Seeking an ADHD diagnosis isn’t easy – there are many symptoms of ADHD that overlap with other potential medical conditions. So, although you may have symptoms of ADHD, it is possible that you may not have ADHD at all. Not only that, with ADHD often comes what we call co-morbidities, or co-occurring conditions. For example, it is not uncommon for an individual with an ADHD diagnosis to have co-occurring symptoms of anxiety or depression. Here’s where it gets even more complicated: many of these symptoms may be secondary to an ADHD diagnosis (e.g. symptoms that appear as a result of ADHD), or they may be completely unrelated, and warrant separate consideration.
Still with us?
Springboard Clinic hosted our second “Evening Conversation about ADHD” last Monday, and the difficulty of seeking an ADHD diagnosis was a hot topic of discussion. We met with parents of ADHD children, adults with ADHD, teachers, professionals, and more, and they all shared similar questions and concerns with the seeming complexity of figuring out what ADHD is, and what it is not.
The fact is, there is no one definitive test that diagnoses ADHD, and there are a number of different factors that need to be looked at during an assessment. This is why it is so important to go through a thorough ADHD assessment with a professional who really knows their stuff. They need to have a thorough knowledge of what ADHD looks like, but also what ADHD is not. It’s a complicated process not to be taken lightly!
Want some more information? Check out the video below from TotallyADD.com and let us know what you think.
Interested in participating in a future Evening Conversation about ADHD? Please call the clinic at 416-901-3077 for more details about upcoming events
When a student is given an ADHD diagnosis, a typical next step is to look at academic accommodations.
As a student, the idea of accommodations is to help you level the playing field – it’s about setting up support to help manage areas of difficulty, so you can actually show what you know! In other words, accommodations are designed to help you better achieve your academic potential.
To give you an idea of what we mean, below is a list of common academic accommodations and recommendations that ADHD students often find helpful while at school. Not all of them will be right for you, but this will help start the discussion as you set up support moving forward:
Extra time (usually 50% extra)
Access to a computer
Use of a personalized timer
Minimized distractions (e.g. number of students, noise)
Extra scrap paper to work through problems on exams
No more than one exam on the same day
IN THE CLASSROOM
Notes provided beforehand
Set up a note-taker in class if early notes are not available
Permission to record lectures
Visual cues for key information
Permission to move when needed
Find an optimal seat position in class with minimal visual and auditory distractions
No internet access during class
Final project example (ex. show sample essay from previous student)
Chunk up assignments into sections with individual due dates
Set up regular meetings with the professor to clarify expectations of an assignment and ensure you have a clear understanding of its framework
Alternative format textbooks
Reduced course load
Priority registration for courses
Substitute oral exams for written exams
Pre-teaching (with a tutor) to improve focus and information retention
Emotional regulation is exactly as it sounds: the ability to regulate, or “deal with”, your emotions. Emotional regulation is also something that many individuals with ADHD struggle with (see one related study published by the American School of Psychiatry here).
Many individuals with ADHD report that they have difficulty managing anger, frustration, or even excitability in the moment. They often have trouble “letting go” when they’re upset about something. Or, they may find themselves getting completely overwhelmed and paralyzed with stress when their boss asks them to do “one more thing” for them.
Whatever it looks like for you, if you have trouble with emotional regulation, it might be interesting for you to know that building skills in mindfulness can be a huge asset in managing your reactions in the moment.
Mindfulness is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but essentially it means becoming aware of your emotions in the moment, and learning how to manage them without pushing them away or getting too caught up in them. Practicing mindfulness is practicing non-judgmental, present moment-awareness.
Okay, great…so….what does that actually look like? The good news is, mindfulness exercises don’t have to be time-consuming or complex. To give you an idea, here are 3 simple mindfulness exercises designed to help you become more in-tune with the present moment (and thus build skills for better emotional regulation):
The 1 minute slow breathing test.Time yourself to see the number of abdominal breaths you take in one minute. Several times a day, stop yourself and do the same number of slow breaths. Waiting in line or at a red light are the perfect occasions to try this technique out.
Mindful walking.Take a 15-minute walk without your phone/iPod – notice all the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Similarly, try mindful eating (see here).
The RAIN technique*. If you start to feel a strong emotional response to a situation, take a few moments and go through these steps (put them on a sticky note so it’s easier to remember!):
Recognize what you’re feeling and name it (anger, fear, sadness, etc…) Allow the feelings to be present without pushing them away Investigate the feelings in your body and mind; explore the emotions with curiosity (ex. where in your body do you feel them?) Non-identification is the key to freeing yourself from the emotion’s grip. Don’t take it personally. Separate yourself from the emotion – it’s just an emotion, it does not define who you are.
