I think I have ADHD – now what? If you have focusing difficulties, you may have been thinking about this question for some time.
Maybe you’ve been wondering this since getting some pointed comments from a teacher. Or maybe your friends won’t stop joking about your “high energy.” Perhaps you’ve taken an online quiz, or noticed how the lists on Buzzfeed, or the stories on TotallyADD.com sound eerily familiar.
Whatever your hunch may be, thinking you have ADHD and knowing you have ADHD are two different things.
This is why the answer to “now what” is, and always will be, get a formal assessment. That is the next step.
Having signs and symptoms that look like ADHD, such as trouble focusing, might not actually be ADHD. There are many other potential reasons for your difficulties – poor diet, a sleep disorder, depression, anxiety…the list goes on.
For that reason alone, a formal assessment (a good one) is necessary to rule out other potential causes for your difficulties. Not only that, it provides concrete data on your diagnosis, and helps to outline the areas of your health and well-being that are currently being impacted.
Some important things to consider:
Seek out a professional who knows what ADHD is, and what it’s not. ADHD can be diagnosed by either a medical doctor or a psychologist, but either way make sure they know their stuff and have a proven track record. Unfortunately, even within the medical and psychological community, ADHD continues to be misunderstood.
Make sure that the assessment is more comprehensive than just “do I have ADHD or not?” Simply confirming a diagnosis is not necessarily helpful in and of itself. Beyond the diagnosis, an assessment should help you better understand what may have been affecting your well-being and ability to follow through on goals and good intentions. Check out: Why it’s important to get a thorough ADHD assessment.
Getting an ADHD assessment is not an arbitrary next step. It should be viewed as the first stop in a journey to get to where you want to be. Yes, there may be turbulence along the way, but the only way to truly move forward is to first and foremost understand where you’re coming from.
Learning self-control at any age can be difficult. We all struggle with impulsivity and it can be incredibly hard sometimes to fight our brain’s urge to grab, take, and do whatever we feel like in the moment. Individuals with ADHD in particular have difficulty with this – symptoms of impulsivity are common benchmarks for the diagnosis.
Knowing this, let’s turn to ADHD children. If you’re a parent of a child with an ADHD diagnosis, you may be struggling to manage your child’s impulsivity and seeming total lack of self-control. This, we imagine, can be a frustrating experience for you.
The video below is a great reminder of how tough it can be to learn self-control. The pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain in charge of managing our executive functions (including self-control), is still developing up to the age of 22. So, we have to remember that children are not little adults – their brain is still developing, and will continue to develop well into their teenage years. We have to be patient with them as they work to meet their goals, and help empathize with their struggle.
So, please enjoy this reminder of how tough learning self-control can be, courtesy of the Cookie Monster:
Did you know that Sesame Street has been a television staple for children since 1969; that means that generations of children have learned valuable lessons from the show! As of 2014, it seems that Sesame Street hasn’t slowed down one bit – we’re glad to see that they’re still doing their thing and trying to educate and entertain our kids in whatever way they can.
Laura MacNiven, Springboard Clinic’s Director of Health Education, has been busy lately. On top of the amazing ADHD Coaching she does at the clinic, she also managed to find time to get two articles published at Village Living Magazine, a Toronto-based community publication.
Often called the “world’s most annoying alarm app,” Alarmy – formerly called Sleep if U can – is a phone app designed to really get you out of bed. Essentially, Alarmy is an alarm clock on your phone that shows you a picture of a specific location in your home (you take the initial pictures ahead of time), and it won’t turn off until you get up and take that exact same picture.
Annoying as that may be, it sure gets you out of bed!
Individuals with ADHD often have a tough time getting up and out of bed, so in and of itself, this app can be extremely helpful for that purpose.
Another benchmark of ADHD, however, is that it can often be tough to pull yourself out of what you’re doing and switch to another task. For example, when you’re caught up in Netflix, it can be really tough to pull yourself out of it, get up, and get ready for bed. We call this transitioning, and individuals with ADHD often have a really tough with this.
So, we came up with a few strategic ways you might be able to use Alarmy beyond just getting you up and going in the morning:
To forcibly get your bedtime routine started. Take a picture of your bathroom sink and set a bedtime alarm – you’ll be forced to get up and go to the bathroom, and once you’re there, you might as well start getting ready for bed.
To remember to take breaks if you’re working at home.If you often forget to break for lunch, for example, take a picture of your fridge and set it around lunchtime.
To get back to work if you’re taking a break. Before you get up, take a picture of something near your workspace. When the alarm goes off, it will force you to get up and go back to that area. An important caveat with this: Don’t take a picture of something in your workspace that could be moved around – like your notes. This will be hard for the app the register. Try something more constant, like a side table, or part of your desk.
To remember to take your medication or vitamins in the morning.If you’re always forgetting this, set an alarm that forces you to an area where you always keep your medication.
To help manage blockers during your morning (or evening) routine. If you tend to get lost in checking your emails in the morning or watching TV during breakfast, think of the next step in your routine, and set an alarm with a picture that gets you there.
