To wrap up ADHD Awareness Month this October, please watch the video below if you think you or a loved one has ADHD and needs support. Rick Green says it so well: “If you are suffering, it could be needless suffering”.
This past weekend, the 10th annual Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance (CADDRA) conference was held in Toronto – a conference intended for health professionals to learn about new developments in ADHD research, assessment, and treatment best practices.
The Springboard Clinic team had the opportunity to not only attend, but to present our own research (stay tuned for more information on that in the coming weeks!), and, as usual, we learned a great deal.
It was also nice to confirm that Springboard Clinic’s model of care continues to be on the right track.
We’ve spoken about this before from past CADDRA conferences, how for example we know that multi-modal care is incredibly important. This year, a common theme was the importance of moving beyond just treating symptoms. Instead, clinicians need to focus on managing the impacts and impairments that arise from ADHD. Research has been finding that treatment that focuses on just ‘normalizing’ symptoms will often only lead to short-term changes. What leads to long-term, sustainable changes, are things like helping individuals build the tools to manage impairments, and building self-awareness.
Springboard will continue to embrace this in our philosophy and care moving forward. And if you would like to hear from the experts directly, we remind you that the CADDAC conference is coming up on November 1st and 2nd in Vancouver.
If you’re a parent of an ADHD teen (or any teen for that matter) we highly recommend checking out the video below about the teenage brain.
Presented by Dr. Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist, author, and leading expert in interpersonal neurobiology, the video gives amazing insight into the changes in the structure of the brain that occur during adolescence. Rather than seeing the teenage years as a period of simple immaturity, we see that this is a necessary period of development in helping prepare teens to get ready to leave home.
If anything, this video is a great reminder for us all to step outside of our adult view of the world, and consider things from your teen’s perspective. Coming from that angle will inevitably change your approach to your teen – it helps us all understand them in a more compassionate and empathetic way.
Essentially, a child with a fixed mindset holds the belief that “you’re stuck with however much intelligence you’re born with.” Any success, then, is labelled as a result of their ability, not effort. They believe that what they’re capable of should come easily to them. If something doesn’t come easily to them, it means they don’t have that ability to begin with.
A child with growth mindset, however, holds the belief that “the more you challenge yourself, the smarter you become.” Success is attributed to hard work in this mindset. They believe that if something is difficult for them, they can improve by working hard and putting in time and effort.
So, how do you “unfix a fixed mindset”? The video below is a great introduction to the idea that the brain is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. As they say, “failing is just another word for growing.”
We came across this webcomic from robot-hugs.com that explores how we treat physical illness vs. mental illness, and we thought it was so apropos for ADHD Awareness Month this October.
Looking at focusing challenges alone, so many of us continue to face a wall of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding an ADHD diagnosis. Even well-meaning loved ones are not immune to assuming somebody isn’t “trying hard enough” or is just being “lazy.”
If you have ADHD and/or mental health concerns (it’s not uncommon for them to come hand-in-hand!), we can bet that this comic will resonate with you:
Every year on October 10th, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Mental Health Day, an initiative dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues around the world.
This year’s theme is “Living with schizophrenia,” but the sentiment behind the day is relevant to all mental health issues. The goal is to continue to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, mobilize support for those who need it, and put this important topic on the worldwide agenda.
At its core, advocating for mental health doesn’t have to be a big undertaking. It might be something as simple as reaching out to somebody that may be struggling, or knowing that it’s okay to ask for help. Check out the video below for inspiration:
When an individual has ADHD, medication can often be an effective way to “kick-start” change. It can help an individual define and follow through on goals and to build skills that have previously been inconsistent.
That being said, it is not a “one size fits all” process, and must be accompanied by supportive treatment beyond medication. In most cases, we recommend coaching and behavioural support alongside the medication trial.The best part of combining a medication trial with coaching initiatives is that the skills learned during treatment will remain even if you decide to stop taking medication.
BUT, what does ADHD medication actually do to the brain?
One of the biggest reasons people are hesitant about medication is because they are worried that it is going to cause sedation, inhibit creativity, or change their personality. Once you understand what the medication is actually doing in the brain, you realize it is actually going to allow more personality to emerge. It is not a medication that sedates, but stimulates!