*Taken from James Baraz, Shoshanna Alexander “Awakening Joy”
Talking about ADHD medication with a child is a common concern that we hear from parents. How should I approach the topic? How much information is too much? Not enough? Do I even tell them?
The short answer: The more your child knows about why they need ADHD medication and how it will help them, the better. This will help your child feel empowered and part of the process, which will help with co-operation, and will help them better articulate any potential side effects. Don’t underestimate children – they can be much more self-aware than the adult world gives them credit for!
Some other thoughts to consider:
Focus on positive key words. When you broach the topic, help your child understand that there is nothing wrong with them or their brain – it is just wired a little bit differently.
Honesty is always the best policy. It might be tempting to tell your child that they’re only taking a “vitamin”, but this will likely backfire later. Yes, you will need to tailor your approach depending on the age of your child, but stick with honesty.
Use the analogy of putting on glasses. Taking ADHD medication is like putting on glasses for a person who has trouble seeing. When you put on glasses, it won’t “get rid” of your blurry vision, but it will help you see more clearly while you’re wearing them. It’s the same thing with ADHD medication – while you’re “wearing them” it can help you focus more clearly. Then, when you “take them off” at the end of the day, the medication is out of your system until the next day.
Enlist their help. Come up with a plan together to help keep track of side effects, or to remember to take the medication. Offering some control can help them feel more part of the process and can increase buy-in.
If your child is refusing to take medication, find out why. There are so many potential reasons why this may be happening, many of which may have a simple solution. You won’t find this out, however, until you sit down and get to the bottom of it.
What do you wish people knew about ADHD? This is an important question that does not always get the time and attention it deserves. Despite a ton of progress, there are still so many myths and misconceptions out there about ADHD, and sometimes some people just don’t get it.
Springboard Clinic hosted our first “Evening Conversation about ADHD” last Monday, and it was the perfect opportunity to get some insight into this topic. We were able to connect with individuals from a variety of perspectives – parents of children with ADHD, teachers, adults with ADHD themselves – and ask them: What do you wish others in your life knew about ADHD? Here are their responses.
Group 1 – Parents of Children with ADHD:
“I wish other parents knew…
…that ADHD is real.”
…the way ADHD works in the brain.”
…more about ADHD in general – the strengths and challenges that come with it.”
…what it’s like to walk in my shoes.”
…that play dates with ADHD children don’t have to be a nightmare, you might just have to change up the environment/activities. Don’t take them to the ballet if you know they have trouble sitting still!”
…kids/adults with ADHD have huge gifts, and often help challenge the status quo (think Steve Jobs!).”
“I wish teachers knew…
…if you look for strengths in students with ADHD, you’ll find them.”
…straight discipline isn’t the answer.”
…taking away recess and playtime is the worst thing you can do for discipline – children with ADHD need physical activity to survive.”
…the strategies that help children with ADHD will benefit all of the children in your classroom.”
…when we approach you with suggestions for support, we’re not being critical; we’re just trying to help support our child.”
…we know you’re busy, and we appreciate all your support.”
Group 2 – Adults with ADHD:
“I wish my partner/family/friends knew…
…ADHD is unique for each individual – it’s not one size fits all.”
…there can be shame associated with being ‘different’ – I need a supportive environment that understands that.”
…when you don’t have personal experience with ADHD, please don’t pretend like you ‘know’ what we’re going through – that can be frustrating.”
As you can imagine, these responses are only the tip of the iceberg and we would love to continue the conversation online, so, we gotta ask: What do YOU wish the people in your life knew about ADHD?
Want to join the conversation offline? Please join us at our next Evening Conversation about ADHD on Monday, November 25th, 2013. For more details, please call the clinic at 416-901-3077.
In response to a child-friendly article with 25 great things about having ADHD, a lot of adults let us know that the post really resonated with them. That made us think, it’s not just children who have ADHD, so it would be silly of us to ignore the great things about having ADHD as an adult.
At any age, an ADHD diagnosis can be difficult to wrap your head around. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of your symptoms and the impact that they have on your life.