Does ADHD coaching really work?This is a question that we often hear, and the short answer is yes.
Based on anecdotal evidence, Springboard Clinic has had the privilege of witnessing the benefits of ADHD coaching with a huge variety of clients over the years. Based on more concrete evidence, we’ve also showed you why the coaching model works.
But, as with anything in life, there’s more to it than that.
Yes, sometimes ADHD coaching doesn’t work, and there are valid reasons why this may be the case. We recently stumbled across an article outlining why ADHD coaching won’t work for you. Now, while the article is very relevant and true, in the spirit of focusing on a less downer perspective, we thought it would be helpful instead to focus on how to make ADHD coaching work for you.
So, in that light, please enjoy our thoughts on ADHD coaching and getting the most out of treatment:
Be willing to self-evaluate and step outside of your comfort zone.When you start ADHD coaching, it is essential to have an open mind with regards to seeking new solutions. While it may be hard to deviate from what you’re comfortable with, or the way you’ve ‘always done things,’ trying new strategies and ideas will help you learn more about what really works for you (or doesn’t!).
Commit to the work outside of sessions.Treatment is not just about attending coaching sessions. The more you throw yourself into the process throughout the week – by working on your goals, trying new strategies, and tracking significant moments – the more you’ll gain from it.
Learn how to be comfortable with small steps.While your enthusiasm for big goals is necessary – it is important to know what you’re working toward – smaller goals are your ladder to get you there. You may not feel comfortable focusing on small steps at first, but they are what will lead to sustainable change. Embrace them!
Start focusing on partial successes – not failures. Rather than dwelling on what you did not accomplish, do your best to focus on those parts of the task or goal that you were able to get done. Similarly, if you don’t get a goal done, look at it as an opportunity to learn from it. Moving away from black-and-white thinking is an important way to increase your confidence and motivation to continue working toward change.
Trust the process.Attentional concerns are complex, and creating sustainable change will often take longer than you expect – some individuals achieve significant change in weeks, others require months. Throughout this journey, you will experience setbacks and frustrations, but the important thing to remember is that this is part of the process. Some of the most meaningful learning is learned from the toughest week or coaching session.
No matter what path you take on the journey of ADHD coaching, as long as you’re committed to learn about yourself and are willing to believe in change, you will move forward – one step at a time!
Dealing with interruptions at work is a common source of worry for ADHD adults. Individuals with ADHD tend to not only have difficulty staying on task, but often have a tough time getting back on track after having been interrupted.
The reality is, the workplace today is filled with potential interruptions – the sound of emails arriving, co-workers stopping by for a chat, the boss who needs the document “NOW”…as you can imagine, it can be hard to get anything done.
So, if you’re plagued with constant interruptions at work, here are 6 tips to consider:
1) Start the workweek with a plan and set of priorities. Take a few minutes on Friday afternoon before you leave work to set your goals for the coming week. That way you can hit the ground running on Monday morning instead of getting caught up in a lengthy debrief of the weekend with your co-workers.
2) For work that requires the most concentration, pick a time of day when the office is the quietest and your energy is the highest. Save the routine, easier tasks when the office is busier and you don’t need quiet to get it done.
3) Create a sacred hour each day when you close your door or book a meeting room to work in. Let your co-workers know that this is a “do not disturb” time.
4) If you have a boss who constantly interrupts, take time with him/her to agree on priorities for the week. When the request comes in, ask if it is a higher priority ranking than what you are working on. It’s also helpful to observe the work habits of your boss and choose to get your big tasks completed when he/she is not around the office.
5) If you work in an open concept environment, ask to locate your desk in an area that’s away from the major traffic flow.
6) If you are the person causing the interruptions for others because you just can’t sit still for long, try chunking down your work into half hour increments. Set an alarm and when the beeper goes, reward yourself with a walk or a break. Your brain will thank you for it.
These tips are just a few of many when it comes to dealing with interruptions at work. What other strategies have you found helpful?
What’s the difference between an ADHD assessment and a psychoeducational assessment?
We’ve already talked about when you would get an ADHD assessment vs. a psychoeducational assessment (here and here), but we’ve never really outlined what’s distinct about each of them.