Let us explain*. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that coordinates executive functioning, helping you to start tasks, stay on task, block out distractions, use working memory, and regulate your emotions. It helps organize the brain and manage projects and tasks from start to finish. In essence, the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that is supposed to organize all the functions of the brain so its role can be compared to that of the conductor of an orchestra or the secretary of the brain.
When somebody has ADHD, it means that their prefrontal cortex is experiencing inconsistent levels of neurotransmitters. This means the conductor or secretary “falls asleep on the job”. You can imagine what the orchestra sounds like when the conductor is sleeping. Medication helps the conductor of the brain stay awake and stimulated, so that all the parts of the brain can work to the best of their ability. ADHD medication essentially evens out the neurotransmitters to the prefrontal cortex, so individuals can be more consistent with their focus.
Does medication work for everybody?
No, medication does not work for everybody and should not be recommended for every patient. For example, Methylphenidate has been found to be ineffective for 25% of people who appear to be genetic non-responders. That being said, we have seen some amazing results with ADHD medication when the optimum type and dose are prescribed. This involves careful understanding of your personal symptoms and your lifestyle, as well as keeping a close eye on height, weight, blood pressure, self-esteem, and mood.
*Please note, our intention here is to give a more simplified understanding of the impact of ADHD medication on the brain – the neurobiological mechanisms involved when you take medication are somewhat more complicated.
It’s not uncommon for individuals with ADHD to look for potential alternative treatments to medication, or at the very least something that might complement it. Studies show that a combination of medication and behavioural treatment is more effective than medication alone.
One suggested treatment that we hear a lot about is “brain games.” But are things like Lumosity worth the price tag? Can brain games help manage ADHD symptoms?
We’ve talked about a similar concept before, with the debate of cogmed (working memory training). At the risk of repeating ourselves, the key point we have to make is that we still don’t know for sure if improvements seen in programs such as this truly translate outside of the program.
The study suggested that games have the potential to be an extremely viable treatment option for ADHD, stating that the “daily use of brain games can help strengthen focusing ability and executive functioning in adolescents with ADHD.”
While this may be the case, if you look closer the study has some limitations that need to be taken into context. For example: “[the study did not give] enough time for the improvement to carry over to the classroom.” So, they seem to be implying that there would have been improvements over time, but they don’t know for sure. Other limitations: the sample size was only 10 participants, there was no control group, and parent reports may have been skewed because they felt obligated to report a positive result.
We LOVE alternate treatments for ADHD and we’re not dismissing brain games as a potential complementary treatment for ADHD, nor are we saying the above research article is not valid. We’re simply reiterating that there is so much more that we need to know before we can consider anything like brain games a viable, evidence-based treatment.
What are your thoughts about brain games as a potential treatment for ADHD?
How do I tell my partner I have ADHD? When do I tell them? Should I even bother telling the person I’m dating?
Dating is already complicated enough, and to confuse things even more, having ADHD can often lead to some serious questions like the ones above.
First of all, if, how, and when you tell somebody in your life that you have ADHD is a personal decision. Nobody can take that away from you. That being said, let’s break things down a little bit more:
Should I tell the person I’m dating that I have ADHD? If you’re dating someone that you can see having long-term potential, it’s generally advised to let them in on your diagnosis. The more your partner understands about the impact of your ADHD symptoms on your life, as well as it’s potential impact on your relationship, the better. Not only that, ADHD is highly heritable, so if you’re planning on having children down the line your partner deserves to know about the potential for your children having ADHD.
When do I tell the person I’m dating that I have ADHD? Again, this is a personal decision. Some people will let the person they’re dating know right away – this can be a great way to put it out in the open and take the power away from it (and possibly weed out the easily spooked?). On the other hand, some people will wait a little bit longer to give a person time to get to know them before mentioning anything – this can be a great way to avoid another person dismissing you prematurely if they have misconceptions about ADHD.
How do I tell the person I’m dating that I have ADHD? Generally, the advice out there is to just provide as much education as you can, including what ADHD means for you, and an explanation for why you may do the things you do. There’s no need to put on a serious hat for this, it can start with something as simple as “Hey, just as a heads up, I sometimes have trouble with [whatever ADHD symptom you have difficulty with]…it’s not that I don’t care…”
Above anything else, the most important piece of advice we can give you is this: the more you know about ADHD and how it impacts you, the better you will be at advocating on your behalf and helping your partner understand your diagnosis.