will lower their own expectations of themselves.

5.) Determine as a parent whether or not you plan to share a diagnosis of ADHD with your child or teen’s school.  Parents often differ in this regard on whether or not they want their child’s teacher and school to know of an ADHD diagnosis.  I highly recommend to parents that they share their child’s diagnosis of ADHD with the school and discuss strategies that need to be implemented for your child in the classroom.  Your teacher should also not lower his/her expectations for your child.  Yes, the ADHD child may have to have a modified curriculum, but it does not mean that they can not learn like everyone else.

6.) Talk openly with your child about an ADHD diagnosis in order to take away the stigma of the diagnosis.  Boost their self-confidence and explain how those around them may perceive their ADHD behaviors.  Unfortunately, many children at your child’s school will discriminate against a child that has ADHD and often because ADHD children struggle socially, they have difficulty making and keeping friends.  Encourage your child to particpate in activities that will raise their self-esteem and emphasize their positive attributes.  When you see your child doing something good or helpful, point it out.

7.)  Encourage your child to be around other children that have similar strengths and weaknesses.  ADHD is a common problem and your child may benefit from attending a social skills or an ADHD group with children that are experiencing similar struggles.  Psychological treatment is also another option, where your child can learn self-confidence, coping skills, social skills, and parents can learn about how to manage negative behaviors associated with ADHD.

8.) Children and parents need to surround themselves with individuals that are positive and supportive of  ADHD.  The last thing a child needs to hear is that, “ADHD is not a real diagnosis, it’s just an excuse to misbehave.”  This a very common misconception among the general public and many parents will experience this very thing as will their children. 

9.)  Lastly, use the resources that are available to you.  Discuss with other parents, teachers, family members, or a local or national support group about your child’s ADHD.  Information for parents and educating those around you about what ADHD is and how it affects your child and adults is the best weapon against the stigma of ADHD.  Get your child the help they need at school so that they are NOT discriminated against. 

Let’s start off this school year the right way and give your child every opportunity to learn and be successful!

PostHeaderIcon Does TV and Video Games really cause ADHD?

A common misconception among parents, caregivers and the general public is that ADHD is caused by TV or by too much time playing video games.  When I see parents or family members in therapy that have brought their ADHD child in to see me, I commonly hear, “should we take away his video games, I hear that this can cause ADHD.”  I also have heard repeatedly as many other mental health professionals have that the more time a child watches TV or plays video games, the worse their ADHD symptoms will be.  This is definitely not true!  Yes, children that have been diagnosed with ADHD prefer to watch television or play video games, because these activities require very little effort and a shorter attention span than say reading a book or completing their homework. 

Up to this point in time, there has been no scientific study or any empirical research that has been completed that links TV or playing too many video games to a diagnosis of ADHD.  However, should a child that has ADHD or a child that does not have ADHD spend hours upon hours watching television or playing video games? Of course not!  Parents need to find a balance between TV time, video games and other leisure pursuits that is balanced with school, homework, and a social life.  Too much of anything is never a good thing!  Remember that moderation is king.

PostHeaderIcon When do we complete homework with the ADHD child?

Parents often tell me that completing homework with their ADHD child is often a great challenge and causes a lot of frustration. Children usually by the time they get home are tired and simply want a “break” from their work and want to play or “chill out” and watch television. However, homework still has to be done and parents usually wait until late afternoon or night to complete homework. Inevitably, children procrastinate and “fight” their parents every inch of the way in completing their homework. By the time the homework is completed, everyone including the child are usually angry and frustrated and homework took a very long time as the parent tries to cajole their child to complete the work.

As a rule, children with ADHD seem to do better on schoolwork in the mornings, more often than children without ADHD. What this means exactly is that school work and/or homework should be completed earlier in the day or even some of the homework should be completed in the morning if possible. Tasks for children that are boring, repetitive, or that take sustained attention/concentration should be done earlier if possible. By the end of the day, children are usually tired; fatigued and if parents decide to complete homework late in the day, problems are sure to ensue and the work will most likely not be completed.

Therefore, a homework schedule should be implemented that includes part or the entire school work load to be completed in the morning.   Also, when homework is completed with your child, it should be done in a quiet setting with no distractions.  This means that the radio, television, and the noise from video games must be turned off.  Children with ADHD are easily distracted and the less distractors for them when they are trying to complete their schoolwork the better.  In addition, homework should be completed on a 1:1 basis.  Children with ADHD do not do well in group situations where they are able to become over-stimulated and if possible homework should be done alone, just you and your child where individualized attention can be given.

PostHeaderIcon How to improve attention at home/school with ADHD Kids

A common complaint from parents with ADHD kids and teachers that teach ADHD kids is, “I can’t seem to keep his attention no matter what I do.”  As most people are aware, the brain functioning of a child with ADHD is different than that of a child who has not been diagnosed with ADHD.  Sustaining attention for any task for any length of time usually takes monumental effort.  Your child’s teacher is crucial as is the role of the parent in improving or increasing level of attention.  Here are some tricks to increasing level of attentiveness in a child with ADHD.  First of all, when you ask a question either as a parent or as a teacher, pause before you ask for an answer.  For a teacher, they should look at all of the students and then call on someone to answer a specific question.  This slows the pace down and gives the ADHD child time to regroup and get back on track with the discussion at hand if their mind has been wandering.  If you see the ADHD child is clearly not paying attention, call out their name or work out a nonverbal way to cue them back in.  For example, I suggest that you tap the child on the shoulder or walk by their desk to get their attention.  When other students in the class answer a question, a good practice would be to have all of the other students look at the child who is answering the question.  In school, keep your students guessing, this makes the material alot more interesting and we know that interesting material keeps everyone’s attention.  For example, when telling a story or when instructing, say to the class, “you will never guess what happened next”.  Liven things up a bit.  For older children, make them keep a timer or some form of record-keeping instrument for self-monitoring purposes.  If a test is given, make them monitor how long it takes them to do it.  This will enable them to stay on track much easier!  A very good trick for teachers to use is to have the ADHD child repeat back the instructions given or homework assignments, this ensures that the information was processed and the ADHD child was not tuning you out.  Remember a child does not learn if they are  not listening to the teacher and are in their own “little world.”