First of all, here is a quick refresher of what we’ve already covered:
Why you might consider an ADHD assessment as a first step:
Your concerns are primarily related to focusing challenges
You’re experiencing difficulties in more than one area of your life (e.g. not just in school)
Why you might consider a psychoeducational assessment:
You’re coping in many areas of your life, but experiencing specific learning difficulties and/or perceived academic underachievement
You’ve already had an ADHD assessment, and was identified with specific concerns related to a targeted area of learning
You’ve been treated for ADHD, and even with improved focus you’ve been having difficulties meeting your perceived potential in your learning environment
You need specific psychoeducational testing to qualify for specific accommodations (for example: writing the LSATs)
Now, on to some of the key differences between the two:
What we’re looking for:
ADHD assessments focus primarily on focusing difficulties and their impact on all the different areas of your life, not just at school; this includes screening for additional mental health concerns (e.g. anxiety, mood, difficulties regulating emotions)
Psychoeducational assessments focus heavily on specific difficulties that may be impacting you in your learning environment (e.g. at school); this includes an assessment of your cognitive profile, and more specific information of your learning strengths and weaknesses
The information we gather:
ADHD assessments gather information related to potential focusing challenges through psychometric measures (e.g. standardized questionnaires), file review, and clinical interviews
Psychoeducational assessments gather more in-depth information related to your learning through testing, including an assessment of your academic achievement vs. potential, memory, phonological processing, and more
ADHD assessments are generally less time-consuming than psychoeducational assessments – speaking for Springboard Clinic, ours requires a half-day time commitment for the evaluation
Psychoeducational assessments are much more involved – you would be looking at a series of three half-day appointments for the evaluation (generally 3 hours each)
Recommendations for next steps:
ADHD assessments often include academic recommendations, but…
Psychoeducational assessments provide much more specific recommendations for next steps, primarily related to learning and thriving in your learning environment (e.g. at school)
If you’re like many other ADHD students in college or university, you might be having difficulty keeping up with your readings right now.
You might be struggling to sit down and get started, or you might be spending what feels like hours reading the same page over and over, and not getting anywhere. Either way, they can be hard.
The reality of college/university is that most programs involve some sort of reading. Another reality: Many students with ADHD are approaching their readings in a way that doesn’t actually work.
If your approach to reading involves sitting down, opening the textbook, and reading – there may be a better and more efficient way to study.
To get you thinking about some new approaches, here are 6 tips to help ADHD students with their readings, adapted from an awesome book called Learning Outside the Lines (see full title below)*:
Be an active reader. “Interacting” with what you’re reading helps increase both your retention and comprehension of materials. So, make notes, use highlighters, underline key points – whatever works! Speaking of highlighters…
Try the color code method. Get three different colored highlighters and use them for three separate purposes: (1) main points, (2) supporting details, and (3) key terms
“Read” your class first. Professors often give clues as to what to focus on during readings, so pay attention to how much they emphasize a given topic. Your notes from class will give you similar clues as to what to look for.
Do some detective work before reading. Start by reading the chapter title and chapter headings – this will help you put the readings in a broader context so you can better understand the material.
Aim for small steps. Your readings will seem much more manageable if you aim for one small step at a time, rather than sitting down with the expectation that you have to “finish” a chapter in one go. No step is too small to help you get started!
Take note of anything that you don’t understand. It can be easy to get stuck reading the same thing over and over, trying to understand it – take note and move on. You might understand it better later, or you can ask someone else.
What other strategies have worked for you? Leave a comment to spread the word!
*Adapted from: Mooney, J., & Cole, D. (2000). Learning Outside the Lines: Two Ivy League Students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD give you the Tools for Academic Success and Educational Revolution. Fireside, New York: New York.
If your child has ADHD and you’re thinking about getting him/her an ADHD coach, you might want to consider adding parent coaching to the treatment plan.
Parent coaching is about helping you, the parent, do three important things:
1. Understand the mechanics of an ADHD brain so that you can separate your child’s symptoms from your child. Simply learning about the diagnosis and understanding where your child is coming from can go a long way towards reducing stress and anger.
2. Empower you to develop personalized strategies for your child and family that reduce the impact of symptoms on your household. Every child is different, so a good coach will be able to help you customize and tweak strategies based on what worked and what didn’t each week.
3. Have access to a sounding-board and a neutral space for you to manage your own stress.
When a child is working with an ADHD coach, their experience will be much more effective if their environment changes around them – and you are a very big part of that environment!
ADHD and its impact on relationships can be a sore topic for many of us around this time of year.
Valentine’s Day is not all candy and flowers for many of us out there
With or without ADHD, if you’re not where you want to be in your life “romantically”, Valentine’s Day can sometimes have two equally fun purposes:
To remind those who are not in a relationship that they are in fact, not in a relationship.
To remind those who are in a relationship of the things that are not going well with it.
Today, we’re talking about Valentine’s Day purpose #2: Highlighting the strain in a relationship. Specifically, when it highlights the strain in a relationship that is negatively impacted by ADHD.
We’ve talked in the past about some of the issues that tend to come up when one partner in a relationship has an ADHD diagnosis and the other does not (here and here). It can be tough.
For the couples out there who are dealing with the negative impact of ADHD in their relationship, we recently came across an article posted by ADHD and marriage expert Melissa Orlov (written this time last year) that might be of interest. In it, Melissa talks tips on surviving what she calls “what may be the worst Hallmark Card holiday of them all.”
We won’t give it all away, but the general message behind the tips is a good one: Let’s take back Valentine’s day, re-frame its purpose, take some of the pressure off, and use it as an opportunity to do something different. Here’s a teaser tip: Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to set a new resolution for your relationship – “Think of Valentine’s as the “New Year’s” of love”.