What we often forget, though, is the fact that there are numerous positive characteristics that come with having ADHD, and these too should be given their day in the sun. Not all of them will apply to you, but as before, we’re sure you’ll recognize yourself in some of them. Yes, ADHD can be frustrating; yes, it can be a pain in the butt sometimes. But today, we want you to focus on the gifts:
If you think you (or a loved one) may have ADHD, it’s important to get a thorough ADHD assessment. This doesn’t mean sitting down and answering a couple of yes or no questions, or trying a stimulant to see if it works – attention difficulties have many causes, anywhere from a sleep disorder to an anxiety disorder. You need a professional who knows the difference and an assessment that will dig deep.
Why is this important?
Getting an ADHD assessment is not just about getting a diagnosis. A good assessment will provide you with a framework for exploring potential treatment options and strategies, and help set up the right accommodations where appropriate.
More importantly, this is essential in helping you better understand what may be affecting your well-being and ability to follow-through on goals and good intentions. Understanding the cause is also key to repairing self-esteem.
Because really, how can you ever know how to move forward if you don’t know what’s getting in the way?
Click here to check out more information about Springboard Clinic’s ADHD Assessment Process.
In honor of Occupational Therapy Month this October, we asked Springboard Clinic’s very own Occupational Therapist (OT), Meghan Badun, to answer some questions for us.
Springboard Clinic (SBC):What is an occupational therapist?
Meghan Badun (MB): What a very good question! An occupational therapist, or OT, is someone who helps you do the things you need and want to do, whether that’s getting ready in the morning, going to work or school, or doing something for fun. An OT thinks of an “occupation” as anything that occupies your time. So, if something gets in the way of you being able to complete an activity to the best of your ability, then an OT can help!
SBC:How could an OT help someone with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
MB: Many of the activities we do throughout the day require the same part of the brain that is affected in someone with ADHD. Things like:
Setting up a morning or evening routine (task sequencing)
Deciding what to do first from a long list of to-dos (task prioritization)
Starting a big school or work project (task breakdown)
Finishing a big school or work project
Blocking out distractions
An OT could help you with each and every one of these things. That being said, so could your Springboard Clinic ADHD coach who is specifically trained to work with and support clients with ADHD.
SBC: So, what makes an OT different from an ADHD coach?
MB: An OT can also help you with your motor skills! Many people with ADHD also have difficulty with some type of motor skill whether it’s fine motor (handwriting, scissoring, tying your shoes), gross motor (running, throwing/catching), or sensory motor (fidgeting, craving/avoiding things like tight hugs or loud noises). If you would like to improve how you perform these activities, an OT can help you set goals and develop these skills.
OTs like to teach and learn by doing, which means your sessions with your OT won’t just be sitting around and doing worksheets. You might practice your crab walk, colour some pictures while lying down, make a plan on how to shoot a basketball and then practice, take movement breaks, play card games, and much more. An OT can help you develop “skills for the job of living” and live life to the fullest!
SBC:Any closing words?
MB: Happy OT month!
Have you worked with an OT in the past? How did it help?
The Springboard Clinic team had the opportunity to attend the CADDRA conference in Montreal this weekend. As always, it was a fantastic opportunity to connect and collaborate with other world leaders about ADHD testing and treatment, exploring the newest research and hearing more about updates in mental health assessment and support.
What was most special about the conference this time around was hearing from speakers from across the globe that the research is pointing more and more to the kind of care we already advocate for and offer here at Springboard:
the importance of multi-modal care
connecting with multiple environments (schools/home)
looking beyond the classroom or workplace to the emotional impacts of an ADHD diagnosis
It turns out that more and more doctors have begun implementing strategies like motivational interviewing and collaborative problem solving, two important tools in the ADHD coaching toolbox.
Check out CADDRA.ca to find further information about the conference and to access important, free downloadable resources!
Springboard Clinic staff headed out to raise money for mental health resources last weekend at the RBC Run for the Kids, hosted at Sunnybrook Health Services. As strong advocates of improving awareness of mental health concerns, it was an inspiring experience to be among the many community members who showed up in the pouring rain.
Raising over a million dollars, the sea of runners and walkers of all ages made it a priority to come out and say something about mental health support in our community. We have come so far in spreading awareness about ADHD and its impact on individuals’ well-being, and it was a testimony to RBC, Bell and other corporations who have made mental health such an important cause to promote and support.
At first, waking up early and seeing the steady downpour of rain was disappointing, but as we began to run and connect with those around us it seemed to make it all the more memorable. Suffering from mental health difficulties, without support, can be like being caught out in a never-ending rain storm. I hope events like this will continue to remind Torontonians about this issue so we can all push through the rain as a supported community.